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Iran parliament speaker tests positive for COVID-19
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 12:42:27 -0400

Iran parliament speaker tests positive for COVID-19Iran's parliament speaker tested positive for COVID-19, state television reported Thursday, becoming the latest official to contract the disease in the hard hit country. Ali Larijani "was tested for coronavirus after showing certain symptoms, and as the result was positive, he is currently in quarantine and undergoing treatment," the report said. Larijani, 62, is close to the Iranian leadership and president and was re-elected in 2016 for a second term as parliament speaker.


Democrats Delay Convention; Italy Infections Slow: Virus Update
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 12:29:10 -0400

Democrats Delay Convention; Italy Infections Slow: Virus Update(Bloomberg) -- Spain reported 950 more coronavirus deaths, the most in a single day, taking total fatalities in the country to more than 10,000. New infections in Italy slowed.The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits more than doubled to a second straight record. In Britain, almost 1 million people claimed welfare payments in the past two weeks. Stocks gained as oil surged.Germany faces a deeper recession than during the financial crisis. and a U.K. financial regulator proposed freezing some credit card repayments.Key Developments:Global cases top 965,000; more than 49,000 dead: Johns HopkinsNations with mandatory TB vaccines show fewer coronavirus deathsLA urges city to mask up; NY, NJ deaths double in three daysLocked up, beaten and shamed: virus laws lead to abusePalantir’s new ‘driving thrust’: predicting virus outbreaksLife-or-death hospital decisions come with threat of lawsuitsItaly Infections Slow (12:20 p.m. NY)Italy reported 4,668 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday compared with 4,782 a day earlier, as growth in infections slowed.The nation had 760 deaths as the number of fatalities rose again after three weeks of nationwide lockdown.The toll over the past 24 hours compared with 727 on Wednesday, according to figures from the civil protection agency.Remy Cointreau Takes Hit on China Sales (12:20 p.m. NY)Remy Cointreau SA, one of the world’s largest sellers of Cognac, cut its forecast for the fiscal year and said it expects profit to be down between 25% and 30%. Producers of the spirit are enduring a collapse in sales from China as a result of the coronavirus. The country had previously grown to become one of the most important sales markets for Cognac and other European luxury goods. Just under a third of Remy Cointreau’s revenue comes from Asia, with China being the largest market in the region.Democrats Postpone Convention (12:05 p.m. NY)The Democratic National Committee on Thursday postponed the presidential nominating convention from July to Aug. 17 due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the decision. The delay comes after likely presidential nominee Joe Biden said it should be pushed back for safety reasons.Pelosi Forming Panel to Oversee Stimulus (11:35 a.m. NY)U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will create a select committee with subpoena power to oversee the government’s response to the outbreak, including how the $2.2 trillion from last week’s stimulus plan is spent.Pelosi on Thursday compared the committee to the panel chaired by then-Senator Harry Truman in the 1940s to investigate defense spending as the country mobilized for World War II.“We want to make sure there are not exploiters out there,” she told reporters. “Where there is money, there is mischief.”Putin Extends Lockdown Through April 30 (10:36 a.m. NY)President Vladimir Putin extended his order keeping Russians at home until April 30, warning that the spread of coronavirus has yet to reach its peak.The Russian leader said certain parts of Russia, including Moscow, haven’t managed to get the situation under control. He said he would give additional authority to regional leaders to determine the level of response locally. He noted that the stay-at-home period could be shortened if the situation improves.Russia has more than 3,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus after a 28% increase overnight.NYC Business Activity Falls (10:30 a.m. NY)A measure of business activity in the New York City area sank to the lowest level on record in March. The Institute for Supply Management-New York’s current business conditions index fell 39 points last month to 12.9, the lowest in data back to 1993 and well below its 27.1 reading duriing the global financial crisis. Levels below 50 signal contracting activity.Kenya to Hire Health Workers (10:15 a.m. NY)Kenya is set to hire 6,000 health workers to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, with 5,000 deployed to counties and 1,000 will remain at the national hospitals, Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said.Kenya has confirmed 110 Covid-19 cases and three deaths.Walgreens Flags Sales Downturn (9:43 a.m. NY)Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. executives said sales have started to decline at its drugstores as a result of the pandemic, though the full impact on its business won’t be known for months.U.S. consumers had raced early last month to stock up on drugs, cleaning supplies and toilet paper as they prepared to stay at home to avoid getting or spreading Covid-19. Now, that rush appears to be ebbing.Amazon Hires 80,000, Steps Up Warehouse Safety (9:24 a.m. NY)Amazon.com Inc. said it has hired 80,000 people to help meet demand for online orders and has stepped up safety precautions at its U.S warehouses.Dave Clark, Amazon’s logistics chief, said in a blog on Thursday that Amazon would probably go “well beyond” its