Beaches, parks busy as Europe heat wave and U.S. spring test new coronavirus rules

(Reuters) – Summer weather is enticing much of the world to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns as centers of the outbreak from New York to Italy and Spain gradually lift restrictions that have kept millions indoors for months.

People are streaming back to beaches, parks and streets just as a heat wave hits southern Europe and spring-like temperatures allow Americans to shed winter coats. As they venture out again, most are keeping their distance and some are wearing masks. However, protests are also heating up from Germany to England to the United States, arguing the government restrictions demolish personal liberties and are wrecking economies.

Greeks flocked to the seaside on Saturday when more than 500 beaches reopened, coinciding with temperatures of 34 Celsius (93 Fahrenheit).

Umbrella poles had to be 4 meters (13 ft) apart, with canopies no closer than 1 meter as the country sought to walk the fine line between protecting people from COVID-19 while reviving the tourism sector that many depend on for their livelihoods.

“This is the best thing for us elderly … to come and relax a bit after being locked in,” Yannis Tentomas, who is in his 70s, said as he settled down on the sand.

White circles were painted on the lawn in Brooklyn’s Domino Park in New York City to help sunbathers and picnickers keep a safe distance. About half the people in the park appeared to be wearing some form of face covering as they congregated in small groups on a warm Saturday afternoon with police officers in masks keeping watch.

In Paris’ Bois de Boulogne, health training worker Anne Chardon was carrying disinfectant gel and a mask but said she felt a sense of freedom again for the first time after weeks of confinement.

“It’s as if we were in Sleeping Beauty’s castle, all asleep, all frozen, and suddenly there’s light and space, suddenly we can experience again the little joys of everyday, in the spaces that belong to us, and that we’re rediscovering.”

On the French Riviera, many who took a dip in the sea wore protective masks. Fishing and surfing were also allowed, but sunbathing was banned.

“We’re semi-free,” said one local bather sporting a straw hat as he strolled the rather empty pebbly beach in Nice.

Bathers seeking relief from the heat in Tel Aviv in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan Valley mostly tried to stay apart.

“We hope that the hot water, weather, make corona go away,” said Lilach Vardi, a woman who came to swim in the Dead Sea in Israel, as a lifeguard tried to fry an egg in a pan in the scorching sand nearby.

In Tunisia, which reported no new COVID-19 cases over four consecutive days last week, people flooded into the streets and to recently reopened shops with little social-distancing.

Muslims are nearing the Eid al-Fitr holiday ending the holy month of Ramadan, when many celebrate with new purchases.

“I stayed at home for two months and almost went crazy,” said one woman at Tunis’ Manar City Mall. “I’m surprised by the crowd but I need to buy clothes for my children for Eid.”

But throughout the world, small pockets of protesters bristled at any restrictions. In the U.S. states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, protests demanding states reopen faster have drawn demonstrators armed with rifles and handguns, which can be carried in public in many parts of the country.

Thousands of Germans took to the streets across the country on Saturday to demonstrate against restrictions imposed by the government, and Polish police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in Warsaw.

In London’s Hyde Park, police arrested 19 people on Saturday for deliberately breaking social distancing guidelines in protest at the rules, on the first weekend since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a slight loosening of England’s lockdown.

The scene elsewhere in the city was much calmer on Sunday as children climbed trees, kicked footballs and threw Frisbees in Greenwich Park. Couples and larger groups sunned themselves on the open lawns, mostly observing social distancing as they chatted and drank beer.

“We’re really happy to be out,” said Niko Privado, who brought his three brightly colored Macaws to the park, each tethered to a portable perch. “It’s only the second time we’ve been able to take them out (since the lockdown),” he said, watched by his wife and daughter.

Nearby, however, a woman working at an ice cream van said business was far from brisk despite the crowds and warm weather.

“It’s very bad — only three to four people every hour,” said Zara Safat. “It’s social distancing and they don’t want to wait in long queues.”

Reporting by Reuters

Columbia professor calls Trump supporting student a ‘neo-nazi’

A Columbia University professor decided to take the low road during a heated Facebook argument with a student in April. Jeffrey Lax, deputy chair of Columbia’s Political Science department, told the student, who attends a different university, to “drop dead” and called him a “neo-nazi murderer-lover” after he defended President Trump’s handing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The student, Gabriel Montalvo, shared screenshots of Lax’s Facebook comments on a Twitter post on April 6 that has largely escaped media attention until now.

“I never met Jeffrey Lax in my life. I commented on a political cartoon, where I defended President Trump on how he’s handled the pandemic, that an old high school teacher posted on Facebook,” Montalvo, 21, told The Post. “Mr. Lax then attacked me … He responded very belligerently and at the end of his comment he asked me, “Why don’t you just drop dead, you Neo-Nazi enabler.”

“Professors and higher education establishments should be examples of the exchange of civil discussion, not cyber harassment & perverting a historic tragedy to push an agenda,” Montalvo added in his tweet.

Libel or stupidity? @Columbia is this behavior reflective of the college’s views? A Deputy Chair at your university is telling a supporter of @realDonaldTrump to go die over a difference of opinion? He then has the gall to call a U.S. Soldier a Nazi!?

Montalvo, a student at CUNY Queensborough Community College, said he had lodged a formal complaint with the university via email but had not heard back. A rep for Columbia President Lee Bollinger told him they would review the matter.

