Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

4 Aug

Adopted 21 years ago, the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour reached universal ratification, with Tonga depositing its instruments.  The International Labour Organization estimates there are 152 million children in child labour and warns that COVID-19 could cause a spike in such practices for the first time in 20 years, unless action is taken.

The Passing of John Hume

4 Aug

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The United States is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of John Hume, a leader whose integrity and courage played a profoundly important role in Northern Ireland’s transition from violence to peace.

Throughout his career, John Hume believed that just and lasting political solutions could only be achieved through peaceful means, and as a central architect of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement, he worked tirelessly to make these aspirations a reality.

Mr. Hume’s influence extended far beyond the shores where he lived. During the darkest days of Northern Ireland’s recent past, he won the friendship and respect of countless Americans. His early and sustained influence in bringing U.S. political and economic support to Northern Ireland cannot be overstated, and this profound partnership and friendship continues today.

Many Americans who care deeply about Northern Ireland will mourn the passing of Mr. Hume, and the extensive contribution that he made to build peace and to strengthen our Transatlantic relations. Our thoughts are with his wife, Pat Hume, and his family at this difficult time.

 

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Joint Statement of the United States and Ecuador on the Bilateral Energy Dialogue

3 Aug

Office of the Spokesperson

The following joint statement was issued by the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Ecuador.

Begin text:

The Governments of Ecuador and the United States held a virtual bilateral energy dialogue on July 28, 2020.

Head of the U.S. delegation Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis R. Fannon and Ecuadorian Minister of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources René Ortiz discussed mutually beneficial bilateral goals in energy and investment and efforts to strengthen Ecuador’s energy sector.

Assistant Secretary Fannon highlighted collaboration in the electricity and hydrocarbon sectors and commended Ecuador on the significant progress in attracting private investment to its electricity sector, which has been fueled by the government’s adherence to good governance principals.

Minister Ortiz spoke about the difficult but necessary decision to liberalize fuel prices, which will contribute to free market dynamics, mitigate fuel smuggling into Peru and Colombia, and most importantly, facilitate sound fiscal policy. Ortiz emphasized that as the price of oil rebounds, the government will consider more targeted subsidies for the most-needy segments of the population.

The group also discussed how substantial investment in the energy and extractive industries sectors have not always netted the promised returns to the people of Ecuador. Fannon encouraged Ecuador to establish transparent and competitive procurement processes that protect national sovereignty and security, in order to protect the Ecuadorian economy and the well-being of future generations.

Minister Ortiz spoke about the Ecuadorian government’s desire to de-monopolize the energy sector from state-owned companies. In particular, he noted opportunities for private sector investment in the Esmeraldas Refinery upgrade, the Sacha oil field, and the development of an LNG terminal at Monteverde,

Assistant Secretary Fannon discussed his recently launched Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) which promotes sound mining sector governance and resilient energy mineral supply chains. Fannon invited Ecuador to consider joining ERGI, and highlighted the ERGI toolkit, an online collection of interactive tools across mining governance disciplines that helps the user build capacity in industry-leading practice by highlighting real-world case studies.

Assistant Secretary Fannon expressed the importance of energy as a component of the America Crece agreement the U.S. and Ecuadorian governments signed in February. He looks forward to further engaging under the America Crece MOU, including through a Working Group meeting later this year.

End text.

 

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17 Shocking Revelations From A New Blockbuster Report on Trump’s Handling of Coronavirus

3 Aug

A new blockbuster report in The Atlantic details how Trump and his administration botched the response to the coronavirus from the very beginning. Trump’s failures led to PPE and testing shortages, surging cases and deaths, and a crumbling economy — all while Trump continues to ignore medical experts, lie to the American people, and peddle conspiracy theories.

The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Defeated America

By Ed Yong

KEY POINTS: 

  • “Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus. And despite its considerable advantages—immense resources, biomedical might, scientific expertise—it floundered. While countries as different as South Korea, Thailand, Iceland, Slovakia, and Australia acted decisively to bend the curve of infections downward, the U.S. achieved merely a plateau in the spring, which changed to an appalling upward slope in the summer. ‘The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever could have imagined,’ Julia Marcus, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told me.”

