Tag Archives: United States

Donald Trump visits brother in Hospital after being treated for undisclosed illness

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United States President Donald Trump on Friday visited his younger brother Robert at a hospital in New York, where he is being treated for an undisclosed illness.

The US leader, who was wearing a face mask upon arriving at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, entered through a back door and stayed about 45 minutes, according to a reporter covering the trip.

US media reports say the president’s brother is seriously ill, although there were no details.

Trump, who was stopping in New York on the way to his golf club in nearby Bedminster, New Jersey for the weekend, told reporters only that “he’s having a hard time.”

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While far less famous than his older brother, Robert Trump has long been an integral part of the family real estate empire and is fiercely loyal to the president.

FIle photo: US President Donald Trump wears a mask as he visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland’ on July 11, 2020. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

Robert Trump unsuccessfully went to court to try and get an injunction preventing publication of a book by his niece Mary Trump, called “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

The book, which paints Donald Trump as the product of a “toxic” family was a “disgrace,” Robert Trump said. Although a temporary restraining order was applied, a judge lifted this in July, allowing publication.

At a press conference, President Trump called his brother “wonderful” and said they have “had a great relationship for a long time, from day one.”


#Newsworthy…

United States bid to extend Iran arms embargo rejected.

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Crisis looms as UNSC overwhelmingly rejects US resolution to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran.


The United Nations Security Council has resoundingly rejected a bid by the United States to extend a global arms embargo on Iran.

In the Security Council vote on Friday, Washington got support only from the Dominican Republic for its resolution to indefinitely extend the embargo, leaving it far short of the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption.

Palestinians slam ‘traitor’ UAE for normalising
Eleven members on the 15-member body, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, abstained.

Russia and China strongly opposed extending the 13-year ban, which was due to expire on October 18 under a 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and six world powers.

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Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, announced the defeat of the resolution ahead of a very brief virtual council meeting to reveal the vote.

“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” he said in a statement.

Israel and the six Arab Gulf nations who supported the extension “know Iran will spread even greater chaos and destruction if the embargo expires”, Pompeo said, “but the Security Council chose to ignore them”.

Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the UN, said in a statement that the result “once again shows that unilateralism receives no support and bullying will fail”.

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Washington could now follow through on a threat to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran using a provision in the nuclear deal, known as snapback, even though US President Donald Trump had unilaterally abandoned the accord in 2018. On Thursday, the US had circulated to council members a six-page memo outlining why Washington remains a participant in the nuclear accord and still has the right to use the snapback provision.

In a statement after the vote, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said Washington has “every right to initiate” the snapback mechanism, and added: “In the coming days, the United States will follow through on that promise to stop at nothing to extend the arms embargo.”

The 13-year embargo is due to expire on October 18, under a 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear programme [Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP]

‘Diplomatic catastrophe’
Reporting from New York, NRM learnt the US’s defeat on Friday was not a surprise.

“But it’s a surprise that the US bid failed so miserably,” she said.

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“Any party to the nuclear accord could trigger the ‘snapback’ provision if Iran is seen to be in violation of the accord. But Russia and China say the US’s withdrawal from the deal two years ago means it has forfeited its right to do that. Other members of the council would seem to agree,” she said.

“The Europeans have expressed some misgivings about conventional weapons going into Iran. But at the end of the day, they say their concern about a nuclear weapon is paramount.”

Under the deal, Iran agreed to limits on its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief and other benefits. Following the US withdrawal and imposition of unilateral sanctions, Tehran has already scaled back compliance with parts of the accord. Diplomats have said triggering the “snapback” provision would put the fragile agreement further at risk because Iran would lose a major incentive for limiting its nuclear activities.

Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi warned Washington against trying to trigger a return of sanctions.

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“Imposition of any sanctions or restrictions on Iran by the Security Council will be met severely by Iran and our options are not limited. And the United States and any entity which may assist it or acquiesce in its illegal behavior will bear the full responsibility,” he said in a statement.

Jarret Blanc, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) the US’s failed bid amounted to a “diplomatic catastrophe”.

“It demonstrates that President Donald Trump and his team are not only bad at the strategy of approaching Iran, they are bad at the day to day tactics of diplomacy. It is unconscionable that the US couldn’t round up more than one vote for a resolution like this.”

But some analysts said they suspect that Washington put forward a hardline draft purposefully, knowing that council members would not be able to accept it.

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“The fact is that everybody at the UN believes this [resolution] is just a prelude to a US effort to trigger snapback and sink the Iranian nuclear deal,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)

While voting on the US draft resolution was under way, Russia said its President Vladimir Putin called for a meeting of leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council along with Germany and Iran to avoid escalation over US attempts to extend the Iranian arms embargo.

In statement released by the Kremlin, Putin said “the question is urgent”, adding that the goal of the videoconference would be “to outline steps to avoid confrontation and exacerbation of the situation in the UN Security Council”.

“If the leaders are fundamentally ready for a conversation, we propose to promptly coordinate the agenda,” Putin said. “The alternative is to further build up tension, to increase the risk of conflict. This development must be avoided.”

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Asked if he would take part, Trump told reporters: “I hear there’s something, but I haven’t been told of it yet.”

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office confirmed France’s “availability in principle” to Putin’s proposal. “We have in the past deployed initiatives in the same spirit,” it said.

Jarret Blanc, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called the US’s failed bid a “diplomatic catastrophe”.

“It demonstrates that President Donald Trump and his team are not only bad at the strategy of approaching Iran, they are bad at the day to day tactics of diplomacy. It is unconscionable that it couldn’t round up more than one vote for a resolution like this.”


#Newsworthy…

Meghan Markle ‘pleased’ to return to America.

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Meghan Markle said Friday she was pleased to be back in America, where she plans to speak out against racism and campaign for positive change in her home country.

Markle and husband Prince Harry relocated to the United States via Canada this year after announcing in January that they were quitting frontline British royal duties.

The Duchess of Sussex, who is mixed race, said it was “devastating” to return as America’s systemic racism was laid bare following the death in police custody of unarmed black man George Floyd in May.

But her feelings began to change as the country became gripped by widespread peaceful protests, and airwaves became dominated by black voices speaking against decades of discrimination.

“It shifted from sadness to a feeling of absolute inspiration because I can see that the tide is turning,” she told a summit hosted by The 19th*, a new news organization overwhelmingly staffed by women.

