CEOs were asked to remove masks before meeting with Mike Pence in Iowa.

Source: CEOs were asked to remove masks before meeting with Mike Pence in Iowa.

Pence didn’t wear a mask during his events in Iowa that were intended to encourage economies to start returning to normal. But throughout the day there were clear signs that everything continued to be far from normal. Before the event in which the executives were asked to remove their masks, staffers wearing gloves and masks took the temperature of people who entered the building. And even though members of the audience did appear to be staying apart from each other, video showed that few were actually wearing masks.

The events of Friday illustrate just how the question of whether to wear a mask or not has become a political statement across the United States. Even as health care officials encourage people to wear masks, those who think that the coronavirus threat is overblown are getting clear signals from some of the country’s leaders, including President Donald Trump, that it’s OK not to wear one. That tension has even led to violence in a few places as people who refuse to wear masks have confronted employees at stores that demand everyone put one on. Ultimately, “the president is not just failing to model good behavior,” writes Mackey, “he is actively discouraging it.” As of Sunday afternoon, the coronavirus had killed almost 80,000 people across the United States.

Smart suit, brushed hair. It was just the speech that was a total mess | John Crace

God save Britain, cause PM cannot


Boris Johnson’s vague coronavirus address divides nations and spreads confusion

Stay alert. Watch out. There’s a Boris about. All his life Boris Johnson has fantasised about being the next Winston Churchill, the nation’s saviour. But 75 years after Churchill declared the end of the second world war in Europe, all Boris could manage to do in his pre-recorded television statement – his minders don’t trust him to do anything live – was divide the United Kingdom. The Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish had all managed to distance themselves from the prime minister’s central message even before it had been broadcast. Forget the Churchill tribute act; these days Boris couldn’t even get a job as a Boris Johnson tribute act.

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South Korea scrambles to contain new coronavirus outbreak threatening Seoul, East Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Source: South Korea scrambles to contain new coronavirus outbreak threatening Seoul, East Asia News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Most of the new cases were linked to an outbreak at several Seoul nightclubs and bars. Authorities had tested 4,000 people who had patronised the night spots, but were still trying to track down around 3,000 more.

“Our top priority is to minimise the spread of the infections in the greater Seoul area,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting with government officials on Monday.

Chung called for local governments to mobilise as many personnel as available and work with police to track down the missing patrons, some of whom authorities suspect of intentionally avoiding being tested.

Coronavirus: Hong Kong residents to begin receiving reusable masks from Monday | South China Morning Post

Scheme embroiled in controversy after the government refused to tender the contract and links later revealed between developer and manufacturers. Hongkong Post will deliver the masks to 2.78 million locals who have already signed up to the programme.
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Every country in the United Nations agreed to a global ceasefire during the pandemic — except the United States


After six weeks of negotiating, the UN Security Council was close to agreeing on a resolution for a global ceasefire during the Covid-19 pandemic. Seems fair, right? Let’s agree to stop killing each other for a while, so we can focus on the virus that’s killing us instead?

China proposed that the text explicitly mention a commitment by member nations to support the efforts of the World Health Organization — who Donald Trump has blamed (without evidence) for withholding information on the coronavirus outbreak.

So the US looked at the resolution and said “LOL no,” despite last minute efforts to reach a compromise. As The Guardian reports:

On Thursday night, French diplomats thought they had engineered a compromise in which the resolution would mention UN “specialized health agencies” (an indirect, if clear, reference to the WHO).

The Russian mission signaled that it wanted a clause calling for the lifting of sanctions that affected the delivery of medical supplies, a reference to US punitive measures imposed on Iran and Venezuela. However, most security council diplomats believed Moscow would withdraw the objection or abstain in a vote rather than risk isolation as the sole veto on the ceasefire resolution.

While everyone else seemed game to go along with these compromises, the US insisted it was one big Chinese trick. As one diplomat told CNN:  “This discussion has been taken hostage by issues that do not have to do with the real issues at stake. Instead it has been transformed into a fight between the US and China. We are back to square one.”

A spokesperson for the US State Department offered this as an explanation:

In our view, the goal should be to support the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. Unfortunately, the PRC has been determined to use this resolution to advance false narratives about its response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. In our view, the Council should either proceed with a resolution limited to support for a ceasefire, or a broadened resolution that fully addresses the need for renewed member state commitment to transparency and accountability in the context of COVID-19.

Which still, to me, sounds like the Trump administration would rather millions of people die to stroke Trump’s ego and his petty need for revenge.

US blocks vote on UN’s bid for global ceasefire over reference to WHO [Julian Borger / The Guardian]

US blocks UN resolution on global coronavirus ceasefire after China pushes WHO mention [Kylie Atwood / CNN]

Image: Public Domain via the Obama White House


Coronavirus leaves Turkey’s president with nobody else to blame


Collapsing economy and rising death toll could prove downfall of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is a populist juggernaut, fond of suggesting that his leadership is the only way to protect the country from enemies both real and imagined. The coronavirus pandemic, however, is an existential crisis unlike anything he has faced before.

“Erdoğan has gradually managed to reform Turkey’s constitution, consolidating power into the presidency’s hands,” said Nate Schenkkan, the director for special research at Freedom House, a US-based democracy watchdog.

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