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Obama: senators ‘failed the American people’ on gun control

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington June 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The White House accused U.S. senators of a “shameful display of cowardice” on Tuesday and said they failed the American people by not advancing any gun control measures after the nation’s largest mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, last week.

“Gun violence requires more than moments of silence,” President Barack Obama said on Twitter. “It requires action. In failing that test, the Senate failed the American people.”

Earlier, White House spokesman Josh Earnest appeared on morning television news shows excoriating the U.S. Senate for rejecting on Monday four gun bills aimed at keeping firearms away from people with suspected ties to militants.

“What we saw last night on the floor of the United States Senate was a shameful display of cowardice,” Earnest said on MSNBC.

After Monday’s votes, the Senate turned away from gun control, at least temporarily, to debate a different tactic for battling domestic attacks that could be inspired by Islamic State and other foreign militant groups.

Senators were aiming to vote by Wednesday on legislation by Senator John McCain of Arizona expanding the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ability to conduct secret surveillance in counterterrorism investigations.

“This week we’ll have the opportunity to strengthen our ability to combat lone wolf terrorists and connect the dots so we are better able to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States” such as the Orlando massacre, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

The Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, had pledged allegiance to Islamic State during the June 12 rampage in which he killed 49 people and wounded 53 at a gay nightclub before being fatally shot by police.

NEW GUN CONTROL PROPOSAL EXPECTED

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine was trying to keep gun control attempts alive. She was expected on Tuesday to introduce a measure that would curb weapons sales to people on a narrow terrorism watch list.

Democrats’ efforts to pass a broader prohibition failed on Monday.

It was not yet clear whether Collins’ plan would draw significant bipartisan support or whether McConnell would even schedule a vote on her legislation, which likely would draw opposition from the National Rifle Association, a close ally of many Republican lawmakers.

The NRA has worked hard to defeat gun control measures, including attempts in the wake of mass shootings such as the one in Orlando.

Gun control groups, meanwhile, promised to intensify their push for legislative action, but not just in Washington.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said her group, besides supporting pro-gun control candidates for the U.S. Congress, would work to strengthen gun sale background check laws “state by state until Congress acts,” states including Maine and Nevada.

“If the NRA and their lapdogs in the Senate thought moms would feel dispirited and back down they are sorely mistaken,” Watts told reporters in a teleconference.

Earnest said the bills put forth for votes on Monday evening should have drawn strong bipartisan support aimed at shoring up the country’s defenses by keeping firearms away from people on terrorism watch lists.

He said U.S. law enforcement officials are concerned that there are individuals in the United States who could have ties to terrorism or are susceptible to online recruitment efforts of the militant group Islamic State.

“And right now there is not a law on the books that prevents those individuals from walking into a gun store and buying a gun,” Earnest said.

The Senate votes against the measures restricting gun sales were a bitter setback to advocates who have failed to get even modest gun curbs through Congress despite repeated mass shootings.

The gun control measures lost in largely party-line votes that showed the political power in Congress of gun rights defenders and the NRA.

“Republicans have run around and spent the last week saying ‘radical Islamic extremism’ to anybody who will listen,” Earnest said. “But when it actually comes to preventing those extremists from being able to walk into a gun store and buy a gun, they’re AWOL. They won’t do anything about it because they’re scared of the NRA. That’s shameful.”

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United States Employment Rate will fall further: Fed

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Washington, April 16 (IANS) Economic activity “contracted sharply and abruptly” across all regions in the US as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

“The hardest-hit industries – because of social distancing measures and mandated closures – were leisure and hospitality, and retail aside from essential goods,” the Fed said in its latest survey on economic conditions, known as the Beige Book, based on information collected from its 12 regional reserve banks before April 6, Xinhua reported.

“All Districts reported highly uncertain outlooks among business contacts, with most expecting conditions to worsen in the next several months,” the Fed said.