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“From my standpoint it’s not new to see this undercurrent of racism and certainly unconscious bias,” said Markle, who grew up in Los Angeles.

“But I think to see the changes that are being made right now is… something that I look forward to being a part of and being a part of using my voice in a way that I haven’t been able to of late.

“So yeah it’s good to be home,” she added.

The “Suits” actress, who was interviewing The 19th*’s CEO Emily Ramshaw about the role of gender in media, also hinted at her and Harry’s troubles with tabloid papers.

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Since stepping back from the royal front lines, Harry and Meghan have waged an increasingly bitter war with the media, particularly the British tabloid press.

Markle has brought a high-profile case against the Mail on Sunday, website Mail Online and its owner Associated Newspapers.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have purchased and moved into a new family home in Santa Barbara, an affluent seaside city outside Los Angeles, according to US media reports. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

‘Toxicity’
She claims breach of privacy, data protection rights and copyright over the publication of extracts of correspondence to her estranged father, Thomas, after her wedding to Harry.

Last month the couple filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against one or more paparazzi whom they accused of taking pictures of their son Archie without their permission.

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“I think what’s so fascinating, at least from my standpoint and my personal experience the past couple years (is) the headline alone, the clickbait alone makes an imprint,” said Markle.

She added that there is “so much toxicity” in certain news coverage.

“My husband and I talk about it often – this ‘economy for attention’… what is monetizable right now when you’re looking at the digital space and media.

“And so if you’re just trying to grab someone’s attention and keep it you’re going for something salacious versus something truthful,” said Markle, 39.

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Prince Harry has likened what he said was a “ruthless campaign” against his wife to the treatment of his mother, Diana, princess of Wales.

She was killed in a high-speed car crash in Paris in August 1997, while being pursued by paparazzi photographers.

Markle and Harry have spoken of their desire to “to do something of meaning, to do something that matters,” in California, where they plan to launch a wide-ranging non-profit organization named Archewell.

They recently moved into a new family home in Santa Barbara, according to US media reports.


#Newsworthy…

US Election: Trump’s fans drops false claims about Biden’s runmate, Kamala Harris.

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United States President Donald Trump has stoked false claims that Democratic vice-presidential contender Kamala Harris is ineligible to hold that office because her parents were foreign-born.

The claims about Harris — who was born in the United States, making her constitutionally eligible to be both vice president and president — echo a baseless theory that Trump long promoted about his predecessor Barack Obama.

“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said at a White House news conference on Thursday, referring to an August 12 opinion piece in Newsweek.

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The article by conservative law professor John Eastman says that “before we so cavalierly accept Senator Harris’ eligibility for the office of vice president, we should ask her a few questions about the status of her parents at the time of her birth.”

Trump said that Eastman, of Chapman University “is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer. I have no idea if that’s right.”

Eastman was also an unsuccessful Republican challenger, losing in the primary for the 2010 California attorney general’s election won by Harris, who served in that post before becoming a US senator.

Harris, 55, was born in Oakland, California to a mother from India and a father from Jamaica. She is the first black woman and woman of South Asian heritage to be granted the honor of a place on the ticket of a major US party.

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Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, 77, who on Tuesday named Harris as his running mate, blasted Trump’s rhetoric Friday, with his campaign calling the false claim “abhorrent.”

– A historic choice –
Eastman’s article followed claims shared thousands of times on Facebook that Harris could not become president because her parents hailed from abroad.

Article 2, Section 1 of the US Constitution says that “no person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States” shall be eligible for the presidency. They must also be at least 35 years old.

And Section 2 of the 14th Amendment says that: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”

Under that clause and an 1898 Supreme Court ruling, “anyone born on US soil and subject to its jurisdiction is a natural born citizen, regardless of parental citizenship,” Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute says.

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Harris could not become vice president if she failed to meet requirements for the presidency.

David A. Super, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Economics at the Georgetown University Law Center, said that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States,” according to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.

This means, Super said in an email to AFP, that “someone who is not a native-born US citizen, or someone who is not 35 years old, could not take office as vice president.”

As Trump parlayed his TV fame into a political career, he adopted and promoted the “birther” lie that Obama, America’s first black president, was not born in the United States.

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Obama was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and a white American mother. Trump grudgingly acknowledged late in his 2016 presidential campaign that Obama was American-born.

Since then, Trump has faced accusations of racism, and has embraced other conspiracies.

Polls show him losing the November vote.

On Wednesday, he praised Georgia Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, a follower of the QAnon conspiracy theory who has called white men the most oppressed group in America.


#Newsworthy…

US president, Trump targets Tik Tok again with new rule.

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United States President Donald Trump late Friday lashed out anew at ByteDance, issuing a fresh executive order stating the Chinese internet giant must sell its interest in the Musical.ly app it bought and merged with TikTok.

The order builds on sweeping restrictions issued last week by Trump that TikTok and WeChat end all operations in the US, his latest explosive moves aimed at countering China’s rising global power.

ByteDance bought karaoke video app Musical.y from a Chinese rival about three years ago in a deal valued at nearly a billion dollars. It was incorporated into TikTok, which became a global sensation.

Trump’s order contends there is “credible evidence” leading him to believe that ByteDance’s take-over of Musical.ly “threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”

“As we’ve said previously, TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection,” ByteDance said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“We’re committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform for many years to come.”

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The order set to take effect in 90 days retroactively prohibits the acquisition and bars ByteDance from having any interest in Musical.ly.

Trump ordered that any sale of interest in Musical.ly in the US had to be signed off on by the Committee on Foreign Investment, which is to be given access to ByteDance books.

It also ordered that any saved user data be destroyed.

Trump last week made good on threats against WeChat and TikTok — two Chinese-owned apps with major audiences that US officials say pose a national security threat.

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Through an earlier executive order, he gave Americans 45 days to stop doing business with the platforms, effectively setting a deadline for a potential, under-pressure sale of TikTok to Microsoft.

Trump has also called for the US government to be cut in on the deal, a stance slammed by critics who said it appears unconstitutional and akin to extortion.

Last week’s move also threw into doubt the US operations of WeChat’s parent firm, Tencent, a powerful player in the video game industry and one of the world’s richest companies.

China condemned the move as “arbitrary political manipulation”.

