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Government shutdown in Samoa amid ‘cruel’ measles outbreak

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Samoa ordered a government shutdown to help combat a devastating measles outbreak Monday, as five more children succumbed to the virus, lifting the death toll in the tiny Pacific nation to 53.

The government said almost 200 new measles cases had been recorded since Sunday, with the rate of infection showing no sign of slowing despite a compulsory mass vaccination programme.

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The scheme has so far focussed on children but Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said it was time to immunise everyone in the 200,000 population aged under 60.

To achieve the goal, he said government services and departments would close on Thursday and Friday this week in order to allow all public servants to assist with the mass vaccination campaign throughout the country.

He said only electricity and water utility workers would be exempt and called on the nation to stand together to contain the outbreak.

“In this time of crisis, and the cruel reality of the measles epidemic, let us reflect on how we can avoid recurrence in the future,” Malielegaoi said in a national address.

Since the crisis began in mid-October, there have been 3,728 measles cases, accounting for almost two percent of the population.

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Infants are the most vulnerable and form the bulk of infections, with 48 of the fatalities aged four or less.

A state of emergency was declared in mid-November, with schools closed and children banned from public gatherings, such as church services, to minimise the risk of contagion.

The outbreak has been exacerbated by Samoa’s low immunisation rates, which the World Health Organisation blames on overseas-based anti-vaccine campaigners.

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Malielegaoi was unequivocal in his message, telling his people “vaccination is the only cure… no traditional healers or kangen (alkaline) water preparations can cure measles”.

“Let us work together to encourage and convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic,” he said.

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“Let us not be distracted by the promise of alternative cures.”

Officials say the anti-vaccination message has resonated in Samoa because of a case last year when two babies died after receiving measles immunisation shots.

It resulted in the temporary suspension of the country’s immunisation programme and dented parents’ trust in the vaccine, even though it later turned out the deaths were caused when other medicines were incorrectly administered.

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Ex-cops indicted in fatal shooting of Black woman and ‘public torture’ of Black man in separate incidents

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Two former Mississippi police officers were indicted in the brutal beating of a Black motorist, and one of them was also charged in an unrelated fatal shooting.

Wade Robertson, 28, and Bryce Gilbert, 27, were charged with aggravated assault in the 2018 beating of James Barnett, and Robertson was also charged with manslaughter in the 2019 shooting death of Dominique Henry, reported The Laurel Leader-Call.

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Quarantine, racial strife, Trump have Michelle Obama feeling down

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama said she is suffering from "low-grade depression" from coronavirus quarantine, racial strife in the United States and the "hypocrisy" of the Trump administration.

Obama made the remarks in the latest episode of "The Michelle Obama Podcast" released on Spotify on Wednesday.

"I'm waking up in the middle of the night because I'm worrying about something or there's a heaviness," the 56-year-old former First Lady said.

"I try to make sure I get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine, where I just have felt too low," she said.

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Another watchdog at US State Department abruptly gone

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The internal watchdog looking into accusations against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly quit Wednesday, just months after his predecessor was fired.

The State Department's acting inspector general, Stephen Akard, is a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence and his installation in May had widely been seen as a way to keep a friendly figure in the role.

Akard informed colleagues that he is "returning to the private sector after years of public service," a State Department spokesperson said.

"We appreciate his dedication to the Department and to our country."

But Akard's departure comes just as his office finalizes a report on Pompeo's controversial decision to bypass Congress to sell $8.1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies.

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