Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Outrage Mounts Over Racist Police and Vigilante Killings
African Americans continue to be systematically profiled and executed by law-enforcement
agencies and bigoted whites creating a volatile situation across the United States

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Wednesday May 27, 2020
Commentary

Four Minneapolis police officers have been terminated from their jobs in the aftermath of the
videotaped exposure of the blatant killing of George Floyd.

This act of police violence which has no justification is by no means an isolated incident.
A white officer was seen in the video taken on a cell phone applying pressure from his knee on
the neck of Floyd. The victim said repeatedly that he could not breathe yet the policeman
continued to carry out the behavior while another officer was captured looking on and taking
no action to restrain the one doing the choking.

The killing of Floyd marks a continued program of intimidation, violence and execution levelled
against African Americans for centuries. The government in Washington, D.C. has given state
approval to target, seize and liquidate anyone deemed a threat to the status quo of racism and
national oppression.

During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and prior to the outbreak
during early and mid-March, African Americans have been systematically targeted by law-
enforcement agencies as well as racist armed individuals and organizations for harassment,
arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, serious injury and death. The pandemic which has
disproportionately impacted the African American people in urban, suburban and rural areas
has not lessened the lethal force policies of the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state.
Immediate denunciations of the police killing of Floyd took place around the U.S. and
internationally. In Minneapolis itself, large crowds gathered outside the police station to
protest the death of Floyd along with demanding the detention and prosecution of the police
officers involved. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/26/george-floyd-killing-
minneapolis-protest-police)

On the evening of May 26, police wearing riot gear launched tear gas against the demonstration
which had surrounded the public safety headquarters. Activists angered by the Floyd killing
blocked traffic to bring attention to the plight of African Americans subjected to the deadly
force that is routinely justified by the legal system.

During the course of the confrontation several police cars were damaged by angry
demonstrators from the community. Although Mayor Jacob Frey and police chief Medaria
Arradondo have attempted to distance themselves from the killing of Floyd, their statements
do not convince a significant element within the city which has witnessed such extra-judicial
executions for decades.

Minneapolis police have been the focus of mass demonstrations for many years due to brutality
and deadly force utilized against African Americans and even one Australian woman. The police
throughout the U.S. are given wide discretion in exercising the use of weapons and tactics
which often result in death.

One of the first executive orders issued by the administration of President Donald Trump was to
nullify all of the consent decrees instituted by the Justice Department related to police
misconduct. These federally-supervised consent judgements and decrees grew out of similar
incidents which resulted in the unjustified killings of African Americans, people of Latin
American descent and other oppressed communities in the U.S.

Despite the weaknesses of the consent decrees, the administration sought to send a signal to
law-enforcement that excessive and lethal force was endorsed at the highest levels of the
federal government. In this election year, where the Trump regime is desperate for its very own
political survival, the administration is fostering racism and other forms of intolerance to shore
up its own base.

Vigilante Racism in Georgia: The Brutal Death of Ahmaud Arbery

Prior to the police killing of George Floyd, the case of Ahmaud Arbery drew the attention of the
public when a video of his brutal killing was finally released on social media. Arbery had been
jogging in the vicinity of his neighborhood when he was pursued by two white men and shot to
death. Two white men, a father and son, were arrested in May and charged with felony murder
in the case.

The third person in the vehicle videotaping the incident has now been arrested and charged
with murder as well. Although the third person says that he had no role in the shooting death
of Floyd, this individual did absolutely nothing to restrain the father and son carrying out the
killing.

It would take several weeks for the fate of Arbery to receive national and world attention as a
direct result of the failure to disclose details of the actual incident by the local authorities. Since
the revelation about the unjustified shooting death large demonstrations have occurred
demanding justice for Arbery.

A hearing for the three white men is scheduled for next month. A report published by ABC
News says: “The three Georgia men charged in connection with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery
have been scheduled for a preliminary hearing on June 4. Arbery, 25, was shot and killed Feb.
23 as he was jogging through the Satilla Shores, Georgia, neighborhood, but charges weren't
filed until last month. Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were charged with the
felony murder of Arbery on May 7, and William Bryan, 50, was charged May 21.”
(https://abcnews.go.com/US/hearing-set-georgia-men-charged-ahmaud-arbery-
killing/story?id=70906145)

Georgia was the center of national attention in 2018 when charges of voter suppression were
made during the gubernatorial election involving Democratic candidate and former Minority
Leader in the State House of Representatives Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, who
was serving as Secretary of State at the time. Even though there was clear evidence of
deliberate disenfranchisement of African Americans in Georgia, the courts refused to declare
Abrams the winner.

Kemp was recorded earlier in the year saying he was not aware that asymptomatic COVID-19
patients could transmit the virus to others. The Georgia governor has attempted to maintain his
alliance with the Trump administration by neglecting many of the Center for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) and White House Task Force guidelines related to containing the
pandemic.

No Knock Raid on Wrong Address in Louisville Results in African American Woman’s Shooting
Death

It has been more than fifty years since the police raid on the Chicago residence of Black Panther
Party Chairman Fred Hampton on December 4, 1969. Hampton and his comrade Mark Clark of
Peoria, Illinois, were murdered by several police officers assigned to the raid by the-then Illinois
State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan.

Several other members and supporters of the BPP were wounded, arrested and falsely charged
on felony counts. The police were never held accountable in the assassinations of Hampton and
Clark. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had planted an informant in the Chicago
Chapter of the BPP whose job was to provide detailed information to the government and to
discredit the organization. The informant turned over the floor plan to the Panther apartment
and later on the night of the raid, drugged the occupants of the residence so they would be
incapable of defending themselves against the police.

On March 13, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was asleep in her
bed when a “No Knock” drug raid was carried out by Louisville, Kentucky police. The police had
conducted the operation at the wrong address. Taylor died after being shot eight times. Her
partner, Kenneth Walker, discharged his firearm during the raid and was arrested by police.
Charges against him have subsequently been dropped. (https://www.wlky.com/article/lmpd-
addresses-threats-towards-officers-in-midst-of-breonna-taylor-investigation/32679490#)

The family of Taylor is demanding justice in the horrendous law-enforcement action. The police
chief has since announced his retirement yet none of the officers have been terminated or
charged with murder. A reef laying at Taylor’s home and a rally to demand justice for the slain
woman were held on May 25-26. (https://www.wave3.com/2020/05/25/friends-family-hold-
wreath-laying-woman-shot-by-lmpd/)

Repression Will Escalate During the Current Period

The magnitude of police brutality including beatings, false arrests and killings appear to be
increasing over the last few years. Statistics on the number of people killed by the police
indicate that law-enforcement agents took the lives of more than 1,000 people in 2019. African
Americans were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.
(https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/)

Another source which monitors lethal force by police noted that: “Sadly, the trend of fatal
police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 228 civilians
having been shot, 31 of whom were Black, as of March 30, 2020. In 2018, there were 996 fatal
police shootings, and in 2019 this figure increased to 1,004.”
(https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/)

Irrespective of whether there is a Democratic or Republican administration in Washington, the
relationship between African Americans and the police remains unchanged. The principal role
of law-enforcement within a racist capitalist society is to protect private property and the state.
Since Black, Brown and other oppressed communities are the most exploited under the existing
system, they often suffer the brute force of the repressive apparatus.

Demonstrations and all forms of resistance against police misconduct require greater
coordination on a national and international scale. In the final analysis it will take a movement
of millions to effectively end police violence against the people along with many other forms of
state repression.
Republic of Congo Officials Eager to Learn More About TCM: Expert
By Dong Feng
Global Times
2020/5/26 23:43:35

During a knowledge exchange session between Republic of Congo officials and the Chinese Medical Mission, a high-level official encouraged the Chinese expert team to share more experience related to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Wang Junhui and his team have an on-site discussion with medical workers on Friday in the China-Republic of Congo Friendship Hospital when they carried out their last field visit before leaving for Brazzaville. Photo courtesy of Chinese Embassy in DRC

Minister of Health and Population Jacqueline Lydia Mikolo expressed her gratitude to the mission team for lending capable hands to help the Congolese fight against the epidemic. Officials from the ministry expressed great interest in the Chinese medicine treatment against the coronavirus, Wang Junhui, the mission lead assigned by Hebei Health Commission, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

In response to the call for sharing more TCM knowledge, Wang said that the mission is willing to share their experience gained in China without reservation, despite the short stay.

