Connect with us


Brazil turned the coronavirus into a political football, with devastating results – CNBC



Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro adjusts his protective face mask at a press statement during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil, March 20, 2020.

Ueslei Marcelino | Reuters

CNBC is looking at how places around the world have tackled Covid-19. By talking to a wide range of experts, as well as everyday citizens, we’re taking stock of what’s gone well — and what hasn’t.

Brazi, has confirmed more than 2.1 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 80,000 deaths in a population of about 209 million. Brazil’s mortality rate per 100,000 is among the highest in the world. Brazil has struggled with a lack of tests, ventilators and ICU beds in many regions, and its lack of data has made it challenging to understand how quickly the virus is spreading. Dozens of health-care workers have died after getting infected with the virus. The interior of the country is now perceived as particularly vulnerable. 

By way of comparison, the U.S., with about 330 million people, has had more than 3.9 million cases and 143,000 deaths.

What went well 

Grassroots community efforts 

Locals say that many low-income neighborhoods in Brazil, known as favelas, were left to their own devices when it came to Covid-19.

But some took matters into their own hands. In Paraisopolis, Sao Paulo’s largest slum, so-called street presidents helped their neighbors get food, health care and other necessities, and residents converted a public school into a space for people to stay who had tested positive for the virus.

But elsewhere, the virus has continued to spread unabated. Social distancing, particularly in the poorest areas of Brazil, is a near impossible challenge.

“We have a lot of poor families that live in small homes with one bedroom for everyone, making it almost impossible to socially distance,” said Dr. Larissa Fogaca Doretto, a researcher with the Federal University of Sao Paulo. In the state, people of color are 62 percent more likely to die from Covid-19 than their white counterparts. 

Elzauer | Moment | Getty Images

Coordination between public and private hospitals 

In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, public hospitals at the peak of the pandemic almost hit capacity. To prevent widespread chaos, the best private hospitals started to work closely with the hospitals in the poorest parts of the city to share resources, supplies and expertise. The municipal and state health agencies — working with the private sector — also helped open up hospital beds. 

Dr. Sidney Klajner, president of the Albert Einstein Jewish Hospital in Sao Paulo, noted that there’s been a lot more coordination in recent months. His health system donated alcohol, face masks and face shields to more than 100 hospitals in the lower-income areas to help protect health-care workers. It also prepared early for the pandemic. “We were able to transform almost 300 beds to Covid,” he said.

However, in other regions of Brazil, public hospitals have been further strained by the virus and are struggling to access sufficient ICU beds and ventilators, while the hospitals that treat wealthier patients have beds to spare. Many are calling for a national, or federal policy, to coordinate the response. 

The rise of telemedicine

“Telemedicine was barely happening in Brazil,” said Emilio Puschmann, founder of Amparo, a telemedicine and primary care provider based in the country. “There were a few providers running operations, but it was difficult.”

Now, he says, the Ministry of Health has temporarily green-lighted certain forms of virtual medicine to allow doctors to see patients at home.

“With Covid-19, this all changed,” Puschmann said. But he said more quality controls are needed to ensure that low-quality players don’t rush into the market. “Everyone is building software, and it’s difficult for the payers to distinguish between good and bad.”

What’s just OK 

Varied state government responses

In Brazil, the states have stepped up to manage the Covid-19 response. The wealthier ones with more resources at their disposal, like Sao Paulo, tended to perform better than others. And throughout Brazil, the death rate tends to be higher in poorer cities than in richer ones.

In the poorest areas, like the Amazonian city of Manaus, the situation reached a crisis point. There, at a cemetery, thousands from remote areas were buried in group graves after dying while trying to get treatment. Now, concerns are increasing about the south.

Dr. Luisane Vieira, a clinical pathologist based in Brazil, explained: “We feel the pandemic is going south, where winter time is more cold, and to smaller cities, most of them do not have intensive care units, as required.”

An aerial view of a nearly empty Saara region, a large shopping area in the center of the city during a lockdown aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic on March 24, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Buda Mendes | Getty Images

Economic relief 

In late March, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes announced that Brazil’s most vulnerable workers would receive a monthly salary relief of about 600 reais (around $118). That has made a difference, locals say, although it hasn’t been perfectly distributed. According to reports from late May, long queues formed to access the relief.

It’s even more challenging for rural residents, who risk exposure to the coronavirus as they travel to the cities, wait in a busy line, and return home. It’s unclear whether this relief will continue, and for how long. 

What hasn’t gone well so far

Bungled response

Brazil had a lot of potential to manage Covid-19 well, experts say, but it faltered. Instead, President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the virus, even as cases continue to rise.

