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News & Politics Thread (Part 5)

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    Tokyo Olympics to be postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic
    Justin McCurry in Tokyo
    THE GUARDIAN
    Published: 08:11 EDT Tuesday, 24 March 2020

    Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, will propose a one-year postponement for the Tokyo Olympics during talks with IOC president, Thomas Bach.

    Abe said a postponement is unavoidable if the 2020 Games cannot be held in a complete manner amid the coronavirus pandemic. Abe held telephone talks with Bach after the IOC said it would make a decision on the Tokyo Games over the next four weeks.

    Until just a few days ago the IOC, along with the Tokyo organising committee and the Japanese government, had insisted there were no plans to delay the Olympics given they were not due to open for another four months but Japan’s NHK public television reported on Tuesday that Abe wants a one-year delay.

    Tokyo 2020’s fate was effectively sealed this week when Canada and Australia said they would not send athletes to Japan in July, while the British and French governments urged the IOC to make a quick decision.

    “I know this is heartbreaking for so many people, athletes, coaches, staff and fans but this was absolutely the right call and everyone should follow their lead,” the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said.

    The US Olympic and Paralympic committee followed suit, citing the “enormous” disruption the pandemic had caused to training and the qualification process.

    “Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner,” the committee said in a statement.

    World Athletics, the Olympic committees of Brazil, Slovenia and Germany, USA Swimming, USA Track and Field had joined the growing chorus of calls for a new date for the event.

    The head of health and safety for London 2012, Lawrence Waterman, had urged the IOC to postpone the Games for the first time in their 124-year modern history, saying they could not be held safely this year.

    “These Games need to be postponed, and the sooner the IOC and the Japanese government face up to this the better. It’s simply not safe to put the games on during a global pandemic,” Waterman said in a statement.

    “People’s safety and health should come before the costs of delaying contracts. The London Games were the first in history to be completed without a single fatality, we set the standard on health and safety at the Olympics.”

    The Olympics have never before been delayed, but were cancelled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 during the two world wars.

    Speculation that an announcement was imminent rose on Monday when the IOC member Dick Pound claimed the body had decided to postpone the Olympics for a year, describing it as the most likely solution to the Olympic movement’s biggest crisis since the politically motivated boycotts of Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles four years later. “That’s my conclusion,” Pound told Reuters.

    Pound said the IOC had not rushed to an announcement so that it could present the Japanese hosts, sports federations and sponsors with a clear alternative plan.

    “Probably what turned the tide in the last couple of days is the curve on the Covid-19 virus. It is getting very, very steep now and this is clearly not something that is going to be under control by June or July and probably not by the end of the year,” he said.

    The postponement will come as a blow to the host country, which has spent more than than $12bn on the event, while huge sums are also at stake for sponsors and broadcasters. Goldman Sachs estimated this month that Japan would lose $4.5bn (550bn yen) in inbound and domestic consumption in 2020 if the Olympics did not take place as planned.

    The Nikkei, a Japanese business daily, claimed on Monday that G7 leaders had agreed to a postponement during their teleconference last week, after Abe persuaded them that cancellation was not an option.

    Abe told the group that he was determined to hold the Games “in their complete form” – with the full quota of athletes and spectators – as a symbol of the world’s triumph over the coronavirus, the Nikkei said. Boris Johnson reportedly responded with a thumbs-up, while other leaders nodded their approval.

    Abe this week hinted that postponement was a possibility, hours after the IOC said it could take up to four weeks to decide the fate of the Games.

    “If the IOC’s decision means it becomes impossible to hold the Olympics in their complete form, then a decision may have to be made to postpone them,” he told parliament on Monday.

    The Japanese public had already accepted the inevitable. According to a Kyodo news poll last week, almost 70% of respondents said they did not expect the Games to go ahead this summer.

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    mellobruce
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    The United States is “in debt” to the entertainment industry, including Hollywood, and the nation must repay this debt by providing “entertainment industry professionals” with government financial relief, according to Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff.

    Writing an op-ed in Variety magazine, Rep. Schiff called on Congress to give taxpayer-funded benefits to industry professionals, including actors, as part of the government’s coronavirus stimulus package.

    Schiff’s congressional district includes Hollywood and other parts of the greater Los Angeles area and he said the freelance and contract-work nature of the industry made many unable to claim unemployment compensation and other benefits.

    “Beyond those few regularly seen on screen are many dozens or hundreds of other workers,” Schiff wrote in Variety. “They operate the cameras, build the sets, create the lighting and write the scripts. They provide security for live audiences, assist the producers, market the show and ensure distribution. And yes, they also act, appear as extras, scout the locations, provide the makeup, and so much more.”

