The ban on the sale and transportation of alcohol during the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa has emptied hospital beds, ruined businesses, provoked violence and political disputes, and has led to a surge of interest in pineapples, writes the BBC’s Andrew Harding from Johannesburg.
The idea was simple.
Ban all booze, and you’ll prevent drunken fights, reduce domestic violence, stop drunk driving, and eliminate the weekend binge-drinking so prevalent across South Africa. Police, medics and analysts estimate – conservatively – that alcohol is involved in, or responsible for, at least 40% of all emergency hospital admissions.
In normal times some 34,000 trauma cases arrive at emergency departments in South Africa every week.
But since the nationwide lockdown came into force last month to prevent the spread of coronavirus, that figure has plummeted, dramatically, by roughly two thirds, to about 12,000 admissions.
“It’s a significant impact,” said Professor Charles Parry, with some understatement.
He has been modelling the extent to which the alcohol ban has been responsible for the decline in those numbers for South Africa’s Medical Research Council.
“If we end the prohibition on alcohol sales, we’re going to see about 5,000 alcohol admissions in trauma units coming back into the system [each week],” he predicted.
Police minister ‘gone rogue’
The fact that those 5,000 extra hospital beds now stand empty could soon prove invaluable if the pandemic – which has been held, impressively, in check here for several weeks – begins to spread again exponentially, as government advisors predict it may.
But medical experts, while urging the government to keep the alcohol ban in place, also point out that heavy drinking weakens the immune system and may have a particular effect on respiratory conditions.
“Covid-19 is going to have a more severe impact on heavy drinkers… and in South Africa many people live in crowded conditions.
“So, alcohol sales… may increase community transmission [as people often drink socially]… and we’re likely to see an increase in gender-based violence and harm towards children,” warned Professor Parry.
But how to enforce such a draconian and unprecedented clampdown for five weeks, or possibly more if South Africa’s lockdown, due to end on 30 April, is extended once again?
The man responsible for policing the new prohibition has provoked anger in some quarters by appearing to encourage the security forces to take heavy-handed, and potentially illegal, action against those caught breaking the rules.
There have already been numerous worrying examples, including the alleged beating to death of a man caught drinking in his own yard.
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Police Minister Bheki Cele, well-known for his abrasive language and his swaggering enthusiasm for the alcohol ban, recently warned that his forces would “destroy the infrastructure where the liquor is sold”.
“It’s deeply concerning when you have senior political leaders encouraging police officers to use violence or force, or to break the law. It seems as if the police minister has gone rogue,” said Gareth Newham, a crime expert at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies.
South Africa’s alcohol industry initially sought to challenge the ban in court, arguing that it was unconstitutional and introduced without consultation. It has since backed down.
But while many in the industry acknowledge the importance of supporting national efforts to fight the virus, there is frustration about a “one-size-fits-all” approach that is causing significant damage to many businesses.
‘It could be game over’
“It’s not looking good at all,” said Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, the country’s first black female brewery owner and chair of South Africa’s Beer Association, who fears her small business may go under if the ban continues for much longer.
“The arguments against lifting the ban do make sense. A lot of people are unemployed and use alcohol as a get-away drug,” she acknowledged, but she said a more sophisticated approach – perhaps allowing limited alcohol sales – could save her industry from collapse.
“It could be game over for us,” agreed Nick Smith, an American who owns a craft brewery outside Cape Town.
“This one-size-fits-all rule is having a major impact on smaller businesses like ours,” added Mr Smith.
Rise in home brewing
That argument is echoed by South Africa’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which is in favour of a “smart lockdown model” that would allow people to buy alcohol for a few hours each day.
But another party, the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has called the DA’s proposal “murderous” and “racist” since the current ban appears to be having the most positive impact on health in poorer, largely black, communities.
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Many people have compared South Africa’s prohibition to the US’s famous, decade-long crackdown which began in 1920 in response to campaigning by religious and moral groups, and was immortalised by Hollywood in films like Some Like It Hot and The Untouchables.