“Brazil lost a good opportunity to control the pandemic,” said Dr. Paulo Lotufo, director of the Center for Clinical and Epidemiological Research at University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. “In the second week of March, Brazil was in a good position to start social isolation, … and the response of the population was amazing. (But) 10 days later, Bolsonaro went on national television to tell supporters to boycott isolation, saying it was just a little flu.” 

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro was diagnosed with Covid-19 himself. 

Confusion and misinformation 

Employees bury a person who died suspectedly from COVID-19 at the Vila Formosa cemetery, in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 31, 2020.

Nelson Almeida | AFP | Getty Images

Health ministers haven’t lasted long in the job since the onset of the pandemic. Dr. Nelson Teich, an oncologist, quit in late May after a month. He had replaced Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was fired by the president in April after a series of disagreements about the pandemic.

Brazilians say things haven’t changed much since Bolsonaro was diagnosed with the coronavirus, and the messaging is still confusing for many people.

“We are definitely not in a good place in Brazil,” said Natasha Vianna, a writer from Brazil now based in San Francisco. “It was the health ministers who did a good job encouraging people to stay home and wear masks.” 

With the changing of the guard — and the consistent downplaying of the virus on the federal level — Brazilians say that guidelines aren’t as consistent as they could have been.

“We don’t have clear policies,” said Dr. Cristiano Englert, an anesthesiologist and co-founder of a start-up accelerator in Brazil. “And we could have been more prepared.”

“A lot of it is aligned with politics,” added Gary Monk, a British health consultant who has been based in Brazil throughout the pandemic. “Some take it seriously and others are quite relaxed, and there are pro and anti-mask camps.”

Lack of protection for health workers

Covid-19 has spread quickly among health workers, with data indicating that they have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Dr. Antonio Bandeira, director of the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases, estimates that in some regions, as many as 10 percent of people diagnosed with the virus were health workers.

One of the major problems in Brazil, researchers have reported, is insufficient protective equipment and training. Nurses, in particular, have caught the disease and died faster than anyone else in the world, according to a report from late May. 

Lack of testing 

Brazil is not conducting nearly enough tests, its public health officials and clinicians say.

“Brazil is currently testing at around a third of nearby countries like Peru and Chile, which themselves aren’t doing enough,” said Michael Touchton, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami, who helped built a tracker for Covid-19 in the Americas. Without testing data, it’s high challenging for the medical system to reduce exposure and get ahead of potential supply chain shortages. Moreover, locals generally agree that it’s far easier for wealthier people to access tests via drive-through centers. 

“We do not have an adequate program of molecular testing and contact tracing for isolating contacts and COVID-19 patients,” said Vieira. “We are among the countries in the world that have tested less.”

Treatment of Indigenous people 

Health professionals administer a COVID-19 test to a Guarani indigenous woman at a Health Care indigenous post at the Sao Mata Verde Bonita tribe camp, in Guarani indigenous land, in Marica, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, on July 2, 2020.


“The Indigenous population has been in dire straits,” said Touchton.

As he explained, there hasn’t been adequate medical care for sick people. And The New York Times is reporting that the limited support provided to communities from the federal government may have done more harm than good. The report indicates that thousands of people likely originally caught the virus from medical workers who were sent out to these remote areas without adequate protective equipment. At least 500 indigenous people have died since the onset of the pandemic.

The response — or lack thereof — to Indigenous people is part of a broader policy of neglect toward the region.

“The administration has made it a cornerstone of their environmental policy to mine and log their way through the rainforest,” Touchton said. 

Vulnerable population without access to health care 

In theory, Brazil could have been set up for success. Its health system, SUS, serves about 80 percent of the population.

But that system has been increasingly overwhelmed by the virus. The lack of enforcement around masks and social distancing is particularly troublesome, experts say, when the health system isn’t designed to serve a massive influx of sick people. That becomes even more challenging with the high proportion of people with preexisting conditions, which puts them at risk for more severe outcomes.

“A lot of people don’t have access to primary care,” said Klajner. “They aren’t on the correct meds for their hypertension and diabetes, and they get seen in the health-care system too late.”

A COVID-19 patient undergoes an operation at the Oceanico hospital in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro on June 22, 2020.

Carl de Souza | AFP | Getty Images

Boosting hydroxychloroquine 

Brazil’s health authorities have pushed the unproven antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, despite increasing scientific evidence that it’s not effective as a treatment for the coronavirus.

U.S. President Donald Trump touted the drug, claiming at one point to be using it himself as a preventative measure. Bolsonaro likewise endorsed hydroxychloroquine, even going so far as to post a video of himself washing it down with water after declaring that he had been infected with the virus.