  • “The United States has correctly castigated China for its duplicity and the WHO for its laxity—but the U.S. has also failed the international community. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has withdrawn from several international partnerships and antagonized its allies. It has a seat on the WHO’s executive board, but left that position empty for more than two years, only filling it this May, when the pandemic was in full swing. Since 2017, Trump has pulled more than 30 staffers out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s office in China, who could have warned about the spreading coronavirus. Last July, he defunded an American epidemiologist embedded within China’s CDC. America First was America oblivious.”

  • “Even after warnings reached the U.S., they fell on the wrong ears. Since before his election, Trump has cavalierly dismissed expertise and evidence. He filled his administration with inexperienced newcomers, while depicting career civil servants as part of a ‘deep state.’ In 2018, he dismantled an office that had been assembled specifically to prepare for nascent pandemics. American intelligence agencies warned about the coronavirus threat in January, but Trump habitually disregards intelligence briefings. The secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, offered similar counsel, and was twice ignored.”

  • “On January 31, Trump announced that the U.S. would bar entry to foreigners who had recently been in China, and urged Americans to avoid going there. Travel bans make intuitive sense, because travel obviously enables the spread of a virus. But in practice, travel bans are woefully inefficient at restricting either travel or viruses. They prompt people to seek indirect routes via third-party countries, or to deliberately hide their symptoms. They are often porous: Trump’s included numerous exceptions, and allowed tens of thousands of people to enter from China. Ironically, they create travel: When Trump later announced a ban on flights from continental Europe, a surge of travelers packed America’s airports in a rush to beat the incoming restrictions. … And they can create a harmful false confidence, so countries ‘rely on bans to the exclusion of the things they actually need to do—testing, tracing, building up the health system,’ says Thomas Bollyky, a global-health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘That sounds an awful lot like what happened in the U.S.’”

  • “And so the U.S. wasted its best chance of restraining COVID‑19. Although the disease first arrived in the U.S. in mid-January, genetic evidence shows that the specific viruses that triggered the first big outbreaks, in Washington State, didn’t land until mid-February. The country could have used that time to prepare. Instead, Trump, who had spent his entire presidency learning that he could say whatever he wanted without consequence, assured Americans that ‘the coronavirus is very much under control,’ and ‘like a miracle, it will disappear.’ With impunity, Trump lied. With impunity, the virus spread.”

  • “The CDC developed and distributed its own diagnostic tests in late January. These proved useless because of a faulty chemical component. Tests were in such short supply, and the criteria for getting them were so laughably stringent, that by the end of February, tens of thousands of Americans had likely been infected but only hundreds had been tested. The official data were so clearly wrong that The Atlantic developed its own volunteer-led initiative—the COVID Tracking Project—to count cases.”

  • “Diagnostic tests are easy to make, so the U.S. failing to create one seemed inconceivable. Worse, it had no Plan B. Private labs were strangled by FDA bureaucracy. Meanwhile, Sabeti’s lab developed a diagnostic test in mid-January and sent it to colleagues in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. ‘We had working diagnostics in those countries well before we did in any U.S. states,’ she told me.”

  • “Even though a Seattle nursing home was one of the first COVID‑19 hot spots in the U.S., similar facilities weren’t provided with tests and protective equipment. Rather than girding these facilities against the pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services paused nursing-home inspections in March, passing the buck to the states. ”

  • “In April, four in five frontline nurses said they didn’t have enough protective equipment. … The federal government could have mitigated those problems by buying supplies at economies of scale and distributing them according to need. Instead, in March, Trump told America’s governors to ‘try getting it yourselves.’ As usual, health care was a matter of capitalism and connections. In New York, rich hospitals bought their way out of their protective-equipment shortfall, while neighbors in poorer, more diverse parts of the city rationed their supplies.”

  • “While the president prevaricated, Americans acted. Businesses sent their employees home. People practiced social distancing, even before Trump finally declared a national emergency on March 13, and before governors and mayors subsequently issued formal stay-at-home orders, or closed schools, shops, and restaurants. A study showed that the U.S. could have averted 36,000 COVID‑19 deaths if leaders had enacted social-distancing measures just a week earlier.”

