Asean reports highest number of new Covid-19 cases in a fortnight
Southeast Asia on Sunday recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases on a single day this month, though the death rate was lower, collated data showed.
There were 26,435 new cases on Sunday, up from Saturday’s 25,656 and the highest since May 29 when 28,781 cases were reported. The death toll on Sunday was 387, falling from Saturday’s 426.
Total Covid-19 cases in Asean crossed 4.33 million, while total deaths in Asean rose to 84,702.
Singapore reported 13 new cases on Sunday, taking cumulative cases in the country to 62,869. The government announced that out of 3.7 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine administered, 4,704 people had reported side-effects, 157 with severe reactions. There had, however, been no case of death directly related to the vaccine.
Cambodia reported 468 new cases and a new high of 15 deaths on Sunday, driving cumulative cases in the country to 38,427 and deaths to 335.
Siem Reap announced the enforcement of night curfew from 10pm to 4am for 14 days starting from tonight to control the outbreak.
Uber, Lyft driver shortage boosts business for New Yorks taxis
New Yorks yellow cabs are making a comeback. A driver shortage at Uber and Lyft has left city riders frustrated with high fares and long wait times, leading many to step off the curb and raise a hand.
“Business has been great. I’ve never seen it like this before,” said Tainur Rahman, a taxi driver from the Bronx. Rahman, who has been driving for about a decade, said he’s optimistic about a sustained rebound in the summer months to help make up for profits lost during the dead months of Covid-19 lockdowns.
Already suffering from an inundation of app-based drivers over the past several years, cabbies were dealt another significant blow by the pandemic, as commuters worked from home, tourists stayed away and no one wanted to be in the same car with a stranger. As New York’s economy is revving up again, the number of daily taxi trips in New York City surged more than 800% in April from a year earlier, while app-based platforms like Uber and Lyft jumped some 220%, according to the Taxi & Limousine Commission. That kind of demand, combined with the fact that there are only about one-third of the taxis on the street now compared with before coronavirus restrictions in the city took hold, can also make it hard to find one.
But it’s not just warmer weather and easing Covid-19 restrictions that have made people more comfortable hailing cabs the old-fashioned way.
Across the country, demand for ride-hailing has exploded, leaving Uber and Lyft scrambling to recruit drivers. Many have been slow to get back behind the wheel after finding other work or resorting to government stimulus benefits during the pandemic. With fewer drivers on the road, fares have steadily climbed since the beginning of the year, with a ride costing customers 40% more in April, according to research firm Rakuten Intelligence.
Donna Smiley lives in Washington Heights and commutes to work on the Upper East Side every morning. Since February, she’s been opting to take a taxi instead of ride-share due to the jump in fares.
“I don’t know why Uber and the other services jacked their prices up so much in the past few months,” Smiley said. Her morning Uber ride used to cost between $20 to $25, but now it’s no less than $30 and can reach almost $50 at peak times. It’s worse during the evening rush. “The cleaner, more comfortable cars of Uber are not worth the huge jump in pricing,” she said.
For cabbies, the app companies’ plight has been an opportunity for more business. It’s a bright spot for a beleaguered industry that has struggled to recover from a collapse in demand due to digital ride-hailing that deflated the value of taxi medallions and forced many cab drivers — who were saddled with debt incurred to purchase permits — into bankruptcy.
In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to spend $65 million of the money New York City will receive from the federal stimulus package to help restructure the drivers’ loans. New York Attorney General Letitia James last year accused the city of committing fraud by artificially inflating the value of the medallions, which were sold at auction for more than $1 million in recent years before plummeting below $200,000 after the influx of app-based services.
But the taxi industry is still far from a full recovery. The number of yellow cabs in New York, which had been declining even before the pandemic, cratered at the height of quarantine. A year later, there are still only an average of 3,800 cabbies on the streets. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft still account for the vast majority of trips per day, six times as many as yellow cabs, according to data from the TLC.
Though ride-share’s baseline prices using the companies’ online calculators have actually remained consistent, it’s the more frequent surges that are causing fares to balloon, said Ippei Takahashi, founder and chief executive officer of RideGuru, a platform that helps people compare fares among ride-hailing services and taxis.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean Uber and Lyft aren’t trying to charge more and capitalizing on this uplift in demand. They have full control over their dynamic pricing algorithm, which is known — or at least speculated — to be tweaked often and sometimes even manually,” he said. “I think most people in the industry expect things to stabilize fairly quickly as both customers and drivers return.”
Both Uber and Lyft said more drivers came back to the platform in May as a result of incentives. “With the economy bouncing back, drivers are returning to Uber in force to take advantage of higher earnings opportunities from our driver stimulus while they are still available,” an Uber spokeswoman said, adding that wait times in New York and Los Angeles — two key markets — have “significantly decreased.”
Part of the reason taxis have been able to capture more of the demand is because of platforms like Curb and Arro, which allow riders to flag a cab with ease through an app, or hail one with a hand and pay in the app. About two-thirds of taxis in New York are equipped with Curb’s technology, according to vice president of mobility Jason Gross, who said the app has become a competitive alternative to Uber and Lyft amid the longer wait times and increased surge pricing.
Yellow cabs adhere to city-regulated meters which take both time and distance into account and don’t have surge pricing. The basic fee is $2.50 and then about 50 cents per 1/5 mile, in addition to other potential fees, including a $2.50 congestion surcharge. In normal circumstances, taxi fares are about 5% to 10% cheaper than ride-shares, according to Gross, a differential he said has substantially widened in recent months.
