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Coronavirus clouds US Independence Day events

The US is marking its Independence Day amid a surge in coronavirus cases, and many events have been cancelled.

Beaches have been closed in Florida and California, city parades cancelled and firework displays curtailed.

However, President Donald Trump will host a big party in Washington, with hundreds expected to pack the White House’s South Lawn.

The daily tally of coronavirus infections hit a new record on Friday – 52,300, Johns Hopkins University said.

The number is rising in 39 states, and at least five – Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, North Carolina and South Carolina – had single-day case records on Friday, the New York Times reports.

According to the Johns Hopkins research, nearly 130,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US – by far the highest total – and the US has 2.8 million confirmed cases.

How is 4 July being marked in the US?

In Washington, the White House has invited hundreds of medics to the 4 July party – medics who have been treating Covid-19 patients – despite the safety concerns of the local mayor. The fight against the pandemic is a theme of what the White House calls its Independence Day “Salute to America”.

Thousands of people are expected to pack nearby streets to watch a military flypast and fireworks.

The US Department of the Interior plans to hand out 300,000 face masks to spectators who gather on the National Mall. They will also be urged to keep 6ft (1.8m) apart.

Joe Biden, the Democrat rival to Mr Trump in this year’s presidential election, tweeted that “this Fourth of July, one of the most patriotic things you can do is wear a mask”.

Firework displays are a traditional highlight of 4 July, but an estimated 80% of cities and towns have cancelled their shows.

New York City usually holds an hour-long extravaganza, but this year it was replaced by five-minute displays through the week, organised by Macy’s department store, with a final televised one on Saturday – all at undisclosed locations.

Major League Baseball cancelled its 2020 All-Star Game for the first time since World War Two.

Defying the health warnings, President Trump on Friday addressed a big crowd at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, condemning the “angry mobs” who had toppled statues in anti-racism protests.

The site, with its giant mountain carvings of former US presidents, was chosen to strengthen his claim that US heritage is under attack.

Two of the presidents carved at Mount Rushmore – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – were slave owners.

Mr Trump, gearing up for a tough re-election battle, accused protesters of waging “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children”.

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Formula One: Leclerc admits Ferrari struggles 'crazy'

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA (AFP) – Twelve months after claiming a dramatic pole position at the Red Bull Ring, Charles Leclerc on Saturday (July 4) struggled to secure seventh on the grid for Ferrari – and admitted it was “crazy”.

The Monegasque driver, whose brilliant first season with the team in 2019 led them to decide not to offer four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel a new contract for 2021, said Ferrari’s problems at the delayed season-opening Austrian Grand Prix were worse than expected.

Team boss Mattia Binotto had warned before flying to Austria that Ferrari had decided to re-design the SF1000 car with a package of aerodynamic upgrades to be introduced at the third race in Hungary later this month.

But both drivers were surprised how relatively uncompetitive they were – Leclerc squeezing through to take seventh on the grid while Vettel was 11th after missing the top-10 shootout.

“It’s not been an easy qualifying session, unfortunately, and that’s where we are at the moment,” said Leclerc.

“We have to stay positive, try and get out of these hard times and work as a team – and try and to cheer everyone up.”

Leclerc scraped through to Q3 in 10th before finishing seventh in Q3, trailing cars from Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Racing Point When his engineer told him he was 10th, he responded immediately: “Crazy.” Vettel admitted he was shocked.

“Of course, yes, it’s a surprise,” Vettel said of his qualifying performance.

“We thought we had a little bit more in hand, but it looks like the others were probably running a bit more fuel and were a bit more conservative in practice.

“I was not so happy with the car – more over-steer on entry than I would have liked.

“But we’ll see. Tomorrow is a different picture. I think with the track getting a bit hotter, it was a bit more costly for us today.

“It’s a long race. I think in race trim we are always better. I think we will be there to make up some good ground and score some good points.”

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Catalonia curbs movement of 200,000 people after new coronavirus outbreaks

LLEIDA (Reuters) – Police at roadblocks warned motorists they were entering a lockdown zone on Saturday as Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia reimposed restrictions on more than 200,000 people following several new coronavirus outbreaks.

Residents in Segria, which includes the city of Lleida, will not be able to leave the area from 12 noon (1000 GMT) on Saturday, but they will not have to stay at home as was the case during Spain’s original lockdown.

As police stopped cars heading to Lleida, some drivers decided to turn around to avoid getting stuck inside the city.

