Every day we use words and phrases, yet we rarely take the time to think about what they mean.
For example, think about the phrase, “Spending time”.
Typically we when we talk about spending, we use it in the context of time or money. However, we treat both very differently. We’re stingy with our money, spending days or weeks mulling over how we want to spend, save it or invest it. We track it down to the penny in our checkbooks or online checking accounts.
But time is different. Many of us don’t think twice about how or where we spend it. We get in a routine or let life happen and then all of a sudden, time is spent. As a result, we neglect important relationships, miss out on great achievements or let ourselves go physically, mentally and emotionally. Then, one day we look in a mirror and ask ourselves where the time went.
This isn’t a 21st century problem; this is a human problem. The Stoic Philosopher Seneca commented on time wasters almost 2000 years ago, writing:
“Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind…No person hands out their money to passerby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”
In addition to treating time differently than money, there is another major difference between the two: We can always earn more money, but as Tim Urban points out on his blog Wait But Why, “Time is finite.” Once it is gone, it is gone. We can’t get it back.
He emphasizes the preciousness of time by saying the weeks of our lives are like a fine gem. If you multiply the volume of a .05 carat diamond by the number of weeks in 90 years (4,680) it adds up to under a tablespoon. We have to be deliberate about what we do with each carat – each day – each week – because they will quickly disappear.
So we have a choice.
Time can be wasted or it can be a powerful force multiplier. We can either focus on the fatalistic aspect of time, or we can use this awareness to motivate ourselves into doing something with the time we are given. Small investments of time in relationships, a skill or toward a goal can add up and produce amazing results. Our relationships can be more rewarding, we can achieve things we once thought were too daunting and all we have to do is spend our time wisely.
For example, the author Stephen King has written over 60 novels and over 200 short stories. When asked about his productivity he said,
“One word at a time…It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherf*cker from space without a telescope.”
Time is what I’m thinking a lot about as I sit at home during this uncertain period in America. I’m not sure how long social distancing will last or how long the gyms, restaurants, and schools will be closed. I only know that I don’t want to get to the end of this –weeks or months from now and have nothing to show for my time.
So, I guess my advice to myself and to you over the next several weeks is to remember: One word at a time. One workout at a time. One moment at a time with a loved one. It adds up and it is time well spent.
As the United States approaches two months in quarantine, people from all walks of life are starting to feel the effects of social distancing and continued isolation. Retired Air Force Lt. General Stanley E. Clarke III, his wife Rebecca and their daughter Kelly Reynolds, decided to change that narrative.
With an ice cream truck.
Reynolds shared that the family lives in a strong community committed to always supporting each other. Things like kids writing sweet words in chalk on the sidewalks and adults creating fun scavenger hunt games have been the norm during their quarantine. After listening to her mother describe neighborhood ice cream trucks to her 6-year-old son one day, she had an idea. “I turned to my mother and said we should take ice cream to everyone, that it would be so much fun,” said Reynolds.
The idea expanded to creating an actual ice cream truck using Clarke’s old Chevy Apache to distribute the sweet treats. All the grandchildren jumped in to help. Together, the family quickly went to work creating handmade signs and colorful decorations for the truck. They even fashioned a special tube for distribution so they could safely hand out ice cream while still practicing social distancing. Then they waited for a sunny day, spread the word and hit the road.
The excitement on the faces of all surprised by the ice cream truck was contagious. “It was like an infection of joy being spread. To be a part of it was so much fun and to know that what we did had an impact was incredible,” said Reynolds. She explained that their family resides in a quiet neighborhood in Kentucky, which is filled with medical personnel. Knowing that their surrounding community is battling the pandemic on the front lines made their idea to give back even more special and important to them.
Clarke agreed and shared that he was personally inspired by a group of military spouses who founded the GivingTuesdayMilitary movement. Three women, who were named “Spouse of the Year” for their respective branches, launched an initiative to inspire over one million intentional acts of kindness. Clarke is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Armed Forces Insurance, which owns the Military Spouse of the Year award program.