Curb recently rolled out an upgrade that allows riders to see their fare upfront before e-hailing — a relatively new feature for taxis. That has led to more mobile bookings, which are now double pre-pandemic highs, he said. Monthly downloads of the app grew 24% in May compared with pre-pandemic levels and daily active users jumped 33%, according to market research firm Apptopia.
Taxi drivers also see taxi apps like Curb as a modern improvement. For Brooklyn cabbie Mohammed Latif, Curb is a safeguard against passengers ducking out without paying their fare, because it’s linked to a credit card. Also, the steady flow of rides has made earnings more stable, he said. “I don’t just have to depend on people being outside waving me down.”
As the city’s economic rebound solidifies, there will likely be more jockeying for position among drivers and riders will aim to take advantage of a renewed competition.
Phillip Giambri, a Manhattan resident, recently opted to take a Lyft for $37 from LaGuardia Airport after Uber quoted him almost double the price. After waiting 15 minutes, he was told there were no drivers available. When he finally jumped in a taxi, it cost him only $28 to get home. “I’m disabled and rely on the car services but the prices are gonna put me back in yellow cabs.”
Published : June 14, 2021
By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Jackie Davalos, Brody Ford
G-7 takes stronger stand against China, at U.S. urging
CARBIS BAY, England – As Group of Seven leaders wrapped their three-day summit here on Sunday, President Joe Biden said democratic governments face a defining challenge: to show they can meet tests such as global health crises and climate change better than autocracies such as China and Russia.
“Ithink we’re in a contest, not with China per se, but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century,” Biden told reporters during the first news conference of his first foreign trip as president.
He pointed out China and Russia for reprobation after working here to enlist U.S. allies in what he has repeatedly cast as the existential battle of the 21st century.
The theme is hardly a new one for Biden, who returns to it frequently and has used several key moments in his presidency to outline what he views as the generational struggle between democratic and autocratic nations.
The question of how to deal with China is divisive, and while Western leaders have criticized Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, in briefings with reporters during the summit, it was clear there were tensions over the language the group should adopt.
Biden urged the leaders of the G-7 industrialized nations to take a harsher public stance, confronting China over its use of forced labor. But some leaders, including those of Germany, Italy and Japan, have been reluctant to take on China too forcefully.
“We recognize the right of China to be an important economy,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Sunday, “but we question how China does it.”
Senior U.S. officials on briefing calls with reporters stressed that the White House was trying to offer an approach that was more carrot than stick by presenting the world with an alternative more appealing than the approach of China.
In the summit-concluding communique issued Sunday, G-7 leaders announced they would create alternative funding to China’s massive “Belt and Road Initiative,” a trillion-dollar infrastructure program focused on the developing world.
They also said they would work together to challenge China’s “non-market policies,” and they called on Beijing to respect human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, pushed for greater transparency on the origins of the coronavirus and raised concerns about tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
The language fell short of an explicit condemnation of China’s human rights practices.
Still, Beijing has chafed at the group’s new focus on the country. “The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London said Sunday. “We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries.”
The G-7 leaders also endorsed a global minimum tax on multinational corporations and pledged to donate 1 billion vaccine doses to poorer countries. Biden hinted that the United States might make another substantial donation of doses next year.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected criticism that the G-7’s vaccine pledge didn’t go far enough. Former British prime minister Gordon Brown has said 11 billion doses are needed.
“We are going flat out and we are producing vaccines as fast as we can,” Johnson said.
Biden implored China to allow the international community access to the laboratories in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was detected in December 2019. Biden said he has not reached a conclusion about whether the coronavirus spread from a lab leak or from animals, but he said transparency is critical to preparing for future pandemics.
“We have to have access,” he said. “The world has to have access.”
Biden, in the middle of his eight-day, three-country trip abroad, flew overseas determined to demonstrate leadership on the world stage and, in turn, competence and command back home.
Save for coronavirus logistics – social distancing, sporadic face masks, rigorous coronavirus testing for the U.S. delegation – perhaps the most striking part of the first G-7 summit in the post-Trump era was its sheer normalcy, and even the bland scriptedness that undergirded most of the proceedings.
Gone were the threats to invite Russia back into the group or to withdraw from NATO, hallmarks of the combative diplomacy favored by former president Donald Trump.
Yet the shadow of Trump lingered, with the Europeans having watched with alarm the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and them being fully aware that another populist figure, from the left or the right, could easily emerge victorious in 2024.
Biden’s message, which he delivered repeatedly – to U.S. troops on arriving in Britain on Wednesday, to French President Emmanuel Macron in scenic Carbis Bay on Saturday, to reporters on Sunday – was “America is back.” European leaders received it with a mixture of skepticism and relief.
Biden also used the trip to reassert his brand of personal diplomacy, rekindling relationships he nurtured for years as a senator and vice president, and spending one-on-one time with leaders such as Johnson and Macron, whom he knows less well.
The leaders used their three days in Cornwall – a picturesque but surprisingly poor part of the country – to discuss challenges such as the coronavirus and climate change.
The United States said it would contribute 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, half the group’s vaccine commitment to poorer nations. The effort, which some health experts described as an encouraging start but as insufficient for getting control of the pandemic globally, will help counter charges of a “vaccine apartheid,” in which a small group of wealthy nations hoards vaccine doses and fares better than poorer countries.