Lax has been on faculty as a professor at Columbia since 2004 after a stint at University of California, San Diego, according to his resume. Former students have also spoken out anonymously via the website “RateMyProfessor” — where Lax holds a 1.3 out of 5 star average from three reviewers who all rated him as “awful.”

“This was the absolute worst professor that I have ever had,” wrote one reviewer on Sept. 20, 2019. “He digresses constantly and no one could grasp what he was talking about. I would avoid him at all costs.”

Lax did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Post. Reps for Columbia declined to comment.

Trump slams ‘radical left’ giants of social media

President Trump slammed the giants of social media Saturday in a tweet that was a shot across the bow of Google — which may soon face a federal antitrust lawsuit.

“The Radical Left is in total command & control of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google,” Trump tweeted. “The Administration is working to remedy this illegal situation.”

The message came with a tweet featuring video of conservative commentator Michelle Malkin decrying tech censorship.

As if to prove Trump’s point, Twitter later removed the video of Malkin from their platform.

“We’ve issued [civil subpoenas] to Google and impacted third parties. We hope to have the investigation wrapped up by fall,” Texas AG Ken Paxton told The Wall Street Journal. “If we determine that filing is merited we will go to court soon after that.”

The states’ investigations are said to center on Google’s online advertising business and on broader concerns that the tech giant is stifling competition, the Wall Street Journal reported.

US Attorney General William Barr has made the case a priority and has said he wants the Justice Department to make a decision on it this summer.

Hours later in his 43-post tweetstorm, Trump urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “get tough and move quickly” in reaction to the expanding “Obamagate” scandal.

“Mitch, I love you, but this is 100% true,” the president posted over a tweet that scolded McConnell for dragging his feet on Senate investigations of Obama and his officials allegedly being behind widespread surveillance of the Trump 2016 campaign and transition team.

“The Dems are vicious, but got caught,” Trump continued. “They MUST pay a big price for what they have done to our Country.”

Trump is holed up at Camp David this weekend with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and other House Republicans who have accused the Obama administration of abusing federal law-enforcement powers to conduct surveillance on Trump and his aides.

A bombshell letter naming top White House officials — including then-veep Joe Biden — who sought to “unmask” former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn confirmed the Republicans’ accusations, Nunes said this week.

“It’s even worse than this,” Nunes told Fox News Wednesday. “There were a whole lot of other Americans on the Trump transition team that were unmasked.”

Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats launched a formal investigation of Trump for his late-night firing of a government watchdog — because, they said, the official had opened a probe into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

When Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, was abruptly removed from his post Friday, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cried foul.

“This President believes he is above the law,” Engel said.

Linick’s probe involves allegations that Pompeo tasked an employee with performing personal services for himself and his wife, a Congressional aide told Politico.

Engel and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the administration Saturday to hand over documents related to Linick’s firing — as well as records from all of the cases that his office has been investigating.

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Cuba to continue without opening borders or tourism for the moment

Havana, May 17 (Prensa Latina) Cuba is not currently planning to receive international flights nor open to tourism, and when it decides, it will do so in accordance with the WHO´s regulations, Dr. Francisco Duran, national director of epidemiology, said.

Responding to some comments on air ticket and reservation sales in other nations to travel to Cuba, Dr. Duran stated that the country is currently bounding up in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and in recovery efforts.

When time comes and it is decided, local authorities will take into account security measures and action protocols for these cases, respecting the international health regulations, Durán said.

Our medical centers are well-equipped and we have the necessary health personnel for carrying out an epidemiological control to travelers.

The medical surveillance was always conducted on those who arrived in Cuba, it is not just a procedure for the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Duran said.

We are fortunate to have no land borders, so we can spend time on epidemiologically controlling the arriving sightseer flows in ports and airports, Durán said.

The specialist stressed that Cuba has not reported Covid-19 reinfected cases, and did not rule out the possibility that it will become an endemic disease.

The national director of Epidemiology also reported that out of 321 patients hospitalized, 314 remain clinicaly stable.

Dr. Durán said that by Saturday 22 new cases were detected, and 35 patients who had healed were discharged. Some 78.4% of active cases have recovered.

He stressed that it is almost common to see more discharges than hospital admissions, and deaths have not been reproted to date, so Cuba´s death toll continues to be 79.

The specialist regretted that in the country’s intensive therapies they are treating two critically ill and five seriously ill patients, and he also mentioned with satisfaction that there are no children reported with the Covid-19 in last few hours.

Of the 1,862 positive cases in Cuba, nearly 50% were asymptomatic, exactly 49.6%, said Durán, who highlighted Cuba’s lab works that processed 2,460 samples on Friday, with 22 positive cases, all nationals.

Durán said that of the 1,862 patients, 1,460 have already recovered. It is something rather positive to evaluate the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in Cuba.

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Justin Amash ends his Libertarian presidential campaign

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash bailed out of the race for the White House Saturday, citing a long list of reasons for abandoning his bid to become the Libertarian Party’s standard-bearer.

“I’ve concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year,” Amash said in a string of tweets that cited political polarization, social distancing, online voting, fund-raising trouble and more as reasons to drop his presidential hopes.

Amash, who left the Republican Party last year, has been a fierce critic of President Trump. He was the only non-Democrat in the House to vote for Trump’s impeachment in December.

Trump mocked Amash’s potential White House run when the congressman launched an exploratory committee last month.

“I like him even more than Jill Stein!” he wrote — referring to the Green Party candidate who siphoned votes away from Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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