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UN chief recommends scaled-back UN meeting of world leaders

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary General Antonio Guterres is recommending that the annual gathering of world leaders in late September, which was supposed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, be dramatically scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guterres suggested in a letter to the president of the General Assembly that heads of state and government deliver prerecorded messages instead, with only one New York-based diplomat from each of the 193 UN member nations present in the General Assembly Hall.

Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande has said a decision on the annual gathering will be made after consultations with UN member states.

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The meeting of world leaders usually brings thousands of government officials, diplomats, and civil society representatives to New York for over a week of speeches, dinners, receptions, one-on-one meetings, and hundreds of side events.

This year was expected to bring an especially large number of leaders to UN headquarters to celebrate the founding of the UN in 1945 on the ashes of World War II.

But New York has been an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic with more than 190,000 cases and nearly 16,000 confirmed deaths.

Associated Press

Canada, US keep border closed to nonessential travel

TORONTO — Canada and the United States have agreed to extend their agreement to keep their border closed to nonessential travel to June 21 during the pandemic.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the border is a source of vulnerability, so the agreement will be extended by another 30 days. The restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April.

Trudeau said Canada’s provincial leaders clearly wanted to continue the measures.

President Trump also confirmed the extension, but looked forward to its eventual end, saying, “Everything we want to get back to normal.’’

He was asked whether opening travel could occur before June 21, and he replied that it could.

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But many Canadians fear a reopening. The United States has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world.

Associated Press

Britain first in Europe with 40,000 virus-linked deaths

Britain has recorded more than 40,000 deaths linked to coronavirus, making it the first country in Europe to reach the threshold.

Mortalities are leveling off as the countries move past the peak of the pandemic, with England and Wales reporting a decrease in the number of deaths involving the virus on the previous week.

Almost 43,000 fatalities mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate through May 16, according to the latest data registered with national statistics offices. It had stood at almost 38,300 a week earlier.

The government is facing calls to be more open about its strategy to combat COVID-19, with some lawmakers calling for the publication of the scientific advice behind Britain’s response to the virus.

Bloomberg News

Etihad makes commercial flight between UAE, Israel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An unmarked Etihad Airways cargo plane flew aid to help the Palestinians fight the pandemic from the capital of the United Arab Emirates into Israel on Tuesday, marking the first known direct commercial flight between the two nations.

The UAE, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula, has no diplomatic ties to Israel over its occupation of land wanted by the Palestinians for a future state, like all Arab nations except Egypt and Jordan.

Yet the flight marked a moment of cooperation between Israel and the UAE after years of rumored back-channel discussions between them over the mutual enmity of Iran and other issues.

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Etihad, the state-owned, long-haul carrier based in Abu Dhabi, confirmed it sent a flight Tuesday to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

In the past, private and diplomatic planes often had to travel to a third country before heading onto Israel.

Emirati government officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Associated Press

UN agency warns pandemic could kill 1 in 8 museums

BRUSSELS — Museums are starting to reopen in some countries as governments ease coronavirus restrictions, but specialists warn one in eight worldwide could face permanent closure due to the pandemic.

Studies by UNESCO and the International Council of Museums show 90 percent of the planet’s museums, some 85,000 institutions, have had to shut at least temporarily.

“It is alarming data that we are giving,” Ernesto Ottone, assistant director general for culture at UNESCO, said Tuesday. He said the problem cuts across the board, affecting museums big and small, new and established, featuring art or science.

Museums that indicated they might well not reopen, he said, “have been closed for months and they have no revenues. And they don’t know how they’re going to get their revenues.”

Some costly blockbuster shows have suffered heavy damage this spring. A once-in-a-lifetime exhibit bringing together fragile paintings by Flemish master Jan van Eyck had barely opened in Ghent, Belgium, when it was abruptly canceled. It won’t be resumed, as many of the works were on loan and had to be returned.

In Rome, a similar supershow on Renaissance artist Raphael had to close after just three days, but was able to hold on to all 120 works and will now reopen June 2-Aug. 30.

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Overall, the picture is dark, more Munch than Monet.

Associated Press

Curtain may come down on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

LONDON — Since his death in 1616, William Shakespeare has continued his awesome run. But one of the world’s best-known venues for staging his work, the in-the-round replica called Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, warned the British Parliament this week that the pandemic might bring down the curtain on the iconic forum — not just for now, but forever.

The Globe has been staging the Bard’s work at its timbered theater on the south bank of the Thames in London since 1997, when the company opened the doors of a meticulous oak wood reproduction of the original Elizabethan playhouse that stood near the same site until it was destroyed by fire in 1613.

Now, the Globe is threatening it won’t survive the year without at least a $7 million injection of cash.

The playhouse operates as a pure nonprofit, without any regular government support.

The Globe is just one of many British cultural institutions endangered by a long lockdown. Also struggling are other independent venues, including the Old Vic, the Royal Academy, and Royal Albert Hall.

Washington Post