America’s death toll from COVID-19 likely higher than official toll

Since recording its first case in February, the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the United States and killed almost 130,000 people across the country.

But startling new research released today suggests the true number of Americans to perish from the highly infectious virus is much, much higher.

Scientists from the US and Denmark examined death records over a three-month period and their findings, published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, show there were 122,300 more deaths than normal.

Obviously, the “excess deaths” can’t all be attributed to the coronavirus outbreak.

But such a sharp increase in morality in the US, at the same time as the pandemic, indicates a number of fatalities caused by the pandemic haven’t been counted, the study authors said.

Between March 1 and May 30, the period examined by the scientists, which included researchers from Yale University, there were 781,000 total deaths in the US.

In that same three-month period, 95,235 deaths due to COVID-19 were recorded, meaning the number of excess deaths was 28 per cent higher.

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“Efforts to track the severity and public health impact of coronavirus in the United States have been hampered by state-level differences in diagnostic test availability, differing strategies for prioritisation of individuals for testing, and delays between testing and reporting,” the study said.

“Evaluating unexplained increases in deaths due to all causes, or attributed to non-specific outcomes, such as pneumonia and influenza, can provide a more complete picture of the burden of COVID-19.”

The study used data from the National Centre for Health Statistics and compared it to the same period from previous years.

Limited availability of testing and the “imperfect sensitivity” of tests means “there have likely been a number of deaths caused by the virus” that aren’t formally recorded.

“In several states, these deaths occurred before increases in the availability of COVID-19 diagnostic tests and were not counted in official COVID-19 death records,” the study noted.

RELATED: Coronavirus kills more than 1000 US citizens every single day

A number of major metropolitan locations were examined, including the hard-hit New York City, which was at the epicentre of coronavirus deaths in the early stages of the pandemic.

Mortality rates there rose “seven-fold above the baseline at the peak of the pandemic”, the study said. There were a total of 25,100 excess deaths in New York City.

Among individual American states, the gap between the reported pandemic deaths and the estimated excess deaths varied.

In California, there were 4046 reported deaths due to COVID-19 and 6800 excess all-cause deaths. Texas and Arizona had even wider gaps, with approximately 55 per cent and 53 per cent of the excess deaths unattributed to coronavirus, respectively.

“Some of the discrepancy between reported COVID-19 deaths and excess deaths could be related to the intensity and timing of increases in testing,” the study said.

“In some states (for example, Texas, California) excess all-cause mortality preceded the widespread adoption of testing for (COVID-19) by several weeks.”

RELATED: America’s greedy decision to buy entire world’s supply of potential COVID-19 treatment

Epidemiologists and researchers have monitored excess death data in a bid to track influenza morality for than a century.

The team behind this new study used a similar strategy to identify the potential underestimation of COVID-19 fatalities.
Not all excess deaths potentially linked to COVID-19 would be the direct result of infection on its own, they pointed out.

“If patients with chronic conditions turn away from the health care system because of concerns about potential COVID-19 infection, there could be increases in certain categories of deaths unrelated to COVID-19,” the study said.

“In the midst of a large outbreak, there is also an unavoidable delay in the compilation of death certificates and ascertainment of causes of death.”

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FIFA bans former top official Markus Kattner for 10 years

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has banned Markus Kattner, a former leading official in the Zurich organisation, for 10 years and has fined him one million Swiss francs ($1.5 million) after a probe into bonus payments.

“The adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee has found Markus Kattner, former FIFA Deputy Secretary General and Acting Secretary General, guilty of conflicts of interest and having abused his position, in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics,” FIFA said in a statement on Tuesday.

Markus Kattner was found to have abused his position.

Markus Kattner was found to have abused his position.Credit:AP

“The investigation into Mr Kattner covered various charges concerning bonus payments in relation to FIFA competitions that were paid to top FIFA management officials (including Mr Kattner), various amendments to and extensions of employment contracts, reimbursement of private legal costs, and Mr Kattner’s duties as an official.”

FIFA said in June 2016 that an internal investigation revealed that Kattner, FIFA’s former Secretary General Jerome Valcke and the organisation’s ex-President Sepp Blatter had received 79 million Swiss francs in compensation over five years, calling them “massive payouts”.

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Exclusive: New U.S. development agency could loan billions for reshoring, official says

FILE PHOTO: Adam Boehler, the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

June 24, 2020

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. government financing for projects to return critical supply chains to the United States as part of coronavirus response efforts could reach tens of billions of dollars and clients may include a projected $12 billion Taiwanese semiconductor plant, the head of the agency managing the funds told Reuters.