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Trump has claimed TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.

TikTok — used by as many as a billion people worldwide to make quirky, short-form videos on their cellphones — has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing.

WeChat is a messaging, social media, and electronic payment platform and is reported to have more than a billion users, with many preferring it to email.

The latest US actions follow a protracted battle over Huawei, the Chinese network and smartphone giant accused by the Trump administration of being a tool for espionage.


#Newsworthy…

US Election: Facebook, Google raise safety efforts.

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Facebook on Thursday launched its voting information center as internet platforms unveiled fresh moves to protect the November US election from manipulation and interference.

The hub was described as central to defending against deception and confusion in what promises to be an election roiled by the pandemic and efforts to dupe voters.

The move comes amid a coordinated effort by Facebook, Google and other online platforms to curb the spread of disinformation and thwart efforts to manipulate voters.

Google separately announced new features for its search engine to provide detailed information about how to register and vote, directing users to local election administrators.

Google-owned YouTube will take down content aimed at manipulation, including “videos that contain hacked information about a political candidate shared with the intent to interfere in an election,” according to a statement.

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YouTube will also remove videos promoting efforts to interfere with the voting process such as telling viewers to create long voting lines.

The announcements come a day after an industry group, members of which include Google, Microsoft, Reddit, Pinterest and Twitter, met with federal agencies including the FBI’s foreign influence task force to step up coordination on election interference.

A joint industry statement said the tech platforms, including the Wikimedia Foundation which operates Wikipedia, would be on the lookout for disinformation.

“We know that disinformation and misinformation are at their most virulent in an information vacuum,” Facebook head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher said on a briefing call with reporters.

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“Getting accurate information to voters is one of the best vaccines against disinformation campaigns.”

Facebook has set a goal of helping 4 million people registered to vote in the US.

The hub, which Facebook announced earlier this year, will be prominently positioned at Facebook and Instagram and “will serve as a one-stop-shop to give people in the US the tools and information they need to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” the social media giant said.

This file illustration taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google displayed on a tablet in Lille, France. DENIS CHARLET / AFP.

– ‘Hack-and-Leak’ –

Expected attacks include “hack-and-leak” tactics along the lines of what was used against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, Facebook said.

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The tactic typically involves state-sponsored actors giving hacked information to traditional media, then exploiting social media platforms to spread the stories, according to Gleicher.

“We know it is an effective technique,” Gleicher said.

Facebook said the voter hub will evolve with the election season, from focusing on registration and poll-worker volunteering matters to how to vote in the pandemic and then tallying of ballots.

“We know we can help millions of people access accurate, reliable information about the election,” vice president of social impact Naomi Gleit said on the briefing call.

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“We firmly believe that voting is voice; the best way to hold our leaders accountable.”

Facebook and Instagram users can use the tool to check if they are registered to vote and how to do so if they are not.

“Voting alerts” on the social network which include updates on the election process will be restricted to “pages from a government authority,” Facebook said.

– Tally turbulence –

Facebook is expecting malicious actors to try to exploit uncertainly about the election process or promote violence while votes are being counted, which is expected to take longer than usual due to the pandemic prompting more people to vote by mail.

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The social network has created “red teams” and conducted internal exercises to prepare, according to Gleicher.

US President Donal Trump has made unsubstantiated claims about the reliability of voting by mail, which he has done himself.

Facebook’s latest moves come amid concerns over campaigns by governments aimed at influencing elections and public sentiment in other countries through media outlets that disguise their true origins.

State-led influence campaigns were prominent on social media during the 2016 US election and have been seen around the world.


#Newsworthy…

US jobless claims drops below one million since March.

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The US Labor Department on Thursday reported fewer than one million new weekly claims for unemployment benefits for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March.

The result was better than expected but analysts warn the United States remains in the midst of an unemployment crisis after business shutdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19 led to tens of millions of layoffs.

The Labor Department data showed 963,000 seasonally adjusted initial claims filed in the week ended August 8, a drop of 228,000 from the previous week.

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The insured unemployment rate also dropped 0.4 percentage points to 10.6 percent in the week ended August 1, the latest week such data was available.

But despite the improvement, a massive 15.5 million people were still receiving benefits, and the new claims filed in the week ended August 8 were above the worst week during the global financial crisis.

In this file photo taken on January 23, 2018 employees of car manufacturer Ford hold a banner of the metalworkers’ union IG Metall while taking part in a warning strike in Cologne, western Germany. Federico Gambarini / dpa / AFP

“Claims will remain elevated compared to historical levels and, given the likelihood of another round of layoffs in the offing among small and midsize firms due to insufficient demand as the economy continues to slow, claims may reverse,” Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM US, said on Twitter.

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The data comes as Democratic lawmakers in Congress negotiate with President Donald Trump’s administration over a follow-up to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act rescue package passed as the pandemic hit.

Among the sticking points is the issue of how much to give state and local governments in aid as well as the fate of extra payments to the unemployed. The CARES Act gave the jobless an extra $600 per-week on top of their state benefits, but that money has expired and lawmakers can’t agree on how much to spend on that going forward.

The sign of jobs is seen on the front of the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC. AFP

The CARES Act also created a special program allowing people not normally eligible for unemployment benefits to receive assistance. In the week ended August 8, claims under that program decreased by more than 167,000 to 488,622.

All told, nearly 28.3 million people were receiving some form of government aid in the week ended July 25, down more than three million from the week prior.

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That was many times above the 1.7 million people receiving benefits in the same week of 2019, another sign of the damage done by lockdowns to stop COVID-19 that began in mid-March.

Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics called the latest data “a move in the right direction” but warned the world’s largest economy remains in a weakened state, particularly with the pandemic still raging.

“Even as businesses have reopened and jobs have returned, layoffs are continuing to mount, likely reflecting interruptions to activity from virus containment,” she said in an analysis.

“The risk of permanent job losses and damage to the labor market remains high, which will slow the pace of recovery. The economy faces a long and uncertain road back to pre-pandemic levels of prosperity.”


#Newsworthy…

US president, Trump makes surprise ‘peace agreement’ announcement between UAE & Israel.

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United States President Donald Trump on Thursday made the surprise announcement of a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel is a “HUGE breakthrough” Trump tweeted, calling it a “Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends.”

