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Senate GOP split with WH over elements of stimulus plan

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Senate Republicans and the White House remain at odds over several central components of their next stimulus proposal after a full day of negotiations on Capitol Hill.





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India Covid-19: Bihar braces for ‘coronavirus storm’

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Experts say Bihar has to rapidly ramp up testing

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Bihar has ramped up coronavirus testing but it’s still too low, say experts

When Gopal Singh complained of severe chest pain on 18 July, his family got worried.

The 65-year-old had a history of breathing illnesses, and he had also suffered a heart attack in 2013.

So he got tested for coronavirus immediately. The result was positive.

His family rushed him to the government hospital in their home town of Katihar in the northern state of Bihar. The doctor advised them to take him home, which surprised his son, Vishal.

He told the doctor that his father had recovered from severe pneumonia last year, and was at higher risk. But the advice remained unchanged.

Even as the family arranged an oxygen cylinder at home, Vishal began contacting other hospitals. None had beds available.

Over the next 24 hours – as Mr Singh’s blood oxygen level kept falling – Vishal got through to a government hospital that had an ICU bed free.

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Vishal (left) with his mother, and father Gopal Singh

But it was 90km (55 miles) away and he had to find an ambulance to take his father there, which he did.

They were on the way, and nearly at their destination, when it ran out of oxygen. Vishal frantically called the hospital and asked for an oxygen cylinder to be made available at the gate.

When they finally arrived, there was no-one at the gate – and they were told there were no ICU beds available. They were asked to take Gopal to the isolation ward.

It was on the third floor and the lift wasn’t working. So Vishal and his 60-year-old mother took his father up the stairs on a stretcher. Vishal says no doctors or nurses came to see Gopal.

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In some cases, family members of patients have had to buy oxygen cylinders

He found 10 oxygen cylinders outside the ward, but none were full. He says he used them, switching the cylinders again and again through the night.

By the morning, they decided to shift Mr Singh to another hospital. They had barely driven for an hour when he died.

“I did everything to save him but the system defeated us. He didn’t die, it’s murder. He kept asking me to save him – he was so scared,” Vishal says.

“I will never forget his pleading eyes.”

Mr Singh’s death is proof of the grave challenges that face Bihar, one of India’s most populous and poorest states, in its fight against Covid-19.

‘We didn’t plan on the right scale’

So far, Bihar has recorded more than 33,000 cases, most of which were added in July. But it has reported relatively few deaths from the virus – 217. That’s a far lower death-toll than that of Andhra Pradesh (884), another state which is witnessing a sharp uptick in case numbers.

But that could change quickly, say doctors and experts, because the state did not do enough to shore up its crumbling health infrastructure in time.

More than 40% of the posts for healthcare workers are still vacant, says Dr Sunil Kumar, the secretary of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in Bihar. This is despite repeated requests to the government, he adds.

“We knew Covid-19 will strike the state sooner than later, but we did not plan at the scale we had to,” he says.

Most districts in Bihar also don’t have enough ventilators, which have become crucial in treating emergency Covid-19 cases.

“There is an acute shortage of doctors who are experts in operating the ventilator – this is a very specific requirement – and the state should have thought about it,” Dr Kumar says.

The state government denies lapses on its part, and has said it is building additional health infrastructure rapidly.

But Bihar faces unique challenges: For one, its primary healthcare network is weak and suffers from decades of neglect. Many states have used those networks to test and trace effectively, or create awareness about hand-washing and wearing masks.

It also has fewer top-rung government hospitals or private ones, which can accommodate and treat patients swiftly. While big cities such as Delhi and Mumbai have also seen deaths due to delayed admissions, experts fear that similar pressure in Bihar could lead to a far higher death toll.

To make matters worse, flooding has begun in several parts of the state, further stymying its response.

‘Virus is going unchecked’

Dr Kumar says the rise in case numbers shows that the infection is spreading fast, and to remote corners of the state.

While Bihar has ramped up testing, its testing rates are still among the lowest in the country.

That becomes clear when you compare Bihar’s tests per million – about 3,500 – to Andhra Pradesh’s figure – some 28,000. Uttar Pradesh, a state more comparable to Bihar in terms of resources and population size, is doing more than 7,000 tests per million.

Bihar is now averaging about 10,000 tests a day, but that’s still too little considering it’s home to more than 100 million people, Dr Kumar says.

“This means that many infected people are going unchecked and spreading the virus into communities,” he adds.

