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  • Korea Cases Top 2,000; Nigeria Confirms Infection: Virus Update

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    (Bloomberg) -- The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea crossed 2,000. Japan is closing schools to limit the spread of the outbreak. New cases continue to appear outside of China with New Zealand and Lithuania reporting their first infections. Nigeria confirmed its first case, the first reported in sub-Saharan Africa.Stocks tumbled with equity markets in Hong Kong, Japan and Australia all losing more than 2%. U.S. health authorities moved to greatly expand the number of people who will be tested, adding travelers from several new countries and people with unexplained, severe respiratory illnesses. California is monitoring 8,400 people for signs of the virus after they traveled to Asia. The virus has spread “very slowly” in the U.S., President Donald Trump said in a tweet.Key DevelopmentsConfirmed cases worldwide at 83,049; global deaths 2,858China death toll at 2,788, up 44; cases climb to 78,824, up 327South Korea confirms 256 more cases, bringing total to 2,022Singapore emerges as litmus test for coronavirus containmentHong Kong dog found to have ‘low level’ of virusCoronavirus crisis seeds chaos in Washington and on Wall StreetClick VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.Germany Quarantines About 1,000 People in Heinsberg: Bild (3:03 p.m. HK)An estimated 1,000 people are isolated in the German district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia after an outbreak in the region, German newspaper Bild reported. Sweden Reports Five New Cases (2:23 p.m. HK)Five new cases have been confirmed in Sweden, the country’s Public Health Agency said in a statement. That brings the total confirmed cases in the country to seven.BOE’s Carney Says Virus May Impact U.K. Economy: Sky (2:10 p.m. HK)The Bank of England’s Mark Carney said the virus could result in an economic-growth downgrade for the U.K., Sky News reported, citing an interview with the central bank governor. Carney said the bank has already seen a drop in activity, though it’s too early to tell how badly the U.K. would be affected.BASF Braces for Possible Profit Drop (2:01 p.m. HK)BASF SE, the world’s largest chemical maker, warned of a possible second annual profit drop due to the impact of the virus and an ongoing automotive slump. The company said the virus will have a significant global impact in the first half, and it doesn’t expect to be able to offset the effect during the course of the year.Trump Says Virus Has Spread ‘Very Slowly’ in U.S. (1:14 p.m. HK)The coronavirus has spread “very slowly” in the U.S., President Donald Trump said in a tweet.“So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of ‘Trump,’” he said.Singapore Ministers to Take Pay Cut on Virus: CNA (1:03 p.m. HK)All political-office holders in Singapore will take a one-month salary cut in light of the coronavirus outbreak, CNA reported, citing comments from the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. The government’s actions follow recent moves by some of Singapore’s top companies to freeze pay and cut bonuses as the country attempts to combat the impact of the virus.U.A.E. Cancels Rest of Cycling Tour (Correct) (12:47 p.m. HK)The United Arab Emirates has decided to scrap the remaining rounds of the 2020 U.A.E. Tour after two Italian team members tested positive for the coronavirus.All remaining participants, organizers and administrative staff will be screened and some quarantined, according to the state-run Emirates News Agency. Other people who were in contact with the two cyclists will also be placed under observation.(Corrects to clarify two Italian team members tested positive.)New Zealand, Lithuania Report First Cases (12:38 p.m. HK)New Zealand confirmed its first case after a person who recently returned from Iran was diagnosed with the illness, the Ministry of Health said Friday. The person in their 60s is in isolation in Auckland hospital, the ministry said in an emailed statement.Separately, Lithuania reported its first case. The person was infected in the Italian city of Verona, RIA Novosti said.Abe Adviser Says Japan Needs $45 Billion of Extra Spending (11:45 a.m. HK)An adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan should compile another economic package with fresh spending of at least 5 trillion yen ($45 billion) to respond to a severe hit from the coronavirus outbreak.