While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, April 15

Barack Obama endorses Joe Biden for 2020 Democratic nomination

Barack Obama endorsed Joe Biden’s White House bid on Tuesday, saying his longtime vice-president can unify and “heal” a nation struggling through some of its darkest moments.

The formal backing by perhaps the most popular politician in America is the latest shot in the arm for Biden’s surging candidacy, and a further sign that Democratic leaders are rallying around the party flagbearer ahead of November’s election.

“Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery,” Obama said in a 12-minute video filmed at his home in Washington and released online.

“I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a President right now,” Obama said, calling his choice of Biden as running mate in 2008 “one of the best decisions I ever made.”

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Coronavirus: US military says bug likely occurred naturally, but not certain

US intelligence indicates that the coronavirus likely occurred naturally, as opposed to being created in a laboratory in China, but there is no certainty either way, the top US general said on Tuesday.

The remarks by Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, could fan speculation about the coronavirus’ origins – something China has dismissed as a conspiracy theory that is unhelpful to the fight against the pandemic.

Asked whether he had any evidence that the virus perhaps began in a Chinese laboratory and was perhaps released accidentally, Milley was non-committal at a Pentagon news briefing.

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Coronavirus: Anger in Africa over virus ‘stigma’ in China

African countries are seething over accounts that Africans are battling stigma and discrimination in China over the coronavirus pandemic, apparently linked to a cluster of cases in the Nigerian community in the southern city of Guangzhou.

The African residents say they have suffered forced evictions, arbitrary quarantines and mass coronavirus tests and face discrimination in restaurants and hotels.

“We saw images of Nigerians in the streets with their possessions and this was of course extremely distressing for us at home,” Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told Chinese ambassador Zhou Pingjian on Tuesday.

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Airlines mull masks, leaving seats empty for coronavirus recovery

Wizz Air is making plans to fly jets only two-thirds full to allow more space between passengers, it said on Tuesday, as airlines voiced concerns that anti-coronavirus measures could blight their profitability long after travel restrictions end.

Wizz Air chief executive Jozsef Varadi and the head of the industry’s global trade association both said single-aisle planes may be required to leave the middle seats on each side vacant to allow a degree of “social distancing” aboard.

Beyond the open-ended lockdowns and travel bans that have brought air travel to a near-halt, deep uncertainty remains over the pace of an eventual recovery and the potential for lasting restrictions that could pile up yet more losses.

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Taylor Swift, Oprah join huge global event to celebrate coronavirus workers

Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey have joined a global broadcast special telecast this weekend that will recognise the efforts of workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, organisers said on Tuesday.

The “One World Together at Home” event, a combination of music, comedy and stories from doctors, nurses and grocery workers, also announced an additional six-hour streaming event that will include appearances by major sports stars, including British Formula One racing champion Lewis Hamilton, US women’s World Cup soccer player Megan Rapinoe, World Cup skier Lindsey Vonn and dozens of other singers, actors and social media influencers.

The April 18 streaming event will precede the two-hour show to be broadcast across multiple North American and international television networks on Saturday evening in the biggest effort so far to show solidarity with frontline workers.

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