The mission team consists of 11 medical professionals and one interpreter. On Monday afternoon, the team visited the China-Republic of Congo Friendship Hospital, where 85 Congolese medical workers were trained on the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. At the training session, the experts introduced three major prescriptions and types of medicine with a remarkable curative effect, Wang said.

"We noticed that the Congolese treatment is more of one prescription for all," Wang noted, so he and his team shared the concept to customize treatment for different periods among infected patients.

Meanwhile, the team shared the prevention experience using TCM as well as in the rehabilitation period.

At the end of the training, the Chinese experts had an in-depth discussion over the combined usage of TCM and Western medicine.

The Chinese experts arrived in the Republic of the Congo on Saturday after cooperation and training sessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since May 12.

In the past two days, the expert team has trained 155 Congolese medical professionals, Wang told the Global Times.

During their stay in the DRC, the team has exchanged experience with medical workers who are in charge of 35 regions and eight dedicated hospitals for novel coronavirus patients.

When the mission team arrived in the DRC, the daily testing capacity was in the range of 100-300, with only three testing machines working, Wang recalled. It takes one week in some areas to get the test results.

"The one week duration could also be of high risk for infection too."

The experts noticed that there were extra machines that could be used. "These were donated from China in August 2019 to the DRC for testing the Ebola virus," he said.

His teammates got into contact with the machine maker in China for installment instructions and on-site training for the medical workers. "By the time we left, the testing capacity reached almost 500 each day," Wang said.

Talking about the challenges, Wang said that during the on-site knowledge exchange sessions, he and his colleagues noticed there were chances in some hospitals to get infected while working, so they gave advice about how to change the situation.

In some areas, there are no dedicated clinics for fever symptoms, Wang added.

"We hosted an online videoconference for training in the DRC, and the session lasted more than three hours," Wang said. Many doctors asked us questions after the introduction part and they praised our help and support, he said.

The mission team took a charter flight and offered protection equipment valued at about 5 million yuan ($700,000).

"The good news is, since there are more infectious diseases in Africa, residents might have higher immunity, which is why we have not seen a pandemic situation yet," Wang said.

"The prevention and control forces are relatively strong too."

To express their gratitude, the DRC officials awarded each expert a certificate to acknowledge their contribution in fighting against COVID-19 together.

"I'm very surprised and impressed by the gesture," Wang said.

Working with their peers, the mission team had few chances to communicate with their families as there is a seven-hour time difference between the two countries.

As of Tuesday, there are 487 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Republic of Congo.
Cities Hastily Add Pandemics to Long List of 21st-century Threats
Reuters
2020/5/19 18:18:41

In early 2018, parched by a severe drought, Cape Town rallied its residents and businesses to slash water use and stop its taps running dry. Now, lessons from the water crisis are helping the South African city respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Megaphones are being used in communities with limited online access to make residents aware of the need for social distancing and good hygiene, just as they were deployed during the drought to encourage people to conserve water.

Videos on the city's social media channels honor frontline workers in the COVID-19 crisis and urge efforts to deal with it together - messages similar to those applauding water-saving efforts two to three years ago.

And networks set up to engage businesses in a joint push to use water efficiently have been resuscitated to help them safely continue operations while containing COVID-19.

Gareth Morgan, Cape Town's director of resilience, said the city of about 4.6 million people was benefiting from what he called "crisis muscle memory."

Many of the same planners who worked on the drought response are now dealing with COVID-19 and using similar tools, such as building an index to show who is most vulnerable and developing a dashboard of metrics to track the situation.

"It is not uncommon for our city team members to regularly say in our planning meetings that we learned something during the drought and we should be cognizant of it now," Morgan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.

Harnessing experiences from previous disasters to limit the fallout from the novel coronavirus is not unique to Cape Town. And urban officials aren't keeping the real-time knowledge they are gaining from today's health crisis to themselves.

Several international networks set up to help cities cope better with modern-day challenges - from climate change to urban poverty - have sprung into action in recent weeks, to help their members respond quickly and effectively to COVID-19.

Urban experts admit that the risk of a global pandemic was not top of the list of imminent threats for the majority of cities they had worked with, before this year.

"Often our plans and strategies respond to the shock that is in our most recent memory, and that's what motivates us," said Lauren Sorkin, acting executive director of the Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN).

For many cities that has been worsening extreme weather, such as storms and heat waves, or the arrival of large numbers of refugees fleeing conflict.

Nonetheless, some cities, such as Surat in India, which suffered an outbreak of plague in 1994, have strengthened health systems as part of overall city resilience plans, Sorkin noted.

And in England, Greater Manchester, in developing its own strategy, has specifically considered what measures would be needed to respond better to a flu pandemic, including putting public information on its disaster preparedness website.

Multiple crises

Advocates of "urban resilience" say the holistic approach - which has gained traction around the world in recent years - can improve how cities handle all manner of shocks and stresses.

In trying to build resilience, cities analyze complex systems and how their different parts might be affected by a range of threats.

The aim is to keep residents, property, infrastructure and nature safe - and emerge stronger from a crisis.

"The capacity that is needed in government and administration is one in which people understand how to manage multiple crises interacting with one another simultaneously - and that's the century we're in," said Jeb Brugmann, a founding partner at Resilient Cities Catalyst, an urban consultancy.

In practice, that could mean planting trees in Parisian schoolyards to provide green, less-polluted spaces for children that are also open for local people to cool off in heat waves.

It could also mean incorporating off-grid solar power systems as medical facilities damaged by hurricanes are rebuilt in places like Puerto Rico, to lower planet-warming emissions and ensure the centers can function during disaster blackouts.

GRCN's Sorkin said city resilience strategies would likely have a larger emphasis on bolstering health systems and public health in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

From New York to Madrid, London and Cape Town, cities have struggled to cope with a surge in COVID-19 patients, forcing them to set up makeshift coronavirus hospitals in parks or convention centers.

Fair, green recovery

For now, cities are sharing practical advice via online forums and webinars on everything from communicating with residents to adapting public transport and protecting at-risk groups like the elderly, Sorkin said.

Her network this month launched a platform to help cities plan a resilient recovery from the pandemic.

Another large coalition, C40 Cities, which normally supports cities working to tackle climate change has also rallied a task force of mayors to drive forward a sustainable, fair economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

"The harm caused by COVID-19 has not been equitable," the leaders of more than 35 cities, led by hard-hit Milan, noted in a statement of principles.

They called for essential workers to be "celebrated and compensated accordingly" and new policies to support people living in informal settlements, as well as efforts to tackle the climate crisis and create new jobs in low-carbon industries.

Already some cities, from Europe to Latin America, are pushing through COVID-19 recovery measures aimed at keeping carbon emissions and air pollution in check as reopenings begin, such as by closing streets to traffic and adding cycle lanes.

Former Toronto mayor David Miller, C40's director of international diplomacy, urged cities and national governments to back projects that address a range of urban problems, such as building eco-friendly affordable housing or helping low-income residents install rooftop solar-power systems.

"There are many things that cities can do to address the environmental crisis and the economic crisis coming out of this health crisis," Miller told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Milan, for example, will need to redesign its public space to reduce traffic and enable social distancing, and consider ways to ensure everyone has access to the internet.
Architect of China’s New-generation Spaceship Reveals Process of Design
Global Times
2020/5/23 15:23:40

Zhang Bainan Photo: cnsphoto

The successful return of the trial version of China's new-generation manned spaceship capsule to the Dongfeng landing site in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on May 8 marked another milestone of the China's space station program and a step closer to sending astronauts to the moon.

