US Professor sacked for using “bad” Chinese word

A California professor has been replaced for uttering a Chinese word that sounds—in English—like a racist slur, the LA Times reports.

Greg Patton was teaching an online communications course for University of Southern California students when he discussed the importance of pausing and using “er” and “um” as filler words.

“Like in China the common word is ‘that’ —’that, that, that, that,'” he said in August (see video here). “So in China it might be ‘nèi ge’‘nèi ge, nèi ge, nèi ge.’ So there’s different words that you’ll hear in different countries, but they’re vocal disfluencies.”

Nèi ge can be pronounced NAH-guh or NAY-guh in Mandarin, and Patton used the latter pronounciation.

Some students said it sounded too much like the N-word.

“There are over 10,000 characters in the Chinese written language and to use this phrase … is hurtful and unacceptable to our USC Marshall community,”

Black master’s candidates wrote in a letter to Marshall School of Business Dean Geoffrey Garrett—who responded by telling MBA students that Patton’s use of the word “understandably … caused great pain.”

Patton was soon on temporary leave from the course, and issued a letter that both apologized and defended his use of nèi ge.

In a twist, roughly 100 USC alumni—most of them Chinese—wrote the school defending Patton’s use of the word and condemning the “spurious charge.” USC Annenberg Media quotes an MBA student of Korean descent who calls the incident “overdramatized” and says he doubts “the professor meant harm.

Why Chief Justice John Roberts might decide the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

The controversy over mail-in ballots will result in Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts deciding the 2020 presidential election, political commentator Dick Morris said on Sunday.

Speaking on “The Cats Roundtable” radio show on WABC 770 AM in New York hosted by John Catsimatidis, Morris explained that “the blue state governors are mailing out tens of millions of ballots. They’re going to be returned with a vote on them, probably for [Democratic presidential nominee Joe] Biden.”

Morris, who was a political advisor to President Bill Clinton before returning to the Republican Party in 2011, said that on election night, President Donald Trump will appear to have won all the swing states and emerge victorious in a landslide.

But then, Morris contended, “day after day, week after week, you’re going to find another million ballots counted here, another half million there… And gradually these Democratic liberal secretaries of state who are in charge of the election in most of these blue states, will say, ‘We’re sorry. It turns out Biden carried Wisconsin, not Trump.’”

Morris said the next step will be that the Trump campaign will sue, but the suit “will have to be in state court. The state court judges are largely liberal, largely Democrat. And they will [rule] in favor of the state [that] Biden carried it.”

At this stage, the dispute will “probably go up to the federal courts. And the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually make the decision. And then the entire election will be in the hands literally of John Roberts. And we’ll see what he’ll do.”

Why Trump must ban Tik Tok in the US

U.S. President Donald Trump is banning the use of the TikTok app, widely used by Americans particularly teenagers, because of China’s perceived role in the pandemic, which he routinely describes as the ‘China flu,’ or more recently the ‘China plague.’

How depriving millions of young Americans from using the TikTok app, putting 1,500 U.S.-based TikTok employees out of work, and financially impacting the Chinese tech firm ByteDance’s shareholders, who owns TikTok, will punish China is unclear.

China’s role in the Covid-19 pandemic is being examined by an international investigatory body as part of an overall investigation into how and where the virus originated. The investigation is supported by both the United States and China.

The president however, with an election looming in 3 months, is pushing against China, with the TikiTok ban echoing ‘a broader, anti-China stance within the Republican Party ahead of the November elections,’ according to a Washington Post report published on Sunday.

“China has long been the United States’ greatest geopolitical foe and a focus of derision in Rust Belt states that were decimated by the hollowing out of our manufacturing base,” Cliff Sims, a former Trump White House aide told the ‘Post. “Trump capitalized on this in 2016.”

“Now unfavorable views toward China are at an all-time high because of Covid-19. So when you combine the geopolitical realities with the domestic politics, it makes perfect sense for the president to continue ratcheting up the rhetoric and making moves to confront China head-on,” Sims said.

The policy does not seem to be restricted to the president, his supporters in the Congress, particularly the Senate, and in the wider Republican party seem to be on board too.

“We write to raise concerns about TikTok, the Chinese social-media service, which could enable the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to engage in influence operations against the United States, including operations designed to interfere with our elections,” a number of Republican senators including Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) said this week in a letter to administration officials.

While President Trump appears to have finally decided on Friday night that the TikTok ban will go ahead, he had been flip-flopping on the issue most of the day.

Asked on Friday before boarding Marine One whether a decision on TikTok would come that day, Mr Trump replied: “We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things. There are a couple of options. But a lot of things are happening, so we’ll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok.”

The alternatives it has emerged included a possible sale to another party such as Microsoft.

Regardless, by Friday night while on board Air Force One after a trip to Florida, the president told reporters: “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.”

The president went on to say he did not favor a sale of TikTok to another party.

