Most Coronavirus Deaths in US Projected to Occur in Next Few Weeks  

Most Coronavirus Deaths in US Projected to Occur in Next Few Weeks  

The United States should be prepared to endure 100,000 to 240,000 deaths from the #COVID-19 coronavirus over the next two months even if Americans continue to keep their distance from each other. The peak number of deaths will come over the next two to three weeks, according to the White House coronavirus task force.  “Our country is in the midst of a great national trial unlike any we have faced before,” said U.S. President Donald Trump as the White House on Tuesday formally introduced its extended 30-day social-distancing guidelines based on statistical models.  “This is going to be one of the roughest two or three weeks we’ve ever had in our country,” Trump predicted.  For the most part, the two physicians on the podium with the president and Vice President Mike Pence administered the bitter medicine to the American public.  “This is a number we need to anticipate, but we don’t necessarily have to accept it as inevitable,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of the anticipated 100,000-plus fatalities.  Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, gestures to a chart as President Donald Trump listens as they speak about the coronavirus in the White House, March 31, 2020, in Washington.“There’s no magic bullet,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, an immunologist who is the response coordinator on the White House’s coronavirus task force. “There’s no magic vaccine or therapy,” just behaviors that can change the course of this viral pandemic.  More than 187,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Total deaths in the country from the disease has exceeded 3,800 (about one-fourth of those in New York City) eclipsing the reported number in China and in excess of the number of lives lost initially in the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.  The first COVID-19 case in the U.S. was reported in the Western state of Washington on Feb. 29. In this March 27, 2020, photo provided by Office of Governor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, walks the corridor of a nearly completed makeshift hospital erected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said the apex of his state’s battle against the disease is still 7 to 21 days out. During his daily briefing for the media, which aired live, for the most part, by the country’s three top cable TV news channels, Cuomo continued to express frustration with securing critical supplies for hospital intensive care units. He announced New York has put in an order from China for 17,000 ventilators at a cost of $25,000 each.  Cuomo said states and the federal government are all in competition to secure the breathing machines.  “It’s like being on eBay (an online auction site) with 50 other states bidding on a ventilator,” the governor said. “That’s literally what we’re doing.” Forcing states to compete for critically needed supplies, “doesn’t make sense,” Cuomo added.  About 10,000 ventilators in the federal government’s inventory need to be held back for an anticipated surge in different parts of the country, Trump said.  “We have a reserve right now. It’s like oil reserves, but more valuable,” the president explained.  The chairman of the National Governors’ Association, Larry Hogan of Maryland, told CNN on Tuesday that his counterparts are pushing the federal government to coordinate purchases of scarce items for medical facilities so that states are not competing against each other.  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, walks the practice courts with officials at the USTA Indoor Training Center where a 350-bed temporary hospital will be built March 31, 2020, in New York.Hours later, the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio said he needs an answer “right now” on a request that had been made to the White House for relief medical staff, including 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists and 150 physicians.   In the afternoon, before the briefing, Trump spoke on the phone with nine executives of top network service providers to thank the companies “for their tireless work to keep Americans connected during this time of social distancing,” said White House spokesman, Judd Deere. “The president thanked these leaders for not only rising to the increased demand but extending services to all Americans at no additional cost and for waiving bills and late fees for those experiencing financial hardship.”  In recent days, the president has adopted a more somber tone about the overall human toll that is going to be caused by the coronavirus in the country. Earlier he had brushed off the disease as nothing worse than the annual waves of influenza and stated, “the cure can’t be worse than the disease,” suggesting he would relax now-extended restrictions so the economy would not be more severely crippled. The president has now pivoted from leaning toward the advice of some on his economic team who advocated loosening the social distancing restrictions to the public health officials – and members of his reelection team – with dire warnings.  Trump this week began publicly warning of the worst-case scenario of more than 2 million Americans dying of the virus if people returned to work and school prematurely. On Tuesday, Trump also suggested a fourth phase spending bill by Congress that would total $2.2 trillion (a similar price tag that was on the third phase), but this legislation, he said, would focus solely on jobs and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.  “We have a strong dollar. People want to invest in the United States” so “this would be a great time to borrow money at a zero interest rate” to fund fixing roads, highways, tunnels and bridges, Trump said. Democratic congressional leaders have also started work on potential programs for a fourth phase bill, including infrastructure efforts that would put people to work, more money for unemployment benefits and more help for hospitals. Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have been cooler to the idea of more action now.  McConnell said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show Tuesday, “Let’s see how things are going and respond accordingly.” 