Zhang Bainan, chief designer of the trial version of China's new-generation manned spaceship, witnessed the success with his team members at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

Zhang was born in June 1962 in Qiqihar of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. He has consistently read Aerospace Knowledge, a science popularization magazine, since his junior high school years.

He once wrote in his diary that his dream job was working in airplane design.

All the majors he applied for after high school were aerospace-related. Growing up, he was called a "nerd" by his classmates.

After studying solid mechanics at the National University of Defense Technology, Zhang obtained his master's degree in spacecraft design from China Academy of Space Technology in 1987. Ten years later, he was appointed as deputy chief designer of China's manned spaceship. Zhang is quite content he has achieved a harmonious balance between his passion and career.

Shoot for the moon

Although the meteorological condition in the landing site was not perfect, with a big horizontal wind speed, the capsule landed standing like a champion gymnast. "Somebody said the capsule hit the center ring, which is perfect," said Zhang.

The trial version of the new-generation manned spaceship is a shuttle spacecraft to test the feasibility of multiple tasks during the future operation of China's new space station and manned lunar exploration.

According to Zhang, the new-generation manned spaceship has a much better thermal resistance than the Shenzhou spacecraft. The new manned spaceship resists temperatures up to 3,000 C, which is two to three times higher than what the Shenzhou spacecraft can resist.

As a manned moonship, it is also very light in weight. The thermal resistance layer was domestically designed from material to structure.

Zhang said the previous thermal resistant materials were not ideal and overlapped with the same products designed by other countries. Therefore, the overall plan has been overturned. "It is fair to say that thermal resistant material design in China has surpassed the US," he added.

"In developing the new-generation manned spaceship, it feels obvious that China has significantly improved its manufacturing of spacecraft, especially if you compare our latest efforts with the Shenzhou spacecraft," said Zhang. China's aerospace technology level is cutting-edge in the world, and the development of many other spacecraft and satellites benefited from improvements in our manufacturing ability, he added.

Transfer pressure into motivation

One of the purposes of the new-generation spaceship trial is to test the performance of the Long March 5B rocket to improve the precision in the follow-up autonomous control and return.

Because the capsule of the new-generation spaceship is twice as heavy as that of Shenzhou, it imposed more requirements in landing. Shenzhou used the world's biggest parachute, and it was unfeasible to add another one to the new spaceship. Therefore, Zhang and his team replaced the parachute with a parachute combination comprised of three parachutes, which proved successful.

During an interview with CCTV in March 2019, Zhang said he was doing something that had never been done by anyone else as he had previously followed other countries' experience which was less risky and led to a higher success rate. Now that China's aerospace technology is approaching the world's advanced level, its designers are facing more decisive risks.

"We are facing great pressure, so I am also exploring ways for the young people in my teams," he said. "Sometimes, I feel worried about whether they can survive the pressure, but we encourage each other a lot in the team," he said.

"One of my college classmates chose to work in the US, and he had quite a fancy life in the first few years with a big house and three vehicles. I had not owned a single car at that time," said Zhang. "When I was young, I might have valued a house and fancy cars, but as I grew older I started to answer differently the question of what I've achieved in my life."

Zhang said he strongly believes working on manned spacecraft is something meaningful that brings him a sense of achievement. "Manned space flight is a dream career, and my dream is to make the Chinese people travel farther," he said.
How Do Experts View Financial Conflict of Top Two Economies?
Global Times
2020/5/27 23:14:01

Editor's note:

Some US politicians have been relentlessly pursuing an escalation in tension with China for the sake of short-term political interests, even at the cost of the US' leading financial position in the world. With the Trump administration claiming to announce a "strong response" this week to intervene in China's domestic legislation, as well as recent US politicians' insults about Chinese companies listing on American stock markets, global investors are concerned that the US might start a "financial war" with China. In interviews with the Global Times, two Chinese economists noted that although a comprehensive financial war is not likely, conflicts is inevitable due to US politicians' political schemes, which will hurt China but will also damage US financial sectors.

Dong Shaopeng, adviser to the China Securities Regulatory Commission and senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China

Financial conflict between China and the US is inevitable given that the coronavirus pandemic has weighed on the antagonistic atmosphere globally. However, heating up financial conflict with China will bring ruinous effects to the American financial sector, which is supposed to be an open and inclusive system.

After a trade war with China initiated by the US, now the conflict has extended to financial areas. But instead of a so-called financial war, an economic war between the two economies would be more accurate.

However, the global economic integration has been shaped with countries' economic and financial factors and activities related to each other. If the US starts a "financial war," it will only lead to damage for both sides.

In terms of the market, a "war" will hinder free liquidity of financial investment in mutual directions as both China and the US have various kinds of investment in the other side. Also, there are already institutions and organizations forming a mechanism to deal with international issues through communication and cooperation, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other market regulators. The US' long-arm jurisdiction is not acceptable. Not to mention that trying to launch financial restrictions to achieve its political goals will only lead to deadlock and conflict.

Although China's financial sector has its shortcomings, it has now developed into a complete system to resist risks and serve its real economy. Defending itself from the US-initiated financial conflict would not be a problem.

The predictions of a "financial war" are not quite accurate, but there is still a risk that the US side may take extreme measures to heat up its conflict with China in financial sectors due to certain politicians' agendas.

There's no denying that China is in a weak position in the global financial market and will be hurt by a financial conflict. However, launching financial restrictions on China will not bring any benefits to the US. It is generally a political scheme by the US government and politicians trying to win an election by blaming everything on China and further stirring up an antagonistic atmosphere so as to misdirect public opinion.

China-US bilateral financial cooperation has been generating benefits for both sides. Massive Chinese companies going public in American stock markets offered a favorable investment choice for US' investors and improved the global status of its stock markets.

If the US recklessly escalates the financial conflict, it is hard to forecast how far the US government will go, and extreme scenarios involving drastically reduced financial ties with China are possible.

It will be a lose-lose choice, but it will not hurt China's overall economy. And China won't suspend its opening-up efforts of its financial industries. On the other hand, it may be an opportunity for China to speed up the internationalization of its currency, the yuan, amid cooling relations with the US.
World Needs to Recognize Gravity of a US-China 'Financial War'
Global Times
2020/5/27 22:43:34

US President Donald Trump warned on Tuesday that his administration could react strongly against China's push for a national security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). As the SAR has apparently set off a new round of tussles between the world's two largest economies, many fear that the city could risk losing its special status as a global trade and financial center.

Fundamentally speaking, Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and legislation of its law is purely an internal affair of China, so the US intervention in Hong Kong affairs has no legal basis and tips China's bottom line.

There is growing speculation that the US' strong response may open a new front in the US-China confrontation, which could escalate into a "financial war" and lead to regrettable economic repercussions.

A financial war is very different to the exchange of trade sanctions. Punitive trade measures may target a country's trade sectors or companies, but it is hard to punish a country's financial market precisely. This is because finance and capital have no boundaries. As an international financial center, Hong Kong's capital market is intertwined with the rest of the world. A blow to Hong Kong would inevitably spread to the Chinese mainland, Southeast Asia, and even to the Asian and global markets, triggering a fresh wave of risk. And that's the last thing the world, already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, needs at this juncture.

Moreover, undermining the global financial system could have a boomerang effect, inflicting even greater pain on US interests. One significant backfire would be that the US' immoral behavior is translated into actual economic losses and damage to the country's international credibility.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration may choose to turn a blind eye to the loss even as it appears to try to protect the interests of its own investors from the upcoming financial war. Obviously, the interests of its allies are not in its consideration. If Trump takes on China in the financial field, he would roil the global markets as such a war would certainly go beyond Chinese and US markets. No developed countries could shelter their open financial systems from the shocks. The Trump administration needs to think about consequences before taking any reckless moves, because no one knows how fast market risks could spread and what crisis they may cause.