“This is exchanging ice cream for smiles because how many people are smiling out there, particularly during a crisis? How cool is that?” he said. Clarke said he feels that doing things like this can really make a difference, especially now. Reynolds expanded on that to explain that people really don’t need to do anything extravagant or big, but that it was the little things that truly matter.
Studies have shown that social isolation can eventually lead to poor health outcomes. The rapid progression of COVID-19 has forced states to implement social distancing and stay at home orders to save lives. Communities around the country are finding ways to come together to engage with each other safely while also inspiring hope with kindness. General Clarke and his family are one example, and they truly hope to inspire others to do the same.
“Find a small way to spread kindness and joy and just do it. It will impact people,” Reynolds said. She feels that these are the kinds of things that need to be seen on social media. Messages of kindness and hope to lift people during a time of fear. “The biggest impacts we can have on people are the ones we don’t even know we are creating,” she shared.
This family’s story of kindness is having an impact. Word is quickly spreading about their homemade family ice cream truck. Several leaders of military bases loved it so much that they talking about starting their own ice cream truck caravans. This demonstrates how one act can have a ripple effect, with no end in sight.
US service members in South Korea face the possibility of quarantine if they recently returned to their posts from mainland China, US Forces Korea announced Sunday as the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China continues to spread.
A 14-day self-quarantine has been put in place for US military personnel who returned to South Korea from China between Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, USFK said in a statement. There are already 15 cases of the coronavrius in South Korea, where around 28,500 US troops are stationed.
“The 14-day quarantine, which equals the incubation period for the novel coronavirus, begins from the date the individual(s) returns to S. Korea, regardless if they display symptoms or not,” the statement explained.
“USFK continues to stress the overall risk to USFK personnel remains low, but that the quarantine measures implemented are out of an abundance of caution to mitigate risk to the USFK population,” USFK further stated.
Gen. Robert Abrams, US Forces Korea commander, tweeted Sunday that “we are taking all appropriate measures to prevent any potential spread of the virus.”
“Key for everyone is to follow standard hygiene protocols, and if not feeling well—get screened ASAP!” the commander added.
This past week, the US government declared a public health emergency as the Wuhan coronavirus spread. The death toll has surpassed 300, and the number of infected is over 14,000. On Saturday, the Department of Defense announced it was preparing four military facilities to house up to 1,000 quarantined individuals should such an action be necessary.
There are already 195 people, evacuees from Wuhan, quarantined at March Air Reserve Base in California.
Country leaders, some of them from authoritarian regimes, are being accused of using the coronavirus pandemic to consolidate power and crack down on dissenters.
In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency that shut down the courts — including his own corruption trial — and allowed Shin Bet security forces to start tracking quarantine violators using their cellphones.
Later in the month, Hungary’s parliament voted to cancel elections, suspend its own legislative power, and grant Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the right to rule by decree indefinitely, all under the premise of fighting COVID-19. It also introduced five-year jail sentences for anyone spreading “fake news” about the virus.
Last week, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev authorized a rapid and strict military draft that the Defense Ministry said would ensure “the effective and complete protection of the health of our people.” Recruits are being charged with disinfecting spaces and patrolling streets during the lockdown.
Emin Abbasov, a human rights attorney in Azerbaijan, said emergency measures can threaten civil liberties anywhere. But the risk is greatest in countries with dictatorships and weak democracies.
“The restrictive measures imposed on civil liberties take place outside the accountability of those who exercise them — without effective parliamentary control and an independent judiciary,” Abbasov told Business Insider.
In many places, the situation is exacerbated by the absence of a free press.
“In the absence of such guarantees, people do not have the opportunity to assess the necessity, adequacy, and appropriateness of measures taken in the event of a pandemic,” Abbasov said.
Azerbaijan’s leader threatens to root out the country’s ‘enemies’
In his 16-year tenure as president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev has faced numerous accusations of corruption, including vote-rigging, human rights abuses, and involvement in a massive billion bribery scheme to whitewash the country’s image abroad. As COVID-19 spread in March, Aliyev warned the pandemic might require him to purge the nation of “enemies.”
