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Pandemic Retools Diplomacy as World Leaders Gather Virtually | World News

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By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — With COVID-19 still careening across the planet, the annual gathering of its leaders in New York will be replaced this year by a global patchwork of prerecorded speeches, another piece of upheaval in a deeply divided world turned topsy-turvy by a pandemic with no endpoint in sight.

As U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres put it: “The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis unlike any in our lifetimes, and so this year’s General Assembly session will be unlike any other, too.”

This is the first time in the 75-year history of the United Nations that there will be no in-person meeting. Gone will be the accompanying traffic jams, street closures for VIP motorcades, stepped-up security to protect leaders and noisy crowds in the halls of the sprawling United Nations complex overlooking New York’s East River.

Only one diplomat from each of the U.N.’s 193 member nations will be allowed into the vast General Assembly hall. All will be socially distanced and masked.

Guterres said the virtual meeting will see speeches from “the largest number of heads of state and government ever” — 171, according to the latest speakers list.

World leaders are not barred from coming to speak in person. But presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and ministers travel with large entourages and at a time of pandemic and quarantine requirements, including in New York City, the General Assembly members agreed that crowds needed to be avoided.

They recommended that leaders each deliver a 15-minute pre-recorded speech, to be shown in the assembly hall and introduced by the ambassador or a diplomat from the country.

Turkish diplomat and politician Volkan Bozkir, who took over the one-year presidency of the General Assembly on Tuesday, said 10 leaders wanted to come to the U.N. to speak including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He lamented that they aren’t able to because of US quarantine requirements.

This leaves U.S. President Donald Trump as the one leader who could travel to New York. Even though reports say he will not be appearing in person, the metal barricades police always put in place for a presidential visit went up Friday along First Avenue outside the United Nations.

The high-level meetings begin Monday with a commemoration of the U.N.’s 75th anniversary, including statements from world leaders and formal adoption of a declaration approved by all 193 member nations. It recalls the U.N.’s successes and failures and calls for “greater action” to build a post-pandemic world that is more equal, works together and protects the planet.

The United Nations was born out of the horrors of World War II with a mission to save succeeding generations from the scourge of conflict. The declaration says the U.N. has helped mitigate dozens of conflicts and saved hundreds of thousands of lives through humanitarian action. But it points to a world “plagued by growing inequality, poverty, hunger, armed conflicts, terrorism, insecurity, climate change, and pandemics.”

“The stakes could not be higher,” Guterres told a news conference Wednesday.

He pointed to an “out-of-control” pandemic that has claimed nearly a million lives and stressed the need for a deeply divided world to unite not only to defeat the coronavirus and ensure that “a people’s vaccine” is available to all people but to make a collective push for peace.

Monday’s anniversary commemoration will be followed by Tuesday’s opening of the virtual high-level meeting, starting with Guterres’ in-person speech on the state of the world in which he said he will repeat his March 23 call for a global cease-fire, this time by the end of the year.

“Today, from Afghanistan to Sudan, we see hopeful new steps toward peace,” the U.N. chief said. “In Syria, Libya, Ukraine and elsewhere, cease-fires or standstills in the fighting can create space for diplomacy. In Yemen, we are pressing for a cease-fire, confidence building measures and resumption of the political process.”

Guterres will be followed by addresses Tuesday from Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, Trump, leaders from Turkey, China, Cuba, Russia, Jordan, Iran, France and dozens of others through Sept. 26. The speeches conclude on the morning of Sept. 29 after a two-day break.

Usually, hundreds of side events take place during the gathering. This year there are only a few meetings, including ones on digital cooperation, climate action, biodiversity and accelerating the pandemic’s end. Two meetings commemorate the 25th anniversary of the U.N. women’s conference in Beijing and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Guterres, the General Assembly’s Bozkir and many U.N. diplomats say the key issue for world leaders today is how to build a post-pandemic world that is more peaceful and united and focuses on eradicating extreme poverty, preserving the environment and achieving gender equality by 2030.

Even before the pandemic, Guterres said, the world “was veering off course” and losing the battle against climate change. He cited the northern hemisphere’s hottest summer ever, with ongoing wildfires.

“The world is burning, and recovery is our chance to get on track and tame the flames,” he said.

As in recent years past, a major theme in speeches is expected to be multilateralism — the kind of cooperation that Guterres stressed is required for recovery from COVID-19.

“Multilateralism is the panacea to all the problems in the world,” Bozkir said. He warned that unilateralism will only strengthen the COVID-19 crisis, saying that “no state can combat this pandemic alone.”

France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière said the high-level week “will be an opportunity to reflect on the current COVID-19 crisis, and to reaffirm the crucial role of the United Nations and of multilateral cooperation, which are badly needed in these times.”

While the high-level meeting of world leaders often faces criticism for its constant speechmaking and lack of visible results, much of its business takes place in one-on-one meetings and at lunches, dinners and small gatherings — and for U.N. officials and diplomats that will be the real missing ingredient this year.

