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Diane A. Wade

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Diane is a perfectionist. She enjoys searching the internet for the hottest events from around the world and writing an article about it. The details matter to her, so she makes sure the information is easy to read and understand. She likes traveling and history, especially ancient history. Being a very sociable person she has a blast having barbeque with family and friends.

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President Donald Trump has used his Independence Day speech to tout America’s “progress” against Covid-19, despite a nationwide spike in cases.

Amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic, the president said China – where the new coronavirus originated – must be “held fully accountable”.

President Trump also berated protesters who toppled monuments of historical figures in recent anti-racism protests.

“Their goal is demolition,” he said.

In a combative tone that echoed his Friday night speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, President Trump pledged to defeat the “radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters”.

He spoke from the White House lawn, flanked by First Lady Melania Trump, to a crowd that included soldiers and frontline medical staff.

Praising “our nation’s scientific brilliance,” President Trump said the US “will likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year”.

The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned in June that scientists may never be able to create an effective vaccine against the coronavirus, observing: “The estimate is we may have a vaccine within one year. If accelerated, it could be even less than that, but by a couple of months. That’s what scientists are saying.”

The US has the world’s highest number of Covid-19 deaths and infections, and confirmed more than 43,000 new cases in 24 hours on July 4, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. Florida, where the outbreak is especially acute, saw 11,458 new cases.

President Trump made no reference to the nearly 130,000 US deaths linked to the pandemic. He said the US had tested almost 40 million people, adding that 99% of coronavirus cases were “totally harmless” – a claim for which he gave no evidence.

His comments were followed by a military flyover involving various aircraft, including B-52 bombers and F-35 fighter jets.

A massive firework display was later held in Washington DC, watched by spectators who gathered on the National Mall.

Ahead of President Trump’s speech, Black Lives Matter protesters gathered outside the White House – the scene of many recent anti-racism demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in police custody.

Addressing America’s coronavirus battle, President Trump said his administration had “made a lot of progress” and “our strategy is moving along well”, despite the nationwide surge in infections.

Donald Trump, who faces re-election this year and appears keen to fire up his conservative base with appeals to nationalism, accused China of trying to conceal the virus outbreak – a charge Beijing denies.

He alleged: “China’s secrecy, deceptions and cover-up allowed [the virus] to spread all over the world.”

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Elaborating on his plan to create a “National Garden of American Heroes” featuring statues of renowned Americans, President Trump said the country’s rich heritage belongs to citizens of all races.

“The patriots who built our country were not villains,” he said.

“They were heroes.”

Many 4th of July events were canceled on public health grounds, with beaches in Florida and California closed, city parades canceled and firework displays curtailed.

Joe Biden tweeted that “this Fourth of July, one of the most patriotic things you can do is wear a mask”.

Firework displays are a traditional highlight of 4th of July, but an estimated 80% of cities and towns have canceled their shows.

New York City usually holds an hour-long extravaganza, but this year it was replaced by five-minute displays through the week, organized by Macy’s department store, with a final televised one on July 4 – all at undisclosed locations.

Major League Baseball canceled its 2020 All-Star Game for the first time since World War Two.

The majority of Russian voters backed constitutional reforms that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power until 2036, election officials say.

According to electoral commission, with all the ballots counted, 77.9% voted for the reform package and 21.3% against.

The reforms will reset Vladimir Putin’s term limits to zero in 2024, allowing him to serve two more six-year terms.

Opposition figures denounced the vote, saying Vladimir Putin was aiming to be “president for life”, a claim the Russian president denies.

Vladimir Putin is already the longest-serving leader in modern Russian history since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

There was no independent scrutiny of the seven-day vote, and copies of the new constitution appeared in bookshops during the week.

By spreading out the vote, because of the coronavirus infection risk, the authorities made any monitoring of it more difficult.

Top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny described the results as a “big lie” which did not reflect real public opinion in the country.

Golos, an independent Russian election monitoring group, has castigated the vote, alleging there were many violations of democracy.

Its criticisms include: opponents were barred from campaigning in the media; remote electronic voting was organized on an illegal basis; election monitors were appointed by the Civic Chamber – a government body.

Golos describes it as “just a PR exercise from the very start” and says “there was no legal need for it”. The vote “will go down in history as an attack on the sovereignty of the people”.

The reforms include a ban on same-sex marriage – by defining marriage as between a man and a woman – and introducing a reference to Russia’s ancestral “faith in God”.

Image source Wikimedia

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According to election officials, turnout was 65%. The highest levels of support – above 90% – were in Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, in Chechnya in the North Caucasus, and Tuva, in Siberia.

Vladimir Putin, aged 67, has not said he will run again for the presidency when his latest term runs out in 2024 – but has said it is vital he has the option to do so.

He has been in power in Russia, either as president or prime minister, for 20 years.

Vladimir Putin and his supporters say the reforms – more than 200 changes – are needed to ensure national stability.

In New York, 816 voted at the Russian consulate and 505 rejected the reforms, while 310 voted for. The other voting district where a majority were against was Nenets, in Russia’s remote Arctic.

Preliminary results were released hours before the last polling stations closed at 18:00 GMT in the western enclave of Kaliningrad, in the vast country spanning 11 time zones.

Before the vote had ended, the internal affairs ministry said there had been no violations that could affect the result, Interfax reported. However, Golos said it had received some 2,100 reports of possible violations.

Several hundred opponents of the constitutional changes staged protests in Moscow and St Petersburg.

The final results show 65% voted yes to the reforms in Moscow, and 77.6% in St Petersburg.

Both Russia’s houses of parliament have already adopted the changes, but President Putin ordered a public vote in a bid to legitimize the reforms. The vote was delayed from April due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Former French PM François Fillon and his Welsh wife, Penelope Fillon, have received jail sentences in a fake jobs case.

Francois Fillon, 66, was found guilty of paying his wife €1.156 million ($1.3 million) for work she never did as a parliamentary aide.

The conservative politician was sentenced to five years in prison, three of them suspended. Penelope Fillon was given a three-year suspended term.

The scandal ruined Francois Fillon’s presidential bid in 2017. Both have appealed, blocking an immediate detention.

Francois Fillon is the most senior French political figure to receive a custodial sentence since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

Delivering the decision in a Paris courthouse, the presiding judge said: “The payment was disproportionate to the work done. Mrs. Fillon was hired for a position that was without use.”

Penelope Fillon was found guilty of complicity to embezzle and conceal public funds.

Both were given fines of €375,000 ($423,000). In addition, the Fillons were ordered to return more than €1 million to the National Assembly, which employed Penelope Fillon from 1998 to 2013.

Francois Fillon was also banned from public office for 10 years.

