Sport

India beat England by an innings: fourth Test, day three – live!

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “India beat England by an innings: fourth Test, day three – live!” was written by Rob Smyth (now) and Tanya Aldred (earlier), for theguardian.com on Saturday 6th March 2021 10.23 UTC

INDIA WIN BY AN INNINGS AND 25 RUNS!

England made the mistake of winning the first Test, and by heaven India punished them for their effrontery. They have slaughtered England in three consecutive Tests, playing some exhilarating cricket in lively conditions. England weren’t good enough, though some of their players deserve great credit, particularly the extraordinary James Anderson. But this is all about the brilliance of India: the new spin twins of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, who gave a month-long spin-bowling clinic; the class of Rohit Sharma; the naked talent of Rishabh Pant. They’re the best team in the world, and because of this result they have the chance to become the first winners of the World Test Championship.

WICKET! England 135 all out (Lawrence b Ashwin 50)

It’s all over! Lawrence misses, Ashwin hits, and India have won the series 3-1. Ashwin gets his five-for – and, most importantly, India will play New Zealand in the World Test Championship final.

WICKET! England 134-9 (Leach c Rahane b Ashwin 2)

Nine down, one to go. Leach edges Ashwin low towards slip, where Rahane takes another accomplished low catch. He knew he was out this time and casually tossed the ball away. The umpires went upstairs to check, and replays confirmed it was out.

53rd over: England 134-8 (Lawrence 50, Leach 2) Lawrence works Patel for a single to reach a fine fifty from 93 balls, an innings full of personality and composure. Well played.

53rd over: England 132-8 (Lawrence 49, Leach 1) A maiden from Ashwin. The ball before the review was another jaffa that roared past Leach’s outside edge.

Leach is not out He missed it by a mile, mainly because it turned prodigiously. That’s a great advert for DRS.

Updated

REVIEW! Leach given out caught behind It was an instant review from Leach, so maybe he didn’t hit it.

52nd over: England 132-8 (Lawrence 49, Leach 1) Washington Sundar replaces Axar Patel (23-6-46-5). Lawrence pushes a couple to move to 49 and then defends the rest of the over. Time for drinks.

“Aside from the wreckage of these last three Tests, can’t we agree that it’s not all total desolation?” says Guy Hornsby. “Lawrence has looked one of the few bright things this last week. He looks relatively unafraid, I hope he gets a run in the team. Leach has been pretty solid, in spite of some treatment. Root was a class act much of the time but really weighed down by so much responsibility. Stokes had looked better after being all at sea. Sibley also looked less shaky, with albeit bad luck. Jimmy was just, well Jimmy. You have to hope the likes of Pope, Crawley, and Burns just aren’t scarred by this too much. They should all be much better at home and in Oz. God, that felt odd, but we can’t just think we’re an appalling team overnight. Even New Zealand would struggle here.”

Even India would.

51st over: England 130-8 (Lawrence 47, Leach 1) Lawrence is batting normally, even though there are only two tailenders left. He waits for a poor ball from Ashwin and smashes it round the corner for four, and then keeps the strike with a single. He threw away a fifty in the first innings; this time he looks like equanimity personified.

50th over: England 125-8 (Lawrence 42, Leach 1) Lawrence shovels Patel off the pads for another single, then Leach inside-edges a hack past leg slip. The commentators are discussing what team India might pick for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, specifically how on earth they are supposed to choose between Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja.

49th over: England 122-8 (Lawrence 40, Leach 0) England need another 38 to make Indi a bat again. More to the point, Ashwin needs two wickets for another five-for, and he beats Leach with a gorgeous dipping offbreak from around the wicket.

48th over: England 121-8 (Lawrence 40, Leach 0) Lawrence thumps a long hop from Patel for four, then lofts the next ball down the ground for another boundary. He’s batted extremely well in this Test. See, even the apocalyspe has a silver lining.

47th over: England 112-8 (Lawrence 31, Leach 0) On the plus side, Dan Lawrence has looked good.

“Who will be the Man of the Series?” wonders Madhu Balasubramon. “Root and Rohit had a few good knocks. Pant and Patel have announced themselves in no uncertain way. But my vote goes to Ashwin, who is still the highest wicket taker, and the fifth highest run getter in this series.”

I would give it to Patel, for the romance and because he got in England’s head even more than Ashwin.

46th over: England 111-8 (Lawrence 30, Leach 0) Axar Patel now has 27 wickets at 10.07. This is up there with the greatest debut series of all time: Alderman, Hogg, Doshi, Headley, Gavaskar, Pietersen, Cork.

“Morning Rob,” says Henry Lubienski. “I hope they don’t burn Lawrence by batting him at three. Bell, Root, even KP had a start batting a bit further down. Trott was only one to start at three. When Stokes comes back then he, Crawley, Root, Pope, Lawrence & Sibley should be in the top six. What would speak against Stokes batting at three?”

I’m not totally sure about Stokes against the moving ball on a regular basis, and I think you’d be compromising a strength by doing that. The main strength of England’s batting is Root and Stokes; everyone else should fit around them. There’s no ideal solution, I agree with that.

Dan Lawrence trying to show his teammates how it’s done.
Dan Lawrence trying to show his teammates how it’s done. Photograph: Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images

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WICKET! England 111-8 (Bess c Pant b Patel 0)

Another five-for for Axar Patel! Bess under-edges a slog sweep and is smartly taken by Rishabh Pant. Patel has taken four five-wickets hauls in his first three Tests.

45th over: England 111-7 (Lawrence 30, Bess 2) It should be a matter of time now. I still think three wins and three defeats represents a decent winter for England. The downside is that all the key performances have been from established players, so the team hasn’t really developed. That said, this is such a valuable education for the batsmen.

“I do think this series has made a good case for the value of Jos Buttler to this team,” says Phil Harrison. “Not only is he an increasingly reliable Test batter (he’d have launched at least one momentum-shifting counter-attack in the games he’s missed here) but I feel like Root captains better when Buttler’s alongside him. Hard to see a way for both him and Foakes to play but it would be nice.”

44th over: England 111-7 (Lawrence 30, Bess 2) Axar Patel is one wicket away from his fourth five-for. This is his third Test.

“Hi Rob,” says Darrien Bold. “I remember scoffing at suggestions a few months ago that Keaton Jennings would have “done a job” in the last two series as a decent player of spin, despite his modest record. Did England miss a trick there or is that a stretch? Did Pope’s excellence at short leg cost him a place in the squad?”

He might have done well in Sri Lanka, but I suspect India’s quicks would have sorted him out. I’m not sure about horses-for-courses batsmen, certainly not against a team with an attack as varied as India’s.

WICKET! England 109-7 (Foakes c Rahane b Patel 12)

Ben Foakes goes in unusual circumstances. He edged Patel towards slip, where Rahane grabbed the ball just above the ground and then signalled to the square-leg umpire that he wasn’t sure whether it carried. When the umpires went upstairs to check we assumed it would be not out, but replays showed Rahane got his fingers under the ball as he swooped to his left. That’s a terrific catch.

Updated

43rd over: England 109-6 (Lawrence 30, Foakes 12) England are six away from their first fifty partnership since the first innings of the series.

42nd over: England 108-6 (Lawrence 30, Foakes 12) And now Patel has changed ends to replace Washington. His second ball spits nastily to beat Lawrence, who is rattled and goes for a big drive off the next delivery. It takes the edge and flies wide of Kohli at slip. Then Lawrence is beaten again by a jaffa. A quite brilliant over from Patel, whose decision to change ends looks a good one.

41st over: England 106-6 (Lawrence 28, Foakes 12) Ashwin has changed ends to replace Patel. Virat Kohli has rotated his three spinners a lot either side of tea, impatient for a seventh wicket. Nothing doing in that over.

40th over: England 104-6 (Lawrence 27, Foakes 11) Now Ashwin is hooked after two wicketless overs, with Washington replacing him. Foakes drives a single to bring up the hundred, the first of five in the over. These two are batting really well.

39th over: England 99-6 (Lawrence 25, Foakes 8) “I’d probably go Burns (though I would demand he has a haircut), Sibley, Crawley, Root, Lawrence, Pope, Foakes, Woakes/Curran, Leach, Archer/Wood/Stone, Anderson/Broad,” says Jeff Ando. “Although arguably we’re a bowler light against the Kiwis with no Stokes.”

That’s a good point, though Root is a passable fifth bowler I guess. It’s not ideal, but that New Zealand series could become a shootout for four top-six places (1, 2, 3, 6) in the return series against India. You can make a case for dropping any of the others (even Crawley, who I really like, has had a miserable run of scores this winter), but I’d be inclined to cut the younger players in particular a bit of slack. They all need runs next summer though.

38th over: England 98-6 (Lawrence 24, Foakes 8) India are rattling through the overs in about the time it takes me to read and edit an email. A maiden from Ashwin to Lawrence. These two have played well, with plenty of pride and common sense.

“Rollocks, Bob,” says Guy Perry, though he didn’t really say rollocks, or Bob. “Power cut’s ended in Kerala. Now watching the collapse, sound off, and blasting out Quadrophenia. We’re crap at cricket but sublime in angry 70s rock. Take that, India.”

37th over: England 98-6 (Lawrence 24, Foakes 8) Foakes is defending with determination and expertise, and is the subject of fulsome praise from Sunil Gavaskar. He has 8 from 34 balls, Lawrence 24 from 38.

“Your closing comments on the 29th over regarding Ricky Ponting,” begins Matt Dony. “Feels like they should have started with ‘Listen, guys’, and been delivered while sitting backwards on a chair.”

And then… (NB: clip contains adult language)

36th over: England 97-6 (Lawrence 23, Foakes 8) Washington Sundar is pulled out of the attack after two wicketless overs, with Ravichandran Ashwin replacing him. It’s a quiet over, just a single from it.

“Agree with Andy Moore pre-tea,” says Phil Harrison. “One of the things I look forward to least after this kind of series is the agonised post-mortem when the defeat that literally everyone predicted would happen, has happened. Basically, England win a series in India about once every 25 years. And it’s roughly the same the other way around too. Let’s not do the hand-wringing thing this time eh?”

To be fair, nobody does it better.

35th over: England 96-6 (Lawrence 22, Foakes 8) Patel ends another good over by turning one past Foakes’ outside edge.

“Morning Rob!!” says Simon McMahon. “The game was up yesterday when Rishabh Pant smashed his way to a hundred. He bats in technicolour, England monochrome. All of which leads me to note that the Pantone colour(s) of the year for 2021 are ‘Illuminating’, a bright yellow, and ‘Ultimate Gray’, a not so bright gray. ‘A marriage of colour conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting’. Bit like cricket, really. And Buckfast.”

34th over: England 95-6 (Lawrence 21, Foakes 7) Washington Sundar continues after tea. Lawrence, forcing to leg off the back foot, gets a leading edge that lands safely on the off side.

“Interesting to hear you think Lawrence should bat at No3 and that Crawley is more of an opener but could still do a job at 3,” says Jeff Ando. “What would your top order be for the next Test in that case? Do you think Lawrence has the technique to go at first drop and who from Burns/Sibley misses out with this plan? Also, what do you make of the Pope situation and the creeping accusations that England are ‘hiding’/overprotecting him? Lots to ponder it seems!”

The problem for Pope is that Nos 4 and 5 are taken, so he can’t move up the order one place at a time. He’ll be fine though. Lawrence at No3 isn’t ideal but I’d like to get him in the team and have a proper look before the Ashes. Assuming Stokes and Buttler are unavailable because of the IPL, my top order would probably be Crawley, Sibley, Lawrence, Root, Malan, Pope, Foakes. It’s not ideal, as England have a lot of 4s and 5s, and I’ll have changed my mind by teatime. How about you?

Tea

33rd over: England 91-6 (Lawrence 19, Foakes 6) Ashwin has changed ends to replace Patel. Lawrence continues his purposeful innings with a crisp cover drive for two, and then survives a big appeal for LBW. Ashwin was bowling round the wicket, so the umpire presumably thought it pitched outside leg. India go for the review. This is really close.

In fact, it’s not close at all. It pitched on the stumps but turned too much and would have missed leg stump.

That was the last ball before tea. Here’s a precis of the session:

F

F

S

(85 runs, six wickets, 30 overs)

Updated

32nd over: England 88-6 (Lawrence 17, Foakes 5) Washington Sundar comes on for a quick bowl before tea, replacing Ashwin. He must be full of the joys after that sparkling 96 not out earlier in the day – and he almost gets a wicket with his sixth ball. Lawrence swipes a full ball towards long leg, where it goes through the hands of the swooping fielder. It was a really good effort from whoever it was.

“Hope there is some perspective after this,” says Andy Moore. “Winning away especially in long series is rightly incredibly tough. You need a hugely strong side and a lot of luck. In 2012 England had Cook, KP, Trott, Bell, Swann, Monty, Jimmy. It was unreasonable to expect this side to achieve anything more than they have. If anything we underappreciate just how good that Strauss/Flower side was.”

I’d say 3-1 is better than par for England in this series, but it’s easy to forget then when you’ve been hammered in three consecutive games.

Updated

31st over: England 83-6 (Lawrence 13, Foakes 4) Four of England’s first five partnerships in this series reached fifty. Since then: 72 partnerships, no half-centuries. They haven’t been good enough – Pulitzer please – but it has been desperately difficult. I don’t think any team in the world could have coped.

“I’d like to add to Pete Salmon’s list,” says Deepak Puri. “Growing up, I thought blowdarts and cat burglars would feature more heavily in my adult life than they actually have.”

I read that as blowhards, which probably says something about my mental state.

Updated

30th over: England 78-6 (Lawrence 11, Foakes 1) Lawrence flashes hard at Ashwin, slicing the ball over slip for four. He looks in positive mood, as he was in the first innings. Might as well get the job done today.

“Good morning Rob, good morning everyone,” writes Em. “Were it not for the fact I’ve things to do today I’d mourn England’s collapse with the stack of Cobra I’ve got in my shed… mind you, have England been on the beers last night because they’re playing with a hangover?”

They’ve clearly got a hangover, but I’m pretty sure it’s from the second Test (and the third) rather than industrial quantities of Anxiety Suppressor.

29th over: England 74-6 (Lawrence 7, Foakes 1) Foakes defends solidly against Patel, who hurries through another maiden. Foakes has had a slightly disappointing series with the bat, though he has defended better than most. Yes, yes, I know.

“Hi Rob,” says Giles Page. “This mauling/dismantling/implosion/sh*%storm over the last three tests is too painful to watch & listen to but strangely engrossing via OBO. I am right in hankering for a return of Sir AN Cook? Oh how we could do with at least one decent opener. Hameed had a reasonable Bob Willis Trophy & can play well in India, or has that man no possible return to Test cricket? Surely it is possible to find some decent openers. Crawley is a No3.”

I think Crawley is an opener, although he’s fine at No3 too. I don’t think it’s going to happen for Hameed, though I would be unspeakably happy to be proved wrong. I’d say he needs a really strong county season – averaging 50+ – before he should be considered again. On this tour, it’s been increasingly desperate but I would be loath to draw too many conclusions about the batsmen. I doubt they will ever play in tougher conditions again, especially if they are all dropped forever rofl. In my day, there was a talented 26-year-old batsman who had a desperate series in India, making 0, 6, 0, 0 and 11. Things turned out okay for Ricky Ponting.

28th over: England 74-6 (Lawrence 7, Foakes 1) “Someone on Twitter recently mentioned that they when they were a child they genuinely thought that quicksand and boa constrictors would be major issues when they grew up, and were relieved to find they weren’t,” says Pete Salmon. “I can’t stop thinking about that as I watch England bat.”

27th over: England 72-6 (Lawrence 6, Foakes 0) Lawrence rocks back to cut Patel decisively for four. I like the cut of this lad’s jib, and would play him at No3 in England’s next Test.

26th over: England 67-6 (Lawrence 1, Foakes 0) My gut feeling is that Root did inside-edge that delivery from Ashwin, but the evidence was inconclusive so there’s no way the third umpire could have overturned the decision.

“ROB, hello,” says Guy Perry. “I’m in Kerala thanking various deities for the power cut in my village which means I can’t watch the England collapse. Much ribbing will be suffered in the tea shops later. What can a young boy do?”

Drink high-class tea with dignity and a warm smile?

WICKET! England 65-6 (Root LBW b Ashwin 30)

He’s gone!

Successful appeals for Joe Root’s wicket.
Successful appeals for Joe Root’s wicket. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

Updated

He was caught on the back foot by Ashwin, plumb in front, but he must feel he got an inside edge as he pushed defensively across the line. I’m not sure he did.

Updated

ROOT IS OUT LBW – BUT HE REVIEWS IMMEDIATELY

25th over: England 65-5 (Root 30, Lawrence 0) Axar Patel, in his debut series, has 24 wickets at 10.66.

“Good morning!” says Anand. “Few days ago, you helped me by sharing my poll about two-day Tests. The results are in. It seems that complaining about the pitch on social media (a hybrid choice) seems to pip actual cricket! The times we live in!”

Lot of good people on Twitter.

WICKET! England 65-5 (Pope st Pant b Patel 15)

A brilliant stumping from Pant! Pope, unnerved by a jaffa the previous ball, came flying down the pitch and was beaten by a vicious delivery that turned and bounced. Pant, who was unsighted, took it near the top of the breastbone and reached forward to dislodge the bails.

Updated

24th over: England 64-4 (Root 29, Pope 15) A brutal delivery from Ashwin, bowling round the wicket to Pope, turns down the leg side for four byes. Pope then survives a muted LBW appeal after missing a reverse sweep and being hit on the arm. England are going down swinging.

23rd over: England 58-4 (Root 29, Pope 15) Pope, hurried by Patel, top-edges a sweep over the keeper’s head for three runs. I’ve just been looking at England’s batting averages for the whole winter: Root 72, Buttler 46, nobody else above 25.

Updated

22nd over: England 54-4 (Root 28, Pope 12) Pope charges Ashwin and drives him handsomely over wide long on for six. That was a lovely stroke, not least because it was against his nemesis. Pope is playing with the freedom of the damned, and later in the over is beaten trying a reverse sweep.

“All Simon Kirchin’s fault…” says Matt Dony by way of apology for what is about to follow. “Another Bad Day in the life of an England batsman. The fall-out will no doubt involve some Bang and Blame. Ultimately, Everybody Hurts. But, at least we’re all fairly used to this kind of situation. It’s not The End Of The World…”

21st over: England 48-4 (Root 28, Pope 6) The ball is doing all sorts for the spinners now, and Axar Patel has changed ends to replace Mohammed Siraj. Root does very well to drop a nasty delivery from Patel just short of slip, but there’s little he can do with a jaffa that drifts in and rips past the edge.

“You really do pick these special sessions, don’t you Rob,” says Guy Hornsby. “Welcome to the wake.”

Where’s the buckfast.

20th over: England 48-4 (Root 28, Pope 6) Ravichandran Ashwin comes on to replace Axar Patel. Ollie Pope takes a hairy single to mid-on, though he would have been home even with a direct hit; later in the over he flicks uppishly past the left leg of Gill at short leg. This time he was unable to knee it to Rishabh Pant.

“Morning Rob!” says Amitabh Mukherjee. “The morning continues to slide on and so do the tired English batters. At least this clears up any and all illusions the media seem to be harbouring, that it was not just the pitch in the past two games that was the game changer. But rather the better bowling/batting and proof that the best team always wins in a four-Test series. Spin is the new seam. Change of guard. This here right now really defines the series for me.”

I’m not sure anyone, certainly anyone with a used brain, said the pitches were the reason England lost, merely that they weren’t the greatest surfaces in the history of soil preparation.

Thanks Tanya, morning everyone! That’s right, an exclamation mark. Sod it, have two: morning everyone!!

19th over: England 46-4 (Root 27, Pope 5) Five from the over as Pope jabs at Siraj’s final ball to bring up drinks. Time to hand over to Rob Smyth who will wrap things up for the day. Thanks for all the messages, enjoy your weekend!

18th over: England 41-4 (Root 24, Pope 3) I take that back, Root is allowed to sweep – a sweet shot, of which he has full control, wristy, languid and four. Kohli fields a ball, at point, his throw bounces awkwardly and hits Root square in the upper thigh area. Kohli pats him on the back in apology. Root smiles. Might there have been more bristle if it was the other way round?

“Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of ‘Collapse Into Now’, R.E.M.’s fifteenth and final studio album. “ writes Simon Kirchin. “ The England cricket team are marking the occasion A DAY EARLY. They can’t even get that right.”

17th over: England 37-4 (Root 20, Pope 3) Kohli whistles for Siraj, whose hand must have recovered from his pre-lunch tumble. Must be for Root, who has looked assured against the spinners. What, then, is the prescription for England’s batsmen? A period of abstinence from playing the sweep? A cool, dark room?

16th over: England 35-4 (Root 19, Pope 2) Root watchful, the boyish grin still there, and a maiden for Axar Patel who wizzes through his overs like a dog eating a forbidden slither of bacon.

15th over: England 35-4 (Root 19, Pope 2) Ashwin continues to enjoy his dream playground. Root tops him around to square leg for a single and England limp on.

“Morning!” Mornig Kenny. “Just checked in to take a look at the OBO, and well, both Axar and Washington deserved better. A 50 and a 100 respectively would’ve gone a long way to acknowledge what a good job those two have been doing throughout this series. Axar has been a standout performer and Washington has efficiently done his part whenever asked to. Absolutely solid backbone for this team, kudos to them.Also, how unfortunate was that Sibley dismissal?”enny

14th over: England 33-4 (Root 16, Pope 1) Two goldfinches perch in the silver birch outside my window. Pope picks up a single off Axar and scarpers up the other end. My tea leaves say this will be over by tea.

WICKET! Stokes c Kohli b Patel 2

Stokes sweeps, but it goes straight to short leg where an exuberant Kohli says merci bien. A dismissal that somehow manages to be a complete hybrid of both Sibley and Bairstow’s wickets.

12th over: England 29-3 (Root 12, Stokes 2) Ashwin has dismissed Stokes 11 times previously. And one fizzes past his outside edge, before he snatches a quick single to finish the over. Sunil Gavaskar stares at a delicious looking chocolate cake and waves a sharp knife around in the commentary box. I can’t quite work out why.

Updated

11th over: England 29-3 (Root 12, Stokes 0) Stokes shifts off the mark with a single second ball. This is the England power house, but their energy must be sapped already and there’s another hour and a half before tea. Root plays out the remainder of Axar’s over.

