Americas

Twitter corrects Trump for the first time
Americas

Twitter corrects Trump for the first time

Twitter dared to correct the President of the United States for the first time, to be exact two tweets in which he evoked the risk of electoral fraud after the Governor of California Gavin Newsom and other Democratic colleagues introduced or are considering voting by mail due to coronavirus. The company reported the two tweets with the ‘verify the facts’ notice and a link explaining that the tycoon’s statements are unfounded, according to CNN, the Washington Post, and other media.

A Twitter spokesman reported that Trump’s tweets contain potentially misleading information about the voting process and have been marked to provide additional context. Twitter’s provocation comes a few hours after the social network refused to remove the tweets, in which the president re-launched the conspiracy theory that the former deputy and now opinionist of MSNBC channel, Joe Scarborough, may have a part in the death of a former parliamentary collaborator, Lori Klausutis, in 2011.

The request to remove the tweets was presented by the Klausutis’ widow man. Trump immediately expressed his anger on the same platform with heavy accusations. Twitter is interfering in the 2020 presidential election. They are saying that my statement on the vote by mail, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect based on fact-checking from the Fake News of CNN and the Washington Post, he said. ‘Twitter is completely suppressing free speech and I as president won’t allow that to happen!’ Trump added in a series of tweets.

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President Trump has over 80 million followers on Twitter. He uses the social platform as a propaganda tool, a threat against enemies, and a megaphone of his ads. It is not the first time that Trump has claimed full freedom of speech on social media, intolerant of every rule, even when it comes to putting a dam on fake news or misleading claims. Up to now, Twitter has always defended itself by claiming that it cannot remove or censure political leaders because public opinion has the right to know and evaluate each of their comments.

But now the company, repeatedly pressed by several parties, is adjusting the shot in a battle that promises to be hot. Meanwhile, Trump, attacked by the Democrats for playing golf on Memorial Day weekend when America remembered the fallen of all wars, and the 100,000 coronavirus victims, used Twitter to launch an accusation similar to his predecessor: “Wasn’t Obama surprised when he was playing golf in a Virginia field, despite his wife Michelle inviting people to stay home before and after his game in an important public service message? Completely two weights and two measures”.

Iranian oil tankers dock in Venezuela, defying US sanctions
Americas

Iranian oil tankers dock in Venezuela, defying US sanctions

The tankers are critical in alleviating the suffering caused by acute fuel shortage in Venezuela over the past few weeks.

Five Iranian tankers carrying close to 1.5 million barrels of oil safely entered Venezuelan waters and headed towards the El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello in northern Carabobo state. They were escorted by the Venezuelan navy and air force once they entered the country’s territorial waters, and before that, they were seen off by the Bolivian Armed forces. This was necessitated by the tensions created by this trade trip and the obvious displeasure of the Americans in seeing their two diplomatic untouchables working together.

American-Iranian relations have been worsening since the breakdown of the nuclear deal and the sanctions imposed on it have stood in the way of Iran’s oil trade with its traditional partners in the Middle East and Asia. Venezuela is also under US sanctions which have served to worsen the economy that had already been battered by years of mismanagement, corruption and now, the coronavirus.

The US is trying to force President Nicholas Maduro to step down and these sanctions are an end to that. Two rounds of sanctions by the US in February and March against Russian company Rosneft, that was trading Venezuelan crude in international markets, ensured its exit from Venezuela, leaving the embattled Latin American country unable to trade for or produce refined fuel, despite having the world’s largest oil reserves. Over the past few weeks, fuel is being strictly rationed and citizens are having to queue up hours on end to get even that.

The US had been threatening to intercept the convey of tankers and there had been tense diplomatic talks in the days leading up to their arrival. Both Venezuela and Iran were determined to stand up to Washington in this regard and warned the Trump administration to not interfere in what they see as their freedom to trade to whomever they wanted. President Maduro, while thanking Iran for its support, referred to both their countries as “two revolutionary peoples who will never kneel down before North American imperialism”.

