With virus cases rising, Britain imposes new restrictions and slows reopening

Oli Scarff AFP/Getty Images

Manchester, England, is subject to new coronavirus restrictions.

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson told England on Friday that it must “squeeze the brake pedal” and postpone easing some coronavirus restrictions for at least two weeks, amid a worrying uptick in infections.

The British are moving two steps forward, one step back, essentially, like other countries in Europe now. All are trying to revive their economies and give citizens back their freedoms, while defending themselves against a full-blown resurgence of the virus.

In response to outbreaks, the British government on Thursday night announced new restrictions affecting 4 million people in north England. A ban on gatherings of any size at private homes applies to greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire. That means people can’t visit friends’ houses — or even have a one-on-one chat in a friend’s backyard. They can still go to pubs and restaurants, but only with members of their own households.

The prime minister has said he is trying hard to avoid another national lockdown.

But the slowdown announced Friday applies across all of England. The main thrust is that casinos and bowling alleys, shuttered since late March, will have to wait longer before customers are allowed back in. Wedding receptions of up to 30 people and indoor performances will remain banned, despite earlier plans for them to restart on Aug. 1.

Face masks will also now be mandatory in more indoor settings, such as movie theaters, museums and places of worship beginning Aug. 8. Masks are already mandatory for people in shops and on public transportation.

The British government — along with much of Europe — is worrying aloud about a possible second wave of infections that could overwhelm hospitals during flu season.

Britain reported 846 new positive coronavirus cases Thursday, its highest daily count since June 28. More than 46,000 people have died.

In his remarks Friday, Johnson said, “Our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.”

The prime minister added, “The prevalence of the virus in the community, in England, is likely to be rising for the first time since May.”

Andrew Parsons

AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson provides coronavirus updates from 10 Downing Street on July 31.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that rising numbes of cases in north England was due to people visiting friends and relatives.

He emphasized that the new rules on gatherings were not meant to target British Muslims, who awoke Friday to news of the restrictions a day before the annual Eid al-Adha holiday. Traditionally, families and friends gather for large meals during several days of festivities.

The ever-shifting list of government-ordered dos and don’ts has become somewhat dizzying for Britons. The pubs are open, gyms are not. People can go to the movies, even as the government’s health advisers caution that indoor spaces should be avoided. Schools are still scheduled to reopen here in the fall.

A just-released study by University College London found that less than half of 70,000 respondents understood England’s lockdown rules.

In an apparent attempt to simplify, Johnson launched another new public health messaging campaign on Friday.

The slimmed-down, catchy new slogan from the prime minister is: “Wash your hands, cover your face & make space.” Alongside the obligatory hashtag, #HandsFaceSpace. This replaces an earlier message to “be alert,” which was confusing to many — be alert to what?

In addition to confusing messaging, Johnson’s government has been criticized for a late lockdown on March 23, and over failures to protect people nursing homes, provide protective gear to front line medical workers and operate an efficient test, trace and isolate program.

The prime minister’s pullback on reopening comes a day after Britain’s Office for National Statistics reported that England topped Europe’s grim league table for highest levels of excess deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.

That analysis of more than 20 European countries — including the four nations of the United Kingdom — found that England’s death rate was 7.55 percent higher this year through the end of May, compared with its five-year average. Spain was next, followed by Scotland and Belgium.

A few days ago, after outbreaks in Catalonia, Britain reimposed a 14-day quarantine for all travelers from Spain — dashing the plans of many Britons for a holiday in the south.

Several European countries that have had their coronavirus outbreaks under control have begun to see a rise in cases that is feeding fears of a second wave.

A spike in infections led Belgium to ramp up restrictions on social contact, while Spain closed gyms and nightclubs in Barcelona.

France reported a 54 percent rise in new coronavirus cases over the past week, calling it a “marked increase.” German health officials have described new infections there as deeply concerning.

Berger reported from Washington. Antonia Farzan in Washington, Loveday Morris in Berlin and Karla Adam in London also contributed to this report.

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Bhutan King lauds Assam CM for support during lockdown

Guwahati, July 31 : Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar has highly appreciated the Assam government for allowing movement of vehicles carrying essential commodities to the neighbouring country amid the lockdown and ensuring the wellbeing of the people.

An Assam government official statement on Friday said that Bhutan King Jigme Khesar hailed Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his government and thanked him for helping the neighbouring country in tackling the pressing situation precipitated in view of the Covid-induced lockdown.

