Fauci: COVID-19 vaccine a matter of ‘when not if’

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said he believed “it will be when and not if” there will be a COVID-19 vaccine, expressing cautious optimism some will be ready by the end of the year.

Speaking to a House committee, Fauci added that neither he nor any members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force have been asked to slow down testing.

The comments came after President Donald Trump said at a weekend political rally in Oklahoma that he had asked his aides to reduce testing because it was turning up too many positive cases.

Trump promises jail time for protesters pulling down statues

US President Donald Trump says he has authorised the government to arrest anyone caught trying to tear down monuments or statues, threatening they could be jailed for 10 years.

Trump said on Tuesday the new order applies “retroactively” so those who previously participated in bringing down memorials could be arrested. 

“I have authorised the federal government to arrest anyone who vandalises or destroys any monument, statue or other such federal property in the US with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Commenting as he departed the White House for a trip to Arizona on Tuesday, Trump reiterated his threat and said, “I will have an executive order very shortly, and all it’s really going to do is reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way.”

The federal statute Trump referred to subjects anyone who willfully injures or destroys, or attempts to injure or destroy, any structure, plaque, statue or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the US to fines, up to 10 years imprisonment, or both.

A wave of nationwide rallies calling for racial justice has swept across the United States since May 25 when George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Since then, monuments from the civil war era or associated with slavery and the colonisation of Native Americans by Europeans have been targeted for destruction

Trump’s order on Tuesday follows a statement by Republican Senator Tom Cotton, from the state of Arkansas, who demanded the federal government take action against the pulling down of statues of historical American figures.

“Violent mobs have, in recent weeks, defaced and torn down statues, memorials, and monuments around our country,” Cotton said in a letter to Attorney General William Barr.

“These criminals masquerade as protesters exercising their lawful right to peaceably assemble, but there can be no right to destroy public or private property.” 

Cotton has taken a hard line against the anti-racism demonstrations that have gripped the US after the police killings of Floyd and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. 

Speaking on the floor of the US Senate on Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed the sentiments expressed by both Trump and Cotton.

“Americans know an imperfect nation built by imperfect heroes is still the most perfect Union the world has ever seen,” he said. “And when the dust settles, it is never the mobs or bullies whom we honor. It is the brave leaders who confront them.”

Trump has threatened to deploy the US military on the streets – a move widely condemned by rights activists, politicians, and even US military leaders.

‘Disgraceful vandalism’

On Monday night, protesters tried to pull down a statue of former US President Andrew Jackson near the White House before being dispersed by police with pepper-spray at Lafayette Square, where the Jackson statue is located.

Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators climbing on the statue, tying ropes around it, then unsuccessfully trying to pull it off its pedestal.

Trump tweeted late on Monday that “numerous people” had been arrested for “the disgraceful vandalism”. 

The statue shows Jackson in a military uniform, riding a horse that is rearing on its hind legs. The 19th-century president’s ruthless treatment of Native Americans has made his statue a target of demonstrators protesting the US’s legacy of racial injustice.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was at the scene on Monday and issued a statement.https://a602b322af860d4240e9843a4c467667.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“Let me be clear: we will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served,” said Bernhardt. 

On June 1, law enforcement officers forcefully cleared peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square so Trump could stage a photo opportunity at a nearby church.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Black New Orleans City Waste Workers Build Power Against a Crisis

The Most Revolutionary Act

All photos from the City Waste Union Facebook page.

Scalawag

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. met with sanitation workers in 1968 in Memphis, they told him that Black workers were essential to keeping the city running—but were treated as if their work and their humanity were disposable. “All labor has dignity,” King thundered in a speech to the workers in Memphis and to the nation, just two weeks before he was assassinated. Today, Black sanitation workers in New Orleans are holding on to King’s message, and the resolve of the Memphis sanitation workers—who went on strike for over two months, until they won.

Sanitation workers in New Orleans have been out on strike for over a month now. On May 5, a group of sanitation workers, also known as “hoppers” (because they hop on and off the trucks to empty trash cans), walked off the job after frustrations…

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Israeli forces kill Palestinian at occupied West Bank checkpoint

Israeli forces have shot and killed a Palestinian man at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli border police said on Tuesday they shot and killed a suspect who they say attempted to run over a female officer at a checkpoint in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. Police said the officer was slightly wounded in the incident.

Palestinian officials rejected the police’s account of the man’s death. They identified him as 27-year-old Ahmad Erekat.