While the US State Department spoke out against Maduro’s “expensive deals with another pariah state”, prior to this Venezuela was having to import refined oil from the Gulf which was costing its exchequer dearly. The current Iranian shipment contains gasoline and alkylate gasoline which could help Venezuela refine its own crude oil. In exchange, Iran purportedly received about $500 million worth of gold, flown in by Mahan Air in late April, bypassing US sanctions on both countries.

Venezuela-US standoff: Venezuelan Navy will escort Iranian tanker
Americas

Venezuela-US standoff: Venezuelan Navy will escort Iranian tanker

The Venezuelan government recently announced that it’s Navy and Air Force would escort Iranian tankers, in what can be described as sharpening of attack against the US to block tankers from Iran.

The announcement comes after the Iranian regime has warned of “consequences” if the US Navy tries to block its tankers from reaching Venezuela.

Making attacks shriller, the Left-leaning leader and President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro said, “We’re ready for whatever, whenever,” and thanked the Islamic Republic nation for all its support.

The South American country has the largest deposit of oil reserves. However, it cannot refine at all within its territory. Years of slowing of the economy has pushed many into poverty.

The US has imposed unilateral sanctions against both Venezuela and Iran, banning oil export from these countries.

As per reports, five Iranian tankers are reported to be headed towards Venezuela and expected to reach the Venezuelan shores in the coming days.

Earlier the US had announced that its Navy would prevent any movement from Iranian ships in that region.

Opposition leader and Maduro’s primary challenger, Juan Guaidó, criticized the need for fuel from another country and said the latest help from Iran highlights mismanagement of the oil industry by the present government.

Ever since Maduro came to power in 2013, the GDP of the country has shrunk by 50%.

Thousands of Venezuelans have left the country amid the severe economic crisis. COVID pandemic and falling oil prices have further worsened the situation.

The US recognizes Gaudio as the legitimate leader of the country while Maduro is backed by Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran.

A senior official from the US President Donald Trump’s administration has that “the US will not tolerate continued meddling” by Iran.

With the war of words escalating, the US and Venezuela and Iran almost appear to be on the verge of naval confrontation.

Reacting to US threat, the Iranian government has said, “We will not tolerate any harassment.”

In recent weeks both sides, the US and Iran, and Venezuela have sharpened their attack against each other. It may be noted that like Venezuela, Iran, too, is reeling under economic crisis due to sanctions.

Unemployment in the US surpasses that during the Great Recession
Americas

Unemployment in the US surpasses that during the Great Recession

Figures indicated that almost 1 in 4 of all working Americans have now filed for unemployment benefits.

Even as the lockdown is being lifted across all the states in the USA, the number of people filing unemployment benefits continues to climb. Since mid-March, roughly 38.6 million people have entered the dole, almost a quarter of the workforce. The weekly numbers of people seeking benefits have fallen since the peaks of March but more people are also starting to enroll under the government’s pandemic relief programme.

While the latest weekly figures stood at 2.4 million (as opposed to 6.9 million in the end of March), another 2.4 million self-employed and gig workers have enrolled in the special federal programme. These numbers are bounds to grow as more and more states start implementing the new programme. Unemployment claims made during the coronavirus crisis have already exceeded the 37 million claims made over the entire 18 months of the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate skyrocketed from the 50-year lows of 3.5% in February to 14.7% in April with more than 20 million jobs lost in the past month alone. It is likely that more than 40% of these job cuts will be permanent, i.e they might not see a revival once the lockdown is lifted. Nearly half of all US households have lost income since the start of the pandemic and another 37% will do so in the next month. Experts say that this will get much worse before it begins to get better and progress will be slow.

It is clear that the government will no longer risk further damage to the economy by enforcing the lockdown But there is no uncertainty over how effective this lifting of lockdown will be in reviving the economy. Reopening the economy does not necessarily mean hiring will start again, analyst says. While 35 states reopened last week, nine of them actually saw an increase in the number of new workers claiming unemployment benefits.