And it should be made clear that if Trump insists on initiating a financial war with China, China won't sit back and take the hit. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that China will take necessary measures to counter the outside forces that wrongly interfere in Hong Kong's affairs. The trade war has already shown that China always has the ability to counterattack under the principle of reciprocity. Of course, China will do its best to avoid involving other countries into a potential financial war initiated by the US. 
Facing Western Public Opinion Calmly Makes China Ideologically Stronger
By Shan Renping
Global Times
2020/5/27 22:32:57

Media reported that the Chinese Embassy in Brazil sent a letter to Brazilian parliamentarians, asking them to avoid gestures that could harm the one-China principle after Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration for a second term on May 20. Is there anything wrong? Of course not. It is China that Brazil has established diplomatic relations with. The two countries are important trade partners and BRICS members (BRICS refers to five major emerging countries, namely, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). It is the Brazilian parliamentarians' basic obligation not to do anything that would harm China-Brazil ties.

However, a Brazilian Congress member posted the letter on Twitter. After some Western media hype, some Brazilian netizens even started a hashtag on Twitter called #VivaTaiwan.

The Brazilian government has not yet made any statement about it as of press time. This is purely a public opinion incident, and Western media has amplified its negative influence.

The one-China principle is universally recognized. The Brazilian Congress member was seeking attention by posting the letter on Twitter and deliberately causing China trouble. This is unethical. It is suggested that Chinese embassies in other countries should reduce the kind of persuasion toward local parliamentarians. Doing so would easily backfire in the current global public opinion atmosphere.

No normal countries have kept "diplomatic" relations with Taiwan. Those which have official contact with the island are being very cautious when making relevant moves. Yet, China cannot hold others' tongues when it comes to the Taiwan question. China would seem to have lost the game if we get ourselves into a wrangle with such congress members and public opinion.

China is becoming stronger, and other countries will have complicated feelings about this. Such feelings may be fully released in Western media, which is quite powerful in shaping public opinion. China should face all kinds of noises in a calm manner and ignore petty tricks which do not pose real harm to the country's real interests.

For example, would the Democratic Progressive Party's authority become more powerful if more foreign parliamentarians went to Tsai's inauguration or sent her congratulations letters?

China must adapt to all the disturbances resulting from external public opinion, and accurately understand the Western public opinion system. Some of our acts meant well, but we should remain vigilant that some unfriendly forces are trying to seize any chance they could get to attack us.

We should adapt to the fact that some forces are unfriendly to China under Western public opinion system, and that our official diplomatic persuasion can hardly change the situation. This will be a process for China to become stronger ideologically.

The author is a commentator with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
Era of US Intimidating China Over: Global Times Editorial
Global Times
2020/5/27 21:23:40

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the US is working on a strong response to China's planned national security legislation for Hong Kong and would announce it before the end of the week.

US media revealed that the measures would include imposing controls on transactions and freezing assets of Chinese officials and businesses for implementing the law, and visa restrictions for Chinese officials. When asked whether the US would revoke Hong Kong's separate customs territory status, a White House spokesperson said she had nothing to announce.

Since China is determined to push forward the national security legislation for Hong Kong, it has been prepared for any possible reaction from the US. Sanctions with individual assets and visas as levers are obviously not presentable. Support for this legislation in Hong Kong is gaining momentum.

Many Chinese people have realized that some US politicians are seizing China by its throat. A long-term rivalry between China and the US is inevitable. In the face of US aggression, China should adopt a calm mentality and be prepared to engage in a long-term battle with the US.

As China maintains its powerful nuclear deterrence and boosts its military strength, the US will not readily resort to a military showdown with China over China's core interests. Decoupling is the last trump card the US has.

China will not act on impulse to cut off ties with the US. China will deepen reforms and further open up to increase the attractiveness of the Chinese market. If the US insists on decoupling with China in sectors where its own strength is shrinking, let it be.

The core advantage of the US is the high-tech sector. China is clear that it must make up for its disadvantages and we are confident that China can make breakthroughs by mobilizing the whole nation. Decades ago, China developed the atomic bomb, the intercontinental ballistic missile and the artificial satellite, thus entering the sphere of superpowers. Why couldn't China make breakthroughs in the future in areas which are currently caught in a bottleneck phase?

Another core advantage of the US is its financial hegemony, which will make China's exchanges with the outside world inconvenient. If the US dares to resort to financial means, it will hurt the integrity of the financial system it leads.

If a financial war spirals out of control, it is the US that will suffer the most. With its real economy shrinking, the US economy is largely relying on the financial sector, which means launching a financial war equals self-harm.

The Chinese people are pragmatic and hardworking. We have constructed a comprehensive manufacturing system and built the technological ability to make breakthroughs. We also have a vast market. Hardly can such a country be isolated and contained.

The China-US "battle" over Hong Kong is on. The US is free to play any cards in its hand. Hong Kong is under China's sovereignty, and whatever act Washington passes is just wastepaper.

Amid the long-term competition with the US, one of the most important tasks for China is to build up its internal vitality. We have sufficient means to resist external blows, while internal flexibility and vitality are sources of subsequent stamina. In the end, China is competing with itself.
Canada Judge Rules Huawei CFO’s Extradition Case Can Proceed
By JIM MORRIS and ROB GILLIES

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home to go to B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Thursday, January, 23, 2020. Wanzhou is in court for hearings over an American request to extradite the executive of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei on fraud charges. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — A Canadian judge ruled Wednesday the U.S. extradition case against a senior Huawei executive can proceed to the next stage, a decision that is expected to further harm relations between China and Canada.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa later warned Canada to drop the case and accused the United States of trying to bring down the Chinese tech giant.

Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder and chief financial officer of the company, at Vancouver’s airport in late 2018. The U.S. wants her extradited to face fraud charges. Her arrest infuriated Beijing. Canadian officials have emphasized the country’s judicial system is independent.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said in her decision the allegations against Meng could constitute a crime in Canada as well and the extradition could therefore proceed.

The U.S. accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 48, committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng’s lawyers argued during a hearing in January that the case is really about U.S. sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. They maintain that since Canada does not have similar sanctions against Iran, no fraud occurred under its laws. The judge disagreed.

“Ms. Meng’s approach to the double criminality analysis would seriously limit Canada’s ability to fulfill its international obligations in the extradition context for fraud and other economic crimes,” Holmes wrote.

Holmes said Canada did not have economic sanctions against Iran at the time but noted the sanctions used by the U.S. “were not fundamentally contrary to Canadian values.”

Her legal team is scheduled to be back in court June 3 to set dates for when her lawyers will argue that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated Meng’s rights while collecting evidence before she was actually arrested. Extradition cases typically take years in Canada.

The ruling against Meng is expected to erode already damaged relations between Beijing and Ottawa.

“China hereby expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this decision, and has made serious representations with Canada,” the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said in a statement.

“The purpose of the United States is to bring down Huawei and other Chinese high-tech companies, and Canada has been acting in the process as an accomplice of the United States.”

Çhina’s embassy also warned Canada to “immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou to allow her to return safely to China, and not to go further down the wrong path.”

In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed. China also handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and some analysts say Chinese companies have flouted international rules and norms amid allegations of technology theft. The company represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been a subject of U.S. security and law enforcement concerns.

“The United States thanks the Government of Canada for its continued assistance pursuant to the U.S./Canada Extradition Treaty in this ongoing matter,” The U.S Department of Justice said in a statement.

Ahead of the decision, Meng posed for photos on the court steps this past weekend, giving a thumbs up sign. She showed up to court on Wednesday wearing a black dress and wearing an ankle bracelet.

“Huawei is disappointed in the ruling,” Huawei said in a statement. “We expect Canada’s judicial system will ultimately prove Ms. Meng’s innocence.”