Bihar had the benefit of learning from states like Delhi, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, where the infection raged in May and June. And a stringent nationwide lockdown – through April and May – also gave officials the opportunity to prepare for a rise in case numbers.

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PPE kits were discarded just outside some hospitals in Bihar

But they didn’t act swiftly, failing to increase testing. And the caseload too remained among the lowest in the country until June.

The situation began to change when the lockdown forced migrant labourers, suddenly out of work and money, to return home to Bihar.

A doctor, who did not wish to be identified, said there were glaring lapses in testing and quarantining the workers who came home.

There were reports of people running away from quarantine centres because of bad management, and some completely dodging the screening process.

“All those lapses are now costing the state – people are dying because of that negligence,” the doctor says.

‘It’s looking grim’

Timely testing and the quality of treatment continue to be a challenge.

Rajnish Bharti had a high fever and cough when he went to the government hospital in Bhagalpur district on 9 July.

He was told to come back 10 days later as “there are too many people on the waiting list”.

Mr Bharti’s condition worsened in that time, and he was admitted to the hospital as soon as he tested positive for the virus.

He says he met a doctor the day he was admitted, but no-one has visited him in the week since.

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Several patients had to be given oxygen in hospital waiting areas

“A ward boy (helper) comes and throws medicines in the room. It’s been happening for five days,” he says.

He adds that he is worried he may not get oxygen in time if his condition deteriorates.

There is a phone number that patients can call in case of an emergency, but it’s not manned 24×7.

But those with “connections” can get treated quickly, Mr Bharti says. By that he means those who are wealthy or powerful enough to pull strings.

“If some VIP calls on your behalf, you are immediately looked after,” he adds.

A senior journalist in Patna, the state’s capital, who also did not wish to be named, said this was not unusual. “Connections matter in states like Bihar, and that often leaves out the poor who have nowhere to go,” he says.

“But the way caseload is going up, I doubt that even connections will be of any help in the future.”

A government doctor in Gaya district says the pressure on the system is already building up.

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Staff shortages mean family members often help patients, and without protective gear

“There is an acute shortage of staff, and I end up looking after 50-80 patients alone, with just a nurse to help,” he says.

He says that at times, there aren’t enough cleaning staff or assistants because they are all employed as contract workers with poor pay and no protection.

“They don’t listen to us and I can’t blame them. Would you bet your life for 5,000 rupees ($66: £52) a month? That’s just peanuts,” he adds.

“We doctors are doing what we can, but I am really worried. It’s looking more and more grim every day as I see people struggling to save their loved ones.”

Data analysis and charts by Shadab Nazmi



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Top White House negotiators are pushing to scale back next coronavirus legislation

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows both mentioned the possibility of moving forward on a less ambitious proposal initially Sunday in television show appearances, and multiple aides told CNN that it has become a leading option in discussions between the administration officials and Senate Republicans in recent days.

“Honestly, I see us being able to provide unemployment insurance, maybe a retention credit to keep people from being displaced or brought back into the workplace, helping with our schools,” Meadows said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “If we can do that along with liability protection, perhaps we put that forward and get that passed as we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come.”

The consideration of scaling back efforts before Republicans even put an offer on the table underscores just how difficult the coming bipartisan negotiations are expected to be. One of the primary reasons administration officials are considering a less ambitious effort is due to the initial meeting between Meadows and Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last week, according to multiple officials.

“They came away from that significantly less optimistic that something can get done,” said one administration official.

A scaled-back proposal would focus primarily on deadline issues — like the unemployment benefits that expire at the end of July, as well as education funding just weeks before schools are set to open. Should Republicans decide to pursue the idea, it may also be used to put pressure on Democrats in advance of the unemployment benefit deadline.

Pelosi, however, has made clear a multi-phased approach is not on the table for Democrats. “This is a package,” Pelosi told reporters last week. “We cannot piecemeal this.”

100 days out, Donald Trump is in dire straits

White House negotiators and the staff of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spent the weekend working through a series of issues with the broader GOP proposal, and the expectation is the proposal will finally be rolled out Monday afternoon, according to sources and Meadows.

That proposal will represent the opening GOP offer, one Democrats have been waiting months for after passing their own $3 trillion proposal in the House in May. It will include $105 billion for schools, another round of direct payments to families and individuals, a second, more targeted round of forgivable small business loans, tax incentives for re-hiring and retro-fitting workplaces to address coronavirus concerns, and broad liability protections for companies, schools, hospitals and non-profits.

