Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged citizens to switch off the lights in their homes and light candles and oil lamps instead on Sunday night to dispel the “darkness” of the coronavirus epidemic and look forward with hope.
In a video message, he thanked the country’s 1.3 billion people for contributing to the success of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
He said: “On the 5th of April at 9pm, turn off all the lights in your homes, stand at your doors or in your balconies, and light candles or diyas (oil lamps), torches or use your mobile flashlights for nine minutes.
“We will experience the superpower of light, clearly illuminating the common purpose we are all fighting for. In that light, in that lustre, in that radiance, let us resolve in our minds that we are not alone, that no one is alone.”
Mr Modi also appealed for people to stay at home and continue to adhere to the social distancing restrictions currently in place.
An earlier appeal to applaud those on the frontline of the COVID-19 battle was widely criticised after scores of people came out on the streets and celebrated the event.
In a video news conference, Pawan Khera, a spokesman of the opposition Congress party, responded to Mr Modi’s fresh appeal: “The country was expecting answers from the prime minister on the issues of shortage of personal protection equipment and on helping the poor and migrant labourers who were without food and money.”
In a direct message to the PM, he added: “The country was dejected today, people did not get any information they were expecting from you on critical questions.”
There have been more than 3,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the country, as well as 86 deaths.
The cases have been largely driven by a congregation of members of the Tablighi Jammat, a Muslim missionary group in Delhi.
In violation of the government restrictions this 2,500-strong group which included about 1,000 foreign nationals from Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, the US and Kyrgyzstan among others had gathered at a complex located in a crowded area of Nizammudin in the city.
At least 647 among these so-called “superspreaders” have tested positive in 14 states.
Officials are still trying to find more people associated with the event.
The group’s leader, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, and six others involved are believed to be in hiding and the government has launched a manhunt.
Their base has been sealed off and health workers have been disinfecting the dozens of rooms and quarters of the building.
It comes as officials recorded the first coronavirus-related death in India’s largest slum, Dharavi, in the financial capital of Mumbai.
The 56-year-old’s death has been linked to the Delhi group. Ten of its members had stayed at a house belonging to the victim.
A 35-year-old doctor who treated the man has also tested positive for COVID-19.
Dharavi, a slum with almost a million people living and working in a 2.2 square kilometre area, is one of the most densely populated parts of India. A spread of the virus there would put medical facilities under a massive strain.
India is midway through its 21-day nationwide lockdown. Only key workers are allowed to leave their homes. The rest of the population can only venture out to buy food and medicines.
The government failed to factor the very large migrant population comprising daily wage earners and contract workers. This informal sector forms almost 81% of India’s working population.
After Mr Modi announced the measure, tens of thousands of migrant workers crammed into buses or walked for days to get back to their native villages.
The government was severely criticised for an ill-judged policy towards migrant labour.
In a radio address Mr Modi apologised for the trouble caused, but said the lockdown was necessary to stop the spread of the virus and save lives.
Larry Kramer: Playwright, author and AIDS activist dies aged 84 | World News
Playwright and author Larry Kramer, who was known for his AIDS activism from early on in the epidemic, has died aged 84.
Kramer, who co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in the early 1980s and later the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power – or ACT UP movement – died in a New York hospital with pneumonia on Wednesday, his close friend and literary executor Will Schwalbe said.
His death was not said to be related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The award-winning writer was known for his 1985 play The Normal Heart, depicting a writer’s battle with society to raise awareness of AIDS – the immunodeficiency disease from the HIV virus that Kramer had himself.
Described as an “angry but compelling indictment of a society as well as a subculture for failing to respond adequately to the tragedy,” by AP drama critic Michael Kuchwara, the revival of the play in 2011 earned it several Tony awards.
A TV movie adaptation in 2014 starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts, won an Emmy Award for best movie.
Kramer was also nominated for an Academy Award for writing the screen adaptation of DH Lawrence’s novel, Women in Love, for which actress Glenda Jackson won her first Oscar.
The 84-year-old was perhaps best known for his lifetime of advocacy work as a fierce activist for LGBTQ rights and securing medical treatment for those with AIDS.
Larry Kramer’s passing is the saddest news. We have lost a giant of a man who stood up for gay rights like a warrior. His anger was needed at a time when gay men’s deaths to AIDS were being ignored by the American government… (1/3) pic.twitter.com/GRkAkNZrLg
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) May 27, 2020
Journalist Randy Shilts described an article Kramer had written for gay newspapers in the 1980s as “inarguably one of the most influential works of advocacy journalism of the decade” and credited it with “crystallizing the epidemic into a political movement for the gay community.”
In the 1983 article, Kramer had written about the epidemic: “Our continued existence as gay men upon the face of this earth is at stake…Unless we fight for our lives, we shall die.”
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in June 1935, Laurence David Kramer went on to study at Yale University and served in the army.
He later worked at the William Morris Agency and for Columbia Pictures.
In 2001, he had a liver transplant due to hepatitis B.
Kramer married his long-time partner, architect David Webster, in 2013, with the couple making their vows while Kramer was recovering from a bowel obstruction surgery in an intensive care unit at hospital.