Speaking to reporters later, Trump suggested more diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and its Muslim neighbors in the region were expected.

File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with US President Donald Trump, speaks during an announcement of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020.  MANDEL NGAN / AFP

“Things are happening that I can’t talk about,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

US Election: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris strikes campaign; taunts Trump.

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Democratic White House hopeful Joe Biden and his vice presidential pick Kamala Harris — the first black woman tapped by a major party for the post — rolled out their campaign Wednesday with a call to restore a broken nation.

Biden, speaking alongside Harris in his Delaware hometown of Wilmington, said it was time after one term of President Donald Trump to “rebuild this country.”

“Everything we care about,” Harris said, “it’s all on the line.”

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Harris — a 55-year-old senator who would also be the first woman elected to the White House if the Democratic duo wins — pummeled the Republican president, saying he “just isn’t up for the job.”

Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants to the United States, also sought to tap into the nationwide upheaval over police violence and racial disparities.

WILMINGTON, DE – AUGUST 12: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) listens to Biden make remarks at the Alexis Dupont High School on August 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

“We’re experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country demanding change,” she said.

And referring to her courtroom experience as a veteran prosecutor and California attorney general, Harris said of the president and his vice president: “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.”

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Trump and Pence have left the country “in tatters,” she said.

Biden, who leads in polls against Trump despite running his campaign almost entirely from his Delaware home due to the coronavirus shutdown, said the president had failed to lead through the crisis.

WILMINGTON, DE – AUGUST 12: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) arrive to deliver remarks at the Alexis Dupont High School on August 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

But the 77-year-old promised that he and Harris, who had sought the Democratic presidential nomination herself before rallying to his side, would fix “the mess that President Trump and Vice President Pence have created at home and abroad.”

And he said that Harris’ story as the child of immigrants and a person of color who fought her way to the top ranks of US legal and government circles would inspire the country.

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“Her story’s America’s story,” he said. “She’s worked hard, she’s never backed down from a challenge and she has earned each and every of the accolades,” he said.

“All across America, little girls woke up” with new hope, Biden said. “Today, just maybe they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents.”

WILMINGTON, DE – AUGUST 12: The new campaign logo is displayed at the podium before Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) arrive to deliver remarks at the Alexis Dupont High School on August 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

Biden sniped at Trump, who has called Harris “nasty” for her combative questioning of Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh during Senate hearings in 2018.

“Whining is what Donald Trump does best,” Biden said, asking if anyone was “surprised Donald Trump has a problem with a strong woman?”


#Newsworthy…

Popular U.S comedian, Sarah Cooper gets Netflix special.

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Sarah Cooper, the US comedian whose uncanny lip-synch impersonations of President Donald Trump have gained millions of fans worldwide, will star in her own Netflix special, the streaming giant said Wednesday.

“Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine” will be released this fall and feature a variety of satirical political sketches and other vignettes as well as famous guests.

It will be executive produced by Maya Rudolph, whose own Emmy-nominated impressions of Kamala Harris on “Saturday Night Live” have been widely shared since Harris was confirmed Tuesday as the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate.

Cooper, a former Google employee, shot to fame during the pandemic by lampooning some of Trump’s most infamous outbursts — including his suggestion that injecting disinfectant could help fight the coronavirus.

That 49-second clip — entitled “How to medical” — saw Cooper lip-synch along to Trump’s proposal that bringing “light inside the body” might help combat the disease, while emulating the president’s power-posturing body language.

It has been viewed over 22 million times on Twitter alone.

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The 40-something Jamaican-born comedian calls Trump her “head writer,” and has gained over two million Twitter followers as well as celebrity fans such as former president Barack Obama, comedians Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld, and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

In this photo illustration, comedian Sarah Cooper’s page is displayed on the TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Cooper is also the author of best-selling books “100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings” and “How to be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings.”

The variety special will be directed by “Russian Doll” star Natasha Lyonne.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Donald Trump spills sixth vaccine contract.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced a $1.5 billion contract with US biotech company Moderna for 100 million doses of an eventual coronavirus vaccine, the sixth such deal reached since May.

“I’m pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Moderna to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine candidate,” Trump said at a White House news conference. “The federal government will own these vaccine doses, we’re buying them.”

“We’re on track to rapidly-produce 100 million doses as soon as the vaccine is approved, and up to 500 million shortly thereafter, so we’ll have 600 million doses,” he added.

Moderna, in partnership with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), is conducting Phase 3 clinical trials of a vaccine candidate and manufacturing of vaccine doses will take place while the trials are underway.

The vaccine, called mRNA-1273, is being co-developed by Moderna and the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is led by Dr Anthony Fauci.

File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he departs for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center from the White House on July 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/AFP

Fauci has said researchers are unlikely to know the efficacy of the vaccine before the end of the year at the earliest. But Trump has said he hopes to have a vaccine before the November 3 presidential election.

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The latest contract brings the US government’s total commitments to Moderna to $2.48 billion.

The company, founded less than 10 years ago, has not previously developed a vaccine of any kind but preliminary results of the company’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine have reportedly produced promising results.

Handout picture released by the Sao Paulo State Government press office showing a volunteer receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during the trial stage of the vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech at the Hospital das Clinicas (HC) in Sao Paulo state, Brazil, on July 21, 2020.  Handout / Sao Paulo State Government / AFP

The Trump administration has allocated a total of at least $10.9 billion for the development and manufacturing of a coronavirus vaccine.

It has already ordered 100 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi and 300 million from AstraZeneca.


#Newsworthy…

US Cabinet member trips to Taiwan.

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shower praises on democratic leader, lee teng hui


A US cabinet member visited a shrine to Taiwan’s late president Lee Teng-hui Wednesday, praising his role in steering the island’s transition to democracy, as he capped a historic trip to the island that has riled China.

Health chief Alex Azar is on a three-day visit to Taiwan that Washington has billed as its highest-level delegation since the US switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979.

His visit comes as US-China relations plunge to historic lows with the two powers clashing over a wide range of issues from trade to military and security issues, human rights and the coronavirus pandemic.

On the last day of his visit, Azar visited a shrine and wrote a message of condolence for Lee, who died last month aged 97.

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“President Lee’s democratic legacy will forever propel the U.S.-Taiwan relationship forward,” Azar wrote.

