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National Stockpile almost out of protective gear before COVID-19 pandemic peaks

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The U.S. Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of crucial medical equipment before the coronavirus pandemic hits its apex.

The Department of Health and Human Services told the Associated Press that the stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, gowns and other medical supplies needed to protect medical workers treating COVID-19 patients.

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That statement confirms federal documents released earlier Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing about 90 percent of that medical equipment has already been distributed to state and local governments.

The remaining 10 percent will be held back in reserve for federal response efforts.

“The President failed to bring in FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) early on, failed to name a national commander for this crisis, and failed to fully utilize the authorities Congress gave him under the Defense Production Act to procure and manage the distribution of critical supplies,” said House Oversight chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). “He must take action now to address these deficiencies.”

Trump has blamed the states for not preparing better for the pandemic, but the AP reported Sunday that his administration wasted nearly two months after warnings in early January.

Bulk orders for medical supplies did not come until mid-March, after hospitals in some states were already treating thousands of patients.

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2020 Election

Groups plan vigil outside Supreme Court and national solidarity events to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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National advocacy groups joined together Saturday to organize a candlelight vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.—and encourage solidarity events across the country—to honor the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday after a long battle with cancer at the age of 87.

"She gave all she could, with literally all she had. Now it's our turn," says a Facebook event for the D.C. gathering, hosted by Women's March, Planned Parenthood Action, Demand Justice, and UltraViolet. "Tonight, join us in front of the U.S. Supreme Court at 8 pm ET" or "in solidarity at your local courthouse."

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Belarus opposition to march after police crackdown

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Belarusian authorities on Sunday brought military trucks and barbed wire into central Minsk ahead of a planned opposition march, a day after police detained hundreds of women demonstrators.

The opposition movement calling for an end to the regime of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko has kept up a wave of large-scale demonstrations every Sunday since his disputed win in August 9 polls.

The latest opposition protests were set to begin at 2 pm local time (1100 GMT), with opposition social media calling for demonstrators to gather in central Minsk as well as in other cities.

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Activists accuse Italy of halting ship rescue mission

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Rights activists on Sunday accused Italian authorities of blocking migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 4 from leaving port and resuming its emergency mission in the Mediterranean.

After an inspection on the safety of the vessel to operate in high seas, Italian authorities placed the ship under an administrative blockade, said the German activist groups Sea-Watch and United4Rescue, as well as Doctors without Borders.

It is currently docked in Palermo in southern Italy.

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