McConnell planned to release the proposal last week, but administration officials raised a series of technical, and at times, according to people involved, extraneous, issues that delayed the process and dragged talks throughout the weekend.

The largest holdup has centered on the GOP proposal to address the expiring $600 federal unemployment benefit. Administration officials and congressional staff have been going back and forth on the technical mechanics of implementing a scaled-back version of the benefit for days, all as they attempt to make it equate to roughly 70% of a worker’s wages, as opposed to the current flat rate.

There is recognition, one source involved said, that given the patchwork and often antiquated nature, of state unemployment systems, there will likely need to be a transition put into place in order to implement the benefit based on a percentage calculation. How that transition is drafted, and whether it is nationwide or structured on a state-by-state basis, has been one of the areas of most attention, the sources said.



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US diplomats to leave consulate in Chengdu in tit-for-tat closures

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A man attempts to remove the diplomatic plaque form a wall of the US consulate in Chengdu, China. Photo: 26 July 2020

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A man was seen working to remove the diplomatic plaque from a wall of the US consulate in Chengdu on Sunday

American diplomats are to leave the US consulate in the south-western Chinese city of Chengdu, following Beijing’s decision to close the mission.

With just hours to go before a Monday morning deadline, staff could be seen carrying box files and bags of rubbish.

Meanwhile, crowds of local residents have gathered outside, with many waving Chinese flags and taking selfies.

China acted in response to the US closing its consulate in Houston, Texas, last week.

After a 72-hour deadline for Chinese diplomats to leave the Houston mission expired on Friday, reporters saw men who appeared to be US officials force open a door to enter the premises.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington had decided to act because Beijing was “stealing” intellectual property.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin responded by saying that the US move was based on “a hodgepodge of anti-Chinese lies”.

Tensions have been escalating between the two nuclear powers over a number of issues:

  • US President Donald Trump’s administration has clashed repeatedly with Beijing over trade and the coronavirus pandemic
  • Washington has also condemned the imposition by China of a controversial new security law in Hong Kong
  • Last week, a Singaporean man pleaded guilty in a US court to working as an agent of China
  • Also last week, four Chinese nations were charged in a separate case with US visa fraud for allegedly lying about serving in China’s military

What’s the latest from Chengdu?

Chinese state media have been showing pictures of lorries leaving the US consulate, and workers removing diplomatic insignia from the building.

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AFP/Getty Images

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Crowds of curious locals gathered outside the US diplomatic mission on Sunday

Dozens of Chinese police have been deployed outside, urging onlookers to move on and trying to prevent any provocations.

However, boos were heard when a bus with tinted windows left the building on Sunday, the AFP news agency reports.

When Chinese diplomats left their mission in Houston for the last time they were jeered by protesters.

The Chengdu consulate – established in 1985 – represented US interests over a vast area of south-western China, including the autonomous region of Tibet, where there has been long-running pressure for independence.

The majority of the diplomatic mission’s more than 200 employees had been hired locally.

With its industry and growing services sector, Chengdu is seen by the US as providing opportunities for exports of agricultural products, cars and machinery.

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Media captionMen are filmed using a hose and closing rubbish bins at China’s consulate in Houston

After the mission’s closure the US will have four consulates in mainland China and an embassy in the capital Beijing. It also has a consulate in Hong Kong, the former British colony.

China lost its Houston mission last week, but still has four other consulates in the US and an embassy in the capital Washington DC.

Why is there tension between China and the US?

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US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping

There are a number of things at play. US officials have blamed China for the global spread of Covid-19. More specifically, President Trump has alleged, without evidence, that the virus originated from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.

And, in unsubstantiated remarks, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said in March that the US military might have brought the virus to Wuhan.

The US and China have also been locked in a tariff war since 2018.

  • US-China trade war in 300 words

Mr Trump has long accused China of unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft, but in Beijing there is a perception that the US is trying to curb its rise as a global economic power.

The US has also imposed sanctions on Chinese politicians who it says are responsible for human rights violations against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. China is accused of mass detentions, religious persecution and forced sterilisation of Uighurs and others.

Beijing denies the allegations and has accused the US of “gross interference” in its domestic affairs.

What about Hong Kong?

China’s imposition of a sweeping security law there is also a source of tension with the US and the UK, which ruled the territory until 1997.

In response, the US last week revoked Hong Kong’s special trading status, which allowed it to avoid tariffs imposed on Chinese goods by the US.

  • China’s new law: Why is Hong Kong worried?
  • Trump hits China with order on Hong Kong trade

The US and UK see the security law as a threat to the freedoms Hong Kong has enjoyed under a 1984 agreement between China and the UK – before sovereignty reverted to Beijing.