“ “You can say Sibley was unlucky but surely a good sweeper of the ball can easily avoid the close fielder? You rarely see Root nail the guys around the bat. If Sibley can’t sweep well, put the shot away. And surely this has to be Bairstow’s last ever Test, regardless of how many CC runs he scores anymore? “ So stern Kevin Wilson on a Saturday morning.

101h over: England 28-3 (Root 12, Stokes 0) Two gorgeous shots from Joe Root, through the covers for fours of light relief. Ashwin goes round the wicket as a result.

10th over: England 20-3 (Root 8, Stokes 0) Stokes just has to bat for two days now.

“Good morning Tanya.” Hello Amelia!
“Anyone else a bit desensitised after last week. I feel like we are back in the groove of England batting circa the 90’s replace Atherton with Root and maybe a Ramprakash for Lawrence. I think we all know the major plot points of this movie. Looking forward to the sequel in England in the summer.”

Axar and Ashwin have now taken 52 wickets between them this series.

WICKET! Sibley c Pant b Axar 3

Man, that’s unlucky. Sibley stretches forward to sweep and clops Shubman Gill on the left knee at short leg. The ball riccochets into the air and a quick-thinking Pant collects with a nod of thanks. Root removes his gloves and helmet and takes a deep breath

9th over: England 19-2 (Root 7, Sibley 3) Sibley’s bits and pieces technique survives four balls from Ashwin, though is beaten past the outside edge with the last.

Incidentally, Jonny Bairstow has now made six ducks in his last nine Test innings v India, which adds a little grist to Adrian’s mill.

8th over: England 17-2 (Root 6, Sibley 2) Root sweeps again, a top-edge but into the empty outfield. Axar finding bounce and turn.

“Morning Tanya” Morning Adrian Armstrong! “Will a generation of Indian children grow up to use the phrase ‘I’ll be with you in a Bairstow’?”

7th over: England 15-2 (Root 4, Sibley 2) Somehow, Root is still grinning.He sweeps a couple from Ashwin, he’s not going to go down meekly.

Phillip Pigott gets in first with what I suspect will be a few missives on the same subject. “YJB or rather, WhyJB?”

6th over: England 12-2 (Root 2, Sibley 1) Root teases Strauss, and flies very close to being lbw fourth ball to Axar Patel. Virat Kohli, who has had an appalling run with the review system , rejects Pant’s pleas. As it turns out, he’s right, it would have been umpire’s call.

5th over: England 10-2 (Root 1, Sibley 1) R Ashwin gets his huge paws on the ball. His second ball turns out of the dust past the diving Pant for four leg byes. His fourth traps Crawley , his fifth Bairstow wristily hands to Rahane, and his hat-trick ball? Root calmly tips into the leg side. At least no-one has been lbw to Axar yet.

Updated

WICKET! Bairstow c Rahane b Ashwin 0

Don’t look. Baristow guides his first ball into the hands of the waiting Rahane at leg slip. His third duck in four innings.

WICKET! Cralwey c Rahane b Ashwin 5

The ball pitches in the same spot as one that spun sharply earlier in the over, but doesn’t zip and zag but instead goes straight on. Crawley plays for spin, edges and the ball slips into Rahane’s hands at slip.

4th over: England 6-0 (Crawley 5, Sibley 1) It is Axar Patel to resume after lunch. A maiden that Sibley plays competently enough. Nicholas Varley, though, has his doubts.

“Good Morning Tanya.” Good morning Column Fordham!

“Writing from Naples where the AQI is a rather unsalutory 159 and therefore not ideal for a test match. Strauss’ admonition to England’s leading batsmen is really helpful. So getting bowled by Axar is ok, then? Just not LBW. I’m sure Sibley will oblige before too long but we England fans live in hope.
“It would be nice if Bairstow could make a few more runs than Axar Patel this time (Patel 43 batting number 9, YJB 28 batting number 3).
“If India are the Bayern Munich of cricket (I did root for them against the Aussies but then that’s only normal given Ashes rivalry), England might arguably be the Spurs of cricket. They might occasionally shine and punch above their weight but when reality strikes and they play the top dogs, well…”

A final word from Strauss as the players walk out. “Using your feet doesn’t mean you have to hit the bowlers for six.”

“I feel sorry for Washington Sundar but canny of Siraj and Ishant to get out without having to make any batting effort in the field thereby keeping themselves fresh for bowling!” So true Vincent Barreto. It would have been his maiden Test century too.

Lunch England 6-0

3rd over: England 6-0 (Crawley 5, Sibley 1) Can England survive Siraj, one last over till lunch?They can! Crawley scampers up the other end after a prod to mid-on, Sibley gets off the mark with a flick to long leg. Crawley spins his bat handle and gets a couple with a angled drive square. Siraj dives to stop a drive from Crawley and lands on his left arm, oof, he’s hurt and lies on the ground for a good 30 seconds. The physio comes out to help but everyone troops off for sustenance. England dine 154 runs behind, time for a quick stretch and a coffee. See you back here shortly!

2nd over: England 2-0 (Crawley 2, Sibley 0) It’s the long-legged figure of Axar Patel, trademark sunglasses on. Crawley drives his first to mid-off, the second bristles past the outside edge. Sibley, bat outstretched at an angle, awkward, tries to whip the ball leg side but gets a leading edge and it squits the other way.

1st over: England 1-0 (Crawley 1, Sibley 0) It’s Siraj, fast, on target. His second swings away and Crawley whisks his bat away at the very last moment of the very last second. From slip, Kohli raises his hands and applauds. More outswingers follow and Crawley squirts a single from the last ball.

Time for a couple of emails while we wait for Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley.

Football from Amit Kumar: “Just an add on to football reference, India is definitely “Bayern Munich” of cricket. Champions of home, now conqueror of world.”

And from Deepak Nandhakumar “Just wanted to point out to Bharat (112th over) that in Chennai, Washington Sundar’s hometown, the current AQI is 93. So he’s definitely not used to Ahmedabad. Where I’m from, the AQI is 56 and we’re surrounded by trees. We really shouldn’t normalise the high AQI in big cities.”

In the studio, Andrew Strauss issues a word of warning, stern but fair. “I don’t want to see any England top order batsmen getting out lbw to Axar Patel.” And with that ringing in their ears, England make their way to the middle.

India all out 365 (Sundar 96 not out) a lead of 160

The agony is over for England, but what agony to come? Time for three or four overs before lunch. Just rewards for Stokes, the breakthrough made possible by a quick-thinking bit of fielding by Bairstow. Superb batting by Axar Patel and the unlucky (and crestfallen) Washington Sundar, who took their feet to England and stretched India’s lead into the far distance.

WICKET! Siraj bowled Stokes 0

That’s it! After three quarters of a session of toil, England take 3-0. Siraj is surprised by a pitched up which passes through a wide open gate. Sundar is stranded on 96, and Stokes has four wickets for his sweet efforts.

WICKET! Sharma lbw Stokes 0

First ball! Ishant lumbers in front of the stumps and is speared right in front of them. Sundar looks at the approaching Siraj like a man whose confidence has spilt suddenly out of his boots.

114th over: India 363-7 (Sundar 96, Ishant 0) So the breakthrough comes with a run-out, which is probably all it was ever going to be.

WICKET! Axar Patel run out 43

From nowhere! A smashing bit of fielding from Jonny Bairstow, who whips the ball in to Root who removes the bails with Axar a few inches short. Sent back by Sundar for a crazy run that was never there.

112th over: India 363-7 (Sundar 95, Axar 42) Dom Bess dives with all his might – and prevents a low-legged pull from Axar running across the boundary, a shot that brings up the century partnership. 104 off 173 balls. Six from Stokes’s over – time for a change, but who? Do none of these England batsmen bowl dibbly-dobblies?

“Topnof the Morning to you Tanya!” Hello Amitabh Mukherjee!

“What Clive missed pointing out is, 194-300 is the average AQI in Ahmedabad. It’s 250 in parts of Delhi. As Indians, we’re radioactive ️. At least our lungs are anyway. Not a proud moment just a fact Axar taking in lungfuls of that freshness to bring up his 50 and Sundar hid 100. Another fantastic rearguard fightback like at the SCG/Gabba. Dawn of the Asian Era. Secret might just be in Radioactiveness of our lads. Just ask Imagine Dragons.”

Updated

111th over: India 357-7 (Sundar 91, Axar 40) Root turns one and it detonates out of the foot holes, just evading Axar’s bat. Not really what England really wanted to see, though Axar will be delighted.

And now we see the ground from the air, pollution obscuring much of the view of the city.

110th over: India 351-7 (Sundar 90, Axar 37) Stokes’ average speed has slowly dropped throughout the match, according to the figures on the television. But not the effort. He looks such an athlete these days, gone are any days of puppy fat.

Going back to Clive Pullinger’s point about the air pollution, this is where the authorities, local and ICC, have repeatedly turned a blind eye and failed their own players.

109th over: India 349-7 (Sundar 89, Axar 36) Root, shirt buttoned (buttoned?) at the wrist, wheels in . Ears pinking in the severe heat. Low arm, and makes it spin, and bounce, out of the dust.

“Foreign pacers do struggle so often on the dustbowls of India,” writes Ayan Chakrabarti. “But the craft and class of Jimmy Anderson in this series is simply unparalleled in recent history. Despite being an Indian supporter my heart bleeds to seem him soldier on sans much support.”

He, I’m sure, would thank you – once he’s recovered.

108th over: India 347-7 (Sundar 88, Axar 35) In the television studio they’re thinking that the pitch is either nicely paced and easy to bat on; or these two youngsters are playing out of their skins. I guess we’ll see whenever England managed to get them out and pad up themselves. In the meantime, Stokes bowls from wide of the crease and slams the ball into the pitch and it rises awkwardly on Axar who stabs the ball away. More short balls follow. I ache just watching them. Just noticed Ben Foakes behind the stumps for the first time today – in the unobtrusiveness stakes, highly valued for a keeper, he scores highly.

107th over: India 344-7 (Sundar 86, Axar 34) Joe Root searches around the field and turns to … himself. A decent enough over, just a couple of singles. That’s drinks and time for me to find a blanket to cover my chilly knees. Such glamour on the OBO. India lead by 139 runs.

106th over: India 342-7 (Sundar 85, Axar 33) Stokes thunders through another over, leaking four runs to a couple of wristy shots from Sundar.

Good morning Saurabh Raye! “This is with reference to ‘All the while India – the Brazil of cricket teams in 2021- can lick their fingers at what a day three pitch might do’

Brazil is usually the neutrals favourite and a liked team overall for a casual follower of football.As an India supporter there is a distinctively uncomfortable feeling that with the IPL riches and a powerful BCCI , the Indian cricket team is really not universally liked or the neutrals favourite anymore ( assuming it ever was), That honour goes to New Zealand.”

A very good point. A better football pundit than me is needed here. Could India, then, be the Barcelona of football?

105th over: India 338-7 (Sundar 76, Axar 33) Washington Sundar, lithe of limb, power-taps Leach straight back through his ankles for four.

“Anybody looked at the air quality index at the ground in Ahmedabad today?” asks Clive Pullinger. “Not sure it’s healthy to be playing today.”

That’s a very good point Clive. The live index confirms your suspicion: 194 US AQI which is unhealthy. Health recommendations suggest: wear a mask outside, shut all windows, run an air purifier and AVOID OUTDOOR EXERCISE.

105th over: India 333-7 ( Sundar 76 , Axar 33) It is the mighty Stokes, long Dennis Compton hair held back by a mixture of sweat and oil. He challenges straight away, one from the over.

104th over: India 332-7 ( Sundar 76 , Axar 33) The pitch has no devil – at least for these Indian batsmen who’ve been out there for three-quarters of an hour now this morning. First Sundar launches Leach over mid-on for a single, then Axar does it better – a saucy six!

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen that “Walking like a dude” ad, and as someone who has been consuming content mostly off my laptop/phone (sans ads), I can only giggle at the absurdity of some advertisements, “chuckles Kanishk Srinivasan

“ And also pity the poor director who has to tell a glowering Virat Kohli to dance and “walk like a dude”. The phrase somehow seems to accurately define his gait, but at the same time, I somehow imagine that it’s explicit usage would irritate him to no end.
I’m wondering if there are other phrases that would capture someone’s essence, but would also irritate if they’re mentioned. Any suggestions from either you or the beloved OBO community?”

So true! My favourite bit is the jumper pull about half way through and the hand sign that accompanies “dude” but I’ve already watched it far far too many times..

Updated

103rd over: India 323-7 ( Sundar 73 , Axar 26) Anderson accelerates through another over.

“Back in the 90s there was a British TV comedy set in a TV news room called Drop the Dead Donkey.” writes Martin O’Connor

“Each week they would drop in a few jokes from the week’s news to make the show more topical.

I still remember one episode where a character is looking at a monitor and laments ‘look at these cricket scores. There’s a whole generation of children growing up who think that England batting collapse is all one word’.”

Updated

102nd over: India 322-7 ( Sundar 73 , Axar 26) Just one comes from Leach’s over this time.

Aha! An email from Tim de Lisle – who is watching for pleasure in this small hour. Apparently his email address is at the top of the page not mine, while we fix things, please email me any thoughts on tanya.aldred.freelance@theguardian.com.

101st over: India 321-7 ( Sundar 72 , Axar 26) Anderson decides short balls are the answer, slotting in three in a row. Sundar pivots and hooks, a shot that deserves more than the single it picks up. Patel drives at a fuller one, misses, then ducks a shorter one and Jimmy looks cranky now. Time for a bowling change. India are now 116 runs ahead.

100th over: India 320-7 ( Sundar 71 , Axar 26) Patel shimmies, and slices Leach over mid-on just a bounce short of being a six. Leach looks anguished. He swing and misses a couple of balls later then connects with the last, lovely feet again, and this time the ball glides through the covers for another four.

99th over: India 312-7 ( Sundar 71 , Axar 18) A snifter to mid-on and Anderson leaks his first runs of the morning. he gets his revenge by crashing the ball into Sundar’s groin a couple of balls later. Medical attention runs on the pitch and everyone takes a breather.

As if Joe Root had just read this tweet from Sambit Bal, Root gently removes Bess and hands the ball to Leach.

Updated

98th over: India 309-7 ( Sundar 70 , Axar 16) A slightly less good start by Bess this time around. Sundar charges his first ball and swings him straight, dancing feet in a puff of dust, for six. An even better shot from the second, a fullish toss, which, with low back knee, and all angles, he cruises past cover for four. Ten from the over, which somewhat negates Anderson’s maidens at the other end.

97th over: India 299-7 ( Sundar 60 , Axar 16) Another maiden for Anderson, man made machine. We get a breakdown of yesterday, it is stark. First session: 65 runs, 3 wickets, second session: 73 runs, two wickets, third session: 141 runs, one wicket.

96th over: India 299-7 ( Sundar 60 , Axar 16) Joe Root throws the balls to Dom Bess and… he largely repays his faith. A lovely looping ball to start, the second is driven just a LPs width back past his diving hand for four. Then steady as she goes, and narry a full toss.

On the radio, they think he’s shortened his run up a little.

Updated

95th over: India 294-7 ( Sundar 60 , Axar 11) It’s Jimmy Anderson with the ball, ankle support low on his left leg, thick white wristbands on both arms like thick slashes of vanilla custard. It’s a maiden, an excellent maiden, the last ball sliding past the outside edge of a probing Sundar.

We see footage of Joe Root addressing England in a patch of shade on the side of the ground. Stokes looks knackered but determined. Here is Pant on yesterday’s wizardry.

And here come the players.

Graeme Swann is in the middle of at Ahmedabad. “Pant’s hundred is one of the best I’ve ever seen.” And more worryingly for England. “That wicket, I’ve had a look at it today -IT IS A DUSTBOWL. One thing England can take from Pant is how he played with his feet, he smothered it before counter-attacking. It is 39 degrees and feels like 50.”

Good morning from Manchester wherever you are in the world. Play starts in 15 minutes. A pertinent tweet from Ali Martin to start your day.

And Pant’s innings gives me the excuse to play this advert again for all those in need of skin care advice whilst walking like a dude.

m

Updated

Preamble

What a bubble bath of effervescence and impish genius, what sorcery of hand-eye co-ordination, what strutting, bounding self belief. Rishabh Pant’s hundred may not have been quite as pressurised as his 89 not out in that run-chase against Australia at the Gabba, but it turned what had hitherto been a close match, into one looking terminal for Joe Root and his tired men. And pencilled India into the World Test Championship Final against New Zealand in June.

A night’s sleep can only bring so much replenishment for England after three hard sessions in 38 degree heat and a post-tea spanking from Pant. Even Ben Stokes, who drinks nightly at the well of unquenchable strength, was spent yesterday evening. I hope someone bought Dom Bess dinner last night, how alone you must feel on an Indian cricket field with full tosses in your fingers and head and a dancing princeling at the other end. 89 behind, England must dismiss Washington Sundar – who has played beautifully for his 60 – quickly and hope the tail fall in a heap. And then the batting pulls off the greatest of great escapes.

All the while India – the Brazil of cricket teams in 2021- can lick their fingers at what a day three pitch might do.

I’ll be here around 3.30GMT, with a hot water bottle and a bucket of tea. Don’t miss what could yet be the final day of the series.

Updated

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Life and Style

Tell us: what gives your mood a boost?

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Tell us: what gives your mood a boost?” was written by Guardian community team, for theguardian.com on Friday 5th March 2021 15.44 UTC

With freedoms restricted and a number of life’s most enjoyable pastimes curtailed, many of us have found new ways to give our mood a boost over the last year. Some people have turned to outdoor exercise and home-cooking in order to lift their spirits, but they are not the only options.

Perhaps you’ve discovered the pleasures of a long, hot, undisturbed soak in the bath? Or maybe you’ve taken to listening to music at full blast and dancing around your living room? Whether you advocate forest-bathing or chocolate-eating, we want to hear about the things you’ve found to be reliable mood-boosters, especially during the pandemic.

Share your experiences

You can get in touch by filling in the form below. Your responses are secure as the form is encrypted and only the Guardian has access to your contributions.

One of our journalists will be in contact before we publish, so please do leave contact details.

If you’re having trouble using the form, click here. Read terms of service here.

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US NEWS, World

Senate to debate as Republicans attempt to derail $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill – live updates

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Senate to debate as Republicans attempt to derail $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill – live updates” was written by Martin Belam, for theguardian.com on Friday 5th March 2021 11.44 UTC

Eric Sweeney reports for us this morning on the hundreds of people who have gotten Covid vaccine shots thanks to a partnership between the Arkansas health department and historically Black social groups:

Soon after Arkansas began allowing people over 70 to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in January, Wanda King heard from her aunt and cousin, who fell in that age group, that they were struggling to get their shots.

So, she turned to her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister Michelle Smith, who is the director of the office of health equity and HIV elimination at the Arkansas department of health. Smith helped King locate a pharmacist in the town of Brinkley, 12 miles away, who was willing to join them in hosting a clinic in Cotton Plant in late February that would offer 180 vaccination slots.

“I immediately got on the phone and started spreading the word, putting it on Facebook, and asking people to help me spread the word,” King says. She recruited other sorority sisters to help coordinate sign-ups, purchase snacks, masks and hand sanitizer, and greet people on the day of the event.

“Anything we can do to roll out the red carpet for these individuals, that’s what we want to do,” she adds.

The clinic in Cotton Plant is part of a broader effort by the state health department and Arkansas chapters of historically Black sororities and fraternities, known as the Divine Nine, working together to get Black Arkansans vaccinated. Through the partnership, hundreds have gotten their shots so far.

Public service is one of the key tenets of Black Greek Letter Organizations, formerly known as the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Membership in these organizations is lifelong, and they have been involved with health initiatives for more than 100 years. Smith says the Covid -19 vaccination effort is an extension of that.

“If you want inroads into the Black community, you start with the church, and then the next step is the fraternities and sororities,” she says. “They are trusted leaders in the community, so if we want to get information out to a larger swath of people, we go to these groups.”

Read more of Erica Sweeney’s report here: The sororities and fraternities helping Black Americans get vaccinated

There’s been quite the to-and-fro between the White House and Texas Gov Greg Abbott over mask mandates the last days. Kim Chandler at Associated Press writes that another governor, Alabama’s Kay Ivey has resisted political pressure and angry constituents over her state’s mask order.

“Maybe they don’t have access to the same information I have. We want to be abundantly clear and abundantly safe before we drop the mask mandate,” Ivey said when asked about fellow Republicans including the Alabama Senate and the lieutenant governor who urged her to end the order.

Ivey issued Alabama’s mask order in July and announced yesterday that she would extend it five more weeks until 9 April.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey receiving a Covid vaccine dose earlier in the year.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey receiving a Covid vaccine dose earlier in the year.
Photograph: Mickey Welsh/AP

“We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer,” Ivey said at a Thursday news conference.

Ivey’s announcement came days after Mississippi and Texas dropped their mandates, decisions President Joe Biden called “Neanderthal thinking.”

Mississippi’s governor took issue with the criticism. “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them,” Gov Tate Reeves responded on Twitter.

Dr Michael Saag, an infectious disease specialist who contracted Covid-19 early in the pandemic and now treats patients with the illness, said Ivey deserves credit for standing up to calls to lift the order from fellow Republicans.

“I think it was a bold step forward considering the pressure she was under,” he said. But rather than setting a firm deadline for the requirement to expire, Saag said, it would be better to see where both caseloads and vaccinations totals are next month and then make a decision.

Ivey made a tongue-in-cheek quip about the heaping doses of criticism she has received from some over masks. “Y’all, I’m not trying to be Governor Mee-Maw as some on social media have called me. I’m just trying to urge you to use the common sense the good Lord gave each of us to be smart and considerate of others,” she said.

Senate to debate as Republicans attempt to derail $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill

Susan Cornwell and Makini Brice write for Reuters today that the Senate debate will be “contentious” today. That feels like an understatement.

They note that the Senate is expected to debate the bill three hours, before considering a multitude of amendments, which could require a marathon voting session, before taking a vote on final passage in a process that could extend into the weekend. Republicans are expected to use procedural maneuvers to slow the process, as demonstrated by Sen Ron Johnson of Wisconsin insisting on the bill being read in full yesterday.

The relief legislation includes funding for vaccines and medical supplies, extends jobless assistance and provides a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments. Opinion polls indicate broad public support.

If the Senate approves the bill, it will have to be sent back to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for final passage. Democrats hope Biden can sign the bill into law before 14 March, some of the current benefits run out.

With no votes to spare, Senate Democrats have tweaked the measure to ensure all 50 of their members would support it. Those changes would steer more aid to smaller US states and add money for infrastructure projects, among other adjustments.