On Sunday afternoon, Biden traveled to Windsor Castle, about 25 miles west of London, for tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
Biden, 78, told reporters afterward that the 95-year-old monarch reminded him of his mother.
“I don’t think she’d be insulted, but she reminded me of my mother, the look of her and just the generosity,” he said.
Biden will continue on to Brussels for a NATO summit and European Union meeting this week, before finishing his trip with a high-stakes encounter Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Published : June 14, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Karla Adam, Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, John Hudson
Central American women are fleeing domestic violence amid a pandemic, but few find refuge in U.S.
After four years of beatings, humiliation and sexual abuse, María de Jesús mustered the courage to leave the man who would punch her in the face for even changing her clothes to go outside, saying she could only look pretty for him.
Then the death threats began.
“You will never, ever be happy,” her ex-boyfriend told her on the phone in December. “And when I find you, I will disappear you and your entire family.”
María de Jesús packed her bags and fled Guatemala City with her 11-year-old son on a cold night weeks later. She paid a smuggler and trekked north to the U.S.-Mexico border, where she hoped the Biden administration, promising a more humanitarian approach toward migrants, would welcome a domestic violence survivor like herself into the country.
“The only solution was to be far away where I didn’t feel scared every day,” said Maria de Jesus, 39, who declined to give her last name out of security concerns.
She is among scores of Central American women fleeing brutal violence from boyfriends, spouses and others in one of the world’s most dangerous regions for women who have recently arrived at the southern U.S. border only to find they now encounter an uphill battle to be let in.
Though President Joe Biden quickly signed several executive orders to roll back some of President Donald Trump’s most draconian policies – including one that sent asylum seekers back to Mexico to await their court hearings – a number of other restrictive measures and rulings that directly affect domestic violence survivors remain in place.
Biden has ordered a review of the entire asylum system to determine whether authorities provide protection to those fleeing domestic or gang violence “in a manner consistent with international standards.” Vice President Kamala Harris visited Central America this past week, vowing to commit millions of dollars to address the root causes of migration while also delivering a stern message: Don’t come.
“You will be turned back,” she warned.
Those words still may do little to persuade thousands of women who remain at risk in a region with deeply rooted machismo, entrenched corruption and a weak rule of law. Violence against women has increased in many parts of Latin America during the pandemic, as services like shelters shut down and women were forced to stay with their aggressors during lockdowns, women’s rights groups and international organizations say.
“It was a pressure-cooker stress where there was pre-existing violence and then no escape route,” said Meghan López, vice president for Latin America at the International Rescue Committee, which works with organizations in the region.
Women like María de Jesús who are already at the border, meanwhile, are in limbo. She is currently living at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, anxiously waiting for her humanitarian parole request to be reviewed.
“If they deny it I have nowhere to go and no idea what to do,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement to The Post that they are working to a rebuild a “decimated” immigration system for one that “treats people more humanely and keeps families together.”
“We are moving swiftly to rebuild, but it’s going to take time,” the spokesperson said.
Central America, the region most of the women seeking asylum in the United States are fleeing, has the highest violent death rates for women in the world, according to data collected by the Small Arms Survey, which tracks violence globally.
According to a 2019 survey by the United Nations’ Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean, Honduras and El Salvador, two countries hard hit by back-to-back hurricanes last year, have two of the highest rates of femicides per 100,000 in Latin America.
Data gathered by the IRC show that in the fall of 2020, requests from across the region for women’s services and protection information doubled.
Central America’s deep economic contraction, slow recovery from the storms, violence and rumors that the Biden administration would allow new arrivals in all fueled the biggest migrant surge in 20 years.
But in the midst of a heated debate in the U.S. over how to respond to the crisis, the odyssey of women fleeing violence, and domestic abuse in particular, has often been overlooked.
Last month a coalition of immigration advocacy groups, including the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and urged him to restore protections for women and families fleeing persecution and torture.
Karen Musalo, the center’s director, said some of these “backwards” rulings “take us back to the “Dark Ages” in terms of women’s rights. She pointed to a 2018 decision by former attorney general Jeff Sessions that established that “generally” claims “pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum.”
The case involved a Salvadoran woman, known as AB, who said she had been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her husband for years, reversing an appeals court ruling that found her eligible for asylum.
“It created an avenue for judges or asylum granters who were already not inclined to granting it, to have the basis to do it and disregard individual circumstances,” said Musalo, who was also a defense layer on the AB case.
The case became a symbol of an administration that slammed its doors shut and turned away scores of immigrants that were not only fleeing gang violence, poverty and climate devastation, but in the case of many women, brutal aggression from their partners in countries where domestic abuse is pervasive.
Asylum seekers interviewed by The Post say they sought protection in their own countries and decided to leave as a last resort, disputing criticism that they migrate to the United States solely in search of better economic opportunities.
Such was the case for women like AB, who asked to be identified only by her initials for fear of reprisal from immigration authorities. She said she endured years of violence and sexual assault from her ex-husband and left El Salvador in 2014 after multiple failed attempts to escape his wrath by moving houses and cities.
“I didn’t know anything about this country. I just knew it was a faraway place where people feel safe,” the 50-year-old Salvadoran said in a recent interview. “Staying meant dying.”
