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US briefing: Cuomo’s virus warning, business reacts and age risk study | US news



Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

US cases almost double China’s as deaths top 3,000

The US has suffered its deadliest day so far during the coronavirus pandemic, with the death toll passing 3,000 and the number of confirmed cases almost double those in China, where the disease first emerged. New York is the centre of the country’s outbreak, but governor Andrew Cuomo warned on Monday that his state’s experience was only a harbinger of what was to come across the US. “There is no American that is immune,” he said.

Trump plugs his corporate allies as workers bear the brunt

Trump uses White House coronavirus briefing to promote corporate allies – video

Donald Trump has been accused of using his daily coronavirus press briefing as a promotional opportunity for his business allies, after bosses from companies including Honeywell, Procter & Gamble and United Technologies were given a platform to speak at the White House in the midst of the crisis. Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, which has started manufacturing face masks, returned the favour by praising Trump in a speech better suited to a campaign rally.

  • Amazon walkout. More than 100 Amazon warehouse workers in New York staged a walkout on Monday, demanding increased protective gear and hazard pay after reports that multiple employees had tested positive for the virus.

  • WeWork cleaners. Cleaning staff at WeWork, the troubled office rental firm, have been told to work through the pandemic and use their paid vacation or limited sick leave if they get ill.

  • Farm workers. California’s 400,000 agricultural workers are considered essential during the crisis, but many say they have seen no safety measures or guaranteed benefits.

New Covid-19 study highlights increased risk in middle age

Community volunteers escort an elderly resident home in Wuhan earlier this month.

Community volunteers escort an elderly resident home in Wuhan earlier this month. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

The first comprehensive study of coronavirus hospitalisations and deaths in China has confirmed the sharp escalation in risk from the disease as the age of patients increases. The analysis, published by the Lancet medical journal, showed only 0.04% of teens required hospital care, compared with more than 18% of those over 80. The differences in middle age were stark, too, with 4% of patients in their 40s being hospitalised, compared with 8% of those in their 50s. The overall death rate for confirmed cases was 1.38%.

World Bank: pandemic causing ‘unprecedented global shock’

Commuters in Tokyo on Tuesday morning.

Commuters in Tokyo on Tuesday morning. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

A World Bank economist has said the coronavirus is causing “an unprecedented global shock, which could bring growth to a halt,” and is likely to drive 11 million more people in East Asia into poverty. Despite early successes in halting its spread, the epidemic in the region is far from over, the WHO has warned. In Japan, which has so far avoided the worst of the outbreak, the governor of Tokyo has told residents to quit karaoke and avoid bars and restaurants.

  • Hidden outbreak. Health experts focused on the Middle East have expressed fears that the scale of the Covid-19 outbreak in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq may far exceed the official figures.

  • Amlo ignores advice. The Mexican president has ignored official coronavirus advice by visiting the hometown of Luis “El Chapo” Guzman – the country’s most notorious drug lord – and greeting Guzman’s 92-year-old mother with a handshake.

  • ‘Immunity passports’. UK politicians and scientists have suggested introducing immunity passports” for key workers who have recovered from the virus, allowing them to return to work.

Cheat sheet

A detail from Van Gogh’s 1884 painting, stolen on the artist’s birthday.

A detail from Van Gogh’s 1884 painting, stolen on the artist’s birthday. Photograph: Marten de Leeuw/ANP/AFP via Getty Images
  • Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, a Vincent van Gogh painting worth an estimated $6m, has been stolen from a Dutch museum closed due to the coronavirus, on the 167th anniversary of the artist’s birth.

  • A new blood test developed by researchers at Harvard medical school can detect more than 50 types of cancer, according to a study that offers hope for early diagnosis and treatment.

  • Donald Trump has dismissed Democratic calls for electoral reforms that would make voting safer amid the coronavirus crisis, saying if it were easier to vote: “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”.

  • The Florida megachurch leader Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne has turned himself into authorities after holding two Sunday services with hundreds of people that violated the state’s safer-at-home order.


Will the world emerge better or worse from the pandemic?

Will the world emerge better or worse from the pandemic? Illustration: Nathalie Lees/The Guardian

How will the world emerge from the coronavirus crisis?