But efforts by some senators to alter temporary federal unemployment benefits failed. The Senate bill keeps the House plan for $400 per-week payments through 29 August. It was unclear whether any senators would try to change that figure, possibly to $300, during the amendment process in coming days.

In the Senate, bills usually require the support of 60 senators. But the coronavirus relief bill is being advanced under a legislative procedure known as reconciliation that allows passage with a simple majority vote.

A handful of rightwing “super-spreaders” on social media were responsible for the bulk of election misinformation in the run-up to the Capitol attack, according to a new study that also sheds light on the staggering reach of falsehoods pushed by Donald Trump.

A report from the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), a group that includes Stanford and the University of Washington, analyzed social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok during several months before and after the 2020 elections.

It found that “super-spreaders” – responsible for the most frequent and most impactful misinformation campaigns – included Trump and his two elder sons, as well as other members of the Trump administration and the rightwing media.

The study’s authors and other researchers say the findings underscore the need to disable such accounts to stop the spread of misinformation.

“If there is a limit to how much content moderators can tackle, have them focus on reducing harm by eliminating the most effective spreaders of misinformation,” said said Lisa Fazio, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University who studies the psychology of fake news but was not involved EIP report. “Rather than trying to enforce the rules equally across all users, focus enforcement on the most powerful accounts.”

The report analyzed social media posts featuring words like “election” and “voting” to track key misinformation narratives related to the the 2020 election, including claims of mail carriers throwing away ballots, legitimate ballots strategically not being counted, and other false or unproven stories.

The report studied how these narratives developed and the effect they had. It found during this time period, popular rightwing Twitter accounts “transformed one-off stories, sometimes based on honest voter concerns or genuine misunderstandings, into cohesive narratives of systemic election fraud”.

Ultimately, the “false claims and narratives coalesced into the meta-narrative of a ‘stolen election’, which later propelled the January 6 insurrection”, the report said.

“The 2020 election demonstrated that actors – both foreign and domestic – remain committed to weaponizing viral false and misleading narratives to undermine confidence in the US electoral system and erode Americans’ faith in our democracy,” the authors concluded.

Read more of Kari Paul’s report here: A few rightwing ‘super-spreaders’ fueled bulk of election falsehoods, study says

If you fancy something to listen to today, can I recommend our Politics Weekly Extra podcast?

This week guest host Rafael Behr puts some epoch-defining questions to the former US ambassador to Nato Nicholas Burns. How does the new president convince the Europeans that America is reliable? How does Washington begin to engage with Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Does ‘the west’ exist any more?

 

If you aren’t clear why the Senate spent a lot of yesterday listening to the entire text of the $1.9 trillion Covid rescue plan being read out, rather than debating it, then Philip Bump has you covered at the Washington Post. He writes:

After passing the House, the $1.9 trillion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate. But that won’t happen for a while yet, not because there aren’t the votes to pass it but, instead, because Sen Ron Johnson decided to force the chamber to read the 628-page bill in its entirety. The effect isn’t to change the outcome. Instead, it’s to delay the inevitable.

Normally, the Senate or House dispenses with the required reading of legislation. For those looking to throw up any possible roadblock to a bill’s passage, though, forcing the bill to be read (which can be done at the request of any member) is an effective tool.

It’s meant to be a nuisance. But it carries an additional weight this time. At this moment, on this issue, time can be measured in human lives. On average, nearly 2,000 people a day are dying from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. That’s a death about once every 44 seconds.

Around 80 Americans would have died from Covid for each hour the Senate spent reading the bill yesterday.

Welcome to our US politics live blog for Friday, after a late night in the Senate.

  • The Senate will reconvene at 9am EST (1400 GMT) to debate the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. It was read in full yesterday, with the process not finishing until the early hours.
  • Republicans wanted it read in full because they argued that a lot of the measures don’t directly apply to Covid. Senate Democrats thanked Republicans for the move, saying it showed to the American people exactly what help their opposition was trying to delay.
  • Republicans are so determined to delay progress that Vice President Kamala Harris had to come to the chamber yesterday to break a Senate tie to even begin the debate.
  • Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer pledged that the chamber would stay in session to pass the bill this weekend, “no matter how long it takes”.
  • The White House defended President Joe Biden’s criticism of Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi, after the president called their decisions to end Covid mask mandates “Neanderthal thinking”.
  • The US Capitol police has requested a two-month extension to the national guard’s mission at the Capitol, though Nancy Pelosi downplayed the security threats at the Capitol which had caused the House to rearrange their votes this week.
  • A Turkish court trying 26 Saudi nationals in absentia for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has refused to admit as evidence a recent US intelligence report implicating the kingdom’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Biden will keep pushing the Covid relief agenda today, as he holds a roundtable on his American Rescue Plan at 3.15pm ET today. He’ll also receive the president’s daily brief, and lunch with Kamala Harris.
  • Jen Psaki’s media briefing today is at 12.30, and the Covid response team will face the press earlier, at 11am.

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US NEWS, World

Pelosi downplays security threat as police request National Guard extend stay at Capitol – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Pelosi downplays security threat as police request National Guard extend stay at Capitol – live” was written by Joan E Greve (now) and Martin Belam (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 4th March 2021 17.16 UTC

Biden administration to transform migrant detention centers into rapid-processing sites – report

The Biden administration intends to transform some of the migrant detention centers in Texas into rapid-processing sites to allow families to be released into the US within 72 hours, according to the Washington Post.

The Post reports:

[DHS draft] plans show the Biden administration is racing to absorb a growing number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border amid shortages of bed space and personnel. Republicans and some Democrats fear that relaxing detention policies will exacerbate a surge that is already straining the Biden administration.

Transforming family detention amounts to a wholesale repudiation not only of Donald Trump administration policies but also those of former president Barack Obama, and presents a significantly different vision of how to handle the fast-changing character of mass migration at the southern border.

The change will likely be sharply criticized on the right, given that Republicans have already attack Joe Biden’s immigration policies as too lenient.

However, immigration activists will likely celebrate the news, after many of them criticized the Biden administration for reopening a migrant detention center for minors that had been used during Trump’s presidency.

Nearly 90% of the people charged in the Capitol riot so far have no connection with militias or other organized extremist groups, according to a new analysis that adds to the understanding of what some experts have dubbed the “mass radicalization” of Donald Trump’s supporters.

A report from George Washington University’s Center on Extremism has analyzed court records about cases that have been made public. It found that more than half of people facing federal charges over the 6 January attack appear to have planned their participation alone, not even coordinating with family members or close friends.

Only 33 of the 257 alleged participants appear to have been part of existing “militant networks”, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers anti-government militia.

The dominance of these “individual believers” among the alleged attackers underscored the importance of understanding the Capitol violence as part of a “diverse and fractured domestic extremist threat”, and highlighted the ongoing risk of lone actor terror attacks, the George Washington researchers concluded.

Other analysts have argued the Capitol attackers should be understood as “not merely a mix of rightwing organizations, but as a broader mass movement with violence at its core”.

At her weekly press conference moments ago, House speaker Nancy Pelosi said the National Guard troops should remain at the Capitol for “as long as they are needed”.

But the Democratic speaker emphasized that she would leave decisions about National Guard troop deployments up to security officials at the Capitol.

If the National Guard grants the US Capitol Police’s request to extend the mission by two months, Guard troops will be at the Capitol until at least mid-May.

USCP asks National Guard to stay at the Capitol for two more months, lawmaker says

The US Capitol Police has asked the National Guard to extend its mission at the Capitol by two months, according to Democratic congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.

The mission, which was launched in response to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, is currently set to end on March 12.

According to Slotkin, the National Guard is asking states to send troop contributions to Washington to continue the mission at the Capitol.

Slotkin, a Democrat of Michigan and a former senior Pentagon official, requested an immediate briefing for lawmakers on the extension request.

“Whether an extension has been requested or the mission is indeed terminating on March 12, it’s critical that members of Congress get a briefing on what’s behind these decisions,” Slotkin said.

“We all have the same goal: to get back to the point where Capitol Police is capable of protecting us without the Guard’s help, and all parties feel confident we can protect the people’s business.”

Democrats are determined to proceed with a debate on the Biden administration’s $1.9tn stimulus plan as Capitol Hill braced for a potential security threat on Thursday nearly two months after the deadly January 6 insurrection.

The House adjusted its schedule to finish voting on Wednesday night, after Capitol police warned of a “possible plot to breach the Capitol by an unidentified militia group.” The threat of danger, Capitol police said, relates to an online QAnon conspiracy theory that falsely claims Donald Trump would return to power on March 4 – the day new presidents were sworn in prior to 1937.

“We take these things very seriously,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat of Michigan. “We are working closely with law enforcement and certainly will personally be taking extra precautions as we move into the Capitol today. But we’ve got to get this package because people are counting on us. And so we’ll do it in the safest way possible.”

But Senate Democrats are under pressure to pass the massive stimulus package before crucial benefits expire at the end of next week. Republicans are expected to drag out the debate by requiring the clerk to read the entire 500+ page legislation in full as well as force votes on dozens of amendments.

“We’re going to just keep drinking coffee and getting this thing done because this is about … helping people get their lives back,” Stabenow said. “And we are committed, along with the president to do that, no matter how many hours it takes to get that done.”

Asked if adjourning early sent the wrong message, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber was already planning to end their legislative day early on Thursday to allow Republicans to attend their policy retreat. She noted that there were four times as member House members and that the fewer people in the Capitol, the easier it is to secure the building.

Pelosi downplays security threats at the Capitol

House speaker Nancy Pelosi downplayed potential security threats at the Capitol, after the US Capitol Police warned of a militia’s potential plot to storm the building today.

Asked whether House leaders changed the voting schedule for this week due to security concerns, the Democratic speaker said the change was approved “mostly” because Republicans needed to attend their issues conference today.

“If in fact there are any troublemakers around, it made sense,” Pelosi said of the schedule change.

Pelosi emphasized she did not want to get distracted by the “silliness” of a far-right conspiracy theory that claims Donald Trump will be inaugurated as president today. (Trump obviously lost the presidential election, and Joe Biden was rightly inaugurated as president on January 20.)

Addressing how long National Guard troops will be protecting the Capitol, Pelosi said, “We should have them here as long as they are needed.”

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is optimistic about the chances of the Senate passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

The police reform bill passed the House last night, in a nearly party-line vote of 220 to 212.

The Democratic speaker said progressive congresswoman Karen Bass will be negotiating with the Senate to help advance the legislation.

Unless Senate Democrats eliminate the filibuster, they will need to win over 10 of their Republican colleagues in order to get the bill passed.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi is now holding her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill.

The Democratic speaker celebrated the House’s passage of the For the People Act, describing the election reform bill as a “giant step for democracy”.

Pelosi said the legislation, which faces a difficult road to passage in the Senate, would help ensure that “big, dark, special interest money” do not flood the airwaves to impede progress.

An earlier coronavirus relief package passed in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency included $600 payments to individuals. After calling for $2,000 relief checks, Joe Biden then introduced a plan that would deliver $1,400 direct payments to millions of Americans, with aides arguing that the two checks amount to the promised $2,000.

The changes introduced on Wednesday to appease moderate Democrats scale back the eligibility for the payments.

Under the new structure, the individuals earning up to $75,000 per year and couples earning up to $150,000 per year would still qualify for the full $1,400 stimulus payment. But under the new structure, the checks would phase out at a lower income level than they would in Biden’s initial proposal, and in the version of the bill passed by the House.

Under the House plan, the payments would phase out entirely for individuals making $100,000 per year and couples earning $200,000 per year. The Senate version will now cut off the benefit for individuals making $80,000 per year and couples earning $160,000 per year.

Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said the changes to the payments would save $12bn in the overall stimulus bill. An estimated 12 million fewer adults would receive stimulus payments under the compromise plan, according to an early analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Democratic senators defended changes narrowing the eligibility for a new round of $1,400 stimulus payments, arguing that conservative proposals would have resulted in far steeper cuts to the stimulus checks.

On a call with reporters Thursday, hours before the Senate was expected to begin debate on Joe Biden’s $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill.

Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia, whose special election victory alongside Georgia Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock delivered Democrats control of the Senate, said they fought successfully to “hold the line” against deeper cuts to the payments.

Asked if the changes amounted to a broken promise to Georgia voters, Ossoff insisted it did not. Taken together with the earned income tax credit and child tax credit provisions of the stimulus bill, “the direct economic relief for working families in Georgia will be even more generous than I had believed was possible during the campaign.”

“This is why it’s so vital that we hold the line where there are GOP efforts to gut the direct payments,” Ossoff said. “This is what Georgians sent us to Washington to fight for, and this is what we’re going to deliver.”

“Elections have consequences – and we are now in a position to deliver this aid,” he added.

Updated

The Wall Street Journal has new details on the air strikes that took place in Syria last week, which were approved by Joe Biden in his first military action as president.

According to the Journal, US forces were originally supposed to hit two targets, but Biden scrapped one of the targets at the last minute:

After 10 days of deliberations, President Biden had ordered the Pentagon to conduct airstrikes on two targets inside Syria Feb. 26 when an aide delivered an urgent warning about 30 minutes before the bombs were scheduled to fall.

A woman and a couple of children were in the courtyard at one of the sites, according to battlefield reconnaissance. With the F-15Es in flight to the targets, Mr. Biden scratched the second target but ordered the strike on the first objective to proceed.

The previously undisclosed episode involving Mr. Biden’s first known use of force as commander in chief was an unexpected coda to a methodical decision-making approach in which the Biden administration sought to balance competing interests in the Middle East tinderbox.

The airstrikes, which targeted Iranian-backed fighters in Syria, hit three trucks loaded with munitions and left 22 people dead. All of the dead were affiliated with Iraq’s state-sponsored Hashd al-Shaabi, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, said phasing out the direct payments in the relief bill at a faster rate will save $12bn.

That is a small fraction of the overall cost of the relief package, which is $1.9tn.

Reports emerged yesterday that Senate Democrats, at the urging of moderates like Joe Manchin, were considering phasing out the checks completely for individuals who make $80,000 a year.

The first two rounds of stimulus payments were phased out completely for individuals making $100,000 a year. The impact of that change is that fewer Americans will receive direct payments from the relief bill that Joe Biden will sign, versus the two relief bills that Donald Trump signed.

However, $1,400 is the largest of the three stimulus payments so far.

Updated

Last night, the House also passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a nearly party-line vote of 220 to 212.

Like the For the People Act, the police reform bill faces a very uphill climb in the Senate, unless Democrats eliminate the filibuster.

As Politico notes, the Justice in Policing Act, which the House initially passed last year in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, has a lot of grassroots momentum. That momentum may indicate that Democrats will soon come under renewed pressure from progressives and activists to eliminate the Senate filibuster:

Even as Democrats control all of Washington for the first time in a decade, a series of priorities that are hugely important to their liberal base — and to making good on President Joe Biden’s campaign promises — have begun piling up in the Senate. That backlog will grow over the next two weeks as Speaker Nancy Pelosi tees up votes on bills to expand voting rights, enact universal background checks for gun purchases and protect so-called Dreamers.

The prospect of those historic measures sliding into Senate stasis after House passage is infuriating to progressives — particularly on issues like the party’s signature policing bill, which has overwhelming grassroots energy behind it. But with the upper chamber’s legislative filibuster remaining intact, Democrats have no way to get much of their agenda to Biden’s desk without winning at least 10 GOP votes while keeping their 50-member caucus united.

That political reality in the Senate is likely to spur negotiations with the GOP about concessions that would be tough to stomach for many progressive Democrats, including longtime civil rights advocates who invested significant energy in the House’s policing bill. And as a result, pressure is sure to mount on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to nuke the filibuster once and for all.

Joe Biden released a statement this morning celebrating the passage of the For the People Act, Democrats’ election reform bill that they have been trying to enact for years.

“In the wake of an unprecedented assault on our democracy; a coordinated attempt to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the American people never before seen in our history; and a new wave of aggressive attacks on voting rights taking place in states across the country, I applaud Speaker Pelosi and the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021,” Biden said.

“I look forward to working with Congress to refine and advance this important bill. And I look forward to signing it into law after it has passed through the legislative process, so that together we can strengthen and restore American democracy for the next election and all those to come.”

The bill passed the House last night in a vote of 220-210, but it faces long odds in the evenly divided Senate. Unless Senate Democrats eliminate the filibuster, they would need 10 of their Republican colleagues to support the bill in order to get it passed.

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Martin Belam.

The Senate is expected to start work on the $1.9tn coronavirus relief package later today, kicking off a days-long process to get the bill passed.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson has said he plans to force Senate clerks to read the bill in its entirety, which will take about 10 hours.

After the bill has been read, the Senate will begin its “vote-a-rama” on amendments for the bill, and Republicans plan to introduce many amendments to force Democrats to take uncomfortable votes on controversial issues.

The vote-a-rama could potentially extend into the weekend, but once it’s done, the Senate will vote on final passage of the bill. Assuming it passes, the bill will then go back to the House, so the lower chamber can pass the final version of the package.

With all that in mind, it seems likely that Joe Biden will be able to sign the bill sometime next week. The president has said he wants the bill on his desk by March 14, when extended unemployment benefits are currently set to expire.

The blog will be covering all of the latest updates on the Senate vote, so stay tuned.

Updated

As part of its clean-energy agenda, the Biden administration is reviving an energy department program that disbursed billions of dollars in loan guarantees to companies such as electric car maker Tesla and the failed solar company Solyndra, the energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, says.

The loan program helped launch the country’s first utility-scale wind and solar farms as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to create “green jobs” but largely went dormant under Donald Trump.

The program boosted Tesla’s efforts to become a behemoth in electric cars, but it stumbled with a major loan guarantee to Solyndra, the California solar company that failed soon after receiving federal money a decade ago, costing taxpayers more than $500m.

Republicans and other critics cite Solyndra as an example of wasteful spending under Barack Obama’s stimulus program, and the loan guarantees have largely dried up in recent years. The energy department provided $12bn in guarantees for the Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia, but few other loans were offered under Trump.

When running for office, Joe Biden put forth a $2tn plan to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from the US electricity grid within 15 years, a goal that was applauded by climate campaigners but was criticized for the enormous overhaul it will require.

The restart of the energy department’s loan program – which was once a major tool the federal government had to incentivize clean energy innovation – gives the Biden administration a chance to redeem it after Solyndra’s fall.

Granholm said up to $40bn in guarantees will be made available for a variety of clean-energy projects, including wind, solar and hydro power, advanced vehicles, geothermal and even nuclear.

“It’s got to be clean. That’s it,” she said. “And when I say clean, you know, it’s technologies that are being researched in the lab,” like projects to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, so-called green hydrogen fuel and other energy sources, she said.

Read more here: Biden’s energy department revives loan program to boost clean technology

Why are Federal forces on high alert in the Capitol today? Well, 4 March is a date that conspiracy theorists have cited as when former president Donald Trump will be swept back into power. The significance of the date is that for the first 140 years of the US, that was the date (or near enough) when presidents were inaugurated. Geneva Sands and Zachary Cohen report for CNN that:

US Capitol Police acting chief Yogananda Pittman told Congress earlier Wednesday that her department had “concerning intelligence” regarding the next few days in Congress — but said it wouldn’t be “prudent” of her to share the “law-enforcement sensitive” intelligence in a public hearing or public format.

Pittman assured lawmakers, though, that her department is in an “enhanced” security posture and that the National Guard and Capitol Police have been briefed on what to expect in the coming days.

In a clear sign federal agencies are working to avoid the same communication failures for which they have been roundly criticized since the Capitol attack, DHS officials are stressing that law enforcement should not view intelligence solely through the lens of whether a threat qualifies as “credible and specific,” but use the warnings coming from DHS, FBI and other partner agencies to inform decisions about their security posture, even if the information provided falls short of pointing to an imminent attack or violence, the sources said.

Violent extremists also discussed plans to persuade thousands to travel to Washington, DC, to participate in the March 4 plot, according to the joint intelligence bulletin. One source noted to CNN that it is mostly online talk and not necessarily an indication anyone is coming to Washington to act on it.

The House moved its business forward a day so as to avoid being in session today. it is thought that the Senate will assemble as planned, with Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill on the agenda.

Read more here: CNN – Feds on high alert Thursday after warnings about potential threats to US Capitol

Mississippi residents still struggle with water supply weeks after mid-February storms

Winter storms, which crippled power sources throughout the US south, brought record low temperatures to parts of Mississippi. In Jackson, where 80% of residents are Black, the cold led to at least 96 breakages in the city’s ageing pipes, which, combined with power outages, lead to catastrophically low pressure throughout its water system. As of Monday evening 35 breakages remained, and although pressure was slowly coming back, thousands of residents are without water. Most of them in the city’s south, which sits on higher ground and is furthest away from the treatment plant. A citywide boil notice remains in effect and officials have offered no timeline for full restoration.

Jackson’s mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, has said the city requires $2bn to revitalize its ailing piping and treatment system. He compared the city’s pipes to peanut brittle, explaining that as repair crews move in to fix the pipes, one repair can lead to another breakage.

Mississippi, American’s poorest state, has long faced chronic infrastructure problems. A 2020 report card published by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state a D+ grade, noting decaying systems across roads, energy, solid waste and a host of other essential services. On its drinking water systems, the report noted some were losing as much as 50% of treated water due to breakages and that certain systems were still dependent on pipes laid in the 1920s. “Many of these networks have aged past their useful life span,” the report notes.

But at a press conference on Monday, Mayor Lumumba made clear that the changing climate was exacerbating the issue.

“One thing that is clear is that our winters are colder, our summers are hotter and the rain we experience is more abundant,” he said, pointing out that the city’s outdoor water treatment facility was simply not built to endure the cold. “And so not only do we need this investment because of the ageing infrastructure we need this investment because of the increased pressure that these extreme weather conditions are taking.”

Read more of Oliver Laughland’s report from Jackson, Mississippi here: ‘There’s no excuse for this’: thousands in Mississippi city still without water weeks after storms

House Oversight Committee to investigate agency that operates Texas power grid

The House Oversight Committee is investigating the agency that operates the Texas power grid, seeking information and documents about the lack of preparation for the recent winter storm that caused millions of power outages and dozens of deaths across the state, report Associated Press.

Rep Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who chairs an environment subcommittee, sent a letter to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), saying he is concerned that the loss of electric service “and the resulting human suffering, deaths and economic costs” will happen again unless ERCOT and the state of Texas adequately prepare for a predicted increase in extreme weather events.