previous estimate of an additional $350 million in costs to support a growing workforce.Germany Backs Use of Bailout Fund (9:15 a.m. NY)The government in Berlin says it’s ready to send an “unambiguous signal” to markets by letting countries tap the European Stability Mechanism, the euro area’s rescue fund, to help them deal with the fallout of the pandemic.That’s according to a position paper seen by Bloomberg, which also advocates setting up a 50 billion-euro fund to guarantee loans to small and medium-sized companies, especially in countries that don’t have their own development banks. Germany also said it would welcome a European unemployment reinsurance.U.S. Jobless Claims Doubled to Record Last Week: (8:38 a.m. NY)The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits more than doubled to a second straight record as the coronavirus widened its reach and closed more businesses.A total of 6.65 million people filed jobless claims in the week ended March 28, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday, as many stores and restaurants were forced to close across the nation to mitigate the outbreak.U.K.’s Johnson Still Has Mild Symptoms (8:24 a.m. NY)U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to show mild symptoms after contracting Covid-19, his spokesman, James Slack, said at a briefing with reporters.New Cases in Italy’s Lombardy Region Remain Flat (8:21 a.m. NY)Lombardy’s trend of new virus cases remains flat, with no increases in the last 24 hours, the region’s governor, Attilio Fontana, said at a press conference on Thursday.“It seems what our experts have predicted is happening, and that in a few days we might see a blessed decline in the pandemic trend,” Fontana said.Germany Sees Economy Contracting 5% in 2020 (7:43 a.m. NY)The national output is expected to contract more than 5% in 2020, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said. Germany’s economy could be in position for “reasonable growth” next year, he added. Angela Merkel’s government was widely anticipated to slash its forecast from the pre-crisis prediction of 1.1% growth.Amgen Joins Hunt for Coronavirus Drug, DJ Says (7:35 a.m. NY)Amgen Inc. and Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp. are partnering to develop a drug to treat the coronavirus, Dow Jones reported on Thursday, citing an interview with David Reese, Amgen’s executive vice president of research and development.No Decisions on Domestic Travel Ban, Fauci Says (7:32 a.m. NY)“It’s on the table,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci says about whether the U.S. has any plans to restrict domestic travel. “We look at that literally every day,” he said. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he’s looking at domestic travel limits for virus hot spots.HK Orders Bars, Pubs to Close (7:28 a.m. NY)Hong Kong has ordered bars and pubs to close for 14 days from April 3. The city earlier reported 37 new cases, taking its total to 802.Boeing Offers Voluntary Buyouts (7:24 a.m. NY)Boeing Co. offered voluntary buyouts to eligible employees, in a bid to quickly shed costs and adjust its work force of 161,000 to a coronavirus crisis that’s quickly undermined the outlook for aircraft sales. The move will preserve much-needed cash at Boeing, which is facing a sharp contraction in demand along with its European rival Airbus SE.Airline customers around the world have slashed schedules, with some parking their entire fleets as the coronavirus pandemic guts travel. About 44% of aircraft across the globe are in storage.ECB Delays Strategic Review (7:21 a.m. NY)The big policy rethink, which was supposed to become the hallmark of President Christine Lagarde’s presidency, will be completed by the middle of next year, or six months later than initially planned, the ECB said on Thursday.EU Says It Should Have Acted Faster to Help Italy (7:05 a.m. NY)In a letter to Italian newspaper la Repubblica, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admitted the bloc was late in understanding the scale of the outbreak in Italy and slow to act. She said Brussels has done far better recently.The unusual admission comes amid fear that Italy’s debt market is still vulnerable to a mass exodus by investors, even with the European Central Bank offering support through its 750 billion-euro ($820 billion) bond-buying program. The country’s yield spread over Germany, a key gauge of risk in the country remains elevated after last month’s virus-induced rout.Biden Says Sees Democratic Convention Delayed to August (7 a.m. NY)“I think it’s going to have to move into August,” Biden said in an interview on “The Tonight Show.” “I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July.”Norway’s Wealth Fund Lost a Record $113 Billion in 1Q (6:41 a.m. NY)Norway’s sovereign wealth fund lost a record 1.17 trillion kroner in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic roiled stock markets. The loss comes as the fund for the first time faces forced asset sales to cover emergency spending by the government to weather the impact on the richest Nordic economy.Stanchart CEO Says U.K., U.S. Acted Too Late (6:35 a.m. NY)Standard Chartered Plc Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters said authorities in London and Washington have been too slow in ordering the type of lockdown that China used to control the outbreak. Speaking on Bloomberg Television, Winters became one of the highest-profile CEOs to criticize the Western response to the pandemic, saying the U.S. and U.K. had acted “too late.”