“Where do these provocations come from? From the very fifth column, from the enemies who are among us,” he said during a March 19 speech to mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year. “The elements calling themselves opposition, the traitors who receive money from abroad. Their main goal is to destroy Azerbaijan.”
Aliyev added that he was considering a state of emergency and that, during the crisis, “the rules of completely new relationships will apply.”
“The Azerbaijani government has a longstanding pattern of pursuing trumped-up charges against government critics in order to silence them,” HRW’s Giorgi Gogia said in a statement. “The case against Yagublu falls squarely in that pattern.”
“President Aliyev clearly said that the new reality of the coronavirus does not tolerate the existence of an opposition,” Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova told Business Insider.
Ismayilova said others are being summoned to the police and threatened with arrest for writing social media posts about the coronavirus.
In El Salvador, swift action spurs accusations of a ‘political emergency’
A full week before El Salvador reported its first novel coronavirus infection, the National Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s request for emergency powers — including closing schools and limiting free speech, assembly, and travel — to contain the disease. He implemented a nationwide lockdown on March 21, the same day the country reported its first COVID-19 patient.
“Looking at the measures that the president has taken, I think this is more of a political emergency than a public health emergency,” Mariana Moisa, an anthropologist in San Salvador and member of the Uncomfortable Feminist Collective, told Business Insider.
“At this moment when there’s a public health problem, they are putting more emphasis on the militarization of society than they are investing in the healthcare system. There’s no guarantee that our rights will be respected.”
Bukele promised a 0 stipend to day laborers struggling during the lockdown, but after aid centers became too crowded, he closed them and told citizens to go online or call a toll-free number. On March 30, police in San Salvador used pepper spray to disperse thousands of street vendors and others gathering to demand financial help.
In a televised address on Monday, Bukele warned that security forces would be cracking down further on quarantine violators: “The restrictions are the same, but we are going to be much tougher in enforcing them.”
Those who defy the order could have their cars confiscated or be taken to “containment centers” for 30 days, he said, according to Reuters. Bukele added that the lockdown was being extended for 15 days, and he outlined a plan to track virus carriers.
A 14-year-old is among those arrested in Cambodia for talking about the pandemic
Cambodia reported 109 confirmed coronavirus cases on March 31, the same day its parliament submitted state-of-emergency legislation that would allow Prime Minister Hun Sen to order unfettered surveillance of telecommunications and censorship of media reports on COVID-19.
But civil rights activists worry that the measure, expected to pass on Friday, will grant Hun Sen far-reaching authority with little accountability.
“Instead of introducing a hasty and problematic law, the government should focus on enacting measures within their current powers in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cambodian Center for Human Rights director Chak Sopeaph said.
“Now is a time for action, considered measures, and precautions — not a time for pushing a vague law through parliament that does not include any protections for human rights.”
Since the start of the year, at least 17 people have been arrested in the country for sharing information about COVID-19, Al Jazeera reported, including members of the defunct opposition group Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Most were released after signing pledges to not “spread fake news,” but those still in pretrial detention face charges of incitement, conspiracy, and spreading false information.
Police also arrested a 14-year-old girl who posted on social media that she was worried about rumors of a coronavirus outbreak at her school.
“The Cambodian government is misusing the COVID-19 outbreak to lock up opposition activists and others expressing concern about the virus and the government’s response,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Uganda is using the coronavirus to fuel homophobia, activists warn
On April 1, police raided a shelter for LGBT people in the town of Kyengera, detaining 20 people for failing to follow social distancing. But Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said those charges were only added later.
“A search was conducted in the shelter in order to find evidence of ‘homosexuality,'” Mugisha told Business Insider. “The mayor personally beat up at least two of those arrested as he questioned them about their homosexuality.”