With her case still pending eight years after she first crossed the border, AB reflected on the grueling process of her quest for protection.
“This wait has been so sad and stressful,” she said. “I have traveled to all the courts, done everything I have been asked to show that I did not come here to steal anyone’s job or food, that I came here because I was trying to save myself.”
Being separated from her three children, whom she left behind after her husband threatened her with a handgun, has been the biggest torment, she said.
“If I knew everything that was going to happen, maybe I would have preferred to die,” she said in tears.
Prior to the Trump administration and Sessions’s decision, survivors of domestic violence had a lesser threshold to overcome and their cases often prevailed when they proved that their countries lack the resources or willingness to offer them protection from their abusers, experts say.
“Now people are not even afforded that level of process and are just being tossed away,” said Margaret Cargioli, an attorney with the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, a social justice law firm in California.
While experts argue the Sessions ruling has created an additional hurdle for domestic violence victims, it did not rule out protection completely, as these cases are decided on a case-by-case basis by immigration court judges.
Court data does not record the grounds for asylum claims, making it difficult to get a quantifiable sense of how these policies have impacted immigration court rulings on domestic violence cases.
Amid the pandemic and the recent surge of migrants at the border, Biden has continued one of the most controversial Trump policies, known as Title 42, which indefinitely closed the border to “nonessential” travel, citing emergency health concerns due to the pandemic.
While technically migrants at the southern border can still seek protection under U.S. law, the order has translated into approximately 700,000 rapid expulsions – including families and unaccompanied minors – since March of last year, without due process or access to asylum, according to immigration advocacy groups and experts.
Cargioli said the current restrictions are doing more harm than good.
“If Title 42 has to do with health safety, how can a system that is purported to save lives, instead put them in peril?” she asked. “It is illogical.”
Only a small number have been allowed into the country for humanitarian reasons that can include health concerns or being at imminent harm or risk of torture, according to immigration advocates.
Sitting in a hotel in San Diego, 19-year-old Rosie from Honduras remembered the many failed attempts to escape her ex-boyfriend’s house, where he would keep her captive, rape her and forced her to cut any contact with her family or friends, she told The Post in a recent interview.
If she managed to sneak out of the house, he would drag her by her hair through the dirt roads back inside, she said.
The journey to the U.S. was traumatic: Rosie said she was sexually assaulted in Guatemala as she tried to make her way north.
More than two months after being apprehended at the border and deported to Mexico, she was temporarily allowed in on May 10 under a humanitarian parole, said Cargioli, who is representing her case.
Now in the U.S., she said she dreams of becoming a doctor.
“I felt I could breathe for a minute, and finally stop feeling scared all the time,” she said, sobbing.
She faces a potentially years-long wait for her case to be resolved and could still be denied protection, which keeps her awake at night.
Advocates say the vast majority of domestic violence victims arriving at the border have virtually no chance of gaining protection while restrictions are still in place.
Most end up staying in Mexico in cramped tent cities or shelters, some of them falling prey to organized crime groups or migrant smugglers. Others end up going back to the dangers they are trying to escape.
In Tijuana, María de Jesús anxiously waits to find out what will happen with her humanitarian parole request, which would allow to await her asylum process in Indiana, where her sister lives.
She can’t fathom going back to Guatemala, still traumatized by the ex-boyfriend who used to create fake Facebook profiles to get information of her whereabouts.
“For so long I thought violence was my destiny,” she said. “I just hope that I am wrong.”
D.C. region tries to boost vaccine uptake among law enforcement
As the Washington, D.C., regions coronavirus vaccination efforts continue, public health officials are homing in on segments of the population slow to get the shot – such as law enforcement officers.
While no comprehensive surveying has been done in the region, Virginia officials say less than half of State Police troopers are vaccinated and about 50 percent of corrections officers in the state have been vaccinated.
Large police departments have slightly better rates, with 58 percent of officers vaccinated in the District of Columbia and 65 percent vaccinated in Prince George’s County, Md. Montgomery County, Md.’s high countywide vaccination rate is mirrored among its officers, about 71 percent of whom have gotten the shot.
That’s better than some areas around the country – such as Las Vegas, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, where roughly one-third of officers were vaccinated as of early last month.
The reasons are varied, and experts say hesitancy among officers is similar to hesitancy among groups in the wider population.
Warren Eller, chair of the Department of Public Management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said distrust of the government and by extension the vaccines, exacerbated by conspiracy theories and reports that he said have “over-highlighted” potential side effects, contribute to hesitancy. That’s in addition to exploitation of Black men in the Tuskegee experiment and the testing of birth control on Puerto Rican women.
“Officials telling some communities, ‘Trust us, we’ve got something for you to take,’ hasn’t always turned out all that well,” Eller said.
The viral numbers in the region have fallen significantly from the highs seen during peaks in the pandemic, such as around the winter holidays. The seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 on Saturday fell to 1.69 in Maryland and 1.82 in Virginia, rates not seen since the start of the pandemic. The number was 1.84 in D.C. as of Friday, last seen in March 2020.
But experts say in a pandemic, any unvaccinated officer in the field is still taking a risk. After shutdowns started 15 months ago, law enforcement officers remained on the job, responding to 911 calls, performing CPR and other activities that placed them in close contact with the public, and running jails and prisons, congregate settings that are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks.
At least three officers in Virginia have died of covid-19, including a sergeant with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office who helped lead a team at the jail that sanitized and sterilized coronavirus-infected areas, according to a tribute on the sheriff’s office website.