A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, expects China to further punish Canada.

“We can expect two kinds of measures. First, unfortunately for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, I expect that they will announce the cases will proceed to trial and it will become a lot more difficult to extract them from jail,” he said. “On the commercial front they will want to cancel contracts, to cancel exports.”

But Saint-Jacques does not expect Beijing to cut off medical supplies to Canada as that would cause an international outcry.

“The image of China has taken a hit starting with the arrests of the two Canadians. This has been amplified by they way they have mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic. Europe in particular is more concerned about the Chinese,” he said.
___

Gillies contributed to this report from Toronto.
Swift Firings for Minneapolis Officers in Death of African American
By AMY FORLITI and JEFF BAENEN

Protesters and police face each other during a rally for George Floyd in Minneapolis on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Four Minneapolis officers involved in the arrest of the black man who died in police custody were fired Tuesday, hours after a bystander’s video showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — To the general public, the video of a white police officer pressing his knee into the neck of a black man prone on the street, crying out for help until he finally stopped moving, was horrifying.

Four officers were fired a day after George Floyd’s death, a stunning and swift move by the Minneapolis chief with the mayor’s full backing. But despite their dismissal, whether the incident will be considered criminal, or even excessive force, is a more complicated question that will likely take months to investigate.

The officers were dismissed soon after a bystander’s video taken outside a south Minneapolis grocery store Monday night showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving. Floyd’s death prompted protests Tuesday, with thousands taking to the streets at the intersection where he died.

Many protesters marched more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) to the police precinct station in that part of the city, with some damaging the building’s windows and squad cars and spraying graffiti. Police in riot gear eventually confronted them with tear gas and projectiles, with tense skirmishes stretching late into the evening.

Bridgett Floyd told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview Wednesday morning that the officers involved in her brother’s death should be charged with murder because “that’s exactly what they did.” She said she hadn’t watched the bystander’s video, but told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “I don’t understand how someone could possibly let an individual go out like that.”

Mayor Jacob Frey announced the firings on Twitter, saying: “This is the right call.”

The FBI and state law enforcement were investigating Floyd’s death, which immediately drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in 2014 in New York after he was placed in a chokehold by police and pleaded for his life, saying he could not breathe.

But in the Garner case, local prosecutors, the NYPD’s internal affairs unit, and the Justice Department all finished investigations into the case before the officer was ultimately fired. Garner’s family and activists spent years begging for the officer to be removed.

The officers in the Minneapolis incident haven’t even been publicly identified, though one defense attorney has confirmed he is representing Derek Chauvin, the officer seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck. The attorney, Tom Kelly, declined to comment further.

The police union asked the public to wait for the investigation to take its course and not to “rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers.” Messages left with the union after the firings were not returned.

During Tuesday’s protests, some chanted and carried banners that read, “I can’t breathe” and “Jail killer KKKops.” And some stacked shopping carts to make a barricade at a Target store across the street from the station.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department would conduct a full internal investigation, and prosecutors will decide whether to file criminal charges against the officers involved. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said it was “shocked and saddened” by the video and pledged to handle the case fairly. Part of that investigation will likely focus on the intent of the officers, whether they meant to harm Floyd or whether it was a death that happened in the course of police work. The FBI was investigating whether the officers willfully deprived Floyd of his civil rights.

News accounts show Chauvin was one of six officers who fired their weapons in the 2006 death of Wayne Reyes, who police said pointed a sawed-off shotgun at officers after stabbing two people. Chauvin also shot and wounded a man in 2008 during a struggle after Chauvin and his partner responded to a reported domestic assault. Police did not immediately respond to a request for Chauvin’s service record.

In Minneapolis, kneeling on a suspect’s neck is allowed under the department’s use-of-force policy for officers who have received training in how to compress a neck without applying direct pressure to the airway. It is considered a “non-deadly force option,” according to the department’s policy handbook.

A chokehold is considered a deadly force option and involves someone obstructing the airway. According to the department’s use-of-force policy, officers are to use only an amount of force necessary that would be objectively reasonable.

But two use-of-force experts told The Associated Press that the officer clearly restrained the man too long, noting that the man was under control and no longer fighting. Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Florida, police chief who now testifies as an expert witness in use-of-force cases, called Floyd’s death “a combination of not being trained properly or disregarding their training.”

“He couldn’t move. He was telling them he couldn’t breathe, and they ignored him,” Scott said. “I can’t even describe it. It was difficult to watch.”

In a post on his Facebook page, the mayor, who is white, apologized Tuesday to the black community for the officer’s treatment of Floyd, 46, who worked security at a restaurant.

“Being Black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a Black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense,” Frey posted.

Police said the man matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case at a grocery store, and that he resisted arrest.

The video starts with the man on the ground, and does not show what happened in the moments prior. The unidentified officer is kneeling on his neck, ignoring his pleas. “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man,” said Floyd, who has his face against the pavement.

Even in the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. and prompted police departments around the country to change how they’re doing work, the officers in the video aren’t wearing masks. In some cities, low-level arrests such as attempted forgery are skipped right now.

Floyd also moans. One of the officers tells him to “relax.” Floyd calls for his mother and says: “My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts ... I can’t breathe.” As bystanders shout their concern, one officer says, “He’s talking, so he’s breathing.”

But Floyd slowly becomes motionless under the officer’s restraint. The officer does not remove his knee until the man is loaded onto a gurney by paramedics.

Several witnesses had gathered on a nearby sidewalk, some recording the scene on their phones. The bystanders become increasingly agitated. One man yells repeatedly. “He’s not responsive right now!” Two witnesses, including one woman who said she was a Minneapolis firefighter, yell at the officers to check the man’s pulse. “Check his pulse right now and tell me what it is!” she said.

At one point, an officer says: “Don’t do drugs, guys.” And one man yells, “Don’t do drugs, bro? What is that? What do you think this is?”

The Hennepin County medical examiner identified Floyd but said the cause of death was pending.

Floyd had worked security for five years at a restaurant called Conga Latin Bistro and rented a home from the restaurant’s owner, Jovanni Thunstrom.

He was “a good friend, person and a good tenant,” the restaurateur told the Star Tribune. “He was family. His co-workers and friends loved him.”

Ben Crump, a prominent civil rights and personal injury attorney, said he had been hired by Floyd’s family.

The death came amid outrage over the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was fatally shot Feb. 23 in Georgia after a white father and son pursued the 25-year-old black man they had spotted running in their subdivision. More than two months passed before charges were brought. Crump also represents Arbery’s father.
___

Associated Press writers Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

African Union Chairman Calls to Remove Sanctions on Sudan, Zimbabwe
May 25, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The Chairperson of the African Union Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa called for the unconditional removal of sanctions on Sudan.

Ramasphosa made his call in a statement delivered on the occasion of Africa Day on Monday.

He said that the coronavirus pandemic "has exposed the deep inequalities that continue to exist on our continent and across the world".

He further called for a comprehensive economic stimulus package for Africa including debt relief, stressing it was crucial for economic recovery.

"As we deal with the impact of this pandemic repeat our call for the unconditional lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan".

The African Union, European Union and Arab League and other regional and international organizations have called on Washington to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Sudan’s case has become emblematic, particularly after the ouster of the al-Bashir regime in April 2019.

However, U.S. officials say the poor country has to pay billions for the victims of terror attacks committed by Osama bin Laden before to delist it from a blacklist of countries supporting terrorism.

For Zimbabwe, the EU and the United States imposed financial and travel bans on Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU-PF and top military figures for alleged human rights abuses and electoral fraud.

Officials in Harare say the U.S. sanctions have been the most devastating because they bar U.S. officials at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank from voting for debt relief or lending for the southern African country.