“We’ve decided to confine Segria due to data that confirm too significant a growth in the number of COVID-19 infections,” Catalan regional president Quim Torra told a news conference.

Regional health ministry data showed there were 3,706 cases in the Lleida region on Friday, up from 3,551 the previous day.

Catalonia is one of the hardest-hit parts of Spain, with a total of 72,860 coronavirus cases, according to regional health ministry data released on Friday.

People in Lleida will be allowed to go to work outside the city, but from Tuesday workers entering or leaving the lockdown area will have to present a certificate from their employer.

Spain has registered 205,545 coronavirus cases and 28,385 deaths, making it one of Europe’s worst-affected countries.

After imposing a strict lockdown on March 14, the government has been gradually easing restrictions in a multi-phase plan since early May.

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US aircraft carriers conduct military drills in South China Sea

Manoeuvres coincide with ones launched by Beijing near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.

Two US aircraft carriers conducted exercises in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday with China also carrying out manoeuvres that have been criticised by the Pentagon and neighbouring states.

The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were performed operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific”, a US Navy statement said.

It did not say exactly where the exercises were being conducted in the South China Sea, which extends for 1,500 km (900 miles) and 90 percent of which is claimed by China despite the protests of its neighbours.

“The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability,” Rear Admiral George M Wikoff was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the exercises.

China and the United States have accused each other of stoking tension in the strategic waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from coronavirus to trade to Hong Kong.

Oil and gas reserves

Wikoff, commander of the strike group led by the Ronald Reagan, said the exercises were not a response to those being conducted by China, which the Pentagon criticised this week as “counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability”.

China dismissed the US criticism of its drills on Friday and suggested the United States was to blame for increasing tensions.

US carriers have long carried out exercises in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea. At one point recently, the United States had three aircraft carriers in the region.

China announced last week it had scheduled five days of drills starting July 1 near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.

Vietnam and the Philippines have also criticised the planned Chinese drills, warning they could create tension in the region and impact Beijing’s relationship with its neighbours.

The United States accuses China of trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.

The US statement said the naval exercises gave commanders the flexibility and capabilities “that only the US Navy can command”.

In 2016, an international ruled that China has no legal basis for its claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea. The Permanent Court of Arbitration said China’s “nine-dash line” territorial claims, which cover most of the South China Sea, will not be recognised under international law.

Beijing rejected the ruling and has continued to build up islands under its control. 


UpFront

South China Sea: The world’s next big war?

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Marseille turns green with election of first woman mayor

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) – Marseille became the latest French municipality to elect a green mayor on Saturday, in a wave that has swept the country since local elections at the end of last month.

Michele Rubirola, the first female leader of France’s second city, won the most votes from city councillors, ending almost a week of suspense after the June 28 poll which failed to give her green-left coalition an absolute majority.

Her election marked the end of a quarter century of conservative rule in Marseille, which joins Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and others in sending environmentalists to power.

Rubirola pledged to clean up the Mediterranean port city, which has suffered from pollution, municipal strikes and traffic congestion, but has also been ridden by gang violence, corruption and poverty.

“This is the end of clannishness, nepotism and cronyism,” she told supporters of her so-called “Marseille Spring” coalition.

President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche party performed poorly in the June 28 local elections which saw a resurgence in support for left-leaning groups, particularly green candidates.

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Car slams into two protesters on closed Seattle highway

Authorities said it was not immediately clear if the demonstrators, one who was critically wounded, had been targeted.

Two women have been struck by a fast-moving car with one critically injured after a driver sped through a protest-related closure on a freeway in Seattle.

A 24-year-old woman from Seattle suffered critical, life-threatening injuries and a 32-year-old woman from Bellingham, a city about 145km (90 miles) north, suffered serious wounds early Saturday, Washington State Patrol Captain Ron Mead said.

The driver, a 27-year-old man from Seattle, was taken into custody, Mead said. The man’s motive was not immediately clear although impairment was not considered a factor. 

It was also not clear where the driver entered the highway, which had been shut amid continuing protests in the city calling for racial justice. Such demonstrations have been common across the United States since the May 25 killing of George Floyd after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Mead said the unnamed man faced multiple felony charges and was suspected to have driven the wrong way on an exit ramp.

Captured on video

Police said protesters had been on the freeway for more than an hour before the car drove around the blockade at around 1:36am. 