The Bhutan King in a letter to Assam Chief Minister said : “Though Assam with its people fought it hard to contain the pandemic with necessary lockdown and curtailment of people’s movement, the benevolence of the authorities of the state in allowing movement of vehicles carrying essential commodities to Bhutan helped its people and ensured their wellbeing during the lockdown period.”

The King terming the gesture as a “true reflection of the close ties of friendship and brotherhood between the people of Assam and Bhutan”, said : “I remain appreciative of your goodwill and look forward to your continued support.”

The Bhutan King also said that the efforts of the state government would very soon stem the spread of the corona virus as he empathised with the people of Assam in these trying times.

The statement said that the Chief Minister also expressed his gratitude to the King.

“Ever-increasing bond of friendship and brotherliness between Assam and Bhutan will keep strengthening the mutual ties in days to come,” the Assam government statement said.

The landlocked Himalayan country is dependent mostly on the land routes through neighbouring Indian state Assam for its supply of essentials, food grains, medicines and various equipments and machineries.

There are several roads to Bhutan through Assam and these roads were kept open by administration in Assam during the lockdown period for the benefit of Bhutan which is also strategically so important to India.

The three northeastern states of India — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim share 267 km, 217 km and 32 km borders with Bhutan respectively.

Source: IANS

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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Here’s each state’s status in regard to the White House exit strategy for COVID-19

The spread in the states

Using criteria provided by the White House, analysts at Covidexitstrategy.org are tracking each state’s progress in reducing symptoms and case numbers and conducting testing.

The group of public health and crisis experts includes members from the U.S. Digital Response and Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy and has built the website to track each state’s progress toward stopping the spread of COVID-19. Members of the team have experience working at the White House, Department of Health and Human Services and on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the website says.

The group says a downward trajectory of illness reported and of documented cases is critical. So far, not many states have a downward trend, but several are getting close.

According to Covidexitstrategy.com, the use of accurate, real-time data to inform decision-making is essential for infectious disease control. To fill in information gaps across states and provide useful and actionable COVID-19-related data, all states should update their COVID data portals to meet basic minimum standards, including reporting on essential indicators, the analysts says. The data below is a subset of the data states should report regularly.

This map and chart below highlight how each state is doing in regards to symptoms and cases to give an idea of how the disease is spreading.

State by state as of July 29:

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Assam flood situation improves further, affected tally dips

Guwahati, July 31 : The flood situation in Assam has significantly improved during the past one week, even as one more person died in Kokrajhar district on Friday taking the death toll to 109, officials said.

Officials of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) said that the overall flood situation in the state’s worst-hit western region is considerably better, while the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that the respite in the rains since last Friday has been helpful and predicted that conditions would further improve in the coming days.

According to ASDMA officials, around 11 lakh people in 1,366 villages across 21 of the state’s 33 districts are still in distress, though the number has come down since July 24 when over 28 lakh people in 2,543 villages of 26 districts were affected.

Of the 11 lakh affected people, 7.42 lakh are in the state’s five western districts — Goalpara (340,515), Morigaon (221,726), Bongaigaon (96,763), Barpeta (55,636), and Dhubri (27,930), they said.

A total of 82,947 hectares of crops are still flooded, but the area has come down from 122,573 hectares as on July 24.

The ASDMA officials said that five major rivers including the Brahmaputra, are in spate in many places in six districts, including Sonitpur, where both the Brahmaputra and Jia Bharali are flowing over the danger level.

Forest officials said that at least 145 wild animals have died due to the deluge and 169 have been rescued, even as over 55 per cent of the 884 sq km Kaziranga National Park remains inundated.

The animals that have died in the annual monsoon floods include 16 rhinos, 105 hog deer, 11 wild boars, five wild buffaloes, three porcupines and two swamp deer.

The officials said that besides Kaziranga, located on the edge of the eastern Himalayan bio-diversity hotspots of Golaghat and Nagaon districts, the Manas, R.G. Orang and Tinsukia national parks, and the Pabitora and Tinsukia wildlife sanctuaries were also affected.

Source: IANS

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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Store items we’ll never take for granted again

Where were you at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic? What seemed like a War of the Worlds movie, businesses began to close down one by one in the middle of March. Movie theaters, stores, gyms, and other business places announced their temporary closure – and for some, they would lead to their permanent shutdown. As everyone left work, the grocery and convenience stores began being filled by scared and worried people wanting to gather supplies for the unforeseeable future at home ahead.