    I actually agree with Adam Schiff…it really is the apocalypse.

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    mellobruce
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    Oxford Study Argues Half of UK May Already Have Contracted Coronavirus – Less than 1 in 1,000 Need Hospital Treatment

    Despite the global panic and concern British Professor Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford released a study on Wednesday that found that far more people in the UK could have contracted the coronavirus than previously thought.

    The study argues fewer than one in a thousand people infected by the coronavirus will need hospital treatment.

    This follows a previous UK study at Imperial College London that predicted 2.2 million Americans, or 1 in 150, would die from coronavirus this year.
    Sunetra Gupta posted the study today on her Twitter page.

    The Week reported:
    A model predicting the progression of the novel coronavirus pandemic produced by researchers at Imperial College London set off alarms across the world and was a major factor in several governments’ decisions to lock things down. But a new model from Oxford University is challenging its accuracy, the Financial Times reports.
    The Oxford research suggests the pandemic is in a later stage than previously thought and estimates the virus has already infected at least millions of people worldwide. In the United Kingdom, which the study focuses on, half the population would have already been infected. If accurate, that would mean transmission began around mid-January and the vast majority of cases presented mild or no symptoms.
    The head of the study, professor Sunetra Gupta, an Oxford theoretical epidemiologist, said she still supports the U.K.’s decision to shut down the country to suppress the virus even if her research winds up being proven correct. But she also doesn’t appear to be a big fan of the work done by the Imperial College team. “I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” she said.
    If her work is accurate, that would likely mean a large swath of the population has built up resistance to the virus. Theoretically, then, social restrictions could ease sooner than anticipated.

    Perhaps by Easter?

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks ago by  mellobruce.
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    mellobruce
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    Twitter hashtags such as #PelosiHatesAmericans and #DemocratsAreDestroyingAmerica are leading trends on Twitter.

    It’s a sign that this is going to leave a mark on Democrats and isn’t going down well.

    Nurses need some decent masks right now. Coronavirus patients need ventilators. Small businesses need a lifeline. Airlines and cruise ships need a lifeline, and yes, they are big corporations…that hire hundreds of thousands of workers. American workers have seen $1,200 checks dangled in front of them…and are now seeing them pulled away from them like Lucy’s football.

    Not a biggie to Nancy who finds $1200 “crumbs.”  What an elitist jackass.

     

     

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    Atypical
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    What’s in the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill

    Senate approves stimulus bill. Here’s what’s in it.

    (CNN) Congressional lawmakers put the finishing touches on a $2 trillion stimulus bill to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with cash and assistance for regular Americans, Main Street businesses and hard-hit airlines and manufacturers, among others.

    The Senate passed the bill, 96-0, and the House is set to follow suit Friday.

    CNN reporters read through the entire legislation. Here’s a list of highlights:

    Direct payments to individuals

    Under the plan as it was being negotiated, single Americans would receive $1,200, married couples would get $2,400 and parents would see $500 for each child under age 17.

    However, the payments would start to phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those making more than $99,000 would not qualify at all. The thresholds are doubled for couples.

    — Katie Lobosco and Tami Luhby

    Student loan payments suspended

    The Department of Education would suspend payments on student loan borrowers without penalty through September 30, according to the bill.

    CNN reported last week that the Department of Education was planning to allow student loan borrowers to suspend payments without penalty and accruing interest for at least 60 days.

    — Zachary Cohen and Katie Lobosco

    REAL ID deadline delayed

    The deadline to obtain a REAL ID, federally mandated identification that will be needed for passengers to board aircraft, will be extended until at least September 2021 — a year past the current deadline, according to a draft version of the Senate stimulus bill obtained by CNN.

    Before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the US, states were preparing to issue residents “REAL ID-compliant” driver’s licenses or identification by the October 1 deadline.

    — Geneva Sands

    Historic boost for unemployment benefits

    In an unprecedented expansion of unemployment insurance, the federal government would give jobless workers an extra $600 a week for four months on top of their state benefits, which range from $200 to $550 a week, on average, depending on the state.

    In addition, lawmakers want to add up to 13 weeks of extended benefits, which would be fully covered by the federal government. Currently, state unemployment checks last up to between 12 weeks and 28 weeks, depending on the state.

    Stimulus bill offers $600 a week to the unemployed for 4 months, drawing Republican objections

    Plus, the deal calls for a new pandemic unemployment assistance program, which would provide jobless benefits to those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of the virus and don’t qualify for traditional benefits. This includes independent contractors and the self-employed, who typically don’t qualify for such assistance, and to gig economy workers, who aren’t eligible in many states. These benefits would mirror what’s available in an individual’s state.