“We should take it very seriously that this is terrible timing, coming right after the sales tax hike,” Etsuro Honda, one of the key architects of Abenomics, said in an interview. “The impact could be devastating in the short term.”FDA Confirms First Drug Shortage Relating to Virus (11:40 a.m. HK)The Food and Drug Administration confirmed the first drug shortage relating to the coronavirus, Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement. The announcement didn’t name the manufacturer but said “there are other alternatives that can be used by patients.” The shortage is due to an active ingredient used to make the drug, the FDA said.South Korea Completes More Tests of Sect Members (11:31 a.m. HK)South Korea’s health ministry completed tests for 1,299 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus who showed symptoms of fever and coughing, among 9,334 members of the sect in Daegu, Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said at a briefing.The results of the tests will be available during the weekend. So far, the ratio of confirmed cases to suspected cases is “very high.”JPMorgan Restricts All Non-Essential Travel Globally (11:29 a.m. HK)JPMorgan Chase & Co. issued global restrictions on non-essential travel to protect its employees and its business against the spreading coronavirus.Because of the continuing spread of the virus, it’s now “restricting all international travel to essential travel only,” the New York-based bank said in a memo distributed to staff. The memo was confirmed by spokespeople at the bank.Hyundai Halts Korea Plant as Worker Infected (10:34 a.m. HK)Hyundai Motor Co. halted operations at its No. 2 plant in Ulsan for disinfection after a worker tested positive, Maeil Business Newspaper reported, without citing anyone.Tokyo Disney to Shut (10:31 a.m. HK)Tokyo Disney Resort will close for two weeks starting Saturday as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, operator Oriental Land Co. said.Two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, will not accept visitors from Feb. 29 to March 15, the company said in a statement Friday. With Disney parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai already closed, this means all of the entertainment company’s resorts in Asia have shut down for the time being due to the spread of the virus.South Korea’s Moon Sees Disapproval Rating Top 50% (9:53 a.m. HK)South Korea President Moon Jae-in’s disapproval rating rose to 51%, the highest level since October, as the virus spreads in the country, a Gallup Korea poll showed. That’s up from 46% a week earlier. The poll showed 51% of respondents aren’t satisfied with the government’s response to the virus.China to Resume Road Traffic in Lower-Risk Regions (9:16 a.m. HK)China will resume buses, subways and taxis in urban and rural areas with lower coronavirus risk, the transport ministry said in a statement. The move is aimed at supporting factory resumptions and stabilizing the economy.Nigeria Confirms First Infection (9:10 a.m. HK)Nigeria confirmed its first case of the coronavirus in Lagos, the West African country’s biggest city and commercial capital, the Health Ministry said. It’s also the first reported in sub-Saharan Africa.Algeria has also reported a case. Health experts have voiced concerns over the possible spread of the virus in places like Africa that may be ill-equipped to handle such a crisis.South Korea Cases Top 2,000 (9:01 a.m. HK)South Korea confirmed 256 more infections, bringing the total in the country to 2,022, the health ministry said in a statement. Among the 256, 182 cases are from Daegu, at the center of the outbreak, and 49 are from the neighboring North Gyeongsang province.Hong Kong Dog Found to Have ‘Low Level’ of Virus (8:49 a.m. HK)The pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong has been found to have a “low level” of the virus, the Hong Kong government said.The dog tested “weak positive,” the city’s agricultural and fisheries department said in a statement, without giving further details. Officials will carry out further tests to confirm whether the dog has really been infected, or if it was a result of environmental contamination of its mouth and nose.Japan Children’s Day-Care Centers to Stay Open (8:06 a.m. HK)Japan’s children’s day-care centers and after-school clubs will stay open, even as schools nationwide close for at least a month in a bid to control the outbreak, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said. Japan wants to make it easy for people to take time off work, Kato said. This is an important time for controlling the domestic spread of the virus, he said.Plague Inc. Removed From Apple’s Chinese Store (8:04 a.m. HK)Plague Inc. -- the mobile simulation of a global pandemic that topped download charts in February after the outbreak -- has been removed from Apple Inc.’s Chinese app store. The eight-year-old game’s developers said on their website Chinese regulators determined it contained “illegal” content. The developers say they’re trying to contact the Cyberspace Administration of China to get the game back online.Plague Inc. became the most downloaded paid game on iPhones in at least 80 countries early this month, according to research firm App Annie.China Death Toll Rises to 2,788, Up 44 (7:53 a.m. HK)China’s death toll rose to 2,788 by the end of Thursday as it reported 44 new fatalities, according to a statement from the country’s National Health Commission. The number of cases climbed to 78,824 as 327 additional infections were reported. Discharged patients increased by 3,622 to 36,117.Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak, had 318 additional cases and 41 new deaths.Trump Says He’s Doing ‘Incredible Job’ (7:13 a.m. HK)President Donald Trump said his administration has done an “incredible job” preventing the spread of coronavirus after California’s governor said the state is monitoring 8,400 for signs of exposure.Limited Testing in Japan Masks Scale of Infection (6:57 a.m. HK)Japan is becoming a center of concern, with the country’s official infection tally suspected to be the tip of the iceberg of a much wider outbreak.“For every one who tests positive there are probably hundreds with mild symptoms,” said Masahiro Kami, chair of the Medical Governance Research Institute in Tokyo, and a practicing doctor. “Those with mild symptoms are not being tested.”Read more here.U.S. Workers Didn’t Get Protective Gear: Report (5:05 p.m. NY)Federal employees who helped evacuate people from the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China didn’t get protective gear or training, the Washington Post said, citing a whistleblower’s complaint.Trump administration officials disputed the report.“Every precaution has been taken,” said William Walters, a health official with the U.S. State Department. “I can say unequivocally that everyone involved with those evacuations was appropriately equipped and trained.”One member of Congress called the situation deeply concerning. “Finding out that the U.S. government might have put its own personnel in harm’s way is deeply concerning to me,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia.Mask Prices and Interest Spike on Amazon (4:52 p.m. NY)Prices for face masks spiked on Amazon.com Inc. in early February, with many items sold out, according to a firm that tracks traffic on the website.Searches over the past 30 days for N95 masks, which are tighter fitting and filter out smaller particles than surgical masks, surged to 1.3 million on Feb. 10, up from 23,000 on Jan. 10, according to Helium 10, the monitoring company.Daily sales of a 20-pack of popular N95 masks from 3M jumped to more than 1,000 in February, from roughly 25 in December, according to Helium. Prices for the product, which typically sells for $29.99, climbed as high as $99.“Many third-party sellers appear to be outright price-gouging, likely due to low stock and high demand,” Lee said. “Even Amazon, which has kept pricing mostly stable across products, has had to increase prices on some products.”Amazon’s pricing policies suggest the company monitors for gouging and can punish merchants with irregular prices, but the policies lack specifics. “Setting a price on a product or service that is significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon” is a potential violation, the company says on its policy page.“Sellers set their own product prices in our store and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing products competitively,” Amazon said in an emailed statement. “We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”CDC Expands Coronavirus Testing to More Patients (4:38 p.m. NY)U.S. health authorities moved to greatly expand the number of people who will be tested for the coronavirus, adding travelers from several new countries with outbreaks as well as people with unexplained, severe respiratory illnesses.People showing respiratory symptoms and who have been in China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea within the past 14 days will be screened for the virus under the new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The CDC is also calling for testing of patients who have unexplained, severe lower-respiratory illnesses that require hospitalization, but no other history of potential exposure to coronavirus. The expansion comes after a patient in California, who had no known ties to an infected area, was confirmed to have the virus after a long delay to get tested.Pence Says He’s In Charge, Not Azar (3:36 p.m. NY)U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said he’s now leading the government’s coronavirus task force instead of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.