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first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

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first_imgA handful of US lawmakers have a unique argument for asking President Donald Trump not to slash the food stamp program – they themselves once relied on it.The Republican president this week proposed $15 billion in cuts to the $71 billion Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps, as part of his $4.8 trillion budget plan.Trump argues that many Americans receiving food stamps do not need them, given the strong economy and low unemployment. His administration already has tightened eligibility guidelines for the food assistance program. In their letter to Trump, nine Democratic lawmakers said they had each participated in the program “during times of financial struggle for our families.”Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said he was a toddler when his parents, immigrants from India, received food stamps for a couple of years in the 1970s.”My parents don’t like to talk about it,” he said. Krishnamoorthi’s father was an engineering student in New York, whose job as a teaching assistant did not pay much. When that was suspended, “things were really rough” for them, he said.Asking the administration to “remove all intended cuts” to the program, the lawmakers said in their letter: “We are writing today on behalf of the over 36 million American families who currently depend on SNAP, like ours once did, to make ends meet and help the next generation achieve upward mobility.” It was signed by Senator Patty Murray and eight House members: Krishnamoorthi, Barbara Lee, Robin Kelly, Rashida Tlaib, Salud Carbajal, Jahana Hayes, Gwen Moore and Alma Adams.Trump’s proposals for food stamp cuts are not expected to pass. Even when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, the administration could not get lawmakers to approve them, and Democrats now control the House of Representatives.But the Trump administration has already stiffened eligibility guidelines for food stamps, a move projected to end benefits for nearly 700,000 people.Krishnamoorthi said it was important to send a message to the Trump administration that “you really are touching on a support system that a broader swath of society utilizes than you may think.”The congressman said he did not have a memory of the food stamps, “but I remember I was not hungry.”Topics :last_img read more

first_imgEmpty classrooms, shuttered restaurants and hospitals bursting with patients. That was the scene in Mexico City in 2009 when a new strain of flu swept across much of the country and spread around the world.Just 11 years after the swine flu outbreak, which infected more than 60 million people in the US alone and took as many as half a million lives worldwide, the new coronavirus is threatening to spark another global epidemic.Health officials are trying to contain the virus that causes Covid-19, a pneumonia-like illness that can be severe in a minority of patients and spread from others who look healthy. Now, researchers and disease trackers are teetering on the brink of calling it a pandemic, a crisis that will likely affect the entire world. ‘Getting worse’The distinction may not be necessary, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.“The situation is getting worse; all you have to do is look at the numbers,” he said. “If the trend continues the way we’re seeing now, we’re going to have a problem. Whatever you call it, it’s not good.”But the eight-letter word resonates with state and local health departments, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, Schaffner said. Many of them have pandemic plans, developed and refined after earlier outbreaks, that will need to be dusted off, reviewed and implemented.The reasons for calling this outbreak a pandemic now are many, according to Tom Frieden, a former CDC director and New York City health commissioner. Researchers can’t trace all the links between outbreaks in different nations; the spread in hospitals and families shows the virus is quite transmissible; some countries that haven’t reported cases probably have them; and simple calculations suggest the tallies of travelers with the disease are probably just a fraction of the real number.“A pandemic is inevitable and we should call it what it is,” Frieden said. “What’s not inevitable is that it will be severe.”Measures as simple as frequent hand-washing can help prevent the spread of the virus, public health experts say. Travel restrictions like those implemented in China have slowed its global spread, but probably won’t stop it, Fauci said.‘Precarious position’People in the US should prepare for disruptions to daily life, warned Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. In the event of a pandemic, schools may consider dividing classes into smaller groups or even shutting down, she said. Businesses will have to consider more telecommuting, and communities and cities may have to cancel mass gatherings.The WHO has already declared the outbreak an international public health emergency. The situation may be more difficult to define as a pandemic, according to Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program. Most pandemics are caused by flu, and the transmission of coronavirus needs to be studied further, he said. While new cases are falling in China, the possibility of a global outbreak is real, he said.