Wall Street analysts point out that the recovery of the economy and its pace is now largely dependent on government’s economic-stimulus policy and the medical progress in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

US’ global lead of coronavirus cases is a ‘badge of honor’, says Trump
Americas

US’ global lead of coronavirus cases is a ‘badge of honor’, says Trump

The US president said that these statistics only served to highlight the good work the country was doing in testing its citizens.

Making a headline-grabbing claim, US President Donald Trump said that it was a “badge of honour” for the country to be leading the world’s coronavirus infections as it only meant that more testing was being done here than anywhere else in the world. With 1.56 million reported cases and more than 92,250 death, the United States leads the world in these statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the US had conducted 12.6 million coronavirus tests to date.

“I look at that as, in a certain respect, as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better,” he said at the White House. “You know when you say that we lead in cases, that’s because we have more testing than anybody else.”

“If you’re testing 14 million people, you’re going to find many more cases,” Trump said. “Many of these people aren’t very sick but they still go down as a case, so, actually, the number of cases — and we’re also a much bigger country than most. So, when we have a lot of cases, I don’t look at that as a bad thing, I look at that as, in a certain respect, as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better.”

He added: “So I view it as a badge of honour. Really, it’s a badge of honour.

Trump said the actual tests conducted are probably closer to 14 million. But the delays in developing, manufacturing and administering tests have been widely reported. According to the Covid Tracking Project, the US continues to face testing shortages and sets priorities for who gets one.

And despite Trump’s claim, these numbers aren’t extraordinary by global standards. The US is behind countries like the UK, Italy and Germany in number of tests per 1,000 people. And is also behind countries like New Zealand, Australia and South Korea, who have to test many more people to find a case. Currently, the US is finding a case for every 7.8 tests.

The Bloomberg quoted an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, that even as the rate of testing goes up the US is starting to see a decline in cases and deaths. The positive test percentage is also decreasing, meaning that the nation is finding the cases less frequently in testing.

WHO agrees to Independent Inquiry into its global response to the COVID-19 pandemic
Americas

WHO agrees to Independent Inquiry into its global response to the COVID-19 pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved inquiry into its global response to the coronavirus pandemic. This resolution which was adopted in the summit held on Tuesday has overshadowed U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw the funding to WHO permanently.

WHO’s proposal was backed by the member nations without any objections during the World Health Assembly meeting held on Tuesday. The call for investigation was led by European Union and Australia.

As a part of the proposal of enquiry, the statement released by WHO said that it was a contentious decision for “a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment” with the aim “to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.”

On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he supports the call for investigation regarding WHO’s coronavirus pandemic global response, but insisted to hold the inquiry till the virus is contained.

Many nations, including largely vocal U.S., have blamed and criticized China of withholding the COVID-19 infection that had started in Wuhan region in late 2019. China has consistently responded by defending its handling of the outbreak.

Any investigation or probe into the situation will pin the blame directly on China, thus affecting its global standing.

Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in his statement during the virtual summit on Tuesday that the organization is affirmatively inclined and has commitment towards “transparency, accountability and continuous improvement.”

U.S. President has frequently pointed to WHO as being a “puppet” to China and praising it while all it has been doing is withholding crucial information about the virus in the initial phase.

These allegations by Trump have highlighted nevertheless the deferential outlook of WHO when it has come to Beijing over the course of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak that has affected the whole world.

The proposal of an independent inquiry into WHO’s response to pandemic has been collectively supported by all the member nations.

COVID Pandemic: WHO, a Chinese ‘Puppet,’ accuses US President Trump
Americas

COVID Pandemic: WHO, a Chinese ‘Puppet,’ accuses US President Trump

The World Health Organization (WHO) seems to have turned into a battle pitch for the US and China amid coronavirus crisis.

Yesterday the US President Donald Trump alleged that the world health body is a Chinese “puppet.” Trump also reiterated that he is considering reducing the budget for WHO or completely snapping ties with the WHO.