The U.S. International Development Finance Corp is talking to companies about reshoring the manufacturing of personal protective equipment, generic drugs and pharmaceutical ingredients, DFC Chief Executive Adam Boehler said in an interview on Monday.

Boehler said letters of understanding for some initial projects could be signed within the next month. The Trump administration has been pushing for U.S. companies and importers to move manufacturing out of China.

The agency, which opened its doors in January to boost U.S. overseas development financing efforts to counter China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure drive, was drafted into domestic service in May, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order under the Defense Production Act.

DFC and the Defense Department agreed on Monday to jointly administer $100 million in supply-chain reshoring funds from the $2.3 billion coronavirus legislation passed in March.

Company proposals to reshore are already pouring in, Boehler said.

“The areas that have come on hot right away are on the PPE side and within the pharmaceutical value chains,” Boehler said, adding there was interest in returning some generic drug production – almost all of which is imported – to the United States.

The $100 million can be leveraged into “tens of billions of dollars” in loans by using it as a pool of capital similar to the U.S. Treasury’s backing of Federal Reserve loan facilities, Boehler said. At that scale, the agency could participate in the financing of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd’s <2330.TW> planned factory in Arizona.

The project is a centerpiece of the push to wrestle global technology supply chains back from China. TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, is a major supplier to Apple Inc <AAPL.O>, Qualcomm Inc <QCOM.O> and other major U.S. tech firms. <nL1N2CW20O>

“We provide loan and investment financing, so could we be relevant there? Absolutely. We’re talking tens of billions of dollars in potential here, so that’s a possibility, I wouldn’t exclude that,” Boehler said.

A financing package for TSMC would likely include private capital from the state of Arizona. It is too soon to say whether the agency would be able to participate.


DFC was created under 2018 legislation that combined the former Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC) and part of the U.S. Agency for International Development, more than doubling OPIC’s overall lending and investment capacity to $60 billion. Its planned October 2019 launch was delayed until January by a budget fight in Congress that threatened a government shutdown.

Boehler said DFC’s development mission would not be affected by Trump’s executive order and would keep its “foot on the gas” to accelerate projects in poor countries.

The 337-employee DFC – small for a federal agency – is adding about 15 people to focus solely on the domestic reshoring projects, he said, and the funding for overseas development will be kept separate.

The agency approved $1 billion worth of investments and loans at its June board meeting, including a $200 million loan to Guatemala’s Banco Industrial to expand lending to small and medium-size enterprises. Boehler said the bank’s board in September would consider a larger slate of projects.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney)

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Top US health official Fauci warns of ‘disturbing’ new US surge

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Media captionDr Fauci: ‘We’re now seeing a disturbing surge of infections’

America’s top infectious disease expert has told lawmakers that the nation is seeing a “disturbing surge” in coronavirus infections in some states.

A panel of health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, said the next few days will be crucial to stem the new outbreaks.

Cases are climbing rapidly across a number of US states.

The four top experts also testified they were never told by President Donald Trump to “slow down” testing.

Their comments come after Mr Trump told a weekend rally in Oklahoma that he had asked his team to do less testing to help keep official case counts down.

“To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing,” Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to a congressional committee investigating the US response to the pandemic.

“In fact, we will be doing more testing,” he added.

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Dr Fauci testified to the congressional committee in person on Tuesday

The other three officials – representing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services – also disputed Mr Trump’s comment, saying they had never been directed to slow testing.

Brett Giroir, the health department assistant secretary who oversees US diagnostic capacity, told lawmakers he expects the US will be able to conduct 40 to 50 million tests per month by autumn.

What did Trump say?

The White House has said the president’s comment about slowing testing was “in jest”. But on Tuesday the president appeared to contradict that, telling reporters: “I don’t kid.”

At least 120,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus – more than any other nation.

But Mr Trump told a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, later in the day that the coronavirus “plague” was “going away”.

The president once again referred to the virus as the “kung flu”, which the White House denies is a racist term.

Arizona, which the president visited on Tuesday, surpassed its daily record for new infections only hours before the president arrived.

Officials there warn that over 80% of hospital beds are currently being used, and that the healthcare system may be overrun in the coming days or weeks.

What else did experts say?

Dr Fauci warned of “a disturbing surge of infection” and “increased community spread” in many southern and western states.

“A couple of days ago there were 30,000 new infections” in a single day, he said. “That’s very troubling to me.”

“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical to address those surges that we’re seeing in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and other states.”

CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield called testing “a critical underpinning of our response”, but said social distancing measures are more effective at keeping the virus from spreading.

