On Trump Trip to Mt. Rushmore, Masks & Social Distancing Not Required

SOUTH DAKOTA, (VOANEWS).- President Donald Trump ventures to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday for an early Independence Day celebration that thousands of people are expected to attend.

Although the U.S. leads the world in the number of COVID-19 cases, local officials say there are no plans for observing social distancing or mask wearing at the event  However, free masks will be available for those who want them.

South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem, said on Fox News earlier this week: “We’ve told folks that have concerns that they can stay home.”

The Washington Post reports that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Arizona this week was delayed from Tuesday to Wednesday after Secret Service agents organizing the trip either fell sick with the virus or displayed symptoms.

The U.S. on Thursday reported more than 50,000 new cases. Four states – Arizona, California, Florida, Texas - were responsible for half of the new cases.

The jump in coronavirus numbers is blamed in part on what New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy called “knucklehead behavior” – people not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

There are nearly 11 million global COVID-19 cases. The U.S is approaching 3 million cases.

Australian officials say 10,000 people in Victoria have refused to take the coronavirus test this past week because they believe the outbreak is not real and is instead a “conspiracy theory.”

The New York Times reports that Australia, which has been successful in keeping COVID cases to a minimum, is now locking down an area of 300,000 people in a largely immigrant community in the state of Victoria.

India reported nearly 21,000 new daily cases of the coronavirus Friday.

India said Thursday that it had it had recorded about 100,000 cases in four days. Johns Hopkins University said early Friday that the South Asian nation has more than 625,000 COVID-19 cases.

South Africa reported a new record number of 8,100 new cases in 24 hours Thursday.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told voters not to be afraid to come out and cast ballots in the second round of the presidential election July 12.

Despite hundreds of new cases reported daily, Poland has been relatively successful in fending off COVID-19, with 1,500 deaths.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday he is easing the mandatory quarantines for travelers arriving in Britain. He said he would announce details Friday or Saturday.

And in Mexico, a medical supply company has started using unmanned drones to deliver masks, gloves and other equipment to hospitals.

Doctors, nurses and other medical workers have staged nationwide protests against what they say is a shortage of protective equipment. 


Add a comment

Amid Record Daily New COVID Infections, Trump Says 'Millions of Lives' Saved

WHITE HOUSE, (STEVE HERMAN-VOANEWS). - As the country continues to set daily records for new COVID-19 infections, U.S. President Donald Trump is again praising his administration’s response to the pandemic, taking credit for saving “millions of lives.” 

“In many cases, we’ve done an incredible job,” Trump said. 

More than 50,000 new coronavirus infections were reported in the country on Wednesday, the highest total since the start of the pandemic. Six states set daily records for new cases: Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. 

“They flare up, and we’re putting out the fires,” the president said of the coronavirus “temporary hot spots,” during comments Thursday morning to White House reporters primarily touting positive news about Americans returning to jobs in record numbers.  

“It’s got a life, and we’re putting out that life because it’s a bad life that we’re talking about,” Trump said of the viral disease that has swept the world this year. 

“The crisis is being handled,” according to the president, amid criticism his administration prematurely encouraged states to reopen their economies.

“I think some places may have been overexuberant” in reopening, Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, acknowledged after Trump left the podium. 

White House officials stress the rapidly rising coronavirus case numbers are due, in large part, to enhanced testing, and note that the percentage of patients dying from the disease continues to decline.

The record number of new infections in the United States is accompanied by a new high for current hospitalizations in eight states, which has created a crisis for some medical facilities that are reporting they are near capacity.

“The president is so eager to declare victory and pat himself on the back that he’s ignoring reality completely,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, asserting that the record number of new coronavirus cases “is more important” than the latest jobs numbers. 

California’s increasing rate of infections prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday to revive the sweeping restrictions imposed statewide at the start of the outbreak -— shutting bars and theaters, and halting indoor dining in 19 counties.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has put on hold plans to reopen indoor dining rooms because of a possibility of infected people from elsewhere flocking into the city. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statewide order Wednesday mandating that everyone wear face masks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a U.S. Senate committee this week that the current rate of new infections could more than double to 100,000 a day if the current surge is not contained.

The United States has recorded nearly 2.7 million cases of COVID-19 infections. More than 128,000 deaths are attributed to the viral disease.  


