Covid strikes US Prez Poll campaigns | Daily News


 

Covid strikes US Prez Poll campaigns

US Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris (L) and US Vice President Mike Pence applaud at the end of the Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on October 7, 2020. AFP
US Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris (L) and US Vice President Mike Pence applaud at the end of the Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on October 7, 2020. AFP

With just three weeks to the US Presidential Election, global interest was raised after President Donald Trump was infected with Covid 19, and its related impact on US politics. After the first debate between the two presidential candidates - Donald Trump and Joe Biden - last week, this week saw the only Vice Presidential candidate debate between - Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.

It was a much less openly hostile debate than last week’s Donald Trump - Joe Biden, which was seen by many as a debacle, with President Trump continuing to interrupt and disturb the rival candidate, and not giving way to the coordinator.

Kamala Harris and Mike Pence were separated by Plexiglass barriers as a protection against coronavirus, and seeking to advance their leader’s cases.

The presidential election politics has rising interest to President Trump’s move to appoint a new justice to the US Supreme Court before the presidential election. This is against the plea by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, that her replacement be done after the coming presidential election. President Trump has already named Appeal Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, which will lead to a strongly conservative majority in the SC. It is also a matter of concern among Democrats as the new Justice may rule on the government’s move to remove President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care health law, which brings much relief to lower income Americans, now worse affected by the Covid crisis.

Republican leaders are concerned that if they lose their majority in the Senate in the November election, and if Trump loses the White House, it will be harder to confirm a conservative nominee to the SC, during the lame-duck session before former Vice President Joe Biden could enter office in January 2021.

In the Pence - Harris debate the first question was about coronavirus in a debate dominated by the pandemic. Harris kept her point simple. She focused on the numbers dead, and the millions of people affected. Harris called Trump’s coronavirus response ‘greatest failure’ of any administration “Here are the facts: 210,000 dead people in our country in just the last seven months. Over 7 million who have contracted this disease,” she said. “We’re looking at over 30 million people who in the last seven months had to file for unemployment.”

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said. “This administration has forfeited their right to re-election.”

Harris also issued a stark warning about the Trump administration’s intentions, to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, which prevents health companies turning away patients with pre-existing conditions. ”

Pence responded by claiming the Trump administration has a plan to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Joe Biden’s advantage over President Trump has expanded and the former vice president now holds his widest lead of the cycle with less than a month remaining before Election Day - November 3. Among likely voters, 57% say they back Biden and 41% Trump in the poll that was conducted entirely after the first debate and mostly after the President’s coronavirus infection was made public.

Regardless of Biden’s national lead, the race for the White House will ultimately come down to a handful of swing states that will drive the outcome in the Electoral College. The former vice president leads in several of those critical battlegrounds, but by more narrow margins than his national advantage.

Kyrgyzstan protests

This week saw Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister resign after widespread post-election protests, which plunged the country into political chaos, after last Sunday’s election.


Kyrgyzstan protests. 

Kyrgyz authorities on Tuesday agreed to the demands of opposition demonstrators, annulling the results of the disputed parliamentary elections.

It followed a dramatic night of stone-throwing, tear gas and water cannon – one that left the revolutionary-inclined former Soviet republic without any clear political leadership.

The protests saw opposition forces against the government, whom they accused of fixing the election. By morning, the momentum had clearly switched to the streets, with demonstrators seizing the seat of government and securing the release from prison of key figures including former President Almazbek Atambayev.

At least one person died, more than 600 people were injured, and 13 people were put into intensive care during the clashes.

The run-up to Sunday’s elections had been mired in accusations of mass vote-rigging and bribery. In the event, the official count handed a parliamentary majority to parties connected to the ruling elite on just under 50 per cent of the vote. It left opposition forces with ties to influential oligarchs without parliamentary representation.

Kyrgyzstan remains one of the more democratic nations of the former Soviet Union. However, it has not been able to free itself from a cycle of violent protest, weak government and political chaos.

This week’s events are the third time that the republic has witnessed violent revolutionary upheaval in the space of 15 years. In 2005, during events that became known as the Tulip revolution, Kyrgyzstan’s first President, Askar Akayev, was ousted and forced to seek refuge in Moscow. In 2010, Kyrgyzstan’s second President, Kurmanbek Bakiev, made an escape to Minsk.

