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The New York Times

Black Voters Want President Biden to Take a Cue From Candidate Biden

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Joe Biden went to the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in South Carolina in late February, before the state’s presidential primary, and listened as the Rev. Isaac J. Holt Jr. delivered a message of encouragement.”You’re going to win,” Holt said he told Biden privately, a political prophecy that was fulfilled in the coming days.Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York TimesNow Holt, the pastor of one of Charleston’s largest Black congregations, has another message for Biden as he plans for his incoming administration: “Biden owes us. And we have not forgotten.”Black voters have a political marriage of convenience with the Democratic Party. They are at once the party’s most solid voting demographic and deeply frustrated by the lack of systemic change its politicians have delivered for them.In South Carolina, the state that helped propel Biden to the Democratic nomination and where about half the Democratic electorate is Black, voters complain of receiving campaign promises from politicians while they are running but not being prioritized once they are elected.There are similar grievances among voters in cities like Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia — hubs of general-election campaigning in key swing states — who have grown used to the silence that follows presidential election years.In their telling, attention quickly shifts to midterm races in gerrymandered, Republican-leaning congressional districts, and the Black voters who helped Democrats ascend to the White House are sometimes discarded. Their issues are too divisive. Their needs are too great.Biden has insisted that this time will be different, and people like Holt are taking him at his word. Last month, in his victory speech after becoming president-elect, Biden cited Black voters specifically, alluding to those who rallied around him in South Carolina after his primary campaign flopped in other early-voting states.”Especially at those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me,” Biden said. “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”But who defines political priorities for Black voters, and what does it mean to have their back?Leading Black politicians, civil rights leaders, activists and many of the same South Carolina church leaders Biden leaned on to turn his campaign around all said in interviews that it was important to address the coronavirus pandemic. But they also raised issues that ran the gamut of liberal policy initiatives, from investing in small businesses and historically Black colleges and universities to tackling student debt and climate change.Many also pushed back against the singular focus on racial representation that has dominated debates over Biden’s transition team and Cabinet picks. Having a Cabinet that reflects the racial diversity of America is good, they said. But they added that Biden’s legacy on race would be judged on his willingness to pursue policy changes that address systemic racism — a standard he has set for himself.”What he’s got to do, in my opinion, is to depart from the tradition,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn, a powerful South Carolina Democrat who is the highest-ranking Black member of the House. “What is getting us in trouble in the past is when people get into office, they abandon the platform they ran on” in favor of appeasing Republicans, he said.The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, cited a commitment Biden had made during a public forum to prioritize eliminating poverty and addressing the concerns of poor people.Live up to that, he said, and a cross-racial section of marginalized Americans, including Black people, will have their lives transformed.”We certainly want to see a Cabinet that looks like America. But more important, we want to see a Cabinet that works for America,” Barber said. “And not just the middle class. And not just the so-called working class. But from the bottom up.”In effect, they are asking President Biden to take a cue from candidate Biden. During the primary and general election, and under pressure from activists who cast Biden as an artifact of the political past, his team embraced a plan for Black Americans called “Lift Every Voice,” which would seek to close the Black-white income gap, expand educational opportunities, invest $70 billion in historically black colleges and universities, and reimagine the criminal justice system and policing.Biden’s selection of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the first Black woman on a major party ticket, was — with the campaign’s encouragement — taken as a symbolic affirmation of these commitments. Former President Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president, had to assure white America he would be a president for all races. But Biden repeatedly asserted that Black communities would get special attention in his administration.Black political leaders believe that the biggest barrier to Biden’s commitment to address systemic racism is his own instinct for compromise, bipartisanship and deference to the idea of Washington civility. Biden has consistently restated his belief that congressional Republicans will work with his administration in due time, though some of them continue to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory, and President Donald Trump shows no signs of loosening his grip on the party’s base.”Bipartisanship is how the president-elect and vice president-elect plan to get things done from day one,” said Ramzey Smith, a spokesperson for Biden’s transition team. “They’ve made it abundantly clear that in order to combat the systemic inequities that Black Americans have faced for generations, it is imperative to work across the aisle and engage with all groups to reach a consensus that doesn’t compromise our principles or priorities.”Some Black leaders who have met with Biden and Harris during the transition have been frustrated by this sentiment, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Biden, the leader of the Democratic Party, is one of the few Democrats left who believes that the Republicans who reflexively opposed Obama’s every action and have been slow to acknowledge Biden’s legitimacy are simply an aberration.Leaders are asking him to consider unilateral action like executive orders to enact his agenda, claiming that Washington horse-trading has rarely prioritized the needs of Black communities. Biden has been steadfast: Republicans will come around.”We will see if he’s right, and we’ll see very shortly,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., who has met with the Biden transition team. “If he’s not, we’ll also see it very shortly. It’s perfectly fine to be hopeful. But certainly you should be fully prepared to pivot and to be effective.”Even vocal allies of Biden say his ability to rise to the standards he set for himself, particularly when it comes to racial equity and a Black agenda, may rely on his willingness to see Republicans as obstructionists to be overcome, not negotiators to be met at a midpoint.Clyburn, whose well-timed endorsement of Biden in South Carolina helped ensure his dominance in the state, said Biden must learn from the mistakes made by previous Democratic leaders, including Obama.He cited Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland, whom Republicans refused to even grant a hearing, as an example.Republicans “lied to him and told him that if he put up a moderate, they will approve him for the Supreme Court,” Clyburn said. “They never did it, and they never planned to do it.”I told them at the time that you will be better off putting up an African American woman for the Supreme Court,” he added. “If you put up a Black woman, she would have an immediate constituency. Make them turn her down. He would have redefined politics in this country, and frankly, I think Hillary Clinton would have been elected president.”The Rev. Joseph A. Darby Jr., the senior pastor at Nichols Chapel AME Church in Charleston and a former leader of the local NAACP, said he had been heartened by Biden’s Cabinet choices, including that of retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who would be the first Black man to lead the Defense Department.”Just having new folks at the table is helpful,” Darby said. “But it’s that plus the substance.”The stakes could not be higher. Black people sit at the intersection of the year’s biggest policy priorities: access to health care, criminal justice and the climate change crisis. Black Americans have been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, dying, being hospitalized and facing economic devastation at disproportionate rates.In Darby’s congregation, a mother and her child both died from the virus. Holt’s congregation has not been able to convene since March, just weeks after Biden spoke from the pulpit as a candidate.Last week, in an interview at his church, Holt made another of his patented political predictions: If Biden does not follow through on his promises to Black people — does not make eroding systemic racism a priority in deed, not just words — Republicans will make gains with Black voters.He cited the modest shift toward Trump in November’s election among some Black voters and the increasingly nonpartisan nature of younger Black people. Those are warning signs, he said.”The party system is not something that fits the Black community as a whole,” Holt said. “We’re tired of Democrats, and we’re tired of the two-party system.”Some of Holt’s congregants, at a socially distant gathering in the sanctuary they had not visited in months, echoed their pastor’s urgency. Although they expressed confidence in Biden and said they all voted for him in the primary and general elections, they framed their choice as a call for action rather than a blank check of trust.”He can’t get stuck on healing hearts,” said Shakeima Chatman, 46, a real estate agent. “But he can institute policies and regulation.”What gave them hope: that Biden was comfortable among Black voters on the campaign trail and the loyalty he showed to Obama as his vice president.What worried them: that he favorably invoked segregationists in the name of bipartisanship, that he said Black people who did not support him “ain’t Black,” and that he told wealthy donors at a fundraiser that “nothing would fundamentally change” if he was elected.For Black communities, it must.”Policies created these disparities,” said Cleo Scott Brown, who is 66. “Policy has to fix it.”This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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Vaccines donated by the United States and China