The move comes at a time when the Trump administration is also confronting Huawei – China and the world’s, largest smartphone maker – with a raft of measures. Mr Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have accused Huawei of spying on U.S. citizens and stealing their data.

The proposed shutdown of the TikTok platform, which has still not been officially announced as of Sunday, comes during a week in which the heads of the world’s four largest technology companies appeared before Congress.

Rep. Greg Steube asked the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, “Do you believe that the Chinese government steals technology from U.S. companies?”

Only one of the 4, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder of Facebook, said that he did, but did not reference any instances or experience with his company.

“I think it’s well documented that the Chinese government steals technology from American companies,” Zuckerberg told the hearing.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the world’s richest man, however had a contrary view. I’ve “heard many reports of that,” though he added that “I haven’t seen it personally,” according to a CNN report.

The Apple chief Tim Cook, in his reply to the question, said. “I know of no case [of] ours where it occurred … I can only speak to firsthand knowledge.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai replied: “I have no firsthand knowledge of any information stolen from Google in this regard.” (Pichai later corrected his answer, acknowledging a China-linked cyberattack on Google in 2009 in which the company said some of its intellectual property was stolen).

When Steube followed up his question about Chinese interference, asking the CEOs what recommendations they could make to Congress to “better protect” American companies from “aggression and government intervention abroad” in places such as China and Europe, the four CEOs declined to answer. After the question was asked, none of the four replied. Fifteen seconds later Steube yielded his time.

Zuckerberg in his testimony sounded an ominous note. “If you look at where the top technology companies come from, a decade ago the vast majority were American,” he said. “Today, almost half are Chinese.”

U.S. technology companies will likely be the only beneficiary of the elimination of TikTok from U.S. shores.

“Without TikTok, American advertisers would again be left with few choices. Competition would dry up and so too will an outlet for America’s creative energy. We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda, our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy. Consumers can only benefit from the growth of healthy, successful platforms like TikTok and we will fight to continue to give American creators, users and brands an entertaining outlet for many years to come,” the platform’s CEO Kevin Mayer said on Wednesday in a blog.

Mark Zuckerberg when asked about the app in his appearance before Congress the same day, described TikTok as one of Facebook’s main competitors.

Not for long, it seems.

What to expect as the $600 unemployment boost

The $600 boost in weekly unemployment checks ends Friday.

With negotiations between Democrats and Republicans at an impasse, millions relying on that aid are in the dark as to what comes next.

Meanwhile, the economic recovery appears to have stalled or reversed, coronavirus infections are surging, eviction protections have expired for many and plans to reopen schools remain in flux, potentially requiring many parents to forgo work for child-care duties.

“It’s not clear we’re on a very clear trajectory out of this economic downturn,” said Beth Akers, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and a former staff economist on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors. “So I’m very concerned for when we take away the $600 from unemployed people.”

‘Can’t make a living’

Americans are guaranteed to lose the weekly subsidy, at least temporarily, after Friday. The Senate adjourned for the weekend without an agreement to extend or replace it after July 31.

Given the scale of the problem, with roughly 30 million Americans collecting unemployment benefits, it’s likely lawmakers will pass some sort of additional aid, according to experts.

“It’s more a question of how much it will be and how long it will take,” said Till von Wachter, an economics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and director of the California Policy Lab.

Absent a federal supplement, the average American would get about $321 a week from state unemployment programs — less than half of prior earnings.

That situation would hit low-wage workers — who are already more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck and represent a disproportionate share of the unemployed — particularly hard.

“You can’t make a living as a low-income worker making 50% of your prior earnings,” von Wachter said.

Between $200 and $600

The $600-a-week supplement to unemployment benefits has been a hot-button issue since a federal coronavirus relief law, the CARES Act, enacted the payments in late March.

The tension comes from some recipients being able to collect more from unemployment benefits than they earned from their jobs.

Republicans have unified against the $600 weekly enhancement, believing it to be a disincentive to return to work and therefore a drag on the economic recovery.

Democrats want to extend the payments, saying they pump money into the economy and help American families pay their bills. The House passed legislation in May to extend them through early 2021.

 

unemployment

Senate Republicans unveiled a proposal this week to reduce aid to $200 from $600 a week through September. In October, they’d shift to a system where federal and state benefits replace 70% of a person’s lost wages, which would be in place through year-end.

It’s likely lawmakers will meet somewhere in the middle, economists said.

“I think that’s where people have put their stakes in the ground right now,” von Wachter said.

‘Bare bones’

Many families would likely still see financial hardship with a payment of $200. That would give Californians up to $650 a week in total benefits, for example. But $650 is less than the threshold for being considered “very low income” in this country, von Wachter said.

“It’s hard when you’re already living your life on bare bones,” Artavia Milliam, a recipient of unemployment benefits in New York, said during a House Ways and Means Committee press conference on Friday. “We just want to survive until we get through the crisis.”