A catastrophe like the Covid-19 pandemic throws new light on the world as it is, but also offers glimpses of other worlds that might be possible, writes Peter C Baker. Is this a once-in-a-generation chance to build a better future, or will it just make existing injustices worse?

Why a global slowdown should shock us out of complacency

Danny Dorling, author of the new book Slowdown, says global growth was already on the wane when the crisis hit. He asks whether the shock of the coronavirus might in fact be the wake-up call the world needed, to save us from a far greater future disaster.

An unprecedented heatwave in Antarctica

This summer broke all records in Antarctica, where an unprecedented heatwave is likely the harbinger for patterns of climate change around the globe. The southernmost continent may be isolated from its neighbours, say scientists, but its weather has worldwide impacts.

The Syrian refugee who developed virus-resistant seeds

Plant virologist Safaa Kumari had made a breakthrough in her search for seeds resistant to virus epidemics that were devastating crops from the Middle East to Ethiopia. But she had to return to war-torn Aleppo to rescue them, she tells Nathanaël Chouraqui.


Events such as the coronavirus pandemic, 9/11 and the 2008 crash are thought of as “black swans” that no one could have seen coming. But they were predictable, writes Jeffrey Frankel, and our leaders should have been prepared.

Although the precise nature and timing of these events were not predictable with high probability, the severity of the consequences were. Had policymakers considered the risks and taken more preventive steps in advance, they might have averted or mitigated disaster.

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Business owners left picking up the pieces after Albany protests: ‘This is no justice’




ALBANY — Business owners across the Capital Region were left picking up the pieces of their shattered storefronts Monday, after a weekend of civil unrest that upended much of the United States and swept through the Albany area.

The destruction in Albany late Saturday night followed a peaceful daytime protest against the continued mistreatment and killings by police of black men, including George Floyd, whose death last week after begging for breath under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer outraged the country.

The disturbances began in the city’s South End and swept northward on Pearl Street, then west along Washington and Central avenues all the way up to Colonie Center on Wolf Road. Businesses — many of them owned by minorities — were vandalized, burglarized and looted, causing more than $1 million worth of damage across the area, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said Monday.

The violence came just as businesses were beginning to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“[The pandemic] is nature. It’s above human control,” said Kwasi Addo-Baffour, owner of Breakthrough African Market on Central Avenue. “But this? This is just crazy.”

Addo-Baffour was awoken at 2 a.m. Sunday by his alarm company, alerting him to an issue at his market. He arrived to find his front door smashed and cash missing from the register. He spent two hours cleaning up his shop, and though Central Avenue was packed with looters, he said he did not see a single police officer. He wonders if the damage would have been as wide-spread if officers had made their presence known along the street.

Addo-Baffour said he thought his shop would be spared from destruction because it’s a minority-owned business that is clearly labeled as catering to minorities. Surveillance video shows four people breaking into his store. Three of them were white men, he said, and though his door was shattered and his cash gone, the looters left much of the food and goods imported from Africa in his store untouched.

That leads Addo-Baffour to believe that the bulk of the looters had nothing to do with the daytime protest or its message.

“This is not a protest,” he said. “This is no justice. If you’re fighting for black life, why would you break into a black store?”

Glass was still missing Monday from the front door of the Boost Mobile operated by Najeeb Khan on Central Avenue. The brick that came crashing through the glass still lay in a corner. Droplets of blood, apparently from a looter, were visible on a display counter that used to hold phones.

The looters took $40,000 worth of phones and his entire cash register, Khan said. He couldn’t speak to the motivation of the group that looted his shop, but said one thing was clear.

“They’re obviously not concerned about humanity,” Khan said. “If they were, they wouldn’t have done this.”

The destruction left much of lower Central Avenue looking like a town bracing for the impact of a Category-5 hurricane. Windows and doors were boarded up, both on businesses that experienced damage this weekend and those anticipating continued unrest.

In an effort to provide some relief to businesses affected by the rioting, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced on Monday that the city’s Small Business Facade Improvement Program will be waiving the 50-percent match requirement for businesses to receive funding under the program.