Severe winter storms in Texas “have occurred repeatedly over decades, and ERCOT has been unprepared for them,” Khanna wrote in a letter to ERCOT CEO Bill Magness. The group’s own consultant has predicted that severe winter weather events will continue to occur every decade, yet ERCOT and state officials have done little to prepare for them or build appropriate infrastructure, Khanna said.

Magness was fired Wednesday amid growing calls for his ouster following the deadly storms, but will stay on for two months to “work with state leaders and regulators on potential reforms to ERCOT,” the organization said in a statement.

“The failures of ERCOT and the state of Texas were costly,” Khanna wrote. At least 49 Texans have died, and more than 4.5 million people experienced power outages
“Homeowners, renters and businesses face steep expenses to fix damage from frozen and burst pipes, with the Texas Insurance Council estimating that claims could be more than $20 billion,” Khanna wrote. Total economic losses in Texas could reach $50 billion.

Because Texas is not connected to the national grid, “ERCOT has limited ability to import electricity from outside of the state,” Khanna noted, adding that nearby regions, such as El Paso, experienced the same extreme temperatures but fewer disruptions.

A spokeswoman for ERCOT said officials received the letter and will respond to the subcommittee.

Some Republicans have sought to falsely blame the power outages on the use of renewable energy, but Texas Gov Greg Abbott, has ultimately blamed the power failures on ERCOT. S three-member utility commission appointed by Abbott has oversight authority over the grid operator. The utility commission’s chair resigned last week, and at least six ERCOT board members have also resigned in the wake of the power failure, one of the largest in U.S. history.

Last month’s storm followed similar winter storms in 1989 and 2011 that also caused massive outages, Khanna said. “It appears that lessons learned (again) in 2011 were not implemented either, leaving Texas vulnerable to extreme winter weather again in 2021,” he wrote.

The subcommittee requested documents from ERCOT by 17 March 17 related to its preparedness for extreme weather events; decisions on where and when to implement rolling blackouts; and the disruption of electricity supply in the mid-February storm.

Trump’s transport secretary was using government office to help family shipping business with ties to China – report

Elaine Chao, the Republican who served as Secretary of Transportation in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2021, has been criticised in a report by the Transportation Department’s inspector general for repeatedly using her office staff to help family members who run a shipping business with extensive ties to China.

Overnight Eric Lipton and Michael Forsythe reported for the New York Times that:

The investigation of Chao came after a 2019 report that detailed her interactions with her family while serving as transportation secretary, including a trip she had planned to take to China in 2017 with her father and sister. The inspector general’s report confirmed that the planning for the trip, which was canceled, raised ethics concerns among other government officials.

As transportation secretary, Chao was the top Trump administration official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is in steep decline and is being battered by Chinese competitors.

“A formal investigation into potential misuses of position was warranted,” Mitch Behm, the Transportation Department’s deputy inspector general, said to House lawmakers on Tuesday in a letter accompanying a 44-page report detailing the investigation into “use of public office for private gain.”

The inspector general referred the matter to the Justice Department in December for possible criminal investigation. But in the weeks before the end of Trump administration, two Justice Department divisions declined to do so.

Read more here: New York Times – Inspector General’s report cites Elaine Chao for using office to help family

A former Maryland police chief is accused of setting fires to multiple structures that belonged to his adversaries, report the Associated Press.

Former Laurel Police Chief David Crawford, 69, was arrested Wednesday and is charged with over 50 felonies, including first-degree arson and first-degree attempted murder, in connection to a string of fires from 2011 to 2020 in Howard, Prince George’s, Frederick and Montgomery counties. Twelve fires were set in the nine-year span to multiple homes, vehicles and residential garages, authorities said.

Investigators determined the fires were connected to people who had disagreements with Crawford, authorities said. Police said they found a target list of known victims and other evidence during a search of Crawford’s Howard County home in January.
Some of the victims include a former City of Laurel official, three former law enforcement officials and two of Crawford’s former physicians.

“People who are angry, they do bad things,” said State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci. “Clearly, our suspect, thought he was wronged in a lot of different cases and wronged by a lot of different people, and these are all, you know, spite-revenge fires.”

All the fires were set at night. In six of the arsons, the victims were asleep in their homes with their families. Authorities said no one was injured in any of the fires.

Crawford served as the Laurel police chief from 2006 until his resignation in 2010. Laurel Mayor Craig Moe, who appointed Crawford, said he was a staple in the community. Moe said some people in the police department were unhappy with Crawford, but that wasn’t unusual for a police chief, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“It’s very disturbing,” Moe said. “Somebody who took an oath of office to protect and serve, that’s not how you protect and serve.”

Study shows Californians on universal basic income paid off debt and got full-time jobs

The idea of a Universal Basic Income is another one that highlights the sharp partisan divide in American politics. You can already guess who thinks it is giving people something-for-nothing, and who thinks it is potentially a valuable tool in the fight against poverty and social injustice.

The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration sought to test those contesting ideas. And, after receiving $500 per month for two years without rules on how to spend it, it emerges that 125 people in California paid off debt, got full-time jobs and had “statistically significant improvements” in emotional health, according to a study released today.

The Associated Press report that the program was the nation’s highest-profile experiment in decades of universal basic income (UBI), and did not use tax dollars, but instead was financed by private donations, including a not-for-profit led by the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

When the program started in February 2019, 28% of the people slated to get the free money had full-time jobs. One year later, 40% of those people had full-time jobs. A control group of people who did not get the money saw a 5 percentage point increase in full-time employment over that same time period, from 32% to 37%.

The researchers said that the extra $500 per month was enough for people with part-time jobs to take time off so they could interview for full-time jobs that offered better pay. They also said the money could have helped people who weren’t working at all find jobs by allowing them to pay for transportation to interviews.

After a year of getting the money, 62% of the people were paying off debt compared to 52% before the study. Researchers also said most people moved from being likely to have mild mental health disorders to “likely mental wellness”.

The money was delivered once a month on a debit card, which let researchers track how most of the people spent it. The biggest category each month was food, followed by sales and merchandise, which included purchases at places like Walmart and Target, which also sell groceries. The next highest categories were utilities, auto and services. Less than 1% of the money went to tobacco and alcohol – commonly cited as a concern.

Not everyone was on board with the idea. Aside from conservatives who dislike big government programs, opposition also comes from labor unions that worry about what other types of social safety net programs would have to be sacrificed to pay for a guaranteed income. It could cost nearly $3tn a year to provide a guaranteed income to everyone.

“What these experiments don’t tell us is what the impact would be as a result of the tradeoffs that are necessary to implement UBI on a massive scale,” said Steve Smith, the communications director for the California Labor Federation.

FBI, Homeland Security and police warn of possible plot to breach Capitol today

It seems an unlikely sentence to be writing, but the reason we got a couple of landmark votes in the House yesterday was because they were rushing through business to ensure it wouldn’t be disrupted if there is an attack on the Capitol today.

The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the US Capitol police department have obtained intelligence pointing to a possible plot to “breach the Capitol by an identified militia group” today, the Capitol police said yesterday. From a distance it is hard to judge how credible the threat is, or whether authorities are simply acting out of an abundance of caution after the events of the 6 January.

Those events were being discussed yesterday in a hearing before the Senate Rules and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees about the pro-Trump insurrection. Rebecca Kheel and Rebecca Beitsch have pulled out for the Hill what they thought the five key takeaways from the session were. Those included:

The National Guard was hamstrung ahead of the attack – DC National Guard commanding general Maj Gen William Walker said there was an “unusual” 5 January memo from then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy restricting his ability to deploy a so-called Quick Reaction Force without McCarthy’s approval. Had it not been for that restriction, Walker said, he “would have sent them there immediately as soon as I hung up” from his call with then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund asking for help.

Walker told the committees, “It was never really explained to me” why restrictions were placed on him. But he drew a stark contrast between 6 Janusary and the response to racial justice protests over the summer.

Asked by Homeland Security committee Chairman, Michigan Democrat Gary Peters, whether he got immediate approval from McCarthy and Miller to deploy guardsmen in June, Walker replied, “Yes.” Pressed by Peters on whether he got immediate approval to deploy 6 January, Walker replied, “No.”

Read more here: The Hill – Five takeaways from dramatic Capitol security hearing

Updated

There was a brief period last night when the House Democrats could claim that their police justice bill had at least some bipartisan support, but not for long. Republican Rep Lance Gooden of Texas later tweeted to clarify that he had pressed the wrong button. “I have arguably the most conservative/America First voting record in Congress! Of course I wouldn’t support the radical left’s, anti-police act.”

The official record has now been changed to record his vote as a no.

Yesterday the US House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the most ambitious police reform effort in decades. The legislation changes would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement and create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability. California congresswoman Karen Bass, who authored the bill, cited the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and Floyd’s death as the catalyst for the ambitious reform while House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said the bill was “legislation which will fundamentally transform the culture”.

 

The leader of the Democrats in the House, Steny Hoyer, said “I hope this bill is enacted to help save lives and restore trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

It will face significant opposition in the Senate.

Hi, and welcome to our live coverage of Thursday’s US politics. Here’s a run down of the main stories at the moment, and what is in the diary for today…

  • Yesterday House Democrats passed a sweeping expansion of federal voting rights. The For The People act would be the most significant enhancement of federal voting protections in decades.
  • They also passed the ambitious George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which would ban chokeholds and qualified immunity for law enforcement.
  • The US Capitol Police warned yesterday that it has “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group” today. The House has cleared its voting schedule as a result.
  • Joe Biden sharply criticized Republican governors for “Neanderthal thinking” as Texas and Mississippi rescinded their mask mandates despite public health experts’ concerns about another potential surge in coronavirus cases. “I think it’s a big mistake,” the president said.
  • Andrew Cuomo said he would not resign after three women accused him of sexual harassment. The New York governor offered qualified apologies for his behavior and said he would “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s investigation of the allegations.
  • The commanding general of the DC national guard told the Senate that the Pentagon curtailed his ability to rapidly deploy guard troops the day before the 6 January insurrection.
  • President Joe Biden, vice president Kamala Harris and transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg will meet with a bipartisan group of House Members on infrastructure at 2pm ET (1900 GMT).
  • Biden will also hold a call to congratulate Nasa on the successful landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars.
  • Jen Psaki will give a press briefing at 12.45.

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First Thing: Biden slams ‘Neanderthal’ easing of state Covid restrictions

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “First Thing: Biden slams ‘Neanderthal’ easing of state Covid restrictions ” was written by Molly Blackall, for theguardian.com on Thursday 4th March 2021 11.08 UTC

Good morning.

Joe Biden sharply criticised the Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi over their decision to end their state mask-wearing mandates, describing the move as a “big mistake” and accusing them of “Neanderthal thinking”. Speaking at the White House yesterday, Biden said the US was on the “cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease” due to the vaccine rollout, but warned that “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine”.

Biden’s criticisms were echoed by public health experts. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said her organisation had been “very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions”, adding that the “next month or two is really pivotal”. She has previously warned that a fourth surge of the virus is possible if adherence to public health restrictions slips.

 

So which states are easing up? Alongside Texas and Mississippi dropping their mask-wearing rules, Michigan has eased limits on restaurants and gatherings, as coronavirus infection, death and hospitalisation rates fall across the US. In California, San Francisco will begin reopening more of its economy today, with movie theatres, gyms and museums reopening at restricted capacity and restaurants beginning limited indoor dining. From 15 March, New York will allow weddings of up to 150, subject to restrictions including testing for guests, and designated socially distanced “dance zones”.

  • Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak has become a global threat which risks producing new, more lethal variants of the virus, one of the country’s top scientists warned yesterday. Miguel Nicolelis urged the international community to take the Brazilian government to task over their handling of the pandemic, saying: “What’s the point in sorting the pandemic out in Europe or the United States, if Brazil continues to be a breeding ground for this virus?”

Authorities are preparing for possible violence at the Capitol today

A view of a security fence at the base of Capitol Hill during heightened security concerns over possible protests or violence on 4 March, 2021. Washington’s security posture has been bolstered after threats of a possible “breach” of the US Capitol.
A view of a security fence at the base of Capitol Hill during heightened security concerns over possible protests or violence on Thursday.
Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Federal authorities warned yesterday that they had identified possible plans for another attack on the Capitol, which aims to remove Democratic politicians, on roughly 4 March. The FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the US Capitol police department have intelligence suggesting a possible plan to “breach the Capitol by an identified militia group”, but Capitol police said they were working with other agencies to head off any threats. However, the warnings were serious enough to lead lawmakers to change the voting schedule in the house – moving a debate on the police reform bill to Wednesday evening instead of Thursday.

Why today? 4 March marks the date when some far-right conspiracy theorists believe Donald Trump will be sworn in for a second term, despite him losing the election and leaving the White House more than a month ago.

  • Nearly 90% of those charged over the Capitol riot aren’t connected to militias or other organised extremist groups, according to new analysis. George Washington University’s Center on Extremism found that more than half of people facing federal charges over the 6 January attack appear to have planned their involvement alone.

The House passed a landmark police reform act, but it has dim future at the Senate

 

The House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act for a second time yesterday, the most significant and ambitious attempt to reform law enforcement in decades. Under the legislation, chokeholds would be banned, as would “qualified immunity” for police officers, a special measure that protects officers from certain lawsuits. It would also establish a national standard for policing, in the hope that this would provide greater accountability for officers. The measure, named after George Floyd who was killed by Minneapolis police in 2020, was passed 220-212, falling firmly along party lines.

However, the act’s future doesn’t look bright. The House passed a version of the bill last year, but it was never taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate. Now, Democrats have the White House and a slight edge in the Senate but will still have to win over at least 10 Republican senators to pass the measure, which is considered unlikely.

  • A landmark election law bill passed the House yesterday, touching on almost every aspect of the electoral process to restrict gerrymandering of congressional district, eliminate hurdles to voting and bring greater transparency to campaign financing. However, it also appears to have little chance of passing the Senate.

Dozens of anti-coup protesters have been killed in Myanmar

Bystanders flash a three-fingered sign of resistance as the body of Kyal Sin, also known by her Chinese name Deng Jia Xi, is driven in Mandalay, Myanmar, Thursday, 4 March 2021. Kyal Sin was shot in the head by Myanmar security forces during an anti-coup protest rally she was attending Wednesday.
Bystanders flash a three-fingered sign of resistance as the body of Kyal Sin, also known by her Chinese name Deng Jia Xi, is driven by in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Thursday. Kyal Sin was shot in the head by security forces during an anti-coup protest rally she was attending on Wednesday.
Photograph: AP

At least 38 people have been killed after security forces in Myanmar opened fire on demonstrators peacefully protesting last month’s government coup, in the bloodiest day of protests yet. Authorities have become increasingly violent against demonstrators, killing more than 50 people since the 1 February coup, according to the UN.

Despite this, crowds have continued to demonstrate, wearing hard hats and homemade shields to protect themselves. They are demanding that the military concede control of the country and reinstate Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratic leader who was captured in the coup.

  • The US decision not to punish the Saudi crown prince puts exiles in danger, they have warned, following the Biden administration’s move not to put direct sanctions on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite US intelligence finding he was complicit in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The exiled dissidents said the move would embolden the prince and some said they had already been warned they were in danger.

In other news …

 

  • Tensions between Meghan and Harry and the royal family are ramping up, with a clip of the much-anticipated interview between the couple and Oprah Winfrey showing Meghan accuse the palace of “perpetuating falsehoods” against herself and her husband. The clip was released just hours after Buckingham Palace made a rare intervention, announcing it would launch an investigation into allegations of bullying made against Meghan.
  • Andrew Cuomo has said he won’t resign over sexual harassment allegations made against him by three women. Speaking at his first public appearance since the claims, the New York governor apologised and said he had “learned an important lesson” on his behaviour around women, but that he wouldn’t be leaving office.

Stat of the day: coronavirus death rates are 10 times higher in countries with high rates of overweight people

About 2.2 million of the 2.5 million global deaths from coronavirus occurred in countries with high proportions of overweight people, a landmark study has revealed. According to the World Obesity Federation, death rates are 10 times higher in countries where more than half of the adults have a BMI of more than 25kg/m2 – the point at which normal weight tips into overweight – such as the US, UK and Italy.

Don’t miss this: thousands of people in Mississippi still don’t have water

Thousands of residents in Mississippi are entering their third week without running water, after the state’s capital was battered by back-to-back storms in mid-February. The state’s water infrastructure was badly damaged, with at least 96 pipe breakages and power outages causing extremely low water pressure. Oliver Laughland meets those affected.

Last thing: Space X’s starship exploded just after performing a perfect test

 

It was a day of mixed emotions for Elon Musk’s Space X, when its Starship rocket performed a perfect test, only to explode minutes later. The rocketship Musk’s firm one day hopes to send to Mars looked like it had perfected touchdown, after two previous failed attempts, leading the commentator John Insprucker to declare that “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” and Space X to end its live webcast of the test with success. But the Starship suddenly exploded on the landing pad with such force that it was catapulted into the air.

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World

China’s five-year plan for economy is crucial to meeting net zero by 2060

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “China’s five-year plan for economy is crucial to meeting net zero by 2060” was written by Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent, for theguardian.com on Thursday 4th March 2021 10.11 UTC

China is to publish a new blueprint for its economy on Friday, with vast implications for the future of the planet – including whether the goals of the Paris climate agreement are likely to be met.

The five-year plan, of which this will be the 14th since 1953, forms the cornerstone of economic governance for the one-party state, and sets out social and environmental aspirations as well as GDP and industrial targets.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as the second biggest economy after the US. Global carbon emissions must halve by the end of this decade to have a chance of holding global heating well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the Paris accord, so China’s role will be decisive.

Lord Stern of Brentford, the climate economist, told the Guardian: “The investments of this decade, particularly in infrastructure, will determine whether we have any chance of keeping to the Paris targets. China will be a focal point for economic growth in this crucial decade … [the plan] is of absolutely central importance to the world’s future.”

Net zero emissions springs from the Paris agreement, though the goal was not made explicit in the treaty’s text. World leaders set the 2C limit, and the aspirational limit of 1.5C, at Paris based on advice from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading body of the world’s climate scientists, which has over years worked out that 2C was the threshold of safety, beyond which the ravages of climate breakdown were likely to become catastrophic and irreversible. Even at 1.5C, many low-lying areas could flood from sea level rises and storm surges.

After Paris, the IPCC was asked to advise further on the emissions cuts needed to stay within those limits. Building on its previous findings, the world’s climate science authority established in 2018 that emissions would have to reach zero around mid-century, and that this could be achieved if emissions were halved in the next decade or so.

That clear scientific backing helped to establish net zero emissions by 2050 as the standard that must be achieved.

Net zero emissions means reducing emissions as far as possible, and balancing out whatever remains by increasing carbon sinks, for instance by growing trees or restoring wetlands and peatlands. Phasing out coal, switching to renewable energy, the more efficient use of energy, and moving to electrified transport will all be key. Nuclear power may also play a role, and some countries such as China and France are investing in a new generation of reactors. Carbon capture and storage technology, by which carbon dioxide from large sources as gas-fired power plants or industrial units is captured at source, liquefied and piped into large underground chambers, such as depleted oilfields, is also likely to be needed, in varying amounts according to different analyses.

Some scientists believe we also need to start to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air. One method of doing this involves crushing up limestone rocks to spread chalk dust on fields. The limestone absorbs carbon, and the dust improves the soil.

 

Xi Jinping, president of China, surprised the world last September when at the UN general assembly, held virtually for the first time, he announced that China would seek to cut its emissions to net zero by 2060.

That target is in line with scientific advice – the whole world must reach net zero emissions around mid-century to stay within 2C – but politically it was seismic. China’s previous position at climate talks was that the developed countries of the west, with their long history of industrialisation, must take on tough obligations to cut their emissions first, while emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil, could continue to increase theirs.

If China’s net zero target is met, along with those of other nations – the US, the EU, the UK, Japan, South Korea and many smaller countries also plan to reach net zero by 2050 – then the world has a good chance of keeping to 2C, according to Climate Action Tracker.

But though China’s net zero target is essential, it is four decades away. What happens now is crucial, because carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere today will still be there, overheating the planet, in a century. That means countries must stop adding to the stock of carbon in the air as soon as possible, and stop building high-carbon infrastructure such as coal-fired power plants that will have an operating life of decades.

“To achieve the Paris targets, emissions must turn down in the next couple of years,” said Stern. “Realistically, that cannot happen unless emissions in China start to fall.”

Xi said in September that China’s emissions would peak before 2030. Most experts regard that as too late to have a realistic chance of meeting the Paris goals, however, and allowing emissions to carry on rising for a decade would encourage the continued building of fossil fuel infrastructure. They want to see China set a tougher target, and many regard a peak date of 2025 as within China’s power to achieve.

Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, and the French diplomat who led the Paris negotiations, said: “[Peaking in] 2025 seems possible, all the modelling by Chinese teams points to that, and it’s not too late. But 2030 or around 2030 would be too late, there is no ambiguity about that.”

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic may make an early peak harder to achieve, however. China’s emissions dropped suddenly last year, as lockdowns took hold, then swiftly climbed again as restrictions eased. In its efforts to restart the economy after the Covid-19 shock, China turned to an old standby: the country brought forward stalled investments in coal-fired power plants. China approved more new coal-fired power generation in the first half of last year than in the whole of the previous two years, according to Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Bernice Lee, research director for futures at the Chatham House thinktank, said the rest of the world must understand that China’s dependence on coal for energy, industry and millions of jobs runs deep, and try to find ways of engaging rather than admonishing China. “People always ask why can’t China move faster away from coal. It is hard in China, like it is hard in many other places: it is about real people on the ground, industries, powerful lobbies, bureaucratic fights, and inertia,” she said. “But a better question for us to ask ourselves is: what can the rest of the world do to encourage China – and others, like India – to move faster away from coal?”

The question of China’s peak year for emissions is unlikely to be resolved in Friday’s five-year plan. Instead, the government is likely to set out its economic blueprint, including targets for GDP growth, and gesture towards environmental, social and climate aims without setting them out in detail.

However, Beijing faces another deadline. This November, world governments will meet in Glasgow for vital UN climate talks, called Cop26. Under the Paris agreement, nations were supposed to set out in 2020 fresh commitments on cutting or curbing greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030. That timetable slipped because of the Covid-19 pandemic but the UN has made it clear it wants new national plans for 2030 – called nationally determined contributions, or NDCs – from all major countries ahead of Cop26.

The EU, the UK, Japan and about 70 others have set out their NDCs, though some are under pressure to revise them. All eyes are now on the US and China, as the world’s biggest emitters and biggest economies. Joe Biden, the US president, has called a summit of world leaders for 22 April to discuss climate action ahead of Cop26, and he is expected there to set out his country’s NDC.

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Corona Virus, Health

Coronavirus live news: Covid death rates 10 times higher in countries where most adults overweight

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: Covid death rates 10 times higher in countries where most adults overweight” was written by Helen Sullivan, for theguardian.com on Thursday 4th March 2021 05.40 UTC

Germany to relax Covid curbs

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday unveiled plans to gradually ease coronavirus curbs in Europe’s top economy, AFP reports.

Merkel and Germany’s 16 regional leaders revealed a step-by-step plan to relax restrictions, despite concern over the spread of more aggressive virus variants, as Merkel caved to political pressure and public discontent.

“Today, we can talk of hope and a transition to a new phase” in the fight against the pandemic, she told a Berlin press conference, citing the imminent ramp-up in vaccinations and the arrival of mass rapid testing.

The relaxations will happen gradually and many of the current virus restrictions will stay in place until March 28, but from Monday, Germans will be allowed to socialise more, with up to five adults from two households allowed to meet up.

The desire to leave pandemic regulations behind is widespread throughout the rest of Europe too, as the Swiss government said a referendum would be held in June on the legality of government powers to order lockdowns.

In the Dutch town of Bovenkarspel, a suspected bomb went off at a coronavirus testing centre, breaking windows but not causing any injuries.

The Netherlands has been shaken by riots against coronavirus curfews and the torching of another testing centre in January.

Indian doctors and politicians on Thursday welcomed efficacy data for a state-backed coronavirus vaccine that was given emergency approval in January without the completion of a late-stage trial, making people reluctant to receive the shot, Reuters reports.

Government data shows that only 10% of about 12.6 million people immunised in India have taken the Covaxin shot, which was found to be 81% effective in an interim analysis of the late-stage trial, its developer Bharat Biotech said on Wednesday.

Any boost to the vaccine’s acceptance in India, which on Thursday reported a new Covid cases at their highest in five weeks, could also brighten its export prospects. Bharat Biotech said 40 countries were interested in Covaxin.

Many Indian doctors and opposition politicians had rejected Covaxin because it was approved by the drug regulator only on the basis of data from intermediate trials. The regulator has also authorised the use of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, marketed as Covishield in India, which was found to be 70.42% effective based on overseas trials.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 11,912 to 2,471,942, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.

The reported death toll rose by 359 to 71,240, the tally showed.

South Africa medics celebrate after sharp drop in Covid cases

After a year battling coronavirus, exhausted health workers in South Africa are celebrating a drop in cases but dread another wave of infections – a scenario that could strike just months from now.

Via AFP: “We are relieved now because the numbers are down and patients are no longer that sick,” nurse Constance Mathibela told AFP at Thembisa Hospital, in a township east of Johannesburg.

After the epidemic hit its stride, the hospital “was almost full everyday,” she recalled.

“There was no time when we had an empty (Covid) ward. It was just a continuous (flow of) things.”

South Africa recorded its first case of coronavirus on March 5 last year.

Health workers screen visitors for Covid-19 symptoms at the Tembisa Hospital in Tembisa, on 1 March 2021.
Health workers screen visitors for Covid-19 symptoms at the Tembisa Hospital in Tembisa, on 1 March 2021.
Photograph: Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images

It has since been through two virus storms, recording over 1.5 million cases and more than 50,000 deaths – the highest in all of Africa.

But on Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa declared that the second wave, fuelled by a new, more contagious, variant, was now over.

The nationwide tally of daily new infections fell to just over 500 this week after peaking at more than 21,000 on January 7.

Ramaphosa’s announcement was welcome news for many medical workers who have been driven to the brink of burnout.

But with a vaccination drive having started only last month, they are also bracing for a possible third wave.

Scientists believe it could land with the onset of the southern hemisphere winter, around May or June.

Australia records biggest monthly trade surplus ever as household spending drives growth

Australia recorded the biggest monthly trade surplus in history as the economy continued to rack up records in a marked rebound from last year’s deep recession.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the trade balance of goods and services was a record $10.1bn in January and was up more than $3bn compared with December.

This was the result of a 6% jump in exports, while imports declined 2%.

Economists had forecast a surplus of around $6bn based on preliminary data released last month, with export earnings rising on higher commodity prices, in particular those for iron ore on strong demand from China:

Brazil set a daily record for Covid deaths for a second straight day on Wednesday, as a raging resurgence of the virus led Sao Paulo state to shutter businesses and the government to try to close vaccine deals with Pfizer and Janssen, Reuters reports.

With a new coronavirus variant from the Amazon spurring more infections, according to studies, 1,910 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data. In a year, Brazil’s death toll has nearly topped 260,000, the world’s second-worst after the United States.

A sputtering vaccination campaign has also put pressure on Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, who said on Wednesday he was close to an agreement with Pfizer Inc, effectively overcoming a dispute over liability clauses.

The government said it intended to buy 100 million doses from Pfizer and 38 million from Janssen, the pharmaceutical subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Healthcare workers prepare to take a patient suspected of having Covid into the HRAN Hospital in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, 3 March 2021.
Healthcare workers prepare to take a patient suspected of having Covid into the HRAN Hospital in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, 3 March 2021.
Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP

“We’ve reached a grave moment of the pandemic. The coronavirus variants are hitting us aggressively,” Pazuello said in a video posted on social media, adding that he expected the Pfizer doses to arrive in May.

In another video, he said the ministry was close to a contract to receive the “first rate” Janssen vaccine by August.

The partial lockdown in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most-populous state, underscored mounting concerns about a surging new wave of infections. The country is facing its deadliest stretch since the pandemic began due to a homegrown variant dubbed P1, scarce restrictions to slow the virus and the patchy vaccine rollout.

Brazil is setting single-day death records as outbreaks ebb in North America and parts of Western Europe. That risks internationally isolating Latin America’s biggest country as other nations seek to shore up their gains against the virus.

The Sao Paulo announcement, made by state Governor João Doria, irked far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who opposes lockdowns and has long sought to diminish the gravity of the virus. But more states and cities are likely to follow Sao Paulo’s lead as health systems are pushed to the breaking point.

Bolsonaro attacked the lockdowns again on Wednesday.

“You cannot panic, like resorting once again to this stay-at-home policy. People are going to die of hunger and depression,” he told a group of supporters.

A national panel of vaccine experts in Canada recommended Wednesday that provinces extend the interval between the two doses of a Covid shot to four months to quickly inoculate more people amid a shortage of doses in Canada, AP reports.

A number of provinces said they would do just that.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed optimism that vaccination timelines could be sped up. But one top health official called it an experiment and noted no other country is doing it.

The current protocol is an interval of three to four weeks between doses for the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Johnson & Johnson is a one dose vaccine but has not been approved in Canada yet.

Anita Anand, left, Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the High Commissioner of India to Canada Ajay Bisaria pose with some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India.
Anita Anand, left, Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the High Commissioner of India to Canada Ajay Bisaria pose with some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India.
Photograph: Carlos Osorio/AP

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization said extending the dose interval to four months would allow as many as 80% of Canadians over the age of 16 to receive a single dose by the end of June simply with the expected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Second doses would begin to be administered in July as more shipments arrive, the panel said, noting that 55 million doses are expected to be delivered in July, August and September.

And now for very important breaking news – these baby fish dance to MC hammer:

Updated

Joe Biden sharply criticized the Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi, who announced yesterday that they were rescinding their mask mandates, despite public health experts’ concerns about another surge in coronavirus cases.

“We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we are able to get vaccines in people’s arms,” Biden said.

“The last thing we need is neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine,” Biden said. “It still matters”:

 

The coronavirus is still around and dangerous and people should keep to the rules, the UK health secretary Matt Hancock has warned, as new data showed a slowing in the decline of infections and a possible slight increase in London, the south-east and the Midlands.

The latest REACT1 study, which collects swab samples from people around the country on a continuous basis, found a drop of two-thirds in infections since the last report on swabs collected from 6-23 January.

But the decline has slowed, say the Imperial College London team who run the study. In January to February, prevalence of the virus halved in 15 days. Since then, it has halved in 31 days.

While the R number is firmly below 1, the scientists warn that infection levels are still too high. One person in every 200 still has the virus:

Fake Covid-19 vaccines seized in South Africa, China: Interpol

Police in China and South Africa have seized thousands of fake doses of Covid-19 jabs, global police organisation Interpol said on Wednesday, warning this represented only the “tip of the iceberg” in vaccine-related crime, AFP reports.

The Lyon-based Interpol said 400 vials – equivalent to around 2,400 doses – containing the fake vaccine were found at a warehouse in Germiston outside Johannesburg in South Africa, where officers also recovered fake masks and arrested three Chinese and a Zambian national.

In China, police successfully identified a network selling counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines in an investigation supported by Interpol which has 194 member countries, it said.

They raided the manufacturing premises, resulting in the arrest of some 80 suspects and seized more than 3,000 fake vaccines on the scene, it said.

Interpol earlier this year issued an “Orange Notice” warning authorities worldwide to prepare for organised crime networks targeting Covid-19 vaccines, both physically and online.

“Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine related crime,” said Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock.

Interpol said that in addition to the arrests in South Africa and China it was also receiving additional reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting health bodies such as nursing homes.

Greece prolongs lockdown to 16 March

Greece has extended its coronavirus lockdown to 16 March as it reported the highest number of new cases recorded so far in 2021.

“We are at the toughest part of this pandemic,” health minister Vassilis Kikilias told reporters as he warned that public health resources in Athens had been under “unbearable pressure” for weeks.

Health officials reported 2,702 new infections and 40 deaths on Wednesday.

“At the rate of new hospitalisations, the health system is stretched beyond its limits in terms of infrastructure and staff,” he said, adding that there was an “important rise” in cases of the more transmissible virus variant first detected in the UK.

A military hospital and two private hospitals in Athens will take in extra non-Covid patients in order to free up hundreds of beds in the capital’s state-run hospitals for coronavirus cases.

Restrictions will also be tightened from Thursday to 16 March to stop people from crossing municipal boundaries for shopping and exercise.

“The measures aim to reduce mobility…we stay at home, in our own neighbourhoods,” civil protection deputy minister Nikos Hardalias told reporters.

Brazil suffers another day of record Covid deaths

Brazil has suffered yet another day of record Covid losses with at least 1,910 new fatalities reported in the crisis-stricken South American country.

On Wednesday evening the National Council of State Health Secretaries said those deaths took the country’s total death toll to 259,271 – about 10% of the global total. A record 1,726 deaths were reported on Tuesday.

The announcement came as hospitals all across Brazil struggled to cope with a wave of new infections and criticism of the president Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis intensified. Pot-banging protests are planned for Wednesday night.

Earlier, Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly undermined containment measures and trivialised the coronavirus, defended his response to the public health calamity. He accused journalists of “creating panic” and unfairly blaming him for the rising death toll. “For the media, I’m the virus,” the far-right politician said.

Political rivals have dialled up their attacks on Bolsonaro in recent days as the situation has deteriorated. On Tuesday, the centre-right politician Eduardo Leite told reporters:”It’s hard to understand Bolsonaro’s mind, harder still his heart because this is a question of inhumanity, contempt for life.”

“Leaders who spurn public health guidelines and confuse people are killing them, I’m afraid. That’s what’s happening in Brazil right now,” Leite added

Covid death rates 10 times higher in countries where most adults overweight

Countries with high levels of overweight people, such as the UK and the US, have the highest death rates from Covid-19, a landmark report reveals, prompting calls for governments to urgently tackle obesity, as well as prioritising overweight people for vaccinations.

About 2.2 million of the 2.5 million deaths from Covid were in countries with high levels of overweight people, says the report from the World Obesity Federation. Countries such as the UK, US and Italy, where more than 50% of adults are overweight, have the biggest proportions of deaths linked to coronavirus.

The issue is not just obesity, but levels of weight that many assume are now normal in many countries. Death rates are 10 times higher in those where more than half the adults had a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25kg/m2 – the point at which normal weight tips into overweight.

People who are overweight should be given greater priority for vaccinations and tests because of their increased risk of death, says the World Obesity Federation:

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan. I’m on Twitter @helenrsullivan if you need me.

Coronavirus death rates are 10 times higher in those where more than half the adults had a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25kg/m2 – the point at which normal weight tips into overweight, a new study shows. More on this shortly, in the meantime here are the other key recent developments.

  • A further 208,968 Covid-19 vaccinations have been carried out in England, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses.
  • Police in China and South Africa have seized thousands of fake doses of Covid-19 jabs, adding that Interpol has warned this represented only the “tip of the iceberg” in vaccine-related crime.
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, on Wednesday announced tough new measures to slow a snowballing coronavirus pandemic in the country with the world’s second highest death toll.
  • The Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have come under severe strain in recent weeks, will be given an extra 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses each by the EU.
  • Serbia is struggling to contain a wave of new cases triggered by more infectious strains and health experts have urged the government to impose another lockdown despite the country’s massive vaccine rollout.
  • Greece has extended its coronavirus lockdown to 16 March as it reported the highest number of new cases recorded so far in 2021.
  • Estonia has imposed new restrictions on restaurants and non-essential shops as part of efforts to curb rising infections.
  • New infections are dropping in the United States, Canada and Mexico but vaccinations have hardly begun in Latin America, raising the risk of dangerous new variants emerging, the Pan American Health Organization has said.
  • Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech has said its Covid-19 vaccine is almost 81% effective at preventing infection following interim phase 3 trials.

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Corona Virus, Health, India, World

Coronavirus live news: Brazil sets new grim record with 1,910 deaths in 24 hours; Greece extends lockdown

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: Brazil sets new grim record with 1,910 deaths in 24 hours; Greece extends lockdown” was written by Lucy Campbell (now), Clea Skopeliti, Kevin Rawlinson, Rachel Hall and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Wednesday 3rd March 2021 22.10 UTC

The Italian prime minister Mario Draghi told the EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday that there needed to be a “more rapid” response to the virus pandemic, particularly on the roll-out of vaccines, his office said.

Speaking to von der Leyen by phone, Draghi stressed “the priority goal of a more rapid European health response to Covid-19, especially on vaccines”, the Italian presidency said in a statement.

For her part, the EU chief tweeted that she was “glad to speak to Draghi tonight. We discussed cooperation on vaccine production & delivery”.

The EU Commission has come under fire from EU member states over delays in the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines in Europe.

But last week, von der Leyen said the EU’s goal of fully vaccinating just under three-quarters of adults by late summer was one “that we’re confident with”.

As well as vaccines, Draghi and von der Leyen also talked about “the preparatory on the [Italian] recovery plan”, the EU chief said.

Italy, the eurozone’s third-biggest economy, is to receive more than 200 billion euros in EU aid in the wake of the economic fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic. And it must present its spending plans to Brussels by 30 April.

Updated

Brazil sets new grim record with 1,910 deaths in 24 hours

Brazil has suffered yet another day of record Covid losses with at least 1,910 new fatalities reported in the crisis-stricken South American country.

On Wednesday evening the National Council of State Health Secretaries said those deaths took the country’s total death toll to 259,271 – about 10% of the global total. A record 1,726 deaths were reported on Tuesday.

The announcement came as hospitals all across Brazil struggled to cope with a wave of new infections and criticism of the president Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis intensified. Pot-banging protests are planned for Wednesday night.

Earlier, Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly undermined containment measures and trivialised the coronavirus, defended his response to the public health calamity. He accused journalists of “creating panic” and unfairly blaming him for the rising death toll. “For the media, I’m the virus,” the far-right politician said.

Political rivals have dialled up their attacks on Bolsonaro in recent days as the situation has deteriorated. On Tuesday, the centre-right politician Eduardo Leite told reporters:”It’s hard to understand Bolsonaro’s mind, harder still his heart because this is a question of inhumanity, contempt for life.”

“Leaders who spurn public health guidelines and confuse people are killing them, I’m afraid. That’s what’s happening in Brazil right now,” Leite added

Updated

A cyclist with a backpack for food delivery service runs through a quiet City of London during England’s third lockdown on the day the chancellor sets out tax and spending plans in the budget to help repair the UK economy.
A cyclist with a backpack for food delivery service runs through a quiet City of London during England’s third lockdown on the day the chancellor sets out tax and spending plans in the budget to help repair the UK economy.
Photograph: Akira Suemori/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated

The Czech Republic launched mass coronavirus testing at business premises on Wednesday, in a bid to stem the world’s highest infection rate.

The government also enabled regions to call up private doctors and other medical staff to work in public Covid hospitals, many of which have reached capacity.

“The situation in our hospitals is really critical. We have to employ all reserves to save lives,” the health minister Jan Blatny told reporters.

The Czech Republic, which has a population of 10.7 million, has registered 1.27 million Covid-19 cases and almost 21,000 deaths since the pandemic began. The case rate is at 1,424 per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days and the death rate is the second highest in the world after neighbouring Slovakia.

The government is in talks to receive assistance from other European countries including Germany, Poland and Switzerland, which have all offered hospital beds.

Mass testing kicked off on Wednesday at companies with more than 250 members of staff. They must test their employees by 12 March, with defaulters facing hefty fines or even closures. Mobile army testing teams have been deployed in the worst-hit regions.

The country’s billionaire populist prime minister Andrej Babis said Wednesday that vaccine supplies for the month ahead looked promising.

A spokesman for the president Milos Zeman said the head of state had asked his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for a supply of the Sinopharm vaccine and that China had agreed. Zeman had already asked the Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier to provide his country with the Sputnik V vaccine.

Last week, Babis’s government banned people from leaving their districts and ordered them to wear face masks in busy workplaces and outdoors in inhabited areas.

A curfew, a limit on gatherings, and restaurant closures have been in place since last year. But the government decided not to impose the kind of full lockdown which helped it steer through the first wave last spring with relative ease.

Sociologist Daniel Prokop has blamed the uncontrolled spread on the high proportion of people still going into work, along with the government’s lukewarm response, and some Czechs’ reluctance to play by the rules.

“The countries that have handled the new strains well, such as Britain and Portugal, have reduced the presence of people in workplaces,” Prokop told AFP.

The Swiss will vote in June on the validity of a law giving the government new powers to impose lockdowns and other restrictions to rein in Covid-19, Bern said on Wednesday.

Switzerland’s federal chancellery confirmed that enough signatures had been gathered to trigger a referendum on the 2020 Covid-19 Act as part of the wealthy Alpine nation’s direct democratic system.

Campaigners had handed over 97,878 signatures on 12cJanuary, and the chancellery said on Wednesday it had determined that 90,789 of them were valid – far more than the 50,000 needed for the referendum to go ahead.

The issue will be among several voted on on 13vJune, the chancellery said.

The Covid-19 Act, adopted by parliament last September, gives the government a legal basis to impose restrictions aimed at tackling the pandemic on an ongoing basis.

Before the law was introduced, Bern could only impose restrictions through a string of emergency decrees, providing for strictly time-limited measures under tight parliamentary oversight.

A group calling itself “Friends of the Constitution” gathered the signatures needed to trigger the referendum, arguing that the law was unnecessary and voiced concern the government might use it to launch an obligatory vaccination campaign – something the government adamantly denies.

The announcement came as the government faces increased pressure to loosen restrictions as new Covid-19 cases and deaths have declined significantly in recent weeks.

On Monday, non-essential shops, museums and zoos were permitted to reopen after two months of near-lockdown conditions, but restaurants and other venues remain closed.

The lower house of parliament pushed Wednesday for the government to allow restaurants, cinemas, theatres and gyms to open as of 22 March, and called for the lifting of restrictions limiting gatherings to just five people.

Switzerland, a country of 8.6 million people, has seen more than 557,000 cases and 9,258 deaths from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

A further 315 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, taking the death toll by that measure to 123, 783, according to the UK government’s daily dashboard, which has just been updated.

This figure includes 172 deaths within 28 days of a positive test which have been added to Scotland and the UK’s totals. A note on coronavirus.data.gov explains this:

Public Health Scotland has improved its method for linking daily confirmed Covid-19 cases with deaths reported through the National Records of Scotland. As a result, an extra 172 deaths were identified as having occurred within 28 days of a first positive test result since the start of the outbreak. These have now been added to the cumulative totals for Scotland and the UK.

Between 25 February and 3 March, there have been 1,864 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This shows a decrease of 33.8% compared to the previous 7 days.

However, the number of UK deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate is significantly higher, now standing at 140,062.

A further 6,385 people tested positive for coronavirus, taking the cumulative total to 4,194,785. Between 25 February and 3 March, 50,208 people had a confirmed positive test result. This shows a decrease of 31.6% compared to the previous 7 days.

Summary

  • A further 208,968 Covid-19 vaccinations have been carried out in England, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses.
  • Police in China and South Africa have seized thousands of fake doses of Covid-19 jabs, adding that Interpol has warned this represented only the “tip of the iceberg” in vaccine-related crime.
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, on Wednesday announced tough new measures to slow a snowballing coronavirus pandemic in the country with the world’s second highest death toll.
  • The Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have come under severe strain in recent weeks, will be given an extra 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses each by the EU.
  • Serbia is struggling to contain a wave of new cases triggered by more infectious strains and health experts have urged the government to impose another lockdown despite the country’s massive vaccine rollout.
  • Greece has extended its coronavirus lockdown to 16 March as it reported the highest number of new cases recorded so far in 2021.
  • Estonia has imposed new restrictions on restaurants and non-essential shops as part of efforts to curb rising infections.
  • New infections are dropping in the United States, Canada and Mexico but vaccinations have hardly begun in Latin America, raising the risk of dangerous new variants emerging, the Pan American Health Organization has said.
  • Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech has said its Covid-19 vaccine is almost 81% effective at preventing infection following interim phase 3 trials.

Greece prolongs lockdown to 16 March

Greece has extended its coronavirus lockdown to 16 March as it reported the highest number of new cases recorded so far in 2021.

“We are at the toughest part of this pandemic,” health minister Vassilis Kikilias told reporters as he warned that public health resources in Athens had been under “unbearable pressure” for weeks.

Health officials reported 2,702 new infections and 40 deaths on Wednesday.

“At the rate of new hospitalisations, the health system is stretched beyond its limits in terms of infrastructure and staff,” he said, adding that there was an “important rise” in cases of the more transmissible virus variant first detected in the UK.

A military hospital and two private hospitals in Athens will take in extra non-Covid patients in order to free up hundreds of beds in the capital’s state-run hospitals for coronavirus cases.

Restrictions will also be tightened from Thursday to 16 March to stop people from crossing municipal boundaries for shopping and exercise.

“The measures aim to reduce mobility…we stay at home, in our own neighbourhoods,” civil protection deputy minister Nikos Hardalias told reporters.

Updated

The White House has said that the president Joe Biden hoped Americans would continue to follow coronavirus guidelines including mask-wearing despite the states of Texas and Mississippi removing their restrictions in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves ended their states’ mask mandates on Tuesday and rolled back others restrictions on businesses, allowing hospitality to open at full capacity. The announcements came a day after the CDC warned against complacency.

Biden administration officials have sought to push back against the lifting of restrictions, warning that now is not the time to stop being vigilant in the face of emerging variants.

Czech Republic and Slovakia to receive 100,000 extra vaccines each

The Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have come under severe strain in recent weeks, will be given an extra 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses each by the EU.

Slovakia and the Czech Republic are currently recording the highest number of fatalities per capita, and are running out of hospital beds.

“Thanks to EU solidarity and the Commission’s SOS mechanism, the Czech Republic will receive an extra 100,000 doses of @pfizer next week,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis tweeted on Wednesday.

The Slovak prime minister Igor Matovic also posted a statement thanking the EU, saying:

“Slovakia can rely on its European partners in tough times. I am glad that we were able to reach a final agreement on the so-called ‘SOS’ vaccines.”

According to Statista, Slovakia has recorded the highest Covid-19 mortality rate in recent days, with 112.39 fatalities per million residents over the last seven days. The Czech Republic has recorded the second highest, with 95.5 per million.

The UK government’s daily coronavirus figures, usually published at 4pm, have not been updated yet today.

A notice on the dashboard says that the delay is due to “an issue with the processing of cases data”.

Doctors affiliated with the Palestinian ministry of health and working in a mobile clinic, perform checkups on 15 members of the al-Awawdeh family infected with Covid-19 and administer treatments, at their home in Dura village southwest of Hebron city in the occupied West Bank, on 3 March, 2021.
Doctors affiliated with the Palestinian ministry of health and working in a mobile clinic, perform checkups on 15 members of the al-Awawdeh family infected with Covid-19 and administer treatments, at their home in Dura village southwest of Hebron city in the occupied West Bank, on 3 March, 2021.
Photograph: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images
Doctors affiliated with the Palestinian ministry of health and working in a mobile clinic, perform checkups on 15 members of the al-Awawdeh family infected with Covid-19 and administer treatments, at their home in Dura village southwest of Hebron city in the occupied West Bank, on 3 March, 2021.

Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech has said its Covid-19 vaccine is almost 81% effective at preventing infection following interim phase 3 trials.

Health officials approved the firm’s Covaxin jab for emergency use in January despite its phase 3 trials – the last stage before regulatory approval – not being complete, AFP reports.

Bharat Biotech chairman Krishna Ella said in a statement:

“Covaxin (not only) demonstrates high clinical efficacy trend against Covid-19 but also significant immunogenicity against the rapidly emerging variants.”

The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine has been found to be about 62% effective in preventing infection, while Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s jabs were found to be more than 90% effective. Despite this apparent disparity, recent research found that one dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca’s vaccine reduces hospitalisation in over-80s by 80%.

The Indian company said results were based on 43 cases of Covid-19 among 25,800 participants. Of the 43 cases, 36 were recorded in participants who received a placebo and seven in those who were given Covaxin, suggesting an efficacy rate of 80.6%.

Bharat Biotech said it would share further interim analysis after 87 cases, with a final analysis planned for 130 cases. The data has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Updated

German doctors are reportedly concerned about the large proportion of people from minority ethnic backgrounds among coronavirus patients in intensive care, citing a lack of proper communication with Muslim communities in particular about the dangers of the disease.

Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control agency, confirmed that the issue was discussed with senior medical consultants last month, though he stressed the meeting was informal.

Wieler has been quoted by German media as saying the topic was “taboo” for the German government, which feared the debate could be seen as racist. He reportedly called it a “huge problem” that had “massive implications” for the government.

Turkey reported 11,520 new Covid-19 cases and 65 deaths on Wednesday as the country begins easing coronavirus restrictions.

The cumulative total number of cases registered in Turkey stands at 2,734,835, while 28,771 have died since the pandemic began.

Restaurants reopened and many pupils returned to the classroom on Tuesday, even as infections continued to rise, according to Reuters. Turkey reported its highest number of daily cases on Tuesday since 7 January, with nearly 12,000 new infections.

President Tayyip Erdogan ended weekend lockdowns in low- and medium-risk cities on Monday, while limiting lockdowns to Sundays in those deemed higher risk.

More than 7.29 million of Turkey’s 83 million people have received a first vaccine dose and 2.1 million have received a second dose of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech.

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish researchers said the Sinovac vaccine has an efficacy of 83.5% based on final results of Phase III trials, a downward revision from a preliminary finding of 91.25%.

Updated

Estonia imposes weekend shutdown on hospitality and retail

Estonia has imposed new restrictions on restaurants and non-essential shops as part of efforts to curb rising infections.

Hospitality and non-essential retail will have to close at weekends, while on weekdays restaurants will have to shut at 6pm, the government said. The nation of 1.3 million people is currently recording the second highest per capita rate of infections in the European Union after the Czech Republic, Reuters reports.

Authorities said on Tuesday that Estonia has recorded 1,121 Covid-19 cases over the previous 14 days per 100,000 people – more than twice the amount registered a month ago.

The prime minister Kaja Kallas urged Estonians to reduce their social interactions to a minimum to alleviate pressure on the overburdened healthcare system.

“The availability of medical care has already decreased in Estonia and the workload of hospitals is approaching a critical level”, she said on Tuesday. “Our aim under the current circumstances is to guarantee the sustainability of the Estonian healthcare system”.

As of Wednesday, Estonia had reported a total of 69,193 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 615 deaths.

Updated

Italy has recorded 347 deaths, compared to 343 on Tuesday, the health ministry has said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 20,884 from 17,083 the day before.

Officials said 358,884 tests were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 335,983.

Reuters reports that Italy has registered 98,635 deaths linked to Covid since its outbreak emerged in February last year; the second-highest toll in Europe – after Britain – and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 2.98m cases to date. The agency reports:

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 19,763 on Wednesday, up from 19,570 a day earlier.

There were 222 new admissions to intensive care units, in line with Tuesday’s. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 2,411 from a previous 2,327.

When Italy’s second wave of the epidemic was accelerating quickly in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by about 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

Updated

New infections are dropping in the United States, Canada and Mexico but vaccinations have hardly begun in Latin America, raising the risk of dangerous new variants emerging, the Pan American Health Organization has said.

Reuters quotes the organisation’s director Carissa Etienne as saying: “As long as Covid-19 endures in one part of the world, the rest of the world can never be safe.”

Sao Paulo announces shutdown to curb steep rise in cases

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, on Wednesday announced tough new measures to slow a snowballing coronavirus pandemic in the country with the world’s second highest death toll, Reuters reports.

It says that, from Saturday, bars and restaurants will only operate via delivery, while malls and non-essential businesses will be shut, citing the governor, João Doria. The measure, which come as Brazil notches record daily deaths, are due to last two weeks, he said.

Updated

Serbia is struggling to contain a wave of new cases triggered by more infectious strains and health experts have urged the government to impose another lockdown despite the country’s massive vaccine rollout, Reuters reports.

According to the local health ministry, some 4,056 people have tested positive since Tuesday; more than double the daily number of infections seen a few weeks ago.

The news agency reports that, in a regional hospital in Serbia’s southern city of Nis, doctors and nurses clad in protective suits struggled to help new patients, some in serious condition.

“The situation is escalating into a major problem,” said Radmilo Jankovic, a doctor and the hospital’s acting general manager. “We are almost full, we will have to free more space.”

It quoted Milorad Jerkan, the director of the public health centre in Nis, as saying new, more contagious virus strains were behind the rise in cases but also people failing to adhere to basic health measures.

“Take a stroll … and you will see packed cafes, young people without face masks,” said Jerkan who himself recovered from Covid-19 but lost his sister to the disease.

Updated

The Duchess of Cornwall has said she suffered no side effects from her Covid-19 jab, and it was painless even though she dislikes needles, PA Media reports.

The Duchess of Cornwall visits a community vaccination centre in south London
The Duchess of Cornwall visits a community vaccination centre in south London
Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Camilla continued the royal family’s prominent support of the UK’s vaccination rollout as she carried out an official engagement at St Paul’s Church, Croydon, which is being used as a centre for administering the injections.

Camilla, who had her first coronavirus jab last month, like the Prince of Wales, spoke to NHS staff, administrators and volunteer marshals, and met members of the public receiving their injections.

The duchess, who was wearing a medical face mask and a pink tweed Anna Valentine coat, chatted to Dr Agnelo Fernandes, a GP leading the vaccination process, about her own vaccination.

“No side effects and it didn’t hurt and I’m not a lover of needles,” Camilla remarked. She joked to staff: “Have you had anyone sitting down and then legging it out of the room yet? No? Good.”

The duchess asked: “Are you having a lot of numbers coming in? What are your main problems?”

Told misinformation was an obstacle, Camilla replied: “Social media is an issue, isn’t it? The misinformation put out there – it just helps talking to your friends and colleagues about how easy it was. It may encourage them. It’s good to see the community leading by example.”

The royal family has been vocal in its backing of the Covid-19 vaccination, with the Queen encouraging those hesitant about it to “think about other people rather than themselves”.

In January, Buckingham Palace took the rare step of confirming the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had both had their first dose of the vaccine, and Clarence House confirmed the same for Charles and Camilla a month later.

The Duke of Cambridge has warned against “rumours and misinformation” on social media about coronavirus jabs.

Updated

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency is reporting that police in China and South Africa have seized thousands of fake doses of Covid-19 jabs, adding that Interpol has warned this represented only the “tip of the iceberg” in vaccine-related crime.

The Lyon-based Interpol said 400 vials – equivalent to around 2,400 doses – containing the fake vaccine were found at a warehouse in Germiston outside Johannesburg in South Africa, where officers also recovered fake masks and arrested three Chinese and a Zambian national.

In China, police successfully identified a network selling counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines in an investigation supported by Interpol which has 194 member countries, it said.

They raided the manufacturing premises, resulting in the arrest of some 80 suspects and seized more than 3,000 fake vaccines on the scene, it said.

Interpol earlier this year issued an “Orange Notice” warning authorities worldwide to prepare for organised crime networks targeting Covid-19 vaccines, both physically and online.

“Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine related crime,” said Interpol secretary general Juergen Stock.

Interpol said that, in addition to the arrests in South Africa and China, it was also receiving additional reports of fake vaccine distribution and scam attempts targeting health bodies such as nursing homes.

It warned that no approved vaccines are currently available for sale online.

“Any vaccine being advertised on websites or the dark web will not be legitimate, will not have been tested and may be dangerous.”

Stock had warned in December in an interview with German weekly WirtschaftsWoche of a sharp rise in crime due to the vaccine rollout, with thefts and warehouse break-ins and attacks on vaccine shipments.

Thousands of people breached coronavirus restrictions to attend the funeral of a controversial long-time mayor of Croatia’s capital Zagreb on Wednesday.

Milan Bandic, who had run the city for almost continuously for more than two decades, died on Sunday of a sudden heart attack at the age of 65. Bandic had been under investigation for corruption and was facing trial at the time of his death.

Despite a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people at funerals, several thousand mourners gathered at the Mirogoj cemetery, according to estimates by an AFP photographer.

Mourners gather for the the funeral ceremony of Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic in Zagreb, Croatia, Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
Mourners gather for the the funeral ceremony of Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic in Zagreb, Croatia, Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
Photograph: Darko Bandić/AP
Thousands attended the funeral of Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic despite coronavirus restrictions on March 3, 2021 in Zagreb.
Thousands attended the funeral of Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic despite coronavirus restrictions on March 3, 2021 in Zagreb.
Photograph: Damir Sencar/AFP/Getty Images

A further 208,968 Covid-19 vaccinations have been carried out in England, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses.

Of this number, 181,316 were the first dose of a vaccine, while 27,652 people received a second dose. The latest figures take the total number of first doses administered in England to 17,554,700, while 640,219 have had both shots.

Here’s a breakdown of the figures by region since vaccinations began on 8 December:

  • London – 2,114,110 first doses and 85,889 second doses (2,199,999 total)
  • Midlands – 3,428,512 first doses and 103,782 second doses (3,532,294 total)
  • East of England – 2,067,274 first doses and 79,713 second doses (2,146,987 total)
  • North East and Yorkshire – 2,705,996 first doses and 103,833 second doses (2,809,829 total)
  • North West – 2,299,619 first doses and 81,113 second doses (2,380,732 total)
  • South East – 2,837,516 first doses and 109,004 second doses (2,946,520 total)
  • South West – 2,012,757 first doses and 76,340 second doses (2,089,097 total)

Summary

  • Slovakia imposed an overnight curfew from Wednesday, with a government decree banning residents from leaving home between 8pm and 5am.
  • Austria will be given an extra 100,000 Pfizer vaccine doses to administer to all adults in the Schwaz district of the province of Tyrol, which has become a hotspot for the South African virus variant.
  • The Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech has an efficacy of 83.5% based on final results of Phase III trials, Reuters reports.
  • Dutch police said a coronavirus testing location north of Amsterdam appeared to have been intentionally targeted after there was an explosion at the location before the site opened.
  • Kenya received just over 1m doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in its first batch as part of a global agreement aimed at ensuring equitable distribution.
  • Senegal has received 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine via the Covax scheme as the programme ramps up its distribution to the world’s poorest countries.
  • Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has ruled that only people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to attend the hajj this year, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported on Monday.
  • Japan’s government plans to extend a state of emergency over coronavirus for Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures by two weeks, until 21 March.

Updated

Russia has designated a medical trade union with ties to Alexei Navalny a “foreign agent” – a term with unpatriotic connotations that subjects organisations to increased scrutiny and bureaucracy.

The Alliance of Doctors has been critical of Moscow’s pandemic response, accusing authorities of failing to protect health workers and downplaying the severity of the outbreak, AFP reports.

The trade union raised the alarm over shortfalls of PPE and testing kits for health personnel at the start of the pandemic.

It is headed by Anastasia Vasilyeva, who is Navalny’s personal doctor. The organisation was labelled a “foreign agent”, the justice ministry said in a statement sent to AFP.

The government accused the union of accepting foreign funding and acting as political activists.

Alexandra Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Doctors, said the trade union does not receive foreign funding and would continue its work despite the designation.

“A lot of doctors are in a tough situation so we are planning to continue helping them,” she told AFP.

Alongside implications that the union lacks patriotism, the term also requires organisations to label their paperwork and come under intensive scrutiny.

Updated

France is preparing for a potential easing of coronavirus restrictions from mid-April, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, as the government looks to its accelerating vaccination campaign as a way out of lockdown.

Following a cabinet meeting, spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters:

“We will still face hard times, it is true, but for the first time in months, the return to more normal living conditions is in sight.

“It is neither a far nor uncertain horizon – it is an horizon that is getting closer and closer. We hope maybe from mid-April, and we are preparing for it.

“President Emmanuel Macron asked us to submit proposals that could allow for a cautious reopening of the country soon.”

Earlier this week, health minister Olivier Véran said France will keep its current restrictions for at least next four to six weeks.

Updated

A government plan to force all NHS and care staff in England to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has been criticised as “sinister” and likely to increase the number of people refusing to have the jab.

Health unions and hospital bosses urged the health service to continue its efforts to persuade its 1.4 million workforce in England to get immunised rather than resorting to compulsion and “bullying” to try to increase take-up.

Downing Street did not dispute a report in the Daily Mail that it was considering making it mandatory for everyone working in health and social care to have the jab as a way of protecting patients.

But the report triggered unease and criticism from key organisations in both sectors.

“Forced vaccinations are the wrong way to go, and send out a sinister and worrying message,” said Christina McAnea, the general secretary of Unison, which represents about 100,000 NHS staff.

Report by Denis Campbell, Robert Booth and Aubrey Allegretti:

Updated

Austria to get extra 100,000 jabs to deal with Covid hotspot

Austria will be given an extra 100,000 Pfizer vaccine doses to administer to all adults in the Schwaz district of the province of Tyrol, which has become a hotspot for the South African virus variant.

The Alpine region of Tyrol has one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of the variant, and residents require a negative coronavirus test in order to leave the province.

The efficacy of the Pfizer jab will be studied, as research has suggested this variant may be more resistant to existing coronavirus vaccines. South Africa has halted the use of the AstraZeneca jab, after a small-scale trial found that it offered as little as 10% protection against the variant first detected in the country (though there is hope it may offer significant protection against more severe illness).

“Our goal must be to extinguish as best we can this variant, which represents a threat for us, not only in Tyrol but in all of Austria,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told a news conference.

Updated

Italy’s government is considering prolonging a ban on firing employees until the end of June, a draft document seen by Reuters said, in continued efforts to prevent a surge of unemployment due to the coronavirus crisis.

The freeze was brought in last year when companies and shops were closed to curb the spread of the virus as the government ramped up social security spending and financial aid to businesses.

It had been set to end on 31 March but is now likely to be extended to 30 June, according to the draft text seen by the news agency. Furlough schemes may also be funded until the end of 2021, according to the document.

An analysis by the treasury found that least 250,000 people could become unemployed if the ban on firings is not extended, a government sourced told Reuters.

A large British study researching potential early-stage Covid-19 treatments will begin testing colchicine, a cheap drug normally used to treat gout, and has expanded enrolment criteria for the trial, University of Oxford researchers said on Wednesday.

The anti-inflammatory drug is already being tested in a separate study conducted by the Recovery programme, which is the world’s largest randomised Covid-19 drugs trial.

An international trial published in February found colchicine cut hospitalisations and deaths among Covid-19 patients by more than 20%.

Last summer, the Recovery programme discovered the effectiveness of another anti-inflammatory drug, dexamethasone, which has been estimated to have saved hundreds of thousands of lives globally.

Updated

Wales has reported a further 208 coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 204,196.

Public Health Wales also reported an additional 12 deaths, taking the total in the country since the beginning of the pandemic to 5,356.

A member of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has urged European countries to “get on” with using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in elderly people after new research found that a single dose gives extremely high protection.

A single dose of either the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines is more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalisations in over-80s, according to a separate study by Public Health England (PHE) that resulted in similar findings, PA reports.

Presenting the new data, Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, said:

“The UK is well forward, this age group have been immunised now, we’re down into people in their 60s, we’ve achieved 90% uptake.

“In the short term, the job’s done in the UK. But there are lots of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine available in European countries, and they are not being given to people over the age of 65, in some cases in countries over the age of 55, for lack of data.

“Well, here are the data. There are data from Public Health England and Scotland and now from us, showing that you can save lives in elderly people by giving them a dose of AstraZeneca vaccine. And those countries need to get on and start doing that as fast as possible.”

The study, led by Prof Finn, showed that one dose of Pfizer was 79.3% effective from 14 days after inoculation at preventing Covid-19 hospitalisation, even in people with multiple health problems. Meanwhile, a fortnight on from vacination, a single dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca cut serious illness by 80.4%.

Prof Finn said the study had been carried out in a different way from that released this week by PHE, but had found very similar results. The PHE study found that both jabs reduced the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 80% among the over-80s.

Updated

Total revenues at Portuguese hotels fell by 73% in 2020 compared with 2019, the Portuguese Hotel Association said on Wednesday, as the Covid-19 pandemic drastically curbed oversees tourism.

Nearly half of all hotels were closed in December last year, according to a survey by the association reported by Reuters. The highest number of openings over the year was in September, when 79% of hotels were open.

“The impact of these closures … is brutal on total revenues for the hotel industry,” Cristina Siza Vieira, CEO of the association, said in a video presentation.

Updated

Senegal has received 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine via the Covax scheme as the programme ramps up its distribution to the world’s poorest countries.

The west African country has already purchased 200,000 doses from China’s Sinopharm and began its inoculation campaign last week, vaccinating around 40,000 people so far, according to Reuters.

The country, which has a population of about 16 million, is eligible for around 1.3m free doses in Covax’s first phase of vaccine deployment. The programme is backed by the World Health Organization and Gavi vaccine alliance to provide vaccines to poor and middle-income countries.

Senegal aims to vaccinate about 90% of a targeted 3.5 million people in the first wave of its immunisation drive, including health workers and high-risk individuals between the ages of 19 and 60, by the end of 2021.

Covax intends to dispense 237m AstraZeneca doses to 142 countries over the next three months to help countries curb the spread of the virus.

Updated

Slovakia imposes nighttime curfew

Slovakia imposed an overnight curfew from Wednesday, with a government decree banning residents from leaving home between 8pm and 5am.

During the day, Slovaks are being asked to stay at homes other than for a few exempted reasons, including medical visits, work and outdoor exercise or walking pets, AFP reports.

The curfew is in place until 19 March but may be extended.

Slovakia has the highest death rate per capita, an analysis by AFP has found. The EU country of 5.4 million has recorded with 24 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days.

The high rate “is due to many factors, Slovakia has made several mistakes,” Doctors’ Trade Union Association chairman Peter Visolajsky told the agency.

“The lockdown was introduced too late and it is not sufficiently monitored. Also, this mortality rate is caused by the overall bad condition of Slovak healthcare,” Visolajsky said.

Hello, my name is Clea Skopeliti and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis over the next few hours. If you’d like to draw my attention to something, you can message me on Twitter. Thanks in advance.

Updated

One dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech’s or AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine helps to prevent disease severe enough to require hospitalisation of people in their 80s with other illnesses, interim data from a UK study shows.

Reuters reported the findings, which found that one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot was 71.4% effective from 14 days at preventing symptomatic illness severe enough to result in hospitalisation among patients with a median age of 87 years.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, the results showed it was 80.4% effective by the same measures among patients with an average age of 88.

“These early results show the UK COVID-19 vaccine programme is working better than we could have hoped,” said Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics and chief investigator of the AvonCAP study at Britain’s University of Bristol.

Germany to keep border curbs with neighbours despite EU warnings

Germany has told the EU it is keeping border curbs with neighbouring countries despite its warnings this would curtail freedom of movement within the bloc, AFP reports.

Germany faces an “acute risk situation” because of high Covid-19 infection numbers in its neighbours, its ambassador to the European Union, Michael Clauss, wrote in a letter replying to a warning from the European commission over border restrictions deemed excessive in six member states.

Germany was criticised for deviating from a set of EU recommendations after filtering traffic from Austria’s Tyrol region and from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Updated

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech has an efficacy of 83.5% based on final results of Phase III trials, Reuters reports.

Turkish researchers revised the rate down from a preliminary finding of 91.25% after monitoring 41 infections, 32 of which had received a placebo.

