LGBTQ nightclub turns into grocery store to survive Covid-19 pandemic

News Network
July 1, 2020

As Peru begins to ease its strict coronavirus lockdown, the country's biggest LGBTQ nightclub opened its doors on Tuesday, but there will be no nighttime revellers; its dance floor will instead be filled with shelves stocked with groceries.

Instead of slinging cocktails at the bar or dancing on stage, ValeTodo Downtown's famed staff of drag queens will sell customers daily household products as the space reopens as a market while nightclubs are ordered to remain closed.

The Peruvian government will lift the lockdown in most regions of the country at the beginning of July but will keep borders closed, as well as nightclubs and bars.

The lockdown has been a struggle for the club's 120 employees like drag queen Belaluh McQueen. Her life completely changed when the government announced the quarantine. Her nights were spent at home, rather than performing as a dancer at the club in vivid-coloured costumes.

"I was very depressed because I have been doing this art for years, but you have to adapt to new challenges for the future," said McQueen, who is identified by her stage name.

Now McQueen is back to work as a grocery store employee, wearing a sequined suit, high heels and a mask. A DJ will play club music as patrons shop. "We have a new job opportunity," McQueen added.

Renamed as Downtown Market, the club, which has been a mainstay hallmark of the local LGBTQ community, ushered in its reopening with an inauguration ceremony.

"Before, I used to come here to dance and have a good time, but now we come to buy," said Alexandra Herrera, a regular attendee of the club. "The thing is to reinvent yourself."

The club's general manager, Claudia Achuy, said that the pandemic impacted the heart of Lima nightlife, but she chose to reopen as a market rather than risk cutting staff. "If we had just stayed as a nightclub we did not have a close horizon or a way of working," Achuy said.

Peru's confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 282,364 with 9,504 associated deaths on Monday, according to government data. It has the second-highest outbreak in Latin America after Brazil, according to a Reuters tally.

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Agencies
December 3,2020

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London, Dec 3: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday hailed the "searchlights of science" which have fought back against the "invisible enemy" COVID-19 with an approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine but urged the British public to not get carried away with "over optimism".

Addressing a 10 Downing Street briefing to confirm that the vaccine will be ready to be deployed to the highest risk categories by next week, Johnson stressed that it remains important that the country follows the tiered COVID Winter Plan and remain under alert to get through the long and cold months ahead before the vaccine administration process is in full swing by early next year.

"We have been waiting and hoping for the day when the searchlights of science would pick out our invisible enemy and give us the power to stop that enemy from making us ill and now the scientists have done it," said Johnson.

"It is all the more vital that as we celebrate this scientific achievement we are not carried away with over optimism, or fall into the naive belief that the struggle is over. It's not, we've got to stick to our Winter Plan, he said.

The prime minister confirmed that in line with the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the first phase of the vaccine deployment will include care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

"But there are immense logistical challenges: the vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees and each person needs two injections, three weeks apart. So it will inevitably take some months before all the most vulnerable are protected," he said.

"[But] we are no longer resting on the mere hope that we can return to normal next year in the spring, but rather on the sure and certain knowledge that we will succeed, he added.

His address came hours after the UK government confirmed that it has accepted the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) assessment and authorised the use of Pfizer/BioNTech to immunise against COVID-19.

Now authorisation has been granted, Pfizer will begin delivery of the vaccine to the UK. In making the recommendation to authorise supply, the MHRA will decide any additional quality assurance checks that may be required before a vaccine can be made available, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

The UK claims to be the first country to pre-order supplies of the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, with 800,000 doses being made available next week and 40 million doses ordered overall enough to vaccinate up to a third of the population, and the majority of doses anticipated in the first half of next year.

"As a nation we owe every scientist, clinician and trial volunteer an enormous debt of gratitude for their victory won against odds that at times seemed impossible. It is thanks to their efforts, and of our Vaccine Taskforce, that the UK was the first country to sign a deal with Pfizer/BioNTech and will now be the first to deploy their vaccine," said UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

The MHRA started the rolling review of Pfizer/BioNTech's data in October and the UK government asked the regulator to assess the vaccine for its suitability for authorisation under Regulation 174 of the Human Medicines Regulations, enabling the temporary supply of medicines to be authorised in response to a public health need, which the regulator has recommended.

The state-funded National Health Service (NHS) for England said deployment plans will include hospital hubs for NHS and care staff and older patients to get vaccinated; local community services with local teams and GPs already signing up to take part in the programme; and vaccination centres across the country, ensuring people can access a vaccine regardless of where they live.

"This vaccine has now passed all of the extensive checks needed for authorisation to supply and will soon be ready to be delivered to the NHS," said Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.

