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Chelsea opt against pay cut, tell players to donate to charity

Chelsea have said they will not impose a pay cut on their first-team squad in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

But the Premier League side added Saturday they had asked players to continue donating to charities during the ongoing pandemic.

It has been reported the west London club have been in talks with their players about a salary reduction of around 10 percent in a bid to reduce costs at a time when football has been suspended because of the virus.

That figure, however, is significantly lower than the Premier League’s suggestion of 30 percent for all clubs.

But that has not stopped the Stamford Bridge side from taking their own course of action as they highlighted the #PlayersTogether initiative launched by Premier League players earlier this month, which aims to raise and distribute funds for charities supporting Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS).

“We are grateful to the team for having played their role in assisting the club with community activities as well as all the charitable causes they have been supporting in their respective home countries and through the Players Together initiative supporting the NHS,” said a club statement.

The statement added: “At this time, the men’s first team will not be contributing towards the club financially and instead the board have directed the team to focus their efforts on further supporting other charitable causes.”

The Blues also said they would not be taking advantage of the UK government’s coronavirus job retention or furlough scheme, with casual workers and matchday staff being compensated by the club through to June 30.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa announced they had reached an agreement with players, first-team coaches and senior management to defer 25 percent of their salaries for four months.

But the Premier League strugglers added they would not be furloughing staff, with chief executive Christian Purslow saying: “Our players and staff feel great solidarity with the many clubs in the football pyramid who have financial problems.

“We believe it is right and proper that the Premier League as a whole takes action on its finances collectively to enable it to be able to continue to provide vital funding throughout the game in England.”

Newcastle and Norwich are currently the only two Premier League clubs using the furlough for some of their non-playing staff, while Liverpool, Tottenham, and Bournemouth were all forced into U-turns after their plans to use the scheme were met with widespread criticism. (Vanguard)


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US journalists seek to help colleagues affected by virus

Journalists from around the U.S. are finding ways to help their colleagues simply pay rent or buy groceries as they face lost or reduced paychecks because of layoffs and furloughs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Writers in Oklahoma can be paid stipends to continue chronicling the effects of COVID-19 on the state and their jobs when they take unpaid time off.

Virginia journalists have collected money to donate to others working in their field. And a group of current and former reporters and editors from New York to California are providing interest-free microloans to help others in their field make ends meet.

In Oklahoma, a partnership to support journalists has resulted in The Coronavirus Storytelling Project. 

The private Inasmuch Foundation pledged $50,000 and is working with Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and nonprofit news outlet Oklahoma Watch to provide five $500 grants each week for the next four months to laid-off or furloughed journalists to provide essays, podcasts, photos or videos of the challenges they face.

This gives journalists a creative outlet during forced downtime, said Joe Hight, the director of the Journalism Hall of Fame.

“I just thought there had to be a way to help these journalists to tell their story,” he said.

Sports columnist Berry Tramel, who has worked for The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City since 1991, provided the first dispatch for the storytelling project.

A reporter’s worst nightmare is for a source to make headlines when they’re off. Colorful and often outspoken football coach Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State University did just that the week Tramel was on furlough.

That meant Tramel wasn’t allowed to do interviews, send emails or write for The Oklahoman when Gundy said during a media conference call that he hoped to have his team return to its facilities by May 1, in defiance of federal timetables and social-distancing guidelines. The university quickly shot down the idea.

“Most journalists don’t have an off switch,” Tramel wrote. And he admitted that he tuned into the call anyway as Gundy went on a rambling tirade about the U.S. being in better shape than it appeared in the media.

So Tramel let his creative juices flow and he wrote. He told The Associated Press that he quickly came up with a new nickname for Gundy, “Mike Exotic,” to write about the coach’s “cuckoo” behavior and as a nod to now infamous former Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Joe Exotic.” Like Joe Exotic, Gundy often sports a mullet.

“I was dying to write … it was an outlet to write,” Tramel said, adding that he declined the stipend. “If Gundy hadn’t popped off, the furlough would have gone great for me.”

Sisi Wei, a former editor at investigative nonprofit outlet ProPublica, joined four other reporters from around the country to create Microloans for Journalists to offer interest-free loans of $500 from funds donated by other journalists.

“We thought if we could help five people that would be great, within the first week we had gotten about $100,000 in pledges,” said Wei, who lives in New York City. Now they have enough money to provide 240 loans.

Borrowers are asked to repay the loans within a year, although lenders can designate their money as gifts.

Before the onset of the coronavirus sent U.S. unemployment claims to Great Depression-era levels, the journalism industry — and newspapers in particular — was in trouble. Advertising revenue has been steadily declining as readers increasingly got their news online, where ad rates are a small fraction of what they are on the printed page.

In the past 15 years, at least 2,100 cities and towns have lost a paper, most of them weeklies. Newsroom employment has shrunk by half since 2004.

With many nonessential businesses forced to close or scale down during the pandemic, advertising revenues have cratered even further, putting even more pressure on beleaguered local news publications and forcing many to cut jobs, hours and pay, drop their print editions or even shut down entirely.