Lee was a towering figure in Taiwan’s recent history.

He defied China by pushing for the island to be recognised as a sovereign nation and earned the nickname “Mr Democracy” for the part he played in its transition from authoritarian rule.

US Health Secretary Alex Azar walks out of a plane as he arrives at the Sungshan Airport in Taipei on August 9, 2020. Azar, a senior member of US President Donald Trump’s administration, landed in Taiwan on August 8, 2020 for Washington’s highest-level visit since switching diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a trip Beijing has condemned. Pei Chen / POOL / AFP

Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, loathed Lee. When news emerged of his death, Chinese state media called him “the godfather of Taiwan secessionism”.

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Despite being self-ruled since 1949, Taiwan has never formally declared independence from the mainland and Beijing has vowed to react with force if it ever does.

Both Washington and Taipei portrayed Azar’s trip as an opportunity to learn from the success of Taiwan’s battle against the coronavirus.

The island has fewer than 500 infections and just seven deaths, compared with more than 160,000 fatalities in the United States.

But the visit has also been an opportunity to ruffle Beijing’s feathers at a time when US President Donald Trump is taking an increasingly hard line against China as he seeks re-election in November.

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“We will continue to support Taiwan as our friend and our partner across security, economic and healthcare issues,” Azar told reporters after a visit to a mask factory on Wednesday.

China takes umbrage at any formal recognition of Taiwan.

It called for Azar’s trip to be cancelled and Taiwan accused Beijing of sending fighter jets over a de facto border on Monday, the day the US health chief met President Tsai Ing-wen.

US Health Secretary Alex Azar waves to the journalists as he arrives at Sungshan Airport in Taipei on August 9, 2020. Azar, a senior member of US President Donald Trump’s administration, landed in Taiwan on August 8, 2020 for Washington’s highest-level visit since switching diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a trip Beijing has condemned. Pei Chen / POOL / AFP

During his visit, Azar has repeatedly contrasted Taiwan’s open, democratic system with China’s authoritarian leadership.

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In a speech on Tuesday, he suggested the coronavirus might have been stopped sooner had it emerged in a more transparent and democratic place, such as Taiwan, rather than China.

He also hit out at Beijing for keeping Taiwan locked out of the World Health Organization.

China has taken an increasingly hostile approach towards Taiwan since Tsai took office in 2016.

Despite the pressure campaign, she won a second term earlier this year with a landslide.


#Newsworthy…

US Election: Trump tags Harris ‘Horrible’ – shocked at Biden’s pick, to make her run mate

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Kamala Harris the “most horrible” member of the US Senate and said he was “surprised” Joe Biden had picked her as his vice-presidential candidate.

Trump told reporters at the White House that Harris did not impress him when she was vying for the Democratic nomination in primaries eventually won by Biden.

“I was more surprised than anything else because she did so poorly,” he said.

He also said that during the bruising 2018 Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Harris was “the meanest, the most horrible, the most disrespectful of anybody in the US Senate.”


#Newsworthy…

US Election: Joe Biden declares Kamala Harris as running mate.

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White House hopeful Joe Biden on Tuesday named Kamala Harris, a black US senator from California, as his choice for vice president, capping a months-long search for a Democratic partner to challenge President Donald Trump in November.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden, 77, said on Twitter.

His team stated that the two Democrats will deliver remarks on Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware as they kick off their campaign to defeat the Republican Trump.


I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate.

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 11, 2020


Taking to Twitter shortly after the announcement, Harris said she was “honored” to join Biden as nominee for vice president, and would “do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.”

Biden (L) and Harris greet each other ahead of the second round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. Jim WATSON / AFP

“@JoeBiden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals,” she wrote.

For Harris, being elevated onto a Democratic presidential ticket is the political moment of a lifetime. And if they win, the 55-year-old Californian becomes the automatic frontrunner in the race for the 2024 or 2028 Democratic nomination.

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Harris has been a barrier-breaker for much of her political career.


.@JoeBiden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals.

I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 11, 2020


Her parents were immigrants to the United States — her father from Jamaica, her mother from India. She was the first black woman elected as California’s attorney general, and only the second black woman, and the first woman of South Asian heritage to be elected to the US Senate.

In this file photo taken on March 09, 2020, US Senator Kamala Harris (L) hugs Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden after introducing him at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan. SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Biden’s team stated that the two Democrats will deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware as they kick off their joint campaign.

Harris had clashed with Biden during the first Democratic debate of the 2020 race, chiding the former senator over his opposition to 1970s busing programs that forced integration of segregated schools.

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It provided her with a breakout moment which proved short-lived: Harris dropped out of the race in December 2019 and endorsed Biden in March.

Despite their debate clash, Biden has made it clear he does not hold a grudge, describing Harris as a “first-rate intellect, a first-rate candidate and a real competitor.”

The Republican National Committee swiftly reacted to the announcement, saying Harris has “extreme” political positions that are far more leftist than the more moderate Biden’s.

A career of firsts
Harris has been a trailblazer all her life.

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“My mother used to have a saying,” the 55-year-old Harris is fond of recounting. “She would say to me ‘You may be the first to do many things but make sure you’re not the last.’”

Harris was the first black attorney general of California, the first woman to hold the post, and the first woman of South Asian heritage to be elected to the US Senate.

She is now seeking to become the first female vice president of the United States.

And with the 77-year-Biden expected to serve only a single term if elected, Harris would be favored to win the Democratic presidential nomination four years from now.

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That could give her a shot at more history-making — as the first female president of the United States.

“Senator Harris is a tenacious and trailblazing leader who will make a great partner on the campaign trail,” said Susan Rice, who served as national security advisor under president Barack Obama and was also under consideration to be Biden’s running mate.

Harris (D-CA) speaks during a hearing before Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building August 6, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / POOL / AFP

Since ending her White House run and endorsing Biden, Harris has stepped up her criticism of President Donald Trump on a host of issues — from his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak to race to immigration.

“Trump’s repeated racist rhetoric tries to place blame for his coronavirus failures on anyone but himself,” she tweeted recently.

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“It’s dangerous and it’s wrong — and has real life consequences for Asian Americans and Asian immigrants.”

Harris’s own parents were immigrants to the United States — her father from Jamaica, her mother from India — and their lives and her own have in some ways embodied the American dream.