    — Tami Luhby

    $500 billion lending program

    The Treasury Department can provide $500 billion in loans, loan guarantees and investments.

    That specifically includes $25 billion for passenger air carriers, $4 billion for cargo air carriers and $17 billion for businesses that work in national security. The rest of the funds, $454 billion, are given wide latitude to provide loans to businesses, states and municipalities.

    The measure includes restrictions on businesses who receive the loans. Those businesses may not issue dividends for up to a year after the loan is no longer outstanding, and must retain 90% of employment levels as of March 24, “to the extent practicable,” through September 30. The loans also cannot last longer than five years.

    There’s a specific provision in the program for direct loans to mid-sized businesses, defined as between 500 and 10,000 employees, as well as non-profit organizations, where no payments will be due for the first six months after the loan is issued.

    A congressional oversight commission will monitor how the money is spent.

    — Jeremy Herb

    Trump businesses can’t get money

    The legislation prohibits federally elected officials and their immediate relatives from obtaining funds from the $500 billion program.

    Businesses that are owned or partly owned by “the President, the Vice President, the head of an Executive department, or a Member of Congress; and the spouse, child, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law” will be barred. The provision applies to anyone with 20% or greater stake in a business.

    Senate stimulus deal includes individual checks–but don’t expect the money until at least May.

    This was a key provision for Democrats concerned that Trump would provide funds to his personal businesses in the stimulus package.

    — Jeremy Herb

    No money for border wall

    The Defense Department will get $1.2 billion for the National Guard’s coronavirus response. Over 10,000 National Guard members to date have been activated.

    An additional $1 billion is available for Defense Purchases Act purchases.

    Notably, while the Pentagon will be allowed to transfer the money to other “applicable” accounts, it prohibits transferring the money to the counter-drug account, an account which has been used to fund Trump’s border wall.

    — Ryan Browne

    Airlines and airports get what they wanted

    The package includes $32 billion in grants for wages and benefits to the decimated airline industry.

    That includes $25 billion for passenger airlines, $4 billion for cargo airlines, and $3 billion for industry contractors, such as those who handle catering, baggage, ticketing, and aircraft cleaning.

    In addition, another $25 billion for passenger airlines and $4 billion for cargo airlines will be available in the form of loans or loan guarantees.

    Companies that receive the assistance are barred from making furloughs, pay cuts, or stock buybacks, and from issuing dividends to investors, through September. It also institutes limits on executive compensation.

    Airlines may also be required to operate routes they would otherwise like to cancel because of low ridership or profitability. Under the bill, the Transportation Department can require air carriers continue service on routes, particularly for the “needs of small and remote communities and the need to maintain well-functioning health care and pharmaceutical supply chains, including for medical devices and supplies.”

    — Greg Wallace

    Hospitals get billions

    The stimulus package would provide about $117 billion for hospitals, according to an estimate from the American Hospital Association, which called it an important first step.

    The bill creates a $100 billion public health and social emergency fund to reimburse providers for expenses and lost revenues related to the coronavirus pandemic. About $65 billion will go to hospitals, with the rest funneled to doctors, nurses, suppliers and others, the association said.

    The legislation also boosts reimbursements by 20% for treating Medicare patients with coronavirus. And it eliminates $8 billion in scheduled payment reductions to hospitals caring for large numbers of uninsured and Medicaid patients, as well as temporarily removing a 2% cut for treating Medicare patients, which was part of the automatic budget cuts under sequestration.

    The American Hospital Association, along with the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, had asked Congress to provide $100 billion for health care personnel and providers to address the outbreak.

    –Tami Luhby

    Contractors and “gig” workers

    Independent contractors and so-called gig workers will be eligible to receive federal aid. The language could provide additional certainty to millions of part-time workers who drive for Uber or deliver for Amazon, in what has become a major part of the digital economy.

    The provisions are responsive to requests by tech execs including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who this week wrote to Trump asking for economic support for Uber drivers.

    Stimulus bill includes $100M arts funding despite past Trump attempts to cut it

    “My goal in writing to you is not to ask for a bailout for Uber, but rather for support for independent contractors and, once we move past the immediate crisis, the opportunity to legally provide them with a real safety net going forward,” Khosrowshahi wrote.

    Gig economy businesses such as Uber have battled fiercely at the state level, especially in California, to avoid having to classify their drivers as employees who would be eligible for corporate benefits.

    — Richard Davis

    Protections against foreclosures and evictions

    The bill includes housing protections against foreclosures on mortgages and evictions for renters.

