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Trump predicts coronavirus vaccine by years end, vows plague will pass

As some states loosen lockdown restrictions in a bid to set the nation’s battered economy on the roa..

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As some states loosen lockdown restrictions in a bid to set the nation’s battered economy on the road to recovery, President Trump endorsed a state-by-state approach while predicting at a Fox News virtual town hall on Sunday that a coronavirus vaccine could be available by December.

“I think we’ll have a vaccine by the end of the year,” Trump told the moderators, Fox News’ Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, saying he was “very confident” in the assessment. “We’ll have a vaccine much sooner rather than later.”

Asked by MacCallum if he was concerned about the potential risks of accelerating a vaccine and human trials, Trump responded: “No, because they’re volunteers. They know what they’re getting into … They want to help the process.”

That timeline was dramatically ahead of previous estimates from both public and private sector experts at the outset of the pandemic, which had said a vaccine could take up to 18 months, if not longer. But, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend it was “doable if things fall in the right place” to have a vaccine by January.

CORONAVIRUS TIMELINE SHOWS SHIFTING RHETORIC ON THE PANDEMIC

Trump also predicted that the U.S. would be self-reliant on antibiotics, without needing to rely on China, within two years. Republicans have said it’s “crazy” that America is reliant on China, a communist adversary, for critical supplies including antibiotics.

However, Trump predicted that as many as 100,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus, in a significant increase from his estimate of 60,000 last month. “Were going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” Trump said, calling it a “horrible” situation. Without his administration’s actions, Trump asserted, “the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, thats the minimum.”

Trump generally backed the efforts of America’s governors to manage the crisis, saying that each state will have a different approach to reopening their economies.

“It’s going to pass,” he assured, repeatedly referring to the outbreak as the “plague.”

Trump went on to assert that Democrats and media organizations, who have mocked him for touting the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine in fighting coronavirus, were motivated by politics and “don’t want to see a good result.” Some media organizations even reported that an Arizona couple had consumed fish tank cleaner because they believed it contained hydroxychloroquine. The woman in that case had claimed she was following Trump’s advice despite openly attacking Trump on social media. Her husbands death after ingesting the liquid is now under investigation.

Trump has consistently acknowledged during White House coronavirus briefings, beginning on March 19, that hydroxychloroquine might not work but was worth trying in some patients, given preliminary studies showing possible promising results. New, non-rigorous data has called those indicators into question, however.

“I’m standing up there and instead of a normal question, the level of anger and hatred. I’ll look at them, I’ll say ‘what is your problem?” Trump said at the town hall, referring to how the media treated him during White House coronavirus briefings.

Joe Biden, media outlets and other Democrats, Trump pointed out, had initially characterized his January travel ban on China as xenophobic, before changing their tune. When Baier queried Trump about a recent Biden tweet saying Trump had left the U.S. “unprepared” for a pandemic, Trump was immediately dismissive.

“Joe Biden didn’t write that,” Trump said. “That was written by a young man who got very good grades at a very good school.” At a previous Fox News town hall in March, Trump similarly implied that Biden is no longer mentally competent.

China, Trump said, had conclusively misled the world on the spread of the coronavirus. “I think, personally, they made a horrible mistake, and they didn’t want to admit it,” Trump said. He added that China had misled the World Health Organization, for which Trump suspended funding earlier in the year for failing to warn the global community and simply parroting China’s claims about the virus.

“The World Health Organization has been a disaster,” Trump said. “Everything they’ve said was wrong. And they’re China-centric. They agree with China, whatever China wants to do. So our country, perhaps foolishly in retrospect, has been paying $450 million a year to the World Health Organization. And China’s been paying $38 million a year. … So I’ll have to make a decision on that. … They missed every single call.”

Politico reported Sunday, citing the Department of Homeland Security, that China delayed informing the WHO that the coronavirus was contagious until it could first stockpile masks and other critical equipment.