In the early days of vaccinations, when governments tightly controlled which groups got the shots first, advocates for law enforcement in Virginia successfully lobbied Gov. Ralph Northam to move first responders up on the eligibility pyramid, just below health-care workers.
“Law enforcement, they face a lot of threats each and every day, and this is one where we can actually diminish the risk by providing vaccine to all of them,” said Brian Moran, the Virginia secretary of public safety and homeland security, who favored accelerating access.
But not every officer was eager to get the shot.
Some areas have tried to make getting vaccinated as easy as possible for law enforcement.
The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office set up clinics at the jail in the early days, and leaders have hosted Zoom meetings to encourage vaccination, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Andrea Ceisler said. She declined to share the office-wide vaccination rate.
The Virginia State Police, which has hosted on-site clinics and had its own medical staff administer shots, anticipates its vaccination rate will grow as outreach continues, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
In Montgomery County, Earl Stoddard, director of the office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said vaccinations were first offered at the public safety training academy that officers know well, by fire and rescue staffers with whom they already work closely.
Stoddard said his own vaccination appointment turned into an impromptu reunion with chiefs of several local departments, who all happened to be there at the same time.
The county also hired a behavioral health scientist who revised the tone and content of all employee communications. Having the county executive or another high-ranking official address officers was not as well received as hearing from a peer, Stoddard said the scientist advised them.
“Treating them like equals in the way we address the message was very helpful,” Stoddard said. “(Appealing) to their sense of community and the fact that we are serving residents, this is part of a collective effort.”
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said chiefs and sheriffs in urban areas are more likely to be vaccinated than their rural counterparts, who may consider the risk of transmission in a less populated area to be lower or view vaccines differently.
“Our officers are people, too, so we hear the same concerns that some of the general public has expressed,” she said. That includes concerns about the Food and Drug Administration issuing emergency use authorization for the vaccines as opposed to full approval, questions about efficacy, and unfounded theories about the vaccines causing sterility or changing one’s DNA.
At the height of the pandemic, her organization and others representing police, deputies, firefighters and EMTs pushed for legislation to have coronavirus exposure covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, she said, now that vaccines are readily available, the unvaccinated may not qualify for coverage.
Although statewide vaccination numbers among officers are not available, John Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, said the small number of masked faces he saw at his organization’s conference last week in Williamsburg leads him to believe most are vaccinated.
“We’re having events. There’s a buffet line, people are sitting close together. They’re talking,” he said. “What I see is back to normal.”
However, Danny Avula, the state vaccine coordinator, spoke at the conference to encourage departments to talk to employees frequently about the importance of being vaccinated, especially in a congregate setting like a jail or prison. He also asked them to make vaccination available repeatedly and offer incentives, like money or the ability to skip quarantine if exposed.
“We do just need to keep this in front of people,” he said, adding that the recent low viral numbers may give people a false sense of comfort. “It doesn’t feel important now, but we absolutely have to do everything we can do to avoid a resurgence through December, January and February.”
Israel approves new governing coalition, ending Benjamin Netanyahus 12-year tenure
JERUSALEM – For the first time in 12 years, Israeli lawmakers voted Sunday to install a government led by someone other than Benjamin Netanyahu, breaking a two-year electoral deadlock, marking a likely shift toward the political center and ending – for now – the reign of the countrys longest-serving prime minister, and one of its most consequential.
Araucous parliament, interrupted frequently by shouts of “shame” and “liar” from outgoing conservative lawmakers, voted by the narrowest of margins – 60-59 – to give power to an unlikely coalition of parties from the right, center and left of Israel’s spectrum. The votes elevated Naftali Bennett, an Orthodox leader of Israel’s religious-nationalist movement and a former Netanyahu ally, as the country’s new prime minister.
“We are incapable of sitting together – what is happening to us?” Bennett pleaded before the vote over boos and catcalls as his own children flashed him heart symbols from the visitors’ gallery. “I am proud of sitting with people who have very different opinions. We have decided to take responsibility.”
Several conservative members were ejected from the session. They included extremist right-wing lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, a disciple of the banned Kahane Party who was elected to the Knesset with help from Netanyahu.
Under the coalition’s power-sharing deal, Bennett is to be replaced in the top job after two years by Yair Lapid, a centrist politician and former TV news anchor who clinched the second largest number of votes after Netanyahu’s Likud party in March.
Lapid brokered the power-sharing deal among eight parties with little in common beyond a determination to end the contentious rule of Netanyahu, who has clung to power despite being on trial for corruption and failing to secure a majority after four inconclusive elections in two years.
Lapid scrapped his own speech and instead apologized to his 86-year-old mother for the heckling.
“I assumed you would be able to get over yourselves,” Lapid told his fellow lawmakers. “Instead, she and every other Israeli citizen is ashamed of you and reminded why it’s time for you to be replaced.”
The government breaks new ground by including the first independent Arab party to sign on to an Israeli governing coalition. The Islamist Ra’am party, which was courted by both Netanyahu and Lapid, has demanded new programs and spending for Arab citizens of Israel, who account for about 20% of the population.
Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox parties will not be part of the government for the first time, with two brief exceptions, since 1977. Their absence, after forming an unshakable foundation for Netanyahu’s governments, could endanger the controversial grip of ultra-Orthodox rabbis on religious and family law and the community’s exemption from compulsory military service.