As with Chicago’s notorious gangster, Al Capone, there are concerns that the alcohol ban could push the sector here into the hands of criminals who already control a lucrative chunk of South Africa’s cigarette industry.
“The longer the lockdown goes on, the more criminal networks will be able to entrench their ability to sell and distribute alcohol,” confirmed Gareth Newham, warning that the government was already losing a fortune in taxation because of the ban.
The ban has certainly tapped into deep undercurrents here in South Africa – a country with a history of apartheid where black citizens were once banned from drinking in public, and some workers were even paid in alcohol, causing huge social problems.
“We, South Africans, don’t have a good relationship with alcohol. Over the years, it’s something that has to a certain extent got out of control,” said Ms Nxusani-Mawela.
But as things stand, one aspect of the ban does appear to be uniting people from different walks of life. It has created a new enthusiasm for home brewing, which has always been a firm fixture in rural communities.
Videos and recipes for pineapple beer and the more traditional corn and sorghum known as “umqombothi”, are now being widely touted on social media, alongside warnings that such drinks, if wrongly prepared, could prove dangerous.
Several hours after President Donald Trump declared the novel coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan aid package to help ease the economic pain of COVID-19.
There are at least 2,174 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 49 coronavirus-related deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and ABC News reporting.
Globally, there are at least 145,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 5,400 deaths.
Tune into ABC News Live at noon ET every weekday for the latest news, context and analysis on the novel coronavirus, with resources from the full ABC News team.
Today’s biggest developments:
Trump says he took test
US travel ban extended to UK, Ireland
House passes COVID-19 stimulus package
Apple closing all stores outside of China
US death toll rises to 49
Here’s the latest on the developing situation. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates.
3:38 p.m. Berlin closes restaurants, pubs
The Berlin Senate decided that all public and non-public events in the city are prohibited for 50 participants or more.
Restaurants, bars, theaters, museums, places of prostitution and similar places of entertainment will be shut down until further notice.
There are exceptions: Restaurants that prepare food on site can remain open, but they’ll be required to keep the tables 1.5 meters, about 5 feet, apart.
For public and non-public events with up to 50 persons, organizers must keep an attendance list with everyone’s name, postal address and telephone number. The list must be kept for at least four weeks and must be handed over in full at the request of the public health department.
3:35 p.m. Preventive measures announced in Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the closing down of numerous public spaces until further notice.
Restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms will shutter on Sunday. Supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and banks will remain open.
Netanyahu said that gatherings of 10 people or fewer will still be allowed.
After announcing on Friday that schools and universities would be closed indefinitely, he said kindergarten classes will now also be closed.
3:26 p.m. Macy’s employee tests positive
A part-time employee at Macy’s Herald Square location in New York City has tested positive, the company said in a statement.
“This colleague has NOT been in the store for the last two weeks and has NOT been in direct contact with colleagues or customers since experiencing symptoms,” the company said.
Macy’s said it doesn’t believe there’s a risk to colleagues or customers and that all stores “are operating with enhanced cleaning standards.”
3:18 p.m. Trudeau’s wife ‘doing very well’
Trump tweeted that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie, is “doing very well” after testing positive.
3:06 p.m. RNC Chairwoman tested after experiencing flu-like symptoms
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, is being tested after experiencing a fever and flu-like symptoms, according to an RNC spokesman.
McDaniel, the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, went to a hospital and was tested for flu and strep. Both tests came back negative, said the spokesman, Michael Ahrens, who added that everyone who’d been in contact with McDaniel is being notified.
She and her family are quarantining at home.
2:55 p.m. Restaurants, cafes closed in France
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced at a press conference the decision to close all places that receive the public and are “not essential to the continuity of the life of the nation”.
This includes restaurants, cafes and cinemas, all of which will be closed until further notice.
Places of worship will remain open, but religious gatherings will be postponed. Public transportation will continue, and municipal elections are still scheduled for Sunday.