  • “Social distancing worked. But the indiscriminate lockdown was necessary only because America’s leaders wasted months of prep time. Deploying this blunt policy instrument came at enormous cost. Unemployment rose to 14.7 percent, the highest level since record-keeping began, in 1948. More than 26 million people lost their jobs, a catastrophe in a country that—uniquely and absurdly—ties health care to employment.”

  • “In March, a small and severely flawed French study suggested that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine could treat COVID‑19. Published in a minor journal, it likely would have been ignored a decade ago. But in 2020, it wended its way to Donald Trump via a chain of credulity that included Fox News, Elon Musk, and Dr. Oz. Trump spent months touting the drug as a miracle cure despite mounting evidence to the contrary, causing shortages for people who actually needed it to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.”

  • “The ensuing confusion, and the many genuine unknowns about the virus, has created a vortex of fear and uncertainty, which grifters have sought to exploit. Snake-oil merchants have peddled ineffectual silver bullets (including actual silver). Armchair experts with scant or absent qualifications have found regular slots on the nightly news. And at the center of that confusion is Donald Trump.”

  • “During a pandemic, leaders must rally the public, tell the truth, and speak clearly and consistently. Instead, Trump repeatedly contradicted public-health experts, his scientific advisers, and himself. He said that ‘nobody ever thought a thing like [the pandemic] could happen’ and also that he ‘felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.’ Both statements cannot be true at the same time, and in fact neither is true.”

  • “On February 25, the agency’s respiratory-disease chief, Nancy Messonnier, shocked people by raising the possibility of school closures and saying that ‘disruption to everyday life might be severe.’ Trump was reportedly enraged. In response, he seems to have benched the entire agency. The CDC led the way in every recent domestic disease outbreak and has been the inspiration and template for public-health agencies around the world. But during the three months when some 2 million Americans contracted COVID‑19 and the death toll topped 100,000, the agency didn’t hold a single press conference. Its detailed guidelines on reopening the country were shelved for a month while the White House released its own uselessly vague plan.”

  • “Instead, the U.S. sleepwalked into the worst possible scenario: People suffered all the debilitating effects of a lockdown with few of the benefits. Most states felt compelled to reopen without accruing enough tests or contact tracers. In April and May, the nation was stuck on a terrible plateau, averaging 20,000 to 30,000 new cases every day. In June, the plateau again became an upward slope, soaring to record-breaking heights.”

  • “Trump never rallied the country. Despite declaring himself a ‘wartime president,’ he merely presided over a culture war, turning public health into yet another politicized cage match. Abetted by supporters in the conservative media, he framed measures that protect against the virus, from masks to social distancing, as liberal and anti-American. Armed anti-lockdown protesters demonstrated at government buildings while Trump egged them on, urging them to ‘LIBERATE’ Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia. Several public-health officials left their jobs over harassment and threats.”

(MORE)

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New Research, Reports Make It Clear Trump’s Push to Reopen Schools Without a Comprehensive Safety Plan is Putting Americans at More Risk

3 Aug

Trump has repeatedly downplayed the threat of coronavirus to children as he pushes to reopen schools without comprehensive safety measures in place. Now, in addition to warnings from medical experts, new research and horrifying stories of young people dying make it clear that Trump is putting the lives of children, school staff, and their families at risk.

New research casts doubt on Trump’s claim that children “don’t catch” coronavirus easily or “bring it home easily.” 

New York Times: “Infected children have at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as infected adults, according to the research. Indeed, children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults, the authors found.”

New York Times: “A large new study from South Korea offers an answer: Children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do. The findings suggest that as schools reopen, communities will see clusters of infection take root that include children of all ages, several experts cautioned.”

And horrifying stories from across the country directly contradict Trump’s claims that young people are “almost immune” to the coronavirus. 

CNN: “A 9-year-old girl with no known underlying health conditions is the youngest person to die from coronavirus complications in Florida, officials said. Kimora “Kimmie” Lynum died on July 18 in Putnam County, according to Florida Department of Health records. It confirmed her identity and said she’s the state’s youngest coronavirus fatality.”

Los Angeles Times: “Officials announced Friday that a teenager in the Central Valley had died of causes related to COVID-19, becoming the first juvenile death from the disease in California.”