The US President said, “They’re a puppet of China, they’re China-centric to put it nicer.”

President Trump has suspended funds to WHO in April 2020. Issuing an ultimatum, the President said if the health body did not make improvements in 30 days, the US would have to relook at its membership.

Trump who is very active on Twitter, shared a letter written to the WHO Director General Tedros Adhnom

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In the letter, Trump has written: “If the WHO does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership,”

(if this tweet can be embedded in the story?)

Ever since corona cases have gone up in the US, President Trump has been accusing the WHO of spreading China’s “disinformation.”

WHO officials have denied any role and clarified that China was transparent about COVID cases.  

On 18 May, the WHO official announced that an independent review of coronavirus response would be conducted. The Health body also announced that it had received an enormous amount of aid from China. 

The US, according to the President, pays WHO about $ 450 million, and China pays about $38 million a year.

The US, Australia, India, Russia, and 96 other countries have launched an attack on China and demanded an international investigation on the origin of the Coronavirus. 

The resolution to demand a probe has been tabled at the World Health Assembly of the WHO. The Assembly is meeting virtually from 18-19 May 2020.

Ahead of the assembly meeting, the Chinese government made a statement that it is premature to seek a probe now. 

Since China reported the first case of COVID from Wuhan last year, more than 4 million people have been affected by the virus, killing about 315,000 people worldwide. The US, which is fighting to bring down the spread of virus, has threatened China with sanctions, investigations, and trade war.

Latin American governments are turning autocratic during the quarantine
Americas

Latin American governments are turning autocratic during the quarantine

Amnesty International has condemned the repressive measures used in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America, which has disproportionately impacted marginalised groups.

Amnesty International came out to condemn the use of excessive force and repressive measures being used across the Americas in order to enforce the quarantine. It cited over 60 incidents collected with its Crisis Evidence Lab and regional experts in the region over the past seven weeks to illustrate the point. This includes arbitrary detention of people seen defying quarantine, use of unnecessary force in enforcing lockdown and imposing mandatory quarantine under inhumane conditions. These measures are affecting marginalised people like the homeless, refugees and migrants disproportionately.

“The footage we have verified from across the Americas since late March provides worrying indications that governments are reverting to the kinds of repression we documented in 2019 and earlier, but this time to enforce pandemic-related public health measures,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. “While COVID-19 affects us all, it does not affect us all in the same way. Many of those who face repression in the Americas are marginalized people who need access to food, healthcare and other necessities, not criminalization and ill-treatment. Governments are mistaken if they think repressive measures will protect people from the disease.”

The state of emergency declared in various Latin American countries to quell the spread of the pandemic has given security forces powers of arbitrary arrest, which has become a first resort than the last. The Dominican Republic, for example, has made nearly 27,000 arrests in a month for not adhering to evening curfews. There is also scant information about the conditions in which those arrested are being held and whether they are being given access to lawyers.

Many have been arrested in those countries like El Salvador, Mexico and Puerto Rico as well for stepping out to buy medicine or food and sent to government containment centres. This is especially worrying since many in these countries live day to day and are compelled to venture out in order to be able to eat and provide for their families. The governments here, while taking these punitive measures against them, have not come forward to ensure the availability of food and necessities to all so that they could realistically adhere to the lockdown.

Ongoing protests for lack of food, water and other facilities have continued in many countries despite the pandemic and these are being put down with increasing brutality. In countries like Haiti and Venezuela, which are at the most risk of famine-like conditions, the security forces have been using excessive force to silence dissent, under the garb of preventing public gatherings in light of the pandemic. In Honduras, peaceful protestors have been met with tear gas and firearms.

The conditions of mandatory quarantine of people who either break lockdown or who are returning from other countries have been less than satisfactory in many of the countries in the region. “While authorities may legitimately impose mandatory quarantines in response to COVID-19, governments must ensure humane and non-discriminatory conditions for people subjected to those measures, enact an effective monitoring and review system that safeguards against ill-treatment, and grant those affected access to independent medical advice and legal assistance,” Amnesty has said.