“We will miss that contact, that personal contact, that I believe is very important for diplomacy to be effective,” Guterres said, pointing to several unnamed situations where problems had no solutions but he was able to sit with both sides and discuss a way forward.

But even without face-to-face interactions, Bozkir said that after six months of almost entirely virtual meetings, “I think with all the high-level meetings and summits, we’re going to show that the U.N. is back.”

“Many people were thinking, `Where is the U.N.?,'” he said. “So now we will say, `Here is the U.N.'”

Longtime international correspondent Edith M. Lederer has been chief U.N. correspondent for The Associated Press since 1998.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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We thought Reagan was the devil – then came Trump. America, we’re rooting for you | Ronald Reagan

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Dear America,

HEY! How you guys doing? Longtime British Americanophile “reaching out” across the Atlantic. I’m here to heart you, USA. I’m like “hope the hurting stops soon” (strong-arm mid-tone emoji).

I guess you’re all making a list of The Worst Things Trump Did, then checking it twice because really, who’d believe it. And I know he’s primarily your monstrous problem. But even Brits are citizens of what we used to call “the free world”. Your president was once the leader of it. And one of the very worst things Trump’s done is to make Ronald Reagan look like an intellectual giant. Simply by comparison, Trump has humanised Reagan and elevated his memory to sainthood.

I’m currently researching the Gipper for a project and honestly, next to Trump he genuinely seems like … not the good guy, exactly? But definitely presidential. “Let’s make America great again” was Reagan’s slogan, of course. It was about “American values”, making America great in the world again. Trump’s slogan initially stood for rebuilding economic power. Now it’s shorthand for “let’s win the culture war I relentlessly inflame and sure, bring on an actual armed civil war if I lose the election”.

Of course, Trump’s humanity is at such undetectable levels he makes literally anyone else look like St Francis of Assisi. Infuriatingly, even deadweight predecessors like the Bush dynasty look competent. But Reagan? Along with millions of others in the 1980s, I was there at marches and demonstrations, noisily railing against hated neoliberal Raygun, his nuclear missiles, his utterly insane space force. Oh how we disdained him, this doddery warmonger, this huckleberry clown of a politician. It never occurred to us that 40 years on we’d be contemplating someone so much more clueless, so very much stupider, than Reagan.

None of my business, dear Americans, I know. You’re absolutely right. It’s not my country, it’s yours. You’re the ones pledging allegiance from sea to shining sea. I should butt out. And yet. All this used to be my business, back in the day when Potus was de facto leader of “the west” and led the forces of laissez-faire capitalism against the Evil Empire of Communism. “Ideology”, we used to call it. Man, we thought Reagan was the devil incarnate 40 years ago. Now the news is basically “Self-Satirising Human Cronut Yesterday On Twitter Said …”

As I write this letter of solidarity, I’m watching the televised presidential debate for election 1980, 40 years ago. Jimmy Carter the bruised defender, looking for a second term. Reagan the interloper, the disrupter, landing blow after blow on Carter – the failing economy, the Tehran hostages, the correct pronunciation of “nuclear”. Reagan was the older man but he sounded younger. What is frankly astonishing is the dignity of the debate itself. Here were political enemies – diametrically opposed on every issue – politely disagreeing, listening, yielding when time ran out. Basic human respect. And you stop and think – how is this normal, being nostalgic for normality itself?

Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan during a debate in 1980.
Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan during a debate in 1980. Photograph: The Ronald Reagan Presidential L/Reuters

Trump often invokes Ronald Reagan as an inspiration, and you can see how the analogy crosses his mind, like tumbleweed. Reagan too arrived at the White House from the world of entertainment. But Reagan had been governor of California for two terms. And president of a powerful union, the Screen Actors Guild. And served in the military. Reagan’s primary domestic objective of “getting government off the backs of the people” undoubtedly helped Trump the young shark-eyed entrepreneur – greedy to build, greedy for profit, greedy for tax credits.

Reagan consistently said that a free press was a prerequisite for a free country, and that it should hold presidents to account. Imagine that: a president inviting scrutiny. Trump dismisses any story he doesn’t like as “fake news” and deals only with Fox – his Pravda, his Tass. Unlike Trump, Reagan was self-aware enough to know his limitations. He surrounded himself with smart counsel and experts. Trump lives in a bubble of sycophancy.

Some of the stuff Trump’s pulling isn’t new, it’s just louder. You couldn’t imagine any of the other presidents not wanting America First. And like Trump, Reagan was an authoritarian who sent armed police in to break up civil protest. Reagan was indifferent to Aids; Trump is indifferent to Covid-19. More than 89,000 people died of Aids over seven years under Reagan administrations. Covid deaths in the US over seven months under Trump are 225,000 and rising …

In his foreign policy dealings, Reagan believed in statecraft, that ancient art of diplomacy now apparently lost in the murk of history. He saw his primary task as leading the world to peace and was prepared to sit down with cold war adversaries to thrash out a disarmament program. Does Trump even have a foreign policy, besides “screw you”? A resurrected Reagan would be aghast at Trump meeting Commie-In-Chief Kim Jong-un three times to discuss nuclear weapons with no tangible results.