1:46 p.m. Archdiocese of New York cancels masses
The Archdiocese of New York has canceled masses beginning this weekend. No time frame was given for when they’d resume.
The decision follows Dutchess County announcing that gatherings of more than 20 people are prohibited, according to a statement from the Archdiocese.
Churches, however, will remain open for private prayer and a private Mass will be livestreamed on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral website.
“Let us pray for all who are sick, as well as doctors, nurses, caregivers and all those working hard to combat the disease,” said Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York. “We should also remember those whose lives have been otherwise disrupted, especially anyone who has lost income from a loss of work during this difficult time.”
1:24 p.m. Death toll in Italy rises
There have been 175 deaths in Italy over the last 24 hours, raising the total to 1,441.
The number of positive cases has now reached 17,750 and more than 109,000 tests have been issued, according to local authorities.
1:14 p.m. Pompeo ‘in good health’
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is “is in good health” and following the advice of physicians, a department spokesperson said, after he was potentially exposed to the virus on a recent trip to Ethiopia.
It’s unclear whether Pompeo took a test for COVID-19. The spokesperson also said that all State Department travel is permitted only if “mission critical,” and senior agency officials must approve all travel.
State Department personnel in Washington and overseas are also now permitted to telework and use “other workplace flexibilities,” like rotational schedules and virtual meetings, according to the spokesperson — joining other federal agencies in implementing contingency plans for its nearly 76,000 employees.
12:39 p.m. Trump says he got tested
Trump said on Saturday that he has taken a COVID-19 test and is awaiting the results.
Trump, who said on Friday he’d “most likely get tested,” said he’s unsure when his results will come back.
His temperature was taken, and he said it was “totally normal.”
On Friday, Trump said he’d “most likely” get tested.
12:33 p.m. Travel ban extended to UK and Ireland
The U.S. travel ban currently in place for parts of Europe has been extended to the UK and Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed.
The president said on Friday he was considering adding the U.K.
Trump announced last week a ban on some travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The area Trump restricted is known as the Schengen zone and is made up of 26 countries including Italy, Spain, France and Germany.
12:23 p.m. Press member turned away from White House briefing
A member of the press was turned away from a White House briefing because his temperature was too high.
Several photographers and reporters, including an ABC News reporter, saw him turned away outside the briefing room doors. That man, who declined to disclose his name or media outlet, was led away from the premises.
Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, later tweeted: “According to the White House Medical Unit, the temperature was taken three times over a 15 minute period – all three registered above the @CDCgov 100.4 guidelines.”
12:15 p.m. Google appears to downplay Trump’s statement on website
Google said it was in the “early stages” of developing a tool to help testing, contradicting President Donald Trump’s announcement yesterday that “it’s going to be very quickly done.”
Verily, which was previously Google Life Sciences, did not provide details on the tool, only saying there was a plan to test it in the Bay Area “with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.”
It struck a much different tone than Trump’s address Friday, in which he thanked Google for “helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”
11:46 a.m. State of emergency declared in Georgia
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health state of emergency.
The governor said the declaration will help health and emergency management officials across the state by “deploying all available resources for the mitigation and treatment of COVID-19.”
“Over the past few weeks, our state has been facing an unprecedented public health threat with the spread of novel coronavirus,” Kemp said. “In only a matter of days, communities within the metro-Atlanta area and North Georgia have seen several cases, including hospitalizations, where the source of infection is unknown.”
There are at least 66 cases in the state, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
11:34 a.m. CVS announces strategy
CVS said it is working on conducting tests in the parking lots of selected stores.
The announcement comes a day after Trump said private sector companies, including CVS, would be involved in addressing the crisis.
The company said although details are still being worked out, customers inside the store would not be affected by the tests.
“Individuals being tested will not have to leave their cars,” CVS said in a statement. “We look forward to sharing more details as they become available.”
11:12 a.m. 2 large grocery store chains to close early
Publix and Harris Teeter grocery stores announced they will close early, starting this weekend.