The UK has angered China by outlining a route to UK citizenship for nearly three million Hong Kong residents.

China responded by threatening to stop recognising a type of British passport – BNO – held by many of those living in Hong Kong.



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Mitch McConnell’s warped priorities (opinion)

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The federal government’s $600 weekly unemployment payment — a lifeline for more than 20 million Americans that was created as part of the massive aid package passed in March — is slated to end July 31. In response to these benefits ending, McConnell calmly stated on Friday, “Hopefully in the next two to three weeks we’ll be able to come together and pass something that we can send over to the House and down to the President for signature.”
“Hopefully,” McConnell and his GOP colleagues who control the Senate can come up with something in a few weeks?! When you’re a multi-millionaire like McConnell—in fact he’s one of the wealthiest members of the US Senate — waiting a few weeks with little to no income is no big deal. But back in the real world, a 2019 study by the Federal Reserve found that 40% of American adults couldn’t cover a $400 emergency with cash or savings. That’s hardly likely to have improved in a time of pandemic and mass unemployment.
Of course, when it came to confirming federal judges, McConnell had no problem rushing them through in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, between February through late June, McConnell ushered through the confirmation of 13 judges to the federal bench, bringing the total to 200 judges confirmed during the Trump presidency. But when it comes to helping Americans, McConnell “hopes” a bill can be cobbled together in the next few weeks!
In contrast, the House Democrats in mid-May — while McConnell was laser focused on confirming judges — drafted and approved a new relief bill to help Americans in need called the HEROES ACT. This measure calls for extending the $600 weekly unemployment benefits through January as well providing additional direct cash payments to Americans, funding for Covid-19 testing and much more. (McConnell slammed the bill as the Democrats unrealistic wish list.)
Our nation is in pain — and despite Trump’s numerous predictions, the Covid-19 crisis will not be “disappearing” any time soon. In fact, in the past week we saw an uptick in deaths from the virus with a loss of one thousand Americans per day for four straight days. Alarmingly, new models published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that by August 15, the US could reach 175,000 deaths from the virus, up from the current death toll of 146,460.
Common sense tells us that the worse the health crisis, the worse the economic crisis, with businesses having to re-close in an effort to contain the virus. That helps explains why on Thursday more than 1.4 million workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits — the first time since March that the weekly claims have gone up. Worse, a new Census Bureau survey found that four million fewer people were employed last week than the prior week–the fourth straight weekly decline in Americans having jobs, which experts suggests means all the job gains since mid-May have been erased.
Welcome to the real world, Mr. President
The lack of Senate action will likely mean the end of the weekly $600 federal unemployment benefits on July 31. In fact, CNN reported Sunday that top Trump administration officials stated that the GOP Senators would unveil a new relief bill on Monday that would provide another $1200 check to “many” Americans — but would not extend the weekly $600 federal unemployment benefits. There’s still a chance that they may offer a lesser amount, but the uncertainty alone is the very definition of heartless — especially during a recession with so many out of work. The $600 a week benefit might have allowed many workers to make more from unemployment than their regular paychecks, but food banks across the nation nonetheless were seeing 50% more people being served than last July and more than 26% of Americans recently reported being unable to pay rent last month or having no confidence they can pay rent next month. Take away this $600 weekly assistance and the number of families going hungry and at risk of losing their homes whenever any extension of the eviction moratorium inevitably ends will skyrocket.
While many of those receiving this federal unemployment will likely be eligible for state unemployment benefits, the average amount of these payments are $378 a week. States like Florida, which is hard hit by the virus, pay a maximum per week of $275 per week. It’s hard to see how anyone can afford to pay for rent, car payment, food, medical care and other expenses on that amount of money.
Yet McConnell is in no rush. And apparently neither is Trump, who played spent time on Saturday playing golf with former NFL star Brett Favre Saturday at Trump’s country club in New Jersey. Usually when Trump wants something to be addressed quickly, we all know it.

Maybe if McConnell just pretended the Americans who needed help were right-wingers nominated to be federal judges, he would move quicker. At this point, McConnell should take up the HEROES Act passed by the House in May and use that as the road map to craft legislation that will aid the millions of Americans desperate for help. The time for multi-millionaires in the Senate to play political games is over. Too many Americans back in the real world desperately need help, and they need it now.