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US Military Furloughs Thousands of South Korean Workers

Thousands of South Korean workers on U.S. bases were placed on unpaid leave Wednesday, after the United States and South Korea failed to reach a deal on how to split the cost of the U.S. military presence here.  Through seven rounds of talks, South Korea has refused the Trump administration’s demand to massively increase its contribution toward the approximately 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. The latest cost-sharing deal expired at the end of the year, but the U.S. had been covering the salaries of Korean employees with funds that ran out this week.  Starting Wednesday, about 4,000 Korean civilian employees, who work in areas such as logistics and administration, will be indefinitely furloughed. The U.S. will temporarily cover the salaries of about 4,500 others whose duties are considered essential, U.S. officials said.  The cost-sharing dispute has caused unusual friction in the 70-year-old alliance that both sides regularly refer to as “ironclad.” The friction is especially ill-timed, coming as the U.S. military fights off the coronavirus and as North Korea test-fires a record number of short-range missiles. During a last-minute push to reach a deal, the head South Korean negotiator, Jeong Eun-bo, said the two sides had reached the “final stages for sealing a deal,” but called the furloughs “regrettable.”FILE – Amphibious assault vehicles of the South Korean Marine Corps travel during a military exercise as a part of the annual joint military training called Foal Eagle between South Korea and the U.S. in Pohang, South Korea, April 5, 2018.“This is an unfortunate day for us. It’s unthinkable. It’s heartbreaking. The partial furlough of [Korean National] employees is not what we envisioned or hoped what would happen,” said General Robert Abrams, the top U.S. commander in Korea. “The furlough is in no way a reflection of their performance, dedication or conduct, but rather due to a lack of a burden sharing agreement making programmed funds unavailable,” Abrams said.  U.S. President Donald Trump has demanded South Korea pay up to $5 billion to support the U.S. military presence — or about five times the amount Seoul paid in 2019. Local media reports suggest the U.S. had recently lowered its demand to $4 billion. Trump accuses South Korea of taking advantage of U.S. protection. He has at times hinted he would support pulling troops from South Korea. At other times, he denies a withdrawal has been discussed.  South Korean officials have rejected Trump’s cost-sharing demands as absurd, noting that any deal will have to be reasonable, since it will have to be ratified by South Korea’s parliament. The issue could become even more politically sensitive ahead of South Korea’s legislative election this month. South Korean officials have warned that the furloughs could impact military readiness.  Camp Humphreys, the main U.S. base in South Korea, is already in partial lockdown after more than a dozen service members, contractors, and other individuals related to the U.S. military in South Korea tested positive for the coronavirus. 

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За півдоби в Україні виявили ще 24 хворих на COVID-19, загальне число – 669

За півдоби, від 22:00 31 березня до 10:00 1 квітня, в Україні зафіксовано 24 нових випадки захворювання на коронавірусну інфекцію, свідчать дані Центру громадського здоров’я МОЗ України. Всього тепер є 669 хворих на COVID-19,

Увечері 31 березня йшлося про 645 випадків, рівно добу тому, о 10:00 31 березня, було виявлено 549 хворих.

 

Померли в Україні 17 людей, одужали – 10.

Як і раніше, жодного випадку захворювання не зафіксовано в Миколаївській області, найбільше хворих – у Києві (134). Також значна кількість інфікованих у Чернівецькій (104), Тернопільській (98), Івано-Франківській (64), Київській (57), Черкаській (52) та Вінницькій (49) областях.

Загалом у світі, за даними Університету Джона Гопкінса (США), нараховується майже 861 тисяча хворих. Із них померли 42 тисячі 354, одужали – понад 178 тисяч. Лідерами за кількістю інфікованих є США (майже 190 тисяч), Італія (майже 106 тисяч), Іспанія (майже 96 тисяч), Китай (понад 82 тисяч) та Німеччина (майже 72 тисячі).