Netanyahu delivered a bellicose parting shot to Bennett and his allies, belittling the coalition as incapable of maintaining his record of economic growth, relative peace and standing up to U.S. pressure to acquiesce to a renewed nuclear deal with Iran.
“I’ll be back,” Netanyahu told lawmakers. “Try to ruin our wonderful economy as little as possible so we can fix it as quickly as possible when we return.”
Netanyahu compared the Biden administration’s push to renew the Iran deal to the U.S. failure during World War II to bomb the Nazi trains that took European Jews to the gas chambers.
“Bennett hasn’t got the international standing, the integrity, the capability, the knowledge and he hasn’t got the government to oppose the nuclear agreement,” Netanyahu said. “An Israeli prime minister needs to be able to say no to the leader of the world’s superpower.”
President Joe Biden spoke with Bennett after the vote to offer his “warm congratulations,” the White House said.
“My administration is fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region,” Biden said in a statement. He didn’t mention Netanyahu.
The new government ends 12 consecutive years of Netanyahu rule, a period during which Israel has enjoyed a flourishing tech boom, relative quiet on the country’s periodically explosive fronts from Lebanon to Gaza, and no return of a general Intifada among Palestinians of the West Bank. A 12-day air war with Hamas in Gaza last month was thought likely to derail the new coalition, but the parties resumed negotiations almost immediately after a May 21 cease-fire.
But the tenure of Netanyahu, who also served as prime minister for three years in the 1990s, also produced political tumult that has dragged increasingly disillusioned and exhausted Israelis through an unprecedented cycle of elections, stalemate and acrimony.
Although Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most votes in three of the four elections since April 2019, his usual coalition of ultra-Orthodox and nationalist parties failed to secure the majority needed to form a government. Netanyahu has remained atop a caretaker government that has been largely paralyzed since the end of 2018. Even a short-lived emergency unity government that formed last year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic failed to pass a budget.
As the government remained effectively frozen, Netanyahu was indicted and began a trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust that has further divided an acutely polarized Israel.
Netanyahu’s devoted base of supporters echo his claims that a politically biased deep state has concocted a witch hunt against him. On the other side of the divide are those who say his attacks on the judiciary, demonization of opponents and refusal to step aside are corroding institutions and Israel’s rule of law.
Tensions spiked in the run-up to Sunday’s vote, sparking fears of violence in a country still raw from the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist.
Netanyahu called the new coalition a “dangerous, left-wing government.” Religious-nationalist rabbis called on supporters to “do anything” to prevent it from taking power.
Protesters demonstrated outside of lawmakers’ homes; death threats spurred police to assign them security details.
Israel’s Shin Bet, the internal security service, issued a rare warning last week that the uptick in incitement could turn lethal.
In the midst of surging hostilities, Bennett said in recent interviews that his government will not seek to change policy on hot-button issues such as Israeli settlements in the West Bank, state benefits granted to ultra-Orthodox families or peace with Palestinians. He and Lapid, as they take turns in the role of prime minister, will effectively have veto power over each other’s major initiatives, which will in theory limit the government to consensus actions. They have pledged to approve a budget within 140 days.
While Likud lawmakers expressed hope for a last-minute collapse of the coalition, some began gingerly to jockey for leadership in a post-Netanyahu party. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has reportedly begun testing his support; former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat held an event for 5,000 Likud activists last week. Barkat said he is only preparing in case Netanyahu decides to retire, something the 71-year-old has not announced.
Political observers say Netanyahu’s continued presence in parliament as leader of the opposition could help the new government, given that aversion to his bellicose style is the glue that holds the coalition together. In any case, Netanyahu’s Likud and his allies enter the minority as practiced and well-organized opponents of the fledgling government.
“We are going to be the most ferocious opposition that Israel has ever known,” Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar told the daily newspaper Maariv.
The new government launches at a time of flaring sectoral tensions at home and looming threats abroad. The new ministers face an immediate challenge Tuesday, when a planned march by Jewish nationalists through Arab areas of Jerusalem’s Old City could spark a resumption of clashes with Palestinians.
Israel, with Egyptian brokers, is also negotiating a longer-term cease-fire with Hamas in hope of preventing a return to the fighting that killed almost 250 Gazans and 12 Israelis.
The incoming security and diplomatic teams – led by returning Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Lapid, who will serve two years as foreign minister – are watching uneasily as Washington pushes for a renewed Iran deal, a move strongly opposed in Jerusalem. Israel’s new mission in Washington will be tasked with repairing strained relations with the Biden administration and Democratic majorities in Congress left behind by Netanyahu’s tilt in recent years toward Republicans.
The reported details of the coalition agreement include a measure that would limit the term of future prime ministers to two terms, or eight years, which would prevent future runs such as Netanyahu’s record-setting 15 years. The lawmakers could also consider barring departing prime ministers for a four-year “cooling-off” period before they run again, outraging Netanyahu’s supporters.
Published : June 14, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Steve Hendrix, Shira Rubin
Russia, U.S. and other countries reach new agreement against cyber hacking, even as attacks continue
Russia and the United States – along with 23 other countries – recently reaffirmed that states should not hack each others critical infrastructure in peacetime or shelter cyber criminals who conduct attacks on other countries.