The survey showed that employment declined in all districts as the COVID-19 pandemic affected firms in many sectors.

“Employment cuts were most severe in the retail and leisure and hospitality sectors, where most Districts reported widespread mandatory closures and steep falloffs in demand,” the survey said, adding severe job cuts were also widespread in the manufacturing and energy sectors.

“Contacts in several Districts noted they were cutting employment via temporary layoffs and furloughs that they hoped to reverse once business activity resumes. The near-term outlook was for more job cuts in coming months,” the survey said.

The survey noted that no district reported upward wage pressures, with most citing “general wage softening and salary cuts” except for high-demand sectors such as grocery stores.

“These trends were seen as reflecting weaker demand for many goods and services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the survey said.

The survey came after the Commerce Department reported earlier on Wednesday that US retail sales plunged in March by the most on record as the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to take a big toll on the US economy.

The US economy is expected to contract by 5.9 per cent this year, according to the World Economic Outlook (WEO) report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday.

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New York statewide COVID-19 deaths surpass 10,000

Meanwhile, indicators including the rates of ICU admissions and intubations have gone down and the three-day-average rate of hospitalization basically reached a plateau, according to the governor.

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New York Coronavirus Case

New York, April 14 : Governor of the US state of New York Andrew Cuomo said statewide deaths from COVID-19 rose to 10,056, adding “the worst is over if we continue to be smart” in coping with the novel coronavirus.

Cuomo on Monday said at his daily briefing that a total of 671 people passed away on Sunday due to the disease, a number much lower than in the past few days, Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, indicators including the rates of ICU admissions and intubations have gone down and the three-day-average rate of hospitalization basically reached a plateau, according to the governor.

“We are controlling the spread,” said Cuomo. “I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart. I believe we can start on the path to normalcy,” he said.

He said he would be joined by several other governors of neighbouring states later on Monday to discuss how to reopening the economy in a coordinated way.

On Twitter, the governor said that any plan to reopen society must be driven by data and experts, not opinion and politics.

He said the objective is to ease isolation and increase economic activity without increasing the infection rate.

“We will learn from the warning signs from other countries. We will take every precaution. We will work together as a region,” he added.

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US now has highest COVID-19 deaths, surpasses Italy: Johns Hopkins

A total of 20,071 people have died of the disease among 519,453 confirmed cases in the country as of 4 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Saturday

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Washington, April 12 : The UnS has surpassed Italy as the country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world as the fatalities as of Sunday reached 20,604, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Sunday morning, Italy has reported 19,648 coronavirus deaths, placing it in the second position after the US, the data published by the university’s enter for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed.

The US also accounts for the highest number of confirmed cases with 529,887. Spain, where the number of confirmed infections stands at 163,027, is a distant second, followed by Italy with 152,271 cases.

New York state, the epicentre of the pandemic in the US, has recorded the most deaths in the country, 8,627, which is followed by New Jersey and Michigan with 2,183 and 1,276, respectively, the CSSE data showed.

A total of 32,001 patients in the country have recovered, it added.

US President Donald Trump’s administration, which earlier estimated that the pandemic would cause anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US, revised its projection downward this week to 60,000, reports Efe news.

Members of the White House coronavirus task force credit the more optimistic forecast to the success of the stay-at-home orders issued by 42 of the 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, covering around 316 million people.

Trump, who has repeatedly decried the economic cost of closing schools and businesses to contain the virus, said late last month that he hoped to re-open the country by Easter Sunday.

During Friday’s news briefing by the task force, Trump sought to reassure Americans that he would guided by medical experts as well as by recommendations from the “Opening Our Country Council” he plans to install next week.

“I want to get it open as soon as possible. The facts are going to determine what I do,” the president said.

“I’m going to have to make a decision, and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision. But I would say, without question, it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Trump said.

As of Sunday, the number of global coronavirus cases stood at 1,777,517, with 108,862 deaths, while 404,236 people have recovered.

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