A research dossier compiled by the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance, that reportedly concludes China intentionally hid or destroyed evidence of the coronavirus pandemic, is consistent with U.S. findings about the origins of the outbreak so far, senior U.S. officials told Fox News on Saturday. Fox News was the first to report that sources were increasingly confident the virus likely had escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the naturally occurring strain was being studied. The matter remains under investigation, however.

Sunday’s town hall event was entitled “America Together: Returning to Work.” It featured video questions submitted by viewers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

After what he called a “working weekend” at Camp David, Trump returned to the White House Sunday afternoon. The president has faced a cascading series of challenges in recent days, including protesters in Michigan storming the state capitol to protest stay-at-home orders, reports that North Korea’s leader was alive and healthy despite a CNN report that he was near death, and apparent discord within his administration as to the potential threat still posed by the coronavirus.

“A lot of people want to go back,” Trump told Baier and MacCallum. “You see demonstrations all over the country — and those are meaningful demonstrations. … Now we have to get it open. We have to get it open safely, but we have to get it open as quickly as possible.”

Asked by MacCallum whether he ever considers whether he went too far in pushing for a nationwide shutdown, Trump responded, “No, we did the right thing.” He added that millions of lives had been saved — but, he conceded, “I do look back on it.”

Trump said he has lost three friends due to the coronavirus: “This is a very advanced, very horrible thing we’re fighting. But, with all of that said, we’ve learned a lot about it. It affects older people. … This thing is vicious. And it can take you out. But children do very well. Young children do better than teens.”

At the same time, Trump said some states, including Virginia, aren’t opening up fast enough. He also took an apparent shot at California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, ordered Orange County beaches — prompting hundreds of protesters to flood the city of Huntington Beach in protest.

The town hall came amid other whirlwind developments in Washington. Bombshell new disclosures by the Justice Department, for example, largely supported Trump’s claims that FBI officials furtively worked to target some of his former top officials.

Among other revelations, FBI communications made clear that top bureau officials discussed their motivations for interviewing former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in the White House on January 24, 2017 — and openly questioned if their “goal” was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”

Back in the White House, Trump tweeted Sunday that the intelligence community had vindicated him on another matter.

“Intelligence has just reported to me that I was correct, and that they did NOT bring up the CoronaVirus subject matter until late into January, just prior to my banning China from the U.S.,” Trump wrote, apparently contradicting an earlier report in The Washington Post. “Also, they only spoke of the Virus in a very non-threatening, or matter of fact, manner……Fake News got it wrong again, as always, and tens of thousands of lives were saved by my EARLY BAN of China into our Country. The people that were allowed were heavily scrutinized and tested U.S. citizens, and as such, I welcome them with open arms!”

Responding to a viewer question on the Post’s report on Sunday, Trump pointed out that top Democrats were opposing his measures to close down travel from China. Trump said that on Jan. 23, he had indeed received an intelligence report on the virus, but it indicated it wouldn’t be a major threat. Trump said intelligence materials would be released on Monday to substantiate his claim.

Politico had reported that the Trump administration held a briefing on the coronavirus for senators on Jan. 24, but it was “sparsely attended” in part because it “was held on the same day as a deadline for senators to submit their impeachment questions.”

Trump was joined later by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence, and the three emphasized that a payroll tax cut would be a necessary part of any future stimulus.

Mnuchin made clear that the White House was looking to “help states,” but not “bail out” any financial mismanagement.

Pence, meanwhile, admitted he had made a mistake during a recent hospital visit. “I should have worn the mask at the Mayo Clinic,” he said.

Trump’s appearance at the Lincoln Memorial was his first interview with Baier and MacCallum since the Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pa., on March 5.

But, the nation’s political and economic landscape has transformed dramatically in the several weeks since Trump’s last town hall, which featured an in-person audience in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Even then, Trump made sure to tout his decision to close most travel from China in January, even though Democrats and some media organizations initially characterized the move as xenophobic.

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HOW THE MEDIA, DEMS HAVE CHANGED TUNE SINCE KAVANAUGH

“One of the things I did is, I closed down the borders to China and to other areas that are very badly affected and really having a lot of troubles — I mean, countries and areas of countries that have had a lot of problems,” Trump told an audience member at the March town hall. “And, I closed them down very early, against the advice of almost everybody, and weve been given rave reviews.”