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Both the United States and China have pledged large donations of COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world. Washington has promised 80 million doses, three-quarters of which will be delivered via the international vaccine initiative COVAX, in what has been seen as an effort to counter China’s widening vaccine diplomacy. It began deliveries last week.

China had shipped vaccines to 66 countries in the form of aid, according to state news agency Xinhua. Beijing has not disclosed an overall figure for its donations but Reuters calculations based on publicly available data show at least 16.57 million doses have been delivered. China has also pledged to supply 10 million doses to COVAX.

VACCINES DONATED BY U.S. (plan for the first 25 mln):

Regional partners and priority recipients

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Including Canada, Mexico, 1 mln to S.Korea in June

South Korea, West Bank and

Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo,

Haiti, Georgia, Egypt,

Jordan, India, Iraq, Yemen,

United Nations

TOTAL 6 mln 1 mln

Allocations through COVAX

South and Central America

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Brazil, Argentina, Colombia,

Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador,

Paraguay, Bolivia,

Guatemala, El Salvador,

Honduras, Panama, Haiti,

Dominican Republic and other

Caribbean Community

(CARICOM) countries

TOTAL 6 mln

Asia

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

India, Nepal, Bangladesh,

Pakistan, Sri Lanka,

Afghanistan, Maldives,

Malaysia, Philippines,

Vietnam, Indonesia,

Thailand, Laos, Papua New

Guinea, Taiwan, and the

Pacific Islands

TOTAL 7 mln

Africa

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

To be selected in

coordination with the

African Union

TOTAL 5 mln

VACCINES DONATED BY CHINA (source – Reuters calculations and official data):