Close to Beau Biden
Harris was born on October 20, 1964 in Oakland, California.

Her father, Donald Harris, was an economics professor and her mother Shyamala Gopalan, was a breast cancer researcher.

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Her parents separated when Harris was about five years old and she and her sister Maya were raised by her mother, who died in 2009.

Harris earned her undergraduate degree at historically black Howard University in Washington and is a proud member of “Alpha Kappa Alpha,” the oldest African-American sorority.

She earned her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, became a prosecutor and served two terms as a district attorney in San Francisco.

She was elected attorney general of California in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, the same year she married Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer with two children from a previous marriage.

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As attorney general, Harris developed a working relationship with Biden’s late son Beau, who held the same position in the state of Delaware. Beau Biden died of cancer in 2015.

Her failure, however, to enact bold criminal justice reforms while attorney general dogged her presidential campaign and did not sit well with many black voters during the primaries.

Harris was elected to the Senate in November 2016, becoming just the second black female senator ever.

As a senator, she has employed tough questioning skills honed as a prosecutor, notably during the Senate confirmation hearing of Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

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‘That little girl was me’
Harris launched her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday in January 2019 at an event attended by 20,000 people in Oakland.

She clashed with Biden during the first Democratic debate, chiding the former senator over his opposition to 1970s busing programs that forced integration of segregated schools.

“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she was bused to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”

It provided her with a breakout moment and a bump in the polls but it was to prove short-lived. Harris dropped out of the race in December 2019 and endorsed Biden in March.

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Despite their debate clash, Biden has made it clear he does not hold a grudge, describing Harris as a “first-rate intellect, a first-rate candidate and a real competitor.”

Harris voted for Trump’s impeachment at his Senate trial and to defeat him she has invoked the need to rebuild the “Obama coalition” — African Americans, Hispanics, women, independents and millennials.

A tireless campaigner, Harris has a knack for personal connection and a steely demeanor that can give way to a million-watt smile.

Along with her experience in the judicial, executive and legislative branches of government, Harris is expected to provide a jolt of energy to a White House campaign overshadowed by the coronavirus and economic crisis.


#Newsworthy…

5G network: United States frees more bandwidth.

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The US on Monday announced that a chunk of bandwidth long reserved for the military will be auctioned off to telecommunications firms for use in ultra-speedy 5G networks.

One hundred megahertz of “contiguous, coast-to-coast mid-band spectrum” will be made available for commercial 5G deployment, the White House and the Department of Defense said in a joint release.

The bandwidth in the range from 3450 and 3550 megahertz was identified for use in 5G networks and can be made available without impairing military or national security capabilities, according to senior administration officials.

The Federal Communications Commission will be able to start auctioning the spectrum in December, and it could be put to use for new-generation telecommunication networks as soon as mid-2022, according to the release.

The addition will increase to 535 megahertz the amount of mid-band spectrum available for 5G networks in the US, which is behind other countries such as China and South Korea when it comes to deploying the potentially transformative technology.

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Beijing recently slammed US warnings of “consequences” if Brazil chooses Chinese telecoms company Huawei to develop its 5G network, accusing Washington of “unscrupulous oppression” of the country’s tech companies.

Huawei — the world’s top producer of telecoms networking equipment — has become a pivotal issue in the geopolitical standoff between Beijing and Washington, which claims the firm poses a significant cybersecurity threat.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the US opposed the use of Huawei products not on national security grounds, but because they objected to the rise of Chinese firms.

Washington has essentially barred Huawei from the US market and waged a global campaign to isolate the company.

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The British government bowed to growing US pressure and pledged last month to remove Huawei from its 5G network by 2027, despite warnings of retaliation from Beijing.

Australia and Japan have also taken steps to block or restrict the Chinese company’s participation in their 5G rollouts, while European telecoms operators including Norway’s Telenor and Sweden’s Telia have passed over Huawei as a supplier.

“Looking at the overall very big picture on 5G and the race to 5G and the dynamic going on with Huawei right now, you know, we view that as a really multifaceted effort,” a senior administrative official said.

“Without domestic deployment, you just don’t have, kind of, the market share being supported for the trusted vendors that are kind of Huawei’s competitors.”


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: United States gives Nigeria 200 ventilators as promised. [Photos]

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– 11:32 AM –

The United States Government has handed over 200 ventilators to the Nigerian government.

The items were presented on Tuesday by the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Bert Leonard at the Abuja premier medical warehouse in the nation’s capital

This comes four months after President Donald Trump administration promised to support the country with ventilators as the Federal Government battles the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world.


12:06 PM – Nigeria gets 200 ventilators form United States. [Full Story]


The United States Government has handed over 200 ventilators to the Nigerian government.

The items were presented on Tuesday by the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Bert Leonard at the Abuja premier medical warehouse in the nation’s capital

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This comes four months after President Donald Trump administration promised to support the country with ventilators as the Federal Government battles the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world.

Trump’s promise is sequel to a telephone conversation he had with President Muhammadu Buhari on April 28.

According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, the call which was at the request of the American President centred on Nigeria’s response to COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mohammed revealed that the conversation of both leaders centred on the efforts of the Nigerian government to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Although Nigeria reported 1,337 confirmed COVID-19 cases with its death toll at 40 as of April 26, the number of infections has however risen to 46,867 with 950 fatalities recorded as of August 10.

‘There Could Be Regrets’
Worried by the number of fatalities from COVID-19 in the country, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, had warned that Nigeria could regret if people do not adhere to protocols put in place by the government and relevant agencies.

Dr Ehanire issued the warning during a briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday.

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The Minister reminded Nigerians that until a vaccine is found for the virus, adherence to the guidelines is the surest way to stay safe.

“Until there is a vaccine, the only options we have to protect ourselves, are still the non-pharmaceutical measures that are proven to be cheap and effective, such as the appropriate use of face masks, physical distancing, and avoiding crowds. If we do not adhere, there could be regrets,” he warned.

Global View
More than 20 million coronavirus cases have been now been registered across the world, over half in the Americas, according to an AFP tally of official sources at 2215 GMT on Monday.

At least 20,002,577 cases and 733,842 deaths have now been reported. More than four out of 10 coronavirus cases have been in the United States and Brazil, the two most affected countries in the world.

