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Justice Minister Hurt; Elderly Worker Dies: Hong Kong Update

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(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping called an end to violence Hong Kong’s “most urgent task,” as a scuffle involving the city’s justice minister and the second protest-related death in a week heightened tensions in the paralyzed financial center.The rare comments by Xi during a visit to Brazil on Thursday came as the U.S. Senate moved to expedite passage of legislation that would support Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. Earlier, a 70-year-old government contract worker who was struck during a brick-hurling fight between protesters and their opponents died of his injuries.The protests, which have raged for more than five months, flared anew last week after the death of student who fell near a police operation to clear a demonstration. A campaign to disrupt traffic has led to the shooting of a protester and citywide school cancellations, while Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government has denied reports of a plan to institute an unprecedented curfew in a bid to quell unrest.Key developments:Hong Kong justice minister hurt in LondonXi urges immediate end to violenceGovernment worker dies, 15-year-old still in hospitalSome trains services remain suspended U.S. Senate vows quick vote on Hong Kong legislationHong Kong’s government dismisses curfew speculationHere’s the latest (all times local):Hurt 15-year-old still in hospital (8:56 a.m.)A 15-year-old boy who suffered a head injury from what local media said may have been a tear gas canister was still in Tuen Mun Hospital, the Hospital Authority said. The agency said the boy’s family asked that details of his condition — which was originally listed as critical — not be disclosed.Six people, ages 17 to 62, had been admitted to various hospitals for treatment for protest-related injuries overnight and this morning as of 7:30 a.m. All are in stable condition. The man shot by police in Sai Wan Ho on Monday is now in stable condition in Eastern Hospital. A man set on fire during an argument with protesters on the same day was still in critical condition at Prince of Wales Hospital. Group blames government for death (7:32 a.m.) A group of anonymous protesters that has occasionally spoken for the leaderless movement expressed “deepest condolences” for the death of a 70-year-old government worker Thursday, but blamed the incident on “police brutality” and government intransigence. “The HKSAR Government must concede to the Five Demands, and return to the table of politics to solve conflicts by political means,” the so-called Citizens’ Press Conference said in a statement Friday. Meanwhile, another protester group at the Chinese University of Hong Kong offered to remove barricades from the Tolo Highway in exchange for a government pledge to follow through with plans for District Council elections on Nov. 24, according to Radio Television Hong Kong. Students had already reopened one lane in each direction, the South China Morning Post said.Some trains still suspended (5:55 a.m.)Service between Fo Tan and Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau on the East Rail Line are suspended due to vandalism, railway operator the MTR Corp. said Friday. Trains between Hung Hom and Fo Tan on the same line are running every five minutes. Stations at Mong Kok, Tseung Kwan O, Sai Wan Ho, Tuen Mun and Tung Chung also remain shut.Justice secretary ‘attacked’ (3:47 a.m.)Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng condemned what her office said was an attack by a “violent mob” that caused her “serious bodily harm” Thursday while she was on an official visit to London. Cheng fell and hurt her arm after being surrounded by a group of about 30 protesters, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.“The secretary denounces all forms of violence and radicalism depriving others’ legitimate rights in the pretext of pursuing their political ideals, which would never be in the interest of Hong Kong and any civilized society,” Cheng’s office said in a statement.Agency ‘saddened’ by death (2:21 a.m.)Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department confirmed that one of its contract workers had died Thursday from a head injury, expressing “profound sadness” over his death. The elderly worker “was suspected to be hit in his head by hard objects hurled by rioters during his lunch break,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it would provide assistance to the victim’s family.The government vowed to “make every effort to investigate the case to bring offenders to justice.”U.S. Senate advances bill (12:41 a.m.)The U.S. Senate is preparing for quick passage of legislation that would support pro-democracy protesters by placing Hong Kong’s special trading status with the U.S. under annual review. The Senate will run the “hotline” on the bill, which is an expedited process to check for last-minute opposition to bringing legislation immediately to a vote, according to Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.The Senate legislation is different than a version passed earlier by the House of Representatives. That means the two bills would have to be reconciled and passed by both chambers before going to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.Man dies from head injury (11:45 p.m. Thursday)A 70-year-old man who suffered a head injury Wednesday has died, Ming Pao reported, citing the hospital. The case will be investigated by the coroner. He was hit by what appeared to be a brick thrown by protesters, according to the government and police.Separately, a 15-year-old boy underwent brain surgery after sustaining a head injury from what may have been a tear gas canister, local news organization RTHK reported.Xi seeks end to violence (10:25 p.m. Thursday)Xi, currently on a visit to Brazil, said “continuing radical violent crimes in Hong Kong have seriously trampled on the rule of law and social order, seriously undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and seriously challenged the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” state broadcaster China Central Television reported in a social media post.“Stopping the violence and restoring order is Hong Kong’s most urgent task at present,” Xi said, reiterating support for Lam. “We will continue to firmly support the chief executive to lead the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in accordance with the law, firmly support the Hong Kong Police in law enforcement, and firmly support the Hong Kong judiciary in punishing violent criminals.”Government dismisses curfew talk (7:55 p.m. Thursday)“Rumors” that authorities were planning to implement a curfew over the weekend are “totally unfounded,” Hong Kong’s government said in a statement, following rising speculation after Lam’s late-night meeting with top officials on Wednesday.\–With assistance from Erin Roman, Daniel Flatley, Iain Marlow and Colin Keatinge.To contact the reporters on this story: Fion Li in Hong Kong at fli59@bloomberg.net;Dandan Li in Beijing at dli395@bloomberg.net;Daniel Flatley in Washington at dflatley1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Jon HerskovitzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Roger Stone has escaped punishment for his crimes. Trump is sending a signal

