China’s COVID-19 disinformation push, aided by Canadian group, raises concerns about next pandemic

More on Chinese government disinformation efforts:

It’s safe to say China’s foreign ministry does not often pay much attention to obscure Canadian research organizations run by conspiracy theorists.

But earlier this month the ministry’s spokesman tweeted in English not once but three times about two surprising articles from the Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalisation.

“This is so astonishing that it changed many things I used to believe in,” Lijian Zhao wrote to 500,000 followers on a social-media platform his fellow Chinese are banned from using. “Please retweet to let more people know about it.”

The “astonishing” piece suggested that COVID-19 did not originate in Wuhan, China, as Chinese and other scientists have reported, but was brought to Wuhan by American soldiers last November.

This is so astonishing

Despite the dubious source, Zhao tweeted about another article on the institute’s website — a hotbed of 911-deniers and champions of Vladimir Putin’s worldview — and then tweeted “it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent!”.

Beijing and its media outlets did not stop there. They’ve also suggested recently the virus might have originated in Italy, and that a Wuhan doctor arrested after raising the alarm about the new virus — only to later die from it — was a Communist Party hero, not an inconvenient whistleblower silenced by the state.

Only a couple of months ago, China was pilloried for initially covering up and then underplaying the newly emerging coronavirus.

But as it emerges from a strict lockdown and claims to have snuffed out local transmission of COVID-19, the regime is casting the pandemic in a dramatically new light. It’s one that reflects brightly on the government of President Xi Jinping — and raises worrisome questions about the likelihood of China making changes that might prevent the next pandemic.

“The Chinese Communist Party sees itself as engaged in a global competition over the narrative surrounding COVID-19, its origins and government responses,” says Julian Gewirtz, Harvard-affiliated author of Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists and the Making of Global China.

“The disinformation, the conspiracy theory peddling and the wild and unsubstantiated accusations are prime examples.”

China’s role in the beginnings of the pandemic has, of course, become political fodder in the United States, where President Donald Trump insists on ignoring the medical name of the new disease, calling it the “Chinese virus” instead.

Increased reports of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia in the U.S. have followed. China is a convenient scapegoat now that the U.S. actually has more COVID-19 cases, a soaring death toll and overwhelmed hospitals in some places.

Meanwhile, China has received widespread praise for its eventual, aggressive response to the new virus, imposing a massive quarantine around the epicenter in Wuhan that helped at least slow the virus’s spread elsewhere. Chinese scientists have also been key in isolating the pathogen and mapping out its unique qualities.

The origins of the pandemic are a complex question best left to scientists, said China’s embassy to Canada in an email response to National Post questions.

“People of the world have all witnessed that it is under the leadership of the CPC (Communist Party of China) that the Chinese people achieved independence, freedom and liberation and made enormous progress in national development,” said the mission’s statement. “It is also under the leadership of the CPC that the Chinese nation united as one and speedily fought against COVID-19, buying precious time for the global response.”

The Chinese Communist Party sees itself as engaged in a global competition over the narrative surrounding COVID-19, its origins and government responses

But beyond name-calling by the U.S. and chest-thumping by China, there are clear reasons to look toward Beijing and its part in the expanding crisis, reasons that could determine if the world faces a similar calamity in the near future.

While the precise genesis of the disease is still something of a question mark, the current consensus reflects the conclusions of a group of 34 Chinese researchers, and one Australian, in the journal Lancet late last month.

The coronavirus, like others of its type, seems to have originated in bats, then jumped to live animals sold at a market in Wuhan, the specific culprit likely being an odd beast called a pangolin, and from there to humans, their paper concluded. Microbiologist David Kelvin of Dalhousie University, who has had a longstanding collaboration with researchers in Shantou, China, agrees.

It’s not totally implausible that it might have been circulating in humans earlier somewhere else — like Italy, he said. A “sero-prevalance” study that tested banked blood samples from well before the start of the pandemic might determine if there’s anything to the theory.

But, he said, “the data right now suggest that the origins are Chinese.”

In that regard, COVID-19 has obvious parallels.

The 2003 SARS virus, to which the new virus is closely related, is thought to have originated in bats, then leapt to animals sold at live markets in China’s Guangdong province — probably the civet cat — and on to people.

The H7N9 influenza virus, which has caused a string of relatively small but deadly epidemics in China, likewise moved from bats to wild fowl and then domestic poultry bought live by consumers, Kelvin said.

Wild animal sales were ordered stopped after SARS, then re-emerged. Beijing has now banned trade in live wild animals like the pangolin for food, though apparently not for use in traditional medicine.

Live wild game sales in China and other countries must be ended completely, otherwise “we predict with confidence that COVID-19 will not be the last viral pandemic,” virologist Nathan Wolf and “Guns, Germs and Steel” author Jared Diamond wrote in a recent op-ed article.

Some want a crackdown to go further. Wet markets, generally, even if just selling domestic animals, should be closed, says Kelvin.

Meanwhile, another human factor also seemed key to the spread of COVID-19. As doctors in Wuhan first became aware in December of patients suffering a mystery pneumonia — and infecting health-care workers — some put out the word to colleagues. But then eight of them, including ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, were brought in by police and accused of spreading false rumours. Li died from COVID-19 in February.