The $600 supplement reduced food insecurity by 30% and led to a 42% reduction in eating less due to financial constraints, according to a paper published Thursday by academics at Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania.

And prospects of finding a new job are dim. There are about 14 million more unemployed people than job openings right now, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

“I’m not losing sleep over people getting an extra $600 a week right now because I think there are a lot more people looking for jobs in the economy right now than there are jobs available,” Akers said.

Wage replacement

A wage-replacement approach like the one suggested by Republicans is the ideal approach, but is also unlikely to materialize within their timetable, according to labor experts.

At the onset of the pandemic, lawmakers broached the idea of capping a subsidy, at 100% of lost wages. But antiquated state technology made that an impossibility in short order.

The $600 was a compromise: when combined with typical state-paid benefits, the federal subsidy aimed at fully replacing lost wages for the average jobless person (about $976 a week in the first quarter).

It’s unlikely all states would be able to administer such a policy within the next few months, economists said.

One compromise may be a flat amount ($200 to $600) that transitions to a system replacing perhaps 70%-100% of prior wages over a longer time period like early next year, von Wachter said.

Lawmakers can offer states a financial incentive to update their technology. That could take the form of offering extended federal funding to pay benefits for the self-employed, freelancers and others being covered by the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, he said.

Another option might be phasing out a flat payment over time as a state’s unemployment rate improves, Akers said. Some Senate Democrats have proposed such an approach.

While some people “on the margin” may be choosing not to return to work because of the $600 checks, there’s also been evidence that payments haven’t had a big impact on the labor market, Akers said.

“Evidence suggests that employers did not experience greater difficulty finding applicants for their [job] vacancies after the CARES Act, despite the large increase in unemployment benefits,” according to a paper published Thursday by economists at the University of Pennsylvania, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Glassdoor Inc.

Economists at Yale University also didn’t find evidence that generous benefits offered a disincentive to work “either at the onset of the expansion or as firms looked to return to business over time,” according to a paper published this month.

What experts say about China’s countermeasure

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Friday the diplomats of the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu interfered in China’s internal affairs and engaged in activities that were not in line with their diplomatic identities.

Wang urged the U.S. to withdraw its decision to close China’s consulate general in Houston and make efforts to bring bilateral ties back on track, adding that the Chinese side has lodged representations with the U.S. many times.

China has ordered the U.S. to close its consulate general in southwest China’s Chengdu City in response to U.S. directive for China to shut its consulate general in Houston, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

China

Image shows the US embassy in Beijing and Consulate offices in other parts of  China

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the decision was a justifiable and necessary response to the unreasonable act of the U.S. on July 21 of abruptly asking China to close its consulate general in Houston by Friday.

The U.S. consulate general in Chengdu was established in 1985, and it covers the southwestern part of China, which includes Sichuan Province, Tibet Autonomous Region and Chongqing Municipality.

Following China’s decision of countermeasure, experts have said that the core principle behind the decision is seeking equality in diplomatic exchanges while China is also avoiding sending out a strong message of a divided China-U.S. relation.

Shen Yi, an expert on U.S.-related issues at Shanghai-based Fudan University, told the Global Times that the move sent a clear signal to the U.S. that China does not intend to damage the Sino-U.S. relations, but it will surely fight back this kind of abrupt move.

If China does nothing in the beginning, it runs the risk of gradually being trapped into a situation of having to making compromises for each move made by the U.S., Shen said.

Meanwhile, Li Haidong, a professor with the Institute of International Relations Studies under China Foreign Affairs University, told the news outlet that China is also dealing with the issue in a restrained way that tries to prevent a sudden escalation of China-U.S. tensions.

He said that among all the U.S. embassy and consulates general in China, the Chengdu consulate general covers relatively smaller scale of regions and thus it would only affect a limited number of U.S. citizens and enterprises.

UK Prime Minister: No travel is risk-free during this pandemic

The government has been criticised for announcing mandatory quarantine rules, without warning, on Saturday evening – just hours before they were due to come into effect.

Labour criticised the “chaotic nature of the decision making” but Number 10 has defended the last-minute move, saying border measures and travel advice can be “changed rapidly” in order to protect the UK from coronavirus.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Unfortunately no travel is risk-free during this pandemic and disruption is possible and so anyone travelling abroad should be aware that our travel advice and exemption list is under constant review as we monitor the international situation.”

Spain had been experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases for several days, but the government said it received the most recent data on Friday and the Joint Biosecurity Centre conducted an “urgent review” before advising to mitigate travel from midnight Saturday.

Health Minister Helen Whately said Spain had seen a “very rapid increase in rates” of coronavirus and warned the list of safe countries is being kept “under review”.

She said if other countries see rates “going up significantly and rapidly, we’ll need to take action”.

There are now fears more European holidays could be thrown into disarray, with fears other countries could be struck off the ‘air-bridges’ list at potentially short notice.

