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‘Crocodile tears’: Sports Direct billionaire Ashley ‘deeply apologetic’ over coronavirus blunders

Fri, 2020-03-27 12:44

Billionaire and retail giant Mike Ashley has apologized profusely for his company’s handling of the coronavirus and subsequent government-mandated lockdown. But many aren’t convinced by the attempted atonement.

When the British government announced a nationwide lockdown Monday, which included the closure of all non-essential shops, Ashley’s athletics retail company Sports Direct struck a defiant tone, seeking clarification from the government, and tagging Prime Minister Boris Johnson directly, as to the status of their stores. 

While awaiting a response, some Sports Direct staff were forced to come to work on Tuesday.

In its effort to stay open, Sports Direct argued that sports equipment was essential and that its stores should remain open. The stance prompted a terse response from Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove. “Sports Direct is not essential retail,” he said in an interview.

Also on rt.com The working class should be hailed as Covid-19 heroes for enabling all our comfy quarantines

In an open letter published on Friday, Ashley stated, “I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days,” while also thanking the employees “who have stood by the business in difficult times and are doing so currently.”

He vowed “not to make the same mistakes in the future.”

“In hindsight, our emails to the government were ill-judged and poorly timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with. On top of this, our communications to our employees and the public on this was poor,” Ashley said.

To make amends, Ashley offered Sports Direct’s “entire fleet of lorries” to the National Health Service (NHS) and “all key workforces across the government… to help deliver medical equipment and supplies.”

The apology was too little, too late for some, however, with vociferous TV host Piers Morgan blasting it as “crocodile tears” and demanding that Ashley donate “some of [his] millions” to the NHS.

Crocodile tears.
If you really want to make amends for your disgraceful exploitation of your staff & customers during this crisis, Mr Ashley, then donate some of your millions right now to the NHS. https://t.co/D3y6V0EYvY

— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 27, 2020

Ashley’s reputation preceded him and many weren’t buying what they perceived as a mealy-mouthed apology from the billionaire. The 55-year-old is the (deeply unpopular) owner of Newcastle United and fans of the club were quick to point out that the apology doesn’t mean that Ashley’s actions will change.

“In my experience Mike Ashley vowing ‘not to make the same mistakes in the future’ means he’s going to make the same mistakes in the future. Possibly as early as the same time next year,” one wrote.

In my experience Mike Ashley vowing ‘not to make the same mistakes in the future’ means he’s going to make the same mistakes in the future. Possibly as early as the same time next year. https://t.co/yWjrWuk9Uo

— NUFCThreatLevel (@NUFCThreatLevel) March 27, 2020

Others noted that the apology is yet another bizarre occurrence in these strange times we are living through.

Mike Ashley has made a public apology today ....CRIKEY the world has changed!!!!!!!!!!

— George Clarke (@MrGeorgeClarke) March 27, 2020

Some weird stuff in the last few days but humble Mike Ashley is a new one. https://t.co/4odk4fWx7X

— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) March 27, 2020

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Categories: Media

Fighting resumes in Libya amid efforts to stop coronavirus pandemic

Fri, 2020-03-27 12:37

Battles raged on several fronts in Libya on Friday after a night of heavy bombardment in Tripoli, Reuters reported, citing combatants and residents. After a comparative lull, serious warfare resumed this week despite international calls for calm to allow Libya’s fragmented health system to prepare for any spread of the coronavirus. Libya confirmed its first case of the infectious disease on Monday.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar has been assaulting Tripoli for nearly a year, hoping to capture the capital in the northwest where the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is based.

The arms embargo on Libya was being routinely violated, according to the UN, with foreign weaponry and fighters arriving in the country to join both sides.

On Thursday, the European Union said it would launch a new naval and air mission to stop further breaches of the embargo.

Categories: Media

Italy yet to reach coronavirus contagion peak, national health chief warns, as 712 die in one day

Fri, 2020-03-27 12:15

Italy has yet to see the worst of the coronavirus pandemic spreading through the country, a senior health official has warned, a day after more than 700 people died in a single 24-hour period.

“We haven’t reached the peak and we haven’t passed it,” the head of the Superior Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro, told a press conference on Friday. He noted, however, that there were “signs of a slowdown” in the number of infections, suggesting that the health crisis could turn a corner soon.