President Yoweri Museveni closed schools, churches, and mosques before any COVID-19 cases were reported in Uganda. He also banned public rallies, elections, political gatherings, and weddings for 32 days, and instituted a broad travel ban.
“You have seen how airports were clogged with people. That crowding is the perfect ground for new infections,” he said in a March 18 address. “Let us, therefore, move early to avoid the stampede.”
Movie theaters, nightclubs, and bars were all shuttered for a month. “These are very dangerous gathering points with the virus around,” Museveni added. “Drunkards sit close to one another. They speak with saliva coming out of their mouth. They are a danger to themselves.”
The thought of summer brings on thoughts of sunshine, being outside and ice cream parlor trips for most people. But 67 years ago, summer was a time of fear for parents all over the world. Long before the novel coronavirus, there was a debilitating and deadly epidemic that would sweep through towns without warning. It was polio.
The original name for the virus was poliomyelitis, which was shortened to polio. History has demonstrated that polio actually may have existed long before it caused widespread fear in the 20th century. There are Egyptian carvings from 1400 B.C. which showcase a younger man with a leg deformity not unlike what you would see with someone who had polio.
This 1988 photograph showed Dr. Jonas Salk (left), who introduced the first polio vaccine in 1955, and Dr. Frederick A. Murphy (right), former Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, together during Dr. Salk’s visit to the Centers for Disease Control that year.
The first documented polio outbreak in the United States occurred in 1894. It would be discovered that it was highly contagious in 1905. During the 1900s, this virus would become an epidemic.
The virus itself would spread through nasal or oral secretions and by contact with contaminated feces. As it continued multiplying within the body’s cells it may have only led to mild, virus like symptoms. But if it was the paralytic polio? Paralysis and even death could result because of the inability for the lungs to move for breathing. The iron lung, a negative pressure ventilator, would be invented around 1929, saving the lives of many. But it wasn’t enough to stop the virus from spreading.
It would begin to be known as infantile paralysis as it mostly affected children. Every summer, a child with a fever would leave parents gripped in fear that it was polio. A quarter of children would be left with mild disabilities and another quarter with severe and permanent disabilities. Thousands died.
The Alabama National Guard prepares to fly polio vaccine from Birmingham to Haleyvilled during the epidemic of 1963.
On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Stalk announced on a national radio show that he had successfully tested a vaccine to prevent polio. It was the first “killed virus” vaccine attempt. The year prior had been a terrible year for Americans, with 58,000 new cases reported. His announcement was one that brought incredible joy to the world. It would take two more years before it was proven completely safe and a national inoculation campaign would begin.
It should be noted that Stalk never attempted to patent the vaccine, which was proven to have saved countless human lives. He was once asked on live television who owned the patent and his reply is one quoted often: “Well, the people I would say. There is no patent; could you patent the sun?”
A liquid version of the vaccine would be created later on, which would greatly impact the distribution of the vaccine to more people. Polio was officially eradicated in the United States in 1994 thanks to the incredible efforts of Stalk and those who followed.
As a rookie with the Los Angeles Police Department, Charles Bennett was sitting in his squad car with his white partner when the senior officer turned to Bennett and said, “You’re not black, I’m not white — we’re blue. And trust me; if something ever happens to you at 3 o’clock in the morning, they’re going to call guys, and they’re not going to care what color or nationality you are. They’re going to roll out here and solve the problem and win. We’re going to find out whoever hurt you, and we’re going to arrest them and do what we have to do.”
Those words resonated with Bennett 10 years later when he found himself answering the call to bring justice after a fellow officer’s death.
Charles Bennett retired in 2010 after serving 33 years on the LAPD. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
Bennett started with the LAPD in 1977 and spent his last 10 years as a supervisor within the LAPD’s elite Special Investigation Section (SIS). The SIS completed surveillance on suspected criminals for all of the LAPD’s units and sometimes neighboring departments. Bennett said that his unit had a 99% conviction rate because of the airtight cases they built by observing the suspects planning the robbery, and sometimes watching the crime happen and making an arrest immediately after.