Here’s a list of some things that ran out and thankfully, have made their way back to our shelves. One thing is for sure; we’ll never take these store items for granted again.

Food

Beans, veggies, and every other kind of canned food was one day – GONE. Every can of food you may want was gone from the shelves in one apocalyptic-like week. The grocery stores were crowded for a couple of days as people scavenged for food for the next two weeks or more in their houses. People prepared for the worst gathering basic cooking ingredients and resources.  Everything from the essential store shelves disappeared from yeast to every kind of bottled water and rice. Even the pasta and pasta sauces shelves were either empty or only carried the less desirable brands!

Food items were being frozen and stored away for the day the world became like an apocalypse movie. But that day never happened. The markets stayed open, and they eventually refilled everything to meet demand.

Workout Equipment 

Once the gyms closed, fitness folks looked for how they would get their fix of a workout. Most of these people haven’t exercised outside of a long time! So they made their way to the stores for medicine balls, weights, and yoga mats. But when they arrived, everything was gone. Meaning the entire fitness shelves were empty. It didn’t matter if you went to Target or Walmart, or even if you tried ordering online – exercise equipment would take months to arrive at your door.

People adapted and began working out at the park and going for more walks around the neighborhood. By now, their workout necessities have arrived, even though the gyms opened up again…for about three weeks. During this second shutdown, everyone is definitely more prepared for their home workouts with whatever fitness equipment they could pull together.

Cleaning Products

The best way to keep our hands clean are disinfecting products like hand sanitizer and soap. But as quickly as the pandemic came, so did the craze for hand cleaners. Shelves of detergents and sanitizers emptied with no alternatives or substitutes. The aisles looked as though they would never be restocked again. However, it’s been a few months then, and they have all returned to the stores. Today you can find hand sanitizer in everyone’s bag, car, and every business front entrance.

Along with your hands, it’s essential to keep your home clean. This means everything from doorknobs to flat surfaces need to be routinely wiped down and cleaned well. People and businesses quickly stocked their carts with these sanitizing wipes and sprays –  leaving even less for everyone too late to get their own. One thing’s for sure; everyone most likely had pretty clean homes for a while!

@facemasksbytk

 Face Masks

Face masks were instantly in demand once we learned how effective they are to stopping the spread of germs. Every store quickly sold out of medical covers, and then recommended things like handkerchiefs or other homemade masks. The most challenging fact about masks is that they’re needed by medical professionals too. How else are they going to do their job?

Whenever there is a need for something, start-up businesses begin to grow. This is true for the face mask craze too. Companies started making face masks with unique styles, patterns, and characters, which is an unsuspecting way and became a way to add a mask to your style. Now you can hardly go to the store or online without seeing the newest innovations in face covers.

And of course – Toilet paper

Where do we even begin with this?

The only thing scarier than a pandemic is how crazy everyone went for toilet paper. We understand toilet paper is necessary, and when everything shuts down, it was a frightening time. When did WHO and the CDC say that we needed so much toilet paper? Yes, we needed to stock up on things just in case. However, there was such an unnecessary shortage of toilet paper that the stores made a new policy that only one package could go to each family!

Some people even ordered packages of TP from other countries to meet their demand. It wasn’t impossible to find toilet paper at local stores – you just had to get lucky. People were finding out the shipping schedule for the delivery trucks to be first in line that day. If you were lucky enough to find a package of some, it might not be your first choice of the brand, either. For example, have you ever used “Hello Kitty Soft” toilet paper?

Now that everything’s back to being stocked at the store, everyone can be a little more relieved. I’m happy that there’s enough tissue for everyone again, but also that many stores made a no-return policy for those who bought rolls for the next two years. So as we get through the rest of this pandemic, remember to only shop for what you need, and the amount you need it in so we can all get through this together.

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Why did Ram Mandir architect take measurement using feet? (Lead)

By Anindya Banerjee
New Delhi, July 31 : Did you know that the man who designed the grand Ram temple decades back, took a rough measurement using his own feet because he was not allowed to enter with a measurement tape inside the then disputed land of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya?

Did you know, the man who designed the Ram temple comes from a family that has designed many top temples of India including Somnath in Gujarat and Mathura?

Meet the Sompuras — Chandrakant and Ashish Sompura, the family who designed the Ram temple, as they talk about the past, present and future of the temple in a tell all interview to IANS .