Many of these centres are not appropriate for quarantine, lacking basic necessities of shelter, water and sanitation. Those not even tested are being held with those who may be infected, potentially putting them in harm’s way.

Brazil health minister quits as Corona cases continue to spike
Americas

Brazil health minister quits as Corona cases continue to spike

The resignation of Brazilian health minister yesterday has again raised questions about the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned on 15 May just weeks after he was appointed to lead the ministry.

The country has now emerged as one of the worst hotspots of Coronavirus.

There were differences between the President and the minister’s views on reopening the economy and anti-malaria drugs to treat COVID cases.

President Bolsonaro has pushed to reopen the economy, and there has been less consultation with his health ministry on such moves. The President has also advocated the widespread use of Hydroxychloroquine – the anti-malarial drug to treat COVID positive cases.

According to reports, Brazil has more than 200,000 COVID cases as of 14 May 2020. As many as 13, 933 people have died.

Health experts believe that the number of cases is likely to be higher if tests are increased. Public Health experts have believed the numbers of corona positive cases are expected to go up as the country is yet to peak.

Teich is the second health minister to resign in recent weeks amid the COVID pandemic.

Opposition parties were quick to criticize the President. Opposition leader in Congress said Brazil is heading towards a public health catastrophe, and the President must be impeached.

Marcelo Ramos, Liberal Party Congressman, said the President would accept those who show disregard for science-based public healthcare policy.

Teich, an oncologist, was appointed as the minister on 17 April. The move was to ensure that the President and the health ministry have the same views on reopening the economy.

General Eduardo Pazuello, Teich deputy, and who has no experience in the health sector, will be made the next health minister. This is an interim arrangement.

Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Teich’s predecessor, was fired on 16 April, over differences on containment of the deadly disease with President Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro recently announced the opening up of gyms and parlors, which was not supported by Teich. The minister’s and the President’s view diverged over the widespread use of the anti-malaria drug to treat COVID cases.

There is a worldwide debate about the use of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to treat the virus. Many data have revealed the use of HCQ can add to further complications.

Can US polls be delayed? White House advisor does not rule out
Americas

Can US polls be delayed? White House advisor does not rule out

The US Presidential elections slated to be held in November this year is one of the most anticipated events. But there are reasons that it might get delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus issue.

According to a report, White House advisor Jared Kushner did not rule out the possibility of postponement of the US presidential elections.

Democratic party supporters have expressed concern that incumbent President Donald Trump might push for delaying the polls.

Kushner, while speaking to Time Magazine, shared, “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now, that’s the plan.” Kushner was responding to the question if polls will be postponed due to the corona pandemic.

Corona pandemic has battered the US, causing severe disruption and massive economic losses. With 1.37 million positive cases and more than 82,000 deaths, the US is the worst affected country by the deadly virus.

As Kushner’s comments stirred things up, the White House officials tried to downplay by stating that the Congress is responsible for setting up the date for polls.

Since 1845, presidential polls have been held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Both President Trump and House of Representative Speaker have indicated that polls will be held on 3 November, regardless of more COVID-19 infection.

Recent surveys suggest President Trump’s popularity has taken a beating amid the corona crisis, compared to his opponent Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

According to a Reuters/ Ipsos opinion poll results declared on 12 May 2020, President Trump trails by eight percentage points from his Democratic challenger. About 41 % of American adults approve of Trump’s leadership. In a similar poll taken in April showed his approval ratings of 45%.

There is growing criticism of how Trump is handling the coronavirus crisis. Trump has wanted to open the economy from May against the advice of many epidemiologists and health experts.

Trump has resorted to criticizing China and WHO for the blame game. Hundreds of Americans have lost jobs.

Businesses are divided if to reopen the economy. The US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has expressed hope that the economy will bounce back in the next two quarters.

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