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US marks subdued Fourth of July as coronavirus cases surge

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The United States marked a subdued Fourth of July holiday with social distancing and restrictions on crowds preventing the typical gatherings and firework displays amid a surge in coronavirus infections in southern and western states. 

Racial justice protests were also planned in the US capital on Saturday, where President Donald Trump is set to deliver a speech on the National Mall.

Trump promised a “special evening” that could bring tens of thousands of spectators, despite warnings of the dangers of spreading the virus from Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is powerless over the event on federal land. 

Saturday’s commemoration of the declaration of US independence from Britain began on a grim note, with both Florida and Texas recording their highest daily new infections, 11,458 and 8,258 in a 24-hour period, respectively, since the coronavirus outbreak began in the United States.

To date, nearly 130,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the country, amid 2.8 million infections – the highest number of both deaths and infections in the world.

On Friday, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Missouri, Idaho and Alabama all registered daily highs for new cases, while Texas hit a new peak for hospitalisations related to the virus.

Beaches, normally packed over the holiday weekend, were widely shut on both coasts with Florida’s most populous county Miami-Dade shuttering the sand and imposing a curfew for residents.

Meanwhile in California, beach closures went from Los Angeles County northward through Ventura and Santa Barbara. To the south in Orange County, hugely popular beaches such as Huntington and Newport were closed.

Fireworks, events cancelled

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned that mass gatherings, such as the one scheduled by the president, present a high risk for spread of the virus.

On Friday during Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore, Republican Governor Kristi Noem, an ally of the president, insisted social distancing was not necessary and masks were optional. 

On Saturday, officials said they would hand out 300,000 face coverings to spectators who gather on the National Mall. While Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt said visitors would be encouraged to wear masks and keep two metre (6 foot) distance from one another, there was no indication that would be mandatory.

In a patchwork of restrictions across the country, parades were cancelled, boisterous backyard barbecues scaled down, and family reunions put off amid worries about air travel and concerns about spreading the virus.

joey chestnut

Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest in New York City was moved inside amid coronavirus restrictions [John Minchillo/AP]

In New York City, the famous annual Nathan’s hotdog eating contest, normally held on the crowded Coney Island boardwalk, took place inside with no spectators and special precautions for officials and workers.

Meanwhile, Fireworks displays, a mainstay of the holiday that typically attracts crowds of thousands to locations across the country, have been put on hold this year, with an estimated 80 percent of those events cancelled. 

Other locales urged people to watch the displays from their cars.

Racial unrest

Saturday also comes amid a backdrop of heightened racial unrest in the country following the killing of George Floyd after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minnesota on May 25. 

Demonstrations have since become a regular feature in many American cities, with several planned in the US capital.

black lives matter protest

Protests have continued across the US following the death of George Floyd on May 25 [File: Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press]

The largest protests on Saturday are expected to include a George Floyd memorial March beginning at the Lincoln Memorial, a Black Out March at the US Capitol, and a Black Lives Matter protest at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Public health officials have been bracing for a new spike in coronavirus cases after this weekend’s celebrations and protests.

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Armenian Aggression

Putin-Biden talks begin in private behind closed doors

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By Trend

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden have begun talks in private in the library hall on the ground floor of the Villa La Grange, Trend reports with reference to TASS.

Before that, the media was let in for an official photo session. Both leaders dropped several remarks. Also, they exchanged a couple of words, when the reporters were leaving the room.

After the photo session the talks began behind closed doors. The two leaders are accompanied by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and interpreters.

Putin arrived at the site of the summit meeting from Geneva airport at 14:05 Moscow time. Biden's motorcade followed at 14:17 Moscow time. Both leaders were welcomed by Swiss President Guy Parmelin.

After that the three presidents proceeded to the main entrance, where Parmelin made a brief welcoming address. Putin and Biden shook hands (the US leader extended his hand a tiny fraction of a second quicker than his Russian counterpart) and then left for talks.

As follows from snapshots taken by TASS photographers, Putin and Biden shook hands again, when they were already inside the villa.

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Armenian Aggression

Shusha Declaration confirms allied nature of relations between Azerbaijan, Turkey – Russian analyst

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By Trend

The signing of the Shusha Declaration on Allied Relations by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirms the allied nature of relations between the two countries, Darya Grevtsova, a political scientist and Deputy Director of the Russian Institute of Socio-Political Research, told Trend.

Within the framework of these allied relations, both countries are ready for the development of the region, the political scientist noted.

"First of all, this is the development of various economic projects. But this requires the unblocking of communications, primarily the Zangezur corridor," Grevstova added.

“At the same time, all three sides – Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey must put pressure on Armenia to provide the maps of minefields,” the analyst noted.

Grevtsova added that the intensive development of the region will be beneficial for Armenia as well, since communications are unblocked, new ways will open and many projects, including investment ones, are being implemented.

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Russia to launch additional flights from Samara to Baku

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By Trend

Russia's S7 Airlines will carry out additional flights from Samara city to Baku starting from June 16, 2021, the Heydar Aliyev International Airport told Trend.

According to the source, additional flights to Baku from Samara's Kurumoch International Airport will be carried out weekly on Tuesdays.

"The Samara-Baku flight will be carried out on Tuesdays at 23:45 (GMT+4), and the return flight on Wednesdays at 03:45," the airport said.

Since May 19, another Russian company, IrAero, has been transporting passengers from Samara to Baku.

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