All Publix Super Markets are adjusting store and pharmacy hours, shutting down at 8 p.m. starting Saturday until further notice, according to a company statement. Harris Teeter stores will close at 9 p.m. until further notice, beginning Sunday, according to a statement posted to Twitter.
Both grocers said closing earlier gives them more time to sanitize stores.
11:07 a.m. ‘Priority calls’ only for Colorado police
Police in Aurora, Colorado, will only respond to “priority calls” for service amid the pandemic, the department said in a Facebook post.
A priority call is defined as “any situation where there is a crime in a progress,” according to the statement.
“We are taking these measures in an abundance of caution for your safety as well as the safety of our officers,” the department said. “Police Officers frequently are in contact with many citizens, and we want to minimize the potential of our daily interactions from causing an exposure risk to you.”
Citizens are encouraged to use the department’s online reporting system, which can be found here.
11:02 a.m. House Republican says Trump should be tested
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said it “should go without saying” that Trump should be tested for novel coronavirus.
10:17 a.m. Cuomo announces 1st death in New York
An 82-year-old woman has died in a New York City hospital after arriving March 3. She had an underlying respiratory illness, emphysema, for which she was been previously hospitalized. There are now 524 cases of COVID-19 in New York state.
9:45 a.m. Bolsonaro will isolate for a week, get tested again
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s press office has confirmed that he will self-isolate for a week, after which he will seek another test.
This comes after four members of his delegation during last weekend’s trip to meet Trump at Mar-a-Lago now have tested positive for COVID-19. Bolsonaro on Friday denied Brazilian press reports that he too, had tested positive, calling it “fake news.” His office still won’t say whether he’s tested positive. His next test is scheduled for Friday.
9:44 a.m. Obituaries fill Italian newspaper
The obituary section is making up most of Saturday’s edition of the Bergamo Eco. The section is 10 full pages.
The tradition in Bergamo, an Italian city northeast of Milan, is to still put death notices in the paper and posters on the street. The population of Bergamo is roughly 120,000.
9:28 a.m. Iran closes 2 major shrines for pilgrims
Iran closed the holy shrine of Fatima Masoumeh in Qom and the great mosque of Jamkaran, also close to Qom, after over three weeks of the first coronavirus infection reported. The shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad is also to be closed for three days.
The shrines closed amid controversy between health officials and religious conservatives over the closings.
5:41 a.m. Pentagon restricts domestic travel for service members
New travel restrictions approved Friday by the Department of Defense limit all domestic travel for service members, their families and DoD civilians.
The new rule, an attempt to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, goes into effect on Monday and will last through May 11.
Even service members who have orders to move to new assignments or bases in the U.S. will not be allowed to move while the restrictions are in place, according to the DoD.
The Pentagon also announced, effective midnight Sunday, that it’s restricting who enters the Pentagon. All tours, unofficial visits and all international visits have ended.
Additionally, any military member or civilian employee who has carried out recent foreign travel will not be allowed into the building until they have completed 14 days back in the U.S.
3:04 a.m. Apple closing all stores outside China
Apple CEO Tom Cook announced early Saturday morning that all of his company’s stores outside of greater China would close until March 27.
“The global spread of COVID-19 is affecting every one of us,” Cook said in a statement. “At Apple, we are people first, and we do what we do with the belief that technology can change lives and the hope that it can be a valuable tool in a moment like this.”
In an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus and treat those who are sick, Cook said Apple has donated $15 million.
“There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment,” Cook said. “… As President Lincoln said in a time of great adversity: ‘The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.'”
1:24 a.m. House passes stimulus package
With a 363 to 40 vote, the House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday.
The bill, which is an economic aid package designed to help ease the financial pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be considered by the Senate on Monday.
“Senators will need to carefully review the version just passed by the House,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Saturday. “But I believe the vast majority of Senators in both parties will agree we should act swiftly to secure relief for American workers, families, and small businesses.”