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Coronavirus in South Africa: Why the low fatality rate is misleading

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Children keep safe distancing as they queue at a food distribution organised by the grassroots charity Hunger Has No Religion, in Westbury, Johannesburg, on May 19, 2020.

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As coronavirus infections surge, at ferocious speed, across South Africa, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks driving through this huge country trying to understand where and why things are going both right and wrong.

Here, in seven points, are some early conclusions and, perhaps, some more lessons for the rest of the continent.

1)The fog of war

Be wary of statistics, even here in South Africa, which has some of the best data collection on the continent.

And be even more wary of anecdote-based assumptions.

Some observers have rushed to celebrate figures appearing to show an impressively low fatality rate for Covid-19 patients in the country – 1.4% compared with 15% in the UK. Could it be because of a relatively young population? Or perhaps Africans enjoy some special immunity, genetic or otherwise?

The short answer is No. Or rather, it’s still far too early to tell.

If you compare, for instance, fatality rates for confirmed virus patients in South Africa’s major hospitals, they are almost exactly the same as those in Italy or the UK.

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But when you broaden the statistical pool beyond hospital admissions, then every country and every province is using fundamentally different criteria and different methods.

“It becomes meaningless,” University of Witwatersrand vaccine expert Prof Shabir Madhi told me.

He points out that so little testing is happening across the rest of the continent that it is impossible to draw any useful conclusions or comparisons. His hunch is that – as with the Swine flu pandemic of 2009 – we will only know the virus’ true impact in Africa in several years.

2) Fear of hospitals

Staying on the issue of statistics, South African researchers have published alarming data about 17,000 excess deaths which appear to show significant under-reporting of fatalities from Covid-19 here.

As the researchers point out, a growing fear of going anywhere near hospitals or clinics – not unfounded in some places – may well be a significant factor.

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This means that many people with the virus are dying at home, while others are succumbing to different diseases rather than seeking treatment.

Testing for TB has, for example, declined by about 50% in recent weeks, and there has been a 25% reduction in immunisations in South Africa.

The solution? There’s no quick fix to this, but local health departments need to do a better job of working with their communities, to build trust both with patients and with staff who have often reacted to new infections and potential exposure by, for instance, closing down entire clinics for weeks.

3) Beware white elephants

In Port Elizabeth, a giant new coronavirus “field hospital” has been built by the private sector. But, as of last week, only around 30 of its 1,200 beds were being used because of a shortage of essential staff and oxygen.

“Brainless,” said Professor Madhi, dismissively when talking about the hospital.

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The provincial government in Gauteng has built something but again, hardly any of the beds are either staffed or have oxygen supplies, leaving the facility almost empty, and prompting volunteers and private donors to step in to try to rescue the situation.

“Oxygen is the new currency,” one doctor told me, complaining that more than half of the facility remained “a white elephant” and that plans to add another 700 beds would be a complete waste of time and money if the local government did not ensure additional oxygen supplies and hire the medical staff required.

4) Here to stay

“The storm is upon us,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, and his choice of weather metaphor was apt. After all, wars – the virus analogy favoured by many global leaders – tend to end, whereas the weather will always be with us and so, perhaps, will this coronavirus.

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In the absence of a vaccine, herd immunity, or significant behavioural change, several experts have told me they believe South Africa may have to treat Covid-19 the same way it has handled TB (which still kills some 200 people every day here) and HIV, and learn to live with the virus on a long-term basis.

5) Ground Up

Plenty has been written about the energetic, generous, and sometimes effective role played by South Africa’s private sector in helping to tackle the virus. But, as usual, it is local communities and small organisations which make the most difference in such crises, and which are all too often overlooked.

Doctors in Cape Town told me that it was the clinics that enjoyed the closest long-term relationships with local communities and understood how to communicate with them.

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The Cape Town Together Facebook page is a good portal through which to explore the kinds of grass-roots work that is thriving during the lockdown – the Community Action Networks, for example – and which may yet help to reconfigure one of the world’s most unequal, and siloed societies, once the immediate storm has passed.

6) Exposing the rot

It was a revealing moment. In the midst of this health crisis, powerful figures in South Africa’s governing ANC were caught pushing to reinstate two senior figures who had been implicated in one of the most egregious corruption scandals of the country’s democratic era – the looting and collapse of the rural VBS bank.

It was a sobering reminder of the institutional rot within the ANC, where competence and honesty are sometimes valued less than party loyalty, and where a culture of “cadre deployment” has left some key state institutions – hospitals and health services, for example – managed by unqualified party hacks.

