Sunday, March 29, 2020

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Opinion: Who Will Win the Fight for a Post-Coronavirus America?

 By Rebecca Solnit
Every disaster shakes loose the old order. What replaces it is up to us.
The scramble has already begun. The possibilities for change, for the better or the worse, for a more egalitarian or more authoritarian society, burst out of the gate like racehorses at times like these.
Progressive and conservative politicians are pitching proposals to radically alter American society, to redistribute wealth, to change the rules, to redefine priorities. The pandemic has given the Trump administration an excuse to try to shut down borders and, reportedly, a pretext to try to secure the unconstitutional capacity to detain people indefinitely. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, among others, has made the case for reducing the prison population, whose crowding in poor conditions constitutes a health risk — for freeing people, rather than the opposite, in response to the crisis. Other progressives have sought to expand workers’ rights, sick leave and implement other policies that would improve lives even in ordinary times. Social programs long said to be impossible may well come to pass; so could authoritarian measures.
Every disaster shakes loose the old order: The sudden catastrophe changes the rules and demands new and different responses, but what those will be are the subject of a battle. These disruptions shift people’s sense of who they and their society are, what matters and what’s possible, and lead, often, to deeper and more lasting change, sometimes to regime change. Many disasters unfold like revolutions; the past gives us many examples of calamities that led to lasting national change.
The catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans generated just such a power struggle. Conservatives won some things as the city ruined by the failure of levees was rebuilt: All New Orleans public schools became charter schools, and the city’s huge housing projects — which had survived the inundation largely intact — were torn down, displacing thousands of impoverished residents. But the city also cleaned up some of the corruption in its justice and prison system, made improvements in its evacuation plans and began to address its long-term vulnerability to flooding via more ecologically sound water policies and infrastructure. The changes weren’t just local. The George W. Bush administration four years earlier had used Sept. 11 — another calamity — as a pretext to strip Americans of their civil liberties, to conduct a pair of wars that were themselves humanitarian, diplomatic and economic catastrophes, and to amplify its own authority. In fact you can see the administration’s response to Sept. 11 as a struggle primarily not to subjugate terrorists or battle distant regimes, but the American public. It did so by instilling fear, chipping away at rights, demonizing Muslims, expanding its powers and using wartime ideas of patriotism to quell dissent. The failure to prevent the Al Qaeda attacks could have discredited the regime; the regime was trying, as regimes often do, to shore up its authority.
That authority came crumbling down with the administration’s callous and incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina, particularly to the stranding of New Orleanians, mostly poor and mostly black, in their flooded city. (Two days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and put 80 percent of New Orleans underwater, Bush said, “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees,” videotape of him being warned of that possibility a day before the catastrophe later hit the media.) The outrage over the response undermined the Bush administration’s mandate to govern. “Katrina to me was the tipping point. The president broke his bond with the public,” Bush pollster Matthew Dowd said. “I was like, man, you know, this is it, man. We’re done.” It ended the post-Sept. 11 era of deference to this particular authority — and some argue that by exposing the festering racism in American society, it strengthened the case for electing a black president a few years later.
“This is our Chernobyl,” a doctor in New York City said recently. He seemed to mean that not only were medical staff front-line workers in grave danger, but also that institutional authorities were in the process of failing civil society, as Soviet hierarchies all the way up to the Kremlin did in the 1986 disaster of a nuclear meltdown that spewed radiation internationally and contaminated hundreds of square miles of Ukraine for millenniums to come. The man at the top of that hierarchy, Mikhail Gorbachev, reflected years later: “The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point.”
Managua, Nicaragua, in 1972 and Mexico City in 1985 both suffered major earthquakes after which the corrupt and venal government response prompted long-term change. The Somoza dictatorship seized more powers in the wake of the Nicaraguan disaster, but in so doing it strengthened the case for the Sandinista revolution that swept it away later in the decade. In the wake of the quake in the Mexican capital, made worse by corruption in the enforcement of building codes beforehand and in the distribution of relief and rescuing the trapped afterward, public dissatisfaction with the one-party government boiled over. (In one instance, the police provided support for a sweatshop owner who wanted to rescue his equipment from a collapsed building but not the seamstresses trapped inside; this concern for property and profit over human life is often one of the flash points for ensuing political conflict.) A seamstresses’ union, a housing rights movement for the displaced and challenges to one-party rule were among the results.
Disasters test regimes. Some fail the test. Incompetence, indifference and self-interest are easy to see in the stark light of an emergency. People whose lives have been thrown into turmoil are no longer cautious or deferential, and no longer accept the inevitability of a status quo that is already in disarray. Things that seemed impossible have already happened — in our case, much of the economy has shut down, much of the population has suspended its ordinary activities, and sweeping new social programs (canceling student debt, for example) suddenly seem within reach.
There are no simple rules for when disaster becomes insurrection. Strong public outrage at the ruling party and its response is one factor; recognition of the possibility of deep and lasting change is another; and of course, how the story of what happened takes shape — who deserves credit or blame — yet another.
No one knows yet what will come out of this crisis. But like so many other disasters, this one has revealed how interconnected we are; how much we depend on the labor and good will of others; how deeply enmeshed we are in social, ecological and economic systems; and how prevention or survival of something as deeply, bodily personal as a disease depends on our collective decisions and those of our leadership.
It has also revealed how squalid the Trump administration’s selfishness is; early reports suggested — and a presidential tweet on Wednesday reiterated — that Mr. Trump viewed the pandemic as primarily about how it would affect his re-election chances and sought to minimize it for his own sake rather than respond to it as we needed. Most recently he and the Republican congressional leadership have aimed a bailout package at large corporations rather than citizens and, while fumbling delivery of urgently needed medical supplies, made proposals focused on keeping the market strong rather than human beings safe.
Will this catastrophe bring back the social safety nets we’ve been gutting for 40 years? Will it make the case for universal health care? Will a universal basic income seem like a more reasonable idea? As consumer spending free-falls while whole populations stay home, will we redefine what is necessary and important and how people’s needs are met? Will addressing climate change seem different in a world where air travel and consumption of consumer goods and of fossil fuel has been significantly curtailed, a world in which it is more possible to imagine sweeping change because so much is already altered?
No one has the answers to these kinds of questions yet, because what so many disasters tell us is that the outcome is not foreordained. It depends on what we do, and that depends on how we read what’s happening and what we value and how that changes in a time of stunning upheaval. Along with the struggle to overcome a disaster comes a struggle to define what it means. The two struggles are inseparable, and out of them a new order emerges.

