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In the US, Covid’s death exceeded 5 million, with Biden and Kamala Harris lighting candles in the White House; The White House flag was lowered in half

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Washington —With sunset remarks and a national moment of silence, President Joe Biden on Monday confronted head-on the country’s once-unimaginable loss — half a million Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic — as he tried to strike a balance between mourning and hope.

Addressing the “grim, heartbreaking milestone” directly and publicly, Biden stepped to a lectern in the White House Cross Hall, unhooked his face mask and delivered an emotion-filled eulogy for 500,071 Americans he said he felt he knew.

“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There’s no such thing,” he said Monday evening. “There’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary.”

“Just like that,” he added, “so many of them took their last breath alone.”

A president whose own life has been marked by family tragedy, Biden spoke in deeply personal terms, referencing his own losses as he tried to comfort the huge number of Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the pandemic.

“I know all too well. I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens,” said Biden, who has long addressed grief more powerfully than perhaps any other American public figure. “I know what it’s like when you are there, holding their hands, as they look in your eye and they slip away. That black hole in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it.”

The president, who lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car collision and later an adult son to brain cancer, leavened the grief with a message of hope.

“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we’ll remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind.”

He said, “We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or, on the news. We must do so to honor the dead. But, equally important, to care for the living.”

The president ordered flags on federal property lowered to half staff for five days and then led the moment of communal mourning for those lost to a virus that often prevents people from gathering to remember their loved ones. Monday’s bleak threshold of 500,000 deaths was playing out against contradictory crosscurrents: an encouraging drop in coronavirus cases and worries about the spread of more contagious variants.

Biden’s management of the pandemic will surely define at least the first year of his presidency, and his response has showcased the inherent tension between preparing the nation for dark weeks ahead while also offering optimism about pushing out vaccines that could, eventually, bring this American tragedy to a close.

After he spoke, the president along with first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff stood outside the White House for a moment of silence at sundown. Black bunting draped the doorway they walked through. Five hundred brilliantly lit candles — each standing for 1,000 people lost — illuminated the stairways on either side of them as the Marine Band played a mournful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

The milestone comes just over a year after the first confirmed U.S. fatality from the coronavirus. The pandemic has since swept across the world and the U.S., stressing the nation’s health care system, rattling its economy and rewriting the rules of everyday society.

In one of his many symbolic breaks with his predecessor, Biden has not shied away from offering remembrances for the lives lost to the virus. His first stop after arriving in Washington on the eve of his inauguration was to attend a twilight ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to mourn the dead.

That somber moment on the eve of Biden’s inauguration — typically a celebratory time when America marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation.

The COVID-19 death total in the United States had just crossed 400,000 when Biden took the oath of office. An additional 100,000 have died in the past month.

Former President Donald Trump invariably looked to play down the total, initially claiming the virus would go away on its own and later locking into a prediction that America would suffer far fewer than 100,000 deaths. Once the total eclipsed that mark, Trump shifted gears again and said that scale of loss was actually a success story because it could have been much worse.

Outside of perfunctory tweets marking the milestones of 100,000 and 200,000 deaths, Trump oversaw no moment of national mourning, no memorial service. At the Republican National Convention, he made no mention of the suffering, leaving that to first lady Melania Trump.

And at campaign rallies across the nation, he erroneously predicted that the nation was “rounding the corner” on the virus while he disregarded safety measures such as masks and pushed governors to lift restrictions against public health advice. In audio tapes released last fall, it was revealed that Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in March that “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Biden, by contrast, has long drawn on his own personal tragedy as he comforts those who grieve. He has pledged to level with the American public on the severity of the crisis and has repeatedly warned that the nation was going through a “very dark winter,” one now challenged by the arrival of more contagious virus variants.

Biden also has deliberately set expectations low — particularly on vaccinations and when the nation can return to normal — knowing he could land a political win by exceeding them. He is on track to far exceed his initial promise to deliver 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, with some public health experts now urging him to set a far more ambitious goal. The administration says it expects to have enough vaccine available for every American by the end of July.

Biden’s reference to next Christmas for a possible return to normalcy raised eyebrows across a pandemic-weary nation and seemed less optimistic than projections made by others in his own administration, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has suggested a summer comeback.

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2024 റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ പ്രസിഡന്റ് സ്ഥാനാര്‍ത്ഥി ട്രമ്പായിരിക്കുമെന്ന് മിറ്റ്‌റോംനി

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യുട്ട: 2024 ലെ പ്രസിഡന്റ് തിരഞ്ഞെടുപ്പില്‍ ട്രമ്പ് മത്സരിക്കുന്നതിന് തീരുമാനിച്ചാല്‍ റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ സ്ഥാനാര്‍ത്ഥിത്വം ട്രമ്പിനു തന്നെയായിരിക്കുമെന്ന് യുട്ടയില്‍ നിന്നുള്ള സെനറ്റര്‍ മിറ്റ് റോംമ്‌നി. ട്രമ്പിന്റെ വിമര്‍ശകനായ റോംനിയുടെ പ്രവചനം അക്ഷരാര്‍ത്ഥത്തില്‍ റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ പാര്‍ട്ടിയെപോലും ഞെട്ടിച്ചിരിക്കുകയാണ്. അടുത്ത നാലുവര്‍ഷം ട്രമ്പ് റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ പാര്‍ട്ടിയില്‍ സുപ്രധാന പങ്കു വഹിക്കുമെന്നും അദ്ദേഹം കൂട്ടിച്ചേര്‍ത്തു.