During his 33-year career, he rose through the ranks to detective three, which is a specialized detective who is considered a subject matter expert within the LAPD. He specialized in robbery and tracking down cop killers. One case in particular has always stood out in his mind.
Mylus Mondy was a US Customs and Border Protection agent who was murdered March 9, 2008. Mondy had just left his shift at the Los Angeles International Airport and had stopped by a Bank of America ATM in Ladera Heights, an unincorporated area in Los Angeles.
A robber was holding someone at gunpoint at the ATM location when Mondy went to withdraw from the ATM. When he saw Mondy, the robber struck him on the head with the pistol and demanded money. When Mondy tried to get away, he was shot and killed him.
Bennett’s team was called in to bring the murderer to justice. The team spent approximately a day and half chasing down leads, gathering evidence, and identifying different addresses to surveil.
Bennett supervised while one of his rookies in SIS sat “on the point,” gathering information on traffic to and from one of the locations, scanning for their suspect, and collecting every little detail that might lead to an arrest. Suddenly, the rookie broke radio silence to report, “Boss, it’s No. 1, and he’s on the move.”
Footage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
Bennett asked if he was absolutely sure.
“I’m 1,000% sure,” the new officer fired back. Bennett ordered his man to let the suspect turn the corner and avoid alerting him of their presence in front of his house. Bennett knew others might be inside the suspect’s house and, if alerted, would destroy any evidence the SIS unit would need to finalize charges against him.
As 23-year-old McKenzie Carl Bryant turned the corner, the SIS team waited patiently. Once there was a good cushion of distance between Bryant and his house, they brought down the hammer and arrested him.
“That guy is doing life without possibility of parole now, and you know, it was a really good feeling,” Bennett said of Bryant’s arrest. “You understand that you just got justice for a fellow officer who you didn’t know. You didn’t need to know him because you knew he was out there doing his job the best he could, and he didn’t deserve what happened to him.”
Footage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
The all-hands-on-deck approach to cases like Mondy’s murder is what Bennett enjoyed most about working within SIS, as well as their ability to remain silent professionals. He said there were officers who worked on tracing leads and then fed verified information to the officers conducting ground surveillance. Though some LAPD units knew what SIS was doing, the unit largely remained anonymous. The LAPD command handled press conferences regarding the work of the SIS unit but never named them.
“We always go to the fallen officer’s funeral, which is always sad,” Bennett said.
In another case, Bennett helped arrest three of the five men responsible for the death of an officer.
“There were a lot of people quietly slapping us on the back, including the chief,” he said.
In those times of sadness, the quiet slaps on the back brought back that “good feeling.” While they couldn’t change what happened, at least they had achieved some kind of justice for the fallen officer and their family.
If you received an email advertising a new vaccine for the coronavirus, would you open it? If a doctor called you requesting payment to treat your family member for COVID-19, would you share your information?
While the world is focused on the coronavirus (COVID-19), criminals are taking advantage of the situation.
“We are seeing coronavirus-related phishing attacks and we are seeing them at USAA,” warns Michael Stewart, assistant vice president of information security at USAA. “We are seeing emails advertising alleged coronavirus-related benefits and others from a healthcare perspective.”
Other potential scams include fraudsters pretending to be members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or World Health Organization to obtain personal information or selling fake coronavirus test kits and vaccines that do not exist.
“Fraudsters like to take advantage of these situations,” explains Stewart. “They will leverage the coronavirus and urgency around it to get people to click on things or give up information that they might not otherwise disclose.”
Some additional scams during this pandemic period to be aware of include:
Charity scams: Stay alert of scammers contacting you to donate to fake charities. Research the organization you desire to sponsor to ensure your information is protected.
Product or services scams: Items like hand sanitizers, disinfectants and household cleaning supplies are often offered by scammers who will keep your money. Scammers also offer cures, coronavirus test kits and vaccines that do not exist. Services can range from house cleaning to doctor visits.