Reagan’s statecraft did not hinge on whether the particular head of state “liked him”. Reagan’s preoccupation wasn’t self-aggrandisement. He sought world peace, and found gratification in good deeds. When his mind had gone, his memories lost, all knowledge of being President entirely faded, he remembered this: he had saved 77 people from drowning as a young lifeguard. That, in his shattered mind, was his legacy. In Trump’s bizarro world, drowners are losers.

Anyway, I’ll sign off. You have important stuff to do, like choosing a president. I wish you good luck; we’re all aware Kamala Harris is a result and a heartbeat from becoming America’s first female Potus. Things could be worse, no doubt. But they could also be better. The best to you and yours, my brothers and sisters.

I remain your most ardent admirer,

A Brit, Esq

Ian Martin is a comedy writer. His credits include Veep, The Death of Stalin, Avenue 5, The Thick of it and more

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Coronavirus live news: China reports highest infections in two months; US sees almost 500,000 cases in one week | World news

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UK’s second Covid wave likely to be deadlier than its first – report





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Questions whirl, justice stifled as immunity laws protect US nursing homes

By noon on 16 September, more than 100 people had gathered at the end of the long drive that leads to the Menlo Park Veterans’ Memorial Home in New Jersey. Eighteen-inch letters – red, white, and blue – spelling “THANK YOU HEROES” were pushed into the sod beneath a semi-permanent sign that reads “Now accepting job applications” and “SERVING THOSE WHO SERVED”.

Staff members – mostly Black, mostly female – stood to the right of a podium. To the left stood family members holding framed photos of their loved ones, former residents of Menlo Park who had died over the past several hellish months, either in the facility or in a nearby hospital.

Gary White, the no-nonsense, cigar-chewing commandant of the local Marine Corp League – an 80-year-old federal organization and advocacy group for Marine veterans – organized the event. White told the crowd that Menlo Park’s residents had, as service members, “given America a blank check payable up to and including their lives,” but that during the pandemic, “veterans died who never should have.” A week before the protest, White had received calls and emails from family members who were shocked by their loved one’s deaths, who had never even been told their father or grandfather was sick.

“They asked me to do something,” he said:









Mexico’s coronavirus cases pass 900,000





India nears 8m cases

















Macron to give televised address on Wednesday evening

Updated



























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Ontario: Doug Ford refuses to demote caucus member photographed maskless | Canada

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Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, has come under fire for refusing to demote a scofflaw member of his caucus who was photographed without a mask at a large indoor gathering – even as the regional government pleads with residents to follow public health rules during the pandemic.

Sam Oosterhoff, a parliamentary assistant to the province’s education minister, posted pictures online this weekend of a large group gathered in a banquet hall. None of the nearly 40 attendees were seen wearing masks or practicing physical distancing.

The photographs – and the evidence of a flagrant breach of the provincial government’s public health messaging – prompted outrage. Oosterhoff subsequently deleted the post and apologized for not wearing a mask. He also told reporters the event was in a region of Ontario where gatherings of up to 50 people indoors are still permitted. But health officials require masks and physical distancing while inside.

“He came out and apologized. Hey, guys, everyone makes mistakes,” Ford told reporters. “I’m a strong believer, you make a mistake, you go out and apologize and say it’s not going to happen again. I accept that.”

But a post late on Monday evening from the restaurant where the event was hosted told a different story.

“There was a group in last week, that has caused some concern,” Betty’s Restaurant wrote in a post on Facebook. “This group was reminded several times that they were required to wear masks when not seated at their table. Unfortunately they chose not to follow posted rules about wearing masks and distancing. We can remind guests but we cannot strong-arm them into following rules.”

The premier’s office reiterated its support for Oosterhoff on Tuesday.

But the photographs – and his support for Oosterhoff – put Ford in a difficult position as his government tries to tackle the second wave of the virus.

Canada’s most populous province logged more than 1,000 new cases in a single day on Sunday, and outbreaks are surging in long-term care homes, prompting fresh appeals for the public to follow health protocols.

Ford has admitted he is battling divisions within his government over how quickly to roll out new restrictions.

“I always say I gotta listen to the docs, I always will, and the science, but in saying that, I have to listen to the small business owners,” Ford said on Monday, adding he was trying to find a “happy balance”.

Opposition leader Andrew Horwath of the New Democratic party told reports on Monday that the premier’s messaging on public health measures has been “so inconsistent and so unclear” that Oosterhoff “literally posed for a photo where he violated public health guidelines”.

“So why is the premier’s own team challenging, and outright ignoring, his directions?”



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