“The sun rose on Sunday morning and we saw the damage that was done to small businesses that are really the lifeblood for our community,” Sheehan said. “These are small businesses, many of them owned by people who live here in the city of Albany, many of them minority-owned businesses, and they also provide essential services in neighborhoods that are under-serviced. So we want them to be able to reopen quickly. We want to be nimble, we want to be fast.”

Mark Brogna, owner of Capital Wine & Spirits on Lark and State streets, considers himself lucky. His shop was also looted early Sunday morning, but the intruders were able to grab only about five bottles before being spooked by his shop’s alarm.

“It gave up a good fight,” Brogna said of the glass door that was kicked in by the looters. Brogna stayed in his store late Saturday, expecting trouble. He left just after 2 a.m. His door was kicked in around 3:30.

The confluence of a pandemic and civil unrest could not have come at a worse time for small business owners, he said. “It’s very hard,” Brogna said. “It’s difficult. It’s stressful. It’s worrisome. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong?” He anticipates keeping the plywood that now reinforces his shop’s windows up until next weekend, at the earliest.

“I take pride in the way the store looks,” Brogna said. “This just looks sad.”

Now, business owners across the region will have to contend with the possibility of more unrest in the upcoming evenings. Addo-Baffour, for one, isn’t taking any chances at his shop when night falls.

“I  will stay here and defend myself,” he said.

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GOP FCC Commissioner says Twitter CEO is ‘weaponizing’ his business




Brendan Carr, FCC Commissioner, speaking at the State of the Net Conference 2019 at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

Michael Brochstein | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Republican Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is “weaponizing” the company for “his own partisan political beliefs.”

Carr, who was nominated by President Donald Trump in 2017, made the charge during a Monday interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” about Trump’s new executive order on social media. The order targets a 1996 law that shields tech companies from liability for their users’ posts and empowers them to engage in “good faith” content moderation. Members of Congress from both parties have criticized the law, known as Section 230, in recent years as tech companies have grown in size and influence while attracting greater scrutiny for their competitive practices and content moderation standards.

But politicians tend to be split along partisan lines over their reasons for reforming the law. While Democrats supporting reforms generally aim to hold tech platforms to similar standards as publishers when it comes to what they see as objectionable content, Republicans have taken issue with what they claim is a biased method of removing content that silences conservative voices. Tech platforms have repeatedly denied removing content based on partisan beliefs.

In his interview Monday, Carr said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was generally taking a better approach on content moderation than Twitter’s Dorsey.

“I think Zuckerberg is right, Facebook is wrong. It’s kind of veered from some of Zuckerberg’s instincts from time to time,” Carr said. “I think there’s been a big distinction that last couple weeks between Facebook and Twitter where Mark Zuckerberg has said, look, put my political beliefs to the side and he’s been expressing them and good for him, that’s not how I’m going to support my business, my business is about supporting free speech. Contrast that with Jack Dorsey who looks like he’s now weaponizing his corporation to pursue his own partisan political beliefs.” 

Twitter placed a “public interest notice” over a recent tweet by Trump for the first time, obscuring a message about the protests in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody. Twitter said Trump’s post, which said, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” violated its policies about glorifying violence. While the company would normally remove such a post by other users, Twitter invoked its June 2019 carve-out for world leaders, which allows it to maintain posts from such figures that are in the public interest but otherwise violate its policies. 

Facebook, by contrast, left the same message up on its platform, angering usually quiet employees who took to Twitter to share their disagreement with the company’s decision. Zuckerberg spoke with Trump on the phone about the protests on Friday, a source confirmed to CNBC. Axios, which first reported the news, said both parties characterized the call as productive.

Still, Carr criticized Facebook on other grounds, including the makeup of its new oversight board that’s charged with adjudicating complicated content decisions on the platform. He called out the inclusion of Pamela Karlan, a constitutional law expert at Stanford University who testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Addressing the question of how the perceived political makeup of tech companies should factor into the assessment of bias, Carr said, “I think at least from a public policy perspective, if you were holding yourself out there as a neutral platform, at least from a political perspective, and then you stack the deck with hardened partisans, I think that undermines — putting the government hat aside — I think that undermines the user-base’s confidence.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment. Karlan and Twitter declined to comment.