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While the US has logged 5,075,678 cases and 163,282 deaths, Brazil has recorded 3,057,470 infections and 101,752 deaths


#Newsworthy…

Update: Majek Fashek to be buried in USA

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Late Reggae musician, Majekodunmi Fasheke, popularly known as Majek Fashek’s son, Randy, has announced that his father will will be buried in New York, United States where he died.

Randy disclosed this in a video he posted on social media today, 10th of August. Although no date has been announced for the burial yet, Noble Reporters Media will be giving an update later once its been decided.

This is coming few weeks after Majek Fashek’s family called on the public to assist financially in order to fly his body back home for burial.

According to Majek’s family, Majek as a legend and Africa’s pride and thus cannot be allowed to be buried like an ordinary mortal.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: United States cases hit 5 million.

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The United States on Sunday reached the extraordinary milestone of five million coronavirus cases as President Donald Trump was accused of flouting the constitution by unilaterally extending a virus relief package.

The US has been hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, recording nearly 163,000 deaths — by far the highest of any country, ahead only of Brazil, which on Saturday became the second country to pass 100,000 deaths.

The global death toll is at least 727,288 since the novel coronavirus emerged in China last December, according to a running tally from official sources compiled by Media.

Nearly 20 million cases have been registered worldwide — probably reflecting only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

As around much of the globe, the small African country of Malawi on Sunday imposed tight social restrictions to try to contain the disease, shutting all bars and churches, while hot weekend weather drew crowds in Europe to the beach.

In Washington, the new virus relief package — announced by Trump on Saturday after talks between Republican and Democrat lawmakers hit a wall — was “absurdly unconstitutional,” senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

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Fellow Democrat and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, appearing on Media (known to Noble Reporters Media), dismissed Trump’s unilateral measures as “unworkable, weak and far too narrow.”

But with the nation’s economy still struggling to dig itself out of an enormous hole, Democrats appeared skittish about any legal challenge to a relief package they see as seriously inadequate.

The four executive orders Trump signed Saturday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey will, among other things, defer payroll taxes and provide some temporary unemployment benefits.

The president was seen as keen to show himself taking decisive action ahead of a November 3 election that could see him ousted from office, with polls showing a large majority of voters unhappy with his handling of the crisis.

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On Sunday night, Trump blamed what he called Democratic stubbornness for his being forced to take executive action.

“The Democrats were unwilling to do anything,” Trump told reporters as he boarded Air Force One to return to Washington.

“It was time to act,” he said. “We have to get money out to the people.”

Summer crowds
Democrats say the president’s orders infringe on Congress’s constitutional authority over the federal budget.

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But Pelosi demurred when asked about possible legal action, saying, “Whether (it was) legal or not takes time to figure out.”

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow defended the new measures.

HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA – AUGUST 07: Lisa Taylor receives a COVID-19 vaccination from RN Jose Muniz as she takes part in a vaccine study at Research Centers of America on August 07, 2020 in Hollywood, Florida. Research Centers of America is currently conducting COVID-19 vaccine trials, implemented under the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed program. The center is recruiting volunteers to participate in the clinical trials, working with the Federal Government and major Pharmaceutical Companies, that are racing to develop a vaccine to potentially prevent COVID-19. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

“Maybe we’re going to go to court on them. We’re going to go ahead with our actions anyway,” he said.

Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential election, Joe Biden, tweeted that five million coronavirus cases was “a number that boggles the mind and breaks the heart.

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“It shouldn’t have gotten this bad,” he said.

The US on Sunday had added 47,197 new cases in 24 hours, with 532 additional deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

US fatalities now total 162,913, and the number of infections is 5,041,473, the Baltimore-based university said.

Elsewhere, growing infections in and around Paris prompted French officials to make face masks compulsory outdoors in crowded areas and tourist hotspots in the city and surrounding areas from Monday.

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The mask will be obligatory for all those aged 11 and over in “very crowded zones,” said a police statement, including the banks of the Seine River and more than 100 streets in the French capital.

As temperatures soared across western Europe, holidaymakers crowded beaches at the weekend despite warnings about the risk of infection.

HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA – AUGUST 07: A patients blood samples are seen during a COVID-19 vaccination study at Research Centers of America on August 07, 2020 in Hollywood, Florida. Research Centers of America is currently conducting COVID-19 vaccine trials, implemented under the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed program. The center is recruiting volunteers to participate in the clinical trials, working with the Federal Government and major Pharmaceutical Companies, that are racing to develop a vaccine to potentially prevent COVID-19. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

Local authorities in Germany warned that some beaches and lakes would be closed if there were too many people.

Belgian police meanwhile arrested several people Saturday at the resort of Blankenberge after a brawl broke out on a beach between officers and youths they had told to leave for refusing to respect virus safety measures.

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Around 5,000 people demonstrated in Vienna for increased financial support for nightlife and relaxing coronavirus regulations.

In Peru, indigenous people armed with spears and angry over what they consider government neglect of their communities in the pandemic assaulted a settlement for oil workers deep in the Amazon, triggering a clash with police that left three natives dead, the government said Sunday.

Back in the US, in another burst of defiance over health warnings, thousands of bikers converged on a town in South Dakota for what is billed as the largest cycle gathering in the world.

In past years, the 10-day rally in Sturgis has drawn hundreds of thousands of bikers to socialize, drink and party together — raising fears among some locals that this year’s version could be a superspreader event.


#Newsworthy…

United States’ Taiwan visit since 1979 rise.

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A senior member of US President Donald Trump’s administration landed in Taiwan Sunday for Washington’s highest level visit since switching diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a trip Beijing has condemned.

During the three-day visit Health Secretary Alex Azar will meet President Tsai Ing-wen, who advocates Taiwan being recognised as a sovereign nation and is loathed by China’s leaders.

Tsai’s office said the meeting would take place Monday morning.

Azar is the most senior US cabinet member to visit Taiwan in decades and his visit comes as relations between the world’s two biggest economic powers plunge to historic lows.

In recent days, Trump has ordered sweeping restrictions on popular Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat and the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on Hong Kong’s leader over a tough law that curbs dissent.

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Washington has billed the Taiwan trip as an opportunity to learn from the island’s fight against the coronavirus and to celebrate its progressive values.