The terms matched the prosecutors’ sentence requests.

Image source Wikimedia

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Francois Fillon has been in politics for decades. After serving as a lawmaker, senator, and in a number of ministerial roles, he became France’s prime minister between 2007 and 2012 under then-President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Ahead of the 2017 presidential election, Francois Fillon won the center-right Republican party’s presidential primary, and in January 2017 was the clear front-runner in the polls.

However, his bid for the top job fell apart later that month.

Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical magazine, alleged that Penelope Fillon – formally employed as the politician’s parliamentary assistant for about six years in the 1990s and 2000s – never actually did her job. What is more, she was paid €831,400 in the role.

Francois Fillon denied the allegations. He said his opponents were trying to sabotage his campaign, and vowed to press on with the election.

As the scandal grew he apologized “profusely” for employing family members, saying that though legal the practice had caused “mistrust”.

His poll ratings dropped sharply, Francois Fillon coming third in the first round of voting, missing out on the second-round run-off.

Le Canard Enchaîné published numerous allegations against the couple.

The magazine revealed that Penelope Fillon had made €100,000 writing just a handful of articles for a literary publication, La Revue des Deux Mondes.

La Revue des Deux Mondes is owned by a billionaire friend of the family, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière. In her ruling, the judge described that payment as an illegal gift.

From 2002 to 2007, Penelope Fillon worked for her husband’s successor as lawmaker, Marc Joulaud. He too was convicted of paying her for little or no work and has been given a three-year suspended sentence.

Other French politicians who have been convicted include late President Jacques Chirac, who in 2011 received a suspended sentence over malpractice when he was mayor of Paris.

Chirac’s one-time Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, also got a suspended sentence in a related case in 2004.

In the mid-1990s, businessman and former Socialist minister Bernard Tapie served an eight-month jail term over a football match-fixing scandal.

Jacques Chirac’s successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, is currently facing two trials, for alleged corruption and illicit campaign funding.

The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to invalidate Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which has provided health insurance to millions of Americans.

According to government lawyers, Obamacare became invalid when the previous Republican-led Congress axed parts of it.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden attacked the move, saying President Donald Trump had put millions of lives at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health care will be a key battleground in this year’s presidential election.

Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage if the court overturns the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was introduced by President Barack Obama.

Obamacare’s popular provisions include banning insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. Millions of low-income Americans were able to obtain insurance due to the act.

President Trump says the scheme costs too much and has promised a different plan to replace it, preserving some popular elements of the existing law but covering fewer people.

Under Obamacare, millions of people in the US must purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty.

In 2017, Congress removed a key plank of the policy, eliminating the federal fine for those who did not sign up, known as the “individual mandate”.

In its filing to the Supreme Court on June 25, the justice department argued “the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the act”.

As a result, it said: “The mandate is now unconstitutional as a result of Congress’s elimination… of the penalty for non-compliance.”

President Trump cannot rely on Congress to complete the dismantling of Obamacare because the Democrats took control of the lower house in 2019.

Image source Wikimedia

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Joe Biden, who wants to rally the public behind an expanded Affordable Care Act, said some coronavirus survivors could lose their comprehensive healthcare coverage if the act was overturned.

He said: “They would live their lives caught in a vice between Donald Trump’s twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take healthcare protections away from American families.”

In a statement on June 26, White House spokesman Judd Deere said Obamacare was “an unlawful failure”.

The statement said: “It limits choice, forces Americans to purchase unaffordable plans, and restricts patients with high-risk preexisting conditions from accessing the doctors and hospitals they need.”

The US has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, recording 2.4 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 122,370 deaths – more than any other country.

However, the true number of infections is likely to be 10 times higher than the reported figure, according to the latest estimate by health officials.

The Supreme Court is unlikely to hear the case before voters go to the polls in November, media report.

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NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has announced on June 24 that the agency’s headquarters buildings in Washington DC will be named after its first African American female engineer, Mary W. Jackson.

He said Hidden Figure Mary Jackson had helped to break down barriers for African Americans and women in engineering and technology.

The story of Mary W. Jackson was told in the 2016 film Hidden Figures. Born in Hampton, Virginia, she died in 2005.

In 2019, NASA renamed the street outside its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way.

“Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible,” Jim Bridestine said in a statement.

“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” he added.

“Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”

Image source: Wikipedia

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The move comes at a time of introspection across the US about historical injustices suffered by African Americans.

The recent death in police custody of George Floyd triggered protests around the world and renewed demands for an end to institutional racism.

NASA began recruiting some college-educated African American women in the 1940s as “human computers”, but they experienced both racial and gender discrimination at work.

Mary W. Jackson was recruited in 1951 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics which was succeeded by NASA in 1958. She worked under Dorothy Vaughan – whose story was also told in Hidden Figures – in the segregated West Area Computing Unit at Langley, Virginia.

Mary Jackson died in 2005 and in 2019 she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Her daughter, Carolyn Lewis, said the family was honored that NASA was continuing to celebrate Mary Jackson’s legacy.

Carolyn Lewis said: “She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”

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Former South Korean comfort woman Lee Yong-soo has taken on a new role in the campaign for the rights of her peers. For so many years, Lee Yong-soo has been the face of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, literally walking the streets to seek recompense for comfort women who suffered during World War II. In spite of her age, the 92-year-old woman had been very much involved in the activities of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance.

It thus came as a shock to the South Koreans as a nation when Lee Yong-soo announced in a press conference in early May that she was going to put a stop to her campaigning and that she would no longer be joining the weekly rallies held by the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance.

In the press conference, Lee Yong-soo shared her observation that, instead of promoting goodwill, the rallies have only been serving to incite animosity between the involved parties, especially with the youth. She continued to say that, moving forward, healing and reconciliation is what is necessary, and that the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance’s activities are not contributing to this.

“Students spend their own precious money and time to attend these rallies, but the rallies only teach hatred and suffering. Korean and Japanese youths with historically accurate education must befriend each other and communicate with each other to solve problems,” Lee said.

The former comfort woman and strong advocate for the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance had more to say, particularly with regard to how the organization has been operating. The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance was founded in 1990 and since its inception, it has been working on two levels – internationally and transnationally. It receives funding from private donors as well as in the form of government subsidies.

According to Lee Yong-soo, the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance has been remiss in carrying out its mission. She specifically hit out at Yoon Mee-hyang, the former head of the Council who is now an elected official under the party of incumbent president Moon Jae-in.

Lee Yong-soo

Lee Yong-soo accused Yoon Mee-hyang of misappropriation of funds, using them for private purposes such as buying property and paying for her daughter’s American education. Lee Yong-soo further accused the Council of disregard for the former comfort women. She asserted that the Council happily took the funds but also took advantage of the very people they were supposed to take care of by putting them on public display akin to “bears doing tricks”.