Q: Do you remember the first time you visited the site, when you were asked to design a grand Ram temple?

A: Back then, I went with Ashok Singhal to see the area. It was like a military cantonment. Mr Singhal was not allowed to enter the site and neither was I allowed to take measuring tapes inside. So I had to take a rough measurement using my own feet. Thereafter, a few models were made and presented to the VHP and Singhal. They approved this particular model which was then turned into a wooden structure. It was presented in front of other saints in Kumbh, who had then approved of it.

Q: When Ashok Singhal requested you to design a grand temple at Ayodhya, did you expect the whole dispute would be over one day?

A: Honestly, building a temple was tough till 1992, as the structure was still there. But when the structure (Babri Masjid) was brought down, We had hope that the temple building may be possible. After working with speed, it almost stopped by 1996. Only 8-10 workers used to carve in the ‘karyashala’. We thought temple construction would be impossible in the near future. But we became hopeful after (PM Narendra) Modi ji came to power and the matter reached the Supreme Court. But when SC gave its verdict, it was a joyous occasion for me.

Q: You are from a family that has designed the best of temples across India. What is unique about this piece of architecture that is distinct?

A: It was our family that designed Somnath temple, apart from others like Mathura, Palanpur etc. It is a big thing for us that the same family has designed the Ram temple. It is a matter of pride for us. However, the architecture remains the same — Nagraj style. The style in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh is the same for years — Nagraj style.

Q: Will there be a Ram statue inside the temple premises?

A: The said statue is not there in the 67 acre land. UP government has a seperate Ayodhya development plan, which may consist of a tall Ram statue. But, it is neither inside nor in the temple premises.

Q: When can we expect the Ram temple construction to be completely finished and thrown open for people to visit?

A: The construction of Ram temple should be over in 3 to 3.5 years. In other words, it should be over by mid or end-2023. We would like it to be completed as soon as possible.

Q: Do you remember what was the brief from Ashok Singhal, if any, when he contacted you decades ago?

A: Ashok Singhal had said that whenever the construction begins, Ram temple will be a huge thing. So his special request was to keep the sanctum sanctorum big enough. So we kept it 20 feet by 20 feet, back then. There’s hardly any temple in India with such a big sanctum sanctorum.

Q: Will you both be present on the day of bhoomi poojan, on August 5?

A: We will get to know on August 3, whether we have to go or not. We have heard that the final guest list is sent to the PMO, for security considerations. We are being told the penultimate list will be out on August 3.

(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])

anb/kr

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3 charts explain who is dying as California tallies record coronavirus deaths

We’ve known since early in the pandemic that age is a major risk factor for becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19. Those disparities are becoming more stark as quarantine fatigue and economic reopening has spurred more infections in younger age groups, but the recent record spike in deaths is still spurred mostly by our elders.

This chart above clearly shows  that some of the younger adult age groups are infected more frequently than children or older adults, who make up a smaller portion of the population, but older adults are still the majority of deaths.

An astounding 8 out of 10 coronavirus deaths have been adults 65 and older, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Data from the California Department of Public Health shows similar numbers in California, where those 65 and older account for 76% of all coronavirus deaths.

Racial disparities are also apparent in the data on who is dying. The chart above shows that California’s Latino population has suffered a disproportionate share of coronavirus deaths. Latinos make up 39% of the Golden State’s population but 46% of all coronavirus deaths. The white population is nearly the same size — 37% — but when it comes to deaths only 30% of those who have died so far in the pandemic were white.

Dr. George Lemp, an infectious disease epidemiologist and former director of the University of California’s HIV/AIDS Research Program, said the racial disparities were “striking,” especially for younger Latinos.

“This is unfortunate and demonstrates the disparities in health outcomes for that population,” Lemp said, pointing out that Latinos and Black Americans disproportionately suffer underlying health conditions that contribute to hospitalization for COVID-19.

The racial disparities are even worse when looking at just those between 65 and 79 years old. California’s Latino population skews young, so Latinos make up just 22% of this age cohort, but still account for 48% of coronavirus deaths. White people make up 54% of this age group and just 28% of deaths.

Lemp has been tracking how the demographics of new cases has shifted over time, and noticed a change when cases started surging in late June. “The surge in cases initially occurred in younger people,” Lemp noticed, “but in a few weeks we saw it among all age groups, even those up through 80 and above.”