The vaccine will be available for free across the UK, with the government said to be working with the devolved administrations to ensure it is deployed fairly across all four nations England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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News Network
November 24,2020

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Elon Musk's year of dizzying ascents hit a new apex Monday as the Tesla Inc. co-founder passed Bill Gates to become the world's second-richest person.

The 49-year-old entrepreneur's net worth soared $7.2 billion to $127.9 billion, driven by yet another surge in Tesla's share price. Musk has added $100.3 billion to his net worth this year, the most of anyone on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world's 500 richest people. In January he ranked 35th.

His advance up the wealth ranks has been driven largely by Tesla, whose market value is approaching $500 billion. About three-quarters of his net worth is comprised of Tesla shares, which are valued more than four times as much as his stake in Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX.

Musk's milestone marks only the second time in the index's eight-year history that Microsoft Corp. co-founder Gates has ranked lower than number two. He held the top spot for years before being bumped by Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos in 2017. Gates's net worth of $127.7 billion would be much higher had he not donated so prodigiously to charity over the years. He has given more than $27 billion to his namesake foundation since 2006.

With Monday's move, Musk unseats an occasional verbal sparring partner in Gates, who the Tesla billionaire has ridiculed on Twitter for, among other things, having “no clue” about electric trucks. The two have also traded barbs over Covid-19. Gates, whose charitable foundation is one of the preeminent bodies backing vaccine research, has expressed concern over Musk's stated suspicion of pandemic data and embrace of certain conspiracy theories.

The year has been a lucrative one for the world's richest people. Despite the pandemic and widespread layoffs that have disproportionately affected the world's working class and poor, the members of the Bloomberg index have collectively gained 23% -- or $1.3 trillion -- since the year began.

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News Network
December 5,2020

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Washington, Dec 5: California certified its presidential election Friday and appointed 55 electors pledged to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, officially handing him the Electoral College majority needed to win the White House.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla's formal approval of Biden's win in the state brought his tally of pledged electors so far to 279, according to a tally by The Associated Press. That's just over the 270 threshold for victory.

These steps in the election are often ignored formalities. But the hidden mechanics of electing a U.S. president have drawn new scrutiny this year as President Donald Trump continues to deny Biden's victory and pursues increasingly specious legal strategies aimed at overturning the results before they are finalized.

Although it's been apparent for weeks that Biden won the presidential election, his accrual of more than 270 electors is the first step toward the White House, said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University.

“It is a legal milestone and the first milestone that has that status,” Foley said. “Everything prior to that was premised on what we call projections.” The electors named Friday will meet Dec. 14, along with counterparts in each state, to formally vote for the next president.

Most states have laws binding their electors to the winner of the popular vote in their state, measures that were upheld by a Supreme Court decision this year. There have been no suggestions that any of Biden's pledged electors would contemplate not voting for him.

Results of the Electoral College vote are due to be received and typically approved, by Congress on Jan. 6. Although lawmakers can object to accepting the electors' votes, it would be almost impossible for Biden to be blocked at that point.

The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate would both vote separately to resolve any disputes. One already has arisen from Pennsylvania, where 75 Republican lawmakers signed a statement on Friday urging Congress to block the state's electoral votes from being cast for Biden.

But the state's Republican U.S. senator, Pat Toomey, said soon afterward that he would not be objecting to Pennsylvania's slate of electors, underscoring the difficulty in trying to change the election results through Congress.

“As a practical matter, we know that Joe Biden is going to be inaugurated on Jan. 20," Foley said.

That was clear in the days after the election, when the count of mail ballots gradually made clear that Biden had won victories in enough states to win the Electoral College.

It became even more apparent in late November, when every swing state won by Biden certified him as the winner of its elections and appointed his electors to the Electoral College. Trump has fruitlessly tried to stop those states from certifying Biden as the winner and appointing electors for the former vice president.

He made no effort in deeply Democratic California, the most populous state in the nation and the trove of its largest number of electoral votes. Three more states won by Biden — Colorado, Hawaii and New Jersey — have not yet certified their results. When they do, Biden will have 306 Electoral College votes to Trump's 232.

Trump and his allies have brought at least 50 legal cases trying to overturn the results in the swing states Biden won — mainly Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. More than 30 have been rejected or dropped, according to an AP tally.

Trump and his allies have also raised the far-fetched notion that Republican state legislatures in those states could appoint a rival set of electors pledged to Trump.

But state Republican leaders have rejected that approach, and it would likely be futile in any case. According to federal law, both chambers of Congress would need to vote to accept a competing slate of electors. If they don't, the electors appointed by the states' governors — all pledged to Biden in these cases — must be used. The last remaining move to block the election would be the quixotic effort to vote down the electors in Congress.

This tactic has been tried — a handful of congressional Democrats in 2000, 2004 and 2016 objected to officially making both George W. Bush and Trump president. But the numbers were not enough to block the two men from taking office.

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