Video Report - #CoronaUpdate - CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS 3/29/2020

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Nashenas _ زخوشرابی.یم.شیخه سه.راسره.جنگ.کری.برخی ازلی.دی.کاشیکی.مادزان.پرنگ کری.

#CoronaInPakistan - It is Sindh government’s responsibility that not a single deserving citizen remains hungry, Chairman PPP

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that he will not tolerate any shortfall in terms of assistance to the those who are dealing with the consequences of the pandemic.

He directed the Sindh government and said that it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that not a single citizen goes hungry.

He expressed these views in a meeting held at Bilawal House Karachi, regarding the mechanism of assistance to those who depend on daily wages.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Imtiaz Shaikh, Murtaza Sahab attended while Saeed Ghani and Harris Gazdar participated via video link.
On Sunday, in consultation with Sindh leadership, a detailed consultation was held on identifying deserving persons and plans to access them with targeted relief activities.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was informed by Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah about the performance of the government in this regard.

On the occasion, the PPP Chairman directed the Sindh government to arrive at the house of every single deserving person and provide them with rations.

He also stressed the need of creating a system that would help the government, welfare organisations and philanthropists work in a coordinated manner to maximize relief efforts.
In this regard, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari directed the Sindh government to immediately consult with the donors and officials of welfare agencies, and to reach out to philanthropists to formulate a joint action plan.

The Chairman, in a message to philanthropists and officials of welfare agencies, said that the Sindh government has carved out a plan of action and that their help was needed to make it successful. He said that charity and welfare organizations could be more effective by working with the Sindh government.

Speaking on the occasion, the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also said, ‘I call on everyone to help thy neighbor. This is a time of global crisis and it requires us to unite in our humanity. We are stronger together and must lift everyone else with us.’

The PPP Chairman added that we all had to be united to overcome and control this crisis.
He told the cabinet members of the Sindh government that the Sindh government should have a full plan in case the lockdown is prolonged.

He appealed to the public to fully comply with the lockdown, because only with the complete implementation of the lockdown can we cope with the coronavirus epidemic.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the most important thing for him is to secure the lives of his people.