When officials publicly acknowledged the emergence of a novel pathogen, they at first played down its seriousness, questioning whether it could be transmitted between humans. A holiday banquet of 40,000 people went ahead in Wuhan on Jan. 13.

The Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto Internet watchdog, later reported that a Chinese live-streaming platform started blocking key words related to the outbreak in late December, with broader censorship following that.

Wuhan was eventually sealed off from the world on Jan. 23, inside a cordon sanitaire of unprecedented scale. Amid the initial suppression, virus carriers had already left the transportation hub in droves. The first Canadian case, a traveller who had visited the city, surfaced Jan. 26.

The emergence of COVID-19 was at first a public-relations disaster for China, an emerging superpower keen to bolster its international influence and prestige.

Then it began trying to change the conversation, and the pandemic’s core facts.

Among the first, startling examples was Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao’s posts earlier this month.

One of the Montreal centre’s articles he tweeted about suggested that American soldiers who visited the World Military Games in Wuhan in December might have brought over the virus. Another suggested they caught the bug from a shuttered U.S. disease lab.

The centre’s website,, is replete with such conspiracy theories, including claims that Al Qaeda and the 911 attacks were an American invention, that the U.S. manipulates the weather as a potential weapon of mass destruction and vaccines are “genetic poisons.”

The website earlier came to the attention of the Latvia-based Strategic Communications Centre (StratCom), a NATO-affiliated thinktank, because of its consistent dissemination of articles reflecting Kremlin propaganda. A recent piece suggested NATO was preparing to attack Russia.

Those articles tend to reflect disinformation that was originally spread by Russian operatives. Then, to bolster the legitimacy of the dubious reports in a sort of “information laundering,” the Canadian items are quoted back by Kremlin-controlled media, Janis Sarts, StratCom’s director, said in an interview Friday.

“When Russia needs to refer to a Western source, this is typically the site that is quoted,” he said.

In a similar vein, the site’s articles on COVID-19 quote extensively from the Chinese Communist party’s Global Times, only to be later cited by a Beijing official.

For those not convinced the pandemic originated in the U.S., state-controlled media like the Global Times and CGTN have proffered another suggestion: that it began last November in Italy.

We have not seen the last Li Wenliang

But when Italian newspaper Il Foglio reached the supposed Italian source for one such report, the pharmacology professor told the outlet “it’s propaganda. The virus is from Wuhan. Science has no doubt about that.”

Then there is the reinvention of Li Wenliang’s tragic story. His death triggered an outpouring of public grief and anger at authorities “unlike anything else I can remember,” said Gerwitz.

That was before the regime claimed him as one of its own. Local police were punished for unfairly persecuting him and official organs described him as a loyal party member.

So how does all this bode for the future? If another new virus emerges within its borders, will China be more transparent, allowing public health to quickly and definitively stop the germ before it spreads? Will traditional food commerce be changed for good?

Gerwitz says all countries, and particularly his own, need to be held accountable for how they handled the pandemic, which has killed over 1,000 Americans under a president who also once downplayed its gravity.

As for China, though, he’s not overly optimistic.

Rather than make the necessary changes, Beijing may see the crisis as a reason to intensify even further its surveillance and control of the population.

“We have not seen the last Li Wenliang,” Gerwitz said of the doctor whistleblower. “The question his case raises is whether the next Li Wenliang will even have the opportunity to send that first message.”

Source: China’s COVID-19 disinformation push, aided by Canadian group, raises concerns about next pandemic

California: Understanding ‘Stay-At-Home’ When It’s Not In Your Language

More on language. Surprising nothing in Spanish among other languages:

Many people scrambled last week to figure out if they could even leave their homes after getting “stay at home” orders from state and local officials.

But for those who don’t speak English, making sure you have the correct information has been even harder.

One problem with the multiple orders that came out of L.A. County, Orange County and the State of California? The actual documents are still only available in English.

While many state and county websites offer Google Translate, there’s an information roadblock once a person has to navigate to an English-only document.

This has some immigrant advocates worried that non-English speakers may be at risk for citations under the new orders if they don’t have the right information.


Some counties, including Los Angeles, say they’re working on it. In the meantime, some community groups are translating what they can themselves.

Last week, during Orange County’s order confusion, a multicultural press conference was held on Facebook Live by VietRISE, Chíspa and other local activists to address the language issue.

Hairo Cortes, executive director of Chíspa, a Santa Ana-based advocacy group, is one of the many organizers in the area working to get information out to their communities. With a lack of resources from local and state governments, Cortes said people are having to rely on each other for information.

“For Latino communities, at least here in Orange County, broadcast media is a pretty important source of information more than anything else,” said Cortes. “And people are sharing information with each other through social media and one-on-one conversations.”

With people having to stay home now under the new orders, Cortes has seen a drop in the flow of information between communities and local governments.

“With a lot of different things going on, I think at this moment, there’s a big need for just better communication from local government, especially the county and the public health agency,” said Cortes. “That needs to happen.”