Video posted on social media, taken from a nearby overpass, showed a white car travelling at high speed and navigating around two vehicles positioned across the lanes of the highway as a barrier. The vehicle careened into a small crowd of protesters, striking the two people who flew into the air.

This was a purposeful attack, plain and simple. Pray the driver is brought to justice. #seattleprotests pic.twitter.com/yEyeDYP2kH

The pair landed on the ground several metres away. 

Twitter user Larry Subramanian, who captured a video of the incident, wrote in a post: “Please pray for the victims of this cowardly and senseless attack. They were peaceful protesters. This is terrible.”

Protesters had shut down the interstate highway for 19 days in a row, Mead said at a news conference on Saturday, adding the freeway is “simply not a safe place” for pedestrians. He said he hoped demonstrators would cease what he called “unlawful behaviour”.

“My hope is, as a result of this tragedy, protesters will reconsider their desire to be on the interstate because I cannot guarantee their safety – plain and simple,” Mead said.

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Spain second wave: Catalonia puts 200,000 residents on lockdown amid coronavirus spike

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Authorities in Catalonia, which is located in northeast Spain, have restricted the movement of more than 200,000 residents following a surge in COVID-19 infections. The new outbreak centres on Spaniards living in Segria and the populated city of Lleida, with residents not allowed to leave the area.

Segria is situated to the west of Catalonia and covers an area of more than 800 square miles.

Around 210,000 people live in 38 municipalities across the Segrià region.

Catalan regional president Quim Torra said the lockdown was effective from midday on Saturday following a “significant” rise in cases, but confirmed residents would be allowed to venture outside their homes.

Regional health ministry data showed there were 3,706 cases in the Lleida region on Friday.

The figure represented a rise of more than 150 cases in the past 24 hours, with 3,551 people testing positive for the virus on the previous day.

In a press briefing, President Torra said: “We have decided to confine Segria due to data that confirms too significant a growth in the number of COVID-19 infections.”

He added: “We take a step back to protect ourselves and we will take all the decisions to stop the contagion.”

The new strict guidelines told residents who had left the area to return by 4pm.

The local lockdown has also restricted gatherings to just 10 people.

Following the fresh outbreak, a field hospital was set up outside LLeida’s Arnau de Vilanova hospital on Friday and has a capacity to treat up to 105 patients.

Spain has been one of the worst hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 200,000 confirmed cases over 28,000 deaths.

To date the Spanish health ministry has registered 205,545 coronavirus cases and 28,385 deaths.

Spain was one of the first European nations to go into a nationwide lockdown on March 14 and has been gradually eased since early May.

The new outbreak will raise concerns with some Britons after Spain was included in the list of countries passengers will be able to travel to and from.

The Department for Transport announced on Friday the UK has created an air bridge with 59 nations in order to allow passengers to travel freely without having to quarantine.

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The list features popular short-haul destinations such as Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.

As well as long-haul locations including Australia, Barbados, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Notable absentees include China – where the coronavirus was first reported to the World Health Organisation in December 2019 and the US – which has the highest number of coronavirus cases and fatalities in the world.

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Gabrielle Union's Cute Photo of Kaavia Shows Support for a Black-Owned Business

Gabrielle Union once again proved her cool mom status in the most socially-responsible way possible. The actress shared another photoshoot with her adorable toddler daughter, Kaavia, wearing a coordinating floral-printed crown and face mask as her socially distant summer outfit of the day. Even better: She tagged the company that makes these two accessories, Royal Jelly Harlem, to show support and introduce her followers to this black-owned business.

“Real queens wear masks. #YourActionsSaveLives Crown and mask courtesy of Black-owned company @royaljellynyc 🖤🖤✊🏾,” the mother of the 1-year-old captioned the post. Kaavia is wearing the brand’s Kids Mask in Burgundy Flowers and the Child Crown in the same pattern, which is reversible and features a wide vertical stripe print on the other side. This mask also is available in adult sizes in the color option shown here as well as other chic variations, including red seersucker, tic tac toe, and yellow toile patterns. Shop these beautiful masks below.

 

 

All of the company’s masks are made in New York City out of 100% cotton or linen. They’re double-lined with filters and color-contrasting linings. We couldn’t think of a more heart-warming way to welcome July 4th weekend and spread some mother-daughter support from the West to the East coast.

This photo is another proud moment that her daughter can one day look back on. Union has thoroughly documented her baby’s highlights, including her adorably failing the snack challenge and the duo’s twinning moment. We can’t wait to see what adventures the family will share next.