Figures released on Thursday showed 712 new Covid-19 deaths, bringing the nationwide total to 8,215.

Brusaferro said that Italy’s ability to recover from the pandemic will depend on whether Italians continue to obey lockdown measures.

Italy currently has the highest number of infections in Europe, and is third worldwide after the United States and China, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. Cases worldwide have surpassed 500,000, with more than 24,000 deaths.

Also on rt.com UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests POSITIVE for Covid-19 infection

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Categories: Media

Drum roll please! And the BIGGEST WINNER of the deadly global virus is…

Fri, 2020-03-27 12:02

As the US surpasses China in the highest number of coronavirus infections worldwide, economists are raising concerns of massive bankruptcies, as well as supply shock and demand problems for the world’s largest consumer market.

However, not everyone is losing money, analysts say, pointing to large e-commerce firms that are making money out of the crisis as people are confined to their homes.

According to Morgan Stanley analysts, American retailers are experiencing a real boom. In the first weeks of March, retail sales of food products increased sharply by eight percent, which is an unprecedented growth for such business. Moreover, it is possible that growth will continue at double digits, the bank predicts.

Also on rt.com Amazon squeezing workers amid Covid-19 crisis is ‘unacceptable’ – French finance minister

Rating agency Moody’s said that “retailers such as supermarkets, pharmacies, shops and grocery stores are going to benefit, as consumers will stock up on food and other necessities.” It added that retailers who had developed an online sales platform before the crisis have benefited greatly. Thanks to this, operating income at food stores such as Whole Foods (owned by Amazon), Walmart, and Kroger has grown significantly as consumers try to avoid shopping.

Of all these retailers, “Amazon, I would say, is the strongest,” Gary Korolev, sovereign US private equity manager, told RIA Novosti.

He noted that Amazon offers a range of basic-needs’ products and services for customers locked at home, such as entertainment (movies, books), food delivery and essential goods. At the same time, it is Amazon that has the most developed network of delivery centers throughout America, Korolev said. The company, which is currently experiencing rapid growth, plans to hire 100,000 new workers to collect, pack and deliver orders.

Also on rt.com Still richer than you! World’s 20 wealthiest lose almost $80 BILLION in Thursday’s market rout

In a memo to Amazon employees last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that “my own time and thinking is now wholly focused on Covid-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role.”

On Wednesday, attorneys of 32 US states asked Bezos to tighten control over price inflation for essentials on his platform. According to the research group US PIRG, prices for one out of six products sold directly through Amazon rose 50 percent during the epidemic. In some cases, the price has grown tenfold. Thus, the price for a bottle of sanitizer, has skyrocketed from $25 to $250. Bezos gave his assurance that he was taking all the necessary measures to prevent price inflation.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

Categories: Media

Washington cancels major Philippines maneuvers

Fri, 2020-03-27 11:24

The US military has canceled a large-scale exercise involving thousands of troops in the Philippines because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision to scrap Balikatan 2020 was taken “in light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health and safety of both countries’ forces,” AFP quoted US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Phil Davidson as saying.

The war games, scheduled for May 4-15, would have involved more than 10,000 troops from the two long standing allies and a smaller contingent from Australia.

The US troops who take part in Balikatan, or ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ in Tagalog, usually come from bases in Japan and South Korea, which have reported coronavirus cases.

Categories: Media

French PM says ‘very difficult days ahead’ as Covid-19 ‘sweeps over’ country

Fri, 2020-03-27 11:20

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has warned there will be “very difficult” days ahead as the number of confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus in the country soared to nearly 30,000 on Friday.

The country is experiencing an “extremely high wave” of cases as the virus is “sweeping over France” and the crisis will continue to worsen in the coming days, Agence France-Presse cited Philippe as saying.

As of March 27, France has reported 1,698 deaths from Covid-19. The number of confirmed infections in the country jumped by almost 4,000 on Thursday. 

President Emmanuel Macron announced stringent restrictions on the movement of citizens last week with the lockdown expected to last as long as six weeks.