(ST)
Sudan’s Burhan Says Agreed with U.S. Diplomat that UNAMID Must Leave
Al-Burhan speaks in a meeting with the government and FFC negotiating delegations in Juba on 22 Feb 2020 (ST photo)

May 26, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council discussed with U.S. senior diplomats the withdrawal of UNAMID from Darfur and agreed that the hybrid mission should leave the western Sudan region by the end of October.

The Sudanese presidency on Tuesday issued a statement saying that Abdel Fattah al-Burhan received a joint phone call from Tibor Nagy Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs and U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Donald Booth.

"During the phone call, the Chairman of the Sovereign Council agreed with the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan to put an end to the UNAMID mission next October," said a statement released by the Sovereign Council after the call.

"Therefore, there is no room for the renewal of its mandate," stressed the statement.

Al-Burhan has voiced his opposition to the extension of the UNAMID mandate and to the inclusion of a military component in the new political mission that Sudan had requested the UN Security Council to deploy in the country to support the transitional government to achieve the peace implementation and democratic transition.

The statement stressed that the two parties also agreed that the mandate of the new UN mission will be in accordance with the national vision detailed in Sudan’s letter to the United Nations on February 27th.

Sudan in a letter sent by the Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok spoke about capacity building programme for its armed forces.

However, during a meeting to discuss a joint report about UNAMID withdrawal on 26 April, U.S. and UK said concerned about the deterioration of the security situation in Darfur and pointed to the need to include police units in the new mission to protect civilians in Darfur.

"(...) we firmly believe that the new mission can and should be a partner to the Government of Sudan in responding to the ongoing protection of civilians’ challenges in Darfur, particularly in the IDP camps," said the British Ambassador Jonathan Allen, alluding to the UN police force.

Nagy or Booth did not issue a statement about the phone call.

(ST)
Sudan Coronavirus Death Toll Rises to 382
Sudanese health worker speaks to Aljazeera about coronavirus pandemic in Khartoum on 18 March
2020

May 25, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan on Monday reported 19 more coronavirus deaths, bringing the country’s death toll from the epidemic to 165, the federal health ministry said in a statement.

According to a daily news bulletin, the health authorities dated 23 May 2020 but released on Monday due to the Eid holidays, five death were recorded in Khartoum state, six in Gezira state, one in North Kordofan state, one in Gedaref state and six in North Darfur state.

Also, on Saturday, the authorities recorded new 192 confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 3820.

According to the report, 124 new cases were registered in Khartoum state, 30 Gaderef state, 7 in North Kordofan state, 11 in Sennar state, 11 West Kordofan and 2 in the Blue Nile state.

In comparison with neighbouring countries, Sudan comes after Egypt, which recorded (17825) cases, but it is ahead of Ethiopia (655), South Sudan (655), Chad (687), Libya (75) and Eritrea (39).

The report said that 34 patients recovered from the respiratory disease bringing total recoveries to 458.

(ST)
Venezuela Celebrates Docking of Tanker with Iran Gasoline
By SCOTT SMITH

People push a car that ran out of gas to a state-run oil company PDVSA filling station in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 25, 2020. The first of five tankers loaded with gasoline sent from Iran this week is expected to temporarily ease Venezuela's fuel crunch while defying Trump administration sanctions targeting the two U.S. foes. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan authorities celebrated Monday as the first of five Iranian tankers loaded with gasoline docked in the South American country, delivering badly needed fuel to the crisis-stricken nation that sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves.

The gasoline shipments are arriving in defiance of stiff sanctions by the Trump administration against both nations, and they mark a new era in the burgeoning relationship between Venezuela and Iran, which is expanding its footprint in the Western Hemisphere.

“We keep moving forward and winning,” Venezuela’s Minister of Energy Tareck El Aissami tweeted.

State TV played images of the ship pulling through Caribbean waters as Venezuelan fighter jets flew overhead. El Aissami posted photographs on his Twitter account of the sun rising over the tanker docked at El Palito refinery.

Washington says both Iran and Venezuela are ruled by repressive regimes. It recently offering a $15 million reward for President Nicolás Maduro’s arrest on drug smuggling charges in a “maximum pressure” campaign against the socialist leader.

Washington recognizes opposition politician Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader in a coalition of nearly 60 nations, which consider Maduro’s election a fraud because his most popular rivals were banned from running.

In a sign of rising tension inside Venezuela, the chief prosecutor on Monday asked the pro-Maduro Supreme Court to decide whether Guaidó’s political party Popular Will should be designated a terrorist organization.

“Confronted with the impossibility of obtaining power through votes, Popular Will has turned to violence,” Attorney General Tarek William Saab said, accusing the party of hiring “mercenaries” who carried out a recent failed incursion, among other alleged acts. Guaidó advisers had dealt with the man leading the attempt, though Guaidó himself denied any involvement.

The first Iranian ship to arrive, the Fortune, is trailed by four other tankers expected to arrive in the next few days. The shipments, however, only carry enough fuel for two or three weeks, analysts say.

Russ Dallen, head of the Miami-based investment firm Caracas Capital Markets, said the Iranian shipments were anything but a victory for Venezuelans. The first tanker carries an estimated 11 million gallons of gasoline to a nation with roughly 5 million cars, he said.

“Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, is now reduced to importing millions of gallons of gasoline from another failed pariah state halfway around the world,” Dallen said.

Venezuela also has one of the world’s largest refineries, which has fallen to disrepair. The country produces a fraction of oil it did when Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, rose to power two decades ago and launched Venezuela’s socialist revolution.

Critics blame corruption and mismanagement amid an economic crisis that has led to huge migration by Venezuelans seeking to escape poverty, shortages of basic goods and crime.

Deep gasoline shortages have plagued Venezuela for years, though the problem had until recently largely spared the capital of Caracas.

Despite Washington’s objections, the first ship arrived with no interference from U.S. ships patrolling the Caribbean on what officials call a drug interdiction mission.

Maduro on Sunday expressed gratitude to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ai Khamenei and the Iranian people from “the bottom of my heart.” He said Iran and Venezuela have a right just like any other nations in the world to engage in trade.

We are “two rebel nations, two revolutionary nations that will never kneel down before U.S. imperialism,” Maduro said. “Venezuela has friends in this world, and brave friends at that.”
___

Follow Scott Smith on Twitter: @ScottSmithAP
Latam Airlines Seeks Bankruptcy Protection as Travel Slumps
By ADAM SCHRECK

A Latam airplane sits parked at the Arturo Merino Benitez airport in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, May 26, 2020. South America’s biggest carrier is seeking U.S. bankruptcy protection as it grapples with a sharp downturn in air travel sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

BANGKOK (AP) — Latam Airlines, South America’s biggest carrier, sought U.S. bankruptcy protection Tuesday as it grapples with a sharp downturn in air travel sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing underscores the severity of the financial challenges facing the travel industry as a result of the lockdowns, quarantines and other measures taken by governments the world over to stem the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Passenger and cargo flights will continue to operate during the reorganization, and employees will still be paid, the Santiago, Chile-based airline said. Travelers with existing tickets and vouchers can still use them.

Chief Executive Roberto Alvo said Latam was profitable before the pandemic brought most of the world’s flights to a halt, but is now facing a “collapse in global demand.”

“We are looking ahead to a post-COVID-19 future and are focused on transforming our group to adapt to a new and evolving way of flying, with the health and safety of our passengers and employees being paramount,” he said in a statement announcing the bankruptcy filing.

Latam Airlines said that it and several of its affiliated companies launched the Chapter 11 reorganization effort in the United States in a bid to reduce its debt and find new financing sources.

Air travel has plunged to a fraction of the levels it was just months ago as the virus spread from China to countries around the globe, prompting growing alarm in the aviation industry. The International Air Transport Association last month predicted that airlines’ revenue from hauling passengers would drop $314 billion this year, meaning they could bring in less than half of what they did in 2019.

Latam’s move comes little more than two weeks after another major Latin American airline, Avianca Holdings, filed for bankruptcy protection in New York. Australia’s second-largest carrier, Virgin Australia, sought bankruptcy in its home market last month.