Dr Redfield also called on all Americans to get a flu jab this year, saying the public must “embrace flu vaccinations with confidence”.

“This single act will save lives,” he added.

Dr Fauci added that he is “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine may be ready by the end of 2020.

He said it is a matter of “when and not if” the vaccine is ready, but added that it “might take some time”.

Drug company Moderna has plans “to launch a Phase 3 clinical trial as early as July 2020, pending positive results from this Phase 2 trial”, he said.

Dr Fauci also defended his decision not to warn Americans to start wearing masks earlier, saying it was due to a scarcity at the time of personal protective equipment, or PPE, which was needed for healthcare providers.

Several cities and counties have issued new mask requirements in the past week.

“Plan A: Don’t go in a crowd. Plan B: If you do, make sure you wear a mask,” Dr Fauci told the committee.

Where else is the virus surging?

The number of new daily infections is increasing in more than half of all US states.

After setting new daily records, Texas and Florida said they may be forced to announce new lockdown measures, despite currently barrelling ahead with reopening plans.

On Monday, Florida surpassed 100,000 cases. In the absence of a state-wide mask requirement, several cities and towns have issued their own orders mandating masks in public.

Texas has temporarily revoked alcohol licences from several businesses that were breaking social distancing rules. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he does not expect to issue new lockdown orders, but “closing down Texas again will always be the last option”.

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Top health official says he’s confident Victoria can control the recent outbreak


June 22, 2020 16:11:04

Brendan Murphy expressed his trust in states to isolate and trace cases of COVID-19, which have emerged in Victoria.

Source: ABC News
Duration: 29sec












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TSA official says the agency helped spread coronavirus

Subscribe to Outbreak, a daily roundup of stories on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on global business, delivered free to your inbox.

A Transportation Security Administration official charges that the agency helped spread COVID-19 by failing to provide enough protective gear for airport screeners who are in close contact with travelers every day.

The top TSA official in Kansas, Jay Brainard, says the agency didn’t train staff for the pandemic and barred supervisors like him from giving screeners stockpiled N95 respirators in March when facial coverings such as surgical masks were hard to buy.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that our people became Typhoid Marys and contributed to the spread of that virus because TSA senior leadership did not make sure (screeners) were adequately protected,” Brainard told The Associated Press on Friday.

Brainard filed a complaint against his own agency with the Office of Special Counsel, which handles whistleblower complaints, earlier this month. Late Thursday, the special counsel ordered TSA’s parent agency, the Homeland Security Department, to conduct an investigation.

The TSA said in a statement that it has followed guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in deciding protection standards for workers.

Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said that at the start of the virus outbreak, TSA told employees that masks were optional, then made them mandatory at airport checkpoints in the first week of May.

Airport officers are required to wear nitrile gloves when they screen passengers. They must change gloves after every pat-down, and travelers can request the use of new gloves at any time, Farbstein said. Eye protection has remained optional for screeners.

Farbstein added that plastic barriers have been installed at security checkpoints and areas where checked bags are dropped off for screening.

Brainard disputed parts of the TSA statement, saying screeners have not been told to change gloves after every pat-down. He said new guidelines that took effect last week still have gaps, including no procedure for how to handle travelers who appear to be sick and little or no contact-tracing after TSA personnel become sick.

Brainard’s complaint and the special counsel’s demand for an investigation were earlier reported by the Washington Post and National Public Radio.

Air travel in the U.S. remained at normal levels until early March despite rising numbers of cases and deaths tied to the coronavirus. It then plunged by about 95% but has since recovered slightly as more states relax stay-at-home orders.

Brainard said he wants TSA to take corrective steps to protect health as air travel recovers.

TSA says on its website that 706 of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and five have died, plus one screening contractor.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in March that the agency was prepared for the pandemic, with adequate equipment for screeners.

“Our officers wear gloves as a matter of course anyway … that’s the primary means of transmission for the disease,” Pekoske told a Senate hearing. “We have also authorized our officers in the screening checkpoints, if they would like, to wear a surgical mask. They are permitted to do that, and we provide those masks.”

Brainard said that until April, he and other TSA federal security directors were told to withhold N95 respirators that they had in stock at airports but to allow employees to bring their own masks to work.

“If you remember, you couldn’t get masks” because they were sold out, he said. “To say to these people, ‘You can go out and buy your own,’ that’s unacceptable.”

Brainard joined TSA as an air marshal when the agency was created after the September 2011 terror attacks. He has been an outspoken critic of the agency’s top leadership, testifying before a congressional committee in 2016 and filing two previous whistleblower complaints.