Chíspa joined VietRISE, a group for Vietnamese and immigrant communities, at their press conference last Tuesday where they discussed the xenophobic repercussions of COVID-19, and translated health information into Spanish and Vietnamese. (VietRISE also manages thisresource guide.)

VietRISE has called on local governments to make better use of social media to reach out to immigrant communities.

“The county and state governments should be taking more proactive and aggressive measures to make sure that immigrant community members and businesses are getting all updates and orders related to COVID-19,” said VietRISE on their Facebook page. “That means providing it in multiple languages and using more strategies to ensure we receive this information.”

Going forward, the O.C. community groups plan to focus on issues affecting people’s quality of life by working with city governments to address the pandemic through housing moratoriums and outreach, according to Cortes.


Neighboring areas, such as the San Bernardino and Riverside counties, have made more strides with direct translation and have a few documents available in Spanish or Mandarin.

“We send everything to the translators as soon as they’re complete, and the turnaround seems pretty quick,” said David Wert, San Bernardino County’s public information officer in an email. “Oftentimes the translators are present in the County’s coronavirus Joint Information Center. There might be a lag in getting the documents uploaded because everyone is so busy.”

While San Bernardino County’s latest information on COVID-19 isn’t translated yet, Wert said they are working to get more staff to post the materials online when it’s available.

Currently, Orange County Public Health has an outdated health order and FAQ section with an inconsistent Google Translate ability. The department recommends visitors to refresh their cache to see it. When asked if they would have this site updated, the department provided email saying that they would refer people to the governor’s order. However, there’s no option for this on the website.

Similar to other counties, L.A. County does offer Google Translate on all of its site, except for the orders which officials say are pending translation. A translated FAQ section can be found under the Health Officer Order menu.

“The LA County Public Health Officer Orders are being translated into other languages,” said Steven Frasher, an L.A. County public information officer in an email. “Some are still in approvals processes. There is increasing outreach to Spanish and other ethnic media outlets to increase the reach of official messaging.”

At the state level, the California Department of Public Health said they are, “working continually to translate materials to ensure at-risk populations are receiving information.” Their website offers a dedicated Spanish version of COVID-19 information and translated guides, but as of March 27, the California “stay-at-home” order is not directly available in other languages.

Source: Understanding ‘Stay-At-Home’ When It’s Not In Your Language

Australia: We Need To Get Rid Of Harmony Day

The history of Australia’s Harmony Day to replace the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as part of the Howard government’s more positive historical narratives and opposition to what was called the “black armband” history:

On 21st March 1960, protestors in Sharpeville, South Africa were demonstrating against the country’s discriminatory apartheid laws when police opened fire, killing 69 innocent people and wounding 180 more. Information and photos of what we now refer to as “The Sharpeville Massacre” circulated around the world, demonstrating the brutality of racial discrimination and police militarism that is still echoed in every nation across the globe. In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that March 21st be observed as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day commemorates the lives of those who died in the fight for equality during apartheid, but it also calls on the international community to continue doubling down on its efforts to eliminate racial discrimination.

If you’re from Australia, you may not have heard of this day before. It’s not because Australia has solved racial discrimination – far from it. It’s because In Australia, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is patronizingly called “Harmony Day”. During this time of celebration, people across the country are encouraged to wear orange clothing to signify “social communication and encouragement of mutual respect” while schools often have children make art with the celebration’s slogan, “Everybody Belongs”. As you can imagine, this is disingenuous for a plethora of reasons.

When Harmony Day celebrations began in 1999, they purposefully coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination so as to “re-centralize a singular and unifying notion of Australian-ness within multicultural policy”, according to the Howard government. But Prime Minister John Howard was himself an active opponent of multiculturalism. In 1988, he helped develop the “One Australia” policy that called for an end to multiculturalism, and this stance never changed. Although Howard eventually commissioned an anti-racism study to “explore the subtleties and nature of racism in Australia”, he actively rejected its findings. The study revealed that 85% of the study’s respondents recognized that racism was widespread and multi-faceted in Australia. These results did not align with Howard’s belief that Australians were not racist, so he rejected them. Instead of creating Harmony Day to focus on eliminating racism, his administration promoted a “living in harmony” approach and suppressed the study’s findings until 2011.

Referring to March 21st as “Harmony Day” acts as a smokescreen that hides the true extent of racism within this country, and conceals the painful yet important history of the date. According to The Secretary for the New South Wales Fabians, “Rather than focusing on tackling racism and the structural barriers that continue to exist, it is instead a self-congratulatory day about how “harmonious” we apparently are.” It almost serves to gaslight the Australian population. Commercial and technology lawyer Dan Ryan states that, “The problem with the harmonious society is not just the disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality. The truth is, while superficially sweet-sounding, the idea is illusory and utopian.”

The day infers that, in Australia, “Everybody Belongs.” But that simply isn’t true. When we examine how Indigenous Australians and people of colour are treated in this country, we see that peace is a far cry from reality. Research shows that 72% of Indigenous Australians and 70% of the general population believe Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are prejudiced against each other. 27 years since the end of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in Custody, more than 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody. The indigenous population is still massively over-represented in the Australian prison system. In 2017, 27% of inmates were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, much more than their 3% share of the population. Proclaiming that “Everybody Belongs” only diverts attention from anti-racism action to an illusory concept of harmony.