In a sad irony, readers are more desperate than ever during the pandemic for reliable local news. They want to know about cases in their area, where they can get tested and how the disease is affecting the local economy. That’s something Henri Gendreau, a reporter at The Roanoke Times, hopes rings true for people in Virginia.

He and colleagues at other papers in the state started Virginia Is For Journalists, a gofundme account that has provided grants of $150 to $300 to their struggling colleagues. Some who have been furloughed themselves are still giving money, Gendreau said.

“A crisis like this has made people realize how important local journalism is,” he said. (Vanguard)


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Man ‘called in bomb threat’ to get day off

A Florida construction worker called in a bomb threat to a water treatment facility to get a day off work, authorities said.

Richard Hamilton, 36, was arrested Thursday and charged with making a bomb threat, the Palm Beach Post reported.

More than 20 people evacuated Wellington’s water treatment plant shortly after the threatening 911 call around 7 a.m. Thursday, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Hamilton had been working with a construction crew at the facility and later told deputies that he made the threat because he was having a bad day and didn’t want to work.

The sheriff’s bomb squad, a bomb dog, and drones searched Hamilton’s vehicle and the surrounding area and found no evidence of a bomb, the sheriff’s office said. Wellington’s water service was not affected, village officials said.

Hamilton was being held on $10,000 bond. Jail records didn’t list an attorney. ( Vanguard)


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AprilFoolDay: Don’t add panic to global pains, COVID-19 volunteers warn Nigerians

A group, COVID-19 Incident Volunteers, has warned Nigerians to ignore April Fool Day jokes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The April 1 tradition sees families, web users and corporations embrace practical jokes.

But the group urged Nigerians to desist from such act as the global death toll mounts and billions remain under some form of lockdown.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Nigeria has recorded 139 confirmed coronavirus cases.

However, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, hinted that about 39,000 people may be infected with the virus in the state.

In a publicity message by the leader of the group, Saheed Ashafa, the volunteers described as inappropriate the act of playing pranks on people in this “sober moment”.

The CIV, which is a project of the MSSNLagos, in its message titled ‘#AprilFool: Jokes Apart, Coronavirus Jokes Not!’, said, “We heard of the positive status of many top government officials, celebrities and public figures, from across the globe, simply because they are news personalities.

“Many ‘unknown persons’ have also been infected with the viral disease, who were never in the news; but it remains a piece of bad news to their loved ones. Alas! They’re actually in the news of global counting of victims of the #COVID-19 pandemic.

“Superpowers have lost control and their economy is in shambles. The mighty are being humbled while developing nations are trembling.

“Coronavirus plays not to hide and seek. It’s killing thousands and causing pandemonium across the world. Please, ignore April Fool Day.

“We don’t have to make jokes about lives affected and to be affected. If you or a close relation is affected, you’ll never know of jokes and would even weep if you see others laughing.

“Let’s not #AprilFool and add panic to that which is shaking the world, causing pains, lockdown of states, halting international summits, suspending events and occasions, shutting businesses and imprisoning humans indoor.” (Punch)

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Villager fakes death to avoid COVID-19 lockdown

A Kashmiri villager faked his death and travelled more than a hundred miles in an ambulance with four others in a desperate bid to circumvent India’s virus lockdown and return home, police said Wednesday.

Hakim Din was being treated for a minor head injury at a hospital in Jammu when an ambulance driver suggested the 70-year-old fake his death to get past checkpoints, police said.

Din and three other men wanted to return to Poonch, a far-flung region in Indian-administered Kashmir close to the de facto border with Pakistan.

The region’s Superintendent of Police, Ramesh Angral, said the four men and the driver travelled more than 160 kilometres (100 miles) in the ambulance, passing many checkpoints using a fake death certificate from the hospital.

The ambulance was stopped at the last checkpoint before they could reach home,” Angral told AFP.

“A policeman there immediately figured out that the man lying covered inside the ambulance could not be dead.”

The men were arrested and quarantined separately, Angral said, adding that they faced charges of “cheating and defying the government’s prohibitory orders”.

There are no known coronavirus cases in the Poonch region.

Also read: Spain death toll hits 9053 as COVID-19 cases pass 100,000

India imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown from last Wednesday to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are more than 1,600 cases, including 38 deaths, in the vast nation of 1.3 billion people, according to the government.

The nationwide lockdown comes in the wake of a long-running curfew in Kashmir, imposed as New Delhi scrapped the restive region’s semi-autonomous status on August 5.

Some aspects of the curfew were gradually eased in the following months, allowing Kashmiris to travel outside their homes and villages.

But some Kashmiris have been left stranded in cities and unable to return home to their villages after the sudden nationwide lockdown announcement.

Internet access, which was cut in the earlier lockdown, has remained severely restricted with only 2G access.

Many mobile phone users have also been unable to access the internet on their devices. (Punch)

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