Bolsonaro’s critics have expressed concerns that this behavior would encourage more people to take the drug, and resist precautions to avoid getting sick. 

How Brazil scores overall: 3/10

We asked every expert we spoke to for their score out of 10. (1 is the extremely poor and 10 is ideal.) It’s an extremely subjective measurement, but the average across all of them was 3.

‘”I would give the response from society a 9 or even a 10,” said Bandeira, the infectious disease expert. “And I’d give many of the states a high number. But I’d give the federal government a 1 or a 2.”

“I’d give Brazil a 2 because there is a country in the Americas that has done worse — and that’s Nicaragua,” said Touchton. “At least in Brazil, the states and municipal governments have taken up the mantle of responsibility and tried to fill the gap.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link


Three New Books by Women in the American Political Sphere – The New York Times



My Journey From Refugee to Congresswoman
By Ilhan Omar
275 pp. Dey Street. $27.99.

“I am still trying to figure out where I fit in,” Omar writes in the prologue to her memoir. During her childhood in Somalia, her four years in a Kenyan refugee camp and her adolescence in Minneapolis, Omar felt at odds with her peers: as a tomboy, as the child of parents from two different Somali clans and as a teenager caught between American dating culture and family expectations of modesty. Adulthood brought more barriers to belonging. Somali elders in Minnesota opposed Omar’s entry into politics, deeming it an unsuitable venture for a woman. After she won her first political campaign — “the most painful and joyous thing I’ve ever done outside of giving birth” — a fellow legislator mocked her hijab. “This Is What America Looks Like” is the origin story of a leader who, finding no set path that would take a person like her to the places she wanted to go, was forced, and free, to chart her own.

The memoir offers breathing room for Omar, who has been the target of racist attacks and whose history-making tenure in Congress has been marked by disputes with colleagues, especially over their support for Israel, in the claustrophobic confines of Twitter threads. Her efforts to deter further outrage are evident throughout the book, which barely touches topics that have inflamed her critics. (She explains her criticism of Israel by quoting from a 2019 op-ed she published in The Washington Post.) But, with unrepentant recollections of schoolyard brawls with bullies, Omar bolsters her image as a scrapper constitutionally incapable of backing down. “Fighting didn’t feel like a choice,” she writes. “It was a part of me.”

The hardships Omar has endured in her adopted home country, which she recounts in unsparing detail, make a strong argument for the value of diversity in public office. Unfamiliar with the landscape of American higher education, she enrolled in an unaccredited college that didn’t give her adequate financial aid. Later, she struggled to cope with an unplanned pregnancy and her role as her family’s sole breadwinner and caregiver. These are common experiences in this country, but ones that remain unfamiliar to a large majority of federal legislators. The Somali-American congresswoman who fled a war zone overseas may be more representative of the average American than her colleagues who’ve lived here since birth.

Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy
By Tiffany D. Cross
240 pp. Amistad. $23.99.

A free press works as a pillar of democracy only to the degree that it reflects the society it covers. So argues Cross, a political analyst, in this lively memoir and polemic, which traces the history of white media from Southern newspapers that facilitated lynchings in the early 20th century — precursors to Breitbart, Cross says — to the CNN newsroom she entered in the early 2000s, where white colleagues bonded over cultural references she didn’t share. Cross insists that, by ignoring Black perspectives and misrepresenting Black lives, the American press has never fully served its purpose as a driver of informed civic engagement. “If, as The Washington Post declares, democracy dies in darkness, it also dies in whiteness,” she writes.

“Say It Louder!” doesn’t offer much in the way of original reporting. Instead, Cross aggregates several generations’ worth of media trends — under-covering voter suppression, blaming the victims of police killings for their own deaths — to show how the industry has failed to earn Black Americans’ trust. Cross’s straight talk might be hard for some news editors and pundits to hear, but she makes clear that it’s in the country’s best interest for them to listen: In 2016, hungry for public voices that reflected and affirmed their lives, Black voters were especially vulnerable to Russian social media postings aimed at keeping them home on Election Day.

While Cross’s sense of the media’s impact on individual candidates may be exaggerated, her proposed solutions are practicable and wise. Pollsters should retire the imprecise concept of “the Black vote” with larger sample sizes and more disaggregation of Black respondents; journalists should spend less time parsing the “full-on minstrel show” of Black Trump supporters, who make up a vanishingly small proportion of Black voters. As for politicians, Cross’s book could be a wake-up call for those whose careers hinge on Black support — including Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who in May said Black voters “ain’t Black” if they’re still deciding between him and Trump. The way Cross tells it, taking Black voters for granted is the fastest way to lose them: “Black people are not loyal to any particular political party; Black people are loyal to ourselves.”