“It is time to do everything you would do in preparing for a pandemic,” he said in a press conference. “We’re still trying to avoid that eventuality and countries are having success in doing that. Let’s focus on what we can do.”The coronavirus outbreak looks nothing like the 1918 flu that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. The pandemics of Asian flu of 1956-1958 and Hong Kong flu in 1968 are each estimated to have killed from 1 million to 4 million people.Fortunately, unlike most flu strains, the new virus seems to leave children relatively unscathed, Schaffner said. That suggests fewer scenes like one he witnessed in the swine flu outbreak, when a five-year-old child died at Vanderbilt after being sent home from two other emergency rooms, he recalled.Treatments for flu have improved since then, and doctors are already testing antivirals and vaccines against the coronavirus. Yet other signs of a pandemic may still come, such as shortages of hospital beds and patients waiting in hallways waiting for attention, he said.“We’re at the edge of the cliff,” Schaffner said. “We’re in a more precarious position now than we were one week ago, and I see this week as determining what’s going to happen.” “We’re on the knife-edge,” said William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease specialist who’s been through the Asian flu, Hong Kong and swine flu pandemics.Two months after emerging in China’s Hubei province, the coronavirus has hit at least four continents, with rising case counts and huge responses in Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan. More than 80,000 cases have been reported, including some 2,800 deaths. Authorities in the US and Thailand are warning about wider outbreaks in their countries.Yet most of the cases and clusters are traceable, according to the World Health Organization, meaning that for the most part community spread outside China is rare. Questions over the nature of the virus underscore WHO’s reluctance to call the outbreak a pandemic just yet, especially while there are early signs of slowed or stopped transmission in some countries.A pandemic doesn’t have a formal numerical definition, said Schaffner, who has advised the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on infections. It’s an epidemic that becomes global, spreading in multiple countries. In most cases, measures to contain the epidemic in one region or country have failed, and the goal switches to mitigation — trying to ease the pain.center_img Topics :last_img read more

first_imgSamsung, the world’s top smartphone maker, remains optimistic that its newly launched Galaxy S20 will receive a good response from Indonesian consumers although fears of the COVID-19 outbreak could discourage people from going to shopping malls to buy the new handset.Samsung Electronic Indonesia’s marketing head Denny Galant said in Jakarta on Wednesday that the sales in Indonesia would be high as usual despite the plunging initial sales of the Galaxy S20 in Korea. “Our S20 pre-order numbers surpassed the S10 pre-orders during its launching year in February, last year. Based on that figure, we believe that demand in Indonesia will remain high,” he said while declining to elaborate on the numbers. Samsung sold an estimated 70,800 units of the Galaxy S20 in Korea on Thursday (Feb. 27), far lower than 140,000 units of the Galaxy S10 series sold on the first day of sales last year, The Korea Herald reported.A Korean telecom company official blamed the COVID-19 outbreak for the sales slump, which reduced the number of consumers visiting brick-and-mortar stores.In addition, Indonesia’s smartphone sales volumes also reported single-digit negative growth in 2019, following a global trend of a 2 percent decline in smartphone demand, market researcher Growth from Knowledge (GfK) stated on Wednesday.Denny assured that the coronavirus outbreak has not disrupted Galaxy S20’s stock supply to Indonesia, despite the recent shutdown of Samsung’s factory in South Korea.As of Monday, Samsung’s smartphone plant in Gumi, North Gyeongsang province, in South Korea had to shut down twice as four of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, according to The Korea Herald. The Gumi plant produces Samsung’s flagship smartphones including the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Z Flip.“The supply for our flagship smartphone in Indonesia remains secure despite the virus outbreak,” Denny said.Samsung maintained its domination of the flagship smartphone market in Indonesia with a 67 percent market share in 2019, according to Samsung. (mpr)Topics :last_img read more