The cost of the bill is unknown, however, the bill includes $1 billion for National Disaster Medical System to reimburse people without health insurance, $82 million for Defense beneficiaries, $64 million for Indian Health Service and $60 million for veterans.
“This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump tweeted Monday prior to the vote. “I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt.”
12:21 a.m. Trump physician says quarantine, COVID-19 test ‘not currently indicated’ for president
Despite coming into contact with multiple people who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, Trump’s physician said late Friday night that a home quarantine or COVID-19 test are “not currently indicated.”
Last week while hosting the Brazilian delegation at Mar-a-Lago, Trump came in close contact with at least two people who later tested positive for the virus, according to Trump physician Dr. Sean Conley.
One person only had a brief interaction with the president — a handshake and photograph — and began to show symptoms three days after the interaction. The other shared a table with the president, but Conley said that person was symptom-free until Friday. Both interactions are defined as “low risk” for transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Given the president himself remains without symptoms, testing for COIVD-19 is not currently indicated,” Conley wrote Friday. “I will continue to closely monitor and care for the president.”
What to know about coronavirus:
How it started and how to protect yourself: coronavirus explained
What to do if you have symptoms: coronavirus symptoms
Tracking the spread in the US and worldwide: coronavirus map
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson, John Santucci, Katherine Faulders, John Parkinson, Luis Martinez, Clayton Sandell, Benjamin Siegel, Phoebe Natanson, Ibtissem Guenfoud, Bruno Nota, Sarah Hucal and Jason Volack contributed to this report.
Nuno Melo, a Portuguese MEP, condemned the bloc’s decision in a bombshell letter to EU Parliament president David Sassoli. He demanded an answer as to why Greta was deemed an “exception” to the ban ahead of her talk. Mr Melo also said that “human beings are democratically equal,” referencing a bias towards the 17-year-old.
Belgian MEP Hilde Vautmans also waded in questioning “how can we explain this to our visitors and guests”.
She added: “Everyone should be treated equally.
“If the European Parliament grants an exception to Greta Thunberg, this house will not be taken seriously.”
The climate change activist will be in the Belgium capital on Wednesday and is expected to deliver her speech to MEPs.
Most recently, she was in Bristol talking to activists on Friday.
A spokeswoman for parliament said: “This is not a decision linked to a particular person.
“Any speaker specifically invited by the president of an official body of the parliament is allowed to attend.”
Other MEPs also joined in asking for further clarification as to why the Swede was allowed to attend Parliament.
JUST IN: ‘Anti-Greta Thunberg’ hits out at teenage climate activist
On Tuesday, Spain confirmed that it had recorded its first death.
Reports say that the virus was the reason a man died in a Valencia hospital.
In the UK, 51 people have contracted the disease.
The Government has put its plan in place how it intends to tackle the coronavirus.
San Francisco police officers wait while homeless people collect their belongings in San Francisco. Nearly a quarter of the country’s homeless population lives in California.
San Francisco police officers wait while homeless people collect their belongings in San Francisco. Nearly a quarter of the country’s homeless population lives in California.
Updated at 1:40 p.m ET
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal in a case originating from Boise, Idaho, that would have made it a crime to camp and sleep in public spaces.
The decision to let a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stand is a setback for states and local governments in much of the West that are grappling with widespread homelessness by designing laws to regulate makeshift encampments on sidewalks and parks.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed nearly a decade ago. A handful of people sued the city of Boise for repeatedly ticketing them for violating an ordinance against sleeping outside. While Boise officials later amended it to prohibit citations when shelters are full, the 9th Circuit eventually determined the local law was unconstitutional.
In a decision last year, the court said it was “cruel and unusual punishment” to enforce rules that stop homeless people from camping in public places when they have no place else to go. That means states across the 9th Circuit can no longer enforce similar statutes if they don’t have enough shelter beds for homeless people sleeping outside.