“I find it interesting to listen to the debate now that we in the West, or in the U.K., or in the U.S., couldn’t have done what the Chinese did because we don’t have that kind of society,” Winters said. “Well, we are doing what the Chinese did; we’re just doing it too late.”EU’s Borrell Warns of Pandemic ‘Spiraling Out of Control’ (6:30 a.m. NY)European Union foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc must mobilize help for poor countries. “Globally, it is to be feared that the worst is yet to come,” Borrell said in a letter to foreign ministers as they prepare to hold a video conference Friday. “Countries already affected by conflicts or mismanagement are particularly vulnerable.”Jobless Claims Soar As Lockdowns Bite (6:20 a.m. NY)Earlier on Thursday, Spain said claims rose by a record 302,265 in March. Spain, one of the countries at the center of Europe’s outbreak, already has an unemployment rate that’s among the highest in the developed world.Almost a million people have claimed welfare payments in Britain over the past two weeks and even Finland, one of the world’s best-funded welfare states, is starting to crack. In Ireland, more than 300,000 people are on government support and 200,000 are classed as unemployed -- that’s a total of about half a million people in a country where around 2.3 million were in work before the crisis.And one-third of Thailand’s population has registered for government cash handouts designed to soften the blow of the novel coronavirus outbreak, far exceeding the funds available for the policy.Brexit Delay May Be Inevitable (6 a.m. NY)Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he won’t delay Britain’s final parting with the European Union at the end of the year. Empty meeting rooms across Whitehall suggest delay is all but inevitable.Business lobbyists say government officials have canceled most meetings to prepare for Brexit as civil servants are pulled away to deal with the growing coronavirus pandemic. It’s now only a question of how Johnson will sell a delay to the British public, rather than whether or not one will happen, they say.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


New Yorkers Are Right to Be Skeptical of Evangelical-Run Coronavirus Ward in Central Park
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 12:26:23 -0400

New Yorkers Are Right to Be Skeptical of Evangelical-Run Coronavirus Ward in Central ParkIf New York City wasn’t under a strict stay-at-home order right now, protesters might be marching along Central Park. That’s where an evangelical Christian organization called Samaritan’s Purse is preparing to open a makeshift COVID-19 ward. The 60-bed emergency field hospital is comprised largely of tarp-wrapped tents and will function as a respiratory unit servicing overflow patients from Mount Sinai Hospital.Some New York residents have criticized Samaritan’s Purse’s presence, citing their spotty record in the field and expressing fears that the conservative religious group’s beliefs could even open the door to substandard care or discrimination. City Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted he was “very concerned” about the operation and was sending people from his office to monitor Samaritan’s Purse.As a result, conservative Christians exploded on social media, citing the controversy as further proof that their faith is under attack by intolerant liberals and coastal elites who care little about human life.Andrew Walker, a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary, tweeted, “Cultural decadence is allowing intersectionality to determine the acceptability of emergency response.” And Peter Hasson, a Catholic editor for conservative news site The Daily Caller, tweeted, “If you’re getting mad at the people taking care of the sick during a pandemic, maybe consider the fact that you’re not the good guy in this story.”As my therapist often reminds me, the human brain is capable of understanding that two things can be true at the same time. In this case, a person can believe that the brave doctors and nurses currently deploying to Central Park to help combat this terrible virus are brave and necessary and also believe that the organization chosen to manage the work of these doctors and nurses is deeply problematic. Holding both of these ideas in your mind at the same time doesn’t make you a bad person; it demonstrates that you’re a thinking person. We’re in the midst of a public-health crisis and must take an all-hands-on-deck approach to caring for the sick.And upon closer inspection, New Yorkers have plenty of good reasons to feel uncomfortable about this new coronavirus hospital.Of chief concern is the person overseeing the Central Park ward: Samaritan’s Purse’s president and CEO Franklin Graham. He is the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and a spiritual advisor to President Donald Trump who has a surprisingly long history of controversial comments and hate speech.Graham seems to harbor a special level of disdain for followers of Islam, which he characterizes as a “wicked and evil religion” that encourages adherents to beat their wives and murder their disobedient children. In 2015, he recommended banning all Muslims from immigrating to America and suggested our government treat them like the Japanese and German during World War II. As rationale, he argued that Muslims have “the potential to be radicalized” and participate in “killing to honor their religion and Muhammed.”That’s the man running Samaritan’s Purse’s coronavirus hospital, so yes, Muslim New Yorkers are right to be skeptical.Graham’s hate speech is also often aimed at LGBTQ people. He has called same-sex marriages “detestable” and has drummed up fear toward gays and lesbians—whom he believes should burn in hell—by claiming they want to “drag an immoral agenda into our communities.” In an article that has mysteriously disappeared from the Decision Magazine website, Graham wrote that the architect of the LGBTQ rights movement was “none other than Satan himself.” And when Vladimir Putin initiated a violent crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Russia, it