first_imgDemonstrations are allowed under Israel’s coronavirus restrictions, as long as participants maintain distance from each other and wear face masks.Under the banner of “Save the Democracy,” protesters called on Gantz’s Blue and White party not to join in a coalition led by a premier charged with corruption.Gantz has campaigned for clean government, but said that the coronavirus crisis has forced him to go back on his election pledge.A Reuters cameraman estimated that a few thousand demonstrators attended the rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. Israeli media put the figure at about 2,000 people.Israel has reported more than 13,000 coronavirus cases and 172 deaths. A partial lockdown has confined most Israelis to their homes, forced businesses to close and sent unemployment to about 26%. Some restrictions have been eased since Saturday. Wearing face masks, waving black flags and keeping two yards apart, thousands of Israelis demonstrated against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu under strict coronavirus restrictions on Sunday.Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, is under criminal indictment in three corruption cases.He is also negotiating a power-sharing deal with his rival Benny Gantz to form a coalition government that would end a year of political deadlock after three inconclusive elections. Topics :last_img read more

first_imgThe provincial administration assigned colors to each category. A city or regency labeled critical risk is categorized as a black zone, one with severe risk is a red zone, one with quite severe risk is a yellow zone, one with moderate risk is a blue zone and one with low risk is a green zone.A Flourish map“There should be zero movement, a total lockdown [in a black zone]. So far, no [city or regency] has been categorized as a black zone,” Ridwan said.The province’s red zones so far are Bekasi regency, Bekasi municipality and Cimahi municipality.“These three cities and regencies should continue their PSBB policy,” Ridwan said, adding that economic activity should only be at 30 percent of their normal level. West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil has said that the province’s large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) will continue “proportionately” until May 29, with some cities and regencies to allow for more movement and economic activity if they are at lower risk of COVID-19 transmission.In a press conference on Wednesday, Ridwan said that the evaluation of the province’s 27 cities and regencies was based on eight parameters laid out by the World Health Organization, which include the rate of new suspected COVID-19 cases, the recovery rate, the fatality rate, the case reproduction rate, the transmission rate, the movement rate and geographical risk.A combined score of 21 to 24 puts a region in the low-risk category, 18 to 20 means moderate risk, 15 to 17 means quite severe, 12 to 14 means severe and 8 to 11 means critical. Yellow zones are allowed to increase economic activity to around 60 percent of normal levels, while maintaining physical distancing.Blue zones, namely West Bandung regency, Pangandaran regency, Sumedang regency, Garut regency and Sukabumi municipality, are allowed to reopen all public and commercial facilities but must ensure that there are no crowds.“Crowds are allowed if the city or regency is categorized as a green zone. There are none so far,” Ridwan said.  Ridwan said that instructions on specific movement and economic activity was up to each regent or mayor.“The important thing is for the activity level of a city to be at 30 percent or 60 percent. It’s up to them what those activities consist of,” he said.Ridwan added that he had shared the evaluation results to the police and the Indonesian Military.Siliwangi Military Commander Maj. Gen. Nugroho Budi Wiryanto said that his institution would add personnel and extend shifts at all checkpoints to help with the PSBB in West Java.“We will have three shifts to block people from mudik [exodus],” he said.West Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Rudy Sufahriadi said the police would disseminate information on the streets given that there was a 40 percent increase of traffic one week ahead of Idul Fitri.Ridwan said the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had decreased from 430 patients in April to 270 patients.Isolation wards were only at 33 percent of capacity, he said, adding that the number of recovered patients had been increasing and the fatality rate had been decreasing.According to the official government count, West Java recorded 1,962 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 124 deaths as of Thursday.Topics :last_img read more