Harmony Day needs to be rebranded as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. That way, it can focus on what is really important: decisive action against racism. Instead of dressing children in orange while they draw stick figures standing hand-in-hand, we can teach them cultural competency and the history of racial discrimination. Rather than hold a “Harmony Day Morning Tea”, we can explore the entrenched racism in contemporary society. As opposed to turning away from the past, we can look right at it, finally acknowledge the mistakes made, and the path we must take.

Source: We Need To Get Rid Of Harmony Day

New Site Collects Reports Of Racism Against Asian Americans Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Of note. Similar instances in Canada:

As the coronavirus spreads and disrupts life across the country, Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans are facing a secondary threat: racism.

The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, and some now blame the country for its global spread. In recent weeks, blame has escalated into reports of harassment and even assault in places with large communities of Asian Americans.

Last week Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, started tracking these attacks on a new website he helped launch called Stop AAPI Hate. In the site’s first eight days, it received more than 650 reports of discrimination — largely against the Asian American community.

Jeung spoke with NPR’s Steve Inskeep about this spike in reports. Here is some of what he had to say:

On the need for the site

We recognized early on that people were experiencing a lot of bullying, a lot of shunning, a lot of avoiding when the coronavirus outbreak occurred. And we didn’t have any hard data to document what was going on, so the first thing we did was we looked at news trends, and we counted news stories that had coronavirus and discrimination or xenophobia in it.

We found hundreds of articles about policies that people thought were xenophobic, economic boycotts of Asian businesses and then later on about interactions that Asian Americans were having where people were bullying, taunting, harassing and now attacking.

We had hundreds of accounts to go to the state legislature and say, “This is happening. We need to get it documented. We need to proactively address these trends.” And since the government didn’t have the capacity in California, we started our own website as a reporting center, and it just was launched last week and we’ve been getting over 100 reports every day.

What types of reports the site is receiving

Name-calling and verbal harassment — microaggressions are the most common. It moves up to people having bottles and cans thrown at them, their homes being vandalized, and then … maybe three times a day, we have people actually being physically attacked, assaulted, being hit or punched, pushed on subways.

Are there things that have made it worse?

After [Sept. 11] people were attacking Muslim Americans and President Bush came out and said we have to not discriminate or mistreat Muslim Americans. What President Trump did was he insisted on calling it the “Chinese virus” and labeling coronavirus as a racial disease. And by othering Asians — and it’s not just Chinese, anybody who looks Chinese — it just gave people license to attack us, to blame us for the disease, to say we’re the source of it. And it’s not the people who are the source of the disease, it’s just, you know, a virus that doesn’t discriminate.

On whether President Trump helped this week when he tweeted that the virus is not the fault of the Asian American community

Yeah, we appreciate that. I think that was due to the pressure that we exerted and the complaining. But I think it’s a little too little, too late. He’s already opened the door to this racism. It was already starting even before he made the China virus remarks, and he just sort of exacerbated the situation. He still uses this us vs. them binary that argues that, “Oh, we’re really working with them” and that “We’re protecting them,” that we’re still outsiders and foreigners and not part of the American fabric.

Hear the full interview on Morning Edition here.

Source: New Site Collects Reports Of Racism Against Asian Americans Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

‘White-Collar Quarantine’ Over Virus Spotlights Class Divide

Not unique to the USA but gaps wider:

For about $80,000, an individual can purchase a six-month plan with Private Health Management, which helps people with serious medical issues navigate the health care system.

Such a plan proved to be a literal lifesaver as the coronavirus pandemic descended. The firm has helped clients arrange tests in Los Angeles for the coronavirus and obtained oxygen concentrators for high-risk patients.

“We know the top lab people and the doctors and nurses and can make the process efficient,” said Leslie Michelson, the firm’s executive chairman.

In some respects, the pandemic is an equalizer: It can afflict princes and paupers alike, and no one who hopes to stay healthy is exempt from the strictures of social distancing. But the American response to the virus is laying bare class divides that are often camouflaged — in access to health care, child care, education, living space, even internet bandwidth.

In New York, well-off city dwellers have abandoned cramped apartments for spacious second homes. In Texas, the rich are shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to build safe rooms and bunkers.

And across the country, there is a creeping consciousness that despite talk of national unity, not everyone is equal in times of emergency.

“This is a white-collar quarantine,” said Howard Barbanel, a Miami-based entrepreneur who owns a wine company. “Average working people are bagging and delivering goods, driving trucks, working for local government.”

Some of those catering to the well-off stress that they are trying to be good citizens. Mr. Michelson emphasized that he had obtained coronavirus tests only for patients who met guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rather than the so-called worried well.

Still, a kind of pandemic caste system is rapidly developing: the rich holed up in vacation properties; the middle class marooned at home with restless children; the working class on the front lines of the economy, stretched to the limit by the demands of work and parenting, if there is even work to be had.

“I do get that there are haves and have-nots,” said Carolyn Richmond, a Manhattan employment lawyer who is advising restaurant industry clients from her second home, on Long Island, as they engineer layoffs. “Do I feel guilty? No. But I do know that I am very lucky. I understand there’s a big difference between me and the people I work with every day.”