Also on rt.com In France, Covid-19 lockdown is for everyone… almost: Gang-ridden, immigrant-populated suburbs ‘NOT A PRIORITY’ for police

Europe has become the latest epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Italy being hit the hardest. France, Spain, UK, and Germany also saw massive surges in cases in the past week. 

Macron said Friday that he had a “very good discussion” with US President Donald Trump and that they, along with other countries, are preparing “a new strong initiative” to tackle the crisis in the coming days.

The number of confirmed cases of the infection worldwide surpassed 500,000 this week, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

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Categories: Media

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests POSITIVE for Covid-19 infection

Fri, 2020-03-27 11:18

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for Covid-19 infection, experiencing mild symptoms. He will self-isolate in Downing Street but will remain in charge of the government.

"Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus," Johnson said. "I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus."

Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus.

I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.

Together we will beat this. #StayHomeSaveLives pic.twitter.com/9Te6aFP0Ri

— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) March 27, 2020

Johnson, 55, reportedly began experiencing mild symptoms on Thursday and was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England's Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty.

It was not immediately clear when he was tested but various members of his staff had been working elsewhere when the news first emerged that he had contracted the illness.

The British leader had spoken in a press conference about shaking hands with “everybody” during a visit to a hospital that was treating people suffering from the disease, which has killed over 24,000 people around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Boris Johnson boasting about shaking hands with coronavirus patients. You could not make it up. Britain is about to learn the hard way this is not the man to lead us in a crisis.pic.twitter.com/mgg8TL8zKh

— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) March 3, 2020

Less than two hours after Johnson announced his diagnosis, health secretary Matt Hancock followed suit and confirmed that he has the disease. Hancock is self-isolating and working from home as he battles the virus. 

Downing Street had introduced measures to limit contact, including holding cabinet and the daily Covid-19 briefing by conference call.

However, Johnson was in the UK parliament in recent days and also hosted several senior cabinet figures and the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty.

Also on rt.com UK health secretary Hancock follows PM Johnson in testing POSITIVE for Covid-19

For the time being, Johnson will continue to carry out his duties, but Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominc Raab may be asked to step in should the prime minister's condition worsen. Were he to step in, Raab’s official title would be Understudy to the Prime Minister.

The latest figures show that the UK has over 11,800 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection which has, so far, resulted in the deaths of 578 people.

The news of the prime minister's illness comes amid claims that the UK's National Health Service (NHS) is facing a "continuous tsunami" of infection and may soon collapse. The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said Intensive Care Units across the country are filling up and staff absences due to illness are mounting.

Also on rt.com London hospitals facing ‘tsunami’ of Covid-19 patients, likely to be overwhelmed in days – hospitals chief

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Categories: Media

Iran records 144 new Covid-19 deaths as military sets up emergency 2,000-bed hospital in Tehran

Fri, 2020-03-27 11:11

Iran saw nearly 150 new fatalities from coronavirus, health officials disclosed on Friday. The country’s military has deployed a makeshift hospital in Tehran as the Islamic Republic continues to battle the respiratory illness.

A health ministry official confirmed that Iran suffered 144 deaths from the previous day, pushing its death toll to 2,378. The Islamic Republic currently has 32,332 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to a government tally.

The latest figures coincide with the creation of a makeshift hospital in the nation’s capital. The Iranian military reportedly converted an exhibition center into a 2,000-bed medical facility in just 48 hours. The hospital will be used to treat patients recovering from coronavirus.

Also on rt.com US puts NEW sanctions on Iran, despite calls for relief amid massive coronavirus outbreak

Iran has been one of the hardest-hit countries by the disease. A lack of medical equipment to treat patients has been exacerbated by economic sanctions unilaterally imposed by Washington. In fact, the United States announced on Thursday that it would be implementing new restrictions on Iran, even as Tehran has appealed to the international community for aid to help fight the virus.

Coronavirus cases worldwide have surpassed 500,000, causing some 24,000 deaths, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The United States now has more cases than any other country, reaching an estimated 86,000 on Friday.

