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Coronavirus: Putin seeks political point-scoring in COVID-19 world crisis | World News



Why doesn’t Vladimir Putin stop sending medical aid abroad and start worrying about his own health workers?

Hardly a week goes by without another Russian dispatch of medical supplies to a country in need.

Serbia is the latest recipient. On Saturday they welcomed eleven military cargo planes loaded with supplies and medical staff.

Last month, it was Italy. China and Iran before that. “From Russia with love” is now the slogan for the Kremlin’s apparent munificence.

Beyond promising Russians a week’s paid leave, and then extending it to the whole of April, Vladimir Putin has shown little sign of rising to the challenge COVID-19 poses his country.

He seems more interested in political point-scoring than he does the public health implications of the virus’s spread through almost every Russian region, with community transmission in half of those.

He has delegated responsibility to regional governors, granting them more autonomy in their decision-making on how to fight COVID-19. That leaves him to focus on what is more within his comfort zone, Russia on the world stage.

Imagine the delight then inside the Kremlin as ventilators made by a subsidiary of Russian state defence giant Rostec were unloaded onto the tarmac at New York’s JFK airport this week.

They were part of a 60 ton delivery of medical supplies – masks and ventilators – to the United States.

Donald Trump says he doesn't think he'll be wearing a face mask

Trump on masks: ‘I don’t think I’ll be doing it’

Rostec is on the US sanctions list. Any US purchase of Rostec’s products is a breach of Washington’s own sanctions.

There must be a delicious irony for President Putin that sanctioned Russian products can serve as a temporary salve to a US in crisis. A tweet from the Russian Embassy in the US sums it up perhaps best. “Goodnight America” it says over a photo of a city subsumed by water. Kremlin trolling par excellence.

“The Russians had excess supplies,” the US president said. “This was a very nice gesture.” Was he worried about Russian propaganda? “No, not even a little bit.”

Police officers wearing face masks patrol on the empty Red square, with the St. Basil's Cathedral (L) and Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower (R) in the background, in Moscow on March 30, 2020, during a lockdown of the city to stop the spread of the epidemic COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. - Moscow and its surrounding region imposed lockdowns March 30, 2020, that were being followed by other Russian regions in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The enforcement of the strict new rules,
Supplies developed by a company on Washington’s sanctions list were sent to the US

Speak to Russian healthcare workers though and they’ll tell you there is no excess of medical supplies.

Anastasia Vasilyeva from the Alliance of Doctors union has consistently and publicly called the Kremlin out for allegedly downplaying the number of cases in Russia. On Thursday, she was arrested as she tried to deliver masks and PPE to hospitals in the Novgorod region.

“The medicine in the country is terrible. We don’t have hospitals, we don’t have the staff, we don’t have a medical industry,” she told Sky News two weeks ago.

“Of course it’s not good for the government to say we have coronavirus and these are the real numbers of deaths. It will just prove the fact that they, the government, President Putin, caused all this to happen.

“We’ll have a death toll a few times higher than in developed countries because medicine here is so bad.”

Streets of Moscow are devoid of activity as population stays inside

Moscow streets deserted

In the city of Syktyvkar in Russia’s Komi Republic, 53 people, patients and medical staff, caught the virus inside one hospital. The patient zero was reportedly one of the doctors. Two have died, one of them a nurse.

Vasily Shtabnitsky, a Moscow based pulmonologist, says infection control is a huge problem.

“I do think that Russian doctors have expertise in managing severe pneumonia or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). I think the main challenge is infection control and lack of nurses and other staff.

“There are not enough nurses in ICU and in general care, usually we need a nurse to patient ratio of one to one and I do not know many hospitals with that.

“Many doctors and nurses are in their 50s or 60s, which means they are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19,” Dr Shtabnitsky added.

People gather at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport terminal F for a repatriation flight to France for French and European nationals stuck in Russia because of the coronavirus crisis, April 4, 2020. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo by YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Russia’s death toll could be even higher than in other developed countries

On Friday a group of medical staff at one of St Petersburg’s top hospitals posted an online video message begging for more PPE so that they can treat patients with COVID-19.

As President Putin mulls his next international aid delivery, he would do well to listen to the growing alarm of his own healthcare workers and make sure they are catered for first.

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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.

Leilani Jordan
Leilani Jordan was just 27 when she died

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.”

Zenobia Shepherd says she would do anything to have her daughter back
Zenobia Shepherd says she would do anything to have her daughter back

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.

Zenobia was able to visit Leilani in hospital
Ms Shepherd was able to visit Leilani in hospital

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.”

Leilani's younger sisters at her grave in Arlington National Cemetery
Leilani’s younger sisters at her grave in Arlington National Cemetery

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.”

Leilani Jordan
Leilani loved to help people, her mum says

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.

:: Listen to Divided States on Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Spreaker

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.

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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 massive Vehicle Assembly Building is shrouded in fog as stormy weather greeted launch day at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 27, 2020. - A new era in space begins Wednesday with the launch by SpaceX of two NASA astronauts into space, a capability that for six decades symbolized the power of a handful of states, and which the United States itself had been deprived of for nine years.If the bad weather clears, at 4:33 pm (20:33 GMT) a SpaceX rocket with the new Crew Dragon capsule on
Weather conditions forced NASA to postpone the SpaceX launch

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.”

President Trump flew to Florida to watch the launch
President Trump flew to Florida to watch the launch

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.

There are 15 names on the Space Mirror Memorial. Pic: John Owen
There are 15 names on the Space Mirror Memorial. Pic: John Owen

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.

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Russian fighter jets ‘unsafely’ intercept US plane over Mediterranean Sea | World News



The US has accused two Russian fighter jets of “unsafely” intercepting one of its patrol planes over the Mediterranean Sea.

Two Russian SU-35 jets flew alongside the P-8A Poseidon for one hour and four minutes on Tuesday, the US defence department said.

The jets stopped the US 6th Fleet plane from being able to manoeuvre properly, making the intercept “unsafe and unprofessional”, it added.

It is the second time in three months the US has complained of unwanted interceptions by Russian planes in the same area.

:: Listen to Divided States on Apple podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Spreaker

A defence department spokesman said that while the intercept happened in international airspace, Russia’s behaviour was “irresponsible”.

A statement said: “Actions‎ like these increase the potential for midair collisions.”

Russia has not yet commented.

The US 6th Fleet is headquartered in Naples, Italy, where it works to “advance US national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa”.

Russia deploys military fighter aircraft to Libya. Pic: U.S. Africa Command
Satellite images appeared to a show a Russian plane in Libya. Pic: US Africa Command

It comes after the US also accused Russia of sending fighter jets to Libya to support Russian mercenaries there, after satellite images showed a Russian Mig-29 on an airfield near Tripoli.

It is believed they were providing air support to forces led by General Haftar in their fight against the internationally recognised Government of National Accord.

Haftar’s forces, known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), are being supported by The Wagner Group, a Russian-backed mercenary outfit.

Although those images have been circling for days, the US has now said it is confident the jet is Russian and can only have come on the orders of Moscow.

The Kremlin has again not commented on the issue.

It was also reported this week by Russian media that the country had begun construction of its first prototype stealth bomber aircraft.

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