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Trump makes frenetic election push in states that highlight his Covid denial

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President Donald Trump’s final sprint to shore up states he won four years ago led him Tuesday into the epicentre of America’s quickening viral surge in Wisconsin, as the state’s record single day spikes in Covid-19 cases and deaths crystalized his administration’s failures that could end his political career, CNN reports.

A week from the night when America could learn the identity of its next President — depending on prolonged mail-in voting counts and possible legal challenges — Trump greeted a crowd, packed together, with a few masks worn, the CNN report says.

“He did so as Badger State hospitals are critically understaffed and facing the threat of being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients. But on a chill fall night, the President wove an alternative reality he bets will win him reelection.

Trump’s three-state swing Tuesday — he also visited Michigan and Nebraska — reflected the sleight of hand he’s using a week from Election Day, creating a false impression that the pandemic is all but over as it gets worse each day.

“We are turning the corner. We are rounding the curve, we will vanquish the virus,” Trump said in West Salem, Wisconsin, as the US piles up record numbers of new infections that have added half a million new cases in the last week alone. More than 226,000 Americans have died. The current death rate is 800 per day, and experts warn the trend is only increasing ahead of a grim winter.

But in his closing election pitch, Trump is denying the disastrous impact of the gravest challenge facing the country, holding potential superspreader events that put his own supporters and anyone they meet at risk and yet again prioritizing his political survival above his duty to guard public health.

While Trump complained in Wisconsin that all the media talks about is “Covid, Covid, Covid,” the state’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers warned Tuesday: “There is no way to sugarcoat it, we are facing an urgent crisis and there is an imminent risk to you and your family.”

Andrea Palm, Secretary-designee of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, warned: “The increasing cases, and our increase in deaths today are the largest single day increases we’ve seen throughout the course of this pandemic. We must take significant and collective action.”

 

Public disquiet about the President’s handling of the worst public health crisis in 100 years has contributed to a situation in which Trump appears to be struggling to hang on to states like Wisconsin, which he won in 2016, and is seeking to shore up Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Iowa.

With more than 68.5 million Americans having voted so far — surpassing half the total votes four years ago — time is running out to change the dynamics of a race in which he is trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden in key battlegrounds.

Yet Trump, drawing energy from his crowds, seemed upbeat Tuesday, predicting a “great red wave,” slamming polls and promising an even bigger Electoral College upset than in 2016. He blasted pundits who said back then “‘he can’t get to 270’ — and they were right — We got to 306.”

If Trump wins next week in another upset, it will suggest that enough voters think his cultural connection with the US heartland and nationalist approach is more important than his downplaying of the worst domestic crisis since World War II and his daily flurry of lies. He will have made good on his vow to find millions of new Trump voters who escaped pollsters. Still, there is so far no sign in national or state polls that the President is building the kind of late momentum that drove his shock win over Hillary Clinton.

Biden goes on the offensive

Biden’s travel is telling the story of a Democratic campaign that believes that it has more routes to 270 electoral votes than the President. The former vice president pledged to heal a sick and divided nation in symbolic surroundings in the spa town of Warm Springs, Georgia, where President Franklin Roosevelt, who guided the country through earlier crisis, once sought relief from paralysis caused by polio.

“Many wonder, has it gone too far?” Biden asked in a state Democrats have not won since Bill Clinton carried it in 1992 but think could be in play this year.

“Have we passed the point of no return? Has the heart of this nation turned to stone?” Biden said. “I don’t think so. I refuse to believe it. I know this country. I know our people. And I know we can unite and heal this nation.”

Biden got another assist on Tuesday from his former boss, ex-President Barack Obama, who delivered another attack on his successor that was dripping with mockery and designed to drive out Democratic base voters in Florida.

Obama ridiculed Trump for turning the White House, perhaps the most secure building in the country, into a Covid “hot zone.”

 

“He said this at one of his rallies, ‘Covid, Covid, Covid,’ he’s complaining. He’s jealous of Covid’s media coverage,” Obama said at a drive-in rally in Orlando. “If he had been focused on Covid from the beginning, cases wouldn’t be reaching new record highs across the country this week.”

As Trump pulls out all the stops, first lady Melania Trump made her first solo campaign appearance, in another swing state, Pennsylvania, in a bid to improve her husband’s reduced standing among female voters.

“The Democrats have chosen to put their own agendas ahead of the American people’s well-being,” she said, while also offering thoughts to citizens, like her, who have suffered from the coronavirus.

In reality, however, Trump has repeatedly denied the seriousness of the pandemic, predicted falsely and repeatedly that it will soon disappear and advocated state openings that sparked a Sun Belt surge this summer in an apparent effort to fire up the economy that is vital for his reelection.

The Trump campaign’s courting of women voters, particularly those in the suburbs, may have been undermined by the President when he used somewhat patronizing language in Wisconsin that betrayed rather an archaic view of suburban marriage between men and women.

“I’m also getting your husbands — they want to get back to work. We’re getting your husbands back to work,” Trump said in Wisconsin.



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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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