They had planned the wedding before he was forced to have surgery, but they didn’t let the health emergency stop them.
Coronavirus: ‘She took her last breath in my arms’ – A personal tragedy as US COVID-19 deaths hit 100,000 | US News
In a matter of months, 100,000 lives have been lost to coronavirus in the United States – nearly triple that of any other country.
America never wanted to lead the world this way. The unfathomable milestone is one of this country’s most tragic and indelible.
Each death took away unique experiences and stories: some well told; most unsung.
People have died in every state and from every walk of life.
Leilani Jordan was a 27-year-old supermarket worker who put her heart and soul into her job. Coronavirus only strengthened her resolve to help those in need.
Her mum, Zenobia Shepherd, says her daughter, who loved butterflies, had an inbuilt instinct to help people.
“She said to me, ‘Mommy, nobody is showing up for work. I have to help the senior citizens, the elderlies’.”
Ms Shepherd added: “Many of them can barely walk – leaning over shopping carts. And although (Leilani) had her own disabilities, she would go out of her way to help them to get and find what they needed.
“Because she knew sign language she could even talk to and help those that could not talk. So she loved helping and being needed by others.”
Leilani kept going until the day she could no longer breathe. Unlike the thousands robbed of proper goodbyes, Leilani was in her mother’s arms when she passed away.
“I would do anything in this world if I could have my baby back,” Ms Shepherd said.
“My butterfly is gone. She’s flown away to heaven. I have to wait until my time to go see her.”
She added: “I was there when she went to CCU. She took her last breath in my arms. My hands, my last touch, touching her body, as it was warm… It was her last breath.”
Ms Shepherd is now living on memories of her daughter’s singing, her love of the beach and all things purple.
She has some comfort in Leilani’s support dog and best friend, Angel, who now sleeps at the front door, waiting for Leilani to return.
Ms Shepherd has two young daughters who make a video for their sister each day – telling her how much they love her.
Deaths in America have been disproportionately high in black communities, revealing long standing health and socio-economic disparities.
Ms Shepherd is now focusing her grief on the urgent need for protections for essential workers like her daughter.
“I want to help other people that aren’t being helped,” she said. “The situation is we’ve got to do a better job, a better job of protecting – protecting and keeping them safe.”
After Leilani’s death, she received her daughter’s final paycheck in the post. The amount was a gut punch: $20.63.
“I think that families, people that have certain front line jobs need to get paid more money,” she said. “They need to have bonuses during this time.”
Like every American, Ms Shepherd is desperate for this situation to end: “I wish this whole thing would go away. Just go to space and leave us alone.
“If only (we) could have been ahead of it a little bit. The death toll may not have been so high and growing.”
As the daughter of a military family, Leilani shares her final resting place with fallen heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.
Coronavirus has now claimed more American lives than the Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
Those lives lost in past battles are marked by the seemingly endless symmetry of white headstones. Ms Shepherd knows that is where she will come on every occasion Leilani loved so much: Christmas and Halloween, and each birthday she would have celebrated with her usual joy.
So much death has largely been unseen. For a nation living in isolation it is perhaps harder to share a collective sense of grief – even harder to tune out of the ongoing political noise of this crisis.
But make no mistake: America is engulfed in tragedy, and with no cure or vaccine, this is not the end.
Historic US space launch that would have been visible from UK aborted | Science & Tech News
An historic US space flight that would have been visible from the UK was aborted shortly before launch due to bad weather.
NASA announced the decision on safety grounds just minutes before lift-off on Wednesday – with the flight now not happening until at least the weekend.
The mission had been planned in conjunction with Elon Musk’s spaceflight company SpaceX – and it would have been the first private involvement in taking astronauts to the International Space Station.
The US Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron had forecast between a 40% and 60% chance of favourable conditions at the launch site in Florida.
Throughout the day weather conditions became worse, with a tropical storm initially threatening the launch before a tornado warning was issued.
NASA has stringent rules about the conditions in which the Falcon 9 can fly, and said one of these rules was being violated just minutes before the launch.
The earliest the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft could now launch is this weekend, with potential windows available on both Saturday and Sunday.
Falcon 9 rockets are not allowed to launch for 30 minutes after lightning is observed within 10 nautical miles of the launch pad and flight path.
NASA astronaut Anne McClain praised the SpaceX and NASA teams for “making the tough call” to postpone the mission.
“We all wanted a launch, but keeping our friends safe while we do it is a no-fail mission,” Ms McClain said, adding: “See you again Saturday.”
Although Donald Trump flew down to Florida to watch the launch, it being postponed means that the last president to be present at a NASA launch was Bill Clinton.
Barack Obama had flown to the Kennedy Space Centre for a space shuttle launch in 2010, but that launch was scrubbed due to a technical problem.
He didn’t return for the rescheduled launch a number of weeks later.
It isn’t clear whether Mr Trump will be back in Florida on Saturday.
Just a few miles away from the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Centre there is a Space Mirror Memorial.
It commemorates the 15 NASA astronauts who lost their lives while in service to the agency during a spaceflight.
No names will be added to that memorial due to decisions made today.
Larry Kramer: Playwright, author and AIDS activist dies aged 84 | World News
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