Long before the new coronavirus, another kind of equalizer was being promoted: the internet. For decades, tech evangelists cited the democratizing power of the World Wide Web, which they said would bring high-quality services to strata of society that had previously gone without them.

Some of those predictions have come to pass. In recent days, time spent on the site of the Khan Academy, a well-regarded online curriculum that is free, is up about two and a half times from this time last year.

In March, the federal government broadened its coverage of so-called telemedicine services through Medicare, giving many more people access to a doctor over the web.

Still, the technology that makes these services accessible remains out of reach for many Americans. While data on internet access is inexact, the most recent Federal Communications Commission figures, from 2017, showed that 30 percent of households did not have even a slow broadband connection.

Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the commission, said millions of Americans had only phones, often with strict caps on data usage. “Imagine using a mobile device to look up your class work, type out a paper,” she said. “No parent would choose that as the primary tool for their child’s learning.”

Like many districts around the country, the Brownsville Independent School District in Texas sought to transfer much of its curriculum online when it closed its doors this week. Schools encouraged students to use digital platforms like Google Classroom, Apple Teacher and Seesaw to keep up with their studies.

But unlike wealthier areas, Brownsville has notoriously spotty internet access. Nearly half of households there lacked broadband in 2018, putting it at the top of a list of worst-connected citiescompiled by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, an advocacy group. “We’re limited when it comes to online services in our community,” said the district’s superintendent, René Gutiérrez. “It’s not where it needs to be.”

The situation has sent many families scrambling. Anahi Rubio, 11, and her mother just moved into an apartment that lacks an internet connection. Anahi has struggled with balky access while using a laptop at her aunt’s house, where she couldn’t get the videoconferencing app Zoom to work.

“They’re always telling you to use YouTube to learn multiplication, or to look something up on Google,” said her mother, Betsy Rubio. “Online, everybody gets to be on the same page. But if not everyone has good internet, like my daughter, you don’t. I’m concerned about her falling behind.”

And internet access is far from the only challenge confronting the less affluent. Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents over one million workers in industries like groceries and meatpacking, said child care was a top concern when the union held a telephone town hall this week with about 5,000 supermarket workers in New York State.

“In some cases, if they’re old enough, they’re latching them — becoming latchkey kids,” Mr. Perrone said, alluding to the option of leaving a child home alone.

Until a few weeks ago, Darlyne Dagrin would drop her 22-month-old son off at a day care facility on her way to work at a nursing home in Cedar Grove, N.J. But the center has closed temporarily amid the pandemic, leaving her with no choice but to skip work when she can’t find a friend or relative to care for him.

“This week I called out twice,” Ms. Dagrin said Wednesday. “They called me and said: ‘We won’t accept no more callouts. If you call out again you’re out of a job.’” She said she didn’t know what she was going to do for the rest of the week.

Unlike Ms. Dagrin, Maggie Russell-Ciardi doesn’t have to choose between going to work and providing child care for her young child. A nonprofit consultant in New York City and part-time yoga teacher, Ms. Russell-Ciardi can slot work around her 3-year-old son’s sleep and play schedule — even if it sometimes requires waking up in the wee hours — and simply makes do when he’s awake and active.

“It’s better for me to do my own practice when he’s sleeping,” she said of the yoga classes she now teaches online. “But it’s nice to have him growing up feeling like he’s part of the yoga community even if it’s now a virtual one. It’s an important teaching for him.”

The ability of the middle class to quickly shift life online has been striking. The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, where roughly 100 faculty members on site teach several hundred students each week, has shifted its entire music instruction to videoconferencing. Over 95 percent of the students enrolled in private lessons have resumed their classes since the school reopened online last Friday.

By contrast, said Dorothy Savitch, an administrator, the school operates a music education program in 25 local public schools, with large numbers of children below the poverty level. Ms. Savitch said about one-third of those children might take part when the program resumes online next week, though she hopes to reach 60 percent of them eventually.

But the middle class is not free of anxiety in this pandemic moment. Otherwise-privileged people have become acutely aware of the options they lack. “For the first time in my life, I feel the difference between myself and my more affluent friends,” said Deb Huberman, a freelance television producer living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “I desperately want to get out of the city but I can’t afford to rent something.”

Ms. Huberman estimates that half the neighbors in her building have fled to second homes. Many have joined other wealthy New Yorkers in the less densely populated East End of Long Island.

“I feel guilty about friends and colleagues who don’t have the ability to leave,” said Joe Bilman, who moved with his family from Park Slope in Brooklyn to his vacation house in East Hampton. “We knew it would be easier for us to isolate and be part of the quarantine. We have a backyard and the kids can go for bike rides.”

Hamptonites have often managed to recreate the amenities of home, except with more space and beachfront views. Many children enrolled in Manhattan prep schools continue to be taught by teachers in conventional classroom formats, albeit over the internet, while public schools have frequently substituted individual study with materials supplied online. advertises that “coaches are continuing to give 1-on-1 lessons” and lists a few pros available in Hamptons ZIP codes. Zabar’s, the Upper West Side food emporium, will deliver an assortment of noshes for a $300 to $400, depending on the distance.

