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Trump golfs as wary U.S. embarks on Memorial Day weekend

Tori Holland

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Trump golfs as wary U.S. embarks on Memorial Day weekend

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Memorial Day weekend, which culminates in gatherings to honor U.S. military dead, got off to a cautious start on Saturday, especially in rain-soaked New York, epicenter of the coronavirus crisis that has now killed more Americans than the Vietnam and Korean wars combined.

A day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed up to 10 people to attend ceremonies honoring America’s military veterans, he took time at his news briefing on Saturday to warn that social distancing and face masks should be part of any plans to get together.

“It depends on how people act. You can have a safe gathering of 10 people. You can also have a wholly unsafe gathering of 10 people,” Cuomo said.

Gatherings of up to 25 people were being allowed outdoors in New Jersey, although Governor Phil Murphy on Friday warned that the loosened restrictions don’t apply to outdoor dining or school graduations, which should remain under 10 people with social distancing.

While the Memorial Day holiday is Monday, the weekend leading up to it marks the unofficial start of summer, with Americans traditionally flocking to beaches, gathering at backyard barbecues and unfurling picnic blankets in parks.

Among those soaking in the sun and enjoying a bit of travel on Saturday was President Donald Trump, who was seen golfing at his Trump National club in northern Virginia, his first golf outing since the White House declared a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak in March.

Heavy rain kept crowds down at state beaches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which were re-opened with governors urging outdoor enthusiasts to maintain at least the recommended six-foot distance apart to stop the virus spread.

Some town and county beaches on Long Island and Westchester County or along the Jersey Shore’s 130-mile coastline remained closed to anyone but local residents, with some local officials concerned about being flooded by New Yorkers after Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to keep city beaches closed for swimming.

Surprise openings of other outdoor sites thrilled Americans cooped up at home by pandemic lockdown rules.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota welcomed visitors again starting on Saturday, earlier than expected, inviting in admirers of the 60-foot-high granite sculptures of the faces of U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus which has killed more than 338,000 people worldwide, has left more than 96,400 dead in the United States.

That is more than the Vietnam and Korean wars combined, with 58,220 American lives lost in Vietnam and 36,574 Americans killed in hostile actions in the Korean War theater, according to the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

This week, 10 states have reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases, including Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Maryland, Maine, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters tally.

Iowa had a record increase in deaths on Saturday, as did Minnesota and Rhode Island earlier this week, according to a Reuters tally.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Shumaker and Barbara Goldberg; editing by Diane Craft and Sonya Hepinstall)

After being a professional journalist for 5 years and understanding the ups and downs of health care sector all over the world, Tori shifted her focus to the digital world. Today, she works as a contributor for News Brig with a knack for covering general and health news in the best possible format.

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General News

Burundi court affirms ruling party candidate’s presidential victory

Evan Lewis

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Burundi court affirms ruling party candidate's presidential victory

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Burundi’s constitutional court has said last month’s elections were flawless and upheld the victory of the ruling party’s presidential candidate, dismissing a complaint brought by the vote’s runner-up.

FILE PHOTO: Presidential candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye of the Burundi’s ruling party, the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), arrives at a polling centre during the Presidential, Legislative and Communal council elections, under the simmering political violence and the growing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, in Gitega, Burundi May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Evrard Ngendakumana/File Photo

The vote was the first competitive presidential election in Burundi since a civil war erupted in 1993. The ruling CNDD-FDD party’s candidate, retired general Evariste Ndayishimiye, was running against opposition leader Agathon Rwasa and five others.

“The constitutional court rules that the presidential election held on May 20 was regular, that Evariste Ndayishimiye is the president-elect,” the court said in a ruling late on Thursday.

Incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza will stay in office until August, when President-elect Ndayishimiye will take over and start a seven-year term.

Burundi’s election commission said Ndayishimiye had won the election with 69% of votes cast.

The commission said Rwasa had garnered 24% of the vote, amid what it said was huge, peaceful turnout.

The vote had been preceded by political violence, including the arrest, torture and murder of opposition activists, according to a local rights group.

Rwasa, the candidate for the CNL party, filed the case in late May challenging the election outcome.

He said he had evidence that people had voted using dead voters’ identities, cited the use of an electoral register that has never been published by the electoral body, and made accusations of ballot box stuffing.

“No irregularities that could call into question the ballot boxes’ results were noted either at the level of the voting, the counting or while establishing the voting results,” the court said.

The court, topmost in Burundi, also ruled in 2015 that Nkurunziza could run for a third term, to which the opposition objected. Nkurunziza won that election, which the opposition boycotted.

That election sparked violent protests, pushing hundreds of thousands of Burundians into exile. The United Nations documented hundreds of killings, and the torture and gang-rape of opposition activists.

The government denies accusations of rights violations.

May’s vote was also held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahead of the election, Burundi expelled its head of mission of the World Health Organization, who had criticised all parties for holding rallies despite the pandemic.

Burundi has 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one death and 33 recoveries.

Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Gerry Doyle

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Police try to stop Floyd rally in Sydney due to virus fears

Tori Holland

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South Korean protesters shout slogans during a protest over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, June 5, 2020. The signs read "The U.S. government should stop oppression and there is no peace without justice." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SYDNEY (AP) — Police challenged whether a Black Lives Matter protest planned for Saturday in Australia’s largest city is too much of a virus risk, as demonstrators in the capital reminded the country that racial inequality is not a U.S. issue alone.

In Canberra, organizers of a rally Friday that attracted about 2,000 demonstrators handed out masks and hand sanitizer. Most protesters kept a recommended social distance but drew closer to hear speeches. Public gatherings are limited to 20 in Canberra, but police did not intervene.