It comes after the World Health Organization warned the pandemic “continues to accelerate” around the world, with nearly 16 million cases confirmed and more than 640,000 dead.

Both France and Germany are experiencing a spike in cases, prompting many to worry they could be next.

Close to 1.8 million holidays are likely to have been thrown into chaos by the move to remove Spain from the list, according to travel company The PC Agency.

The precarious situation in Europe

The government is urging employers to be “flexible” in allowing staff to work from home while self-isolating and it expects the majority of people were expected to comply with quarantine rules.

Three fines have been issued at the border since the measures were first introduced in early June.

While the government wants employers to support staff caught up in the rule change, it has not extended any new support of its own.

The Trades Union Congress had been calling for Statutory Sick Pay to be extended to anyone forced to quarantine who cannot work from home.

Downing Street said holidaymakers who miss out on work because of the quarantine period may be eligible for Universal Credit or employment support allowance but not statutory sick pay.

Pressed on whether ministers would review statutory sick pay eligibility, he said: “We always keep our response to the pandemic under review and we regularly assess the support available but there is support available for those in need.”

Under the rules employers are able to ask staff to cancel holidays if it means they will be out of work longer than planned, but the government says any worker who loses their job can appeal to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

One person caught up in the rule change who will be isolating upon their return is Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, whose department announced the quarantines just hours after he jetted to Spain.

Number 10 said the rules apply to “ministers as they do anyone else”.

China issues new warning to the United States

China strongly condemns the U.S. for asking China to close its Consulate General in Houston, Texas, urging it to recall its wrong decision or there will be countermeasures, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.

The U.S. abruptly asked China to close its Consulate General in Houston in 72 hours starting July 21. The move, according to U.S. State Department was to “protect Americans’ intellectual property and private information.”

In response, China said the decision is a political provocation made by the U.S., which has seriously violated international law, basic norms of international relations as well as relevant provisions of the China-U.S. Consular Treaty, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

The unilateral announcement on closing China’s Consulate-General in Houston, according to Wang, is an upgraded action that escalates tensions between China and the U.S. to an unprecedented level.

According to Wang, the U.S. government has long blamed China and smeared it by taking unprovoked attack against the country’s social system and by targeting, intimidating and even arresting Chinese students in the United States.

Wang also refuted the U.S. claim of unequal relations between the two countries and the so-called China’s infiltration into the U.S., pointing out that it is the United States that has repeatedly set restrictions against Chinese diplomats, opened diplomatic bags from China without permission and seized China’s articles intended for official use.

China’s Consulate Generals have already received several death threats and even bombs, the spokesperson added.

China has always adhered to its policy of non-intervention; infiltration or interference has never been the norm for China’s diplomacy, stressed Wang.

China’s diplomatic presence in the U.S. has always been committed to improving mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples, Wang reiterated, and once again urged the United States to recall its wrong decision.

On Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also warned its citizens studying in the U.S. to “be on guard” for arbitrary interrogations and detention.

“Recently, U.S. law enforcement agencies have stepped up arbitrary interrogations, harassment, confiscation of personal belongings and detention targeting Chinese international students in the US,” said the foreign ministry in a statement.

2 whistleblowers to receive $3,006,000 for exposing False Claims Act violations

Longwood Management Corporation and 27 affiliated skilled nursing facilities (Longwood) have agreed to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable or necessary, the Department of Justice announced today.

Longwood is headquartered in California and the 27 skilled nursing facilities are also located in California.

“This settlement reflects the Department’s continuing commitment to ensure that patients are receiving individualized healthcare services appropriate to their specific medical needs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan P. Davis for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “When skilled nursing facilities provide rehabilitation therapy services based on maximizing revenue rather than the interests of their patients, we will hold them accountable.”

“Longwood’s business plan called for substantial revenue from Medicare, and it pressured therapists to provide additional, unnecessary services when targets were not met,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna for the Central District of California.  “This case demonstrates the power of whistleblowers to shine a light on improper business practices and obtain significant recoveries on behalf of United States taxpayers.”

The settlement resolves allegations that Longwood submitted false claims for rehabilitation therapy by engaging in a systematic effort to increase Medicare billings.  Medicare reimburses skilled nursing facilities at a daily rate that reflects the skilled therapy and nursing needs of qualifying patients.  The greater the patient’s needs, the higher the level of Medicare reimbursement.  The highest level of Medicare reimbursement for skilled nursing facilities is for “Ultra High” therapy patients, who require a minimum of 720 minutes of skilled therapy from two therapy disciplines (e.g., physical, occupational, or speech therapy), one of which has to be provided five days a week.

Longwood allegedly knowingly submitted or caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unreasonable and unnecessary Ultra High levels of rehabilitation therapy for Medicare Part A residents.  Specifically, Longwood allegedly pressured therapists to increase the amount of therapy provided to patients to meet pre-planned targets for Medicare revenue.  These targets were alleged to have been set without regard to patients’ individual therapy needs and could only be achieved by billing for a high percentage of patients at the Ultra High level.