He directed the Sindh government to carry out maximum screening of the suspected coronavirus patients in Sindh so that we could save more lives.

“Our doctors at Corona Emergency Centers and Hospitals are risking their lives to keep ours safe. They deserve all the credit in the world.”

He applauded doctors and other medical staffs for their fearless services.

Coronavirus Crisis In Pakistan Has Exposed The Hollowness Of Populism

Raza Rumi
After weeks of inertia, confused decision-making and contradictory signals, the federal government appears to have realized the urgency of tackling the coronavirus pandemic that is threatening millions of lives worldwide and has set into motion a global recession. It took media pressure, the emergency measures by provinces and ultimately an intervention by the armed forces to move the country towards a state of lockdown.
Prime minister Imran Khan is still not fully convinced about lockdowns and his confused messaging has not been helpful in the recent weeks. PM Khan has a valid point about the economic hardship and the impact of shutting down businesses on the economy. Other governments have been grappling with the same dilemma. However, the lessons from Italy, Iran, the UK and more recently the United States are clear: suppressing the outbreak of the pandemic is the only way forward. Otherwise there is immense human cost and the prospect of a collapsed health system.
What is happening in Pakistan is not different from the experiences of countries where populist rhetoric couched in denialism, half-truths is being exposed for its futility during a crisis. Whether it is the United States, India, Brazil, the Philippines or Pakistan, high sounding political oratory is unable to confront a pandemic. PM Khan is not too different from his counterparts elsewhere. They all started with not taking the pandemic seriously, downplayed what the scientists, epidemiologists and experts were saying and acted when public opinion started turning against them. Even in the ‘action’ phase they have been berating their opponents and substituting oratory for clear action.
The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan are increasing even though mass testing is not available. The shortage of protective gear, ventilators, masks and trained personnel are under the media spotlight. The provinces and their inadequate health infrastructure are struggling with the brewing crisis. Yet, there seems to be lack of clarity, leadership and coordination that is vital in such times. Even in a federal structure leadership from the centre is essential.
A major fallout in this crisis has been the government’s faltering credibility, particularly Islamabad’s lack of seriousness in giving policy direction. Unlike most Muslim majority countries, the federal government appeared helpless in even getting the mosque congregations regulated.
Currently, the provinces with the support of Pakistan Army are taking the lead in the battle against Coronavirus. Murad Ali Shah, chief minister of Sindh province has emerged as a clear-headed, action-oriented leader prompting even his critics to acknowledge the solid work underway in the province.
Noting the negative public opinion, the prime minister has been meeting journalists to salvage his image. He held two detailed sessions with media persons which once again were full of ‘good intentions, pro-poor rhetoric but short on policy and strategy. Journalists who met PM Khan urged him to take the crisis more seriously. Those who challenged him were later subjected to social media bullying by ardent followers of the ruling party.
This is nothing new for the pro-PTI social media bullies – patronized by the party stalwarts and now through a government cell – who have been doing the same for years. PM Khan’s dwindling leadership will not be helped by such antics. This is not about media but the way the business of the government is being conducted.TV anchor Nasim Zehra asked PM Khan on Friday to conduct an inquiry into the horrific treatment meted out to a coronavirus patient in Lahore’s Mayo hospital. The PM responded by blaming his predecessors who had not invested in the health sector. In the same meeting PM Khan also gave a long spiel about the privileged ‘minority’ who in his view were responsible for all the ills of the country. He made these earnest statements with a straight face.
Here are two reminders for the PM.
First, he has been in power for nearly 20 months and the excuse of his opponents who ruled the country is something that will no longer work or even sell in the court of public opinion. Far from doing anything for the social sectors, the PTI government has cut development expenditures in its tenure. Its economic policy is the handiwork of neoliberal technocrats imported from IMF and the World Bank not to mention the powerful tycoons in his kitchen cabinet.
Second, the PM made the anti-elitist comments while seated in a royal-esque setting (which he promised earlier to undo by turning PM secretariat into a University) flanked by billionaire ministers, former World Bank staffers and other members of the same elite whom PM Khan was castigating. A little factoid: PTI has a good number of billionaires in its ranks present in the National Assembly. Worse, while complaining about how privilege works, he presented no plan on how to weaken the stranglehold of the elite. In fact, his ascension to power has been made possible by the same VVIP club comprising generals, tycoons, judges and media barons.
Of course, PM Khan was addressing his supporters who, like him, are not likely to detect such ironies of populism.