Brainard filed the virus-related complaint on June 3. The special counsel declined to comment, but the order directing Homeland Security to investigate the allegations indicates that the independent federal watchdog office believes there is a “substantial likelihood” of wrongdoing.

Homeland Security could refer the matter to its inspector general, which is the hope of Brainard and his lawyer, Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project in Washington, D.C. The department, however, could send the complaint to TSA.

The special counsel will review the findings either way and issue a report to the White House and Congress.

More coronavirus coverage from Fortune:

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Coronavirus: Queen’s official birthday marked with unique ceremony

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It is the first time the Queen has celebrated her official birthday at Windsor Castle

The Queen’s official birthday has been marked with a unique ceremony performed by the Welsh Guard at Windsor Castle.

It comes after the traditional Trooping the Colour parade was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is only the second time in her 68-year reign that the parade in London has not gone ahead.

The Queen, flanked by officials, sat alone on a dais for the ceremony. It was her first official public appearance since lockdown began.

The Queen celebrated her 94th birthday in April, but it is officially – and publicly – celebrated on the second Saturday of June every year.

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Guardsmen kept their distance as they stood in formation in the central quadrangle of Windsor Castle

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All the troops had learnt new marching techniques for the occasion, to conform with social distancing measures

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The ceremonial tribute, dubbed a mini-Trooping, was performed by a small number of Welsh Guardsmen and the band of the Household Division.

BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell described it as “a birthday parade for changed times”.

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Media captionThe Queen watches a mini-Trooping at Windsor Castle

The Queen received a royal salute. It was followed by a display of precision marching – with the military maintaining strict social distancing measures, in keeping with government guidelines.

With fewer people on parade because of social distancing rules, “there is no hiding place” said Garrison Sgt Maj Warrant Officer Class 1 Andrew Stokes, who created the display.

“But more spacing between individuals means that there is also no room for errors and so the soldier has to really concentrate on their own personal drill, reaction to orders, dressing and social distancing,” he said.

Normally, Guardsmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder during their drills or when formed up on the parade ground, but on Saturday they stood 2.2m apart.

Guardsman Lance Corporal Chusa Siwale, 29, originally from Zambia, had a central role in the ceremony, performing the Drummer’s Call.

“Only four weeks ago I was involved with testing key workers for Covid-19, as part of the Welsh Guards’ contribution to the battle against the virus. Now I am on parade performing in front of Her Majesty.

“This is a very proud day for me.”

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The Queen appeared to enjoy the more intimate occasion

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No other members of the Royal family attended the ceremony on Saturday

It was the first time the Queen has celebrated her official birthday at Windsor Castle. An event for a sovereign’s birthday has not been staged there since 1895, during the reign of Queen Victoria.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have spent the lockdown in isolation at Windsor Castle, and were photographed there earlier this month to mark Prince Philip’s 99th birthday.

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A new photo of the Queen and Prince Philip was released to mark his 99th birthday

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Last year’s parade: The Queen and other royals gather to witness the Red Arrows perform a flypast

The Trooping the Colour parade in Whitehall is usually watched by thousands of spectators and senior members of the Royal Family.

The last time the event was cancelled was in 1955, three years after the Queen’s coronation, due to a national rail strike.

Maj Gen Christopher Ghika, who commands the Household Division, said the circumstances surrounding the decision to host the tribute in Windsor were “clouded in tragedy”.

“The effects of Covid-19 have been devastating in terms of loss of life and the threatening of livelihoods of so many across the country,” he said.

“People have had to endure separation from loved ones, great uncertainty and the suspension of so much of what is special about our national life.”

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Media captionThe Royal Opera Chorus reunites online for the Queen’s official birthday

Gen Ghika added: “The Welsh Guards and many of those on parade have recently been deployed within the United Kingdom as part of the nation’s response to the virus and so the context of the ceremony is particularly poignant.”

The Welsh Guards, along with the rest of the Household Division, have been among the soldiers helping with the coronavirus response, for example at test centres.

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Former DEA official admits to posing as CIA agent in fraud scheme

By Mark Hosenball and Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A former spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Thursday pleaded guilty to orchestrating an elaborate scheme in which he collected millions of dollars by falsely claiming to be a covert intelligence officer.

Garrison Courtney, a DEA spokesman from 2005 to 2009, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a court hearing before U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria, Virginia.

Courtney, 44, defrauded at least a dozen companies of over $4.4 million by posing as a Central Intelligence Agency officer, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Courtney told the companies they needed to hire him to create “commercial cover” masking his supposed CIA affiliation, prosecutors said.