Trump’s executive order was widely criticized by the tech industry, which claimed the order would backfire by forcing tech platforms to further limit speech to stem their liability risk. Democrats, even those who have supported potential reforms to the law, claimed the order was a distraction from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has taken more than 100,000 lives in the U.S., disproportionately impacting black Americans.

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WATCH: Trump to sign executive order aimed at cracking down on Facebook, Twitter

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Shopper numbers jump 31% as lockdown in England relaxed | Business




Shoppers rushed back to high streets and retail parks on Monday as the reopening of car showrooms, markets and some Ikea stores marked the easing of lockdown restrictions in England.

The number of shoppers out and about jumped 31% across all retail destinations by 5pm in England compared with last week’s bank holiday Monday, according to analysts at Springboard. For the UK as a whole, shopper numbers rose 28%.

footfall v bank holiday

“It appears that even though only markets and car showrooms have opened today in addition to essential stores, shoppers are heading back into bricks and mortar destinations,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s insights director.

Shoppers flocked to the Swedish furniture chain Ikea, which reopened 19 stores for the first time since March. People queued from 5.30am in some locations with local reports of 1,000 people outside the Warrington store and people waiting several hours to shop in Croydon, south London.

Ikea stores were allowing in only one adult and one child per household and play areas and restaurants remained closed.

A spokeswoman for the chain said: “Whilst customers have experienced long queues at times, these planned measures are in place to ensure everyone’s safety and we’re incredibly grateful to the public in playing their part to help keep everyone safe.

In some stores where we’ve seen strong demand, we’ve taken appropriate decisions to open early for browsing and to temporarily close our car parks to help ease pressure and reduce waiting times.”

footfall v last year

Wehrle said the number of shoppers at all retail destinations was still more than 60% down on the same time last year, but people were now willing to venture out. Monday’s shopper numbers were partly lifted by those visiting coastal towns and historic areas to make the most of good weather as well as the gradual reopening of a wider range of shops.

“There is a change of mindset. People are regarding lockdown as not over but in its dying phase,” Wehrle said.

Non-essential retailers have been closed across the UK since 23 March, when the lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus started, but retailers are keen to reopen as trading online has not made up for store closures.

Many businesses are struggling for survival with Debenhams, Monsoon and French Connection among those to have closed branches or warn they need to raise cash to survive.

Under new government rules, car showrooms and outdoor markets selling non-food items were allowed to reopen from Monday. Food market stalls in some areas have been able to operate since May, but many owners have chosen not to do so.

While the vast majority of non-essential stores, including clothing, shoe and toy stores, will not reopen until 15 June, a range of other retailers selling products classed as essential such as DIY, furniture and bicycles, have gradually been reopening under lockdown.

Restaurants remained closed.

As shopper numbers increased, so too did the number of people travelling.

Motoring organisations reported a much busier start to the week on roads. An AA spokesman said breakdown callouts on Monday had peaked from 9am, an hour earlier than the pattern during lockdown, indicating the return of a morning rush.

Data from the AA until the end of Sunday showed that the weekend had been the busiest since the start of lockdown, with traffic at around 80% of normal levels, or about 15m cars on the road.

Motor traffic on major roads in London was at just under 80% of normal levels between 7am and 10am, about 3% higher than last week. The partial reopening of primary schools is likely to have added to traffic, despite calls for parents to walk or cycle rather than drive children to school.

The number of passengers using the London Underground on Monday rose by about 20% from last week, according to early data from Transport for London. Tube travel in the morning peak was about 11% of pre-coronavirus levels, with 124,000 journeys between 7am and 10am, compared with 106,000 at the start of the last working week, Tuesday 26 May. Daily totals last week had grown to 8-9% of normal 2019 passenger figures. 

Train operators said there was little difference in passenger numbers on Monday, with people still urged to use public transport only for essential travel. Govia Thameslink Railway, the operator of Britain’s biggest commuter network, said there had been a very small increase compared with last week.

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