Before you go, see more moments that prove Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade are #parentinggoals. 






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Sadiq Khan savaged by Shaun Bailey in furious rant over plot to cut police by £110m

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted late last month he would have to make substantial cuts to funding due to the impact of coronavirus. Conservative Mayor candidate Shaun Bailey has created a petition to stop the police facing a cut in funding by £110m. Mr Bailey took to Twitter to inform the public of his petition and his frustration at Mr Khan’s plan to make cuts.

Mr Bailey captioned the video: “The Mayor has outlined plans to cut London’s police budget by £110m, that’s 1,692 officers.

“Just as we face a summer of crime, let’s protect the police, add your name to my petition and help make London safe.”

In the video, Mr Bailey said: “The Mayor is responsible for policing in London, it is his job to keep London safe.

“Sadiq Khan is proposing a £110 million cut in the police budget.

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“That is the equivalent of removing 1,700 officers from the streets of London.”

Mr Bailey reflected on the important role the police play in the capital and why he is against the cut.

He continued: “This plan comes at a time when London is facing unprecedented threats.

“Things like the Illegal raves in Maida vale and Brixton, a steep rise in knife crime and domestic violence.

“This is not the time to propose this cut.

“We are not asking the Mayor to do anything special, we are asking him to do his job.”

Mr Bailey encouraged people to sign a petition calling for an end to the plan to cut £110m from the police.

He closed by saying it was time to protect the police service.

The website set up by Shaun Bailey also criticises Mayor Khan for his plan to cut the police.

The one-page petition says: “The Mayor is in charge of London’s police, it is his job to keep us safe.

“Sadiq Khan is retreating from the streets just when police are warning him about a summer of crime.

“The Mayor doesn’t need to cut police funding, he needs to cut waste.

“Cut waste like the extra £30m he is spending on staff or the £527 million increase in City Hall office costs.

“Or waste like the 26 percent increase in his PR budget, or the £10m he spent on a training course to tell staff what colour their personalities are.

“Leadership is about decisions, it’s time the Mayor made better ones.”

Mr Khan announced his plan to cut police funding in late June and has faced a stern backlash.

The London Mayor said he expected to have to make cuts to the police funding due to a £493m shortfall due to the coronavirus crisis.

He said: “The scale of the challenge is far beyond anything that any local or regional authority could have prepared for.

“My first priority is to protect frontline emergency services, which is why we have outlined proportionately smaller savings for the police and fire brigade.”

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Film lovers adapt to new normal as cinemas reopen after months of lockdown

Families enjoyed trips to the cinema for the first time in more than three months today as lockdown restrictions eased in England.

Cinemas are very different places to be as they welcome the public back, with extra safety measures in place including perspex screens at tills and food stations, one-way systems and hand-sanitising on arrival and exit.

While some big chains including Cineworld and Odeon remain closed this weekend, the cinemas that did reopen attracted a large number of customers who said they were happy to be returning to normality.

Andrea Necchi, 31, who visited the Showcase cinema in the Bluewater shopping centre in Dartford, Kent with his children, said it was a ‘strange experience’.

Revealing his children had their temperatures checked when they walked in, the construction company protection project manager said: ‘It’s all a bit eerie, but apart from that it is good to be back.’

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All staff were wearing masks at the Showcase cinema, but very few customers were seen to be covering their faces.




The picture house was showing old films – including Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone and Back To The Future – today, amid a shortfall in new film releases.

Dog carer Michelle Major, 57, revealed she is glad England is reopening as it has been difficult to explain lockdown restrictions to her son, who is disabled and autistic.

She said her son was ‘super excited’ to be going to the cinema, adding that she was ‘impressed’ by the safety measures put in place.

The mother said: ‘I think it is very safe, it is not the staff or the cinema who will mess things up, it is the customers.’

Meanwhile, a mum named Leanne said it was ‘nice to get out again’ as she visited a Showcase cinema in Leeds.

She said: ‘We were a bit nervous really about coming back but the cinema here, it has been really, really good how they’re spacing people out and they have been really hygienic, so it is quite nice knowing that they are doing everything they can.’




Cinema chain Cineworld has pushed back its reopening date to July 31, blaming the delay on changes to planned film release dates, while Vue and Picturehouse are also not opening this weekend.

Odeon opened 10 of its cinemas on Saturday and says it will welcome back customers at a further 88 by the end of the month.

Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers were also back in action on Saturday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning the public not to ‘blow it’.

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