Latam and Aviance are part of a years-long trend of foreign companies filing for bankruptcy in the U.S., which is more friendly to debtors and usually lets management stay in control. To file, foreign companies need only show that they have assets or operations in the U.S.

The International Air Transport Association has warned that other airlines could fail without government support. On Tuesday, the global airline trade group said the industry’s total debt could jump to $550 billion this year, a $120 billion increase since Jan. 1.

“Government aid is helping to keep the industry afloat. The next challenge will be preventing airlines from sinking under the burden of debt that the aid is creating,” said the trade group’s CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

Among U.S. carriers, American Airlines is widely seen as facing the greatest risk of bankruptcy, but Washington approved up to $50 billion in grants and credit for the industry, buying it some time. On Monday, Germany agreed to provide 9 billion Euros ($9.8 billion) to help Lufthansa. Air France-KLM has received billions from the French and Dutch governments.

Others are scrambling. Richard Branson is seeking help from the U.K. government and selling shares in his space company to prop up troubled Virgin Atlantic and other travel holdings. Analysts have been watching some discount airlines including Norwegian Air.

Latam’s bankruptcy filing includes parent company Latam Airlines Group S.A. and its affiliated airlines in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, as well as its businesses in the U.S.

The company is not including its affiliates in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay in the turnaround effort. It says it is talking with the Brazilian government about how to proceed with its operations there.

Latam is South America’s largest carrier by passenger traffic. It operated more than 1,300 flights a day and transported 74 million passengers last year.

The airline had more than 340 planes in its fleet and nearly 42,000 employees, according to its more recent annual report. It reported a profit of $190 million in 2019.

It said the reorganization effort has the support of two prominent shareholders — the Cueto family in Chile and Brazil’s Amaro family — as well as Qatar Airways, which owns 10% of the company.

Those three shareholders have agreed to provide up to $900 million in financing as Latam makes its way through the bankruptcy process. It currently has $1.3 billion on hand, it said.

Latam reached a deal to sell a 20% stake to Delta Air Lines for $1.9 billion last year. Its announcement Tuesday made no mention of the Atlanta-based airline.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian expressed confidence in Latam’s management in an emailed statement responding to questions.

“Airlines globally have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, for which no business plan could have adequately prepared. We remain firmly committed to our partnership with LATAM and believe that it will successfully emerge a stronger airline and Delta partner for the long term,” Bastian said.

He did not say whether Delta might provide further financial support, and the company declined to comment further.
___

David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.
69 Fruit Plant Employees, 15 Close Contacts Test Positive
VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — The number of employees at a Vancouver, Washington, fruit processing facility who have tested positive for COVID-19 is now up to 69. Clark County Public Health said Tuesday that another 15 people identified as close contacts of those cases have also tested positive.

KGW reported that Firestone Pacific Foods said 87 employees have tested negative for the virus, and there are still a few of its employees who need to be tested. The company said there are no known hospitalizations involving its workers.

The outbreak was discovered May 17 when an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. After learning of the positive test, the company shut down its production facility, but the number of workers known to be infected with COVID-19 has continued to grow.

Clark County Public Health says a total of 165 employees and 83 close contacts have been tested. Additional testing of employees and close contacts is expected.

“By being proactive, we have hopefully kept this outbreak contained to Firestone employees and close contacts, and prevented the outbreak from spreading into the community,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director, said in a statement.

At this time, there is no evidence the outbreak has spread beyond Firestone employees and their close contacts, county officials said.
Prosecutor: 2 Businesses Didn’t Force Employees to Work Sick
PROVO, Utah (AP) — The Utah County Attorney on Tuesday refuted reports that two businesses linked to dozens of coronavirus cases forced employees to keep working after testing positive.

David Leavitt said his office found the allegations made public by county leaders weren’t true, though he acknowledged the virus could have been spread by employees who worked without being aware they were infected.

He did not elaborate on exactly how the businesses were cleared, and whether the establishments followed other public-health guidelines aimed at halting the spread of the pandemic.

County commissioners had said weeks ago the unnamed businesses were requiring employees to work while sick. The allegations had come from county health officials conducting contact tracing to determine how people were infected.

Officials have refused to release the names of the businesses connected to a total of 68 coronavirus cases, though they have said they do not directly interact with the public.

The coronavirus causes flu-like symptoms that most people recover from within weeks, but it can be fatal, especially older adults and people with existing health problems. The number of people killed by the virus in Utah rose to 101 on Tuesday.
Virus Outbreak Targeted in Agricultural Washington County
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS

FILE - In this April 10, 2020 file photo, Missael Lopez, left, and Laura McIlrath Riel bundle asparagus at McIlrath Family Farm stand in Yakima, Wash., during the coronavirus outbreak. The state of Washington is implementing safety recommendations to battle a large outbreak of the coronavirus in the agricultural area in the central part of the state (Evan Abell/Yakima Herald-Republic via AP, File)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The state of Washington is implementing safety recommendations to battle a large outbreak of the coronavirus in an agricultural county in the central part of the state, officials said Tuesday.

Yakima County, a major food producer, has recorded about 3,000 cases of the virus among its 250,000 residents, and infections have moved into the county’s massive farm and food processing sector. The outbreak has caused one case for every 89 people in the county.

“”That’s really where we are seeing our hot spot at the moment,″ said John Wiesman, state secretary of health.

By contrast, King County, which includes Seattle, has one case for every 274 residents.

Many of the cases in Yakima County are showing up on farms, in meat plants and in fruit and vegetable processing warehouses, officials said.

State and federal disease experts descended on the county in the past two weeks to look for ways to stem the burgeoning number of cases, which comes as other parts of Washington are reporting shrinking numbers.

The experts recommended a series of steps that employers can adopt immediately, while the state worked to make the reforms mandatory, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist.

The recommendations included that workers be at least 6 feet apart, not working shoulder-to-shoulder, Lindquist said. All employees should wear face masks, he added.

Plastic dividers should be installed between work stations, employers should introduce staggered shifts and employees should not all eat together in the plant cafeteria, Lindquist said.

Employers should also offer sick leave to discourage ill people from coming to work, and all employees should have their temperature taken and be screened for symptoms when they report to work.

“”The strike teams have been going out to farms and factories to implement these,″ Lindquist said.

The office of Gov. Jay Inslee was in the final stages of amending the governor’s emergency proclamation to include the guidelines, said David Postman, the governor’s chief of staff. That new order could be finished this week.

Yakima County is one of the nation’s greatest food producers, growing a wide variety of crops, including apples, cherries, wine grapes and most of the nation’s hops to flavor beer.

Workers at numerous warehouses have been conducting wildcat strikes in recent weeks, demanding safer working conditions and hazard pay.

The governor’s office earlier issued orders regulating the management of group housing that farmers provide for migrant workers. Advocates have criticized those orders for, among other things, allowing up to 15 people to sleep in dormitory rooms.

Lindquist said the current guidelines for agriculture laborers are specific to Yakima County, while the new orders will cover the entire state.

Eight experts from the Washington state Department of Health and two from the federal Centers for Disease Control have been working in Yakima County for two weeks to try and limit the outbreak there, Lindquist said.

The outbreak appeared to start at multiple long-term care facilities in the county before moving into the agricultural work force, officials said.

“Our priority, our focus, is to make sure we are able to prevent the spread of infection in places where people are in close quarters,” Lindquist said. “We realized that there was a need for additional support to do that successfully, which is why we requested extra support from the CDC.”

In Washington state, more than 20,100 people have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 1,078 have died. In Yakima County, at least 91 people have died. That’s the third-highest death count per county in the state, behind King and Snohomish counties.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Study: King County Needs to Do More with Testing, Tracing
SEATTLE (AP) — A new study says a comprehensive system of testing, contact tracing and quarantines will be needed to avoid a burst of new COVID-19 infections before King County can ease social-distancing restrictions.