Add a comment

Journalists sue the Government of Puerto Rico for penalizing "false news"

WASHINGTON, (FUNDAMEDIOS USA).- We'd like to share an alert of protest and concern Fundamedios has issued, regarding the restrictions against freedom of expression in Puerto Rico following the lawsuit filed by Puerto Rican journalists Sandra Rodríguez Cotto and Rafelli González.

Both journalists are challenging the constitutionality of a pair of laws that seek to penalize - with up to 6 months of jail - those who disclose "false news" or "decisions made by the government during a state of emergency" that may cause confusion to the public.

The plaintiffs contend the statutes, arguing that they fail to accurately define "what speech may constitute a crime", and as a result providing ample discretion to the government to decide whom to punish, giving authorities the opportunity to intimidate, silence and prosecute journalists who investigate the government's management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this regulation, the Government of Puerto Rico clearly violates the First Amendment of the Constitution and the international standards of Freedom of Expression.

Rodríguez Cotto and González are Puerto Rican investigative reporters with a long and distinguished journalistic trajectory, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the Federal Court.

This alert is part of the watchdog work carried out by Fundamedios in the context of our commitment to defend the rights to press freedom and access to information for journalists since 2007 in Latin America.

As part of our monitoring in the United States, we are developing a study to analyze the main challenges that Hispanic journalists face in exercising their rights. We are interested in finding out, among other things, if Hispanic journalists in the U.S. have the same access to sources of information as their non-Hispanic peers, and if they face discrimination in labor opportunities, such as promotions or wages. We'd like to hear your experience, and invite you to fill out a short survey on this topic:

Finally, we also want to share the link to a recent digital forum held recently, featuring our colleagues Maritza Félix from Conecta Arizona (AZ), Diego Barahona from La Noticia (NC), Gustavo Martínez Contreras from Asbury Park Press (NJ) and Hugo Balta NAHJ. They discussed the main challenges faced by Latino journalists working in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Frank LaRue and Dagmar Thiel as moderators.

Our next virtual discussion will be on Thursday, June 4 at 7:30 pm ET and when we will address the situation of freedom of expression in Puerto Rico. We will send more details soon.here is the link to the discussion with colleagues Maritza Félix from Conecta Arizona (AZ), Diego Barahona from La Noticia (NC), Gustavo Martí-nez Contreras from Asbury Park Press (NJ) and Hugo Balta NAHJ. Together, these 4 journalists tackled Frank LaRue and Dagmar Thiel the main challenges faced by Latino journalists working in the USA in the days of COVID-19.

Fundamedios is a civil society organization committed to the defense of human rights in particular freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and access to information to advance transparency as pillars of democracy in Latin America. It has been in existence since 2007. After working for over a decade in Latin America we established a Washington office and registered as a 501 c 3 to build bridges among both regions as well as to work with Hispanic journalists in the U.S.

Fundamedios is one of the leading organizations of Voces del Sur, a CSOs' collective that reports progress toward implementing the Sustainable Development Goal 16 regarding peace, justice and strong institutions. The network of fundamental freedom organizers developed regional standards for monitoring and dissemination of alerts regarding freedom of expression in 10 countries. The report has been reviewed by UNESCO as part of the UN's High-Level Review of SDG 16 in July 2019.To learn more about FUNDAMEDIOS, please visit www.fundamedios.org.

Add a comment


ESA Startup competition announces four winners

MADRID, (ESA).- In a session led by Eric Morel de Westgaver, ESA Director of Industry, Procurement and Legal Services, each startup outlined their proposal and answered questions from Member State delegates.

The four winning startups were selected from a total of 101 applicants. Over a period of two months they were judged on the team, business model, societal impact of the project and usefulness, and quality of the proposal. This process involved Member State Business Incubation Centres, ESA scientific, business and legal experts, and ESA’s Inspector General. All 22 Member State delegates voted unanimously on the final winners. Such was the quality of the entries that third place was shared by two startups.

The winners will receive expert advice through a mentoring grant tailored to their specific needs. ESA also invites the winners to present at the Global Space Congress to be held in Abu Dhabi in May 2021. 

“Each proposal makes sound business sense and will have a very positive societal or environmental impact,” Eric explained. “The people behind these ideas are experts in their fields who have spotted opportunities in the market. Their dedication and commitment teamed with ESA’s recognition and support gives them the boost needed to bring these ideas to fruition.”

Water is crucial to life on Earth but millions of cubic metres are wasted annually via leaks along buried pipelines.

Cosmic Srl in Italy is overall winner of the ESA Startup competition. They propose to further develop their neutron detector-based concept to make a low-cost device that is easy to install on any vehicle to measure the water content of the ground around pipelines and identify leaks.

