Brazil tops 1 million cases as coronavirus spreads inland

News Network
June 20,2020

Sao Paulo, June 20: Brazil’s government confirmed on Friday that the country has risen above 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, second only to the United States.

The country’s health ministry said that the total now stood at 10,32,913, up more than 50,000 from Thursday. The ministry said the sharp increase was due to corrections of previous days’ underreported numbers.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro still downplays the risks of the virus after nearly 50,000 deaths from COVID-19 in three months, saying the impact of social isolation measures on the economy could be worse than the disease itself.

Specialists believe the actual number of cases in Brazil could be up to seven times higher than the official statistic. Johns Hopkins University says Brazil is performing an average of 14 tests per 1,00,000 people each day, and health experts say that number is up to 20 times less than needed to track the virus.

Official data show a downward trend of the virus in Brazil’s north, including the hard-hit region of the Amazon, a plateau in cases and deaths in the countries’ biggest cities near the Atlantic coast, but a rising curve in the south.

In the Brazilian countryside, which is much less prepared to handle a crisis, the pandemic is clearly growing. Many smaller cities have weaker health care systems and basic sanitation that’s insufficient to prevent contagion.

“There is a lot of regional inequality in our public health system and a shortage of professionals in the interior,” said Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials.

That creates many health care deserts, with people going long distances to get attention. When they leave the hospital, the virus can go with them.

The cattle-producing state of Mato Grosso was barely touched by the virus when it hit the nation’s biggest cities in March. Sitting far from the coast, between the Bolivian border and Brazil’s capital of Brasilia, its 33 lakh residents led a mostly normal life until May. But now its people live under lockdown and meat producers have dozens of infected workers.

In Tangará da Serra, a city of 1,03,000 people in Mato Grosso, the mayor decided Friday to forbid the sale of alcoholic drinks for two weeks as an incentive for people to stay home.

Fᢩo Junqueira said the measure was needed after a spike in COVID-19 cases that filled 80% of the city’s 54 intensive care beds. The city has had nearly 300 cases of the disease, plus three fatalities.

In Rondonópolis, only 300 miles away from Tangará da Serra and home to a thriving economy, health authorities closed the local meatpacking industry after 92 cases were confirmed there. The city of 1,44,000 inhabitants counted 21 deaths from the virus and more than 600 cases. The mayor has also decided to limit sales of alcoholic beverages.

Even regions once considered examples of successful efforts against the virus are now struggling.

Porto Alegre, home to about 14 lakh people, had success in slowing the virus’ spread over the last three months. But now its mayor is considering increasing social isolation measures after ICU occupancy in the city jumped to 80% this month.

We were already making projections for schools to come back, Mayor Nelson Marchezan Jr. told The Associated Press. Now the trend is to impose more restrictions. Outside Sao Paulo city, five regions of the state’s countryside will have to close shops starting Monday due to a rise in coronavirus cases. Governor João Doria announced the decision Friday.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s executive director, said at a news conference that Brazil needs to increase its efforts to stop the spread of infections.

“The epidemic is still quite severe in Brazil. I believe health workers are working extremely hard and under pressure to be able to deal with the number of cases that they see on a daily basis,” Dr. Ryan said.

“Certainly the rise is not as exponential as it was previously, so there are some signs that the situation is stabilising. But we’ve seen this before in other epidemics in other countries.”

Margareth Dalcolmo, a clinical researcher and professor of respiratory medicine at the state-funded Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, believes the reopening in major cities and the virus traveling by road into Brazil’s heartland will keep the pressure on the country’s health system.

“The risk in the interior now is very big,” she said. “Our health system just can’t solve the most serious cases of COVID in many places of the countryside.”

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"America Mein Khila Kamal": Indian-Americans Celebrate Kamala Harris's Selection

News Network
August 12,2020

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Washington, Aug 12: Leading Indian-American groups and individuals, including former Pepsico chief Indra Nooyi, have hailed the nomination of Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris as Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, saying it was a "great choice" and a "moment of pride" for the entire community in the US.

However, there were also some community members who questioned Ms Harris's contribution towards the Indo-US ties and said they would not be swayed by identity politics.

Presumptive Democratic party Presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday named 55-year-old Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential running mate, making history by selecting the first black woman to compete on a major party's Presidential ticket.

Kamala Harris, whose father is an African from Jamaica and mother an Indian, is currently the US Senator from California.

"This is a great choice for our country," tweeted Ms Nooyi, who is seen as a role model by millions of women across the world.

Kamala Harris herself was a presidential aspirant until last year before she dropped out of the race because of lack of popular support.

"What an electric moment for the Indian-American community! Indian-Americans are now truly a mainstream community in the national fabric," MR Rangaswami, an eminent Indian-American and the founder of Indiaspora, told news agency PTI.

Welcoming the decision, IMPACT, a leading Indian-American advocacy group and a Political Action Committee, said it will raise USD 10 million for the campaign.

"Kamala Harris's story is the story of a changing, inclusive America...Her candidacy is historic and inspiring, not only for Black Americans, but for millions of Asian American voters, the fastest growing voting bloc in the country," IMPACT's executive director Neil Makhija said.

Kamala Harris's supporters on Tuesday announced to launch a nationwide campaign "America mein Khila Kamal (Lotus blooms in the US)".