Azerbaijan

The fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh continued this week, with the European Union calling for cessation of hostilities, and increased involvement of Turkey in the hostilities, supporting Azerbaijan.

French President Emmanuel Macron has demanded that Turkey explains what he said was the arrival of jihadist fighters in Azerbaijan — and urged NATO to face up to its ally’s actions.

“A red line has been crossed, which is unacceptable,” Macron said. “I urge all NATO partners to face up to the behaviour of a NATO member.

France’s response is to ask Turkey for an explanation on this point,” he said.


A man walks in rubble inside the Ghazanchetsots (Holy Saviour) Cathedral in the historic city of Shusha in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh province’s capital Stepanakert as fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces intensify. - AFP

Macron was speaking after a summit in Brussels at which EU leaders agreed to threaten Turkey with sanctions over its gas drilling in Cypriot waters.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies in Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia for more than a quarter-century.

Armenian Defence Ministry spokesman said Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, was being targeted once again by Azerbaijan along with other settlements. Nagorno-Karabakh officials said that non-military facilities in Stepanakert have been hit with missiles and drones.

Russian state RIA Novosti news agency reported Wednesday that some of the overnight shelling has hit people’s houses, causing significant damage.

Azerbaijan has rejected claims of targeting civilian infrastructure in Stepanakert, and that Azerbaijani forces only targeted military objects in and around Stepanakert, acknowledging, however, that “some collateral damage” was possible.

The fighting in the region — involving heavy artillery, warplanes and drones — has continued despite numerous international calls for a cease-fire. Both sides have accused each other of expanding the hostilities beyond Nagorno-Karabakh and of targeting civilians.

The EU expressing concern about the flare-up of violence said: “We have seen extremely worrying reports of attacks on populated areas which is taking a deadly toll on civilians. We strongly urge the sides to fully observe their international obligations to protect civilian populations.”

There is increasing concern about the role of Turkey in this dispute, supporting Azerbaijan, with reports of its supply of weapons to the Azerbaijani forces, to take over the Nagorno-Karabakh.

This is a Muslim - Christian conflict, and has much danger of spreading in the region, drawing other countries into hostilities. Iran has sought to intervene in the dispute, while France, Russia and the US are seeking a settlement.

Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said the mountain enclave could become a launch pad for Islamist militants to enter Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced “serious concern about the unprecedented escalation” in a phone call with Iran’s foreign minister.

Azerbaijan has said it will stop fighting only if Armenia sets a timetable to withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh, which under international law belongs to Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.

Belarus - Russia action

As the mass protests in Belarus continue calling for the removal of President Alexander Lukashenko, Russia has put Belarus Opposition Leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on its wanted list on “a criminal charge”, Russia’s interior ministry says, in the new move on the Belarus dispute.


Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko

Ms. Tikhanovskaya stood against long-term President Alexander Lukashenko in August’s disputed election, which was widely seen as fraudulent. He has held office for 26 years.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is backing Mr. Lukashenko. The opposition says Mr. Lukashenko must quit. But Russia says they are Western “puppets” trying to overthrow him.

Ms. Tikhanovskaya, who has fled to Lithuania to prevent arrest, has been visiting Berlin to discuss the crisis with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German officials.

EU sanctions now target 40 Belarus officials, but not Mr. Lukashenko himself.

Russia’s interior ministry did not give details of the charge against Ms. Tikhanovskaya. But Russia’s Tass news agency reported that she was on the wanted list in Belarus and the Belarusian warrant against her would also be carried out in Russia according to agreements between the two countries.

Ms. Tikhanovskaya was forced to go into exile in Lithuania after receiving threats following the disputed vote. She stepped in to challenge Mr. Lukashenko for the presidency after her husband, a popular blogger, was barred from running and sent to jail. She has repeatedly appealed to the international community to put pressure on Mr. Lukashenko so that a democratic transition can be launched by negotiation.