“I don’t even take a markup — it’s whatever the messenger service charges me,” said Scott Goldshine, the general manager. “Obviously, for most of the people out there getting these types of delivery, money is not an issue.”

At some summer retreats, like Martha’s Vineyard and the Jersey Shore, local officials have taken to discouraging second-home owners and renters for fear of overtaxing local infrastructure.

In other cases, the rich aren’t going east or west, but down. Gary Lynch, general manager of Rising S, a Texas maker of safe rooms and bunkers that range in price from $40,000 to several million dollars, said he had added a second shift of 15 workers to handle the flood of new orders, mostly for underground bunkers.

“I’ve never seen interest like there is now,” said Mr. Lynch, who has taken to turning his phone off at night so he can get some sleep. “It has not let up.”

‘They see my blue eyes then jump back’ – China sees a new wave of xenophobia

Of note:

Over the past few weeks, as Chinese health officials reported new “imported” coronavirus cases almost every day, foreigners living in the country have noticed a change. They have been turned away from restaurants, shops, gyms and hotels, subjected to further screening, yelled at by locals and avoided in public spaces.

“I’m walking past someone, then they see my blue eyes and jump a foot back,” said Andrew Hoban, 33, who is originally from Ireland and lives in Shanghai.

Experiences range from socially awkward to xenophobic. An American walking with a group of foreigners in a park in Beijing saw a woman grab her child and run the other way. Others have described being called “foreign trash”. A recent online article, under an image of ship stacked with refuse being pushed away from China’s coast, was headlined: “Beware of a second outbreak started by foreign garbage.”

Medical Expert Who Corrects Trump Is Now a Target of the Far Right

Sigh but predictable. A few but appear to be exceptional worrying signs in Canada in questioning expertise (e.g., Conrad Black on COVID-19: The world succumbed to a pandemic of hysteria, more than a virus, MALCOLM: It’s time to double check the experts’ COVID-19 work):

At a White House briefing on the coronavirus on March 20, President Trump called the State Department the “Deep State Department.” Behind him, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, dropped his head and rubbed his forehead.

Some thought Dr. Fauci was slighting the president, leading to a vitriolic online reaction. On Twitter and Facebook, a post that falsely claimed he was part of a secret cabal who opposed Mr. Trump was soon shared thousands of times, reaching roughly 1.5 million people.

A week later, Dr. Fauci — the administration’s most outspoken advocate of emergency measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak — has become the target of an online conspiracy theory that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.

That fanciful claim has spread across social media, fanned by a right-wing chorus of Mr. Trump’s supporters, even as Dr. Fauci has won a public following for his willingness to contradict the president and correct falsehoods and overly rosy pronouncements about containing the virus.

An analysis by The New York Times found over 70 accounts on Twitter that have promoted the hashtag #FauciFraud, with some tweeting as frequently as 795 times a day. The anti-Fauci sentiment is being reinforced by posts from Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group; Bill Mitchell, host of the far-right online talk show “YourVoice America”; and other outspoken Trump supporters such as Shiva Ayyadurai, who has falsely claimed to be the inventor of email.

Many of the anti-Fauci posts, some of which pointed to a seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had sent praising Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of State, have been retweeted thousands of times. On YouTube, conspiracy-theory videos about Dr. Fauci have racked up hundreds of thousands of views in the past week. In private Facebook groups, posts disparaging him have also been shared hundreds of times and liked by thousands of people, according to the Times analysis.

One anti-Fauci tweet on Tuesday said, “Sorry liberals but we don’t trust Dr. Anthony Fauci.”

The torrent of falsehoods aimed at discrediting Dr. Fauci is another example of the hyperpartisan information flow that has driven a wedge into the way Americans think. For the past few years, far-right supporters of President Trump have regularly vilified those whom they see as opposing him. Even so, the campaign against Dr. Fauci stands out because he is one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts and a member of Mr. Trump’s virus task force, and it is unfolding as the government battles a pathogen that is rapidly spreading in the United States.

It is the latest twist in the ebb and flow of right-wing punditry that for weeks echoed Mr. Trump in minimizing the threat posed by the coronavirus and arguably undercut efforts to alert the public of its dangers. When the president took a more assertive posture against the outbreak, conservative outlets shifted, too — but now accuse Democrats and journalists of trying to use the pandemic to damage Mr. Trump politically.

“There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of Trump supporters to spread misinformation about the virus aggressively,” said Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington who has studied misinformation.

Adding that Dr. Fauci is bearing the brunt of the attacks, Mr. Bergstrom said: “There is this sense that experts are untrustworthy, and have agendas that aren’t aligned with the people. It’s very concerning because the experts in this are being discounted out of hand.”

The Trump administration has previously shown a distaste for relying on scientific expertise, such as when dealing with climate change. But misinformation campaigns during a pandemic carry a unique danger because they may sow distrust in public health officials when accurate information and advice are crucial, said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Syracuse University who teaches digital ethics.

“What this case will show is that conspiracy theories can kill,” she said.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases did not respond to a request for comment on the misinformation being directed at Dr. Fauci, who has said he plans to keep working to contain the coronavirus.