Also at the March town hall, Trump touted his Gallup poll numbers, which showed relatively high marks for the administration’s coronavirus response. Those numbers rose six points in the last two weeks, according to the latest Gallup poll.

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The new survey found 49 percent approved of the presidents job in office and 47 percent disapproved, a personal best with Gallup for Trump.

Two weeks ago, 43 percent approved of the presidents job, according to the pollster. Trump also had a 49 percent approval rating in mid-March, according to Gallup, before his rating took a 6-point plunge in the first half of April.

However, Fox News polls showed that Biden has remained a strong rival for Trump in the early days of the campaign, and has surged ahead in key states.

For now, though, Trump made clear he was focused on confronting the pandemic more than political considerations. Asked at the end of the town hall what he had told family members about the crisis, Trump sounded an optimistic note.

“I sat down with my son, I sat down with my grandchildren. I said a terrible thing has happened,” the president told Baier. “But we’re going to be strong, we’re going to get out of it, and our country’s going to be bigger, better, and stronger than ever before.”

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Qatar rejects Amnesty’s assertion that labour reforms have not translated on ground

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thepeninsulaqatar– The Ministry of Labour has issued a statement in response to Amnesty’s report “Reality Check 2021: A Year to the 2022 WorldCup”, stating that Qatar rejects its assertion that labour reforms have not translated into changes on the ground for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

The statement is as follows:

Qatar rejects Amnesty’s assertion that labour reforms have not translated into changes on the ground for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

Amnesty fails to document a single story from among the 242,870 workers who have successfully changed jobs since barriers were removed in September 2020, or from the more than 400,000 workers who have directly benefitted from the new minimum wage through salary increases and other financial incentives.

Since exit permits were removed in 2018, hundreds of thousands of workers have left Qatar and returned without permission from their employer; improvements to the Wage Protection System now protect more than 96 percent of eligible workers from wage abuse; new visa centres in labour-sending countries have significantly reduced exploitative practices before workers arrive in Qatar; and new rules extend the ban on summer working to minimise the effects of heat stress.

Qatar has also strengthened its enforcement measures to safeguard workers and prosecute employers who fail to comply with the law. The number of inspectors employed by the Ministry of Labour has increased year on year, as has their capacity to thoroughly investigate working conditions and refer violators for sentencing in the labour courts.

In the first half of 35,280,2021 accommodation and worksite inspections were carried out and 13,724 penalties were issued to violating companies, including worksite closures, fines and prison sentences. A further 4,840 site visits were made by labour inspectors to raise awareness of the new laws among employers and employees.

Every year, more companies are held accountable for violating the law. Systemic reform is a long-term process and shifting the behaviour of every company takes time. Through its actions, the government is sending a strong message to companies that violations will not be tolerated.

Qatar has never shied away from acknowledging that its labour system is still a work in progress. The government is committed to engaging collaboratively and constructively with international partners and critics to further improve standards for all migrant workers in Qatar

Qatar will therefore continue to consult with international experts including the ILO and trade unions. International NGOs will also be routinely consulted to provide their recommendations.

The reality is that no other country has come so far in such a short amount of time. Following Qatar’s lead, and as a sign of the programme’s wider impact, other countries in the region have now taken steps to introduce their own labour reforms.

Labour reform is a complex task, and Qatar believes that solutions are best found through dialogue and engagement. For this reason, and despite Amnesty’s criticism, Qatar will continue to work constructively with a range of labour experts and practitioners to build on the progress that has been made.

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Myanmar election body charges Suu Kyi with electoral fraud

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independent– Myanmar’s state election commission announced it is prosecuting the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and 15 other senior political figures for alleged fraud in last November’s general election.

The announcement was published Tuesday in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper and other official media.

Allegations of widespread electoral fraud were the main reason cited by the military for its Feb. 1 seizure of power that toppled Suu Kyi’s government. Her National League for Democracy party was about to begin a second five-year term in office after its landslide victory in the polls. The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party suffered unexpectedly heavy losses.