    The bill states that anyone facing a financial hardship from coronavirus shall be given a forbearance on a federally backed mortgage loan of up to 60 days, which can be extended for four periods of 30 days each. The legislation says that servicers of federally backed mortgage loans may not begin the foreclosure process for 60 days from March 18.

    The bill also does not allow fees, penalties or additional interest to be charged as a result of delayed payments. It includes similar protections for those with multifamily federal mortgage loans, allowing them to receive a 30-day forbearance and up to two 30-day extensions.

    Those with federally backed mortgage loans who have tenants would also not be allowed to evict tenants solely for failure to pay rent for a 120-day period, and they may not charge fees or penalties to tenants for failing to pay rent.

    — Jeremy Herb

    $25 million for the Kennedy Center

    The bill contains $25 million to support the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
    A Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations said the funding has bipartisan support.

    “This is a federal agency that is funded by a mixture of appropriations and ticket revenues. They’ve had to cancel all their performances, so they have no revenue and have already laid off nearly 800 people. If they don’t get a cash infusion, they will become insolvent and could be unable to reopen,” the aide said.

    Stimulus bill includes $100M arts funding despite past Trump attempts to cut it

    The Kennedy Center closed on March 17 and does not plan to reopen until at least May 10.

    The stimulus package also includes $75 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal program that Trump has tried to cut from his budget proposals for the past four years and that in a Republican-led Congress already has seen its budget dwindle by several million dollars.

    — Kate Bennett

    More funding for food assistance

    The bill provides $450 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which supplies food banks, which are expected to see more clients as job losses mount. Some $350 million would buy additional food, and $100 million would be used for distribution.

    The package also provides $200 million for food assistance for Puerto Rico and other US territories, as well as $100 million for food distribution on American Indian reservations.

    While it appears that the bill provides billions in additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and Child Nutrition Program, it would not expand eligibility or benefits.

    — Tami Luhby

    Evacuations of Americans

    The bill includes $324 million for the State Department, as well as money specifically for “evacuation expenses,” according to a draft obtained by CNN. The proposed legislation doesn’t specify who would be evacuated, whether it’s US diplomats or American citizens living overseas, or potentially both.

    A senior State Department official said that 9,300 Americans had already been repatriated. A different senior State Department official said the government was tracking 13,500 Americans seeking assistance abroad.

    — Marshall Cohen and Jennifer Hansler

    Peace Corps, diplomatic programs and refugees

    The bill includes $88 million for the Peace Corps, an independent US government agency that sends American volunteers abroad. The organization suspended all operations last week and evacuated its volunteers. Its director said operations will return to normal “when conditions permit.”

    In addition, the measure provides an additional $324 million for diplomatic programs, $258 million for international disaster assistance, $350 million for migration and refugee assistance and $95 million for USAID operating expenses.

    It also authorizes the agencies to administer oaths of office remotely, but they must submit a report to the relevant committees “describing the process and procedures for administering such oaths, including appropriate verification.”

    — Marshall Cohen and Jennifer Hansler

    This story is breaking and will be updated.

    CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the amount of Treasury Department aid to $500 billion.

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    mellobruce
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    Mitch McConnell Points Finger Of Blame For Coronavirus Crisis Directly At Impeachment Happy Democrats

    Senator Mitch McConnell tore into Democrats for distracting lawmakers from being better equipped in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

    “It came up while we were tied down in the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government because everything every day was all about impeachment,” the Kentucky Republican recalled.

    The president spoke about Pelosi in a phone interview on Fox News on Monday morning.
    The president reminded the country what Pelosi was doing when the outbreak first hit the world.
    “Don’t forget, she was playing the impeachment game, you know her game where she ended up looking like a fool,” Trump said.
    The president recalled he received accolades for stopping travel from China to fight the virus at the end of January, something even some of his advisors believed was too strict.
    “You would have had deaths like you’ve never seen before,” he said.

    On January 15th, the CDC reported that the coronavirus had arrived in America.
    What were Democrats up to? After delaying sending over the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a month, Pelosi was all smiles, gleefully handing out pens while signing her articles of impeachment.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, credited Trump’s travel restrictions – implemented in the midst of the impeachment effort – with saving lives.
    One of the key actions necessary to control the spread of the virus, Fauci explained, is to “contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside.”
    In late January, while Democrats were entirely focused on impeachment, President Trump would issue travel restrictions with China, establish the Coronavirus Task Force, and declare coronavirus a public health emergency.

    Nancy fiddled

     

     

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    mellobruce
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    Adhanom Ghebreyesus

    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Ge’ez: ቴዎድሮስ አድሓኖም ገብረኢየሱስ; born 3 March 1965) is an Ethiopian politician and academic who has been Director-General of the World Health Organization since 2017.