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Categories: Media

Six months in jail for standing too close to strangers? Countries worldwide roll out draconian measures to fight Covid-19

Fri, 2020-03-27 11:05

New regulations in Singapore which threaten prison time for anyone found violating “social distancing” protocols exemplify the harsh rules being imposed around the world in the fight against coronavirus.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Health, Singaporeans who fail to maintain a distance of one meter from other people in “non-transient” public interactions can be fined up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($6,985) and even risk a six-month jail sentence.
 
The strict measures come as nations around the world adopt similarly extreme provisions to halt the spread of coronavirus.


 
Jordan

Jordanian army members guard outside a hotel that was transformed into a quarantine station in Amman, Jordan, March 18, 2020 ©  REUTERS/Muhammad

Jordan introduced some of the most radical anti-coronavirus policies to date. The country initially imposed an around-the-clock lockdown, with officials promising to deliver bread and water to all citizens. Those who violated the strict quarantine were threatened with a year in prison. At least 800 were arrested over a span of several days, the Guardian reported. The measures were later eased, with the government permitting people to take walks and visit shops and pharmacies.


Italy A local police officer checks on people at the Highway exit for Molfetta, southern Italy, March 25, 2020. ©  REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

Authorities have begun to ratchet up efforts to stop quarantine violators in Italy. The country deployed more than 100 soldiers tasked with enforcing lockdown measures in Lombardy, the hardest-hit region in Europe. More than 90,000 Italians have been slapped with fines which can potentially reach €3,000 ($3,300). Italians can also end up behind bars for three months for flouting the stay-in-place protocols.


Spain Spanish legionnaires patrol an empty street during partial lockdown in southern Spain, March 18, 2020. ©  REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Spain might have the most stringent rules in Europe. Since announcing a countrywide lockdown in mid-March, residents have only been allowed outside for essentials such as grocery shopping or medical needs. The provisions, originally scheduled to be lifted after fifteen days, have been extended until April 11. Those found in violation of the rules face astronomical fines, with repeat offenders staring down the possibility of 3-18 months in prison. More than 30,000 fines have been issued and 900 arrests made for disobedience, according to reports.

India People line up in circles drawn with chalk to maintain safe distance in Mumbai, India, March 25, 2020. ©  REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed a 21-day lockdown on his country on Tuesday, forcing 1.3 billion people into their homes with only essential services and businesses remaining open. The nationwide quarantine is being enforced with no-nonsense punishments: Using a number of provisions already on the books, authorities are empowered to hand out hefty fines and jail terms lasting up to two years.


UK A play area is seen cordoned off with Police tape, as the spread of the coronavirus continues, High Wycombe, Britain, March 26, 2020. ©  REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Police in Britain have been given the power to forcefully make people return to their homes, as part of a nationwide lockdown. Those without a “reasonable excuse” to be out and about could be hit with a £60 ($73) fine. A second offense could cost you double that.

Despite posts yesterday highlighting issues of people still visiting the #PeakDistrict despite government guidance, the message is still not getting through. @DerPolDroneUnit have been out at beauty spots across the county, and this footage was captured at #CurbarEdge last night. pic.twitter.com/soxWvMl0ls

— Derbyshire Police (@DerbysPolice) March 26, 2020

The measures have already faced criticism, with Derbyshire police causing uproar on social media for using drones to “shame” people allegedly violating social distancing rules.

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Categories: Media

Spain's Covid-19 death toll SPIKES again as 769 die in new single day record

Fri, 2020-03-27 10:46

Spain’s health ministry has announced that it has suffered another record breaking day for Covid-19 deaths as 769 people fell victim to the disease in one day.

Health officials revealed on Friday morning that the number of fatalities jumped to 4,858, while the number of confirmed infections in the country has risen from 56,188 to 64,059.

The rate of infection has seemingly slowed, however, with the 7,871 jump in new cases making a 14 percent increase on the previous day. That compares favorably to the 18 percent increase announced on Thursday and Wednesday’s 20 percent surge. 

Worryingly, however, the mortality rate in Spain remains stubbornly high at roughly 7.5 percent.

Over 2,000 deaths have been confirmed in the capital Madrid, while Catalonia and the Basque country have recorded 880 and 180 deaths respectively.

Also on rt.com Spain extends coronavirus lockdown to April 12, says its ‘at war’ in China market to buy medical supplies

The Spanish government has extended its lockdown of the country until at least April 12 as its embattled healthcare system tries to turn the tide against the outbreak.