Los Angeles attorney Theane Evangelis, who is representing Boise in the case, argued the decision ultimately harms the people it purports to protect because cities need the ability to control encampments that threaten public health and safety.
“Cities’ hands are tied now by the 9th Circuit Decision because it effectively creates a Constitutional right to camp,” Evangelis told NPR in an emailed statement.
In court documents, lawyers for Boise said, “Public encampments, now protected by the Constitution under the Ninth Circuit’s decision, have spawned crime and violence, incubated disease, and created environmental hazards that threaten the lives and well-being both of those living on the streets and the public at large.”
Major west coast cities and counties with soaring homeless populations had backed Boise in its petition, including Los Angeles County, where the number of people without a permanent place to live has jumped by 16% in the last year.
As NPR reported, California is where nearly a quarter of the country’s homeless population live.
The homeless and their advocates say ticketing homeless people does nothing to solve the bigger housing crisis.
“Paying lawyers six figures to write briefs is not really going to build any more housing,” said Howard Belodoff, a Boise civil rights attorney.
Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, added: “housing, not handcuffs, is what ends homelessness.”
The center, which was one of three groups to file the case in 2009, hailed the decision as being essential to encouraging cities to propose constructive alternatives to homelessness.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development found that more than 550,000 people experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2018. Of those, nearly 200,000 were unsheltered.
The case now returns to the 9th Circuit. The city of Boise says it’s evaluating its next steps.
A campaign account for Danielle Stella, a pro-Trump Republican candidate for Congress, was banned from Twitter after it published a violent comment about the Democrat she hopes to unseat next year, Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar.
Stella’s campaign Twitter account, @2020MNCongress, featured at least two posts involving the idea of Omar being hanged, according to the Washington Times, which broke the story of her suspension.
The tweets concerned an unsubstantiated allegation that Omar – one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress – shared sensitive information with Qatar, which then wound up with Iran.
A spokesperson for Omar previously told the Jerusalem Post of the claim: “Since the day she was elected, Saudi Arabian trolls and mouthpieces have targeted Omar with misinformation and conspiracy theories.”
An initial tweet from Stella’s campaign account reportedly said: “If it is proven [Omar] passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged.”
The Washington Times said the account “subsequently tweeted the link to an article that aggregated her remark, accompanied by a crude depiction of a stick figure hanging from gallows”.
The @2020MNCongress account cannot be viewed. Text on the page reads “account suspended” and “Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules”.
In a statement, Twitter told the Guardian: “The account was permanently suspended for repeated violations of the Twitter Rules.”
Stella said in a statement: “My suspension for advocating for the enforcement of federal code proves Twitter will always side with and fight to protect terrorists, traitors, pedophiles and rapists.”
The Guardian revealed that Stella has been arrested twice this year over accusations that she shoplifted some $2,300 in goods from Target and $40 in items from a grocery, Stella has maintained her innocence.
She has made claims about Omar before, claiming she broke the law by telling immigrants how to avoid authorities. Lawmakers who don’t “uphold the rule of law”, Stella said, should be kicked out of office.
A spokesperson for Omar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since winning election to Congress last year, Omar has attracted rightwing attacks and fringe conspiracy theories as well as outright threats of violence. The congresswoman said this April she faced an increase in death threats after Trump accused her of downplaying September 11.
On 19 November, New York man Patrick Carlineo pleaded guilty in relation to calling Omar’s office and telling a staffer: “Why are you working for her, she’s a [expletive] terrorist. Somebody ought to put a bullet in her skull. Back in the day, our forefathers would have put a bullet in her [expletive].”
Omar, who came to the US as a Somali refugee, appealed for “compassion”.
“As someone who fled a war zone, I know how destabilizing acts of political violence can be,” she said in a letter to the judge. “That his threat of violence relied on hateful stereotypes about my faith only made it more dangerous … it was a threat against an entire religion, at a time of rising hate crime against religious minorities in our country.”
She added: “We must ask: who are we as a nation if we respond to acts of political retribution with retribution ourselves? The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion.”