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МВС більше не дасть згоди на жоден чартерний рейс – Аваков

Міністерство внутрішніх справ більше не дасть згоди на здійснення чартерних авіаперельотів для повернення громадян України з-за кордону під час карантину, заявив міністр Арсен Аваков.

«Пасажирське авіасполучення – закрите. Винятки будуть рідкісні і тільки окремим рішенням – зі 100% обсервацією під контролем санітарних лікарів з подальшим тестом ПЛР. Тільки так – і не потрібно прокльонів, що мені надсилають з-за кордону – заради безпеки мільйонів – ми підемо на незручності для кількох тисяч», – написав Аваков у фейсбуці в ніч на 1 квітня.

Він додав, що такого висновку дійшов після «авіа-чартерної істерії й інцидентів», що сталися впродовж останніх днів.

 

За словами голови МВС, тим людям, що зараз перебувають на обсервації в київських готелях 1 і 2 квітня зроблять ПЛР-тест. «За фактом результату тесту – якщо ураження вірусом не виявлено – поліція розвезе кожного по домівках під жорстке зобов’язання з жорсткою домашньої ізоляцією і контролем з боку поліції і санітарних лікарів. Непокора – санкція ст. 325 КПК», – написав Аваков.

За його словами, всіх пасажирів, які втекли від обсервації, чекають штрафи. У разі виявлення у них коронавірусу – їм загрожує кримінальна відповідальність.

 

«Ті, хто втік з автобусів і ухилився від обсервації на цей момент – уже отримали адміністративні протоколи або будуть піддані цій санкції (всі громадяни встановлені) – санкція: штраф до 17 000 гривень. Якщо у когось із пасажирів рейсу буде виявлений вірус – поліція ухвалить рішення про висунення звинувачень у відповідності зі ст. 325 – аж до арешту й утримання під вартою до 3-х років», – заявив міністр.

За даними Авакова, більшість пасажирів рейсу, які повернулся нещодавно з Балі, виїхали туди вже після того, як в Україні запровадили карантин.

«13 березня президент Зеленський звернувся до українців повернутися в країну, в зв’язку з епідемією … а тут дивлюся (дані прикордонслужби – ред.) – кожен третій, хто повернувся вчора на цьому скандальному спеціально організованому рейсі … полетіли з країни на Балі .. 13, 14, 15 березня. Тобто наплювали на попередження та прохання повернутися (не їхати)», – написав міністр.

 

Згідно з рішенням уряду, ті, хто приїжджає з-за кордону, має проходити обов’язкову обсервацію (це не самоізоляція у власних домівках, а перебування усіх осіб, що повернулися з однієї країни в одному місці).

30 березня готель «Козацький», який належить Міністерству оборони України, розмістив у себе на 14 днів 100 громадян, які прибули з Балі та Катару.

 

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Controversial French Doctor Sparks Hope, Criticism for Coronavirus Research

Fellow scientists question his findings, but an unlikely mix of supporters — from French yellow vest protesters to U.S. President Donald Trump — are cheering their promise.Last month, French immunology specialist Didier Raoult had no Twitter account. Now, he has more than a quarter-million followers, and counting.   The 68-year-old French physician has emerged as one of France’s most publicized and polarizing figures of these coronavirus times, since claiming his research shows an anti-malarial drug can help fight COVID-19.   Outside the Marseille university hospital where he works, a long line of sick and frightened people waits to be tested each day for COVID-19.   The sick may receive a much-hyped experimental treatment — a mix of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and antibiotic azithromycin that have starred in a pair of quick, small-scale studies that Raoult conducted, and were published this month. Together, the studies show the “efficacy” of the anti-malarial drug in fighting the virus, Raoult and his research team claim, and the synergetic effects of adding the antibiotic.  “He’s a visionary,” Renaud Muselier, head of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region and a friend of Raoult, told the weekly Le Journal du Dimanche. “That’s what makes his strength today.”   But critics say Raoult’s team did not follow rigorous procedures, had no control group, and drew their results based on too few people, among other failings.   “The methodology is fragile, the results are forced, one doesn’t give people hope based on approximate trials,” Gilles Pialoux, infectious diseases head of Paris-based Tenon Hospital, told BFMTV.     A few years ago, Raoult grew his white-blond hair long — adding a mustache and beard —just to annoy the establishment, he is reported as saying. No stranger to controversy Raoult, who heads the infectious diseases department of La Timone Hospital in Marseille, is no stranger to controversy — or applause. Born in Dakar, Senegal, he dropped out of high school in his junior year and spent a couple of years in the French merchant marines before heading to medical school. A few years ago, he grew his white-blond hair long — adding a mustache and beard —just to annoy the establishment, he is reported as saying.  His award-winning research includes discovering giant viruses and new bacteria. He has published prodigiously, although his massive output has sparked skepticism about its rigor.   Raoult has also questioned climate change. In January, he initially dismissed the first coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan as overblown.   And while he has been added to the government coronavirus team of health experts, he has reportedly distanced himself from it, failing to attend recent meetings. “I don’t care what others think of me,” he told La Provence newspaper. “I’m not an outsider. I’m the one who is the most advanced.”   After Raoult’s first coronavirus findings were published mid-March in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, Trump tweeted that the two-drug combination he tested could become “the biggest game changers” in medical history.  France and the United States have since authorized limited, emergency use of hydroxychloroquine and related compound chloroquine in treating the most serious COVID-19 cases. On Monday, the French food safety agency warned of potentially dangerous side effects.   But the public has dismissed such strictures. Pharmacies report a rush for Plaquenil, the brand name of hydroxychloroquine, which has worried lupus and other patients who have long depended on it.   Local hero  New and larger experimental studies are now under way in Europe and the United States to see if Raoult’s findings, among others, can be replicated on a bigger scale.   In the meantime, he has vaulted to near rock star status. His wide spectrum of supporters includes controversial French comedian Dieudonne, far-right adherents, ex-soccer champion Eric Cantona and several prominent politicians, some of whom took Raoult’s experimental treatment after contracting COVID-19.   “Bravo to @raoult didier and his team,” tweeted Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi. “I’m proud to have fought beside him.”   But a raft of medical experts is less enthusiastic, questioning the credibility of Raoult’s studies, the first of which involved just 20 patients.   “No, ‘not huge’ I’m afraid,” tweeted Francois Balloux of University College in London, in response to the results of Raoult’s second study involving 80 patients.   Released Friday, the study claimed that most of the patients treated with the combination drug had favorable outcomes.   But Balloux noted that those who had tested presented mild symptoms of coronavirus and likely would have recovered anyway.

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HRW: Ankara Denying Water to Syrian Kurds as Coronavirus Escalates

Turkey is being accused of “weaponizing” water against Syrian Kurds amid the coronavirus epidemic. Ankara is dismissing the accusation, however, as a “smear campaign.”  U.S.-based Human Rights Watch warned Tuesday that “Turkish authorities’ failure to ensure adequate water supplies to Kurdish-held areas in northeast Syria is compromising humanitarian agencies’ ability to prepare and protect vulnerable communities in the COVID-19 pandemic.”   The key Allouk water-pumping station is at the center of the controversy. HRW says that through March, the station worked only intermittently and now is closed again.  Syrian forces backed by Ankara operate the water station that serves territory held by the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, which is designated as terrorists by Ankara.In October, Syrian rebels backed by Turkish forces launched an offensive against the YPG, taking control of a large swathe of territory. Ankara claims the Kurdish militia is affiliated with the PKK, which is fighting a decade’s long insurgency inside Turkey for greater minority rights.  A Syrian girl fills a jug with water in Washukanni camp, on Dec. 16, 2019, which was recently established on the outskirts of Hasakeh city for people displaced from the northeastern Syrian town of Ras Al-Ain.”Turkey and Turkish-backed factions are in control of the area where the Allouk pumping station is. Before they took control, we hadn’t seen any interruption in the water supply,” said Sara Kayyali, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Syria. “What we’ve seen by the closure of the pumping station is an attempt to weaponize, to use water as a weapon to get more out of the Syrian Kurdish lead authority, as well as the Syrian authorities,” said Kayyali.  HRW warns the pumping station is of critical importance to hundreds of thousands of people.  “The water pumping station supplies clean drinking water to the most vulnerable refugee camps in the region,” said Kayyali.  “There are tens of thousands of Syrians and foreigners who are already living in dire humanitarian conditions. If you stop pumping water to these regions and coronavirus comes in, it will become an absolute disaster,” she said.  “Fortunately, until now, we don’t have any corona cases, because we acted very quickly, by closing all the borders,” said Dr. Raperin Hasan, co-chair of regional Health Authority in Jazira, an autonomous region of northern and eastern Syria.  But Hasan warns, with the region hosting several large refugee camps, the loss of the Allouk water station means they are still facing a humanitarian crisis.   “We now have hundreds of thousand people living together closely without water. They have only a small quantity of water every three days,” said Hasan.  “We are trying to bring water from other places by truck, but there is only a very small quantity. It’s not working, as there are so many people, and the water quality is not the same as if it comes piped in,” she said.  “We already have a lot of diseases — diarrhea, stomach problems, and skin diseases,” she added. “But our biggest fear is the coronavirus. Because there is no water to wash their hands, and they have the same problem in Hasakah [a local city].”  A woman carries jerry cans to fill them up with water at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp for the displaced where families of Islamic State (IS) foreign fighters are held, in the al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria on Dec. 9, 2019.Personal hygiene, particularly regularly washing hands, according to experts, is one of the main ways of controlling the spread of the virus.  Ankara is blaming Damascus for failing to provide adequate electricity for the pumping station.  “The unstable electricity supply in the region affects the sustainment of water services provided by the Allouk water station,” according to a Turkish official speaking on the condition of anonymity.  “The Assad regime should prioritize repair and maintenance of the electricity infrastructure in the region rather than initiating a joint smear campaign against Turkey with the terrorist organization PKK-YPG, its long-time partner.”  HRW’s Kayyali disputes Ankara’s explanation. “It’s not that there’s not enough electricity; it’s just they [Ankara] want the electricity for rest of the region they control,” she added.  “Turkey had never used water as a weapon in the region, even when the Syrian regime was hosting the terrorist leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan,” said international relations professor Huseyin Bagci, of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.  “But if Ankara was to use water to squeeze the Syrian Kurds, that would be against international law and will create major problems for Turkey internationally,” he said.  “I think the situation is more likely a failure of all sides to work together, Damascus, Russia, Syrian Kurds, and Turkey. They all need to sit down talk together to resolve this, as it’s the most vulnerable who are suffering,” Bagci added.  Hasan concurs, warning that the water crisis comes as they are engaged in a desperate struggle to prepare for combating the coronavirus pandemic.   
   
“Our health care system is very, very weak. We don’t have supplies. We don’t have major hospitals. It’s a very big problem. We don’t have any international support. We don’t even have masks,” said Hasan.  “The coronavirus represents a threat to all of us,” said Kayyali. “It will be very easy to see how a failure to respond in one part of Syria will defiantly lead to consequences in areas of Syria controlled by other groups, but also in Turkey itself given it’s a neighboring country. It’s very clear, if we don’t fight coronavirus collectively and do what we can, we are all going to suffer the consequences.”  

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Scotland Increases Spending on Women’s Crisis Programs

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced an appropriation of $1.8 million Tuesday for Scottish women’s aid and rape crisis programs, noting coronavirus-mandated isolation can put domestic abuse victims at greater risk.Speaking to reporters Tuesday in the capital, Edinburgh, Sturgeon said the new funding will ensure access to support services by women and children who find themselves more isolated and vulnerable during the current crisis.Sturgeon also announced a total of 1,993 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Scotland as of Tuesday, up 430 from the previous day. She noted 108 of those cases came from one laboratory that had been unable to report its data from the weekend. She said the spike also reflects a greater capacity for testing in the country.The first minister also reported 13 additional deaths from the coronavirus since Wednesday, raising the total number of fatalities in Scotland to 60. 

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Прикордонники очікують перед Великоднем до 200 тисяч українців

Напередодні Великодня в Україну може повернутися близько 200 тисяч українців. Про це в ефірі телеканалу «1+1» 31 березня заявив голова Державної прикордонної служби Сергій Дейнеко.

Він додав, з 16 березня усіма напрямками в Україну повернулися близько 160 тисяч громадян.

«Сьогодні нами зафіксовано такий собі антирекорд – за добу перетнуло кордон всього-на-всього 10 тисяч громадян. Якщо в літній час, в сезон відпусток таких громадян буває 250-300 тисяч осіб на добу», – зазначив Дейнеко.