Asia Pacific

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Afghanistan 400,000

Bangladesh Second batch of First batch of 500,000 delivered

600,000 on May 12

Brunei 52,000 in Feb

Cambodia 1.7 mln as of April 28

Kyrgyzstan 150,000 in March

Laos 300,000 in Feb

800,000 in late March

300,000 in late April

Maldives 200,000 in early March

Mongolia 300,000 in late February

Myanmar 500,000 in early May

Nepal 800,000 in late March

1 mln in early June

Pakistan 500,000 in early Feb

250,000 in Feb

500,000 in March

Philippines 600,000 in late Feb

400,000 in late March

Sri Lanka 600,000 at end March

500,000 in late May

Thailand 500,000 in May

500,000 in June

Timor-Leste 100,000 100,000 in early June

TOTAL 11.052 million

Africa

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Angola 200,000 in late March

Algeria 200,000 200,000 in Feb

Botswana 200,000 in April

Cameroon 200,000 in April

Congo 100,000 100,000 in March

Egypt 600,000 in March

Ethiopia 300,000 in late March

Equatorial Guinea 100,000 in Feb

Guinea 200,000 in early March

Mozambique 200,000 in late Feb

Namibia 100,000 by early April

Niger 400,000 in late March

Sierra Leone 240,000 by late May

Togo 200,000 in April

Uganda 300,000

Zimbabwe 200,000 in Feb

200,000 in March

100,000 in May

TOTAL 3.74 million

South America

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Bolivia 100,000 in late Feb

100,000 in late March

Venezuela 500,000 in early March

TOTAL 700,000

Europe & Middle East

COUNTRY/TERRITORY PLEDGED DELIVERED

Belarus 100,000 in Feb

300,000 in May

Georgia 100,000 at end April

Iran 250,000 at end February

Iraq 50,000 in early March

Montenegro 30,000 in early March

North Macedonia 100,000 in May

Syria 150,000 in late April

TOTAL 1.08 million

 

(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo in Beijing and Cooper Inveen in Dakar; Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare, Asif Shahzad in Islamabad, Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Coronavirus Worldwide right now

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Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus now:

Australia’s Melbourne to exit lockdown

Australia’s second largest city Melbourne will exit a hard lockdown as planned on Thursday night, Victoria state authorities said, although some restrictions on travel and gatherings would likely remain for another week.

After two weeks in a strict lockdown that forced people to remain at home except for essential business, Melbourne’s five million residents will get more freedom to step outside from 11:59 p.m. local time (1359 GMT) on Thursday.

However, people must stay within 25 km (15 miles) of their homes, officials said, in an effort to stop transmission during an upcoming long weekend. There will also be a total ban on house gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors.

Deliveries of Thai-made AstraZeneca vaccines delayed

Malaysia and Taiwan are expecting deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Thailand to be delayed, officials said, the latest countries to report a holdup with orders from the Thai plant.

The delay comes amid concerns over AstraZeneca’s distribution plans in Southeast Asia, which depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.

Any questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner. Insulting Thailand’s monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Indonesia aims to speed up vaccinations

President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday he hoped Indonesia’s vaccination rollout will hit one million shots a day by July, as authorities opened up inoculations to anyone aged over 18 in Jakarta to contain increased transmission in the capital.

Health officials in the world’s fourth most populous country, which aims to vaccinate 181.5 million people by next year, are trying to speed up the rollout after facing some supply issues.

The president said he wanted vaccinations to hit a targeted 700,000 doses a day this month and then rise again.

Singapore finds Delta most prevalent among variants

Singapore has found the Delta variant of the coronavirus to be the most prevalent among local cases of variants of concern (VOCs), according to health ministry data, highlighting its level of infectiousness.

There were 449 local cases with VOCs as of May 31, of which 428 were the Delta variant first detected in India and nine of the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Singapore reported its 34th death due to COVID-19, taking its toll from the pandemic beyond the 33 casualties recorded during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak.

U.S. forming expert groups on lifting travel restrictions

The Biden administration is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to determine how best to safely restart travel after 15 months of pandemic restrictions, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Another U.S. official said the administration will not move quickly to lift orders that bar people from much of the world from entering the United States because of the time it will take for the groups to do their work.

The groups will be led by the White House COVID Response Team and the National Security Council and include the Centers for Disease Control and other U.S. agencies.

 

(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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