“If you don’t have robust management systems, you can’t change the situation overnight, during a pandemic,” one senior doctor in Johannesburg complained to me, arguing that Gauteng’s provincial health department was almost as incompetent as the Eastern Cape’s.

You may also be interested in:

In the aftermath of this crisis – and I remember something similar being revealed on a village-by-village basis following the Asian tsunami – the quality of local leadership seems likely to be a defining factor in distinguishing between the successes and the failures.

7) Masks, masks, masks

As the UK agonises over the specifics of when and where and how to wear masks in public, it is encouraging to note how quickly, and relatively obediently, South Africans have knuckled down to the business of face-covering.

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Yes, there are huge and growing frustrations here, not least in the hospitality and alcohol industries, as they wrestle with the implications of the government’s sometimes erratic, contradictory lockdown rules.

For instance, why can passengers squeeze onto a minibus but people not eat in restaurants?

But many doctors here seem convinced that masks will prove to be the single most important step in tackling the virus, particularly in crowded townships, where social distancing is a near impossibility.



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In Louisiana, 94% of new Covid-19 cases reported Sunday are from community spread

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Former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, highlighted the importance of trust in the vaccine process on Sunday.

First, experts have to see if vaccines work, and there is encouraging news that some might, Frieden said. Then, it’s necessary to make sure the vaccines are safe.

Thirdly, “we have to make sure we get them into people’s arms and that means ensuring that there’s trust, he said.

He said that two crucial things to watch are the US Food and Drug Administration and the CDC’s Public Advisory Committee, describing both as transparent and open to the public.

The FDA determines approval of the vaccine, and the CDC approves who should get it and when, Frieden explained.

“There are no secrets here, it’s very important that we maintain, gain, increase trust in this whole process or people are going to be confused, concerned and they’re not going to take the vaccine,” he said.

When it comes to a timeline for vaccine availability, Frieden said that there may be signals that the vaccine is protective sometime in the fall, and that there may be announcements from companies that they can make large quantities, “but between knowing it’s safe, effective and available, that’s going to be sometime next year, in all likelihood, if we are lucky.”

 



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Seattle protest: Police and anti-racism demonstrators clash at march

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Police use pepper spray against protesters in Seattle

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Police used pepper spray against protesters in Seattle

Police in the US city of Seattle clashed with crowds marching in support of anti-racism protests, in one of the most tense of several rallies held across the country on Saturday.

Officers used stun grenades and pepper spray, as protesters set a fire and broke windows. The march was in support of ongoing protests in Portland.

Forty-five people were arrested while 21 officers were injured.

In Austin, Texas one man was killed during a Black Lives Matter march.

Witnesses told local newspaper the Austin Statesman that a driver turned into a street where protesters were gathered, and started driving into the crowd.

The victim was part of a group that then approached the vehicle. A person inside the car then opened fire on the protesters. The victim was rushed to hospital and pronounced dead shortly afterwards. The suspect was arrested and is co-operating with officers, the Austin Police Department said.

In a statement shortly after the shooting, a police spokesperson did not identify the victim but said he had been seen carrying a rifle.

The victim’s mother later identified him as Garrett Foster, and told ABC’s Good Morning America that he was pushing his fiancée’s wheelchair at the time of the shooting.

“They’d been participating in these protests [against racism] almost every day for the past 50 days,” Sheila Foster told the programme. “He was doing it because he felt really strongly about justice and he was very heavily against police brutality, and he wanted to support his fiancée – his fiancée is African-American.”

Ms Foster added that it “wouldn’t surprise” her if her son had been carrying a gun, as he had a licence to carry and “he would have felt the need to protect himself”.

What happened elsewhere in the US?

As well as Seattle and Austin, protesters held marches in Louisville, Kentucky; Aurora, Colorado; New York; Omaha, Nebraska; Oakland and Los Angeles in California; and Richmond in Virginia.

The demonstrations have been given renewed energy by violent clashes in Portland between protesters and federal agents deployed by President Donald Trump despite opposition from local and state leaders.

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AFP News

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A trailer on a construction site for a youth detention facility was targeted by protesters

In Seattle, thousands of protesters had initially gathered peacefully, carrying signs such as “Feds go home” and “We are living in a police state”, and shouting chants of “No justice, no peace”.

A group then set fire to the construction site for a youth detention facility before smashing windows of a courthouse and nearby businesses, police said. Authorities said rocks, bottles, fireworks and mortars were thrown at officers, and one of them was taken to hospital with a leg injury.