But Russia, which was among the states originally agreeing to the norms at the United Nations, has violated them repeatedly over the years. Experts are skeptical those violations will halt unless the United States and its allies impose far more serious consequences.
President Joe Biden is on an eight-day trip to Europe that will culminate in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. He will raise issues of cybersecurity, including his concern that Moscow is harboring hackers who have carried out damaging ransomware attacks against some of the United States’ most critical sectors. An attack last month led to a days-long shutdown of the country’s largest refined fuel pipeline, followed by an attack that disrupted the world’s largest meat processor.
“Ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure are of an even higher order of magnitude of concern for us,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday. “We do not judge that the Russian government has been behind these recent ransomware attacks, but we do judge that actors in Russia have. And we believe that Russia can take and must take steps to deal with it.”
The question now is whether Russia, and other countries such as China, which affirmed the cyber norms in May, can or will be held accountable.
White House officials have downplayed expectations from the summit given the tense relationship between Washington and Moscow.
Current and former officials say the global norms provide a foundation for accountability by explaining the bounds of acceptable conduct in cyberspace and by creating an expectation of good behavior.
“It certainly seems that states want others to behave well in cyberspace, and there are some key states that just aren’t. So you have to do something about it,” said Michele Markoff, the State Department’s acting coordinator for cyber issues, who worked on successive United Nations norms agreements – including the one concluded last month.
Christopher Painter, who was the State Department’s top cyber official in the Obama administration, put it this way: “These norms have moral force, and if a country signs up to them, there’s a political commitment and an expectation that they’ll be observed. And other countries should hold them accountable when they’re not.”
The guidelines were hammered out by the U.N. Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behavior in Cyberspace. They reaffirmed a seminal 2015 agreement that, besides establishing the strictures against attacking critical infrastructure and enabling malicious activity in one’s territory, made clear that states “should take reasonable steps to ensure the integrity of the supply chain” of hardware and software that make up computer networks. In March, the 2015 norms were endorsed by all 193 members of the United Nations.
There are some activities the norms do not cover, such as traditional espionage conducted by the world’s spy agencies.
Nonetheless, countries that abide by the norms can band together to punish countries that break them, using sanctions and other tools, analysts say. They can also nudge developing nations that have signed onto the norms to follow the Western model of behavior rather than the Russian or Chinese ones, they say.
“If you look at the history of diplomacy, many things that start out as nonbinding become customary behavior over time,” Markoff said.
But – and skeptics say this is a major failing – the norms are nonbinding.
“None of these states – China, Russia, Iran, North Korea – seem to have any intention to follow them,” said Dmitri Alperovitch a cybersecurity expert and executive chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank. “And unless you hold these countries accountable, having nonbinding norms doesn’t fundamentally change our security situation.”
Russia has repeatedly said it does not conduct cyber attacks against other countries and has rebuffed accusations that Russia-based hackers were behind last month’s ransomware attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and JBS, the meat supplier.
“I do hope that people would realize that there hasn’t been any malicious Russian activity whatsoever,” Putin said at a recent economic forum in St. Petersburg. “I heard something about the meat plant. It’s sheer nonsense. We all understand it’s just ridiculous. A pipeline? It’s equally absurd.”
Despite Moscow’s disavowals, Western governments have repeatedly found it responsible for malicious conduct.
The United States, Britain and others in 2018 officially blamed Russia for the NotPetya cyber worm unleashed the previous year against Ukraine, which then spread across the world. The Trump administration called it “the most destructive and costly cyber-attack in history.”
The Justice Department in October secured the indictment of six Russian military spies in connection with malicious hacks, including knocking out the power in three regions in Ukraine in December 2015 and in Kyiv the following December.
Those actions violated one U.N. norm or another, analysts said, whether by disrupting electric power to the public or, as in the case of NotPetya, launching malware that disabled computers in important sectors, such as Ukrainian hospitals, the global shipping company Maersk and U.S. pharmaceutical Merck.
James Lewis, a cyber policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who was an adviser to the U.N. group, says Russia has ignored its political commitment. But, he said, “the target here is the global audience.”
“The goal is to build consensus among developing countries like Brazil and Indonesia so that they will support actions against violators. The norms don’t talk about how to hold countries accountable,” Lewis said. “That’s the next step.”
Europe has begun to take action against states that harm others in cyberspace. Last July, for instance, the European Union imposed the first sanctions for malicious hacking, targeting four Russian military cyber spies and two Chinese nationals linked to the government, among others. The Russians sought to compromise the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which was probing the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the government of Bashar Assad, Russia’s ally. The Chinese were sanctioned for a long-running industrial espionage campaign known as Cloud Hopper, which was enabled by hacking the global software service supply chain.
In announcing the sanctions, E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on member states to “continue to” support the 2015 guidelines.
Former officials said some activities that may not violate a norm, such as traditional espionage, can nonetheless be punished. In April, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its SolarWinds compromises of nine federal agencies and about 100 companies. It was an espionage campaign, so it was not covered by the norms, but its scale, officials said, raised concerns that it could become disruptive.
“We don’t have to sit on our hands even if it’s espionage,” Painter said. “It’s not covered by the norms, but at the same time, just as in the physical world, we’ve ejected diplomats and arrested spies.”
As a companion to the norms, the State Department led the development of a cyber deterrence “playbook,” laying out the consequences that could be most effective against each of the United States’ main cyber adversaries. They include coordinated “naming and shaming,” economic sanctions, indictments and the exposure of cyber tools to undercut their utility.