Becoming a Warrior in the Battle for True Equality
By Katie Hill
304 pp. Grand Central. $28.

Hill, a former congressional representative from California, has written her political manifesto as a battle plan. In this impassioned introduction to the gender inequities of 21st-century America, women are warriors, the battlefield is our lives and the mission is a policy agenda somewhat myopically aligned with bills Hill supported during her months in Congress. Early in “She Will Rise,” Hill grapples with the possibility that her resignation — in response to the publication of intimate photos of her with a campaign staffer — will discourage other young women from entering politics. (Hill maintains that her estranged husband leaked the photos; he claims he was hacked.)

Despite the strides made against de jure sexism in the past century, Hill argues, women’s lives remain hemmed in by policies — and, in some cases, a lack thereof — devised by men. Her solution is simple: “We should vote for women … *gasp* BECAUSE THEY ARE WOMEN.”

Her whirlwind recap of past feminist movements can be reductive, and her liberal use of the first-person plural — “when we are assaulted … our minds are already warped to the point that we are afraid it’s our fault if a man hurts us” — suggests a commonality of experience at odds with contemporary feminist thought. But if Hill’s intended audience is politically disaffected young women who could be nudged into action by a dismal cascade of data points, “She Will Rise” makes a decent primer. Hill heads off familiar lines of skepticism with frank explanations for why some women need abortions later in pregnancy, why rape survivors don’t always file police reports and why women often stay with perpetrators of domestic abuse. The last is a struggle Hill knows well; her personal revelations ground that chapter’s statistics in the urgency of real life.

Yet her self-reflection doesn’t extend to the scandal that prompted her book. Hill brushes off her relationship with the staffer as a “gray area” that can’t be explained in the “zero-tolerance” terms of the #MeToo movement, and insists that her husband constrained her social circles so completely that her campaign was her only outlet for intimacy. Her unwillingness to call her relationship with the staffer what it was — an unambiguous ethical violation — is all the more glaring in light of the book’s premise: that women in office conduct themselves better than the men who outnumber them.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to step down after 17 years in politics



Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced Thursday he will step down.

McNeil was first elected in 2003 as MLA for Annapolis and has been premier since 2013.

“Seventeen years is a long time,” he said at a media availability that was broadcast live following a cabinet meeting, “and it’s long enough.”

McNeil said he had made the decision to resign prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but he reconsidered when the virus arrived in Nova Scotia in March.

“All of those plans were put on hold, and I gave this my all. I spent five weeks here without ever getting home to my own property and my own home. [I was] away from my family because I was working with Public Health and with our team to try to get control of it.”

McNeil said he will continue to act as premier and Liberal Party leader until the party chooses a replacement. He said he expected a leadership campaign to take months. Nova Scotia does not have fixed election dates but is due for an election by 2022.

“We’re at a position right now where I felt the window for me to — I either had to say I was going, or I was too late.”

The long-serving politician is in his second term of a majority government. He said he feels two terms is a long time for one person to hold that responsibility and for the province to have the same leader.


McNeil makes a campaign stop at a farmers’ market in Bedford, N.S., in May 2017. (The Canadian Press)


‘This is not a lifelong career’

Before announcing his resignation, McNeil gave a seven-minute speech rounding up his time in office and took questions from reporters for more than 30 minutes.

McNeil said he didn’t pursue politics with the ambition to become party leader or premier.

“I ran in the first case wanting to change the community and help support the community I live in, one that I was raised in and one where our kids were raised,” he said.

Before being elected as MLA for his rural community, McNeil owned and operated a small appliance repair business.

When he was first elected, the Liberals were the third-ranking party in the province behind the governing Progressive Conservatives and opposition NDP.

McNeil was leader when the party became the Official Opposition in 2009, and then defeated the governing New Democrats in 2013 to form a majority government.


McNeil at his campaign headquarters in Bridgetown, N.S., on election night in 2013 after winning the provincial election. McNeil is joined by his children, Colleen and Jeffrey, and his wife Andrea. (Mike Dembeck/The Canadian Press)


“I spent the last six years doing what I think is in the best interest of all Nova Scotians,” he said Thursday.

McNeil touched on some of the polarizing decisions he and his government have made, including imposing contracts on several public-sector unions.

“Of course we all remember the unions rallying around Province House. That wasn’t an easy time. We asked our public-sector unions to take less — not take nothing, just take less.”