The number of cases has dramatically increased in Spain in recent weeks and the Spanish health ministry said on Friday that 9,637 people have been cured of infection.

Meanwhile, Spanish authorities are claiming that coronavirus tests purchased from China are faulty, as their sub-30 percent accuracy level renders them unusable. As a result, Spain will be returning the first batch of testing kits it received from China, where the coronavirus outbreak first began late last year. 

The Chinese Embassy confirmed that the faulty devices were not part of the €423 million deal between the two countries, which includes some 5.5 million testing kits. The embassy claimed that the kits had come from an unlicensed provider, Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology. Spain reportedly bought 340,000 kits from the company.

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Sinking global economy & cheap crude take big bite out of Russia’s forex reserves

Fri, 2020-03-27 10:37

Russian gold and foreign currency holdings have shed almost $30 billion or more than five percent in one week in the biggest drop since the global financial crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic and crashing oil prices.

According to the latest data released by the country’s central bank, the reserves stood at $551.2 billion as of March 20, down from $581 billion a week earlier. The regulator explained the decline with negative revaluation. 

The nation’s forex holdings faced almost a similar drop in October 2008, when the reserves shrank by $30.6 billion to $487 billion. Another steep decline occurred in the beginning of 2009, as $30.3 billion vanished from Russia’s coffers as the consequences of the financial crisis were still wreaking havoc around the globe. 

Also on rt.com Russian economy can survive for a long time with oil at $20 per barrel

Despite the steep fall, the international reserves that are comprised of stocks of monetary gold, foreign currencies and Special Drawing Right (SDR) assets, are still above the target of half a trillion dollars set by the central bank several years ago.

Analysts earlier stressed the accumulated funds can shield the Russian economy from any turbulence in the global energy and stock markets. Some predicted that Moscow can survive up to two years with extremely low oil prices, while they still expect that the market is set to stabilize in the next few months.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

Categories: Media

Orban imposes 2-week lockdown, expects coronavirus peak in Hungary by July

Fri, 2020-03-27 10:32

Hungary is imposing a two-week lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. It is expected to peak in the country in June or July, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

Citizens will be allowed to go to work, shop and take limited exercise outside during the lockdown, which starts on Saturday. However, they should keep distance from each other, Orban said on public radio. Restrictions would be enforced by police, he added.

Hungary has recorded around 300 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths,  Reuters reported. Orban has said the actual number of cases is probably much higher. “Restrictions put in place so far have been efficient,” the PM said. “Hungarians reduced the magnitude of social contact [but]… the decline has stopped, so we had to impose the movement restrictions.”

The government in Budapest has pushed for an open-ended extension of a state of emergency that would give it the right to bypass parliament. Legislators are due to vote on the measure next week. Authorities and the central bank have taken steps to shore up growth. The government will present a post-outbreak action plan for the economy in the first or second week of April.

Categories: Media

Indonesian volcano Mount Merapi spews massive ash in 2nd major eruption this month

Fri, 2020-03-27 09:49

Indonesia’s most active volcano Mount Merapi erupted Friday, shooting a column of ash some 5,000 meters (16,000 feet) into the air in its second major eruption this month. Ash and sand covered areas several kilometers away from the peak of the rumbling crater near Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta.

Authorities did not raise Merapi’s alert level. “There has been no reports of damage from the eruption. We urge people to stay calm and not panic,” national disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said.

Merapi erupted earlier this month, shooting a massive ash cloud some 6,000 meters in the air. That eruption coated Yogyakarta and neighboring city Solo with gray dust and forced an airport closure.

Mount Merapi’s last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of 280,000 residents. That was Merapi’s most powerful eruption since 1930, which killed around 1,300 people, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives, AFP said.

Categories: Media

Vietnam aims to keep number of Covid-19 cases under 1,000 – govt

Fri, 2020-03-27 09:23

Vietnam is aiming to keep the number of coronavirus cases in the country under 1,000, the government said. The statement came as the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country passed 150 on Friday.

“We have been able to contain epicenters, and even potential epicenters… and we are determined to keep the number of COVID-19 cases from reaching 1,000,” Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said.