CNN: “Just weeks before schools must open across Florida, the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations due to Covid-19 have surged. On July 16, the state had a total of 23,170 children ages 17 and under who had tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Florida Department of Health. By July 24, that number jumped to 31,150. That’s a 34% increase in new cases among children in eight days. And more children in Florida are requiring hospitalization. As of July 16, 246 children had been hospitalized with coronavirus. By July 24, that number had jumped to 303. That’s a 23% increase in child Covid-19 hospitalizations in eight days.”

CBS News: “More than 200 kids test positive for coronavirus after attending Georgia summer camp”

Since Trump has yet to outline a national strategy to safely reopen schools, educators are scrambling to prevent outbreaks as teachers and parents worry about the safety of their children and families, along with their own health.  

New York Times: “Just hours into the first day of classes on Thursday, a call from the county health department notified Greenfield Central Junior High School in Indiana that a student who had walked the halls and sat in various classrooms had tested positive for the coronavirus. Administrators began an emergency protocol, isolating the student and ordering everyone who had come into close contact with the person, including other students, to quarantine for 14 days. It is unclear whether the student infected anyone else.”

Mississippi Free Press: “Teachers in the state have not shied away from voicing their concerns. One Mississippi school teacher and cancer survivor told the Mississippi Association for Educators in a survey earlier this month that she fears reopenings could jeopardize her life—or that of her 71-year-old mother who lives with her. ‘It is too dangerous for both the teachers and the students’ to reopen schools, MAE reported one Jackson County educator saying in the survey results it released on July 27. ‘Teachers should not have to risk their lives to teach.’”

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Medical Experts Worry About Trump’s Political Pressure on Vaccine Process, No Distribution Plan

3 Aug

As coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket as a result of Trump’s failed coronavirus response, Trump has repeatedly touted the development of a vaccine that could finally slow the spread of the virus. But as development continues, medical experts are worried that Trump will make the same mistakes he’s made while failing to deal with the pandemic: ignoring them and putting public health at risk in attempts to benefit himself politically.

Medical experts are sounding the alarm that the Trump administration may rush the development of a vaccine in order to benefit Trump politically ahead of the election. 

New York Times:  “Under constant pressure from a White House anxious for good news and a public desperate for a silver bullet to end the crisis, the government’s researchers are fearful of political intervention in the coming months and are struggling to ensure that the government maintains the right balance between speed and rigorous regulation, according to interviews with administration officials, federal scientists and outside experts.”

Experts are also concerned that Trump and his administration have yet to start planning for distribution of and education about a vaccine, especially when it comes to communities of color, which have already been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. 

Politico: “The United States is mounting the largest vaccination effort in its history — without a plan on how to reach racial and ethnic groups that have not only been devastated by the virus but are often skeptical about government outreach in their communities.”

Reuters: “There won’t be enough vaccine for all 330 million Americans right away, so the government also has a role in deciding who gets it first, and in educating a vaccine-wary here public about its potential life saving merits. Right now, it is unclear who in Washington is in charge of oversight, much less any critical details, some state health officials and members of Congress told Reuters.”

From the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, Trump has refused to listen to the experts and create a plan to combat the spread of the virus. Now, experts worry that the same issues that have plagued his coronavirus response will hinder vaccine development and distribution too. 

BuzzFeed News: “The Trump administration, though, has already cut medical corners during the coronavirus pandemic. Public health experts have pointed to the administration’s handling of hydroxychloroquine — which was rushed as a COVID-19 treatment under public pressure by Trump but ultimately found to be ineffective — to raise questions about the FDA’s role in safeguarding the public.”

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Trump Tries To Downplay Crisis As Cases And Deaths Continue To Skyrocket

3 Aug

Trump has repeatedly tried to downplay the crisis back home by comparing the United States to the rest of the world, but the United States leads the world in cases and deaths, because of Trump’s failed response, and it’s not even close. In fact, most of the world has barred travel from the United States as our cases and deaths continue to skyrocket.

Trump has tried to downplay the coronavirus and ignore his failures by comparing the United States to other countries like Italy, France and Spain.

TRUMP: “Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases. How did Italy, France & Spain do? Now Europe sadly has flare ups. Most of our governors worked hard & smart. We will come back STRONG!”