ഫെബ്രുവരി 23 ചൊവ്വാഴ്ച ന്യൂയോര്‍ക്ക് ടൈംസ്ഡീന്‍ബുക്ക് വെര്‍ച്വല്‍ അഭിമുഖത്തിലാണ് മീററ് റോംനി തന്റെ അഭിപ്രായം അസന്നിഗ്ദമായി രേഖപ്പെടുത്തിയത്.
2024 ലെ തിരഞ്ഞെടുപ്പില്‍ ട്രമ്പ് മത്സരിക്കുമോ എന്നെനിക്കറിയില്ല. മത്സരിക്കാന്‍ തീരുമാനിച്ചാല്‍ അദ്ദേഹമായിരിക്കും റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ സ്ഥാനാര്‍ത്ഥിയെന്ന് നിസംശയമായി രേഖപ്പെടുത്തിയത്.

2020- 2024 വര്‍ഷങ്ങളില്‍ എന്തുസംഭവിക്കുമെന്നും എനിക്കറിയില്ല. എന്നാല്‍ ട്രമ്പിനെ പിന്തുണക്കുന്ന വലിയൊരു വിഭാഗം ആളുകള്‍ ഇന്നും റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ പാര്‍ട്ടിയിലുണ്ടെന്നത് പരമാര്‍ത്ഥമെന്നും അദ്ദേഹം കൂട്ടിചേര്‍ത്തു.

ട്രമ്പിന്റെ കടുത്ത എതിരാളിയും, ട്രമ്പിന്റെ ആദ്യ ഇംപീച്ച്‌മെന്റ് ട്രയലില്‍ ട്രമ്പ് കുറ്റക്കാരനാണെന്ന് വാദിച്ച ഡമോക്രാറ്റില്‍ പാര്‍ട്ടിക്കൊപ്പം വോട്ടുചെയ്ത ഏക റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ സെനറ്ററുമാണ് മിറ്റ് റോംനി. രണ്ടാമത് ഇംപീച്ച്‌മെന്റ് ട്രയലില്‍ വീണ്ടും മിറ്റ് റോംനി ട്രമ്പിനെതിരെ വോട്ടു ചെയ്‌തെങ്കിലും മറ്റ് ആറ് റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ സെനറ്റര്‍മാര്‍ കൂടി റോംനിക്കൊപ്പം ചേര്‍ന്നിരുന്നു റിപ്പബ്ലിക്കന്‍ പാര്‍ട്ടിയിലെ മുതിര്‍ന്ന നേതാക്കള്‍ ഇതിനകം തന്നെ ട്രമ്പിനെതിരെയുള്ള വിമര്‍ശനകള്‍ക്ക് മയം വരുത്തിയിരുന്നു.
Source:Nerkazhcha

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Nigerian Authorities Searching For 317 Schoolgirls Kidnapped By ‘Armed Bandits’

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Nigerian authorities are searching for hundreds of schoolgirls who were kidnapped by gunmen in a raid early Friday morning, according to police in the northwestern state of Zamfara.

Police Commissioner Abutu Yaro told reporters that 317 girls had been kidnapped from Government Girls Science Secondary School in the town of Jangebe, according to its principal. He said that efforts to trace the kidnappers and retrieve the students are underway and that authorities were looking into information that they had been moved to neighboring forests.

“All of us are angry, and all of us are sad,” he said. “Despite that we need to have a coordinated response in order to [save lives] and bring the children back home.”

Yaro emphasized the importance of exercising caution and care, and urged people to remain calm. According to local media reports, scores of residents incensed by the abduction stormed the streets of Jangebe, creating roadblocks and using sticks and stones to attack vehicles carrying journalists to the school. A cameraman was injured in the process.

Citing a police spokesperson, Nigerian newspaper Punch reported that Zamfara State Police Command is working with the military to conduct joint search and rescue operations for the students, who he said were kidnapped by “armed bandits.”

An unnamed school staff member told the newspaper that the gunmen — some wearing uniforms and pretending to be security personnel — arrived at the school with pickup trucks and motorcycles around 1 a.m. on Friday then “broke into the students’ hostels” and “forcefully evacuated” them.

“When they came into the school, we thought they were security personnel, but to our utmost fear and dismay, they started putting the girls into Hilux vehicles and motorcycles then drove out of the school,” the staff member said.

The armed kidnappers fired sporadically during the raid, Zamfara’s information minister told Reuters.

It’s the latest in a string of abductions in northern Nigeria and comes just over a week after gunmen kidnapped 42 people at a boarding school in the north-central state of Niger in an attack that left one student dead. In December, the northwestern state of Katsina saw two mass kidnappings eight days apart.

In a statement issued Friday condemning the attack, UNICEF’s Nigeria representative Peter Hawkins acknowledged the Nigerian government’s efforts to secure the kidnapped students’ release and called on it “and all concerned” to make schools safer.

“This is a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through — one which could have long-lasting effects on their mental health and well-being,” he said.

Amnesty International called the abduction a “serious violation of international humanitarian law” that undermines the right to education for thousands of students in the region. It said the abducted students are at “serious risk of being harmed” and called on authorities to take all measures to ensure the girls’ safe return, along with that of all students still in the custody of armed groups.

Most notoriously, some 100 of the more than 270 schoolgirls abducted by militant Islamist group Boko Haram in 2014 are still missing.

“Education is under attack in northern Nigeria,” Amnesty International tweeted. “Schools should be places of safety, and no child should have to choose between their education and their life. Other children have had to abandon their education after being displaced by frequent violent attacks on their communities.”

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