Vietnam will limit domestic flights and stop public gatherings for two weeks from Saturday in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Hanoi has moved to bar entry to all foreigners, suspend international flights and put tens of thousands of people under quarantine, Reuters said.

Categories: Media

Israel to deploy army to help enforce Covid-19 lockdown

Fri, 2020-03-27 08:54

Israel will deploy its army to help police enforce the coronavirus lockdown in the country, as people are told to stay at home and businesses are closed down.

A partial lockdown that was already in place was made even stricter earlier this week, with people being required to stay within 100 meters of their homes and to stay at home as much as possible, with the threat of fines or prosecution for violating the rules.

In line with many other countries, gatherings have also been banned and schools shut down.

Now the army will come in to help enforce the rules.

We are preparing to allocate 500 soldiers to assist in limiting the spread of #COVID19, as requested by @israelpolice & approved by the government.

From Sunday, IDF troops will be assisting police teams with patrolling, isolating & securing areas in Israel.#StayHome

— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) March 27, 2020


The restrictions are hitting the Israeli economy hard, with the state’s central bank projecting the economy will shrink by 2.5 percent this year.
Israel has been trying to form a government for many months now, after it went to the polls for the third time in less than two years.

Also on rt.com Gantz elected Israel’s parliament speaker, moves closer to unity govt with Netanyahu

Now, however, opposition leader Benny Gantz said on Thursday that there could be a unity government to deal with the pandemic, potentially ending the political gridlock.

So far Israel has reported over 3,000 infections, with 10 deaths.

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‘Are those who bomb towns going to accuse us of terrorism?’ Maduro rips US over ‘narco-terrorism’ charge

Fri, 2020-03-27 08:47

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro fired back at the US, which is offering a $15 million bounty for information leading to his arrest, dismissing the narco-terrorism charge as a smear to deflect attention from its coronavirus woes.

Maduro came out swinging after the US Justice Department, in an almost unprecedented move, indicted the president of the Latin American nation on “narco-terrorism” charges, claiming that Maduro and over a dozen Venezuelan political and military leaders plotted to “flood the United States with cocaine.”

A generous reward of up to $15 million is promised to anyone who provides a tip to the US government leading to the Venezuelan president’s capture and arrest. A hefty sum of $10 million could also await those willing to help nab any of Maduro’s high-profile “co-conspirators.

Also on rt.com ‘New way of staging a coup’: Venezuelan FM blasts US for narco-terrorism charges against Maduro

Maduro minced no words, brushing off the terrorism allegations as coming from a country that has zero credibility on the issue due to its long history of foreign interventions that have led to mass civilian casualties.

Are the world’s terrorists, those who bomb towns, going to accuse us of terrorism?

“If I have done anything, it is to fight the [narco] mafias,” the Venezuelan leader said, adding that Caracas has achieved record results in its battle against drug trafficking in the past 15 years.

By framing him, the US wants to distract attention from its incompetence in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, Maduro said. The pandemic has claimed over 1,200 lives in the US and has dealt a heavy blow to the economy.

Also on rt.com Hard pass on the Noriega remix? US narcotrafficking charges against Maduro straight out of Panama playbook

Venezuela, he argued, has been successful in fending off the spread of the disease. 

“We are succeeding and as we are succeeding the empire is getting desperate,” he said in a televised address on Thursday.

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Categories: Media

‘Enjoy cherry blossoms next year,’ Tokyo governor says as 40 new coronavirus cases reported

Fri, 2020-03-27 08:33

Japan’s Tokyo prefecture reported 40 more coronavirus infections on Friday. Its governor appealed to people to wait until next year for traditional spring parties to view the flowering of cherry blossoms.

Preventing a regional outbreak is a prerequisite for holding a successful Olympic Games, after the event was delayed until next year, Yuriko Koike told reporters.

Should the Games be held next spring, she expressed hope of bringing back the Olympics marathon race to host city Tokyo. The marathon had to be relocated this year to Sapporo due to the hot weather.

A surge in virus infections this week took Tokyo’s tally to 259 on Thursday, Reuters said.