“I’m leading the task force,” Pence said Thursday at a meeting on the virus at HHS headquarters. “We’ll continue to rely on the secretary’s role as chairman of the task force.”Trump initially appointed Azar to lead the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, but on Wednesday, he named Pence to the role at a news conference. The Washington Post reported that Azar was blindsided by the decision, though Azar told lawmakers that he thought Pence’s appointment was “genius.”California Monitoring 8,400 Travelers and Contacts (2:16 p.m.)California is monitoring 8,400 people who flew into its airports from Asia and their close contacts for possible infection from the novel coronavirus, Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday. Thousands of people around the U.S. have been asked to self-isolate or check themselves for symptoms since the U.S. put new limits on travel earlier this month.Those people are scattered across 49 local jurisdictions, he said. There have been 33 people confirmed to be infected with the virus in California.Earlier, health officials said a woman from Northern California has the virus and hadn’t traveled to China. She also didn’t have any close contact with anyone who did and appears to be the first case of community transmission in the U.S.Lagarde: ECB Response Not Required Yet (11:30 a.m. NY)European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said the coronavirus outbreak carefully isn’t yet at the stage that would require a monetary-policy response, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.Lagarde said the ECB would have to determine whether the coronavirus could become a “long-lasting shock” that would affect inflation. “But we are certainly not at that point yet,” Lagarde told the FT.Outbreak Is At Decisive Stage, WHO Says (10:10 a.m. NY)The novel coronavirus has the potential to become a pandemic and is at a decisive stage, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday.“The outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the group’s daily briefing in Geneva.China’s efforts show that containment can work, while clusters of infections in Iran, Italy and South Korea are cause for concern, he said. For a second day, there were fewer new cases in China than in the rest of the world.Several countries that have reported cases previously -- including India, Russia and Vietnam -- haven’t had any new infections in two weeks, Tedros said. However, Finland and Sweden, which had gone without infections for a prolonged period, reported cases Wednesday.Middle East Cases Rise (7:30 a.m. NY)Iran reported 87 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 245 including 26 deaths. The number of patients in Kuwait almost doubled to 43, with all the cases linked to Iran. The United Arab Emirates, which has 13 cases and hasn’t given an update since Saturday, said it’s setting up a medical facility to quarantine patients.Italy Coronavirus Cases Rise to 528, With 14 Possible Deaths (7:09 a.m. NY)Total cases increased from the 400 reported late Wednesday, civil protection head and emergency chief Angelo Borrelli said. Forty people have recovered. The number of possible virus-linked deaths reached 14.(An earlier version was corrected to say the number of cases in South Korea crossed 2,000.)\--With assistance from Isabel Reynolds, Emi Nobuhiro, Dominic Lau, Edwin Chan, Zheping Huang, Josh Wingrove, Shiho Takezawa, Li Liu, Dulue Mbachu, Shinhye Kang, Kanga Kong, Lily Nonomiya, Reed Stevenson, Alfred Liu, Chelsea Mes, Toru Fujioka, Emi Urabe, Eduard Gismatullin, Matthew Brockett, Farah Elbahrawy and Melissa Cheok.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jeff Sutherland in Tokyo at jsutherlan13@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at swallace6@bloomberg.net, ;Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, Tom Redmond, Jeff SutherlandFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 02:07:40 -0500
  • Dozens of Turkish soldiers killed in strike in Idlib in Syria

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    US condemns attack which Turkish official says killed 33 of its soldiers, in Ankara’s worst day of the conflict so farDozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed in an airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province, in a dramatic escalation in the battle for control of the country’s last opposition stronghold.Turkish officials said at least 33 of its military personnel were killed in the attack on Thursday night, and more than 30 others injured. Military sources among moderate and jihadist rebel factions fighting in the north-western province bordering Turkey said the deaths followed a precision strike on a two-storey building in the village of Balioun.A Turkish convoy, part of reinforcements sent to the area to aid rebel groups earlier this month, was subjected to heavy shelling on Thursday morning. The soldiers had taken cover in Balioun, basing themselves in the local council building.Rahmi Dogan, the local governor of the south-eastern Turkish province of Hatay on the border with Idlib, said ambulances streamed from a Syrian border crossing to a hospital in the nearby town of Reyhanli on Thursday night. Map of turkey, syria, idlibTurkish officials have blamed the Syrian regime for the attack, but several sources in Idlib and unverified footage of the nighttime strike suggested it had been carried out by the Russian air force, which has helped Damascus conduct a ferocious three-month-old offensive on Idlib.Russia’s defence ministry denied on Friday that its planes had carried out the airstrikes but said Turkish troops should not have been in the Idlib area and