За даними МЗС, додав глава ДПСУ, ще близько 17 тисяч громадян заявили про мають намір повернутися на територію Україну.

 

Згідно з рішенням уряду, ті, хто приїжджає з-за кордону, має проходити обов’язкову обсервацію (це не самоізоляція у власних домівках, а перебування усіх осіб, що повернулися з однієї країни в одному місці).

30 березня готель «Козацький», який належить Міністерству оборони України, розмістив у себе на 14 днів 100 громадян, які прибули з Балі та Катару.

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«Марш на Крим» перенесли через пандемію COVID-19 – Чубаров

«Марш на Крим» перенесли на невизначений час через пандемію COVID-19. Про це повідомив глава Меджлісу кримськотатарського народу Рефат Чубаров.

«Штаб міжнародної ненасильницької акції «Світ проти насильства і окупації. Марш гідності» – організованої пішої ходи з території материкової України на територію тимчасово окупованого Російською Федерацією Криму – оголошує про перенесення дати її проведення, раніше призначеної на 3 травня 2020 року. При цьому нова дата проведення міжнародної ненасильницької акції «Світ проти насильства і окупації. Марш гідності» буде визначена з урахуванням епідеміологічної ситуації в Україні», – мовиться у повідомленні.

Чубаров запевнив, що штаб продовжить підготовку до акції у «режимі віддаленого спілкування та у форматі локальних зустрічей».

22 січня Голова Меджлісу кримськотатарського народу Рефат Чубаров повідомив, що 2 травня цього року кримські татари планують масово перетнути адмінкордон із анексованим Кримом в пункті пропуску «Чонгар».

6 грудня 2019 року Рефат Чубаров анонсував підготовку і проведення ходи з материкової частини України до анексованого Росією Криму. За словами голови Меджлісу, організатори мають намір також звернутися до низки країн і міжнародних організацій, щоб вони взяли участь в марші. Чубаров додав, що вже створено штаб, склад якого назвуть після консультацій, а дата акції буде відома пізніше, бо підготовка «може зайняти не один і не два місяці».

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Could COVID-19 Spread Unchecked in US Prisons?

The death of a U.S. prisoner in the state of Louisiana is amplifying concerns that COVID-19 could spread unchecked in America’s detention facilities that hold more than two million people nationwide. Health officials and local leaders warn the prison population is especially vulnerable to an outbreak, and that hospitals near prisons would be overwhelmed by any inmate epidemic. VOA’s Chris Simkins reports, some prisons are taking steps in hopes of lessening a looming crisis.

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Greece Blocks Iranian From Plotting to Arm Asylum Seekers

In Greece, the case of an Iranian migrant now jailed on charges of inciting an insurrection is highlighting the Greek government’s rising concerns about a flare-up of clashes involving migrants along Greece’s border with Turkey. Greek authorities say the Iranian man — a self-described anarchist — was urging groups in Greece to arm asylum seekers trying to enter Europe from Turkey. The man, if convicted, faces a stiff sentence of up to ten years in prison.Greek counter-terrorism forces say they arrested the 23-year-old Iranian national in central Athens after he posted a call for an armed insurrection on a website that is often visited by homegrown extremists and urban guerrilla groupings.Authorities say the unidentified man describes himself as a migrant anarchist and they say he has not denied the criminal charges set against him — among the stiffest slapped on a migrant in recent years.
 
Greek intelligence officials say Greece granted the man political asylum three years ago and that he has since then established a militant profile, linking up with a far-left extremist group in Greece.
 
Left-wing groups in Greece have long supported asylum seekers, advocating their safe passage — and their right to stay in Europe. But in his online calling, the Iranian went a step further, urging anarchists to help arm migrants, take to the streets and renew clashes with authorities in northern Greece to help tens of thousands trapped in Turkey stream in to Europe.
 
Authorities in Athens say they have not established links between that plot and Turkey.
 