The settlement covers conduct that occurred from May 1, 2008 through Aug. 1, 2012 at six facilities (Alameda Care Center, Burbank Rehabilitation Center, Magnolia Gardens Convalescent Hospital, Montrose Healthcare Center, Sherman Oaks Health & Rehab Center, and West Hills Health & Rehab Center); and from Jan. 1, 2006 through Oct. 10, 2014 at twenty-one facilities (Burlington Convalescent Hospital, Chino Valley Rehabilitation Center LLC, Colonial Care Center, Covina Rehabilitation Center, Crenshaw Nursing Home, Green Acres Lodge, Imperial Care Center, Imperial Crest Health Care Center, Laurel Convalescent Hospital, Live Oak Rehabilitation Center, Longwood Manor Convalescent Hospital, Monterey Care Center, Intercommunity Healthcare Center, Park Anaheim Healthcare Center, Pico Rivera Healthcare Center, San Gabriel Convalescent Center, Whittier Pacific Care Center, Studio City Rehabilitation Center, Sunnyview Care Center, View Park Convalescent Center, Western Convalescent Hospital).

Contemporaneous with the civil settlement, Longwood has entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) that requires an independent review organization to annually assess the medical necessity and appropriateness of therapy services billed to Medicare.

“The government contended Longwood falsely claimed medically unreasonable and unnecessary levels of rehabilitation services at the expense of taxpayers,” said Timothy B. DeFrancesca, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “My agency’s compliance agreement is designed to monitor claims to Medicare and prevent submission of false claims in the future.”

The settlement partially resolves allegations brought in two lawsuits filed by whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  The whistleblowers, Judy Boyce, Benjamin Monsod, and Keith Pennetti will collectively receive $3,006,000 of the settlement proceeds.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Pennetti v. Longwood Management Corp., et al., Case Number CV-14-4133 (C.D. Cal.), and United States ex rel. Boyce, Judy and Monsod, Benjamin v. Aegis Therapies, Inc., GGNSC Holdings LLC, and Longwood Management Corp., CV-16-8050 (C.D. Cal.).  The claims resolved by this agreement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

US family arrested for selling ‘miraculous’ coronavirus drug

Florida man Mark Grenon and his family sold thousands of bottles of a “miracle cure” through their “non-religious church,” Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. A more apt name might have been the Church of Drinking Bleach, critics say.

Grenon and his three sons, Jonathan, Joseph, and Jordan, were charged Wednesday with conspiracy to defraud the United States and deliver misbranded drugs, the Washington Post reports.

Prosecutors say their “Miracle Mineral Solution,” which they claimed could cure COVID-19, cancer, and many other illnesses, is a toxic bleach solution that has sickened and killed users.

Investigators say Grenon made $500,000 from MMS sales in 2019 alone, and profits soared in March this year when the “church” claimed it was also an effective coronavirus treatment.

Buyers would receive small bottles of MMS in return for a $40 “donation” to the church.

“Not only is this MMS product toxic, but its distribution and use may prevent those who are sick from receiving the legitimate healthcare they need,” Ariana Fajardo Orshan, US attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a statement, according to USA Today.

“Making claims that unproven drugs, especially potentially dangerous and unapproved chlorine dioxide products, can cure or prevent COVID-19 or any other disease is unacceptable.”

In April, Grenon said he wrote to President Trump about the healing powers of bleach after the president suggested it could be a coronavirus treatment.

The four men are also charged with criminal contempt for ignoring a preliminary injunction in April blocking them from selling MMS.

Risk of COVID-19 still very high in the US – Dr Anthony Fauci

Anthony Fauci didn’t exactly have uplifting things to say about the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the US during an online chat hosted by the National Institutes of Health on Monday.

The reason the country is currently seeing “record-breaking” numbers of cases is because states and cities started reopening too quickly, he explained, according to the Hill.

“We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this,” he said. “It was a surge or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline … that really never got down to where we wanted to go.” He described the current situation as “really not good,” reports the CNN.

And while White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed on Monday that “the world is looking at us as a leader in COVID-19,” citing the US’ lower mortality rate than Europe, Fauci said Europe is actually in a better place than the US.

“If you look at the graphs from Europe, Europe, the European Union as an entity, it went up and then came down to baseline. Now they’re having little blips, as you might expect, as they try to reopen,” he said.

“We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we’re surging back up, so it’s a serious situation that we have to address immediately.” He warned,

“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t create this binary type thing of ‘it’s us against them.’ It’s not. We’re all in it together.”

COVID-19 infections on steady rise in the US

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases per day in the U.S. climbed to an all-time high of more than 50,000 on Thursday, with the infection curve rising in 40 out of 50 states in a reversal that has largely spared only the Northeast.

In another alarming indicator, 36 states are seeing an increase in the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus.