The trial showed that the vaccine prevented hospitalisation and severe illness in 100% of cases, with the six people who were hospitalised all in the placebo group.

An update from Rory Carroll, Ireland correspondent, on Northern Ireland’s plans to ease lockdown:

Northern Ireland business groups have criticised the region’s plan to ease lockdown as vague, messy and useless for planning.

The Stormont executive published its 28-page lockdown exit plan, titled Moving Forward: The Executive’s Pathway out of Restrictions, on Tuesday and called it a “careful, cautious and hopeful approach”. The five-stage plan has no dates and is to be led by data, notably the reproductive rate of the virus.

Tina McKenzie of the Federation of Small Businesses said it risked creating a messy patchwork of restrictions that would baffle people and lose credibility.

Retail NI’s chief executive, Glyn Roberts, said his members were left in the dark. “Accepting that exact dates were not going to be in the document, the very least that could have been included should have been broad timelines to give retailers some idea of the next steps.”

Simon Hamilton, the head of Belfast Chamber and a former Stormont economy minister, said businesses would not be able to plan. He said: “It is not too harsh to say that as far as offering both hope and certainty, this falls far short.”

Updated

Brazil’s handling of its rampant coronavirus outbreak has criticised as a global threat that risks spawning new and even more lethal variants, Tom Phillips reports.

Speaking to the Guardian, Miguel Nicolelis, a Duke University neuroscientist who is tracking the crisis, urged the international community to challenge the Brazilian government over its failure to contain an epidemic that has killed more than a quarter of a million Brazilians – about 10% of the global total.

The Lloyd’s of London insurer Hiscox has swung to a loss after paying out $475m (£340m) for cancelled events, business interruption policies and other claims related to the coronavirus pandemic, Julia Kollewe reports.

Japan to extend coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo

Japan’s government plans to extend a state of emergency over coronavirus for Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures by two weeks, until 21 March, Reuters reports.

While new cases have fallen significantly from a peak in early January, Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, said on Tuesday the pace of decline had slowed, expressing concern it may not be enough to lift restrictions.

Updated

A top Chinese political advisory body has said that concerns about China using vaccines to influence other countries are “narrow-minded”, Reuters reports.

Guo Weimin, spokesman for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said some suspect China is using Covid-19 vaccines to “expand our geopolitical influence”.

“This idea is extremely narrow-minded.” Guo said at a news conference. China’s president, Xi Jinping, has pledged to make China’s vaccines a “global public good”.

The Financial Times on Wednesday reported that the US is working with allies Japan, India and Australia on a plan to distribute Covid-19 vaccines in Asia to counter the influence of China.

Updated

An updated report from Reuters on the explosion on the Netherlands describes the metal remains of the explosive as measuring about 10cm x 10cm in size.

The report also adds context, noting that the region around Bovenkarspel, a rural town, is suffering one of the Netherlands’ worst Covid-19 outbreaks, with 181 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with about 27 per 100,000 nationally. At least one hospital has been forced to send patients to other provinces due to lack of space in its intensive care units.

National elections are coming up on 17 March, and are widely seen as a referendum on the government’s handling of the pandemic. Prime minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party is likely to remain the largest, according to opinion polls.

Wednesday is the first day in several months in which lockdown measures in the Netherlands have been slightly eased, with hairdressers and non-essential stores partially reopening. The controversial nighttime curfew remains in place.

Updated

As many as 18 states in the US have not prioritised the homeless community in their plans for distributing Covid-19 vaccines, despite warnings that the population is particularly high risk, Hallie Golden reports.

The Seychelles government is hoping the island nation will achieve herd immunity by mid-March, Reuters reports.

Seychelles began vaccinations in January, and by the end of February, about 44% of those vaccinated had received a second shot. President Wavel Ramkalawan said the country is hoping to achieve 70% vaccinations out of its population of 100,000 within the next fortnight.

Herd immunity is reached when enough people have antibodies to make it difficult for a virus to continue to spread. The exact threshold for coronavirus is unknown, although some experts suggest that at least 70% of a population would need to be protected. It is unclear how this would be affected by the emergence of new variants.

Updated

Kenya received just over 1m doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in its first batch as part of a global agreement aimed at ensuring equitable distribution, Reuters reports.

Updated

The first doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 shots to be dispatched to Africa under the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme arrive in Rwanda on Wednesday, as efforts to inoculate the world’s poorest nations accelerate, Reuters reports.

The batch of 102,960 doses will arrive in Kigali later on Wednesday, hours after a flight carrying 240,000 doses AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India also landed.

Explosion at a coronavirus testing location may have been intentional – Dutch police

Dutch police said a coronavirus testing location north of Amsterdam appeared to have been intentionally targeted after there was an explosion at the location before the site opened, Reuters reports.

The blast in the town of Bovenkarspel, 55km north of the capital, shattered windows but caused no injuries, police from the province of North Holland said in a statement.

Police said they had cordoned off the area to investigate.

The explosive “must have been placed” there, police spokesman Menno Hartenberg told Reuters, adding that “something metal” had caused the explosion.

“We don’t know yet exactly what exploded, the explosives experts must first investigate,” Hartenberg said.

“What we’re saying is that something like that doesn’t just happen by accident, it has to be laid,” he spokesman said.

Updated

Russia reported 10,535 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, a slight drop on the previous day, Reuters reports.

The new reported cases include 1,284 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,278,750,

Authorities said 452 people had died in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 87,348.

Coronavirus are on the rise in the Czech Republic, and has reached 154,580 confirmed cases in the country of 10 million people.

Local news source Onemocnění Aktuálně reported record numbers of hospitalisations, at 8,162.

The health authorities warned in mid-February that Czech hospitals could be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients by the beginning of March.

The country has one of the highest death tolls in the world, at 20,941.

Updated

South Korean authorities are investigating the deaths of two people, both with pre-existing conditions, who died within days of receiving AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, Reuters reports.

One is a 63-year-old nursing home patient with cerebrovascular disease, who developed symptoms including high fever after being given the vaccine four days ago and died after showing symptoms of blood poisoning and pneumonia.

Another nursing home patient in his 50s with a cardiac disorder and diabetes died on Wednesday after suffering multiple heart attacks, having received the vaccine a day earlier, according to Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

KDCA said it is investigating the cause of the deaths, but did not confirm any causal relationship to the vaccine. The agency earlier said it will provide compensation of over 430m won ($383,466) for deaths from the Covid-19 vaccine.

Updated

Taiwan has received its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines as the island rolls out its immunisation campaign, Reuters reports.

About 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccines landed at Taipei’s main international airport in the morning, Chen Shih-chung told reporters. He declined to say when the shots will start being administered.

Chen said while the amount of vaccines that arrived only represented a “relatively small” number of what the island has ordered from AstraZeneca, the shipment marked a “very meaningful” event for Taiwan’s health workers.

Updated

Indian government officials have voiced their support for an Indian-made Covid-19 vaccine on social media, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lead, Reuters reports.

India’s health, foreign and law ministers, and state governors, all flocked to Twitter to express support for the much-criticised Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN vaccine, after it was administered to Modi on Monday.

“Made-in-India vaccines are 100% safe,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said after being inoculated with COVAXIN.

Many state officials and doctors have refused to take COVAXIN before its effectiveness could be proved. Bharat Biotech says it has completed the late-stage trial and results will be out this month.

Updated

Ukraine hits record levels of hospitalisations due to Covid-19

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on Facebook 3,486 people were hospitalised in the past day, the highest number since the epidemic hit the country of 41 million last year, Reuters reports.

Stepanov said 7,235 new cases were registered over the past 24 hours with 185 deaths. Ukraine has reported 1,364,705 coronavirus cases and 26,397 deaths so far.

Lagging behind the rest of Europe, Ukraine has only just started vaccinating its population. The government cited statistics showing that 47% of Ukrainians do not want the vaccine.

Updated

The number of civilians reported killed in explosions nearly halved in 2020 to the lowest level in a decade, thought to be the result of lower reporting, ceasefires and restrictions due to coronavirus, Karen McVeigh reports.

Last year, an average of 10 civilians a day were reported killed by explosive weapons, compared with 18 in 2019, according to analysis by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based charity.

The fall of 43% represents the largest percentage drop in civilian casualties in conflict reported over the past 10 years.

Iain Overton, the director of AOAV, said: “Our data seems to support there being a general decline in deaths and injuries as a consequence of the pandemic. It could be due to less reporting of violence, or it could be due to restrictions due to the pandemic and ceasefires.

“If the pandemic can stop people blowing people up then why can’t states?” he added. “This is proof that man-made violence can be prevented.”

Vaccination required for 2021 hajj – Saudi newspaper

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has ruled that only people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to attend the hajj this year, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported on Monday.

“The Covid-19 vaccine is mandatory for those willing to come to the hajj and will be one of the main conditions (for receiving a permit to come),” the report said, citing a circular signed by the health minister.

Updated

Australia armed forces called in to support immunisation

Australia will seek the support of the defence forces in its Covid immunisation drive, authorities said on Wednesday, as it looks to ramp up a vaccination rollout programme that is running behind schedule.

Reuters: The Australian Defence Force (ADF) will provide help in rolling out vaccines to aged care residents in rural and regional areas not readily accessible by other medical providers, acting defence minister Marise Payne said. ADF teams are expected to start next week and will focus on planning, logistics and operations support.

Rachel Hall taking over from Helen Sullivan for the rest of the morning – do send over any tips and thoughts to rachel.hall@theguardian.com.

Updated

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. Thanks for following along – and stay tuned for more updates from my colleague Rachel Hall.

Updated

Japan embarks on random and targeted testing

Last week, about 600 people were tested for the coronavirus in the city of Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo – the Japanese government’s first stab at systematic random and targeted testing that it hopes will prevent a new wave of infections, Reuters reports.

Concerned by highly transmissible variants of the virus and asymptomatic spread, Japan revised its pandemic strategy in early February.

However, many health experts argue the updated strategy still falls far short of what is needed, especially given that inoculations have only just started and vaccine supplies are limited.

Updated

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • 168m children worldwide have missed school for a year. Worldwide, more than 168 million children have had their schools completely shut for almost a year, according to UNICEF, due to coronavirus lockdowns.One in seven children – 214 million – have missed more than three-quarters of in-person learning.
  • Brazil registered a national record daily death toll. Brazil on Tuesday posted a national single-day record for Covid deaths with 1,641 people dying from the disease, according to Health Ministry data. The previous single-day high of 1,595 Covid deaths was recorded in late July 2020. Brazil faces a new peak in coronavirus cases and the hospital system is pushed to the brink of collapse.
  • Contagious Brazil variant evades immunity, scientists warn. A highly transmissible Covid9 variant that emerged in Brazil and has now been found in at least 20 countries can re-infect people who previously recovered from the disease, scientists said on Tuesday.
  • Biden said the US is ‘on track’ to have enough vaccines for all adults by May. Joe Biden has said that the US expects to have enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that the drugmaker Merck would help produce Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.
  • The Texas governor lifted the mask mandate and declared: ‘It’s time to open 100%. With less than 7% of Texans fully vaccinated and another Covid-19 surge potentially imminent, Texas is flinging open businesses to full capacity while simultaneously ending its highly politicized mask mandate, the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, announced on Tuesday.
  • Chinese delegates to propose vaccine passports at annual meetings. Some delegates attending the annual meetings of the Chinese parliament and its advisory body due to begin this week will propose issuing Covid vaccine passports and recognising such passports globally that they say will restore some normality, boost international tourism and economic exchanges, the Global Times reported on Wednesday.
  • Dolly Parton was inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine that she helped to fund. The country music star, 75, broke into song while getting the Moderna jab and adapted one of her best-known ballads.To the tune of Jolene, she sang: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.”
  • Australia’s economic recovery continued with 3.1% growth in December quarter. The Australian economy grew by 3.1% in the December quarter as the domestic recovery from the pandemic-induced shock consolidated.
  • There were no new Covid cases in Auckland for second day. New Zealand’s government has said it is still too early to make a decision on extending Auckland’s lockdown, despite the city recording no new community cases of coronavirus for a second consecutive day.
  • Africa virus fight boosted as jabs reach Nigeria, Angola. Millions of coronavirus shots from the global Covax scheme have arrived in Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, as African countries ramp up their vaccine rollouts.

Contagious Brazil variant evades immunity, scientists warn

A highly transmissible Covid9 variant that emerged in Brazil and has been found in at least 20 countries can reinfect people who previously recovered from the disease, scientists said on Tuesday.

Reuters: In a study of the mutant virus’s emergence and its spread in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus, the scientists said the variant – known as P.1 – has a “unique constellation of mutations” and had very rapidly become the dominant variant circulating there.

Updated

In case you missed this earlier – and in case you did not but know that watching it again will be good for you:

 

Rishi Sunak will use the budget on Wednesday to set out further government support before lockdown ends, alongside steps to reboot Britain’s economy from the worst recession in 300 years.

The chancellor is expected to extend spending measures, tax breaks and government grants to help soften the blow from Covid-19 for businesses and their workers before restrictions are eased in-line with the government’s roadmap over the coming months. Sunak will also aim to lay the foundations for a post-Covid recovery, while addressing the impact of the pandemic on the public finances:

The catch cry of “be kind” – which prime minister Jacinda Ardern impressed upon New Zealand since its first lockdown a year ago – is in danger of being replaced with a less positive mantra as Aucklanders struggle through their second Covid-19 lockdown in a fortnight.

The country’s biggest city has been in level-three lockdown since Sunday morning as a result of two cases of community transmission, which were found to have happened while an earlier period of level-three restrictions were in place – threatening to fracture the unity of the “team of five million”:

Chinese delegates to propose vaccine passports at annual meetings

Some delegates attending the annual meetings of the Chinese parliament and its advisory body due to begin this week will propose issuing Covid vaccine passports and recognising such passports globally that they say will restore some normality, boost international tourism and economic exchanges, the Global Times reported on Wednesday.

Reuters: Zhu Zhengfu, a member of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also told the Global Times, published by the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper, that international arrivals could be exempted from quarantine requirements if they have a negative nucleic acid test and a vaccine passport.

Brazil on Tuesday posted a national single-day record for Covid deaths with 1,641 people dying from the disease, according to Health Ministry data:

Africa virus fight boosted as jabs reach Nigeria, Angola

Millions of coronavirus shots from the global Covax scheme have arrived in Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, as African countries ramp up their vaccine rollouts, AFP reports.

Richer countries have surged ahead with vaccinations but many poorer countries are still awaiting deliveries, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to warn that the crisis cannot end unless everyone can inoculate their populations.

The Covax facility, run by the WHO along with health NGOs, is aiming to supply vaccines to dozens of countries in the first 100 days of 2021, and two billion doses by the end of the year.

While the continent’s most populous country Nigeria received almost four million jabs on Tuesday, Angola received more than 600,000 doses and DR Congo was scheduled to get a consignment later, following recent deliveries to Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Kenya received its first shipment of just over 1 million Covax-funded AstraZeneca/Oxford shots early Wednesday.

Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Lai Mohammed (C) makes statements to media at the delivery ceremony for first badge of AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccines, provided by Covax.
Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Lai Mohammed (C) makes statements to media at the delivery ceremony for first badge of AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccines, provided by Covax.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

However, there are still critical hurdles for the scheme’s rollout in vast African countries with sketchy infrastructure and an array of security challenges – a point addressed by Faisal Shuaib, director of Nigeria’s primary healthcare agency.

“States without a functional airport will have their vaccines transported by road using vans with fitted cold cabins, from the nearest airport,” he said.

He called the delivery – which arrived around noon in the capital Abuja – a “good day for Nigeria” and promised the rollout would begin in earnest on Friday with frontline health workers the first to be inoculated.

Nigerian official Boss Mustapha urged traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society groups and the media to spread the message that vaccinations were needed, adding: “This is a fight for everyone.”

In Angola, where some healthcare workers were vaccinated shortly after the doses were offloaded, the WHO’s Djamila Cabral said the arrival of vaccines brought a “stronger hope to save lives”, but warned that everyone needed to continue respecting Covid restrictions to beat the pandemic.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 9,019 to 2,460,030, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by 418 to 70,881, the tally showed

Australia’s economic recovery continues with 3.1% growth in December quarter

The Australian economy grew by 3.1% in the December quarter as the domestic recovery from the pandemic-induced shock consolidated.

The continued bounce back in growth late last year as coronavirus restrictions eased followed a 3.4% increase in GDP in the previous quarter. The September result followed a record 7% fall in GDP in June, triggered by the public health measures.

While the solid December quarter result suggests the economy is on a recovery path, in annual terms, there has been a 1.1% fall in GDP.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that GDP per capita was also weaker, falling 1.8%, reflecting a 0.7% rise in population. The economic recovery, while exceeding market expectations and previous economic forecasts, was also partial.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said this was “the first time in recorded history that Australia has seen two consecutive quarters of economic growth of more than 3%”:

Helen Sullivan your faithful blogger here. As always, you can offer me gifts, gift vouchers and so on on Twitter @helenrsullivan. I wouldn’t say no to a yard sale bowl worth $300,000.

Texas governor lifts mask mandate and declares: ‘It’s time to open 100%

With less than 7% of Texans fully vaccinated and another Covid-19 surge potentially imminent, Texas is flinging open businesses to full capacity while simultaneously ending its highly politicized mask mandate, the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, announced on Tuesday.

“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” a maskless Abbott declared to cheers at a crowded restaurant in the city of Lubbock.

When Abbott’s policy changes go into effect next week, Texas will be the most populous state in the country that does not require residents to wear masks. Restaurants and other businesses can choose to maintain their own mask policies, but without government backing to do so:

The Australian state of New South Wales has again complained that it is not being told key details about the commonwealth’s vaccine rollout, including which of the state’s aged care facilities have begun immunisation, plans for the potential involvement of the military, and when aged care staff might be immunised:

No new Covid cases in Auckland for second day

New Zealand’s government has said it is still too early to make a decision on extending Auckland’s lockdown, despite the city recording no new community cases of coronavirus for a second consecutive day.

More than 16,000 tests were processed on Tuesday, returning no positive results, three days into a week of level-three restrictions in the nation’s biggest city.

The director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, had earlier said that this would be a pivotal point in signalling whether there had been further transmission from the February Auckland cluster:

US president Joe Biden said the country was on track to have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May.

“When we came into office, the prior administration had contracted for not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America. We rectified that,” he said:

 

Girls and young women aged between 14 and 24 are taking responsibility for the majority of household chores during the pandemic, leaving them less time to focus on their education, according to a new survey.

Sixty-six percent of girls and women aged between 14 and 24 said they are spending more time cooking for their families as a result of the pandemic, compared with 31% of boys and men in the same age group.

Women and girls are also spending more time cleaning (69%, compared with 58% of boys and men), shopping (52%, compared with 49%), and looking after siblings (28%, compared with 16%), according to a survey of 1,000 men and women aged 14-30 produced by a market research agency for the children’s charity Theirworld:

Here is the video of Dolly Parton receiving her vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vacciiiiine:

 

Dolly Parton gets vaccinated with Moderna jab she helped fund

Dolly Parton has been inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine that she helped to fund.

The country music star, 75, broke into song while getting the Moderna jab and adapted one of her best-known ballads.

To the tune of Jolene, she sang: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.”

Parton was credited with helping fund the Moderna vaccine after donating $1m (£716,000) to Vanderbilt University medical centre in Nashville, Tennessee:

Biden: US ‘on track’ to have enough vaccines for all adults by May

Joe Biden has said that the US expects to have enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated, as his administration announced that the drugmaker Merck would help produce Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.

With the bolstered supply, Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program.

He challenged states to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all educators by the end of March as part of his administration’s efforts to reopen more schools across the nation.

“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said Biden.

The president described the partnership between the two drug companies as a “major step forward” in expanding vaccine access to every American, and likened the partnership to the spirit of national cooperation during the second world war:

Brazil registers national record daily death toll

Brazil on Tuesday posted a national single-day record for Covid deaths with 1,641 people dying from the disease, according to Health Ministry data.

That surpassed the previous single-day high of 1,595 Covid deaths recorded in late July 2020, as Brazil faces a new peak in coronavirus cases and the hospital system is pushed to the brink of collapse.

More than 257,000 people have died of Covid in Brazil, according to the official count, making it the deadliest outbreak after that of the United States.

Roughly 10.6 million people have been infected since the pandemic began, according to the Health Ministry, with 59,925 new cases reported on Tuesday.

Brazilian state governors said on Tuesday they would join together to buy Covid vaccines and bypass the federal government, which has been slow to roll out its vaccine program.

168m children worldwide have missed school for a year

Worldwide, more than 168 million children have had their schools completely shut for almost a year, according to UNICEF, due to coronavirus lockdowns.

One in seven children – 214 million – have missed more than three-quarters of in-person learning.

Here is what else the study found:

  • Two thirds of countries that have remained largely closed are in Latin America and the Caribbean, affecting nearly 98 million
  • Of the 14 countries, Panama has kept schools closed for the most days, followed by El Salvador, Bangladesh, and Bolivia.

Unicef explains the impact of school closures which, they say:

Have devastating consequences for children’s learning and wellbeing. The most vulnerable children and those unable to access remote learning are at an increased risk of never returning to the classroom, and even being forced into child marriage or child labor.”

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments for the next few hours.

Our top line this morning: A staggering 168m children worldwide have had their schools closed for the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Unicef. We’ll have more on this soon.

Here are the other key recent developments:

  • Italy’s government on Tuesday ordered the closure of all schools in areas hardest hit by Covid-19 and extended curbs already in place on businesses and movement until after Easter amid worries over the highly contagious UK variant.
  • Turkey added a further 11,837 new coronavirus cases to its tally on Tuesday, health ministry data showed – the country’s highest daily figure since 7 January.
  • Tunisia has detected its first cases of the more transmissible variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the UK, the country’s health ministry said on Tuesday in a statement reported by Reuters.
  • German chancellor Angela Merkel wants to begin relaxing coronavirus restrictions from next week, a draft document seen by AFP shows, hoping that reinforced numbers of rapid antigen tests and vaccines will allow the country to unlock.
  • Venezuela has received 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine President Nicolas Maduro said, as well as protective material for healthcare workers.
  • Nigeria’s first Covid-19 vaccines, Oxford/AstraZeneca shots from the international Covax scheme, landed in the capital city Abuja today, Reuters reports.
  • The uptake of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in France stood at 24% as of 28 February, a health ministry official said on Tuesday, well below the country’s target of between 80 and 85%.
  • Spain will buy 17m more doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine as part of a new deal negotiated by the European Union, government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said on Tuesday.
  • American pharmaceutical Merck & Co Inc will help manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Covid-19 vaccine in an agreement due to be announced on Tuesday by President Joe Biden, a White House official said on Tuesday.
  • Greek officials have announced plans to expand the public health system’s capacity to admit Covid-19 patients following an emergency meeting chaired by prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

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Culture, Films

Golden Globes 2021: the winners, the speeches, the controversy – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Golden Globes 2021: the winners, the speeches, the controversy – live” was written by Benjamin Lee, Hannah Marriott and Priya Elan, for theguardian.com on Monday 1st March 2021 02.48 UTC

An errrrmmm telemedicine sketch now? Okay. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Carey Mulligan, Don Cheadle, Glenn Close, Tina Fey and others asking weird, unfunny questions to doctors. Ironically it arrives just after Fey and Poehler remarked on the viral moments from tonight’s show …

WINNER: Josh O’Connor (The Crown) – best actor in a drama series

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Another acting win for awards magnet The Crown for a very surprised and pleased Josh O’Connor. It’s the first speech that is getting kind of played off by music which is awkward as he ends it by talking about mental health and arts employees out of work during a pandemic. Nice job guys.