That has come into sharp focus this week as the Golden State twice in three days set new daily highs for coronavirus deaths, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to over 9,000 deaths as of July 30.

He says there are two theories for why this happened: younger people are taking more risks and bringing the virus home to older populations; or as the state opened up, people of all ages started going out more and socially distancing less.

“The best data on that would be from contract tracing studies” said Lemp, “but they have not been disclosing detailed information to tell us what is going on.”

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Hong Kong delays elections, citing virus, further eroding political freedoms

Vincent Yu AP

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a news conference on July 13. Officials delayed legislative elections scheduled for Sept. 6, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

HONG KONG — After disqualifying a dozen pro-democracy candidates, the Hong Kong government said Friday it would delay legislative council elections for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, undermining one of the few partially democratic institutions left in the Chinese territory.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a news conference that she was invoking emergency powers to postpone the vote — unprecedented in the city’s political history since its handover from Britain to China in 1997. Postponing the election, she said, was the most “difficult decision” she has had to make since the onset of the virus here in January.

The makeup of the legislature in the interim, Lam said, will be decided by Beijing.

“We have made the decision to postpone the election for one year,” Lam said, after spending half an hour laying out her government’s response to the pandemic and the potential health risks of holding the vote. Because of the pandemic, “we would not be able to meet the requirements of an open and fair election,” she said.

In response to reporters’ questions, she added: “There is absolutely no political agenda.” The postponement, Lam said, was supported by Beijing since it is in the “public interest.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/world/why-china-chose-now-to-crack-down-on-hong-kong/2020/07/08/5222d6c7-0823-407c-b48d-23ca191c2a02_video.html

Unconvinced, opposition politicians and observers said the moves are designed to stack the political system with those loyal to the Chinese Communist Party and snuff out even moderate political opposition in Hong Kong.

[With virus flip-flops, Hong Kongers ponder whether their leaders are out to lunch]

Beijing last month subverted Hong Kong’s usual political processes to pass a new national security law that has outlawed broadly worded crimes such as secession, foreign interference and terrorism. Several people, including teenagers, have been arrested under that law, which has rewritten the legal underpinnings of the financial center and has had a broad chilling effect on speech.

In that context, the Sept. 6 vote had loomed as a fierce contest likely to lead to a significant show of support for the pro-democracy opposition. Only half of the 70 seats in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council are directly elected, but given that the body has the power to enact and repeal laws, it is among the few avenues that residents have to express their political will.

“They have basically redefined their definition of their enemies, and from one red line, we now have a few. Those red lines have become very thick,” said Alvin Yeung, leader of the opposition Civic Party and one of the disqualified candidates. “This reflects that they — not us — are in fear, in fear of the people and of their voices.”

Pro-democracy candidates swept a majority of seats in local elections in November, a vote widely seen as an endorsement of their movement and a repudiation of the Beijing-allied elites.

Over the past year, pro-democracy legislators have tried to stall or vote down bills, including Lam’s proposal that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and one that would criminalize mockery of the Chinese national anthem.

The vote will now be held on Sept. 5, 2021. Hong Kong does not have universal suffrage, and its chief executive is elected by a select committee from a pool of candidates approved by Beijing.

Anthony Wallace

AFP/Getty Images

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong holds a government notice disqualifying him from contesting elections, at a news conference in Hong Kong on Friday. Later in the day, the government called off the vote for a year.

Lam herself acknowledged that the elections were the “biggest” in Hong Kong, with 4.4 million voters registered. Having so many people gathered, she said, poses a “great risk,” and registered voters who live in mainland China may not be able to travel into the city to cast their votes.

Countries such as Singapore and South Korea have held elections amid the covid-19 outbreak, which was severe in both places. In the 21 days since Singapore’s election, the city-state, which has a population density similar to Hong Kong’s, has not seen a jump in covid-19 cases, and daily community transmissions are in fact down to the single digits. Epidemiologists have noted that Hong Kong has begun to see gains in fighting this third wave of infections, and they predicted that daily cases, which have been a little over 100 in recent days, will likely drop in about four to six weeks.

[Hong Kong police arrest four young people under Beijing’s new security law]

Analysts have pointed out, too, that the Hong Kong government could have delayed the vote by a shorter period of several months and put in place a system such as postal or electronic voting. Other institutions of government, including courts that are currently prosecuting thousands of people arrested in pro-democracy protests last year, continue to be open as usual.