School teacher Wendy Brookman, a member of the Butchulla indigenous people, said Australia should not accept more than 430 indigenous Australians dying in police custody or prison in the past three decades.

“We’re not here to jump on the bandwagon of what’s happened in the United States,” Brookman said. “We’re here to voice what’s happening to our indigenous people.”

One of the protesters’ signs “I can’t breathe,” drew a parallel between George Floyd’s death in the U.S. on May 25 and the Australian indigenous experience. Those words were among the last spoken by Floyd and an indigenous Australian, David Dungay, who died in a prison hospital in 2015 while being restrained by five guards.

In South Korea, dozens gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy to condemn what they described as police brutality toward protesters in the U.S. They called for South Korea’s government to speak against the “racial discrimination and state violence” of its ally and pushed for an anti-discrimination law to improve the lives of migrant workers, undocumented foreigners and other minorities.

“As the U.S. civil society empowered and stood in solidarity with Korean pro-democracy activists in the past, we will now stand in solidarity with citizens in the United States,” said activist Lee Sang-hyun, referring to South Koreans’ bloody struggles against military dictatorships that ruled the country until the late 1980s.

Holding a banner that read “Justice for Floyd,” most of the protesters wore black and some brought flowers in honor of Floyd, who died last month after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his neck with a knee for several minutes while he pleaded for air.

Larger marches are planned in Seoul on Saturday to protest Floyd’s death.

In Australia, police in New South Wales state asked the Supreme Court to declare the Sydney protest illegal. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is among those who criticized the plans, saying of the protesters: “I say to them, don’t go.”

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said organizers proposed a protest far smaller than what is likely to now take place Saturday. She said protesters could not guarantee social distancing protocols would be followed.

“All of us have given up so much and worked so hard to make sure we get on top of the virus,” Berejiklian told reporters.

In Sydney, outdoor gatherings are restricted to 10 people, while up to 50 people can go to funerals, places of worship, restaurants, pubs and cafes. New South Wales and Victoria, where another large protest is planned in Melbourne, are Australia’s worst-hit states by the virus.

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Navy carrier sidelined by coronavirus back operating in Pacific

Evan Lewis

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Navy carrier sidelined by coronavirus back operating in Pacific

Ten long weeks after a massive coronavirus outbreak sidelined one of the Navy’s signature warships, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt has returned to sea and is conducting military operations in the Pacific region.

Lining the flight deck in their dress white uniforms, sailors wearing white face masks stood a virus-safe 10-feet apart in a final, formal thank you as the ship sailed out of port in Guam Thursday and headed into the Philippine Sea.

“We manned the rail, which we don’t normally do. There was a lot of symbolism in that,” Navy Capt. Carlos Sardiello told The Associated Press in an interview from the ship Thursday. “They’re excited. They’re fired up to be back at sea doing the mission.”

The Roosevelt pulled into Guam March 27, with a rapidly escalating number of sailors testing positive for the virus. Over time, more than 1,000 were infected with COVID-19, setting off a lengthy and systematic process to move about 4,000 sailors ashore for quarantine and treatment, while about 800 remained aboard to protect and run the high-tech systems, including the nuclear reactors that run the vessel.

Slowly, sailors were methodically brought back on board, while the others who had remained went ashore for their mandated two-week quarantine. And in late March, the ship with only about 3,000 crew aboard went out to sea for roughly two weeks of training, including the recertification of the flight deck and fighter squadron, such as takeoffs and landings on the carrier.

Earlier this week, the Roosevelt wrapped up training and returned to Guam to pick up nearly 1,000 sailors who had been left there to either complete their quarantine or to manage and work with those still on the island. As the ship sailed into the port, it was flying a flag with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” a famous Navy battle cry from the War of 1812.

“Our sailors didn’t give up the ship. They fought and got it back. So I thought it was appropriate,” said Sardiello, who asked one of the other Navy ships to borrow their flag. “The ship was clean and the ship was healthy with no COVID cases. So I said, ok, we’re going to fly that one time on the way into Guam as a symbol to bolster their morale.”

RS1 Katie VanDrimmelen was one of the sailors left ashore during the two week training. She had tested positive for the virus and was in quarantine for about five weeks. Walking back onto the ship, she said, was like being welcomed home from a deployment.

“It was amazing,” said VanDrimmelen, of Ogden, Utah. “It was very comforting to be back in our normal atmosphere. Everybody was happy.”

Sardiello said that watching the sailors board the ship was a great feeling, But he knows he’s not done yet. There are still about 350 sailors on Guam who are either in isolation or are there as support staff.

“More and more of those sailors are meeting the return-to-work criteria, and we’re flying them on board every single day. So we’re whittling down that number day by day,” said Sardiello. “But I really want those 350 remaining back. And we’re working hard on that.”

He said that any sailors who don’t recover in time will be transported back to the U.S. The ship is expected to continue operations in the Pacific, and then would likely head home to San Diego later this summer.

The Roosevelt has been at the center of a still unresolved controversy that led to the firing of the ship’s previous captain, the resignation of the Navy secretary and an expanded investigation into what triggered the outbreak and how well top naval commanders handled it.

Sardiello, had previously captained the Roosevelt, but was abruptly sent back to the ship in early April to take command after Capt. Brett Crozier was fired for urging his commanders to take faster action to stem the virus outbreak onboard.

After a preliminary review last month, Adm. Mike Gilday, the Navy’s top officer, recommended that Crozier be reinstated as ship captain. But the Navy decided to conduct a broader investigation.

That review, which effectively delays a decision on Crozier’s reinstatement, was finished and submitted to Gilday at the end of March and he is still reviewing the extensive report, which includes several hundred pages of interviews, documents and recommendations.

Cmdr. Nate Christensen, spokesman for Gilday, said it will take time for the admiral to finish his review and make any decisions.

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