“I think we are going to be in a very difficult situation for at least a month,” said Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, an epidemiologist at Florida International University, in one of the hardest-hit states.

The surge has been blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or following other social distancing rules as states lifted their lockdowns over the past few weeks. The U.S. recorded 50,700 new cases, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. That represents a doubling of the daily total over the past month and is higher even than what the country witnessed during the most lethal phase of the crisis in April and May, when the New York metropolitan area was easily the worst hot spot in the U.S.

All but 10 states are showing an upswing in newly reported cases over the past 14 days, according to data compiled by the volunteer COVID Tracking Project. The outbreaks are most severe in Arizona, Texas and Florida, which together with California have re-closed or otherwise clamped back down on bars, restaurants and movie theaters over the past week or so.

Nebraska and South Dakota were the only states outside the Northeast with a downward trend in cases. While some of the increases may be explained by expanded testing, other indicators are grim, too, including hospitalizations and positive test rates. Over the past two weeks, the percentage of positive tests has doubled in Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina and Ohio. In Nevada, it has tripled. In Idaho, it is five times higher.

In Texas, where cases in the past two weeks have swelled from around 2,400 a day to almost 8,100 on Wednesday, the positive rate ballooned from 8% to 14.5%. In Arizona, it has gone from 5.7% to 10.3%.

The surge comes as Americans head into a Fourth of July holiday that health officials warn could add fuel to the outbreak by drawing big crowds. Many municipalities have canceled fireworks displays. Beaches up and down California and Florida have been closed.

Florida reported more than 10,000 new cases for the first time Thursday. That is six times higher than the daily count of less than a month ago. The state also reported 67 deaths for the second time in a week and 325 new hospitalizations, one of the biggest 24-hour jumps in Florida yet.

“I’m discouraged because we didn’t act fast enough to shut things down, and we could have done a much better job getting a handle on the virus,” said Megan Archer, a 39-year-old woman from West Palm who lost her job with a county parks department during the outbreak.

Florida International’s Trepka said she is especially concerned about Fourth of July parties. “The behavior of people this week will be very critical,” she said. “People really have to avoid congregating in groups and be sure to wear masks.”

Meanwhile, the government reported that U.S. unemployment fell to 11.1% in June as the economy added a solid 4.8 million jobs. But that figure may be outdated: The data was collected during the second week of June, before many states began to backtrack on restarting their economies.

Several Northeastern states have seen new infections slow down significantly, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey, which allowed its Atlantic City casinos to reopen Thursday, though with no smoking, drinking or eating.

Pennsylvania, an outlier among Northeastern states, reported its highest one-day total of new cases since May, with more than 830, over one-quarter of them in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County. Other states, like Colorado, a major summer destination where increases in infections have been less dramatic, are keeping a close eye on their neighbors.

“I’ve been watching that map. Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico. From the Colorado standpoint, we’re well aware of what’s going on around us and we’re very anxious,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, medical director of infection prevention and control at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. “The next couple of weeks are critical.”

President Donald Trump on Wednesday seemed confident the virus would soon subside, telling Fox Business: “I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.” The U.S. has reported at least 2.7 million cases and more than 128,000 dead, the highest toll in the world. Globally there have been 10.7 million confirmed cases and over 517,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins’ count. The true toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of limited testing and mild cases that have been missed.

Other countries are also reporting an upswing in cases. “We have now entered a new and treacherous phase in the life cycle of this pandemic,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa warned in a broadcast to the nation, which recorded more than 8,100 new infections, a one-day record, and has the biggest caseload on the continent.

India, the world’s second-most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, has reported nearly 100,000 new cases in the past four days alone.

5 Protesters did this to protect vulnerable police officer from angry crowd

Officer Galen Hinshaw heard the call over the radio. One of his fellow officers was in trouble.

A crowd of protesters had surrounded a police cruiser at the base of the Clark Memorial Bridge. The officer inside radioed for help as protesters — strobed in blue and red patrol car lights — banged on the car’s hood and windshield.

Hinshaw, a Fourth Division patrol officer and part of Louisville Metro Police Department’s Special Response Team, drove as close as he could to the scene. As he got out of his cruiser, he was immediately surrounded by protesters.

Some yelled profanities. Others balled their fists.

He made his way through the crowd wearing 40 extra pounds of safety gear — a baton, vest, helmet and body armor. He was alone.

As the crowd grew, Hinshaw detoured to the front of Bearno’s pizzeria so he could keep his back to the wall. He needed a place to stop and reassess the situation — to be sure that nobody could get behind him. He also needed to keep an eye on his trapped colleague.

Overhead, a police helicopter kept watch and occasionally flooded the intersection with a spotlight. Sirens pierced the air, and protesters chanted ever louder.

Hinshaw’s nearest help was still blocks away.

The crowd moved closer, and the yelling got angrier. Protesters hurled questions at him.

“Are you one of the good ones?”