“Delaying it for a whole year is clearly overreach,” said Antony Dapiran, a lawyer and writer on Hong Kong politics. “It gives them time to suppress the opposition for another year.”

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said the move follows a pattern in which the pandemic has been used as cover to suppress political dissidents in mainland China. Hong Kong, she said, has long been a standout in the administration of elections, which are conducted in an open, orderly way.

“Covid has presented a remarkably convenient excuse, but also a very shallow one,” Richardson said. “But what efforts have gone into considering alternatives to postponing the elections for a year?”

Several incumbent legislators who attempted to run again in this election, including Yeung and other members of his party, were among the dozen who were disqualified from running again on Thursday. Lam declined to say whether they will continue to serve as legislators for the next year.

The decision on what the legislature will look like for the coming year, she said, will be made instead by the highest political body in Beijing, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

“Everything is done in accordance with the law,” Lam added.

The disqualified candidates included prominent activists such as Joshua Wong, political newcomers including a former journalist and organizers of pro-democracy protests. Reasons cited included opposition to government policies and an opinion piece written by Wong in The Washington Post. The candidates, officials said, could not be trusted to uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

“Clearly, this is the largest electoral fraud in Hong Kong’s history,” Wong said in a tweet.

The reasons cited by the government, Dapiran added, show that the national security law has in effect been much broader than expected, since it can now be used to disqualify anyone who does not explicitly support it.

“They are using the law to essentially find any pretense to outlaw political opposition wholesale, and disqualify as many as they can,” he said. “It now seems like any pretense of democracy has been taken away.”


Tiffany Liang contributed to this report.

With virus flip-flops, Hong Kongers ponder whether their leaders are out to lunch

Hong Kong was a pandemic poster child. Now it’s a cautionary tale.

Hong Kong police arrest four young people under Beijing’s new security law

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Congress leadership going all out to save Govt in Rajasthan

New Delhi, July 31 : The Congress is going all out to save its government in Rajasthan. The MLAs belonging to the Gehlot camp have been shifted to Jaisalmer to avoid any poaching attempts and to keep the flock together.

But the reason why Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is able to hold the fort is strong backing from the Congress central leadership, with even leaders like former Union Minister P Chidambaram pitching in to pacify sacked Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot .Responding to a question Chidambaram said that he did speak to Pilot earlier but for the last two weeks he hasn’t spoken to him.

“The sole objective of the central leadership is that the Congress government strongly serves the people of Rajasthan for the next five years” said Congress spokesperson Shergill.

The challenge for the Congress is to keep the pressure on the Sachin Pilot camp till the assembly convenes and the Congress goes for the floor test. The Congress is wary of losing a second elected government after Madhya Pradesh where the party’s complacency cost them the government.

Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said, “Legally, politically and mathematically the Rajasthan Congress government is unbreakable and unshakable.”

In the tussle within the party and with the BJP the Rajasthan Chief Minister has emerged as a fighter. He is now being helped by the central leadership.

The legal luminaries of the party Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibal have been in the forefront of the legal fight in the Rajasthan High Court and in the Supreme Court. On the advice of the legal team the Rajasthan Congress Chief Whip moved the apex court against the Rajasthan High Court directive.

The party is also trying to woo away many MLAs in the Pilot camp and their family members are being persuaded to ask them to return to the party fold, said sources.

Former law ministers in the UPA regime at the Centre wrote to the Rajasthan Governor. The letter signed by Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Ashwani Kumar said that “the delay in convening the special session of the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha as decided and advised by the council of ministers has resulted in an avoidable constitutional impasse.”

The Congress even attacked the Governor for delaying the assembly session and said that the Governor is behaving like the timekeeper of Operation Lotus rather than the gatekeeper of the Constitution. The BJP after failing in its money and muscle power is blatantly using Governor Power.

Source: IANS

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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Immigration, wildfires, drug cartels: 3 powerhouse new documentaries you need to see

In Netflix’s new documentary series “Immigration Nation,” the filmmakers won unprecedented access to the inner workings of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, showing how ICE agents do their jobs as well as the toll of their work on immigrant and refugee families.

The Ron Howard-directed “Rebuilding Paradise” from National Geographic Documentary Films tracks the devastating impact of the Camp Fire on Paradise, California as its residents struggle to recover over the year that followed that November 2018 wildfire.