    He is a pawn of China’s ‘leadership’.

    He has zero credibility.

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    mellobruce
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    CHINA WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD

    Battered by the worst first-quarter economic performance since 1976, the Chinese economy is now being shifted into hyperdrive.

    The Chinese Communist Party is seizing what its senior officials are calling the “opportunity” of the pandemic to realize the party’s long-game objective of fully eclipsing North America and Europe in the global order.

    What’s new is that the Chinese state is committing vast resources to a hybrid strategy of intensified propaganda and information control in lockstep with an aggressive Russian-style disinformation effort.

    Experts in the field say Beijing isn’t just selling a “narrative” anymore. The new strategy is intended to spread chaos and confusion and incite mistrust of governments in democratic countries. According to an analysis undertaken by the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Beijing is adopting “increasingly aggressive tactics and techniques” and rapidly ramping up its messaging on social media platforms, often cross-pollinating with Russian and Iranian disinformation efforts and amplifying conspiracy theories from fringe third-party websites.

    According to an analysis by Horizon Advisory, a consultancy that investigates Chinese policy on behalf of corporations, investors and government agencies in the U.S., China’s central planners are taking every advantage of the democratic world’s predicament. “Beijing intends to use the global dislocation and downturn to attract foreign investment, to seize strategic market share and resources—especially those that force dependence, and to proliferate global information systems,” the Horizon Advisory analysts conclude.

    With a GDP still at least 25 percent larger than China’s, the United States is still the world’s preeminent superpower, but the COVID-19 crisis “accelerates the process” that Beijing has put in place to overtake the U.S.—it will allow China “to claim market share across the globe and across strategic sectors as the rest of the world shuts down.”

    Beijing is relying on its multi-pronged, multimedia propaganda and disinformation campaign to achieve two immediate purposes. The first is to dismiss, deny and deflect away from the irrefutable evidence of the Communist Party’s catastrophic mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. The second is to portray China, in contrast to Donald Trump’s divided and dysfunctional United States, as the world’s saviour, rushing to the rescue of plague-afflicted countries with expertise, money and medical equipment.

    Incredibly ironic.

    Thank you for contaminating the world, Xi.  asshole extraordinaire

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    mellobruce
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    If you watch the daily coronavirus briefings you consistently see mainstream media salivating over the number of coronavirus deaths. They think the higher the numbers go the worse the GOP and Trump will be damaged by it.

    Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has had it up to here with that foolishness. On Friday an MSNBC reporter tried to shame him on his views. He hit back hard.
    Senator Rubio tweeted last Sunday, “Some in our media can’t contain their glee & delight in reporting that the U.S. has more#CoronaVirus cases than #China…Beyond being grotesque, its bad journalism We have NO IDEA how many cases China really has but without any doubt its significantly more than why they admit to.”

    “(This) is a Chinese propaganda effort to put out that they have handled this perfectly and we have not— and…the national security and the national interest of the United States does not stop.”

    Rubio continued: “…taking the Chinese number of 80-something thousand infections and saying, ‘look how great they did it and look how bad we’re doing it’— and that’s not only wrong, that’s a national security issue. We know that that is a propaganda-influenced effort that they’re undertaking, along with Putin in Russia and even the Iranians. And national security and the national interest of this country does not stop—that’s an ongoing concern even amidst this crisis.”

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    mellobruce
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    China outraged after Brazil minister suggests Covid-19 is part of ‘plan for world domination’

    Beijing demands explanation after ‘highly racist’ tweet by Abraham Weintraub suggests it is part of a geopolitical plan.

    China has demanded an explanation from Brazil after the right wing government’s education minister linked the coronavirus pandemic to Beijing’s “plan for world domination”.

    In the latest incident to strain ties between the two nations, minister Abraham Weintraub insinuated China was behind the global health crisis.

    “Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?” he wrote on Twitter Saturday. “Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?”

    Health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said last week Brazil was struggling to source ventilators and other vital health supplies from China, saying some of its orders were cancelled without explanation.

    The issue erupted online on Monday. The top trend on Twitter in Brazil was the hashtag #TradeBlockadeOnChinaNow.

    Brazil, whose biggest trading partner is China, is the Latin American country hit hardest by the new coronavirus, with nearly 500 deaths and more than 11,000 confirmed cases so far.

    Since the pandemic emerged, Brazil-China ties have been strained, notably by a series of tweets by President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, a federal lawmaker. Eduardo Bolsonaro criticised the Chinese “dictatorship” for its handling of the outbreak in March.

    Last week, he tweeted about the “Chinese virus”, a phrase that infuriates Beijing and that the World Health Organization has advised against.

     

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