“This trip is a recognition of Taiwan’s success in combating COVID-19 and a testament to the shared beliefs that open and democratic societies are best equipped to combating disease threats like COVID-19,” a health and human services department official told reporters ahead of the visit.

But Beijing balks at any recognition of self-ruled Taiwan, which it claims as its own territory and vows to one day seize, by force if necessary.

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It has described Azar’s visit as a threat to “peace and stability”, while China’s defence minister warned against Washington making any “dangerous moves”.

US Health Secretary Alex Azar walks out of a plane as he arrives at the Sungshan Airport in Taipei on August 9, 2020. Azar, a senior member of US President Donald Trump’s administration, landed in Taiwan on August 8, 2020 for Washington’s highest level visit since switching diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a trip Beijing has condemned. Pei Chen / POOL / AFP

As well as meeting Tsai, Azar will hold talks with his counterpart Chen Shih-chung and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

He will also meet coronavirus experts and give a speech to public health students as well as alumni of a training programme with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Taiwan has become a poster child for defeating the coronavirus thanks to a well-honed track and tracing programme as well as firm border controls.

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Despite its proximity and economic links to China it has recorded fewer than 500 infections and seven deaths.

In contrast the US has recorded the most deaths in the world with more than 160,000 fatalities.

– A cautious testing of China –

The rapidly deteriorating relationship between Beijing and Washington comes as Trump seeks re-election in November.

He is trailing in the polls to rival Joe Biden and has begun campaigning hard on an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.

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As public disapproval has grown for his handling of the epidemic, Trump has pivoted from his previous focus on striking a trade deal with China to blaming the country for the coronavirus crisis.

The two countries have clashed on a range of issues, from trade to espionage allegations and Beijing’s human rights record such as the mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims and the political crackdown in Hong Kong.

US Health Secretary Alex Azar waves to the journalists as he arrives at Sungshan Airport in Taipei on August 9, 2020. Azar, a senior member of US President Donald Trump’s administration, landed in Taiwan on August 8, 2020 for Washington’s highest level visit since switching diplomatic recognition to China in 1979, a trip Beijing has condemned. Pei Chen / POOL / AFP

Washington remains the leading arms supplier to Taiwan but has historically been cautious in holding official contacts with it.

Under Trump, relations with Taiwan have warmed dramatically and he has approved a number of major military sales, including F-16 fighter jets.

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Douglas Paal, a former head of the American Institute in Taiwan, Washington’s de facto embassy, said the Trump administration was still paying heed to China’s red line — that no US official handling national security visit Taiwan.

Throughout the 1990s the United States sent trade officials to Taiwan with regularity.

The difference this time, he said, is the context, with Azar travelling at a time when relations between Washington and Beijing have hit a new low.

“Sending him to Taiwan shows respect for the old framework while putting a finger in China’s eye at the same time,” Paal said.

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“The fact that they didn’t choose to send a national security advisor or someone else suggests they are trying to come as close as possible to China’s red line but don’t want to cross it.”

The last cabinet minister to visit Taiwan was in 2014 when the then head of the Environmental Protection Agency led a delegation.

Taiwan has also built broad, bipartisan support in Washington.

Tsai has been hailed not only for her decisive coronavirus response but also, among US Democrats, for her progressive views including advocacy of gay rights, unusual for an Asian leader.


#Newsworthy…

Microsoft’s dangerous castle in bid to acquire Tik Tok: Firewall, Gates, Windows

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Microsoft, which is in talks to buy part of Chinese video app TikTok, is one of the few US tech titans that have managed to succeed in China.

The software giant has kept its business alive in the country by complying with strict local laws, despite the communist nation’s wide-reaching censorship.

Here are some key points about the technology and gaming group’s operations in the world’s second-biggest economy.

A pioneer
Microsoft arrived in China in 1992 and opened its largest research and development centre outside the United States. It now employs around 6,200 people in China.

The ubiquitous Windows operating system is used in the vast majority of computers in China — despite Beijing promising in recent years to develop its own operating system. The company’s success has a downside, however, as its software is widely pirated.

The important Chinese market, which is very restrictive for foreign firms, represents a drop in the ocean of Microsoft’s business, accounting for barely 1.8 percent of its turnover, president Brad Smith said at the beginning of the year.

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Microsoft’s Bing is one of the few foreign search engines operating in China — although it is far behind its local competitors Baidu and Sogou, which dominate the market.

Bill Gates
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has long embodied a model of success in the eyes of many Chinese people and his books are bestsellers in the country.

President Xi Jinping visited the company’s headquarters on a state visit to the US in 2015, where he met with Gates and his wife.

Today, as the head of his humanitarian Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 64-year-old has the prestige of a head of state in Beijing.

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In February Xi wrote Gates a letter thanking him for his support during the coronavirus epidemic.

Censorship and control
China censors all subjects considered politically sensitive in the name of stability, and internet giants are urged to block unwanted content online.

Refusing to comply with Beijing’s strict demands, American giants Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, as well as Wikipedia and several other foreign media, are blocked by China’s “great firewall”.

Microsoft, however, operates its professional LinkedIn network in the country by complying with the draconian censorship rules through a local joint venture.

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Skype and Teams, its other two big platforms, are also available in China.

It’s not all smooth sailing though, with Bing temporarily taken offline last year, prompting speculation the search engine had been blocked by censors.

Smith told Fox Business News at the World Economic Forum in Davos that “there are times when there are difficult negotiations with the Chinese government.”

The Greatfire.org website, which tracks online censorship in China, accused Bing a few years ago of redacting results containing sensitive information.

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– Video games –
In 2000 Beijing halted the sale of all consoles because of their alleged negative effects on the “mental health” of young users, although they remained available illegally.

After the ban was lifted, Microsoft in 2014 was the first foreign firm to break into the video games market in China with its Xbox One console.

Also in 2014, the Chinese competition authorities opened an anti-monopoly investigation against Microsoft and its Windows software.

Around 100 inspectors raided the group’s offices in four Chinese cities, confiscating files and questioning employees.


#Newsworthy…

China opposes U.S barbaric Hong Kong sanctions

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China’s office in Hong Kong on Saturday denounced Washington’s decision to sanction key officials over sliding freedoms in the business hub, calling the move “barbarous and rude”.

“The ill intentions of US politicians to support people who are anti-China and messing up Hong Kong have been clearly revealed,” Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said in a statement.


#Newsworthy…