“The Last Narc,” a four-part docuseries on Amazon Prime, tells the story of the 1985 murder of DEA Agent Kiki Camarena by the Guadalajara cartel, posing the disturbing question of what the CIA knew and did or did not about that crime.

  • The Dodgers’ Austin Barnes delivers a pinch-hit single to score Jimmy Rollins for his first RBI in the majors, during the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game against the Rockies.

  • Share Street was closed in both directions at Oakmont Avenue as police investigated a SUV that caught fire with three people inside on Oakmont Street in Orange last November.

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  • UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton scrambles for a loose ball during the second half of Thursday’s game against Kentucky at Pauley Pavilion.

  • Tamarisk homes are large for that era. Tamarisk Ranchos was created from a date palm grove, and 64 of the historic trees still stand.

  • “Co-existence” by Heesoo Joo earned an honorable mention in the painting division of the National Scholastic Art and Writing regional awards.

  • Episode 12: Tasked with creating a fast-casual concept and menu, Santana names his eatery Pio Pio. That’s what he called the chickens running around in his Dominican Republic neighborhood. He makes rotisserie chicken with Spanish yellow rice, four bean salad, and a choice of sauces. The judges liked the dish, especially the sauces, but it wasn’t a top three favorite.

  • In this March 7, 2015 file photo, a health worker, left, injects a man in his arm with an Ebola vaccine in Conakry, Guinea. In the biggest study to test whether the blood of Ebola survivors helps patients, doctors found the experimental treatment didn’t make a difference and some scientists say it’s time to shelve the approach. With no licensed treatment for the devastating disease, doctors have sometimes used blood from survivors to treat the sick, hoping its infection-fighting antibodies might help patients defeat the virus. It seemed to help some patients in the past but there was no clear proof. Amid the world’s biggest outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014, scientists decided to put the treatment to the test in Guinea.

  • In this photo taken Wednesday May 20, 2015, a guard tower and razor wire are seen at California State Prison, Solano in Vacaville, Calif. Authorities are investigating the murder of Nicholas Anthony Rodriguez a the prison in May. An autopsy report reveals that Rodriguez’ body was cut apart and most of his major body organs removed, prompting an investigation of whether a riot by dozens of prisoners was used to cover up the homicide.

  • Western High School in Anaheim is hosting a Post-it note art exhibit. All students and staff were invited to create drawings, and a compilation of their work is being showcased behind an acrylic panel outside Melinda Moen’s art classroom.

  • Emily Mata, 2, bundled up and keeping warm for the city of Stanton’s tree-lighting event.

  • The Keystone Steele City pumping station, into which the planned Keystone XL pipeline is to connect to, is seen in Steele City, Neb., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. TransCanada, the company behind the project, said Monday it had asked the State Department to suspend its review of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, citing uncertainties about the route it would take through Nebraska.

All three documentaries have strong connections to California viewers given the impact of the topics they explore. Though difficult viewing at times, this is serious journalism well worth your time as they premiere this weekend.

Here’s what we learned as we reviewed these three new documentaries:

‘Rebuilding Paradise’

The first 10 minutes of “Rebuilding Paradise” are as apocalyptic as any dystopian feature film you’ve ever seen, all the more terrifying for the fact that what you’re watching is absolutely real.

Set to a soundtrack of radio fire warnings, emergency broadcasts and the voices of residents fleeing Paradise as it’s consumed by swirling storms of fire, it’s a genuinely uncomfortable introduction to director Ron Howard’s documentary film for National Geographic.

“How far out is the first?” you hear a resident ask an official outside the Paradise hospital as it was being evacuated on Nov. 8, 2018.

“It’s everywhere; we’re 100 percent surrounded by fire,” the official replies.

“Are we going to die?” comes another voice, this time almost a whisper.

The Camp Fire, as this catastrophe is known, is the deadliest and most expensive wildfire in California history, killing at least 85 people and almost completely burning Paradise off the map.

“Rebuilding Paradise” tells the story of the town from the day of the fire through a year of rebuilding, following a handful of residents as they struggle to regain a sense of home again in a place many had lived all their lives.

“I went from being the town drunk to being the town’s mayor,” says Woody Culleton, who we follow as he works to build a house to replace the one that burned. “This is a place where everything came together for me and in a day it was gone.”

Police officer Matt Gates serves as another of the film’s characters, his good humor in the face of adversity a refreshing break. “I know it’s cliche, but the donut shop was right back there,” he says as he drives his cruiser through town.