WINNER: Rosamund Pike (I Care a Lot) – best actress in a musical or comedy film

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Oh wow a big shock here. Many had expected Maria Bakalova to win for her incredible breakout performance in Borat 2 but Rosamund Pike slipped in at the end with her wonderfully icy turn in the pitch black Netflix movie I Care a Lot. She deserves it and is clearly overwhelmed by the win yet provides a smart speech with a nice jab aimed at Rudy Guiliani because why not. This will be a big boost for her best actress Oscar campaign as the category is still in question with voting starting this week.

Another necessary reminder that yep, we are watching an awards show during a deadly pandemic, with Sean Penn asking for more charitable contributions. The actor has been doing an incredible amount with his non-profit CORE, helping to provide more testing and vaccine facilities.

Same

WINNER: Schitt’s Creek – best comedy series

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The final season of the slow-burn hit Schitt’s Creek was always going to come out on top this year especially after a big night at the Emmys. Dan Levy uses his time to remind the HFPA to embrace more diversity.

WINNER: Jason Sudeikis (Ted Lasso) – best actor in a comedy series

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‘It’s great to be black, sorry back, at the Golden Globes” jokes presenter Sterling K Brown, who has been vocal in his frustration with the HFPA’s lack of diversity. It’s a strange rambling speech from Jason Sudeikis for his role in the sleeper hit Ted Lasso. He is wearing a hoodie and is half-reading from something and half-making disjointed stuff up. Don Cheadle even appears via his stream to tell him to wrap it up. Weird!

Woof now Kate Hudson is reminding us that Sia’s horribly offensive autism musical Music is up for best picture (musical or comedy).

Here’s why that’s a problem:

SAL

WINNER: Soul – best original score

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Another award here for Pixar’s Soul and for Jon Batiste and Trent Reznor, an unlikely yet excellent duo. Presenter Tracy Morgan announced it as “Sal” which was or wasn’t a joke. Footage on the way.

Updated

WINNER: The Life Ahead – best original song

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Awards magnet Diane Warren picking up an ward here for her song from Netflix drama The Life Ahead starring Sophia Loren. Justice for Her’s Judas song though!

Updated

WINNER: Emma Corrin (The Crown) – best actress in a drama series

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The HFPA loves The Crown and they have decided to opt against their previous fave Olivia Colman to show some love to Emma Corrin and her excellent performance as Diana in the Netflix show. “You have taught me compassion and empathy beyond any measure,” Corrin says to actual Diana in her speech.

Updated

How did this happen?

Updated

John Boyega celebrating his win on Instagram live is really very charming:

A special award now for Norman Lear, a US sitcom treasure who elevated the art form and embedded important issues within primetime TV. Back in the 70s he was challenging racist views, misogyny and tackled difficult subjects on shows like All in the Family, The Jeffersons and One Day At a Time.

Norman Lear accepts the Carol Burnett award via video while Tina Fey listens.
Norman Lear accepts the Carol Burnett award via video while Tina Fey listens. Photograph: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

At 98 he is continuing to make television, including revivals of his classic shows. The progressive producer is accepting his award at home (with one of the slickest setups we’ve seen tonight (maybe pre-recorded). “I could not feel more blessed,” he says. Matching up parts of his speech to randomly selected nominees at home is a strange touch though and I guess it means they’ve been told to stay put for the entire ceremony? No accidentally empty sofa yet. Jason Sudeikis is wearing a hoodie, I can confirm.

Updated

Now Sarah Paulson with a horrifying reminder that The Prom is nominated for best musical or comedy. A truly cursed year.

Leaving this here:

Celebrity choice of background Zoom room continues to be fascinating:

Updated

Time for a skit now! Kenan Thompson and Maya Rudolph are giving a pretend speech for an award that doesn’t exist, aiming to show just how rambling acceptance speeches can often be. Kenan does an Adrien Brody homage with an inappropriate kiss while Maya goes straight for an Amy grope. Two of SNL’s most reliable performers (one ex and one current) and they’re as good as ever but it’s a little bit hard to create the right kind of energy without a big audience. Not sure if this will be as viral as they hope. Also Kenan was on SNL last night and now he’s in LA?? That’s commitment! Or something!

WINNER: Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7) – best screenplay

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Unusual recognition for female screenwriters in this category which is good but ultimately Sorkin wins out for his script for the long-gestating fact-based drama. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing this film a lot more tonight. It’s easy, rousing awardsbait stuff and the HFPA will lap it up. More kids too.

Updated

WINNER: Mark Ruffalo (I Know This Much Is True) – best actor in a limited series, anthology series or TV movie

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A tough category (Daniels! Grant! Cranston!) and while Ruffalo’s bleak HBO series might not have become the talking point many expected during the pandemic, it’s a performance that deserves recognition. Ruffalo’s speech is a plea for all of us to come together, especially with a focus on climate change and coming together after a divisive four years. Fun to see his kids leap into the background too.

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Also lest we forget:

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I’m expecting more unimpressed tweets like this from a hugely underwhelming HFPA moment just now…

Aaaand here’s our recent interview with winner Catherine O’Hara:

OK so time for something serious and necessary. “We recognise we have our own work to do,” a German HFPA member says before colleagues talk about the lack of black members being an issue. “We have more work to do” is thrown away before it wraps up with speed. It’s clumsy and last-minute and we’re gonna need a far more comprehensive plan on how they are going to change within the next week or the outrage will continue.

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WINNER: Soul – best animated film

Soul still

In a heinous year for animated movies, it was always going to be Soul’s win. It’s a speech told via a screen within a screen within a screen which is a headache but Soul deserved it by a mile.

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WINNER: Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek) – best actress in a TV comedy series

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No surprise here – another award for Catherine O’Hara for Schitt’s Creek. Also not a surprise was yet more tech issues with some awful sound interruption as she stared to talk. Oh wait, it’s deliberate. Her husband is on his phone the whole time trying to get audience noises before trying to pretend play her off with music. A nice idea for a skit but man did it tank as we could barely hear what she was saying. No more of that please.

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While accepting his much deserved award for Judas and the Black Messiah, Daniel Kaluuya asked people to learn more about the real Fred Hampton. Here’s a fascinating piece we published recently giving a further insight into his life:

A spooky teaser of what’s to come as the nominees for best actress in a TV comedy all awkwardly make small talk with each other via screens. Horror!

WINNER: John Boyega (Small Axe) – best supporting actor on television

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A useful reminder from presenter Angela Bassett about the safety precautions that have allowed tonight to happen. Another great win! John Boyega for his role in the Small Axe anthology and a rushed speech as he’s worried about his poor his wifi connection is. But the sound worked!

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WINNER: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) – best supporting actor in a film

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Yikes what a disaster of an opener. A great win but errr there’s no sound initially for Kaluuya to talk via Zoom. Presenter Laura Dern talks him off but oh, then it starts working just as they told us it wasn’t going to happen as planned. What a mess. Kaluuya’s connection isn’t great but it’s a deserved win to start the night – a fantastic performance and Kaluuya ends with a tribute toward his character Fred Hampton and his hope that people will learn more about his incredible life as a result. But urgh Zoom.

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Here we go

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And so begins another strange semi-virtual awards ceremony in both a strange year for us all but also a strange year for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), under scrutiny for allegations of corruption as well as a lack of diversity with both their members and the performers they chose to nominate.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler arrive to masked audiences on different coasts, brought together by technology. There are early jokes about tech issues, met with weird laughter from a small handful of people (that’s gonna take some getting used to). It’s then revealed that the in-person crowd is made up of first responders – a nice touch.

“Those bitches are messy,” Fey says of the normal front tables of celebrities, such as Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt.

Ooh and here are some HFPA jokes (“European weirdos”), referring to the lack of diversity as well as the ridiculous nature of their membership (“most of them might be ghosts”).

Amy Poehler screaming the word Mank is fun followed up by Tina Fey calling The Queen’s Gambit “whatever James Corden was up to in The Prom” – hmmmm. Going to celebs sort of laughing at jokes at home is strange, especially when Fey calls “French Exit” what she did after episode one of Emily in Paris and Lily Collins looks uncomfortable.

They are now criticising the Globes for their lack of inclusivity again. It’s well-intentioned but not really working. The HFPA and NBC is donating $2m to Covid-19 relief which is something. But woof, a rough start.

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Here’s a reminder of who is nominated for what and all that (it’s about to begin):

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Tina Fey

Co-host Tina Fey attends the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Rainbow Room.
Co-host Tina Fey attends the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Rainbow Room. Photograph: Cindy Ord/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Is it a dress? It is a tuxedo? It’s both, and it’s another vote for the heartening micro-trend of tights on the red carpet by co-host Tina Fey. Nicely played.

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One of the most talked about snubs of the evening is Michael Coel’s extraordinary drama I May Destroy You, last year’s most lauded show. Now, anyone who has kept a track of the Globes voting history won’t have been too surprised by this (quality isn’t usually part of the process) but it was still left a sour taste in the mouth.

Emily in Paris writer Deborah Copoaken summed up her, and many of our, thoughts rather well in this piece she wrote for us:

Amy Poehler

Co-host Amy Poehler attends the Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton in California.
Co-host Amy Poehler attends the Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton in California. Photograph: Todd Williamson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Amy Poehler looks as happy to be on the red carpet as I am to see her. What I like about this dress is that it looks like a Christmas elf refashioned in black sequins, and there is nothing that isn’t festive about that.

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Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo.
Cynthia Erivo. Photograph: Todd Williamson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

This is very “Cynthia Erivo as 80s sweets: a thread” and we love it. Dressed in Valentino couture this is a bold op-art referencing moment and we’re here for it.

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Tina Fey has already said that tonight “doesn’t seem like a venue for political jokes” while she and Amy Poehler want to “make it a fun hang out for people at home – a stress reliever”.

Poehler has referred to the situation as “full-on weird” but is hoping the weirdness will “translate into something fun and interesting”.

As rubbish as the HFPA is in many ways, one good thing is the amount of free rein the hosts are always given to poke fun at anyone and everyone, including the HFPA themselves. This year more than ever they deserve a roast so fingers crossed.

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Dan Levy

After his Thom Browne kilt at the Emmys, Levy makes another wonderful menswear statement in a yellow Valentino suit, complete with disco top and Captain Fantastic platform shoes.

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So the LA Times continued to report on the HFPA, including the fallout from their original pieces earlier this week. Yesterday, they covered internal emails which blamed part of the problem on their own bylaws (sure) as well as former HFPA president Meher Tatna, who said the group hadn’t had a black member for at least 20 years. It’s a mess and one that will take a huge amount of work on the HFPA’s part to start to fix and how they will address it tonight is to be seen but it will for sure be a part of the speeches.

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Amanda Seyfried

And you thought the flower crown was persona non grata didn’t you? Well it turns out, it looks pretty magnificent if you wear if just below your shoulders. Joking asking, Karen from Mean Girls looks utterly wonderful in this Oscar De La Renta number.

Leslie Odom Jr

An exceptionally classy way to make neon polo necks happen. We love the muted pinks of the suit jacket off-set by the bovver boots too.

What started out as a strange season for awards-aiming fare has ultimately turned into a rather normal one with the standard mixture of biopics and issues-led films dominating. As ever the HFPA has some made some car crash decisions with their nominees this year (Sia’s deeply offensive autism musical Music nabbing two nods is among the most egregious mis-steps) making their thought process as messy and hard to predict as usual but here with his idea on who will triumph tonight is Peter Bradshaw:

Jared Leto wears a jumper

As far as we understand it (but this semi-WFH, semi-socially distant red carpet is confusing), this snap reveals Jared Leto’s WFH red carpet outfit. Wow. This is a man that went to the Met Ball holding a replica of his own head (by Gucci) a few years ago. Here he stands by a window and wears a nice rollneck jumper. He’s changed. Also: balayage!

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Tahar Rahim

Absolutely killing it in this midnight Vuitton suit. This is a look that pretty much says: “hi, this is my Bond audition, thank you.”

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Andra Day

Andra Day in Chanel.
Andra Day in Chanel. Photograph: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for CHANEL

Andra Day who is nominated for her visceral performance playing Lady Day in Lee Daniels excellent The United States Vs Billie Holiday is wearing a beautiful Chanel dress tonight.

“I call Chanel ‘Channellliqua’,” she told Drew Barrymore (Day previously wore the fashion label at 2020’s Soul Train awards). “I’m saving Prada for another event.” Maybe one that rhymes with “Foskers”?

The gown is from the SS21 couture collection. Creative director Virginie Viard’s collection had a celebratory theme and some design flourishes that were directly inspired by Coco Chanel’s own craftsmanship. It’s a perfect choice not only because it references the 1930s, when Holliday was gaining popularity, but also because it’s a dress of two halves. The top says classical elegance and the bottom half is more playful. Appropriate for the duality within Holliday herself.

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Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay Photograph: Danny Moloshok/Reuters

The understandable outrage over the LA Times expose and the fact that there isn’t a single black member in the HFPA has been rumbling on, prompting input from Time’s Up, who created a graphic that has since been shared by celebrities including Kerry Washington, Amy Schumer, Jennifer Aniston and Sterling K Brown.

Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo also posted an open letter on Instagram. “Let’s show our black colleagues that we care and are willing to do the work to right the wrongs we have created,” she wrote. “Now is not a time to be silent. We have a real action item here let’s get it done.”

Ava DuVernay expressed surprise that people are expressing surprise over the lack of diversity (it’s not exactly been a secret for a long time) while the HFPA will reportedly address the problem during the ceremony tonight. Let’s see how far they take it.

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Josh O’Connor

Josh O’Connor Wears Bulgari For The 78th Golden Globe Awards
Josh O’Connor Wears Bulgari For The 78th Golden Globe Awards Photograph: David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for BULGARI

What’s confusing about this year’s Golden Globes red carpet is it’s only a red carpet for the presenters. For the nominees this is a WFH situation, so here’s Josh O’Conner – the man who made Prince Charles briefly fanciable – standing in front of some curtains. He looks incredibly dapper in a Byronic kind of way in this Loewe suit. He is able to wear cream trousers, too, which is one of the advantages of being home near some Vanish and a washing machine.

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This year, and try not to get too upset about this, gifting suites have been forced out of expensive hotel suites and onto the street outside of expensive hotels instead.

The strange, here’s some soap and a luxury cruise ship vacation, ritual that sees rich stars get given stuff they could otherwise afford, was made even stranger this year. Buuuuut to make the practice slightly less gross this year, 10 first responders have also been given some swag. Included this year is an active $149 bluetooth mask (?) as well as, for some, a trip to Bali.

American Horror Story actor Adina Porter
American Horror Story actor Adina Porter. Photograph: Valérie Macon/AFP/Getty Images
Gift bags featuring some protective masks
Gift bags featuring some protective masks. Photograph: Valérie Macon/AFP/Getty Images
Eugene Levy and his wife, Deborah Divine, speak with Catherine O’Hara at the Luxe hotel where they pick up their gift bags.
Eugene Levy and his wife, Deborah Divine, speak with Catherine O’Hara at the Luxe hotel where they pick up their gift bags. Photograph: Valérie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

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Often downgraded as the lesser half of the night, it’s easy to forget that the Globes is also a celebration of the small screen, something that’s become a standard joke at this stage (Fey and Poehler will almost certainly reference it at some point).

But this year more than ever, we’ve watched a ton more shows than we have movies so perhaps that’s about to change? Here’s Adrian Horton bravely guessing who and what might come out on top:

Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie Photograph: Todd Williamson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Greetings from the fashion team! Hannah Marriott and Priya Elan here, blowing the dust off our critical faculties, as it has been a while since we had a red carpet to appraise. Let’s start with presenter Margot Robbie, in tiered and belted Chanel – look 3 from the spring/summer 21 catwalk, I believe. She looks great. Personally I am just happy to have an outfit to look at that is not my own sweatpants.

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The past few years have seen divisive discussion around whether an awards show host is even necessary anymore. Recent examples – Ricky Gervais, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel – haven’t exactly inspired us to want anything more than a robot announcing winners but when trying to recall the last great example, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler stand out far from the rest.

The pair have hosted three times before, managing to be sharp without being too mean, deftly skewering both the industry as well the Globes itself and as eye-rolling as a lot of tonight may be, they should provide us with some worthwhile moments.

Here’s a reminder of their best:

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Talk of the town for the last week or so has been the fallout from the LA Times’s damaging investigation into the makeup and practices of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The group of 87 international journalists has long been ridiculed by the industry for being a small and questionable yet strangely influential cabal, plagued by rumours of bribery and accused of opting for the allure of star power over the recognition of genuine talent. By this stage, anyone switching on the Globes and expecting a fair and balanced review of the last year is high on something but these recent reveals have uncovered more alleged corruption and issues than any of us were aware of.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Out of the 87 members, not a single one is black
  • The HFPA is a non-profit organisation yet in the last fiscal year, members reportedly collected nearly $2m in payments from the group, something that could lead to trouble with the IRS
  • More than 30 members were flown to Paris to promote the show Emily in Paris and were treated to a luxury stay (the show ended up with two nominations)
  • Many of the members write for obscure outlets and publicists are reportedly forced to work with them out of fear of being punished by the HFPA at large
  • Members include a wealthy socialite and a bodybuilder-turned-actor
  • Members have also been disciplined for selling freebies sent by publicists as well as tickets to the ceremony itself

Going for gold

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman.
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman. Photograph: AP

Arriving almost two months later than usual, this year’s Golden Globes ceremony is about to kick off a strange awards season with controversy, confusion and a refreshing amount of unpredictability.

It tends to be the looser, drunker, sillier awards show of the year with hosts and presenters taking it about as seriously as we should. Tonight shall be an even weirder one than usual: the hosts, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey (praise be), and presenters will be in person on the east and west coasts while all nominees will be at home. It sort of kind of worked for the Emmys last year, even with a less surer emcee, and almost a year into the pandemic, things should technically be slickly handled tonight, everyone a lot more confident with the intricacies of virtual life.

Predicted winners include Carey Mulligan, the late Chadwick Boseman and a least one person from The Crown, but success will come with a shadow. For years many of us have known that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a strange group of 87 tenuously labelled journalists, have been a bit of a joke, doling out awards to undeserving winners, more impressed with celebrity than talent, but a recent Los Angeles Times expose has shown us an even darker side (more on that later).

It’ll be interesting to see how Fey and Poehler handle this tonight, if at all, but the increased scrutiny will add an edge to the evening for sure. Stick with us for what passes as a red carpet in 2021, all of the many winners, the easily chopped off at-home speeches and any further controversy that arises. It’ll be a unique one.

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US NEWS, World

Republican leader Steve Scalise refuses to admit Trump lost election to Biden

 

This article titled “Republican leader Steve Scalise refuses to admit Trump lost election to Biden” was written by Martin Pengelly in New York, for theguardian.com on Sunday 21st February 2021 16.56 UTC

A senior Republican House leader has refused to admit Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump.

Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House minority whip, appeared on ABC’s This Week more than three months after Biden won the electoral college 306-232 and the popular vote by more than 7m ballots and just over a month after the Democrat was sworn into office.

Trump now lives in Florida but he has refused to accept reality and concede, even after having the vast majority of cases mounted to pursue baseless claims of voter fraud laughed and thrown out of court.

He was impeached a second time for inciting the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, having told supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn the election. Thanks to Republicans in the Senate, he was acquitted.

“Clear this up for me,” ABC host Jonathan Karl said to Scalise on Sunday. “Joe Biden won the election. He is the legitimate president of the United States. The election was not stolen, correct?”

“Look,” Scalise said, “Joe Biden’s the president. There were a few states that did not follow their state laws. That’s really the dispute that you’ve seen continue on.

“And, look, if you’re Joe Biden, you probably want to keep talking about impeachment and anything other than the fact that he’s killed millions of American energy jobs, that … they just signed the Paris [climate] accord. It’s going to kill manufacturing jobs in America.

“But at the end of the day, when you look at where we are in this country, either we’re going to address the problems that happened with the election that … millions of people are still concerned about, the constitution says state legislatures set the rules for elections, that didn’t happen in a few states, and so, going forward – look, Joe Biden’s the president. But does he…”

Karl interjected.

“But, congressman, I know Joe Biden’s the president. He lives at the White House. I asked you, is he the legitimate president of the United States, and do you concede that this election was not stolen? Very simple question. Please just answer it.”

“Look,” said Scalise, not answering the question. “Once the electors are counted, yes, he’s the legitimate president. But if you’re going to ignore the fact that there were states that did not follow their own … laws, that’s the issue at heart, that millions of people still are not happy with and don’t want to see happen again.

“You know, look … you can rehash the election from 2020 all day long, but there are people concerned about what the next election is going to look like. Are we going to finally get back to the way the rule of law works?”

Scalise’s comment about the rule of law echoed statements from Trump, his supporters and his lawyers, who have insisted he represents the forces of law and order despite having incited an assault on Congress in which a police officer was one of five people killed and scores of others were injured.

Scalise told Karl he had recently visited Trump.

“I was doing some fundraising throughout a number of parts of Florida,” he said, “ended up at Mar-a-Lago, and the president reached out, and we visited. I hadn’t seen him since he had left the White House. And it was actually good to catch up with him. I noticed he was a lot more relaxed than in his four years in the White House.

“He still cares a lot about this country and the direction of our country. But, you know, it was a conversation more about how he’s doing now and what he’s … planning on doing and how his family is doing.”

In the long term, Trump’s plans may include another run for office – or other ways of keeping congressional Republicans firmly under his thumb. In the short term, the former president will next week address the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in Florida.

His subject: the state of the Republican party.

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