SHANGHAI — The video app TikTok on Wednesday reversed its decision to block an American teenager who posted a clip in which she discussed the mass internment of minority Muslims in China, and acknowledged that its moderation system had overreached in shutting her out of her account.
The incident raised fresh concerns about whether TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech giant ByteDance, muzzles its users in line with censorship directives from Beijing — an accusation the company has denied.
TikTok said the teenager, Feroza Aziz, 17, had been barred from using her personal device to access the app, but not because of her video this past week about China’s detention camps. Rather, the company said, it was because she had used a previous account earlier this month to post a clip that included a photo of Osama bin Laden.
After TikTok banned that account for terrorist imagery, Ms. Aziz used a different one to post her video about the plight of Muslims in China. As the second video began to go viral, TikTok on Monday blocked more than 2,400 devices associated with accounts that had been banned for terrorist content and other malicious material, in what it called a scheduled enforcement action.
This, TikTok said, resulted in Ms. Aziz being locked out from her new account, even though her videos on that account, including the one on China, were still visible to others.
On Wednesday, Ms. Aziz expressed skepticism about TikTok’s explanation. She was blocked only after she had posted about Muslims in internment camps in China. Did she believe that TikTok had actually shut her out for her earlier video? “No,” she wrote on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, the episode had taken another turn when TikTok took down Ms. Aziz’s video about China for 50 minutes. The company said that this was the result of a human moderation error, and that the video should not have been removed.
In a statement, Eric Han, the head of safety for TikTok in the United States, apologized for the mistake. He also said the platform banned devices associated with a blocked account to prevent the spread of “coordinated malicious behavior.”
“It’s clear that this was not the intent here,” Mr. Han wrote.
Earlier this week, Ms. Aziz had told The Times that her video containing an image of Bin Laden was satirical in nature, an attempt to use humor to defuse the discrimination that she felt as a young Muslim in the United States.
“While we recognize that this video may have been intended as satire, our policies on this front are currently strict,” Mr. Han wrote. But he added that TikTok would consider exempting satirical and educational videos in the future.
Mr. Han also said TikTok would conduct a broader review of its moderation process and publish a “much fuller” version of its guidelines on acceptable content within the next two months.
US telecommunications regulators have declared Huawei and ZTE national security threats in the latest action by the US government against the Chinese tech giants, writes the BBC.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has also proposed forcing US customers to replace equipment previously purchased from the firms.
Huawei called the decision “profoundly mistaken”.
It said it was based on “innuendo, and mistaken assumptions”.
Huawei had made inroads in the US market, winning customers among rural telecommunications operators with relatively inexpensive network equipment.
But US officials have increasingly raised concerns about ties between Chinese tech firms and their government in Beijing.
In declaring Huawei and ZTE threats , the FCC on Friday cited the companies’ “close ties to the Chinese government and military apparatus” and “Chinese laws requiring them to assist with espionage”.
The agency ordered that money from an $8.5 billion aid programme to improve mobile and internet coverage in poor and underserved areas could not be used to buy equipment from firms deemed national security threats.
Lobby group Rural Wireless Association said it was “cautiously optimistic” that members with Huawei or ZTE equipment will be able to comply with the order without disrupting service.
The FCC has estimated that replacing the equipment would cost about $2bn.
Huawei criticized the FCC’s actions, saying they would have “profound negative effects on connectivity for Americans in rural and underserved areas across the United States.”
It added that the FCC had presented “no evidence that Huawei poses a security risk. Instead, the FCC simply assumes, based on a mistaken view of Chinese law, that Huawei might come under Chinese government control.”
The US has alleged that Huawei’s equipment could be abused for spying and urged other countries to bar Huawei from 5G networks,
The White House placed Huawei on a trade blacklist in May citing national security fears. The move barred US firms from doing business without special approval
The Commerce Department had offered waivers, including for telecommunications firms in rural areas that relied on Huawei’s equipment to continue to receive service.