With 58,173 new coronavirus cases, US caseload crosses 4.9 million

Agencies
August 8, 2020

Washington, Aug 8: The United States has reported 58,173 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the total past 4.9 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"The first case of COVID-19 in the US was reported 198 days ago on 22.01.2020.Yesterday, the country reported 58,173 new confirmed cases and 1,243 deaths," it said.

The country is expected to cross the 5 million thresholds in the coming days. It leads the world both in terms of coronavirus cases and deaths estimated at over 161,300.

Overall, there have been 19.4 million cases confirmed globally and almost 721,800 people have died from virus-related complications. Another 11.7 million have recovered.

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Tokyo, Sept 16: Japan's parliament on Wednesday elected Yoshihide Suga prime minister, with the former chief cabinet secretary expected to stick closely to policies championed by Shinzo Abe during his record-breaking tenure.

"According to the results, our house has decided to name Yoshihide Suga prime minister," lower house speaker Tadamori Oshima told parliament after the votes were counted.

Suga, 71, won an easy victory, taking 314 votes of 462 valid ballots cast in the lower house of parliament, where his ruling Liberal Democratic Party holds a commanding majority with its coalition partner.

He bowed deeply as lawmakers applauded following the announcement, but made no immediate comment.

He is expected to announce his cabinet later Wednesday, with local media reporting he will retain a number of ministers from Abe's government.

Suga has said he will prioritise keeping coronavirus infections under control and kickstarting Japan's economy, and has promised to continue Abe's key policy programmes.

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Agencies
September 15,2020

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Washington, Sept 15: Facebook has been accused of ignoring fake accounts undermining political affairs around the world, according to a memo by a former employee of the social networking giant shared with BuzzFeed News.

In the 6,600-word memo, former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang wrote that she found evidence of coordinated campaigns to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes in India and other countries like Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

"I've found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions," she wrote in the memo, as reported by BuzzFeed News on Monday.

"I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I've lost count," according to the memo that details her her experiences of working with the social networking giant over the past two-and-a-half years.

Zhang said in the memo that in countries like Azerbaijan and Honduras, heads of government and political parties made use of fake accounts or misrepresented themselves to sway public opinion.

Giving an example of how slow Facebook was in acting against global political manipulation, she said that it took Facebook's leaders nine months to act on a coordinated campaign "that used thousands of inauthentic assets to boost President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras on a massive scale to mislead the Honduran people."

Her LinkedIn profile said she "worked as the data scientist for the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team" and dealt with "bots influencing elections and the like".

"I know that I have blood on my hands by now," Zhang wrote.

However, giving a reference to her work related to India, the memo detailed that she worked to remove "a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence" the Delhi Assembly election that took place in February.

Facebook did not reveal the detection of such a a network or that it had taken it down, according to the report.

"We've built specialized teams, working with leading experts, to stop bad actors from abusing our systems, resulting in the removal of more than 100 networks for coordinated inauthentic behavior," Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois was quoted as saying in a statement.

"It's highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit. Working against coordinated inauthentic behaviour is our priority, but we're also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company."

These revelations come barely a month after a Wall Street Journal report on August 14 said that the top leadership at Facebook's India office refused to apply the company's own rules to politicians from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite clear violations of Facebook's policies against incitement to violence, hate speech, and misinformation.

Facebook India's public policy head Ankhi Das reportedly "told staff members that punishing violations by politicians from Mr. Modi's party would damage the company's business prospects in the country."

Following the report, the opposition Congress Party raised the issue of what it calls "unholy nexus" of the ruling BJP with Facebook and WhatsApp.

On August 18, the Congress Party wrote a letter to Facebook Inc expressing concern and asking them to acknowledge the issue and take corrective action. Congress had raised alarm over "interference in India's internal affairs by a foreign company".

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Agencies
September 13,2020

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United Nations, Sept 13: Upon the conclusion of their annual meeting, the Group of Seven (G7) Speakers and heads of Parliament have agreed to focus on the need for strong international action to combat the disparities in health and financial security that have been highlighted by the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

They observed that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations this year were among the highest averages ever recorded.

"We, Speakers/Presidents of Parliament of the member states of the G7, affirm that the COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis require a robust and coordinated international response," said a joint declaration after the virtual G7 Speakers' meeting concluded on Saturday.

The meeting included participation from all G7 nations and the European Union.

"By passing legislation, by approving national budgets and by holding governments to account, Parliaments are a key element in the commitment of states to the well-being of our citizens and the environment.

"As leaders in the international community, we commit to act with urgency to provide a healthy, clean and sustainable environment for our children and grandchildren and generations to come.

"The world is reeling from COVID-19. As of September 12, 2020, there have been more than 28 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the disease has claimed the lives of more than 900,000 people across the world.

"The pandemic has disrupted the regular life of our citizens, disproportionately hurt our most vulnerable communities and at-risk populations, including women and children, and destabilized our economies.

"We declare that our response to COVID-19, including vaccine development and its equitable distribution, will be based on science and medicine, focused on wide access rather than profitability, and informed by the knowledge that the pandemic will continue until it is addressed worldwide," said the declaration.

"As G7 nations, we have a moral, scientific and economic duty to serve as the standard-bearer for this global commitment.

"Unfortunately, the climate crisis does not pause as governments address the pandemic. Our nations cannot choose to ignore the climate emergency while we address the immediate crisis presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Both the health and climate crises have and will continue to require unprecedented government action.

"As Parliaments develop legislation to rebound from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, clean energy and other climate investments can power short- and long-term economic recovery.

"The climate crisis is the existential threat of our time, jeopardizing the health and well-being of every family in every community around the world.

"Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in 2020 are among the highest averages ever recorded. The planet suffered through the second hottest year ever in 2019. As the earth heats up, climate-related impacts, including heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and flooding, are worsening," it said.

The statement went on to say: "The great rivers of our world are beginning to dry up, depriving millions of water, food, jobs, transportation and commerce. The degradation of the oceans is also a great matter of concern as we stated in Brest last year.

"We shall also pay particular attention to environmental justice for economically vulnerable and frontline communities.

"Committing to fight against environmental injustice requires providing a healthy environment, equal opportunity and meaningful involvement in environmental decisions to all people, regardless of race, colour, gender, orientation, national origin, belief, or socio-economic condition.

"Climate policy can end the perpetuation of systemic inequalities.

"We reaffirm the central role played by parliaments in democratic life. Parliaments, which are the assemblies that bring together all the components of society, are the key institutions of democracy: parliaments represent the expression of the people through their legislative and oversight roles.

"We therefore call upon all parties to take action on the climate crisis in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

"We pledge that we will maintain contacts between parliaments to ensure a high level of mobilization concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate, the regular raising of questions linked to these crises and the dissemination of good practices.

"We believe that our parliaments must play a pivotal role in the response and recovery to COVID-19 and the fight to address the climate crisis with economic and environmental justice for all."

In the run-up to the G7 Speakers' meeting, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in a video message informed the participating nations that they should think of the whole world as interdependent and of the entire seven billion human beings as one human community.

"Global warming is very serious. Many people suffer. We must pay more attention," he said.

The participants comprised US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of Canada's House of Commons, Canada Anthony Rota, President of the European Parliament David Maria Sassoli, President of French National Assembly Richard Ferrand, President of the German Bundestag Wolfgang SchAuble, President of Italy's Chamber of Deputies Roberto Fico, Speaker of Japan's House of Representatives Tadamori Oshima and Speaker of UK's House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle.

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