But the Iranian’s arrest here and the severity of the charges laid against him underscore Greece’s desperate bid to stamp out any potential flare up of migrant clashes along the country’s borders with Turkey.
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flung open the borders to migrants heading for Europe in late February after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in an air raid in Syria. FILE – Migrants walk in Edirne at the Turkish-Greek border, March 9, 2020.Turkey last week said it moved 5,800 migrants away from the border crossing at Edirne province where they had been massing, citing concerns over the threat of coronavirus.  The move was interpreted by some in Greece as a reversal by Ankara. But Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told an independent broadcaster the move did not represent a policy change.
 
“Once the COVID-19 crisis is over, the Turkish government will not block migrants from returning to the border,” he said. Although Greek authorities have not established a link between the Iranian migrant and the Turkish government, they worry about how Ankara may use the nearly four million Syrian refugees now inside Greece.
Ioannis Mazis, an international relations analyst in Athens, said Greece has already seen Turkey using tens of thousands of migrants as pawns in the recent border clashes. He said the Turkish government has even admitted that it has orchestrated much of the border violence. So, threats of further clashes should not be underestimated, Mazis added.
 
By some accounts, as many 150,000 migrants and refugee tried to push into Europe last month. Greece says it succeeded in fending off more than 50,000, while many others managed to sneak in.  
 
  

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Hungary’s PM Wins Emergency Powers to Fight Coronavirus

Hungary’s parliament granted nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule by decree on Monday to fight the coronavirus, ignoring calls by opponents and rights groups to put a timeframe on the extra powers.
 
President Janos Ader, an Orban ally, signed the legislation extending a state of emergency after it was approved by parliament, dominated by Orban’s Fidesz party. Ader said it was in line with international treaties and Hungary’s constitution.
 
The law has triggered criticism from opposition parties, rights groups and the Council of Europe, Europe’s main rights forum, because it does not set a specific limit on the time the additional powers will be in force.
 
It also imposes jail terms of up to five years on those hindering measures to curb the spread of the virus or spreading false information that could upset people or hinder the fight against the virus.
 
Rights groups said this might be used to muzzle journalists as remaining independent media are forced to cut staff and budgets while media loyal to the government continue to receive taxpayers’ money.
 
Since he took power in 2010, Orban has built media he can control, using legal levers, ownership changes and advertising money for more loyal media coverage. The economic impact of the coronavirus could accelerate the shake-up of the media, journalists say.
 
The government has rejected the criticism, saying the law empowers it to adopt only measures needed to fight the virus, and that parliament can revoke the special powers.
 
“This is an authorization limited both in time and scope … as it is solely related to the coronavirus, and you are crying a dictatorship,” state secretary Bence Retvari told opposition parties before the vote.
 
Justice Minister Judit Varga said it was “very damaging fake news” that the law is intended to neutralize the national assembly.
 
Orban, who has gradually increased his power in a decade in office, has often been in conflict with the European Union and rights organizations over his perceived erosion of democratic checks and balances and the rule of law.
 
Opposition lawmakers said they back the government’s overall fight against the coronavirus but wanted a time limit placed on the government’s special powers, which parliament can extend if necessary. Parliament rejected all opposition amendments.
 
President Ader said the government’s special authorization would end once the epidemic is over and was limited to dealing with the epidemic and its fallout.
 
“The controlling role of Parliament and the government’s duty to report will remain in place during the epidemic,” Ader said. Hungary has reported 447 coronavirus cases and 15 deaths.
  Independent Media at Risk
 
Some media companies, facing severe short-term liquidity problems, have already scrapped plans for 2020.
 
Central Media, one of Hungary’s largest media groups, has put journalists on reduced hours and cut salaries by up to a quarter, several sources told Reuters.
 
Pesti Hirlap, a tabloid, has told staff it will cut jobs and switched to online-only mode. Executives at HVG, a weekly that also runs a popular web site, warned staff of budget cuts, according to several sources.
 
“Press freedom could fall victim to the coronavirus,” Miklos Hargitai, chair of the Hungarian Journalists Association (MUOSZ), told Reuters.
 
State media have an annual budget of around 90 billion forints ($280 million). The public media budget is not affected by the crisis this year, a government spokesman said.
 
Loyal outlets receive state advertisements regardless of their audience size, data shows.
 
“The coronavirus epidemic will have a devastating effect on Hungarian independent media,” said Agnes Urban, director of the Mertek Media Monitor think tank. “This can become critical for independent outlets within 2-3 months as most lack a rich owner.” 

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