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BLM gets first mention at U.N.’s virtual gathering

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is the first world leader at the United Nations’ annual gathering to mention the Black Lives Matter movement.

“As a country that has known too well the anguish of institutional racism, South Africa supports the demands for swift actions against racism” whether it be perpetrated by companies, states or others, he said in his pre-recorded message to the U.N. General Assembly.

South Africa marked last year a quarter-century since the end of the racist system of apartheid, and Ramaphosa worked closely with Nelson Mandela, the country’s first Black president.

South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. Like many African nations, it has not escaped the problem of police brutality.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump addressed the gathering in a taped speech, saying the United Nations must hold China “accountable” for failing to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has killed  200,000 Americans and nearly 1 million around the world.

Trump is accusing China of not sharing timely information with the world on the new disease.

Trump said: “The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions.”

Because of the global pandemic, The U.N.’s first virtual meeting of world leaders started Tuesday with pre-recorded speeches from some of the planet’s biggest powers, and the pandemic is likely to be a dominant theme.

In the opening speech, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world was facing an “epochal” health crisis. He also noted the biggest economic calamity and job losses since the Great Depression, dangerous threats to human rights – and the threat of a new Cold War between the U.S. and China.

As well as Trump, those who spoke Tuesday included Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. The United States and Brazil have reported the highest and second-highest coronavirus death tolls, respectively.

Also on deck are China, where the virus originated, and Russia, which has raised international eyebrows with its rapid vaccine development.

In Vladimir Putin’s prerecorded speech from Moscow on Tuesday, he offered to give Russia’s new coronavirus vaccine, for free, to U.N. staff in New York and around the world. Only results from small early studies on Russian vaccine have been published, raising concern among some scientists that the vaccine isn’t ready yet for widespread use – and prompting worldwide memes about potential bizarre side effects.

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