That’s a good step, but punishments should be linked to violations, Painter said. “It’s better if you call out the norm – the rule of the road – that’s violated when you take action,” he said. “That makes it clear to the wrongdoer and to others that these norms are more than words on paper. These are expectations that we’re going to enforce.”
Published : June 13, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Ellen Nakashima, Joseph Marks
Delta flight makes emergency landing after crew and passengers detain a man during an outburst
A cross-country Delta Air Lines flight made an emergency landing in Oklahoma City on Friday night after an outburst by an unruly passenger, the third time in a week that the airline diverted a flight because of a passengers behavior.
Bystander video provided to The Washington Post shows a chaotic scene in the plane that was heading from Los Angeles to Atlanta. A person screams as several passengers pin him to the floor.
A flight attendant tells everyone except the people holding the person down to take their seats. “We can’t get forward with restraints if everybody’s in the aisle,” he says.
In another clip circulated widely on social media, a man yells as several people appear to wrestle him to the floor. “Keep him down, keep him down,” someone says during the struggle.
Flight tracking data from FlightAware shows the plane making a sharp northeastern turn after crossing the Texas panhandle and landing in Oklahoma City at about 10:30 p.m. Central.
It was not immediately clear what led to the incident or caused the passenger to lash out. Early reports and posts on social media suggested that the man had threatened to bring down the plane or open the plane door, but a Delta spokesperson told CBS News on Saturday afternoon that those assertions were incorrect. That passenger was using the intercom near the door, CBS reported, but was not attempting to open it.
Delta did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. A spokesman for the Oklahoma City Police Department, which issued several statements to local media about the incident Friday night, referred questions to the FBI. A spokesperson for the bureau’s Oklahoma City Field Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement to WSB-TV, Delta thanked crew members and passengers who “assisted in detaining an unruly passenger.”
“The aircraft landed without incident and the passenger was removed by law enforcement,” the statement read. “We apologize to our customers for the delay and any additional inconvenience this caused.”
On Thursday, a Delta flight from Los Angeles to New York was diverted to Detroit because of a disorderly passenger, CBS News reported.
On June 4, Delta diverted a Los Angeles to Nashville, Tenn., flight when, according to authorities, a passenger tried to breach the cockpit. The plane landed safely in Albuquerque, and the passenger was taken into custody by the FBI.
Hostile and aggressive behavior by airline passengers has been a growing concern for aviation regulators. Many airlines have grappled with customers who refuse to comply with mask mandates and other hygiene rules airlines have adopted during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Federal Aviation Administration said this year that it was reviewing about 450 cases of passengers misbehaving on flights and has opened 20 formal enforcement cases as flight attendants face pushback from people who do not want to follow the rules. One passenger is facing $32,750 in fines after refusing to wear a mask, throwing food and an empty bottle of alcohol into the air, and shouting obscenities at crew members during a JetBlue flight from the Dominican Republic to New York.
At least 14 injured in shooting in Austins 6th Street entertainment district
At least 14 people were injured in a shooting early Saturday in downtown Austin that unfolded as crowds filled the citys popular entertainment district, police said.
Authorities said there were no deaths, but two people were in critical condition. Twelve people were in stable condition. One male suspect was in custody, and another remained at large Saturday evening, the Austin Police Department said. The motive is unclear, interim police chief Joseph Chacon said before the arrest Saturday afternoon.
The first report of gunfire came about 1:24 a.m. near the 400 block of East Sixth Street, an area filled with bars and live music venues. Police said the shooter or shooters appear to have started firing randomly into the crowd, and that “a large crowd of people began to disperse.”
Authorities told the Austin American-Statesman that tens of thousands of people may have been in the area at the time, meaning the estimated crowd was close to “pre-pandemic” levels.
“It was very difficult to contain the scene, it was very difficult for EMS to make their way into this crowd,” Chacon told reporters. “And because of the nature of the injuries, officers had to go ahead and use their police vehicles to put some of these shooting victims into their vehicles and transport them themselves.”
Medics with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services responded to what was described by authorities as an “active attack.” Ten people were brought to hospitals by police and medics. Another three people took themselves to hospitals, police said.
Chacon said that police are reviewing officers’ body-camera video and that of business surveillance cameras to determine what happened early Saturday. In a news release, the department thanked the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force “for assisting with the arrest of this suspect” who was in custody Saturday.
The chaotic scene was captured on social media, including one video from KXAN that shows police officers carrying one of the injured victims toward medics.
The shooting is the latest in what data shows to be an increased level of gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic. Gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans in 2020, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, which was more than any other year in at least two decades. Some officials have worried that a rise in violent crime this summer could bring about safety concerns as Americans emerge back into society.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, thanked local authorities for their efforts and noted that the shooting reflected the increased violence nationwide.
“The uptick in gun violence locally is part of a disturbing rise in gun violence across the country as we exit the pandemic,” he tweeted.
The Austin shooting was one of several shootings nationwide late Friday and early Saturday. In Savannah, Ga., one person was killed and eight others were injured, including a 2-year-old and 13-year-old, late Friday. Police there are still investigating and no arrests have been made.
A 29-year-old woman was killed and another 10 people were injured in a shooting on Chicago’s South Side early Saturday. The injured victims, who are between ages 23 and 46, are in fair to good condition, police said. No arrests have been made.