Categories: Media

Russia records third coronavirus patient death as number infected surpasses 1,000

Fri, 2020-03-27 08:33

Another person diagnosed with Covid-19 has died in Moscow, bringing the overall death toll in Russia to three people. 196 new cases were announced on Friday, which means the nationwide number of infected now stands at 1,036.

The latest victim was a 70-year-old woman with a number of underlying conditions. She had suffered from diabetes for 20 years and also had terminal renal failure and other diseases.

The two other Russian deaths, announced on Wednesday, also involved elderly patients, aged 88 and 73 respectively. Last week, a 79-year-old woman was initially thought to have succumbed to coronavirus, but a post-mortem showed that a blood clot was the actual cause.  

Forty-five people in Russia are known to have recovered from Covid-19, according to officials.

In recent days, Russia has stepped up efforts to stem the spread of the highly contagious disease, announcing next week as a paid holiday, banning international passenger flights and closing restaurants, parks, cinemas and other establishments where large groups of people can gather, except essential ones.

Also on rt.com Holiday week, financial support for Covid-19 victims & taxes for rich: Putin lays out emergency virus plan

Since the outbreak in China in December, the coronavirus has spread to 202 countries, killing more than 24,000 people and infecting over half a million. Italy, where 8,165 have died, leads in the number of the fatalities, while the US has the most Covid-19 cases, at over 85,000.

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European stocks crash as spread of coronavirus explodes across continent

Fri, 2020-03-27 08:31

European markets opened significantly lower on Friday, ignoring all the stimulus pledges by governments this week, as the deadly Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread. Europe now accounts for more than half of global infections.

Britain’s FTSE 100 was plummeting more than five percent during early afternoon trading in London. Stock markets in Germany and France are down over three and four percent, respectively.

The market fall comes as EU leaders fail to come to an agreement over the economic response to the coronavirus pandemic. During a video conference summit on Thursday, the leaders of the 27-member bloc argued over how to pull their economies through the crisis, with Italy accusing other member states of having a timid response to the unprecedented economic shock.

Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has called for “extraordinary and exceptional measures” to help Europe’s battered economies. Along with France, Spain, and seven other Eurozone countries, Italy wants a “European recovery bond,” also known as ‘coronabonds’, EU-backed debt to lift member states out of recession and increase spending on healthcare.

Also on rt.com Germany’s Covid-19 cases jump by 5,700+ in a single day with death toll up by 55

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, criticized the EU member states for “looking out for themselves” during the early phases of the crisis. “When Europe really needed an all-for-one spirit, too many initially gave an only-for-me response. And when Europe really needed to prove that this is not only a fair weather union, too many initially refused to share their umbrella,” she told the European parliament in Brussels on Thursday during a session to vote through emergency measures.

The overall number of deaths in Europe due to coronavirus has exceeded 14,000 since the first recorded fatality in France on February 15. The majority of deaths have occurred in Italy, with 8,215. March 26 was the deadliest day so far in Europe, with 1,918 virus-related deaths recorded in 26 different European countries.

Spain and Germany are also among the world’s worst-hit countries in terms of infection levels. Spain follows Italy as the fourth most infected country, with the number of infection cases at 57,786 and 4,365 deaths. The total amount of confirmed cases in Germany grew from 36,508 to 42,288 over a single day. The nation’s death toll is now 281.

Europe accounts for more than half of coronavirus infections worldwide with almost 280,000 cases. The total number of Covid-19 infections in the world stands at 537,436 people.

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Categories: Media

France trying to repatriate 30,000 of its nationals – FM

Fri, 2020-03-27 07:55

France is still trying to repatriate 30,000 of its citizens from overseas due to the coronavirus, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday. Over the last week, France has brought home around 100,000 people, the minister told Europe 1 radio.

Malaysia and France have organized chartered flights to fly out hundreds of their citizens stranded in Cambodia after the Southeast Asian nation sealed its borders and cancelled flights, Reuters reported.

A special charter flight departed on Thursday with 413 French people on board. Another 100 French nationals will be leaving Cambodia on Saturday and many more will be leaving in the next two days aboard regular commercial flights. Malaysia also sent a special plane to take home its 111 stranded nationals on Wednesday.

Cambodia reported two new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking its total to 98, according to the Health Ministry.

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