Pakistan’s number of coronavirus cases could be much higher than given statistics

Pakistan’s health experts as well as the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) officials have expressed fears the country’s efforts to control coronavirus could end in complete jeopardy as still, there is no data available on the possible number of coronavirus cases in the country.
Presently, there are more than 1,600 confirmed cases of virus reported in the country but according to eminent scientist Dr Ataur Rahman, who is also Chairman the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Science & Technology, the number could be much higher in the coming days.
While talking to media on Sunday, Rahman urged the government to put all those who are leaving their houses without a genuine reason into lock-up. “Unless we take stringent measures, the situation would remain out of control,” said Dr Rahman.
Coronavirus is spreading like wildfire and even the US seems to be losing its battle against the virus, said Dr Rahman, stressing the number of tests as many as possible.
When asked about the country’s coronavirus testing capacity, he said that at the moment, a few thousand suspected cases can be tested every day but that is not being done.
“We have sought the Chinese government’s help in this regard and they are facilitating us with testing kits and medical equipment, besides sharing their experience with us to help defeat this pandemic,” he added. Vice Chancellors of Health University and former Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Dr Javed Akram also called for widening the testing facility and termed it essential to fight the virus.
“We need to test maximum number of suspects of coronavirus and do exactly what South Korea did to restrict the virus spread,” said Dr Javed.
In population, he explained South Korea is less than 25 per cent of Pakistan but it has conducted 0.5 million tests of its total population of 51 million. On the other hand, Pakistan has so far conducted only 2,000 tests while the number of suspected patients could be more than 15,000.
Coronavirus is spreading fast from one person to another and unless we conduct large-scale tests and isolate the carriers of the virus we cannot effectively fight this war, he said.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has also criticised some nations for not doing enough to detect and contain deadly coronavirus.
There has been a rapid escalation of Covid-19 cases over the past week but we have not seen an urgent, enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing which is backbone of the response, he said.

#CoronaInPakistan کورونا مریض زیادہ ہیں، حالات بگڑتے دیکھ رہا ہوں: ڈاکٹر عطاء الرحمٰن

چیئرمین ٹاسک فورس سائنس اینڈ ٹیکنالوجی ڈاکٹر عطاء الرحمٰن نے کہا کہ حالات کو بگڑتے ہوئے دیکھ رہا ہوں، کورونا وائرس کے مریضوں کا جو ڈیٹا آ رہا ہے وہ صحیح عکاسی نہیں کر رہا، مریضوں کی اصل تعداد زیادہ ہے۔
میڈیا سے گفتگو کرتے ہوئے چیئرمین ٹاسک فورس سائنس اینڈ ٹیکنالوجی ڈاکٹر عطاء الرحمٰن نے کہا کہ کورونا وائرس کے زیادہ سے زیادہ ٹیسٹ کیے جائیں۔
انہوں نے بتایا کہ کچھ ڈرگس کا اگلے ہفتے سے جاوید اکرم کی نگرانی میں کلینیکل ٹرائل شروع کر دیا جائے گا، پاکستان میں کورونا کی ساخت سے متعلق 10 روز میں اندازہ ہو جائے گا۔
ڈاکٹر عطاء الرحمٰن نے کہا کہ کورونا پر اگر قابو پانا ہے تو زیادہ سے زیادہ ٹیسٹ کرنے ہوں گے، یہ مرض آگ کی طرح پھیل رہا ہے، امریکا جیسے ملک نے اس کے آگے گھٹنے ٹیک دیے ہیں۔
انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ جو لوگ بغیر کسی مقصد کے گھروں سے باہر نکل رہے ہیں انہیں جیلوں میں ڈالنا ہو گا، سخت اقدامات نہیں کیے گئے تو معاملہ خراب ہو سکتا ہے۔
چیئرمین ٹاسک فورس سائنس اینڈ ٹیکنالوجی نے یہ بھی کہا کہ اللّٰہ کرے کہ میری بات غلط ہو لیکن حالات مزید بگڑیں گے، حکومت کو فوری طور پر آئسولیشن سے متعلق سخت اقدامات کرنے چاہئیں اور ٹیسٹنگ کرنی چاہیے۔