With Yoon Mee-hyang being a government official and having close ties to the ruling party, the nation is seeing this as a betrayal from the government itself.

The victims of the War have placed their trust in their leaders and yet once again they find themselves with the short end of the stick.

It is upon this premise that Lee Yong-soo is building her new role.

In her charge to expose this deeply-rooted deception, Lee Yong-soo also said that while donations did come in, only a small portion was actually distributed to the comfort women. In fact, it was only after the 2015 Japan-South Korea agreement that the comfort women actually received a considerable sum. Each one received 100 million KRW (almost USD 83,000).

So far, she has been effective in that Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol ordered the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to conduct an investigation speedily on the Council and its activities. She has stated her belief that the prosecutors would find the truth and reveal it. However, it has been about a month since then, and no concrete results have been shared.

Even more concerning is the President’s reaction to the issue. During a meeting held with his advisors on the 8th of June, President Moon Jae-in reportedly said that he was bewildered by the controversy in which Yoon Mee-hyang and the Council is embroiled. He emphasized the role Yoon Mee-hyang played in raising awareness for the South Korean former comfort women on the international state, citing her testimony in front of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lee Yong-soo is not to be deterred, inspiring her peers and their families to make their voices heard. Hwang Sun-hee, son of former comfort woman Gil Won-ok, says “The families of [former comfort women] will take this matter into our own hands, such that we are no longer pushed around by other organizations.” That is, they are forming their own committee in order to ensure that the victims get what they deserve and are not taken advantage of.

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President Donald Trump’s request to stop the publication of a memoir by his former National Security Adviser John Bolton has been rejected by Washington DC District Court Judge Royce Lamberth.

The justice department argued that the book had not been properly vetted.

The judge said the government had “failed to establish that an injunction would prevent irreparable harm”.

John Bolton had “gambled” with US national security and already “exposed his country to harm”, the judge said.

Hundreds of thousands of copies of the book – The Room Where It Happened – have been printed and distributed, and are due to go on sale on June 23.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In the memoir, John Bolton paints an unflattering picture of a president whose decision-making was dominated by a desire to be re-elected in November.

President Trump has said the book is “made up of lies and fake stories”.

The justice department’s lawyers argued that John Bolton had breached an obligation to complete a pre-publication review of his manuscript to ensure that it contained no classified information.

John Bolton’s lawyers dismissed the claim. They insisted that the manuscript was thoroughly examined and that President Trump simply did not like the contents.

In his 10-page ruling, Judge Lamberth wrote that John Bolton had opted out of the pre-publication review process before its conclusion and that he “likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his non-disclosure agreement obligations”.

John Bolton nevertheless denied the government’s injunction request.

He wrote: “In taking it upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities, Bolton may indeed have caused the country irreparable harm.

“But in the internet age, even a handful of copies in circulation could irrevocably destroy confidentiality. A single dedicated individual with a book in hand could publish its contents far and wide from his local coffee shop. With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe – many in newsrooms – the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo.”

Shortly after the decision, President Trump alleged on Twitter that John Bolton “broke the law by releasing Classified Information (in massive amounts)”.

“He must pay a very big price for this, as others have before him. This should never to happen again!!!” the president added.

Later, President Trump tweeted: “BIG COURT WIN against Bolton. Obviously, with the book already given out and leaked to many people and the media, nothing the highly respected Judge could have done about stopping it…BUT, strong & powerful statements & rulings on MONEY & on BREAKING CLASSIFICATION were made….”

A lawyer for John Bolton, Charles Cooper, welcomed the judge’s decision to deny the injunction request.

However, he took issue with the conclusion that his client did not comply fully with his contractual pre-publication obligation to the government.

“The full story of these events has yet to be told – but it will be,” John Bolton added.

His publisher, Simon & Schuster, said: “We are grateful that the Court has vindicated the strong First Amendment protections against censorship and prior restraint of publication.”

John Bolton became President Trump’s national security adviser in April 2018.

He left his post in September 2019, after disagreeing strongly with the president over how to handle major challenges like Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.

In The Room Where It Happened, John Bolton portrays President Trump as an “erratic”, “impulsive” and “stunningly uninformed” leader.

Among the allegations, which are based on private conversations and are impossible to verify, are:

  • President Trump sought help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to win the 2020 vote, stressing the “importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome”;
  • John Bolton also said China’s construction of internment camps in the Xinjiang region was the “right thing to do”;
  • President Trump was willing to intervene in criminal investigations “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked”. John Bolton said President Trump was willing to assist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over a case involving a Turkish company;
  • President Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool” and that the South American nation was “really part of the United States”;
  • President Trump was unaware the UK was a nuclear power and once asked a senior aide if Finland was part of Russia.

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Juneteenth – the June 19th date which marks the end of US slavery – will become an official holiday in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced.

The move comes as millions of Americans plan to commemorate, with marches and personal observances, the 1865 date when the last US slaves were freed.

Several states already observe Juneteenth as an official holiday and there is a push to declare it a national holiday.

The date’s significance has grown this year amid Black Lives Matter protests.

Mayor de Blasio said in a press conference on June 19 that the date would be marked as an official city holiday beginning in 2021, and will also be a public school holiday.

He said: “We’ll work with all the unions to work through the plan, give this day the importance and recognition it deserves.

“Every city worker, every student will have the opportunity to reflect the meaning of our history and the truth.”

Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order making Juneteenth – also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day – a paid holiday for state workers.

Andrew Cuomo said he would introduce legislation to make the day a holiday for all New Yorkers by 2021.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also promised to make Juneteenth a holiday by 2021 in the former capitol of the Confederacy which rebelled against the US during the Civil War for the legal right to enslave black people.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has also signed an order making Juneteenth a holiday for state workers.

He said in the statement: “In recent weeks, people around the nation have joined together to demand an end to systemic racism and oppression of African Americans.”

“Freedom for all is not fully realized until every person is truly free. This Juneteenth we have an opportunity to unite against injustice and create lasting change,” he continued.

Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a holiday in 1980. Now all but four US states observe or recognize the date in some form.

Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

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This year, the date has become particularly prominent in the public consciousness amid a wave of protests over racial inequality following the deaths of several unarmed African Americans. Juneteenth rallies are planned in Washington DC and across the US.

On June 19, 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas received the news that slavery had been abolished by President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier.

According to historians, the news took so long to reach slaves in Texas in part due to fighting that continued even after the surrender of the Confederacy that ended the Civil War.

Corporate America is also treating Juneteenth with more reverence than in previous years, with employees from Nike, Uber, and Twitter being given a paid day off.

Google has asked employees to cancel non-urgent meetings and instead “create space for learning and reflection”.

Amazon told employees to “take some time to reflect, learn and support each other”.

In Washington, the most senior Republican in the Senate said on June 18 that he would introduce a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Four Democrats have also announced a similar proposal.

In the House of Representatives, the Texas congresswoman who has been pushing for a national holiday for two decades, told CBS that the chances of a holiday becoming a reality are growing.

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Former police officer Garrett Rolfe, who fatally shot fleeing Afro-American Rayshard Brooks in the back last week in Atlanta, Georgia, will be charged with murder and assault, officials say.

Garrett Rolfe, who has already been fired, faces 11 charges related to Rayshard Brooks’ death. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

The other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, will testify as a prosecution witness in the case, officials said.

The Rayshard Brooks case comes amid protests over police killings of black Americans.

Lawmakers in Washington are currently debating new police reform laws.

According to officials, this was the ninth time that an Atlanta police officer had been prosecuted for homicide.

They added that it is believed to be the first time a police officer would testify against a member of his own unit, though Devin Brosnan’s lawyer denied his client would be a witness in the case.

Image source: Wikipedia

President Donald Trump has said he is concerned about the way the case against Garrett Rolfe is being handled.

“I hope he gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country,” the president told Fox News.

“You can’t resist a police officer like that,” he added, referring to Rayshard Brooks’ actions during the incident.

Rayshard Brooks, 27, failed a sobriety test on June 12 after he was found asleep inside his car that was blocking a drive-through lane at a Wendy’s restaurant.

After pulling over his vehicle, the father-of-four appeared “slightly impaired, but his behavior during this incident was almost jovial”, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said on June 17.

For over 40 minutes, video shows Rayshard Brooks complying with officers as he consented to a weapons search and provided them with his identification details.

However, as officers tried to handcuff him, Rayshard Brooks began struggling. The footage appears to show Rayshard Brooks punched Garrett Rolfe, grabbed Devin Brosnan’s stun gun and turned back while fleeing to fire it at Garrett Rolfe.

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Rayshard Brooks suffered two gunshots to the back that caused organ injuries and blood loss. One police bullet also hit a witness’ vehicle, nearly killing the driver, investigators say.

Prosecutors said Garrett Rolfe said: “I got him.”

For over two minutes after Rayshard Brooks was shot, neither officer provided medical attention as police are required to do, prosecutors said.

Instead, Garrett Rolfe kicked Rayshard Brooks while he was on the ground.

Officer Devin Brosnan – who has already been placed on administrative leave – will be charged with assault for allegedly standing on Rayshard Brooks’ shoulder as he lay dying.

President Donald Trump has decided to postpone his first post-coronavirus lockdown election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so it does not fall on Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of US slavery.

He tweeted that the June 19 rally would be held a day later out of respect for Juneteenth.

The choice of date had drawn criticism amid nationwide anti-racism protests.

The location was also controversial, as Tulsa saw one of the worst massacres of black people in US history in 1921.

Up to 300 people died when a white mob attacked the prosperous black neighborhood of Greenwood, known as the “Black Wall Street”, with guns and explosives. About 1,000 businesses and homes were also destroyed.

Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, but is widely celebrated by African Americans.

It celebrates the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved African Americans in Texas.

Texas was the last state of the Confederacy – the slaveholding southern states that seceded, triggering the Civil War – to receive the proclamation, on June 19, 1865, months after the end of the war.

President Trump initially defended the timing of his rally, telling Fox News: “Think about it as a celebration. My rally is a celebration. In the history of politics, I think I can say there’s never been any group or any person that’s had rallies like I do.”

However, critics accused the president of disrespecting the date and the significance of Tulsa to US history.

Explaining the decision to move his rally, President Trump tweeted: “Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests…”

The “Make America Great Again” rally in Tulsa will be Donald Trump’s first campaign event since March 2, when the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to mass gatherings.

President Trump is seeking re-election in November 2020, but polls show him lagging behind his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

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Campaign rallies are seen as a key method of energizing his base, and Oklahoma is traditionally a Republican-voting state.

The event will proceed against a backdrop of ongoing protests against racial inequality and police brutality, triggered by the death of African American man George Floyd on May 25. George Floyd, who was unarmed, died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota after a policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

The rally is being held in a 19,000-seat indoor arena, and concerns have been raised about the potential risks.

Oklahoma has one of the US lowest infection rates, and businesses are reopening – but the state’s Governor Kevin Stitt has urged residents to keep social distancing and to “minimize time spent in crowded environments”.

People buying tickets for the Tulsa rally online have to click on a waiver confirming that they “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19” and will not hold the president’s campaign responsible for “any illness or injury”.

President Trump has announced he plans to hold further events in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Arizona.

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Impassioned pleas for racial justice have been heard at the funeral of George Floyd, an African American whose death in police custody spawned global outrage.

Speakers in the church in Houston, Texas, lined up to remember a man whose “crime was that he was born black”.

George Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis last month as a white police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, his final moments filmed on phones.

Four police officers involved have been sacked and charged over his death.

George Floyd’s coffin was taken from the church driven in a motorcade to the Houston Memorial Gardens where he was to be buried beside his mother.

One of George Floyd’s nieces, Brooke Williams, called for a change in laws which, she argued, were designed to disadvantage black people.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

George Floyd Death: Derek Chauvin’s Bail Set at $1.25 Million in 1st Court Appearance

George Floyd Memorial Held in Minneapolis

George Floyd Death Declared A Homicide in Official Post-Mortem Examination

Joe Biden addressed the service in a video message saying: “When there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America.”

The Democratic presidential candidate has sharply criticized President Trump, accusing himat the weekend of making “despicable” speculative remarks about George Floyd.

The service was held at the Fountain of Praise church, attended by some 500 guests including politicians and celebrities.

“George Floyd was not expendable – this is why we’re here,” said Al Green, the local Democratic congressman.

“His crime was that he was born black.”

Veteran civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton told the service: “All over the world I see grandchildren of slave masters tearing down slave masters’ statues.”

Talking about George Floyd’s difficult life, he said: “God took the rejected stone and made him the cornerstone of a movement that’s gonna change the whole wide world.”

In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz called on people to honor the funeral by observing silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time George Floyd was pinned to the ground before he died.

George Floyd’s coffin was taken to a cemetery in Pearland, south of Houston, for a private burial ceremony. For the last mile of the procession it was conveyed in a horse-drawn carriage.

Barriers were erected along the route to allow members of the public to pay their respects safely as the procession passed.

George Floyd’s body was on display at the church for six hours on June 8.

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Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis ex-policeman accused of killing unarmed black man George Floyd, has made his first court appearance, where his bail was set at $1.25 million.

Prosecutors cited the “severity of the charges” and public outrage as the reason for upping the former officer’s bail from $1 millio.

Derek Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other arresting officers are charged with aiding and abetting murder.

George Floyd’s death in May led to global protests and calls for police reform.

Derek Chauvin, who is white, knelt on George Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while he was being arrested in Minneapolis on May 25.

The 44-year-old and the three other police officers have since been fired.

Meanwhile, mourners in Houston, Texas, where George Floyd lived before moving to Minneapolis, have been viewing his body, publicly on display for six hours at The Fountain of Praise church.

On June 9, a private funeral service will be held in Houston. Memorial services have already been held in Minneapolis and North Carolina, where George Floyd was born.

It is believed a family member escorted George Floyd’s body on a flight to Texas on June 6.

Joe Biden is expected to visit George Floyd’s relatives in Houston to offer his sympathies. Aides to the former vice-president said he would also record a video message for June 9 service.

Image source: Wikipedia

Derek Chauvin, a 19-year police veteran, did not enter a plea as he appeared via teleconference on June 8.

The former officer did not speak during the 15-minute hearing, and was handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit as he sat a small table.

Judge Jeannice M. Reding set a bail of $1.25 million with no preconditions, or $1 million with conditions that include Derek Chauvin not contacting George Floyd’s family, surrendering his firearms and not working in law enforcement or security as he awaits trial.

His lawyer did not object to the bail price.

Derek Chauvin is currently being held at the Minnesota state prison in Oak Park Heights, after being transferred several times.

His next court appearance is set for June 29.

George Floyd Memorial Held in Minneapolis

George Floyd Death Declared A Homicide in Official Post-Mortem Examination

George Floyd Death: President Trump Threatens to Deploy Army to End Civil Unrest

Derek Chavin faces three separate charges: unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, for which the maximum penalties are prison terms of 40, 25 and 10 years respectively.

By bringing multiple charges, prosecutors give jurors a choice and increase the chances of a conviction.

Minneapolis city council has voted to ban chokeholds and neck restraints by police officers, and Democrats in Congress have unveiled sweeping legislation on police reform.

Anti-racism protests started by George Floyd’s death are now entering their third week in the US. Huge rallies have been held in several cities, including Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

With the rallying cries “Black Lives matter” and “No Justice, No Peace”, the demonstrations are among the largest US protests against racism since the 1960s. June 6 gatherings included a protest in the Texas town of Vidor, once infamous as a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group.

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A service to commemorate George Floyd, the first of three planned memorials, is being held in Minneapolis.

George Floyd, 46, died on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His death in police custody has sparked huge protests across the US.

Family members and friends are now arriving and taking their seats for the memorial service.

The service at a sanctuary at the city’s North Central Universityis also being attended by a number of lawmakers, actors and musicians.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar are some of the politicians in attendance.

Ludacris, TI, Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart are among the celebrities present.

Attendees have also been reminded to socially distance themselves to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

George Floyd Death Declared A Homicide in Official Post-Mortem Examination

George Floyd Death: President Trump Threatens to Deploy Army to End Civil Unrest

George Floyd Death: US Cities Placed under Curfew Following Violent Protests

The service has begun with a reading of scripture by Reverend Jerry McAffey of the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church.

On June 3, new charges were announced against all four of the now sacked officers present at George Floyd’s death.

The charge against Officer Derek Chauvin has been elevated to second-degree murder while the other three officers, previously uncharged, face counts of aiding and abetting murder.

The vast majority of demonstrations over the past eight days have been peaceful, but some have turned violent and curfews have been imposed in a number of cities.

Former President Barack Obama and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, are among senior public figures who have offered their support to the protesters.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Floyd family, said it was more than just honoring George Floyd’s memory.

“It’s going to be a celebration of life, but it’s also going to be a plea to America and a plea for justice that we don’t let his death be in vain,” he told NBC’s Today show.

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An official post-mortem examination has declared the death of George Floyd, which triggered widespread protests across the US, as a homicide.

George Floyd, 46, suffered a cardiac arrest while being restrained by Minneapolis police, the report found.

It listed George Floyd’s cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression”.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump vowed to use the military to end the unrest.

A video showing a white police officer continuing to kneel on George Floyd’s neck even after he pleaded he could not breathe has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans.

The footage has led to six consecutive days of protests around the United States and a level of civil unrest not seen in decades.

Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter and will appear in court next week. Three other police officers have been fired.

The official post-mortem examination of George Floyd by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office also recorded evidence of heart disease and recent drug use. It said he suffered the cardiac arrest “while being restrained by a law enforcement officer” on May 25.

Image source: Wikipedia

George Floyd Death: President Trump Threatens to Deploy Army to End Civil Unrest

George Floyd Death: US Cities Placed under Curfew Following Violent Protests

Black Lives Matter: Minneapolis Protesters Clash with Police over George Floyd’s Death

The findings were released shortly after those of a private examination that was carried out by medical examiners hired by the Floyd family.

This report said George Floyd died from asphyxia (lack of oxygen) due to a compression on his neck and also on his back.

The private examination also found the death was a homicide, a statement from the family’s legal team said.

“The cause of death in my opinion is asphyxia, due to compression to the neck – which can interfere with oxygen going to the brain – and compression to the back, which interferes with breathing,” Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, said at a news conference on June 1.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Floyd family, said: “Beyond doubt he would be alive today if not for the pressure applied to his neck by Officer Derek Chauvin and the strain on his body by two other officers.”

He added: “The ambulance was his hearse.”

More than 75 cities have seen protests over what happened to George Floyd. Streets that only days ago were deserted because of the coronavirus pandemic have filled with demonstrators marching shoulder to shoulder.

The Floyd case follows the high-profile cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York and others that have driven the Black Lives Matter movement.

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President Donald Trump has threatened to send in army to end growing civil unrest in the US over the death of George Floyd.

The president said if cities and states failed to control the protests and “defend their residents” he would deploy the army and “quickly solve the problem for them”.

Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody, have escalated over the past week.

On June 2, Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden criticized President Trump for “serving the passions of his base”.

He said: “We’re not going to allow any president to quiet our voice.”

On June 2, the Las Vegas sheriff said an officer died in a shooting after police attempted to disperse a crowd.

Dozens of people have been injured as authorities used tear gas and force to disperse protests which have swept more than 75 cities.

Four officers meanwhile were shot and injured on June 1 during unrest in St Louis, Missouri.

Dozens of major cities have imposed overnight curfews.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

George Floyd Death: US Cities Placed under Curfew Following Violent Protests

Black Lives Matter: Minneapolis Protesters Clash with Police over George Floyd’s Death

Eric Garner death: Thousands protest in Staten Island over police chockhold death

In New York, the iconic department store Macy’s was broken into, as shops were looted and windows smashed.

Curfew in the city will resume at 20:00 on June 2.

In Chicago, two people were reported killed amid unrest, although the circumstances are unclear.

The chief of police in Louisville, Kentucky has been sacked after law enforcement officers fired into a crowd on Sunday night, killing the owner of a nearby business.

Australian PM Scott Morrison has demanded an investigation into the alleged assault by police of two Australian journalists covering protests in Washington DC.

Music channels and celebrities have pledged to mark #BlackoutTuesday pausing for eight minutes – the length of time a police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck.

The protests began after a video showed George Floyd, 46, being arrested in Minneapolis on May 25 and a white police officer continuing to kneel on his neck even after he pleaded that he could not breathe.

Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and will appear in court next week. Three other police officers have been fired.

The Floyd case has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans and racism. It follows the high-profile cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and others that have driven the Black Lives Matter movement.

President Trump delivered a brief address from the White House Rose Garden, amid the sound of a nearby protest being dispersed.

The president said “all Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd” but said his memory must not be “drowned out by an angry mob”.

He described the scenes of looting and violence in the capital on May 31 as “a total disgrace” before pledging to bolster the city’s defenses.

President Trump said: “I’m dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property.”

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Prince Joachim of Belgium has contracted coronavirus after attending a party during lockdown in Spain, the country’s royal palace says.

The 28-year-old prince traveled from Belgium to Spain for an internship on May 26, the palace said.

Two days later, Prince Joachim went to a party in the southern city of Córdoba, before testing positive for Covid-19.

According to Spanish reports, the prince, a nephew of Belgium’s King Philippe, was among 27 people at the party.

Under Córdoba’s lockdown rules, a party of this size would be a breach of regulations, as gatherings of no more than 15 people are currently permitted.

Image source: alchetron.com

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Spanish police have launched an investigation into the party. Those found to have flouted lockdown rules could be fined up to €10,000 ($11,100).

Everyone who attended the party is said to be in quarantine. Prince Joachim, the youngest son of Princess Astrid and 10th in line to the Belgian throne, is said to have mild coronavirus symptoms.

Rafaela Valenzuela, a representative of the Spanish government in Córdoba, condemned the party, calling those who attended “irresponsible”.

She said: “I feel surprised and angry. An incident of this type stands out at a moment of national mourning for so many dead.”

The party was first covered by Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, which cited a document from the Andalucian authorities but did not name the prince.

Belgian media have since confirmed with the palace that Prince Joachim was in Spain, where he remains.

Prince Joachim is known to have a long-standing relationship with a Spanish woman, reported to be Victoria Ortiz.

Spain is in the process of emerging from one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. It outlined a four-stage plan on May 4 to start easing the lockdown, which saw children under 14 confined to their homes for six weeks.

The country said it was moving to a second phase from June 1 for 70% of Spaniards, leaving only major cities under tighter restrictions.

Spain has among the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the world. As of May 30, the country had 239,228 infections and 27,125 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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Minneapolis police have clashed with protesters following the death of an unarmed black man in police custody.

Police fired tear gas and protesters threw rocks and sprayed graffiti on police cars.

Video of the death shows 46 –year-old George Floyd groaning “I can’t breathe” as a policeman kneels on his neck.

Four police officers have been fired, with Mayor Jacob Frey saying that being black “should not be a death sentence”.

The incident echoes the case of Eric Garner, who was placed in a police chokehold in New York in 2014. Eric Garner’s death became a rallying call against police brutality and was a driving force in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Violent clashes began in the afternoon on May 26, when hundreds of people came to the intersection where the incident had taken place on May 25.

Organizers tried to keep the protest peaceful and maintain coronavirus social distancing, with demonstrators chanting “I can’t breathe,” and “It could’ve been me”.

Image source: WCCO

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Eric Garner death: Thousands protest in Staten Island over police chockhold death

A crowd of hundreds later marched to the 3rd Precinct, where the officers involved in the death are thought to have worked.

Squad cars were sprayed with graffiti and protesters threw stones at the police building. Police fired tear gas, flash grenades and foam projectiles.

Police said one person had suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being shot away from the protest area but gave no further details.

Officers responding to reports of the use of counterfeit money had approached George Floyd in his vehicle.

According to police the man was told to step away from the vehicle and physically resisted officers.

A police statement said: “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”

The video taken at the scene does not show how the confrontation started.

It shows a white officer using his knee to pin George Floyd to the ground by the neck.

George Floyd groans “please, I can’t breathe” and “don’t kill me” as bystanders urge officers to let him go.

He ceases to move and an ambulance arrives to take him to hospital where he later died.

Mayor Jacob Frey said it was the “right call” to fire the officers.

He said: “Being black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes we watched as a white police officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man. For five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help.”

The FBI is investigating the incident and will present its findings to the Minnesota state’s attorney for possible federal charges.

Allegations of police brutality have been constantly highlighted since the start of the Black Lives Matter movement. It began after the acquittal of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

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Spain, Italy and other European countries are further easing their coronavirus lockdown restrictions starting with May 18.

Spain has slightly eased restrictions on some of its least affected islands.

In Italy, most businesses, including bars and hairdressers, are reopening after more than two months of nationwide lockdown measures.

The measures follow consistent drops in the number of daily recorded deaths.

On May 17, Italy recorded the fewest daily deaths since it entered lockdown in March.

According to Italian officials, 145 people had died with the virus in the previous 24 hours. This marked a significant drop from its highest daily death toll, which was more than 900 on March 27.

In Spain, the daily death toll fell below 100 for the first time since it imposed its lockdown restrictions.

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However, officials are warning that complacency over the virus could lead to a second wave of infections.

Restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and shops have been allowed to reopen in Italy, providing social distancing is enforced.

Almost 32,000 people in Italy have died in the pandemic, and the economy is expected to shrink by nearly 10% this year.

Catholic churches are resuming Mass, but there is strict social distancing and worshippers must wear face masks. Other faiths are also being allowed to hold religious services.

However, health officials have warned of the continued dangers of large social gatherings.

Pope Francis held a private Mass at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which has been disinfected ahead of its reopening to tourists.

The Mass honored the late Pope John Paul II, 100 years after his birth in Poland.

Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, will step down while an insider trading inquiry is carried out.

He said he had decided to do so because he did not want the investigation to distract the committee from its work.

Senator Richard Burr’s phone has been seized by the FBI as part of the inquiry.

The 64-year-old North Carolina senator, who denies wrongdoing, allegedly used inside information to avoid market losses from coronavirus.

He declined a request for comment.

Richard Burr and his wife sold as much as $1.7 million of equities in February, just before markets plunged on fears of an economic crisis.

It is illegal for members of Congress to trade based on non-public information gathered during their official duties.

Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, as well as Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, also reportedly sold holdings before the downturn, but are not confirmed to be under investigation.

Dianne Feinstein said she had answered questions from the FBI regarding trades made by her husband, however.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Senator Burr had contacted him to inform of his decision to step aside temporarily.

“We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow [May 15],” Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

Richard Burr said: “The work the Intelligence Committee and its members do is too important to risk hindering in any way. I believe this step is necessary to allow the Committee to continue its essential work free of external distractions.”

The senator turned over his mobile phone to authorities after federal agents issued and executed a search warrant at his Washington, DC, home.

The justice department began investigating Richard Burr in March.

Public disclosures first investigated by ProPublica show the senator sold more than 30 stocks between late January and mid-February. Some of the stocks were in sectors now devastated by the coronavirus outbreak, such as the hotel, restaurant and shipping industries. 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

As chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Richard Burr receives nearly daily briefings on threats to US national security. He defended the transactions, saying he had “relied solely on public news reports” to instruct his decision to sell.  

However, the senator was criticized for publicly downplaying the seriousness of the virus, even as he privately sold equities and warned a private North Carolina business group of the stark risks it posed.

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Richard Burr’s lawyer, Alice Fisher, said in March the senator welcomed the justice department investigation because it would “establish that his actions were appropriate”. 

“The law is clear that any American – including a Senator – may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did,” she said. 

The bulk of Richard Burr’s sales occurred on February 13, just before his speech to the wealthy business constituent group about the dire economic impact of the coronavirus, at a time when the Trump administration was publicly downplaying the threat.

In an audio recording, obtained by US outlet National Public Radio (NPR) Richard Burr also told the group to curtail their travel. He has accused NPR of “misrepresenting” his speech. 

First elected to the Senate in 2004, Richard Burr chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee when it investigated Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The committee endorsed intelligence community findings that Russia had interfered on President Donald Trump’s behalf.

Richard Burr’s six-year term ends in 2023 and he does not plan to run for re-election, the Associated Press reports.

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President Donald Trump has said a sobering warning by Dr. Anthony Fauci, his top infectious diseases expert, about lifting pandemic restrictions too soon was unacceptable.

The president accused Dr. Fauci of wanting “to play all sides of the equation” in his testimony to lawmakers on May 12.

He said he was especially dissatisfied with Dr. Fauci’s caution around reopening schools too quickly.

Nearly 1.4 million people have been infected with Covid-19 in the US. Another 84,000 people have been killed by the new coronavirus, while ravaging the economy.

Image source Wikipedia

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Speaking on May 13 at the White House, President Trump took issue with Dr. Fauci’s comments to a Senate hearing a day earlier about the risks to children of reopening and his assessment that a vaccine was unlikely before classes could begin this autumn.

He said: “Look, he wants to play all sides of the equation.”

“I was surprised by his answer actually, because, you know, it’s just to me – it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” the president told reporters.

The president said “the only thing that would be acceptable” is giving older teachers and professors a few more weeks before they return.

“Because this is a disease that attacks age, and it attacks health,” he said.

“But with the young children, I mean, and students, it’s really – just take a look at the statistics. It’s pretty amazing,” he added.

President Trump is keen to get Americans back to work and has praised governors who are moving to do so while criticizing others for not acting aggressively enough.

The US is split over President Trump’s focus on protecting livelihoods, critics accuse him of gambling with lives to serve his own political interests ahead of November’s re-election bid.

His latest comments come amid reports of some young children being severely affected by an inflammatory syndrome that could be linked to the virus.

Speaking to lawmakers on May 12, Dr. Fauci, a White House task force coronavirus expert, warned that relaxing stay-at-home rules too quickly could bring more “suffering and death”.

The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases emphasized the importance of not being “cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects” of the disease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said: “We just have to see on a step-by-step basis as we get into the period of time with the fall, about reopening the schools, exactly where we will be in the dynamics of the outbreak.”

He also said the real US death toll is probably higher than the official figure.

On May 12, Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan said he was lifting that state’s stay-at-home measure, replacing it on May 15 with a “safer-at-home” order.

The Republican, who has been critical of President Trump, cited a two-week decline in severe cases and deaths that federal guidelines recommend.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci and two other members of the White House coronavirus task force are self-isolating for two weeks after possible exposure to the illness.

Dr. Fauci has become the public face of the fight against the virus in the US.

His agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was at “relatively low risk” due to the degree of his exposure.

However, the 79-year-old has tested negative.

Dr. Fauci will work from home for the time being and will be regularly tested, the institute said.

VP Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller, the wife of President Donald Trump’s aide Stephen Miller, tested positive for the virus on May 8.

Katie Miller’s diagnosis came after a valet for President Trump was also confirmed to have the illness.

CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn are also self-isolating.

In a statement, the CDC said Dr. Redfield, 68, had no symptoms and was not feeling unwell, but would also be working from home for two weeks after “low risk exposure” to someone at the White House. It is unclear who this person is.

Image source Wikipedia

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An FDA spokesman told Reuters on May 8 that 60-year-old Stephen Hahn was also self-isolating. He has also tested negative, the spokesman said.

The three men were due to address a Senate committee on May 12.

Before the news about Dr. Anthony Fauci became public, committee chairman Senator Lamar Alexander said Dr. Redfield and Dr. Hahn would be allowed to testify by videolink.

The US has 1.3 million confirmed cases and has recorded 78,794 deaths – by far the highest total in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Many states brought in lockdown measures in March to try to contain the outbreak. But now some have lifted restrictions to allow people to return to work, a move health officials fear could further spread the virus.

Former President Barack Obama has sharply criticized his successor’s response to the crisis. During a private phone call to former staffers, Barack Obama called the response “an absolute chaotic disaster”.

Last week, President Trump said he would refocus the White House task force on kick starting the US economy, a day after suggesting he would disband it.

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President Donald Trump has confirmed the White House coronavirus task force will be winding down, with Vice-President Mike Pence suggesting it could be disbanded within weeks.

He said during a visit to a mask-manufacturing factory in Arizona: “We are bringing our country back.”

New confirmed infections per day in the US currently top 20,000, and daily deaths exceed 1,000.

However, US health officials warn the virus may spread as businesses begin to reopen.

Image source Wikipedia

The US currently has 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus infections and more than 70,000 related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, which is tracking the pandemic.