had given no warning of their presence to the Syrian government. Russia also accused rebels of trying to launch an anti-government offensive on Thursday.In a further escalation, Russia said it was sending two frigates armed with cruise missiles to the Mediterranean Sea off the Syrian coast, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday.After the attack in Idlib, the United Nations called for urgent action in north-west Syria, warning that “the risk of greater escalation grows by the hour”.Nearly a million civilians have been displaced in Idlib near the Turkish border since December as Russia-backed Syrian government forces seized territory from Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, marking the worst humanitarian crisis of the country’s nine-year war.Although Ankara and Moscow share important trade, energy and defence links, the relationship has already been sorely tested by the recent violence in Syria, where they back opposing sides.Turkey responded with airstrikes on “all known” Syrian government targets, said the country’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, early on Friday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Altun said authorities had decided to respond in kind to the attack.“All known targets of the regime have come and will continue to come under fire from the air and ground,” Altun said in a statement.“We urge the international community to fulfil its responsibilities” to stop the regime’s “crimes against humanity”, he said. “We cannot stand by and watch as past events in Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are repeated today in Idlib.”Turkey’s activities on the ground in Syria would continue, he added.The US state department has said it is very concerned about the attack. “We stand by our Nato ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia and Iranian-backed forces,” a spokesperson said.Nato said it was calling a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the request of Turkey to discuss the Syria situation.The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, chaired an emergency security meeting overnight, Turkish officials briefed reporters that Ankara had decided it would no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land and sea – a move calibrated to win EU and Nato support for its operation in Idlib.Turkish police, coastguard and border security officials have already been ordered to stand down, Turkish officials added.Almost 1 million people are camped out in desperate conditions on Idlib’s border with Turkey in winter weather as they flee the swift advance of Bashar al-Assad’s army and allied militias backed by Russian airpower.Turkey has expressed an unwillingness to take in any more Syrians on top of the 3.6 million refugees it already hosts. In an effort to secure its southern border, Ankara took the unprecedented step of sending thousands of troops and convoys of equipment to Idlib in the past three weeks, leading to direct clashes with regime forces for the first time.While Idlib province and the surrounding countryside are technically protected by a de-escalation deal brokered in 2018, the agreement broke down last year after control of most of the area was wrested from more moderate rebel groups by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate.Despite warnings from the UN and aid agencies that fighting in Idlib would put 3 million civilians at risk, Damascus launched an attritional and then full-scale campaign on the province, arguing that HTS was not covered by the de-escalation deal.Turkey has helped rebels to retake one town but had already lost 17 military personnel in the campaign before a strike on Thursday morning killed three, and the evening strike killed at least 22, marking the biggest single day of losses for the country’s forces.Turkish attempts to broker a ceasefire, and growing international calls for a halt to the violence, have so far been met with indifference from the Kremlin. Erdoğan has vowed Ankara will not take the “smallest step back” in the standoff with Damascus and Moscow over Idlib, giving the regime until the end of the month to pull back.The US senator Lindsey Graham called on Thursday for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Idlib and called on Donald Trump to help stop the violence against civilians there.“The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran, and the Russians,” Graham, a Republican and an ally of the US president, said in a statement.“I am confident if the world, led by the US, pushed back against Iran, Russia, and Assad that they would stand down, paving the way for political negotiations to end this war in Syria.”Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US ambassador to Nato, said Thursday’s events should show Turkey “who is their reliable partner and who isn’t” and prompt it to drop its purchase of a major Russian missile defence system, which Washington says threatens the western alliance.