sparked a wave of beatings, abduction, public humiliation and other forms of violence against sexual minorities there. Graham responded by praising Putin’s policy, lauding the authoritarian leader for “[protecting] his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”Given such history, it makes complete sense then that Mount Sinai Hospital asked Samaritan’s Purse to “sign a written pledge to treat all patients equally.”Some conservative Christians have dismissed this as harassment, claiming that a scenario in which evangelicals discriminated against gays and lesbians is ridiculous to imagine. But our fair city has a long memory. We remember all the gay men who fled communities across America where evangelicals pastors condemned them as “abominations” and found safe harbor in New York. We remember that when masses of them contracted HIV/AIDS and filled our hospital beds, evangelical preachers on TV called it God’s judgment. We remember Jerry Falwell and the religious right lobbying against HIV research and relief in the 1990s, leading to untold deaths.All this occurred in my lifetime, and I am only 37. So please pardon New Yorkers if they feel uneasy, given American evangelicals’ often-unacknowledged track record coupled with Graham’s comments, and want to take some minor precautions to ensure all citizens are protected. Gay, lesbian, and transgender New Yorkers are right to be skeptical.And some conservative Christians who’ve even acknowledged the disturbing nature of Graham’s comments have attacked Samaritan’s Purse’s critics for intolerance. Anyone should be able to help anyone in this time, the argument goes. It’s wrong to prevent people from serving the sick. I totally agree; but Samaritan’s Purse does not. The organization is requiring that all personnel serving in its pop-up hospital be Christians who agree to Samaritan’s Purse’s 11-point “Statement of Faith,” which includes the beliefs that non-Christians will burn in hell and that same-sex relationships are sinful.It’s unsurprising, if lamentable, that a Christian aid group would turn away a Buddhist doctor looking to help its efforts. But if a lung doctor shows up in Central Park with the knowledge and experience to save lives, she could be sent home if she happens to be a liberal Episcopalian who voted for Hillary Clinton and supports marriage equality.If it is wrong to quibble over who is fit to help save lives in the middle of a crisis, then we must admit that Samaritan’s Purse is no better than its critics. The group’s defenders are correct, however, that the organization has laudably worked to meet emergency needs in crisis regions since its founding. They have accomplished much good in places like Kosovo, Sudan, Somalia, and Darfur. But their record is not unblemished, and many in the humanitarian world have questioned the quality of some of Samaritan’s Purse’s work.After USAID gave Samaritan’s Purse a large grant to help victims of the earthquake in El Salvador, they were disturbed to learn that the Christian group “blurred the lines between church and state” by using funds to evangelize victims instead of just help them. An official with Samaritan’s Purse dismissed the criticism by claiming, “We are first a Christian organization and second an aid organization.”That wasn’t the first time such blurring occurred, however. During the first Gulf War, respected U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf publicly criticized the group for trying to coerce American troops serving in Saudi Arabia to covertly distribute Arab-language Bibles under the guise of humanitarian work. And Samaritan’s Purse’s popular “Operation Christmas Child” has recently been drawn fire when people learned that the holiday shoeboxes given to poor children in non-Christian families around the world were stuffed with Christian evangelism materials.The vast majority of New Yorkers are not Christian, and if they find themselves wheezing for air due to COVID-19, they don’t want to be proselytized while receiving treatment. They too have reason to be skeptical of the organization’s makeshift hospital.“This is what Samaritan’s Purse does—we respond in the middle of crises to help people in Jesus’ Name. Please pray for our teams and for everyone around the world affected by the virus,” Graham declared in a press release announcing the ward.None of Samaritan’s Purse’s detractors have argued that the Central Park ward should be shuttered or that the organization be barred from offering care. And no one is casting aspersions on the many courageous health-care professionals who will put their lives at risk when this hospital opens. Most agree with the letter from Mount Sinai staff and doctors—at least one of whom is LGBTQ—that concerns about Samaritan’s Purse, while valid, must be set aside at the moment because “the higher mission at present is to preserve human life.”To this, I say “yes and.” New Yorkers can admit that Samaritan’s Purse should have a role to play in this vital work, and they can also acknowledge the many valid reasons that might make vulnerable and marginalized residents a little more than nervous.—Jonathan Merritt is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and author of Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words are Vanishing—And How We Can Revive Them.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. 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The US and Iran could bring down tensions if they're willing to talk about one issue
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 12:02:13 -0400

The US and Iran could bring down tensions if they're willing to talk about one issueWhile the US and Iran have spent 2020 shooting at each other, one issue could bring them closer, writes Defense Priorities fellow Daniel DePetris.