Police declared the demonstrations a riot and said they were investigating whether an explosive device was used against a police station. No injuries were reported.

Like Portland, Seattle has seen extended protests against racism and police brutality since the death of George Floyd in police custody in May. But after a police-free protest zone in the city was dismantled earlier this month following a series of shootings, demonstrations had waned.

A car drove through a crowd in Aurora, Colorado but there were no reports of injuries. At the same march, a person was injured after a protester “decided to fire off a weapon”, police said. The person is reportedly in a stable condition in hospital.

Demonstrators in the city also remembered Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died last August after being stopped by police.

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A car drove through a crowd demonstrating in Aurora, Colorado

In Louisville, Kentucky hundreds of members of a black militia demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was fatally shot when officers entered her flat in March.

Carrying semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, the group walked in formation to a fenced off intersection where they were separated by police from a smaller crowd of armed counter-protesters. There were no reports of incidents.

Earlier, three members of the black militia were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after a weapon was accidentally discharged. Police said the incident was being investigated.

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Media captionThe black militia group NFAC were protesting against the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor

In other developments:

  • Police said at least 75 people had been arrested in Omaha, Nebraska where protesters were remembering James Scurlock, a 22-year-old black man shot dead by a white bar owner in May
  • In Richmond, Virginia, a city dump lorry was set ablaze, police tweeted
  • In Los Angeles, protesters clashed with officers in front of the federal courthouse

What is happening in Portland?

Mr Trump’s decision to send federal law enforcement agents to protect government buildings in Portland, Oregon, has been deeply controversial. Clashes have escalated recently.

Federal officers in unmarked vehicles appeared to forcefully seize protesters from the streets and detain them without justification. They have also fired tear gas and less-lethal munitions into crowds of demonstrators.

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Media captionPortland protests: Calls for federal troops to leave US city

President Donald Trump says he is trying to restore order but his approach has drawn widespread criticism and legal challenges.

The Democratic governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, has demanded their withdrawal, and local officials say this is an election-year ploy by the president to try and paint his opponents as weak on law and order.

Mr Trump said he would send federal troops to other cities including Chicago.




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Here's what's in the GOP stimulus proposal

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CNN’s Manu Raju reports on what is in the GOP stimulus proposal and what President Trump was not able to include in the plan.





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Obituary: Olivia de Havilland, star of Hollywood’s Golden Age

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Olivia de Havilland

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Dame Olivia de Havilland, who has died at 104 in Paris, was one of the last survivors of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Her most famous role was that of the virtuous Melanie opposite Vivien Leigh’s wayward Scarlett, in the epic Gone with the Wind.

Her relationship with her sister, the actress Joan Fontaine, was a constant source of speculation in the gossip columns.

At the time of her death she was the oldest living performer to have won an Oscar.

Olivia Mary de Havilland was born in Tokyo on 1 July 1916 to Walter, a British patent lawyer and his actress wife Lilian.

Her paternal family originated in the Channel Islands; her cousin Geoffrey was the aircraft designer responsible for producing the famous World War Two plane, the Mosquito.

Her sister Joan was born in 1917. Both girls suffered from bronchial problems and her mother moved the family to California in 1919 in search of a more agreeable climate.

De Havilland’s father, who was notorious for his infidelities, soon abandoned them to return to Tokyo where he later married his Japanese housekeeper.

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Many of her earlier films failed to properly showcase her talent

Lilian gave elocution and singing lessons to her two daughters and introduced them to the works of Shakespeare.

In 1925 her mother married a department store owner, George M Fontaine, who imposed a strict regime on his two stepdaughters.

By this time the sisters had embarked on what would become their legendary feud, caused – according to their biographer Charles Higham – by Olivia’s inability to accept a younger sibling.

For her part, Joan thought her mother favoured Olivia, who Higham said enjoyed cutting up Joan’s clothes and forcing her to sew them back together again.

Chemistry

De Havilland was bitten by the drama bug while at Saratoga High School, making her stage debut in 1933 in an amateur production of Alice in Wonderland.

She later recalled: “I was actually moving in Alice’s enchanted wonderland. And so, for the first time, I felt not only pleasure in acting but love for acting as well.”

She was spotted by director Max Reinhardt, who cast her as Hermia in a production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl. She made her screen debut when the play was filmed for Warner Brothers in 1935. It received lukewarm reviews.

Her breakthrough came when producer Hal Wallis persuaded the studio to cast her in Captain Blood, opposite an Australian actor named Errol Flynn.