TRUMP: “We’ve been doing it the right way. But a lot of countries, many countries, that were looked upon as beacons, they are not doing so well. But we are.”

TRUMP: “If you look at other countries, other countries are doing terribly.”

But the United States has far more cases and deaths than Italy, France, Spain, and the entire European Union — and it’s not even close.

Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis: “For the most recent 7 days, USA has about 12X the EUs new cases and 24X the EUs death toll on a per capita basis. It’s literally a different order of magnitude.”

New York Times’s Peter Baker: “How did Italy, France and Spain do? Average daily deaths over last week: US: 1,204 Italy: 6 France: 10 Spain: 2”

Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis: “The *entire* European Union — population 446 million — has a 7-day average daily COVID death toll of *59.*”

The United States death toll exceeded 1,000 for 6 days in a row and weekly averages rose in nearly half of states over last week.

Washington Post: “Nationwide, the daily coronavirus death toll exceeded 1,000 for the sixth day in a row on Saturday, according to The Post’s data. The 1,198 new fatalities marked the most that officials have counted on a Saturday, when death reports tend to be lower than those tallied midweek, since May 9.”

Washington Post: “The seven-day average for new coronavirus-related deaths rose in nearly half of the states over the past week, pushing the national death toll past 150,000 and prompting health experts to warn that the trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon.”

Dr. Birx warned that the United States is in a “new phase” of the pandemic and cases are “extraordinarily widespread” across the country.

Washington Post: “Deborah Birx, the physician overseeing the White House coronavirus response, warned Sunday that the United States had entered a ‘new phase’ of the pandemic and urged people to take extreme health precautions as infections and deaths rise sharply nationwide. ‘I want to be very clear: What we’re seeing today is different from March and April,’ Birx told CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ noting that cases are increasing in rural and urban areas. ‘It is extraordinarily widespread.’”

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DNC on Anniversary of El Paso and Dayton Shootings

3 Aug

DNC Chair Tom Perez released the following statement on the first anniversary of the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, which targeted Latinos and took the lives of 23 people, as well as the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, a few hours later, which took nine lives:

“One year ago, our nation witnessed the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history. 23 people were killed by a single gunman. 23 lives taken by the same hate and bigotry we see fomented by this White House against Latinos nearly every day. This was no coincidence, nor was it the end of the carnage that weekend.

“Just a few hours later, across the country in Dayton, Ohio, another nine people were murdered in cold blood. 26 people were shot in 32 seconds.

“On this anniversary we remember not only the horror of that day, but the heroism of those who faced it. In Texas, we remember people like Jordan and Andre Anchondo, who died shielding their two-month-old son from gunfire; Arturo Benavides, a U.S. Army veteran who served his country with honor; Jorge Calvillo García, who gave his life to protect his granddaughter and her soccer teammates from the bullets. In Ohio, we remember people like Lois Oglesby, a mother of two who worked at a day care center, and Nicholas Cumer, who had decided to devote his young life to helping cancer patients.

“Their courage was American to its core. But tragically, so was the nature of their death. Only in America do we continue to let our communities be shattered by gun violence. Only in America do we let our schools and stores and streets turn into battlefields – again and again and again – despite every power we have to stop it.

“Those we lost a year ago were not simply victims of gun violence. They were casualties of the cowardice displayed by this president and Republicans in Congress – who would rather bow to the NRA than be stewards of Americans’ safety. Time and again, Donald Trump and Republican leaders have blocked any attempt to protect the American people.

“Republican lawmakers act as if these shootings are just a fact of everyday life, as if there’s nothing we could have done to stop this one and nothing we can do to prevent the next one. They send thoughts and prayers while accepting millions from the NRA to stay silent about every atrocity and stand in the way of even the smallest and most sensible reforms.

“But the heartbreak we feel today is not inevitable. It is the price of inaction. It is the cost of failed leadership. Now more than ever, we need leaders like Joe Biden who are determined to enact sensible gun safety laws and end our nation’s epidemic gun violence once and for all.

“While we cannot be together in person to comfort each other and commemorate the lives we lost, we can still do justice for their families. We can do justice for their communities. We can turn our anguish into action and end gun violence together. We know that activism is the best antidote to despair, and we will vote out anyone who stands in our way.”

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