“This young man was killed in cold blood. Tonight was his sister’s wedding,” said Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Saeb said the man killed was his relative and that his wedding was set for next week.

“What the occupation army claims, that he was trying to run someone over, is a lie,” he said.

Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the man “drove his vehicle quickly towards the direction of a female border police officer who was injured lightly”.

The officer was evacuated to a hospital.

Police did not immediately release a video of the incident, and there was no way to independently verify the account. But police released a photo that appeared to show the vehicle after it had collided into the checkpoint.

Scene of a Palestinian ramming attack at an Israeli military checkpoint near the town of Abu Dis
Traffic backs up near the scene of the incident at a checkpoint near the town of Abu Dis in the West Bank [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Palestinians and human rights groups have also accused Israeli security forces of using excessive force, or in some cases opening fire at cars that merely lost control.

The director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Bethlehem confirmed that a soldier prevented Palestinian medical personnel from approaching the man and was left to bleed, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

The incident comes nearly a month after a Palestinian man was killed in similar circumstances near Ramallah in the West Bank.

He was shot dead on May 29 after trying to ram a car into Israeli soldiers, none of whom were injured, police said at the time.

Tuesday’s incident comes ahead of plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex parts of the West Bank.

Netanyahu said the government would take steps towards annexing Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, and the Jordan Valley from July 1, as part of a broader US plan. The Palestinians have rejected the plan and want the West Bank to form part of a future Palestinian state.

The proposals have sparked widespread international criticism and warnings that such a move would lead to violence.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Rayshard Brooks remembered, to be laid to rest in Atlanta

Friends and relatives of Rayshard Brooks gathered at the historic Atlanta church – that was once Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s pulpit – for a funeral on Tuesday for the Black man whose killing by a white police officer in a fast-food car park stoked protests across the United States over racial injustice.

“We are here because individuals continue to hide behind badges and trainings and policies and procedures rather than regarding the humanity of others in general and Black lives specifically,” the Reverend Bernice King, the civil rights leader’s daughter, said at the private service at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

She noted ruefully that the killing took place in Atlanta, the “black mecca” and “the city that is supposed to be `too busy to hate.'”

But in a powerful echo of her father’s “I Have a Dream” speech, she declared: “Rayshard Brooks’ death will not be in vain because justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

A  friend of Brooks, his mother-in-law and the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Reverend Raphael Warnock also spoke.

“Rayshard Brooks wasn’t just running from the police. He was running from a system that makes slaves out of people. A system that doesn’t give ordinary people who’ve made mistakes a second chance, a real shot at redemption,” Warnock, a Democratic candidate for Senate, said in an excerpt released ahead of the service.

Some mourners wore T-shirts with Brooks’ picture. Nearly everyone wore masks against the coronavirus.

Brooks, 27, was shot twice in the back on June 12 by Officer Garrett Rolfe after a struggle that erupted when police tried to handcuff him for being intoxicated behind the wheel of his car at a Wendy’s drive-through. Video footage showed Brooks snatching a police Taser and firing it towards Rolfe while running away.

Rolfe, 27, was charged with murder and jailed without bail. A second officer, Devin Brosnan, 26, was charged with aggravated assault, accused of stepping on Brooks’s shoulder as he lay dying on the pavement. Lawyers for both men said their clients’ actions were justified. 

The killing unfolded amid protests and scattered violence set off around the country by the case of George Floyd, the Black man who was pronounced dead on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Atlanta’s police chief stepped down less than 24 hours after Brooks’s death, and the Wendy’s was set ablaze by protesters.

While Brooks was not a member of Ebenezer Baptist, the church where King preached is a “sanctuary for those who suffer”, Warnock said in a statement announcing the funeral plans.

Actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry offered financial help for the service, according to the statement.

An afternoon bail hearing for Rolfe that would have conflicted with the funeral was cancelled by a judge. Under the law, crime victims and their families are entitled to be heard at such proceedings.

Meanwhile, a new poll finds nearly all Americans in favour of at least some change to the nation’s criminal justice system, and they overwhelmingly want to see clear standards on when police officers may use force and consequences for those who cross the line.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said 29 percent think the criminal justice system needs “a complete overhaul“, 40 percent say it needs “major changes”, and 25 percent say it needs “minor changes”. Just 5 percent believe no changes are necessary.

SOURCE: AP NEWS AGENCY