“How do you think we feel?”

One women screamed, “All gas, no brakes!”

He tried to respond but was drowned out by the cacophony of sirens and yelling.  “We do care, man, we do care,” he said, trying to reason with the crowd.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry you feel this way,” Hinshaw yelled, trying to make his voice heard over the anger of the crowd. The 32-year-old was scared.  It was only going to take one person, and everyone would jump in, he knew.

The Special Response Team trains once a month, but that hadn’t quite prepared Hinshaw for what was in front of him. If the protesters decided to attack him, there were just too many of them. “Here we go,” he thought. “I’m preparing to be injured.”

Hinshaw kept his voice calm as he radioed in: “Charlie 12, this is a 10-30. We need help.” 10-30 is code for officer needs help. He watched people’s hands in the crowd, making sure nobody had a weapon and scanning for things thrown from protesters in the back.

It was at this moment that a man emerged from the crowd in a red University of Louisville mask covering the lower half of his face. He put himself between the closest protester and Hinshaw.

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The Courier Journal captured the moment in a photograph that has now been shared across the nation.

Local entrepreneur Darrin Lee Jr. spotted Hinshaw and the advancing crowd and linked arms with the stranger in the red mask.

“Once I saw the guy with the red mask step up, I said, ‘I gotta step up,’” said Lee, who also runs a child care center. “It was reactive. I just went.”

He had no idea what would happen next.

“I really thought at that moment, ‘Protect him. It really isn’t his fault.'” Lee said.

Lee was also worried that Hinshaw would react and hit him from behind, so he turned to reassure the officer that they were going to protect him.

“He was looking nervous and scared,” Lee said. “If he panicked, then there was gonna be a war out there.”

Suddenly, the protesters seemed to turn on Lee. One man who had marched with him for nearly the whole protest was surprised. Another shouted in Lee’s face: “How can you protect him!”

Lee got nervous.

Ultimately, five men formed a human shield to protect Hinshaw. All of them strangers to one another. Nobody knew the name of the man to his left or to his right. Three were black, one white, one Dominican — all linking arms to keep harm away from Hinshaw, himself half-Pakistani.

“A human was in trouble, and right is right,” said Ricky McClellan, a factory worker from Old Louisville who was locked onto Lee’s left arm.

After reaching the bridge and watching some protesters throwing rocks at police cars, McClellan spotted Hinshaw as he walked around the group and thought, “Whoa, you’re by yourself?”

McClellan watched as the crowd around Hinshaw grew larger and louder. Then he heard Lee yell, “Lock arms! Lock arms!”

That’s when Julian De La Cruz saw the men locking arms and jumped in.

“I saw the guys link up and I saw a weak spot,” De La Cruz said, and took up a position on the end of the line.

He was nervous, scared.

“Things could’ve gotten really bad,” he said. The entire scene lasted no more than two minutes. It felt much longer to those who were there.

Hinshaw’s squad arrived, and Lee escorted him back to his unit. Hinshaw thanked him.

For De La Cruz, a local businessman, the moment was about accountability. “If I can hold my brothers accountable, if I can march with my brothers and turn against them to say, ‘This isn’t right,’ that’s where the accountability comes in,” he said.

“In the end, that’s all that we are asking for,” said De La Cruz, whose uncle is a police officer. “What we need is for those great cops to hold their brothers and sisters accountable at all times.”

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As proud as De La Cruz is of that night, he shakes his head and says that this shouldn’t be an extraordinary event. “This should be the norm,” he said. De La Cruz also feels that media images of violence, vandalism and looting misrepresent Louisville and the protest.

“What happened that night with us linking arms was just one of many heroic acts that night,” he said.

He hopes that those are the moments that define Louisville.

That is Louisville,” De La Cruz said. “Louisville showed up that night.”

Lee agreed.

“Nobody knew anybody but we just stood up and did that,” he said. “If the officer was black we would’ve done the same thing. He’s somebody else’s son. He’s somebody else’s loved one.”

Hinshaw has reached out to the men through social media and texts. But he’s looking forward to meeting them all and thanking them in person.

George Timmering, co-owner of Bearno’s, said he’ll buy the pizza when they’re ready to meet.

“Those guys, they saved me,” Hinshaw said. “There’s no doubt about it. And I am beyond thankful. If it wasn’t for them intervening and recognizing that I was in trouble and helping me, I am sure that I would’ve been assaulted in one form or another.

“If they didn’t intervene, something was gonna happen to me.”

Hinshaw continues to be moved by the moment.

“I’ve cried over that incident,” he said. “It was a moment where strangers came together to help another stranger, and that stranger was me.”

 

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Breonna Taylor protests: Protesters protected lone Louisville officer

Coronavirus can damage your testicles without warning signs

The new coronavirus could cause damage to the testicles without actually infecting them, according to a joint study by researchers from China and the United States.

They found that the virus could enlarge and attack the cells that produce sperm, possibly by binding to an enzyme on the cell surface.