“When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with Science magazine this past week. “So, I’m going to keep pushing.”

The online campaign is an abrupt shift for Dr. Fauci, an immunologist who has led the institute since 1984. He has long been seen as credible by a large section of the public and journalists, advising every president since Ronald Reagan and encouraging action against the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

In recent weeks, much of the online discussion of Dr. Fauci was benign or positive. Zignal Labs, a media analysis company, studied 1.7 million mentions of Dr. Fauci across the web and TV broadcasts from Feb. 27 to Friday and found that through mid-March, he was mainly praised and his comments were straightforwardly reported. Right-wing figures quoted Dr. Fauci approvingly or lauded him for his comments on shutting down travel to and from China, Zignal Labs said.

In the White House briefings on the coronavirus, he often spoke plainly of the severity of the situation, becoming something of a folk hero to some on the left. Then Dr. Fauci, who had been a steady presence at Mr. Trump’s side during the briefings, did not appear at the one on March 18.

A hashtag asking “Where is Dr. Fauci?” began trending on Twitter. Several Facebook fan groups dedicated to praising his medical record called for his return. The first accounts tweeting #FauciFraud also appeared, though their volume of posts was small, according to the Times analysis.

Two days later, Dr. Fauci put his head in his hand at the White House briefing after Mr. Trump’s remark on the “Deep State Department.” His gesture — some called it a face palm — caught the attention of Mr. Trump’s supporters online, who saw it as an insult to the president.

Anti-Fauci posts spiked, according to Zignal Labs. Much of the increase was prompted by a March 21 article in The American Thinker, a conservative blog, which published the seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had written to an aide of Mrs. Clinton.

In the email, Dr. Fauci praised Mrs. Clinton for her stamina during the 2013 Benghazi hearings. The American Thinker falsely claimed that the email was evidence that he was part of a secret group who opposed Mr. Trump.

That same day, Mr. Fitton of Judicial Watch posted a tweet linking to a different blog post that showed Dr. Fauci’s email on Mrs. Clinton. In the tweet, Mr. Fitton included a video of himself crossing his arms and saying, “Isn’t that interesting.” It was retweeted more than 1,500 times.

In an interview, Mr. Fitton said, “Dr. Fauci is doing a great job.” He added that Dr. Fauci “wrote very political statements to Hillary Clinton that were odd for an appointee of his nature to send.”

The conspiracy theory was soon shared thousands of times across Facebook and Twitter. It was also taken up by messaging groups on WhatsApp and Facebook run by QAnon, the anonymous group that claims to be privy to government secrets. On YouTube, far-right personalities began spouting that Dr. Fauci was a fraud.

By Tuesday, the online and television mentions of Dr. Fauci had declined but had become consistently negative, Zignal Labs said.

One anti-Fauci tweet last Sunday read: “Dr. Fauci is in love w/ crooked @HillaryClinton. More reasons not to trust him.”

Facebook said it proactively removed misinformation related to the coronavirus. YouTube said that it did not recommend the conspiracy-theory videos on Dr. Fauci to viewers and that it promotes credible virus information. Twitter said it remained “focused on taking down content that can lead to harm.”

Ms. Phillips, the Syracuse assistant professor, said the campaign was part of a long-term conspiracy theory propagated by Mr. Trump’s followers.

“Fauci has just been particularly prominent,” she said. “But any public health official who gets cast in a conspiratorial narrative is going to be subject to those same kinds of suspicions, the same kinds of doubt.”

That has not stopped Dr. Fauci from appearing on the internet. On Thursday, he joined a 30-minute Instagram Live discussion about the coronavirus hosted by the National Basketball Association star Stephen Curry.

In the session, Dr. Fauci, with a miniature basketball hoop behind him, conveyed the same message that he had said for weeks about the outbreak.

“This is serious business,” he said. “We are not overreacting.”

More Than a Place of Refuge: Meaningful engagement of Government-assisted refugees in the future of work. An Action Canada Task Force report

From the recent Action Canada report, on ways to improve participation in the workplace for Government Assisted Refugees. Most of these are reasonable but I would question the need for a national anti-racism strategy specific to former refugees as hard to see that anti-Muslim or anti-Black racism is specific to refugees and former refugees:

Recommendation 1: The Government of Canada should support the development of collaborative options in which GARs can access programs to simultaneously improve their language skills while acquiring Canadian work experience and earning wages.

Recommendation 2: The Government of Canada should support the prioritization of creating enhanced social capital for GARs through an emphasis on social bridging/integration.

Recommendation 3: The Government of Canada should reduce the amount of the claw-back on income above 50 percent of the Resettlement Assistance Program amount from 100 percent to 50 percent to encourage former refugees to find full-time employment.

Recommendation 4: The Government of Canada should extend Resettlement Assistance Program eligibility to 24 months.

Recommendation 5: The Government of Canada should direct Statistics Canada to work with federal ministries, provincial governments and settlement agencies to collect and publicly distribute relevant, updated and on-time data regarding newcomer refugees, and especially relating to uptake of different social programs and employment.

Recommendation 6: The Government of Canada should establish a national strategy to combat discrimination against former refugees, with an emphasis on Islamophobia and anti-black racism.