During a visit to the plant in Phoenix after weeks holed up at the White House, President Trump told journalists: “Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job, but we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening. And we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.”

President Trump – who wore safety goggles but no face mask during his tour of the facility – was asked if it was “mission accomplished”, and he said: “No, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it’s over.”

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Critics have accused the president of sacrificing Americans’ public health in his eagerness to reopen the economy ahead of his re-election battle in November.

Acknowledging a human cost to the plans, President Trump told reporters: “I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes.

“Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

However, it will be up to individual states to determine how they reopen.

Some Democratic governors in badly hit states have been cautious, calling for more testing and other safeguards before easing lockdowns. Other states, many led by Republicans in the south and mid-west, have already begun lifting restrictions.

The White House coronavirus task force was set up on January 29. VP Mike Pence became its chairman four weeks later and its members include more than 20 experts and leading administration officials. The White House said the task force’s duty was to “lead the administration’s efforts to monitor, contain and mitigate the spread of the virus” and provide the public with information.

President Trump’s once-daily task force briefings became increasingly scarce after he was widely condemned by the medical community for pondering at the podium last month whether injecting disinfectant might kill the virus.

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President Donald Trump has suggested he has seen evidence coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory.

Earlier the US national intelligence director’s office said it was still investigating how the virus began.

However, the office said it had determined Covid-19 “was not manmade or genetically modified”.

China has rejected the lab theory and criticized the US response to Covid-19.

Since emerging in China at the end of 2019, the new coronavirus has killed 230,000 people worldwide including 63,000 in the US.

The pandemic has seen at least 3.2 million people infected, a million of them Americans, since the virus spread from the city of Wuhan.

At the White House on April 30, President Trump was asked by a reporter: “Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?”

“Yes, I have. Yes, I have,” said President Trump, without specifying.

“And I think the World Health Organization [WHO] should be ashamed of themselves because they’re like the public relations agency for China.”

Asked later to clarify his comment, the president said: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

President Trump also told reporters: “Whether they [China] made a mistake, or whether it started off as a mistake and then they made another one, or did somebody do something on purpose?

“I don’t understand how traffic, how people weren’t allowed into the rest of China, but they were allowed into the rest of the world. That’s a bad, that’s a hard question for them to answer.”

Image source Flickr

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In a rare public statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees US spy agencies, said on April 30 it concurs with the “wide scientific consensus” regarding Covid-19’s natural origins.

The statement said: “The [intelligence community] will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

It was the first clear response from American intelligence debunking conspiracy theories – both from the US and China – that the virus is a bio-weapon.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was founded in the 1950s, houses China’s first Biosafety Level 4 laboratory.

Such labs handle the most dangerous pathogens for which there are few available vaccines or treatments, and one of the areas the Wuhan facility studies is coronaviruses from bats.

President Trump has recently been escalating his war of words with China over the pandemic after what officials within the president’s administration had described as a truce with Beijing.

On April 29, he suggested China wanted him to lose his re-election bid in November.

President Trump has formerly accused Chinese officials of covering up the virus early on and saying they could have stopped the disease from spreading.

He has similarly criticized the WHO and withdrawn US funding for the global body.

China’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, has accused the Trump administration of trying to distract from its own problems tackling the crisis.

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The US passed a grim milestone, with more than a million cases of Covid-19 recorded.

There are now 3,098,391 confirmed cases worldwide and 216,160 deaths, Johns Hopkins University says.

The House of Representatives has abandoned plans to return to Washington next week. Several states, including Georgia and Texas, have pressed ahead with plans to reopen amid the infection rise.

President Donald Trump was speaking earlier at a White House event about supporting small businesses through the coronavirus pandemic.

As he closed the event, President Trump expressed his pride at the work being done by his government and tried to compare the scale of the outbreak with the Spanish Flu pandemic.

He said: “We’re going through a period of time the likes of which we’ve never seen in this country before, certainly even if you go back into 1917 – it was the worst of all time but it was also not as bad here.

“It was very bad, it was very rough – it was a bad one. But it wasn’t quite like what we’re going through right now.”

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However, the Spanish Flu pandemic happened in 1918, not 1917. It also had a far higher death toll than the coronavirus pandemic has had so far.

According to Johns Hopkins University tracking, more than 50 million people died of Spanish Flu worldwide while the current death toll from the coronavirus is about 216,000.

Some 675,000 Americans died in the 1918 pandemic, while some 58,000 are thought to have died with Covid-19.

In other developments, the organizers of the Academy Awards have announced that they will bend their own rules to let films only released on streaming platforms be eligible for nomination.

Under current rules, films have to be screened in a cinema in Los Angeles for at least seven days to qualify for awards.

On April 28, Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement that their commitment to theatre releases was “unchanged and unwavering” but said the pandemic has made the rule change necessary.

The Academy’s new policy is only temporary while most cinemas are closed because of coronavirus.

Many scheduled movie releases have been completely delayed by the pandemic.

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New Zealand claims it has stopped community transmission of Covid-19, effectively eliminating the virus.

With new cases in single figures for several days – one on April 26 – PM Jacinda Ardern said the virus was “currently” eliminated.

However, officials have warned against complacency, saying it does not mean a total end to new coronavirus cases.

The news came hours before New Zealand moved out of its toughest level of social restrictions.

From April 28, some non-essential business, healthcare and education activity will be able to resume.

Most people will still be required to remain at home at all times and avoid all social interactions.

PM Ardern said at the daily government briefing: “We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives.”

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New Zealand has reported fewer than 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths.

The country’s Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, said the low number of new cases in recent days “does give us confidence that we have achieved our goal of elimination”.

Ashley Bloomfield warned that “elimination” did not mean there would be no new cases “but it does mean we know where our cases are coming from”.

PM Ardern said there was “no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand”, adding: “We have won that battle.”

However, the prime minister said New Zealand “must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way”.

New Zealand brought in some of the toughest restrictions in the world on travel and activity early on in the pandemic, when it only had a few dozen cases.

The country closed its borders, started enforcing quarantine of all arrivals in the country, brought in a stringent lockdown and mounted an extensive testing and contact tracing operation.

Beaches, waterfronts and playgrounds were shut on March 26, as were offices and schools. Bars and restaurants were also closed, including for takeaway and delivery.

PM Ardern said modeling indicated New Zealand could have had more than 1,000 cases a day if it had not brought in the lockdown so early.

She said New Zealand could never know how bad it would have been but that “through our cumulative actions we have avoided the worst”.

The country’s remote location and easily sealable borders played in its favor when the virus broke out, experts say.

However, the government has also been praised for the clarity of its messaging throughout the crisis.