School superintendent Michelle John and her husband Phil are two of the heroes that emerge, working with the district staff to get the kids of Paradise back in school — at first in remote locations, but finally and triumphantly for graduation on the high school’s football field.

There’s a lot of anger expressed at Pacific Gas & Electric, which accepted responsibility for its equipment sparking the fire, and discussions of the inherent danger of living in such a beautiful wooded place as climate change makes wildfires both stronger and more common.

That note of climate danger sounds again in a touching way at the end of the film as students at the high school collection donations for victims of an Alabama tornado, seeing in that new tragedy a mirror of themselves.

“Rebuilding Paradise” opens in live and virtual theaters on Friday, July 31. Go to rebuildingparadise.film for more.

‘Immigration Nation’

One of the most remarkable things about this six-part docuseries is that it got made at all, given how restrictive ICE is about granting access to its officers and detainees alike. In fact, the agency came to regret the access it approved in 2017, attempting to block the release or force changes in the episodes once they saw what the series contained.

Married filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau embedded with agents as ICE implemented Trump Administration changes such as separating parents from their minor children at the border — and locking up both adults and kids — and deporting any eligible immigrant instead of prioritizing those with criminal records over those without.

As a result, they witnessed ICE agents in the field and in the offices working with never-ending caseloads of immigrants and refugees. Most appear as professionals struggling to set their personal feelings aside to do their job, but the cameras at times capture scenes of questionable behavior. An officer picks a lock to gain access to an immigrant’s apartment building.

At one point a supervisor tells a field office to bring in more immigrants no matter who they are or what he has to do. “I don’t care what you do, but bring at least two people,” he says, prompting the field agent to tell the filmmakers “That’s a pretty (bleeping) stupid thing to say” in front of their cameras.

Filmmakers also gained unprecedented access to detainees in ICE custody and were able to follow them over months as they wait for a resolution to their immigration status.

The most heartwrenching of these comes in multiple interviews with fathers who’d been separated from their children at the border with no idea where they’d been taken.

“In this country, it’s like I’m no longer a father,” says Bernardo Arévalo, weeping as he talks about his teen son being taken from him at the border.

Most of the ICE personnel explain their ability to do their jobs as enforcing the law or simply following orders from above. Not thinking whether that’s justice is baked into the system, says Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, early in the series.

“Is a government agency evil? No. Is every single person inside ICE evil? No,” Heller says. “The brilliance of the system is that their job has been siphoned off in such a way that maybe what they see day to day seems justified, but when you add it up, all of the people just doing their job, it becomes this crazy terrorizing system.”

“Immigration Nation” premieres on Netflix on Monday, Aug. 3

‘The Last Narc’

The kidnapping, torture and murder of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena represented a shocking escalation of the War on Drugs when it occurred in 1985. The Guadalajara cartel now seemed to be taking aim at U.S. law enforcement officers, not just their criminal rivals.

Director Tiller Russell’s four-part docuseries on Amazon Prime takes a new look at the notorious murder and questions whether the full truth has yet to be revealed. For while a handful of Mexican citizens were tried and convicted of the crimes, “The Last Narc” alleges that higher powers including the CIA had some involvement in the crime or the cover-up.

The series features a colorful and credible-sounding protagonist in Hector Berrellez, a longtime, decorated DEA agent who worked with Camarena, led the investigation into his murder, and eventually came to believe a cover-up had taken place.

“I’ve kind of had this little thorn in my heart knowing the truth about what really happened to Kiki,” Berrellez alleges earlier in the series. “That U.S. intelligence officials ordered the kidnapping and interrogation of Kiki Camarena.

“The Camarena case is still being covered up to this day,” he continues. “And I want the world to know the truth. It’s time. And if I die doing it, well, that’s what God wanted.”

Berrellez hasn’t been shy about his beliefs on the topic in recent years, but the film not only brings in other U.S. officials to vouch for his seriousness, but it also scores interviews with three former Jalisco State Police officials, all who had been working for the cartel, whom Berrellez flipped to provide testimony into the Camarena murder.

Their interviews are chilling and dramatic as they describe what happened in tones that range from matter-of-fact to anguish and guilt.

Camarena met his wife, Geneva “Mika” Camarena, in high school in Calexico, and her interviews add a touching reminder that he was a person much loved by his family and friends who feel his loss to this day.

“The Last Narc” premieres on Amazon Prime on Friday, July 31.

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