Courtney falsely told the companies, which were not identified in court documents, that they would be reimbursed for these salary payments to him, sometimes by the award of lucrative U.S. government contracts, prosecutors said.

The Justice Department said Courtney “went to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate the illusion that he was a deep-cover operative,” including telling victims of the scheme that they were under surveillance by foreign intelligence services and directing them to sign fake nondisclosure agreements purportedly from the U.S. government.

Courtney also created a fraudulent back story for himself, falsely claiming to have to served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War and to have killed hundreds of people during combat, prosecutors said.

Courtney also duped unidentified government officials into thinking he was participating in a covert intelligence operation, prosecutors said. He then used those officials as “unwitting props” that made him seem more legitimate, the Department said.

O’Grady said he would hold a hearing in October to determine Courtney’s prison sentence.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)

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LAPD Union Official Vows to ‘Fight’ Against City’s $250-Million Budget Cut Proposal

An official with the Los Angeles Police Department’s union said on Thursday, June 4, that the union will go to its “grave fighting” against a proposal that could cut millions from the LAPD’s budget, local media reported. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Wednesday that he would not increase the LAPD’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year and planned to consider cuts, according to local media. Reports said Garcetti was expected to ask city officials to reallocate $250 million from a variety of departments, including the LAPD. Garcetti said the money would go toward supporting health and education within black communities, though specifics were not provided, local media reported. The proposed cuts come during nationwide protests against police brutality and racism, sparked by the police-involved death of George Floyd. The LAPD had proposed “a nearly $1.86 billion budget” for the upcoming fiscal year, an increase of “about $122 million,” reports said. This video shows Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez speaking with officers and officials at LAPD’s Operations-Valley Bureau in Panorama, California. Jerretta Sandoz, vice president of the LAPD’s union, says to Rodriguez in this video that the cuts were “not right” and vowed to “fight” against them. “You bowed down to Black Lives Matter. These police officers, they’re out here protecting the city. They’re protecting it from being on fire. If it wasn’t for them, this city would be burned down right now.” Sandoz said, followed by applause from the officers. Credit: Shawna Stevenson via Storyful

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UN rights official: Philippine anti-terror bill worrying

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — New anti-terrorism legislation passed by the Philippine Congress that allows the detention of suspects for up to 24 days without warrants and relaxes human rights safeguards is “very worrying,” a U.N. rights official said Thursday.

The House of Representatives passed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on Wednesday night after President Rodrigo Duterte urgently endorsed the legislation, despite fears it could threaten human rights and be used against his political opponents. The Senate passed its version in February.

Once signed into law by Duterte, the legislation will replace a 2007 anti-terror law called the Human Security Act which was rarely used, largely because law enforcers can be fined 500,000 pesos ($9,800) for each day they wrongfully detain a terrorism suspect.

Lawmakers removed such safeguards in the new legislation, which increases the number of days that suspects can be detained without warrants from three to 24.

Ravina Shamdasani of the U.N. Human Rights office said the legislation defines terrorism broadly and allows officials to designate people as terrorists in provisions that “may violate the principle of legality under international law.”

“You add to this the context in the Philippines where a lot of human rights organizations are routinely labeled as terrorists, this is very worrying,” Shamdasani said in an online news conference on a new U.N. Human Rights Office report about threats to human rights in the Philippines.

The report said the legislation was among proposed new laws and amendments “with the stated aim of strengthening public order and countering terrorism,” but “which risk eroding constitutional and other legal protections.”

Vice President Leni Robredo said the legislation sparks fears that it could be used to muzzle free expression, especially “in the hands of people who have no qualms about using disinformation, inventing evidence, or finding the smallest of pretexts to silence its critics.”

“This power is very dangerous,” said Robredo, who leads the political opposition.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other officials played down such fears, saying the legislation contains adequate penalties for abuse and won’t be used against government opponents. The constitution guarantees civil liberties including political protests, which could not be deemed terrorism even if they turn rowdy, he said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque cited recent attacks by Muslim militants that displaced villagers in the country’s south, home of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation, as proof of the need for a stronger law against terrorism. Military officials say terrorist threats have diminished but remain.

For years, government troops have been battling Abu Sayyaf militants who have been listed as terrorists by both the United States and the Philippines for ransom kidnappings, beheadings and bombings in the restive south.

In 2017, hundreds of militants affiliated with the Islamic State group laid siege to Marawi city in the south. Troops quelled the siege after five months in a massive offensive that left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly militants, and the mosque-studded city in ruins.

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