India: Rape protests

The cremation by the police of a 19-year-old Dalit - untouchable, low caste - woman who had alleged gang rape and died a day later, is a major political issue in India.

It is about a young woman - who was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men and had fought for her life for two weeks - and was treated as shabbily in death as in life.

The police in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh state, where the attack took place, said the family had consented to her cremation. But her family and local journalists, who were present in the village when her funeral pyre was lit at around 2:30am, have contested the claim in interviews with the BBC and other media. There are key issues of a deep night cremation, and the absence of any religious and other rituals at the cremation.

The hasty cremation has caused outrage in India and abroad. Opposition parties have called it “a gross violation of human rights”, “illegal” and “immoral”. Protests have been held across India and by Indians in several American cities. The UN, too, has weighed in, expressing “profound sadness and concern at the continuing cases of sexual violence against women and girls in India”.

On Tuesday, the Uttar Pradesh government told the Supreme Court that they had cremated the body at night due to “extraordinary circumstances and a sequence of unlawful incidents”. They said there was an “international plot” to cause caste and religious riots in the state and topple the government of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, one of India’s most controversial right-wing politicians.

They also claimed that the victim’s family was present for the cremation and had “agreed to attend to avoid further violence”. But the family told the BBC and other media that those in the video shown by police were neighbours and distant relatives, and the authorities were trying to pass them off as immediate family.

A forensic report on the young Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, who died days after being assaulted by a group of men, says there were “no signs suggestive of intercourse”, backing the state police’s version that she was not raped or gang raped.

However, experts question the report as it is based on samples collected 11 days after the assault. The woman’s samples were sent to the forensic lab in Agra 11 days after the incident, and experts point that sperms would not be present by that time.

The woman had been assaulted by four men from the so-called upper caste community from her village on September 14. She was found by her family in the fields, allegedly naked, bleeding, with multiple fractures and a gash in her tongue. The police claimed her tongue was cut because she bit it while her attackers were trying to strangle her.

The UP police, facing allegations of lapses in handling the woman’s complaint, has been accused of being invested in proving that there was no gang rape, that the woman and her family had lied. The family alleges that they have been threatened and intimidated by the administration.

Amid national outrage and opposition attacks, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath last week suspended three cops and handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The new Superintendent of Police of Hathras said security arrangements have been made for the woman’s family, after Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, who met the family on Sunday, said they were feeling unsafe and that they wanted to move out of the village.

Yogi Adityanath’s government has been facing huge criticism over the case since the woman’s death.

Covid -19 spread

Coronavirus is continuing to spread across the world, with more than 36 million confirmed cases in 188 countries, and more than one million deaths. It is surging in many regions and some countries that had apparent success in suppressing initial outbreaks are also seeing infections rise again.

The US has the highest recorded with more than 211,000 deaths from the virus, and more than 7.3 million infected, continuing to rise. The patients include President Donald Trump and a large number of persons from the President’s Office and political activists in the current presidential poll campaign.

Covid 19 keeps rising in several regions, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the global death toll could hit two million before an effective vaccine is widely used. Several countries - the US, UK, Russia, China, Japan and India are working on the production of one or more vaccines. WHO head of emergencies, Micheal Ryan, has said roughly one-in-ten people worldwide may have been infected, and that “the vast majority of the world remains at risk”.

India has the largest increase of infections in Asia, with the official total of confirmed infections in the country, passing 6.8 million, the second-highest in the world, after the US. However, India has maintained a relatively low death rate of 105,522, given the size of the population, and there are indications that cases and deaths may have begun to decline.

In Latin America, newly confirmed cases in Brazil remain highest with 5 million plus infections, and 148,228 deaths. In the Middle East too, there is a steady rise in infections, with Iran having 453,644 infections and 27,658 deaths.

Several European countries, including the UK, France and Spain, have seen record daily numbers of new cases in recent days. Many European countries have re-imposed lockdowns and other restrictions in their worst-affected regions, and there have been fresh appeals for people to wear face coverings and follow social distancing rules. Israel too has imposed a new national lockdown after recording a record number of daily cases in recent weeks. Other countries that have seen a resurgence of the virus include Peru, Canada and Russia.