But the researchers said there were almost no viral genes found in the semen and testicular tissue of patient samples, suggesting it was not a sexually transmitted infection.

“Sperm donation or an impregnation plan could be considered during convalescence for Covid-19 patients,” the researchers concluded in a peer-reviewed paper published in European Urology Focus on Sunday.

There has been debate over the potential impact of the virus on male fertility since it was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Some research has detected male hormone abnormalities, but in other studies no trace of the virus has been found in patients’ sperm samples.

According to an earlier study in China, about one in five men reported “scrotal discomfort” after contracting the virus.

And in the US, the case of a 42-year-old man who sought emergency treatment for “constant stabbing pain that originated from his groin” and later tested positive for Covid-19 was reported in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine .

In the latest study, samples from 11 patients who died from Covid-19 in Wuhan were analysed by a team led by Ming Zhou, a professor with the Tufts Medical Centre in Boston, and Dr Nie Xiu, from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan.

They tested for viral genes in tissues involved in sperm and testosterone production, and some samples were also assessed for damage caused by the virus.

But only one sample showed a trace of the virus, from a patient with a high viral load. That result could have been because the virus was “present in blood rather than in testicular tissue”, the paper said.

However, more than 80 per cent of the samples showed significant damage to the seminiferous tubules – the part of the testicles where sperm is made.

The cells making up these tiny tubes underwent “ballooning changes”, becoming much bigger than healthy cells.

Some were also damaged to an extent that sperm production could have been affected, the researchers said.

They said it was unclear how the virus did this without entering the testicular cells but noted that the testicles contain an enzyme known as ACE2, which the coronavirus can bind to using a spike protein.

“We speculate that viral membrane proteins, such as the spike protein, may play a role in the injury,” the paper said.

Zhang Shuye, a principal investigator with the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre at Fudan University, who was not involved in the study, said there was growing support but “no direct scientific proof” for the theory that the virus could cause damage without actually entering a cell.

He used the ACE2 enzyme – which has important roles such as regulating blood pressure – as an example of how this could happen.

“A large number of viral strains can bind to ACE2 and can affect its normal function and [this could] lead to damage of certain cell types that depend on the enzyme,” Zhang said.

Damage found in the study samples could also have been caused by immune system malfunction, he added.

Some critically ill Covid-19 patients suffer from multiple organ failure, and previous research has suggested that this could be caused by a destructive immune system overreaction.

Based on their findings, Zhou’s team concluded that “studies should be undertaken to find ways to mitigate the risk of testicular injury during the Covid-19 disease course”.

Kanye West to train George Floyd’s daughter in college

Kanye West is reaching for his wallet in the aftermath of the George Floyd death. A rep said Thursday that he has started a 529 college savings fund to cover the future tuition of Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, reports TMZ.

West also has donated $2 million to charities associated with the families of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and has promised to cover legal costs for the Arbery and Taylor families, notes Variety.

Separately, he will begin helping black-owned businesses in his hometown of Chicago and other cities, according to the CNN.

It’s been nearly 10 days since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hand of a Minneapolis police officer, during which time massive protests against police violence have taken place across the country. But while tens of thousands have taken to the streets to express their anger at the systemic racism that has gripped the United States, the usually vocal Kanye West has been surprisingly quiet until today when the rapper revealed via a representative that he has donated $2 million so far to charities associated with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and has set up a college fund to cover tuition for Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter Gianna.

Along with former officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison with second-degree murder, in addition to the charge of third-degree murder filed last week, officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng were charged on Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Said Ellison at a press conference on Wednesday: “George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His family was important. His life had value, and we will seek justice for him and for you, and we will find it.”

Floyd died after being pinned down by the neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.

 

North Korea laughing at the United States

North Korea has taken note of the George Floyd protests, and it’s not exactly sending a note of support.

“Demonstrators enraged by the extreme racists throng even to the White House,” says a statement in one of the main state-run newspapers. “This is the reality in the US today.”

The context: The North says the US has no right to criticize China about human rights violations in Hong Kong when it’s threatening to “unleash dogs” on its own protesters, reports Reuters.

Pyongyang criticized Mike Pompeo in particular for his anti-China comments of late, saying he “has become too ignorant to discern where the sun rises and where it sets.” The meaning: The North is suggesting that America is on the wane (a setting sun) and being overtaken by China (a rising sun), according to the New York Times.

The North also made headlines on another front Thursday. Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, denounced as “human scum” North Korean defectors in the South who send balloons with anti-regime messages back over the border, reports the BBC. She said if the South didn’t stop the balloons, the North would end its agreement to operate a joint liaison office and to end border hostilities.

South Korea’s government said the balloons cause “tension” and promised to crack down, though the BBC talks to balloon launchers who say they have no intention of stopping.

“If the leaflets get blocked, then we will send drones,” says one. “They cannot stop us.”