Employment scams: Scammers create job ads to lure unemployed consumers to fake jobs. The scammers will wire money or send a fake check to you, asking to send a portion back or use the funds to purchase goods, which are directed back to the scammer
Tips to protect your information include:
Secure your accounts: use multifactor authentication everywhere, especially with banks, phone and email providers. This extra layer of security helps keep you safe.
Stay vigilant: scammers will contact you by phone, email or text offering products, services or humanitarian opportunities. They often pose as credible companies “phishing” for login or personal information Pause to confirm it’s a credible company before proceeding.
Monitor your accounts: stay close to your personal bank accounts, report suspicious behavior and respond to alerts.
Use trusted Wi-Fi networks: as more people transition to work from home, ensuring your Wi-Fi network is password protected is critical to safeguard your information.
No big Friday night plans? Look no further than your own family room, but be sure to sit on the couch because “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” That’s right, Lionsgate Live! A Night at the Movies is having a special viewing this evening of Dirty Dancing with an excellent line up for the next few weeks.
What is Lionsgate Live! you ask? The four week program, which launched last week with The Hunger Games, allows viewers to enjoy a classic Lionsgate film every Friday evening through May 8th for free on Fandango Movieclips and Lionsgate’s YouTube page. May 1 will feature La La Land and May 8 will feature John Wick (age restriction required).
Tonight’s livestream will feature special appearances by Dirty Dancing‘s own Jennifer Grey and choreographer Kenny Ortega, along with an exclusive look at some of the film’s prized memorabilia as well as time-jumping behind-the-scenes footage!
Each livestream will directly benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, dedicated to helping people who work in the motion picture industry and currently providing financial assistance to theater employees furloughed by the COVID-19 crisis.
So come dance the night away tonight at 6:00pm PT / 9:00pm ET for some Dirty Dancing – all in honor of good cause. Instead of previews, enjoy Fandango’s Movieclips, offering a special playlist featuring some of the best scenes from the film – enjoy!
President Donald Trump has approved the US military’s deployment of a Navy hospital ship to Los Angeles, California, to bolster coronavirus response efforts.
During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.
FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor in the press conference that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Sunday, Washington state has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York.
California ranks fourth as of Sunday, with nearly 1,500 cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked Trump in a letter on Thursday to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within one day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.
Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”
The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.
The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.
Rare criticism by an Iranian Health Ministry official of China’s controversial COVID-19 figures has angered hard-liners in Tehran, some of whom asked if he was speaking on behalf of the country’s archrival, the United States.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said at a press briefing on April 5 that China’s statistics about the number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus are “a bitter joke.”
He added that, if Beijing said it got the coronavirus epidemic under control within two months of its outbreak, “one should really wonder [if it is true].”
The comments did not go down well with Chinese officials or hard-liners in Iran who reminded Jahanpur that China has stood with Iran at a time of severe crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak and crushing economic sanctions applied by Washington.
Many questions have been raised in the Western media recently about China’s official coronavirus figures amid suggestions that the real numbers are likely much higher.
Officials wait outside a Beijing metro station to monitor for anyone infected with the coronavirus.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China’s ruling Communist Party on April 3 of being involved in a “disinformation campaign” regarding the virus that is being used to “deflect from what has really taken place.”
But similar criticism from an Iranian official whose country enjoys strong relations with China led to raised eyebrows and has provoked crunching criticism.
“At a time when China has been Iran’s major helper in the fight against the coronavirus and has provided the country with several strategic products while bypassing the [U.S.] sanctions, Jahanpur suddenly becomes the spokesperson of [U.S. President Donald Trump] and [Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin] Netanyahu,” the editor of the hard-line Mashreghnews.ir, Hassan Soleimani, said on Twitter on April 5.
Others, including Hossein Dalirian, a former editor with Tasnim news, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), went as far as calling for Jahanpur’s dismissal from the ministry.
China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, also joined the chorus, telling Jahanpur he should follow press briefings by China’s Health Ministry “carefully” in order to draw his conclusions.