Immigrant Workers: Vital to the U.S. COVID-19 Response, Disproportionately Vulnerable

Of note. Haven’t looked at immigrant status but visible minorities provides a similar picture (mix of immigrants and subsequent generations). Some visible minority groups such as Latin American and Blacks are more concentrated in support positions than other groups:

Six million immigrant workers are at the frontlines of keeping U.S. residents healthy and fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the foreign born represented 17 percent of the 156 million civilians working in 2018, they account for larger shares in coronavirus-response frontline occupations: 29 percent of all physicians and 38 percent of home health aides, for example. They also represent significant shares of workers cleaning hospital rooms, staffing grocery stores, and producing food.

The foreign born also are over-represented in sectors most immediately devastated by mass layoffs: Restaurants and hotels, office cleaning services, and in-home child care, among them. All told, another 6 million immigrants work in industries that MPI has identified as some of the hardest hit, meaning that collectively 12 million immigrant workers are at the leading edge of the response to and impacts from the pandemic.

As dramatic economic contraction brings hardship to tens of millions in the coming months, the difficulties will be exacerbated for many immigrant workers because of limited access to safety-net systems and to federal relief, both for those who are unauthorized and some who are legally present. The estimated $2 trillion pandemic aid package makes many immigrants eligible for cash relief payments; others, such as most U.S.-citizen or legal immigrant spouses who file taxes jointly with unauthorized immigrants, will not be eligible.

Noncitizens also face restricted access to existing safety-net programs. While green-card holders, those on a temporary work visa, and individuals with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals can access unemployment insurance, most noncitizens cannot turn to the federal, means-tested benefits, including food stamps, that other workers tap in times of need. And immigrant workers face additional vulnerabilities, including smaller incomes and lower rates of health insurance coverage.

Cohen: Why Canada’s response to COVID-19 is so different from that of the U.S.

Another piece on differences:

Comparing the character of nations is risky and imprecise. In the Age of Contagion, though, it offers a window into how the peoples of the world are coping.

Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have handled the crisis relatively well. We expect that of people we see as highly disciplined, motivated and organized. Italy is reeling from the contagion. Gregarious, unruly, passionate, creative, independent – this is how we see Italians. It suggests why they were slow to respond.

In Washington, Congress struggles to forge an economic response. The president is erratic and unempathetic. He is widely disbelieved, skeptical of expertise and reluctant to accept responsibility.The media send mixed messages. Fox News, with the highest audience, once denied the pandemic, calling it “a hoax.” One host – before she was fired – claimed the coronavirus was a plot by the Democrats to re-impeach Donald Trump.

The danger is that the medical system will be overwhelmed. On the tenth anniversary of Obamacare, universal health care remains contentious in the United States – undermined by the Republicans, who have tried repeatedly to abolish it, and repeatedly challenged in the courts.

In Canada, a country of 37 million, there were some 2,100 cases and 24 deaths as of early Tuesday. The system is holding, for now. Hospitals have enough masks and respirators, for now. The prime minister appears in public every day, alone, outside his residence. He speaks sensibly, with authority, without hyperbole. This has been his finest hour.Canadians trust him. They may not have voted for him – only about one-third did – but that doesn’t matter now. Nor do we question the competence of his ministers who are the other faces of the crisis – Chrystia Freeland, Marc Garneau, Patty Hajdu, Bill Blair. All are calm, competent and professional. This is what we want.

The provincial premiers, most of whom are not Liberals, have lost their congenital instinct to attack Ottawa. Doug Ford, no admirer of Justin Trudeau, now praises his leadership.All provinces have declared states of emergency, and will not object if the national government does, too. If it must, it will – and we won’t complain.

Opposition parties are not posturing. Andrew Scheer, who called Trudeau “a fraud” last autumn, says this is no time for politics. He is right. His fellow Conservatives, vying to succeed him, have put away their popguns. Some want the leadership vote scheduled for August delayed.

Unlike in America, there is consensus in Canada. No one is saying that the aid package is inadequate, that the government is slow, that money unduly favours corporations. Jason Kenney is not talking about western alienation and the Bloc Québécois is not talking sovereignty. Canadians want only freedom from fear.Mercifully, we have no Fox News. Whatever the CBC’s flaws as national broadcaster, its reporting has been thorough and honest, under trying circumstances. Same with CTV and Radio Canada, and the country’s newspapers and websites.

Why is our response different? It may be a case of identity. Americans celebrate independence, individualism, personal liberty. Many distrust government, resent politicians, court conspiracy and dismiss science. This wasn’t always so – the New Deal and the Great Society expanded the state – but it is now.

Canadians accept big government, which is how we built the social welfare state. Two-thirds of us voted for progressives last year. We defer to authority.Yes, we’ve made real mistakes in the crisis. We didn’t secure airports fast enough or test early and widely enough. Too many are treating physical distancing as a snow day. If we ultimately do better in all this – it’s too early to know or crow – it’s not because we are morally superior. It is because we are smaller, organized, well-led, more united, more measured, more of a community.

It’s a question of character.

Source: Cohen: Why Canada’s response to COVID-19 is so different from that of the U.S.