The Seattle Times reports the study from the Bellevue, Washington-based Institute for Disease Modeling says such measures could enable economic and social activity in the region to double from current levels, without a corresponding increase in infections,

But if King County can’t increase testing capacity, fails in its efforts to notify the close contacts of positive cases or can’t convince people to isolate if they’ve been exposed to the virus, new infections could sharply increase, the report says.

“It took a communitywide effort to get us into the relatively good situation we are in today with respect to limiting transmission,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County. “And it’s going to take a robust, ongoing communitywide effort to allow us to move forward safely.”

King County remains in phase one of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase plan to reopen Washington’s economy. The soonest King County could conceivably move to the next phase is Monday, but it is currently nowhere near the low levels of new cases that is one of the criteria for reopening.

The state Department of Health and National Guard have ramped up their abilities to help county health departments with the tedious task of contact tracing — calling each person who tests positive for the virus and then calling all the people they have been in contact with and asking them to quarantine.

The state has trained more than 2,100 people for the task. Contact tracing is a fundamental and decades-old public health tool, but Public Health — Seattle & King County had to stop investigating each case of the virus in early March, as the number of cases became overwhelming.

The state is conducting about half the contact tracing investigations in King County, Duchin said, but he’s hopeful the county will be able to handle all new cases by the end of June.
Dangerous Blood Clots Pose a Perplexing Coronavirus Threat
By LINDSEY TANNER

This May 6, 2020 photo provided by Darlene Gildersleeve, 43, of Hopkinton, N.H. shows her at a Manchester, N.H. hospital. Gildersleeve thought she had recovered from COVID-19. Doctors said she just needed rest. And for several days, no one suspected her worsening symptoms were related — until a May 4 video call, when her physician heard her slurred speech and consulted a specialist. “You’ve had two strokes,’’ a neurologist told her at the hospital. (Darlene Gildersleeve via AP)

First came a high fever, drenching sweats and muscle aches. Then, almost a month later, a weird numbness that spread down the right side of her body.

Darlene Gildersleeve thought she had recovered from COVID-19. Doctors said she just needed rest. And for several days, no one suspected her worsening symptoms were related — until a May 4 video call, when her physician heard her slurred speech and consulted a specialist.

“You’ve had two strokes,” a neurologist told her at the hospital. The Hopkinton, New Hampshire, mother of three is only 43.

Blood clots that can cause strokes, heart attacks and dangerous blockages in the legs and lungs are increasingly being found in COVID-19 patients, including some children. Even tiny clots that can damage tissue throughout the body have been seen in hospitalized patients and in autopsies, confounding doctors’ understanding of what was once considered mainly a respiratory infection.

“I have to be humble and say I don’t know what’s going on there, but boy we need to find that out because unless you know what the pathogenic (disease-causing) mechanism is, it’s going to be tough to do intervention,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, remarked during a medical journal interview last month.

Doctors and scientists at dozens of hospitals and universities around the globe are seeking answers while trying to measure virus patients’ risks for clots and testing drugs to treat or prevent them.

Gildersleeve said health authorities “need to put out an urgent warning about strokes” and coronavirus. Not knowing the possible link “made me doubt myself” when symptoms appeared, she said.

Some conditions that make some COVID-19 patients vulnerable to severe complications, including obesity and diabetes, can increase clot risks. But many authorities believe how the virus attacks and the way the body responds both play a role.

“COVID-19 is the most thrombotic (clot-producing) disease we’ve ever seen in our lifetime,” said Dr. Alex Spyropoulos, a clot specialist and professor at Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York.

Clotting has been seen in other coronavirus infections, including SARS, but on a much smaller scale, he said.

Scientists believe the coronavirus enters the body through enzyme-receptors found throughout the body, including in cells lining the inside of blood vessels. Some theorize that it may promote clotting by somehow injuring those vessels as it spreads. That injury may cause a severe immune response as the body tries to fight the infection, resulting in inflammation that may also damage vessels and promote clotting, said Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of Mount Sinai Heart hospital in New York.

It’s unclear how many COVID-19 patients develop clots. Studies from China, Europe and the United States suggest rates ranging from 3% to 70% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients; more rigorous research is needed to determine the true prevalence, the National Institutes of Health says.

Full Coverage: Understanding the Outbreak
Prevalence in patients with mild disease is unknown and the agency says there isn’t enough evidence to recommend routine clot screening for all virus patients without clotting symptoms, which may include swelling, pain or reddish discoloring in an arm or leg.

Some hospitals have found 40% of deaths in COVID-19 patients are from blood clots. Spyropoulos said that’s been true at his 23-hospital system in the New York City area, Northwell Health, which has treated over 11,000 COVID-19 patients.

Cases there have dropped by almost half in the past month, allowing more time for research before an expected second and maybe third wave of infections, he said, adding: “We’re racing against time to answer the key clinical questions.”

Patients hospitalized with any severe illness face increased risks for clots, partly from being bedridden and inactive. They commonly receive blood-thinning drugs for prevention. Some doctors are trying higher-than-usual doses for prevention in hospitalized coronavirus patients.

A few have used powerful clot-busting medicines typically used to treat strokes, with mixed results. In guidance issued May 12, the NIH said more research is needed to show whether that approach has any benefits.

Fuster was involved in preliminary research on nearly 2,800 COVID-19 patients at five hospitals in the Mount Sinai system. A look at their outcomes suggests slightly better survival chances for virus patients on ventilators who received blood thinners than among those who didn’t. Although the results are not conclusive, all COVID-19 patients at Mount Sinai receive blood thinners for clot prevention unless they are at risk for bleeding, a potential side effect, Fuster said.

Some COVID-19 patients, like Gildersleeve, develop dangerous clots when their infections seem to have subsided, Spyropoulos said. Patients treated at Northwell for severe disease are sent home with a once-a-day blood thinner and a soon to be published study will detail their experiences. Spyropoulos has been a paid consultant to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, makers of Xarelto, the drug’s brand name.

In addition, Northwell is taking part in a multi-center study that will test using blood thinners for clot prevention in COVID-19 patients not sick enough to require hospitalization.

In a small study published May 15, University of Colorado doctors found that combined scores on two tests measuring clotting markers in the blood can help determine which patients will develop large dangerous clots. One test measures a protein fragment called D-dimer, a remnant of dissolved clots. High levels sometimes indicate dangerous clots that form deep in leg veins and travel to the lungs or other organs.

Dr. Behnood Bikdeli of Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, said D-dimer levels in many of his COVID-19 patients have been alarmingly high, as much as 50 times higher than normal.

Concerns about blood clots in COVID-19 patients prompted a recent 30-page consensus statement from an international group of physicians and researchers. Bikdeli is the lead author.

It says that testing to find clots that require treatment includes X-rays or ultrasound exams, but poses a risk for health care workers because the virus is so contagious. Bikdeli said he fears when protective gear was more scarce, some dangerous clots were undiagnosed and untreated.

Social distancing may make people more sedentary and more vulnerable to clots, particularly older adults, so doctors should encourage activity or exercises that can be done in the home as a preventive measure, the statement says.

Warnell Vega got that advice after collapsing at home April 19 from a large clot blocking a lung artery. Doctors at Mount Sinai Morningside think it was coronavirus-related. Vega, 33, a lunch maker for New York City school children, spent a week in intensive care on oxygen and blood thinners, which he’s been told to continue taking for three months.

“I just have to watch out for any bleeding, and have to be careful not to cut myself,” Vega said.

Gildersleeve, the New Hampshire stroke patient, was also sent home with a blood thinner. She gets physical therapy to improve strength and balance. She still has some numbness and vision problems that mean driving is out, for now.

Doctors are unable to predict when or whether she’ll regain all her abilities.

”I’m trying to remain positive about recovering,” she said. ’’I just have to be patient and listen to my body and not push too hard.”
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Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.
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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’