California-based Indian-American entrepreneur Ajay Bhutoria told news agency PTI that he is planning to release graphic and social media posts around this slogan in the run up to the November 3 presidential elections.

Mr Bhutoria is also the creator of a multi-language campaign, including in Hindi, which says, "America Ka Neta Kaisa Ho, Jo Biden Jaisa Ho!! (How America''s leader should be, like Biden)", as part of the efforts to reach to the Indian-American community.

According to Neha Dewan, National Director of South Asians for Biden, Harris has fought for justice throughout her time in public service, which makes her an "uniquely inspired choice" to take on Trump and the Republicans.

Kamala Harris's selection to serve in the second-highest office in the US is a signal that the community is an important part of the American fabric, said Deepa Sharma, national communications co-chair for South Asians for Biden.

The Indo-American Democratic Organisation, one of the oldest South Asian American political advocacy bodies in the US, noted that a "Biden-Harris administration will prioritise the needs and challenges faced by immigrants".

Ms Harris will build stronger US-India relations, said Rajendra Dichpally from US India Security Council.

However, not all Indian-Americans were happy with Kamala Harris's nomination.

"Yes, there will be initial excitement and confusion for a few weeks amongst the Indian Americans - debating whether to vote for Biden due to Kamala Harris being of Indian Heritage or voting for Trump, who has been great for India-US relations. There is and there will be a lot of hustling by the Biden-Harris combo for the Indian-American votes in the battleground states," Al Mason, co-chair of the Trump Victory Indian American Finance Committee, told news agency PTI.

However, after initial few weeks of excitement, Indian-Americans would continue to support Trump because of his "impeccable track record" when it comes to Indo-US ties and promises fulfilled to the community, he asserted.

Al Mason questioned what Biden and Harris have done for India? And went on to add, "Zero. Future promises by them - after being elected - mean nothing."

According to a recent survey conducted by Al Mason, 50 per cent of the Indian-Americans in key battleground states like Texas, Michigan, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania who traditionally vote for Democrats, are now switching over to the Trump camp.

Prominent physician Dr Deepak Nandi said Ms Harris's selection as vice presidential candidate will have minimal effects on the Indian-American electoral votes as Trump has done so much for the community by supporting their entrepreneurial efforts and ease of doing business in the US.

According to Sridhar Chillara, founder and chairman of the Asian American Republican Alliance, Indian-Americans will vote "with eyes wide open" in the presidential election and "reject the game of hypocrisy and identity politics played by the Democrats".

Acknowledging that Ms Harris's nomination will excite many community members, as this is the closest the community has come to the Oval Office, Indian-Americans for Trump in a statement said, however, there is a lot of opposition to her.

"Until she was contesting for the President, during the Democratic primary season, she had not associated herself with the Indian-American population. That is why, at a debate podium, questions were raised to her about her being of Indian heritage and hiding it. That opened this issue for her," it said in a statement.

Indian-American physician Dr Raj Bhayani said historically, selection of vice president candidates has had no effect on the outcome of the presidential race.

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Ex-cop charged in Floyd's death faces tax evasion counts

News Network
July 23,2020

Minneapolis, Jul 23: The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd was charged Wednesday with multiple felony counts of tax evasion.

Derek Chauvin and his wife, Kellie May Chauvin, were each charged in Washington County with six counts of filing false or fraudulent tax returns for the tax years 2014 through 2019 and three counts of failing to file tax returns for 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd pleaded for air.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and three other officers who were at the scene were fired.

Chauvin is in custody on the charges in the Floyd case. Kellie Chauvin, who filed for divorce after Floyd's death, is not in custody.

Online court records didn't list attorneys for either in the tax evasion case, and calls to Kellie Chauvin did not go through.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said the investigation into the Chauvins was started in June by the Minnesota Department of Revenue and Oakdale Police Department.

Authorities allege in the criminal complaints that the Chauvins failed to file income tax returns and pay state income taxes, and that they underreported and underpaid taxes on income they earned from various jobs each year.

The complaints allege that they also failed to pay proper sales tax on a $100,000 BMW purchased in Minnesota in 2018.

Prosecutors say the Chauvins bought the car in Minnetonka but registered it in Florida, where they paid lower sales taxes.

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Sri Lanka | Rajapaksa brothers strengthen grip as their group wins ‘super majority’ in parliament polls

Agencies
August 7,2020

Colombo, Aug 7: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's party and its allies won an overwhelming two-thirds majority in a parliament election, results showed on Friday, giving him the power to enact sweeping changes to the constitution.

The governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and its allies had won 150 seats in the 225-member parliament, according to the tally published by the election commission from Wednesday's vote.

Rajapaksa had sought a two-thirds majority in parliament to be able to restore full executive powers to the presidency, which he says are necessary to implement his agenda to make the tiny island economically and militarily secure.

He is likely to install his older brother and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the next prime minister. The brothers are best known for crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils during the elder Rajapaksa's presidency in 2009.

On a congratulatory phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, which is keen to check Chinese influence on its southern neighbour, Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed to deepen ties between the two countries.

"With the strong support of the people of Sri Lanka, I look forward to working with you closely to further enhance the long-standing cooperation between our two countries," he told Modi. "Sri Lanka and India are friends and relations."

The tourism-dependent nation of 21 million people has been struggling economically since deadly Islamist militant attacks on hotels and churches last year followed by lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

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