first_imgWhen President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo tapped Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate in the 2019 presidential election, the motivation was clear from the beginning: He picked a politician who had strong Islamist credentials and could appeal directly to a majority of the Muslim population.As the country is battling COVID-19, President Jokowi has given the Vice President the authority to deal with all things pertaining to religion in the fight against the pandemic.So it was par for the course when, during a Cabinet meeting last week, Ma’ruf requested that fresh funds be earmarked for pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) before these institutions reopen. Ma’ruf, however, has kept a low profile in government public relations, prompting many to question his presence during the COVID-19 pandemic.In February, a public opinion poll conducted by Jakarta-based pollster Indo Barometer found that 50.4 percent of around 1,200 respondents were not satisfied with Maruf’s performance during his first three months in office.The public’s doubts about Maruf’s role in the administration only grew larger during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the hashtag #MarufAminNgapain (What is Ma’ruf Amin doing?) becoming a trending topic on Twitter on March 11, one week after President Jokowi announced Indonesia’s first COVID-19 cases.In social media, many poke fun at Ma’ruf over his perceived absence to this day. “Work is hard, but if I don’t work people will think I am Ma’ruf Amin,” Twitter user Feby wrote using her handle @abcdefby.Responding to that criticism, vice presidential spokesman Masduki Baidlowi said Ma’ruf had been hard at work and, just like any other government official today, continued to work from home and regularly held online meetings with government ministers and other officials.In recent days, Masduki said, the Vice President had returned to work at his office in the State Palace and had joined the Friday prayer at the Baiturrahman Mosque inside the premises last Friday.“We have to admit that the Vice President has rarely made public appearances, especially during the pandemic, but that is because he has been working every day from morning to afternoon and actively chairing coordination meetings to craft policies to mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” Masduki told The Jakarta Post.In recent weeks, Ma’ruf has upped his game in public relations with regard to COVID-19 policies, by couching more and more of his messages in religious terms.Speaking to reporters, Ma’ruf said that during the pandemic Muslims in the country could seek solace in faith by promoting the principles of iman (faith), imun (immunity), aman (Safety) and Amin (Amen).On the issue of policies, Ma’ruf has continued to tout massive testing, social distancing and intensive treatment of COVID-19 patients as the key areas for the government to focus on. He added that the government would prepare a list of regulations aimed at revitalizing the sharia finance business, which may have suffered because of the pandemic.“The Vice President is a simple man. He keeps working and won’t have problems with people continuing to judge his performance,” Masduki said. “He doesn’t go after popularity and did not hire a buzzer to improve his standing in social media,” he said.Indonesia Political Review executive director Ujang Komarudin said the public had unrealistic expectations of Ma’ruf by comparing him with his predecessor, Jusuf Kalla, who was not only more outspoken but also known for his hands-on approach.Kalla, having served in the past as chairman of the Golkar Party, as a coordinating minister in former president Megawati Soekarnoputri’s Cabinet and as vice president to president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jokowi, is a looming figure in national politics.During his five-year tenure with President Jokowi, Kalla would often weigh in on current issues, even some that did not directly concern his office.Ma’ruf was mainly known as an Islamic cleric before entering politics, and his most prominent position was the MUI chairmanship.Paramadina University political communication expert Hendri Satrio said the public should not be too harsh in its judgement of Maruf, simply because President Jokowi himself appeared to have no problem with Maruf’s performance — so far.It is also likely that the public would continue to criticize Ma’ruf even if he would become more popular than the President, as this could be seen as an indication of a conflictual relationship.”My analysis is that the Vice President always gives thorough statements [to the media] about religious affairs, an aspect that is rarely addressed by the President. Therefore, I think both the President and the Vice President continue to closely work together and each speaks to the media based on their [respective] strong suit” Hendri said. The septuagenarian said the funding was needed for disinfecting faculties at Islamic boarding schools, improving their sanitation and conducting rapid tests on students before they go back to class.”Islamic schools with boarding facilities are safer in the context of COVID-19. In schools where they don’t have boarding facilities, students can freely go in and out,” Ma’ruf said as quoted by news wire Antara.In late May, when the government was concerned that large congregations of Muslims celebrating Idul Fitri could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases, President Jokowi tapped Ma’ruf to deliver a statement urging Muslims not to conduct Idul Fitri prayers in mosques or on open soccer fields.Also, when the government decided to cancel this year’s haj due to COVID-19, Ma’ruf became the spokesperson to respond to concerns from thousands of Muslims in the country who feared they could lose their only chance to travel to the Holy Land. center_img Topics :last_img read more