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By commuting Stone’s sentence, Trump is telling others who might commit crimes on his behalf that he’s got their back At America’s birth, when delegates in Virginia were debating whether to ratify the constitution, a politician called George Mason had an objection. Mason, who was influential over the development of the bill of rights, wondered whether the presidential pardon power was too broad. Might not the president encourage people who worked for him to commit crimes, and then pardon them? If he could, there would be essentially no check on a president’s power to break the law. Given that sort of leeway, an unscrupulous president could “establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic”.Mason’s objection ought to concern us still today. Late on Friday, Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, all but guaranteeing that Stone will never face justice for crimes he committed while obstructing an investigation into the Trump campaign’s links with WikiLeaks and the Russian intelligence agencies who attempted to tip the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. Backlash to the decision has been swift, with Trump’s fellow Republican Mitt Romney condemning the president’s “unprecedented, historic corruption”.It is not quite true to say that there is no precedent for Trump’s act. As Mason foresaw, executive clemency has been misused by presidents throughout American history. George HW Bush pardoned six officials who had been involved in the Iran-Contra scandal – an act which may have been intended to cover up his own wrongdoing. George W Bush commuted the prison sentence of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who obstructed a federal investigation into the illegal outing of a CIA operative who was critical of the Bush administration.This history doesn’t make Trump’s actions any less troubling. In fact, by revealing how little restraint there is on the use of executive clemency, it ought to make us worry how much further the president – whose disregard for political and constitutional norms truly is without precedent – might go in the future.Most presidents issue their most controversial pardons furtively, at the end of their terms in office. But Trump has reveled in his ability to toss aside the principle of the rule of law when it comes to his own allies. In 2017 he pardoned the former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had violated the constitutional rights of countless Arizonans. During the Mueller investigation – which exposed evidence that Trump himself may have committed obstruction of justice, a crime for which he could still be charged after leaving office – the president issued a full pardon to Libby, seemingly with the sole purpose of sending the message that he would forgive those – like Stone – who committed obstruction to protect himself.A president who is willing to use executive clemency to forgive violations of constitutional rights and protect himself from the rule of law could become, as Mason foresaw, a monarch. At the Virginia ratifying convention, James Madison replied to Mason that such a president would surely face impeachment. But today’s Republican party has made it clear that it will protect Trump from impeachment even in the face of overwhelming evidence of his abuses of power. Instead, by refusing to convict, they licensed Trump to double down.As America moves towards an election which Trump looks on course to lose, he is likely to become even less inhibited. The issuing of pardons and commutations for crimes already committed might pale in comparison with crimes yet to come. Trump could seek, once again, to sway the outcome of the election, promising pardons to his co-conspirators. He could order, as he did outside the White House, security forces to be used to disperse protesters who came into the streets in response, then issue pardons for any crimes tried by court martial or in Washington DC’s highest court.The fact that Trump has rarely shown the focus, intelligence or competence necessary to pull off such a conspiracy is little comfort. What he lacks in these qualities he makes up for in brazenness, in loyal subordinates equally willing to subvert the rule of law, and in the possession of a compliant conservative politico-media apparatus that will rationalize any action he takes. He could do incalculable damage to confidence in American democracy and the rule of law before he is finally wrested from the White House.In this sense, Roger Stone is the canary in the coal mine. Trump’s ability and willingness to commute his sentence is a reminder that for all its genius, the American founding left behind a structure which can be exploited and abused by an unscrupulous president. As we live through what are hopefully the dying days of the presidency of the most unscrupulous of them all, we have to remain on our guard. Partly because of his fears over the pardon power, George Mason ultimately became one of only three of the framers of the constitution to refuse to sign the final document, believing it created a blueprint for tyranny. Proving him wrong requires constant vigilance, now and in the future. * Andrew Gawthorpe is a historian of the United States at Leiden University



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Coronavirus Cases Spike in South Africa and India, Exposing Inequalities in Virus Treatment

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have doubled in just two weeks to a quarter-million, and India on Saturday saw its biggest daily spike as its infections passed 800,000. The surging cases are raising sharp concerns about unequal treatment in the pandemic, as the wealthy hoard medical equipment and use private hospitals and the poor crowd into overwhelmed public facilities.