Amid the mounting criticism and in what appeared to be damage control, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi tweeted in support of China, saying the country has led the way in suppressing the coronavirus while also “generously” helping other countries.
“The Chinese bravery, dedication, and professionalism in COVID-19 containment deserves acknowledgement,” Musavi tweeted on April 5, adding that Iran has been grateful to China in these trying times with the hashtag #Strongertogether.
Musavi’s tweet was retweeted by Chang, who said “Rumors cannot destroy our friendship.”
The Gvt. ppl. of #China lead the way in suppressing #coronavirus generously aiding countries across . The Chinese bravery, dedication professionalism in COVID19 containment deserve acknowledgment. has always been thankful to in these trying times. #StrongerTogether
For his part, Jahanpur attempted to calm the waters by publicly praising China for supporting his country during the outbreak.
“The support of China for the Iranian nation in [these] difficult days is unforgettable,” he said on Twitter on April 6.
He also said the Iranian government and the nation are grateful and will not forget the countries that stood with them during the pandemic.
Jahanpur’s tweet was welcomed by Ambassador Chang, who retweeted it while writing in Persian: “Friends should help each other, we fight together.”
Citing current and former intelligence officials, The New York Times reported last week that the CIA has told the White House since February that China has understated the number of its infections.
China has claimed that it has been open and transparent about the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, which emerged in December in Wuhan, where the virus has officially claimed the lives of 2,563 people and a nationwide total of 3,331 as of April 6. Beijing also claims some 81,708 total infections.
Radio Free Asia issued a report on March 27 suggesting tens of thousands of more people had died in Wuhan from the coronavirus than the official total given by Beijing.
Some Iranian officials believe the country’s coronavirus outbreak, by far the worst in the Middle East, began because of Tehran’s ties to China, which has been buying a limited amount of Iranian oil despite strict U.S. sanctions and penalties.
Iranian officials think the virus reached Qom, Iran’s epicenter of the outbreak, through Chinese workers and students residing in the city who had recently traveled to China. Flights conducted to and from China by Iran’s Mahan Air — even after coronavirus cases were registered — have been also blamed for exacerbating the epidemic.
Since the outbreak in Qom in February, Chinese officials have sent Iran regular shipments of relief materials — including masks, test kits, and other equipment — to help the country battle against the coronavirus.
According to official figures released on April 6, COVID-19 in Iran has killed 3,739 people and infected 60,500.
Much like the case of China, many people inside and outside of Iran have questioned Tehran’s official figures on the pandemic.
An ongoing investigation by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that studies figures released by officials from Iran’s 31 provinces puts the total number of deaths in Iran at 6,872 people as of April 5, with some 94,956 infections.
There’s been so much written lately about the heroes on the front lines. The selfless men and women bravely going to their jobs to serve their country and their communities. The ones who are knowingly going to work with patients or customers who could infect them. Yes, we rightfully applaud the truck drivers hauling supplies to replenish depleted stores. We extol the cook at our favorite restaurant who keeps making meals and the employees whose tips have been practically eliminated but still run our orders out to our cars. We watch with sheer amazement and horror as our doctors, nurses and medical staff go into the line of fire lacking basic, necessary protective equipment. We honor you all. We salute you all. We love and respect and are grateful For You All.
But this letter isn’t about that. Nope.
This letter is to you — the spouses of the mission essentials.
You are the ones left behind each morning. The ones left to deal with homeschool and meals and kids unable to play with their friends or understand their math homework that they didn’t quite grasp in a packet.
You are the ones left to carry the emotional burdens of children who are frustrated at a Zoom classroom and don’t understand why they can’t have a sleepover or go see grandma or even play at the park. You are the ones who field countless requests for snacks, a thousand utterings of, “I need help,” and even more declarations of, “I can’t do this.”