He connected those spending decisions to his government’s track record for balancing the budget, which is a point of pride often touted by McNeil. His government’s latest budget, passed in March, was balanced at the time before being blown apart by COVID-19.



Health care was a hot-button issue in Nova Scotia even before the pandemic, with constant criticism from opposition parties about McNeil’s handling of a shortage of physicians and scrutiny of plans to redevelop the province’s largest hospital system.

In his remarks Thursday, McNeil highlighted that his government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the hospital project.

McNeil said he celebrated his 17th anniversary in elected office on Wednesday.

“I love this job. I’ve enjoyed every day of it, and every day I’m inspired by the people of this province. But this is not a lifelong career.”

McNeil said he doesn’t have any plans lined up for when he steps away from public office.


McNeil at a recent COVID-19 press briefing. (Communications Nova Scotia)


A ‘historic day’

Leaders from both of the province’s opposition parties offered well wishes to McNeil in statements after his announcement.

“The premier and his family deserve thanks for their sacrifices during a life dedicated to public service. Seventeen years is a long time at any job. Seventeen years as an elected official serving our province is a remarkable accomplishment,” said Tim Houston, leader of the Official Opposition Progressive Conservatives.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said Thursday marked a “historic day.”

“I have valued the opportunity to debate Premier McNeil on the issues that matter most to people in our communities. Although we have frequently differed over the path forward for our province, we have enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect.”

Once McNeil officially steps down, the 55-year-old will immediately qualify for a $120,000-a-year pension.


McNeil gets a kiss from a supporter at his election night celebration in Bridgetown, N.S., in 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)



Source: –

Source link

Continue Reading


It’s not about politics, but it should be about respect – Sarnia Observer



WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 05: Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) removes his face mask before the start a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Oversight of the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation” on Capitol Hill on August 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Crossfire Hurricane was an FBI counterintelligence investigation relating to contacts between Russian officials and associates of Donald Trump. (Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

I don’t often hear “Dad you got that right”, but when I do, I’m often overwhelmed with a sense of smug satisfaction.

Last week it was involving a variety of a derangement syndrome that I’ve known about for some time. It usually involves left-leaning Canadians, obsessed with something going on in the United States and making their observations known in the snarkiest manner possible. I call it the shadow side of the overly-polite Canadian cliche.

Last weekend, one of my daughters posted a photo of my granddaughter on social media. She wasn’t wearing a mask because she didn’t need to. But a troll apparently appeared out of the Great White North announcing: “Stupid American!”

My other daughter posted a photo of a doctor’s visit, and she was wearing a mask. Someone on social media responded: “One of the only intelligent Americans.”

The author of these insults was no one we cared to hear from. Before she decided to lob these barbs toward my grandchildren, we hadn’t spoken for the better part of 20 years.

Long ago, my father was at a business dinner near Toronto. One of the other guests decided to lecture dad on

American politics. Vietnam, Nixon, whatever. This guy was an expert and truly looked down on his American neighbours. For the hell of it, and since it was Election Day in Canada, my dad asked the guy who he voted for.

Stammering a bit, the man had apparently forgotten to vote. As improbable as it sounds, my dad swears it was true.

I see this fixation more than a bit. We call it Trump Derangement Syndrome. It’s where hatred of the president is so intense that one’s judgement gets completely distorted. I’ve known for a while that there is a Canadian strain. As a result I’ve opted out of communicating with a number of Canadian relatives when they won’t back off. When they start insulting the president, I ask them whether they don’t have enough problems in Ottawa to worry about Washington.

Indeed, Prime Minister Trudeau has made enough gaffes on the world stage to get the attention of many Americans.

The weird thing is that, in Southern California where I live, we don’t think about Canadian politics at all. And we don’t learn much about Canada. We know Canada has been a good ally to Americans. Many of us don’t know that Canada went to war in 1939. And many don’t realize that the initial population of Ontario and New Brunswick were Loyalists who sided with Britain in the American Revolutionary War.

Many don’t know that troops from Canada burned the White House during the War of 1812.

Many Americans don’t know that 20,000 or more Canadians joined our fight in Viet Nam, while other Canadians provided a sanctuary for American draft dodgers.

And many Americans may not realize that, immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York City and elsewhere in the U.S., Canadian troops joined Americans in Afghanistan.

But it works both ways. When the horrible Halifax Explosion occurred during the First World War, Boston was Johnny on the spot with help.

It’s not about politics. It’s about respect.

Americans don’t care about what you think of our politics, and most of us could care less about Canadian politics.

Greg Scharf was born in Sarnia and lives in Southern California

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading