Relief as Bundesliga gets ready to return

A player testing positive for coronavirus will not be a “catastrophe” for the Bundesliga, says Borussia Dortmund’s managing director.

Germany’s top flight will become the first major football league in Europe to return to competition this weekend.

“We are relieved football is coming back,” Carsten Cramer told BBC Sport.

“The moment they say ‘Dortmund, you have too many positive tests’ we have to make a decision. Right now we have always had negative tests.”

Three people at Cologne tested positive for coronavirus two weeks ago, while Dynamo Dresden, who play in the second tier of German football, have put their entire squad and coaching staff into two-week isolation after two players tested positive for the virus.

Every Bundesliga team has been in quarantine, going from a hotel to their training ground for the week leading up to this weekend’s return.

This weekend’s matches include the derby between Dortmund and Schalke on Saturday (14:30 BST) and Union Berlin at home to leaders Bayern Munich on Sunday (17:00 BST).

Cramer said the return of games was vital for the financial future of clubs and the league.

“A positive test won’t be a catastrophe as long as we have the rules and recommendations for how to get along with it,” he added.

“We are relieved and satisfied we can restart because without a restart not only Dortmund, but the Bundesliga would get in really big problems.”

All nine games spread over Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be played behind closed doors.

Cramer said police would be on patrol outside Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion to ensure fans did not gather during their game.

“We’d never prefer to play without spectators but in a crisis like this, without any alternative, going behind the curtain is better than no games,” he said.

“I can’t be 100% sure, but I’m very sure this won’t become a problem. There will be security and police around the stadium. In Germany it’s still forbidden to be outside with more than three people.”

Trump: Fauci remarks on risks to reopening economy unacceptable

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said a warning given by top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci this week about the dangers of reopening the economy too quickly was unacceptable.

“To me, it’s not an acceptable answer,” Trump told reporters at the White House, noting he was surprised by the response Fauci gave to Senators in testimony to a Senate panel on Tuesday.

Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that a premature lifting of lockdowns could lead to additional outbreaks of the deadly coronavirus.

“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” Fauci said.

The 79-year-old doctor, one of the US’s most trusted voices on the coronavirus pandemic, has become a target for criticism from the American far right and online conspiracy theorists since he made statements about the outbreak that were at odds with Trump’s.

The president, who previously made the strength of the economy central to his pitch for his November reelection bid, has encouraged states to reopen businesses that had been deemed non-essential amid the pandemic.

The US has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world by far: 1.37 million infections and more than 82,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 4.2 million people and killed some 292,000, according to the Johns Hopkins tally. Experts say the actual numbers are likely far higher.

A handful of US states started easing their lockdowns about two weeks ago, ranging from shopping malls in Texas to beach hotels in South Carolina to gyms in Wyoming. Georgia was one of the first states where some businesses were allowed to open their doors again, starting April 24 with barbershops, hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo parlours.

But it may be five to six weeks from then before the effects are known, said Crystal Watson of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

“As we saw early in the year, epidemics of COVID-19 start slow and take some time to build and become evident,” Watson said in an email to the Associated Press news agency.

The outbreak’s trajectory can vary greatly around the country, according to an Associated Press analysis of confirmed cases. For instance, steep increases in daily new cases are occurring in Hennepin County in Minnesota, and Fairfax County in Virginia, while in others, such as Bergen County, New Jersey, and Wayne County, Michigan, there’s been a steady decline. 

IPPIS: SSANU, NAAT, poise for showdown with FG

NON-teaching teaching staff of universities are poised for a showdown with the Federal Government after the lockdown over the irregularities experienced in the payment of salaries since they enrolled in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS.

Leadership of two university based unions, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, have lamented that their migration to the IPPIS has been full of woes. But the President of SSANU, Comrade Samson Ugwoke, has pleaded with his members to exercise patience with the executive especially on the challenges concerning deductions, wrong salary placements and non issuance of pay slips.

On his part, President of NAAT, Comrade Ibeji Nwokoma, lamented that his members have not been paid the April salary despite the hardship they were passing through as a result of the lockdown. He also expressed dismay at the irregularities they have been facing since they joined the IPPIS platform. Speaking with Vanguard in Abuja, the NAAT president who recently took over the mantle of leadership of the union said: “Barely two weeks after the handover formalities, we were confronted with the outcry of our members in federal institutions as a result of payment of February salaries from the IPPIS platform occasioned by removal of occupational hazard allowance and other earned and peculiar allowances coupled with other anomalies/irregularities in over taxation, high deduction in pension contributions, union dues, National Housing Fund, etc. “We quickly notified the IPPIS office of the development and followed it up with a meeting with the director. In the course of making the concerted efforts, the COVID-19 reared up its ugly head with the attendant lockdown, unfortunately, the observed irregularities/anomalies were not corrected when March salary was paid. It is important that I state clearly here that our enrolment into IPPIS was done with the best of intentions and in the overall interest of the generality of our members. Let me re-assure you that the occupational hazard allowance and indeed other allowances will be restored and arrears paid in full. “I plead for your continuous understanding and patience. After the lockdown and the ban on inter-state movement lifted, the national leadership will ensure that the irregularities are corrected and pay slips made available and check off dues paid appropriately. If, however, IPPIS continues to show signs of unpreparedness to accommodate the peculiarities of the universities, the union will be left with no option than to re-appraise her enrolment into the platform. We must admit that this is a trying moment for our dear country Nigeria.” The SSANU President, Comrade Ugwoke told Vanguard: “As leaders, we are not unaware of challenges of deductions, wrong salary placements and even non issuance of payslips.” He had said in his address at the Workers Day: “While it may be cumbersome to highlight all what transpired that led to the decision to enrol into IPPIS in this address, let me state that the decision was made in the interests of our members welfare and with all sense of responsibility. “All considerations were done putting the welfare of our members on the front burner. However, as things worked out, the corona scourge also left many communication gaps which are yet to be filled because the necessary union officials cannot effectively interface with the IPPIS office as required. “Although there have been communications with the IPPIS office, these communications have not achieved the results which direct physical contact and engagement would have produced thus leading to the uncomfortable situation we find ourselves. As leaders, we are not unaware of challenges of deductions, wrong salary placements and even non issuance of payslips. “While there have been insinuations that perhaps the union agreed to migrate to IPPIS because of checkoff dues, let me inform you that till date, no checkoff dues have been paid to the coffers of the union from IPPIS and even with our discussions so far, we do not know how soon such payments can be made to the union. “While we had always been conscious of the fact that there would be teething problems of migration to the platform, the enormity of the problem has been compounded by the lockdown. I, however, assure that as soon as interstate movements are relaxed, action would be taken to ensure that the present confusion is resolved. I, therefore, plead for the patience of our members in this regard.”

Shun Saudi take over, Khashoggi fiancee urges Newcastle fans

The fiancee of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has urged Newcastle United fans in an open letter to oppose a proposed Saudi takeover of the football club.

The call by Hatice Cengiz on Wednesday came as news circulated that an investment group majority funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is headed by the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), was on the verge of buying the club.

“I know that many of you are tempted by his [MBS’s] offer to get out of the dire situation that has crippled your club for so many years. But the crown prince is accused of ordering Jamal’s murder,” Cengiz wrote in the letter shared on Twitter.

“All credible investigations have shown his responsibility. He has not been put on trial in his own country as he controls it with an iron fist,” she added.

The more-than-$300m takeover would reportedly give the investment group an 80 percent stake in the English Premier League team.

A United Nations rights expert last year concluded that MBS should be investigated over the killing of Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The CIA in the United States reportedly concluded that bin Salman ordered the operation to kill Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince’s policies and a Washington Post columnist.

“My plea to you is to think [about] whether accepting Mohammed bin Salman’s offer is really the right way out of the despair for your club and city,” Cengiz wrote. “How can it be, when your club will be controlled by someone who should be tried for murder, as we would rightly expect for anyone accused of killing a loved one?”

“They are making this move not to help you and not with your best interests in mind,” she said, “but solely to serve themselves.”

“You as the loyal fans do have a big say in this,” wrote Cengiz. “I implore you all to unite to protect your beloved club and city from the Crown Prince and those around him.”

News of the possible takeover was received positively by some Newcastle United fans, several of whom changed their Twitter profiles to include Saudi flags and pictures of MBS.

In 2019, Newcastle United was rumoured to be on the brink of being bought by Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan, but that deal did not proceed.

US Republicans win upset victory in California congressional race

 A former Navy combat pilot claimed victory Wednesday in the fight for an open US House seat north of Los Angeles, a win that would mark the first time in over two decades that a Republican captured a Democratic-held congressional district in California.

“I’m ready to go to work,” Republican Mike Garcia said. His Democratic rival, Christy Smith, congratulated Garcia, calling him the “likely victor”.

However, she said she expected to win in November, when the two meet again in a rematch for the full, two-year House term that begins in January. “This is only one step in this process,” she said in a statement.

Garcia, a political newcomer, had a 12-point edge over Smith in Tuesday’s special election for the swing 25th District. An unknown number of ballots remained uncounted. Los Angeles County, where most of them are located, was not expected to update its tally until Friday.

All voters received mailed ballots because of the coronavirus outbreak, though a sprinkling of polling places were available for those who wanted to vote in person.

The contest took on outsized importance as the only competitive House race in the country in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. It is seen nationally as a proxy vote on President Donald Trump’s leadership and a possible harbinger for November elections.

Trump, who lost the district that runs through a swath of suburbs and small ranches in 2016, urged voters to support the political newcomer Garcia, while former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other high-profile Democrats backed Smith.

Garcia’s win provides a jolt of encouragement for the state’s beleaguered GOP, which has been drifting towards obscurity in California for years.

The seat became vacant last year after the resignation of Democratic Representative Katie Hill, who stepped down after admitting to an affair with a campaign worker and the US House opened an ethics probe into an allegation that she was involved with a member of her congressional staff, which Hill denied.

Garcia appeared to benefit from enthusiasm among conservatives who saw a rare opportunity to seize a Democratic-held seat in California. The last time that happened was 1998.

With a national debate under way on mail-in voting, the race will also serve as a window into how the process works out, albeit on a small scale.

Trump’s GOP candidates also fared well in a closely watched Wisconsin election on Tuesday.

Tom Tiffany, a state senator, easily won a special election in a heavily conservative, rural Wisconsin district, cheering Republicans. His win over Democrat Tricia Zunker in northern Wisconsin’s 7th District comes in the state’s second election amid the coronavirus pandemic the past five weeks.

The win is in a district that Trump will need to once again win big if he hopes to again carry Wisconsin, a state he won by less than a point in 2016. Tiffany’s big victory also helps to erase the sting of a loss by a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice in last month’s election, a race that boosted Democrats’ confidence.

Source: News Agency

US state of Wisconsin court tosses out governor’s stay-home order

The supreme court of the US state of Wisconsin has struck down Gov Tony Evers’ coronavirus stay-at-home order, ruling that his administration overstepped its authority when it extended it for another month without consulting legislators.

The 4-3 ruling essentially reopens the state, lifting caps on the size of gatherings, allowing people to travel as they please and allowing shuttered businesses to reopen, including bars and restaurants.

The decision let stand language that had closed schools, however, and local governments can still impose their own health restrictions.