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There was a definite chemistry between de Havilland and Errol Flynn

The chemistry between the pair was immediate and they would star together in another seven films, including The Charge of the Light Brigade and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

De Havilland later claimed that Flynn, who had a reputation as a womaniser, had proposed to her but she had turned him down as he was already married.

Throughout the 1930s she appeared in a number of light, romantic films that allowed her to showcase her perfect diction but did little to advance her career,

“Playing good girls in the 30s was difficult when the fad was to play bad girls,” she said.

With the support of Jack Warner’s wife, Ann, de Havilland was offered the role of Melanie in David O Selznick’s epic adaptation of the Margaret Mitchell novel, Gone With the Wind.

Hampered

She received much critical acclaim for her performance and was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress. She lost out to Hattie McDaniel who played Mammy, making her the first African-American actress to win an Academy Award.

De Havilland’s feud with her sister showed little sign of abating. When Fontaine won a best actress Oscar in 1942, she allegedly refused to acknowledge De Havilland, who had also been nominated, although Fontaine later denied this.

Some commentators suggested the pair maintained the pretence of an ongoing quarrel and pointed out that the sisters did meet often on social occasions.

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There was an Oscar nomination for her role in Gone With the Wind

De Havilland’s efforts to continue to play more serious roles were hampered by Warner Brothers which, like all major studios at the time, had complete control over its stars.

When she was told Warner was adding time to her original contract as a penalty for turning down roles, she took the studio to court with the support of the Screen Actors Guild.

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Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton starred in My Cousin Rachel

The California Supreme Court ruled in her favour in what became known as the De Havilland Law, which loosened the grip studios had on their actors.

“I was told I would never work again, if I lost or won,” she later said. “When I won, they were impressed and didn’t bear a grudge.” However, De Havilland did not make another film for more than two years.

Honours

Subsequently her career flourished. She won an Oscar in 1946 for her role in To Each His Own, the same year in which she married a naval veteran named Marcus Goodrich. She went on to major dramatic roles in The Snake Pit in 1948 and in The Heiress a year later, for which she won a second Oscar.

In the 1950s she moved to France with her second husband, Frenchman Pierre Galante, the editor of Paris Match, and devoted most of her time to a growing family.

She famously turned down the role of Blanche DuBois in the 1951 adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. Instead the part went to Vivien Leigh, who won an Oscar.

There was a Golden Globe nomination for her role in an adaptation of My Cousin Rachel opposite Richard Burton and she won much praise for Lady in a Cage, a 1964 film in which she played a crippled widow trapped in a lift by intruders.

She continued to act sporadically until the late 1980s, winning a Golden Globe in 1986 for Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.

In 2008, at the age of 92, de Havilland received the US National Medal of Arts from George W Bush. Two years later she was awarded the Knight Legion of Honour from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. She had been a French resident for more than 50 years.

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Holding a picture from The Heiress for which she won an Oscar

The feud with Fontaine, which had been reignited over quarrels about medical treatment for their mother in 1975, finally ended with Fontaine’s death in 2013.

Fontaine had been quoted as saying: “I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it.”

De Havilland issued a statement saying she was “shocked and saddened” by her sister’s death.

She was created a Dame in the 2017 Birthday Honours list, within weeks of her 101st birthday, making her the oldest person to receive the award. She described it as “the most gratifying of birthday presents”.

Unable to travel to London for the investiture, she received her honour in Paris in 2018 from the British ambassador to France.

Guarded reputation

Also in 2018, de Havilland began legal proceedings against the FX TV network over how she was depicted in their docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan.

The show, starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, depicted the conflict between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford on the film Baby Jane. Catherine Zeta Jones played de Havilland in the role of narrator.

De Havilland’s attorneys said: “Miss de Havilland was not asked by FX for permission to use her name and identity and was not compensated for such use.

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“Further, the FX series puts words in the mouth of Miss de Havilland which are inaccurate and contrary to the reputation she has built over an 80-year professional life. Specifically, refusing to engage in gossip mongering about other actors in order to generate media attention for herself.”

But the California appeals court ruled against her. Further appeals to the California Supreme Court also came to a dead end.

Olivia de Havilland began her film career when black and white still held sway over colour and Hollywood studio bosses ruled their stars with a rod of iron.

The last of the major players in Gone With the Wind, she admitted in a 2015 interview that she still watched the film from time to time in order to connect with her former co-stars.

“Luckily it does not make me melancholy,” she said. “Instead, when I see them vibrantly alive on screen, I experience a kind of reunion with them, a joyful one.”




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