The technology works on the premise that cosmic rays that constantly shower Earth are absorbed by hydrogen, a component of water. The idea is based on measurements with a detector that counts cosmic rays in a certain energy band. The count will decrease if the rays are absorbed by a body of water. Data collected are cross-referenced with GPS positioning provided by satellite navigation and continuously sent to a server for realtime data analysis based on artificial intelligence to detect water leaks.

Hawa Dawa came second place, and joint third came Orbital EOS and ConstellR.

Hawa Dawa in Germany has created a global air quality management platform driven by Earth observation satellite data, ground-based measurements, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.

Improving air quality is a crucial part of creating sustainable and resilient cities. Hawa Dawa’s modelling system provides information that can help decision-makers to factor in implications for air pollution in traffic management, urban development and healthcare.

About two million tonnes of oil is spilled into our seas from oil platforms and ships, most of which goes undetected. Orbital EOS in Spain have developed the first commercial platform called ‘EOS Viewer’ which combines artificial intelligence with Earth observation radar and optical satellite data from the EU's Copernicus programme to detect and characterise these oil spills.

Orbital EOS offers a 10–50% cost reduction in overall monitoring and more analysis data on the characteristics of any spill. By working with oil companies and authorities, this company hopes to create a more responsible approach to marine pollution.

With the first demonstrator in orbit next year, ConstellR in Germany will start building its thermal infrared CubeSat constellation which will complement data from the Copernicus programme to provide a high-resolution land surface temperature monitoring service. At 3% of the cost of traditional systems it will monitor the health of crops globally, daily, and on the level of a single field.

This system can help farmers increase crop yield while reducing water and fertiliser usage and supports governments as well as industries in recognising and preparing for the effects of environmental changes.

To learn more about these winners, join the opening session of the virtual ESA Industry Space Days on Wednesday 16 September 2020, where they will introduce themselves and will be available for virtual appointments with industry and space agency representatives.


Add a comment

The obstacles that journalists face increased with the pandemic

WASHINGTON, (FUNDAMEDIOS USA).- The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the systematic obstacles to access to public information, freedom of expression and disinformation that journalists already faced before the health emergency. For that reason, the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression (RELE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Dialogue and the Canadian Embassy organized this Wednesday, May 20, the webinar: Freedom of Expression and COVID-19: Voices of the Pandemic, with the participation of FUNDAMEDIOS.

Edison Lanza, special rapporteur for freedom of expression at the IACHR; Frank LaRue, director of human rights and advocacy at Fundamedios; Rachel Kay, executive director of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) for Latin America and the Caribbean; and Eleonora Rabinovich, manager of public policy and government affairs at Google were the panelists. The meeting was moderated by Michael Camilleri, director of the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program of the Inter-American Dialogue.

«States have a duty to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, restricting freedoms in the name of legitimate interests has been conflictive in several countries and we have monitored the situation in the region,» said the Rapporteur. Lanza expressed concern about the impact of states of emergency. «Most aren’t intended for health emergencies, but for public order issues». In his opinion, this has limited several rights. «The role of journalism is fundamental in this pandemic because journalists are who verify the information and occupy a space of dissident voice to the official voice in the countries,» he warned.

The IFEX official said that in many countries there are claims that authorities don’t answer essential or uncomfortable questions during virtual press conferences, spaces that in the current scene are for accountability.

Frank LaRue shared this opinion, noting that «the worst mistake governments make is to think they can suspend or limit all rights for legitimate interests such as stopping a pandemic. Access to information and freedom of expression are fundamental rights that can’ t be absolutely restricted».

The former UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression added that states seek to limit freedom of expression because they want to limit the critical voices heard in the face of the reality that afflicts the world. Paradoxically, and in spite of the restrictions, access to information is a matter of public health for citizens in decision-making; it is also a mechanism for transparency because it is necessary to know how the available resources are being used at a time when the possibility of exercising corrupt practices is being amplified.

During the emergency, Internet became a tool that democratizes the speech. In that line, the Google representative recognized that web gives all voices a space to express themselves, while fighting against the scourge of disinformation. That is why the company «opened funds for fact-checkers, as well as an emergency fund to help Latin American journalists».

Perhaps today more than ever citizens need clear and reliable information to protect their health. The work of civil society and journalists is essential in the midst of an emergency that is overwhelming the world.


Add a comment