Globally more than 12.5 million people have been infected by the virus and over 560,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the pandemic’s true toll is much higher due to testing shortages, poor data collection in some nations and other issues.

Some of the worst-affected countries are among the world’s most unequal. South Africa leads them all on that measure, with the pandemic exposing the gap in care.

In Johannesburg, the epicenter of South Africa’s outbreak, badly needed oxygen concentrators that help COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe are hard to find as private businesses and individuals are buying them up, a public health specialist volunteering at a field hospital, Lynne Wilkinson, told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s public hospitals are short on medical oxygen — and they are now seeing a higher proportion of deaths than private ones, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases says.

South Africa now has more than 250,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including more than 3,800 deaths. To complicate matters, the country’s troubled power utility has announced new electricity cuts in the dead of winter as a cold front brings freezing weather. Many of the country’s urban poor live in shacks of scrap metal and wood.

And in Kenya, some have been outraged by a local newspaper report that says several governors have installed intensive care unit equipment in their homes. The country lost its first doctor to COVID-19 this week.

“The welfare, occupational safety & health of frontline workers is a non-negotiable minimum!!” the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union tweeted after her death. On Saturday, the union and other medical groups urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to implement a promised compensation package to ease the “anxiety and fear that has now gripped health care workers.”

More than 8,000 health workers across Africa have been infected, half of them in South Africa. The continent of 1.3 billion has the world’s lowest levels of health staffing and more than 560,000 cases, and the pandemic is reaching “full speed,” the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Many parts of the world are facing fresh waves of infections as they try to reopen their economies.

In India, which reported a new daily high of 27,114 cases on Saturday, nearly a dozen states have imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas. Cases jumped from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. People are packing India’s public hospitals as many are unable to afford private ones that generally uphold higher standards of care.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged top officials to improve infection testing and tracking, especially in states with high positivity rates.

Officials on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa said dozens of U.S. Marines have been infected at two bases there in what is feared to be a massive outbreak. The officials said the U.S. military asked that the exact figure not be released.

“We now have strong doubts that the U.S. military has taken adequate disease prevention measures,” Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters.

In Australia, the beleaguered state of Victoria reported 216 new cases in the past 24 hours, down from the record 288 the previous day. It hopes a new six-week lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city with a population of 5 million, will curb the spread.

“We cannot pretend that doing anything other than following the rules will get us to the other side of this,” said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.

In Latin America, where inequality is sharp and Brazil and Peru are among the world’s top five most badly hit countries, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping through the continent’s leadership, with two more presidents and powerful officials testing positive in the past week.

Yet developing countries are not the only ones overwhelmed. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have hit 3 million, with over 130,000 deaths — the worst outbreak by far in the world. The surge has led to equipment shortages as well as long lines at testing sites.

Texas is among the U.S. states setting records for infections, virus hospitalizations and deaths almost daily after embarking on one of America’s fastest reopenings. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday extended a statewide disaster as the state surpassed 10,000 hospitalized patients for the first time.

“Things will get worse,” Abbott told Lubbock television station KLBK. “The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”

 





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Downing Street advertises for £135k data science 'skunkworks' chief in latest Cummings shake-up

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Downing Street has placed an advert for £135,000 job to head up "skunkworks" in Number 10, in what appears the latest in Dominic Cummings' shake-up of Whitehall. The new job will be responsible for a new data science unit in Number 10, aimed to “transform” decision-making in government. A skunkworks is a term originating in America during WWII for a project developed by a small and loosely structured group focusing on radical innovation. The civil service advert says the role will involve leading a new "analytical unit known as ‘10ds" – which stands for "10 Data Science". It says: "The vision of 10ds is a skunkworks type organisation that builds innovative software to allow the PM to make data driven decisions and thereby transform government". Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief aide, is known for his disdain for traditional civil servants. He has said his focus after Brexit will be the establishment of a British version of the US’s Advanced Projects Research Agency (Arpa). He recently instructed government advisers to read a book on Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock, as well as High Output Management by Andrew Grove. While the salary for the new role is advertised as up to £135,000, "outstanding" candidates could get more. The advert says the “newly created role will be responsible for establishing No10's quantitative ability” as well as advising the Prime Minister. It says the job presents an opportunity to work "at the heart' of government. Applications close on July 27. Earlier this year Mr Cummings placed an advert for “data scientists, project managers, policy experts and assorted weirdos” to apply for Downing Street jobs. Mr Cummings used his personal blog to invite applications from “true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole”. In a much-publicised post, he said: “If you want to figure out what characters around Putin might do, or how international criminal gangs might exploit holes in our border security, you don’t want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news.” Shortly after the blog advert was posted, a new Downing Street adviser Andrew Sabisky quit following reports of his controversial comments on pregnancies, eugenics and race.



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