You put your own work on hold, your own health, your own sanity to muster one more ounce of patience, one more hug, one more deep breath, all while balancing that other nasty, invisible weight: the burden of your own anxiety. Anxious about the world. Anxious about your spouse. Anxious about their health and your health and your parents’ health and your kids’ health and their screen time and your elderly neighbor’s health and the teachers’ health and your job and your neighbor’s job and the economy and your kids’ education, and given your one hour of free time a week, why you suddenly identify with a character on Tiger King.
Here’s the thing: It’s all too much. And it’s going to feel like you’re failing.
Failing by definition means, “a weakness, especially in character; a shortcoming.” But if we’ve seen anything in this time of pandemic, we’ve seen your strength. Your resolve. Your gracious heart. We’ve seen you stay home and help flatten the curve. We’ve seen you take on additional responsibilities so your mission essential spouse could keep being mission essential. We’ve seen you offer encouragement to your friends on FaceTime when you have none to give yourself. We’ve seen you reassure your exhausted partner that everything will be okay, all the while knowing you will lie awake in the dark in the middle of the night, the echoes of your own fears so deafening you can’t fall back asleep.
We see you. You’re going to be okay. Reframe your measure of success to include a bar that allows for just getting by. Find time for gratitude. Make space for prayer or meditation or simply a silence that isn’t broken by fear or anxiety. We are all in this together and your best is good enough. As my seven year old reminded me yesterday, this is his first global pandemic. Ours too, bud. Ours too.
The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.
“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.
“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.
Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.
With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.
The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.
Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.
“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.
Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.
Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.
Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.
The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.
“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.
President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.
Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.
Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.
The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.
“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.
Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.
They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.
The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.
Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.
One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.
No deaths have been reported so far.
However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.
The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.
Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.
Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.
Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.
As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.
Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.
The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.
Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”
Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.
A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.
It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.
Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.
Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.
The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.
Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.
However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.
Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.
“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”
The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.
Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.
The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.
Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.
Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.
Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.
Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.
Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.
A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.
He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”
Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.
On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.
Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.
The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.
The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.
The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.
The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.
Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.
The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.
In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.
In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.
A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.
It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.
The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.
Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.
Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.
Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.
Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.
The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.
The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.
“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.
Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.
“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.
Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.
Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.
The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.
According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.
All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.
Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.
In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.
Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.
The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.
“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.
“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.
About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”
Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.
The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.
Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.
So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.
The U.S. Army‘s top enlisted soldier said Tuesday that the service plans to issue some type of non-surgical mask to troops to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
During an Army Facebook Live on Tuesday, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said that soldiers should follow the face-covering guidance the service issued Monday evening until it can provide masks for them.
“We are going to get you the masks,” he said. “In the near term, we will get you something either black or camouflage to put on.”
Grinston gave no other details, but Army officials confirmed to Military.com that the service is working on a plan to eventually issue some type of masks to soldiers and will release details in the near future.
The Army issued broad guidance regarding a Pentagon announcement Sunday that service members, family members and other personnel may make their own face coverings to wear when social distancing is not possible.
The Air Force began making their own masks in order to protect airmen in positions that make social distancing difficult.
Soldiers are authorized to wear the “neck gaiter and other cloth items, such as bandanas and scarves, as face coverings,” according to the guidance.
“To protect the facial area, the cloth item must cover the mouth and nose and extend to the chin or below as well as to the sides of the face,” Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz, an Army spokesman, told Military.com. “It must be secured or fastened to the face in a manner that allows the soldier to breathe while also preventing disease exposure or contamination.”
Soldiers should not cut up Army Combat Uniforms to use as face coverings since they are chemically treated to reduce wrinkles.
“Our uniforms are treated with chemicals for various reasons, so we do not want people using these uniforms and putting them close to their face,” Army Chief of Staff James McConville said during the Facebook Live event.
The color of the masks is up to unit leaders, Army officials said, but Grinston added that homemade masks should look as professional as possible.
“You’ve got either a … black neck gaiter, brown, some kind of scarf — that’s fine,” he said. “Use common sense. I don’t want to see any skull and crossbones on your face — maybe a brown or something that looks somewhat professional.”
Surgical masks and N95 respirators are in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers or other medical first responders, as recommended by CDC guidance, Ortiz said.