Independent observers, such as the Asian Network for Free Elections, found no evidence of substantive irregularities in the polls, though they criticized some aspects.

The action by the Union Election Commission could potentially result in Suu Kyi’s party being dissolved and unable to participate in a new election the military has promised will take place within two years of its takeover. However, the commission’s notice, dated Monday, did not specify which laws would be used to prosecute the accused.

In May, the military-appointed new head of the election commission said his agency would consider dissolving Suu Kyi’s former governing party for alleged involvement in electoral fraud and have its leaders charged with treason. Commission Chairman Thein Soe said an investigation had determined that the party had worked illegally with the government to give itself an advantage at the polls.

After taking power, the military dismissed the members of the election commission that had certified the results of last year’s poll and appointed new ones. It also detained members of the old commission, and, according to reports in independent Myanmar media, pressured them to state there had been election fraud.

The new commission declared last year’s election’s results invalid.

The new notice from the commission said Suu Kyi, former President Win Myint, other leading figures in her party and the commission’s former chairman were “involved in electoral processes, election fraud and lawless actions” related to the polls.

It accused 16 people of carrying out illegal actions, including compelling local election officials to obstruct military polling booths, threatening such officials in connection with advance voting for voters over 60 years old, forcing local officials to approve voting lists that included ineligible voters and interfering in campaigning to favor Suu Kyi’s party.

Suu Kyi is already on trial or charged in about a dozen criminal cases in which a conviction would almost certainly bar her from running for office again. Several of her top political allies also have been tried or are facing charges. Suu Kyi’s supporters as well as independent rights organizations contend that the cases are spurious and meant to discredit Suu Kyi and her party while legitimizing military rule.

Dissolving Suu Kyi’s party would follow a regional trend of dissolving popular political parties seen as a threat to governments in power.

Cambodia’s high court in 2017 dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party the sole credible opposition force, ahead of a 2018 general election.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court in 2020 dissolved the newly formed Future Forward Party, which had won the third highest number of seats in the lower house in the 2019 general election.

In both the Cambodian and Thai cases, the courts cited specific violations of the law for their rulings, but their actions were widely seen as reflecting political pressures.

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More than 20 killed in attack on Kabul military hospital

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bbc– More than 20 people have been killed and at least 16 injured in a gun and bomb assault on a military hospital in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Attackers targeted the 400-bed Sardar Daud Khan hospital starting with two massive explosions outside the building, officials said.

Gunmen then broke into the hospital grounds, witnesses said.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group, IS-K, later said it had carried out the attack.

Photographs and video footage from Kabul showed a plume of smoke over the area and recorded the sounds of gunfire. A doctor in the building told the AFP news agency he had been sent to seek shelter in a safe room during the attack and could hear guns being fired.

Sayed Ahad told broadcaster EVN that one of the blasts was a suicide attack.

“As an Afghan citizen, I am really tired of this war, suicide and explosions,” he said. “How long do we have to endure this misery?”

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The Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, told the BBC that fighters from IS-K had entered the compound after detonating the first explosion at the entrance gate.

Mr Karimi said Taliban fighters shot and killed four IS-K attackers and captured one alive.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid meanwhile told Reuters news agency that Taliban special forces dropped by helicopter had stopped the attackers from entering the hospital itself, killing them at the entrance or in the building’s courtyard. All the assailants were killed in 15 minutes, he said.

Witnesses quoted by Reuters said they saw two helicopters over the area during the assault. The news agency reports that this would be one of the first times Taliban forces have used aircraft captured from the previous, Western-backed government during an operation.

The attack is the latest to hit Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control in August, after the US withdrew its last troops from the country.

IS-K, which stands for Islamic State Khorasan, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks targeting civilians and Taliban fighters.

In August, a bombing by IS-K at Kabul international airport in August killed more than 150 civilians and 13 US soldiers.

The Sardar Daud Khan hospital has been targeted before. More than 30 people were killed and 50 others wounded in 2017 when gunmen dressed as doctors stormed the building. That attack was also claimed by the Islamic State group.

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