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 01:50:18 -0500
  • Virus epidemic growing by day hits schools, concerts, parks

    Golocal247.com news

    Japan's schools prepared to close for almost a month and entertainers, topped by K-pop superstars BTS, canceled events as a virus epidemic extended its spread through Asia into Europe and on Friday, into sub-Saharan Africa. The expectation that Japan would close all its elementary, secondary and high schools will send nearly 13 million children home and leave few people untouched by the virus in the world's third-biggest economy. Sporting events and concerts in Japan have already been canceled, and Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea said, too, they would close until mid-March.

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 01:25:11 -0500
  • Turkey raises death toll to 33 troops in Syrian airstrike

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    Turkey on Friday raised the death toll from a Syrian government airstrike on its forces in northwestern Syria the day before to 33 Turkish troops killed. It was the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since Ankara first intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2016. Rhami Dogan, the governor of Turkey's Hatay province bordering Syria's Idlib region, said 32 wounded troops were being treated in hospitals.

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 01:10:35 -0500
  • Germany’s Obstinate Stinginess Hurts Everyone

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s not often these days that Germany’s Social Democrats have good economic ideas. But a forthcoming initiative by one of them makes eminent sense, and deserves more support than it’s likely to get. Olaf Scholz, the finance minister, wants to suspend the country’s so-called “debt brake,” a constitutional limit on public deficits and borrowing. But the SPD’s senior partners in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats of Chancellor Angela Merkel, are already lining up to dismiss the proposal. They should think again. Germany’s fiscal cap isn’t exactly unique. Switzerland and Austria have versions of it, too, while the European Union and most U.S. states have constraints on public budgets in some other form. But the Germans, as is their wont, have not only made their rules especially stringent but also abided by them rather obsessively.The debt brake came into existence as a constitutional amendment in 2009, just as the global financial implosion was transmogrifying into the euro crisis. The two crises had many causes, but the Germans at the time fixated on one: debt. A moot but plausible reason may have been that the German word for debt (Schulden) happens to be etymologically related to that for guilt (Schuld). The brake has since taken effect in different forms and at different times for the federal, regional and municipal levels of government.The result has been that they’ve all scrimped on public spending for the past decade, just when they should have been investing much, much more, for all sorts of good reasons. One is that German infrastructure, from roads to broadband, is overdue for an update. Another is that the sluggish euro-area economy, including Germany itself, badly needs fiscal stimulus because monetary policy has hit its limits.Yet another good argument for higher public outlays is that, if targeted wisely, they can encourage more private investment too. This in turn could help to correct one of the world’s biggest economic imbalances: Germany’s current-account surplus, which is the world’s largest. By definition, such a surplus is the excess of domestic savings over investment. And its flip side is corresponding deficits in other countries, which are hurting more as a result.Last but not least, there’s no good rationale against boosting public borrowing in order to fund such spending, because it would cost nothing. Indeed, yields on German government bonds are negative — the markets would actually pay, rather than charge, the state to raise more money.A rule that may superficially look prudent is therefore instead a major problem for the European and even global economy, just when it’s at risk of stalling amid trade wars and a looming pandemic. None of these arguments, incidentally, could have escaped German policy makers. For years absolutely everyone — from the International Monetary Fund to the White House and the European Central Bank — has been berating the Germans on these very points. The European Commission just admonished them again, in its latest country report.Given that context, what Scholz plans to propose in March is really only a tiny tweak to the rule. He wants Europe’s biggest economy to take its foot off the brake just one single time, so that the federal government can assume about 40 billion euros ($44 billion) in debt from some 2,500 struggling cities and counties. This would enable municipalities, especially those in economically depressed areas, to borrow and spend on local infrastructure, schools and more.But because the debt brake is in the constitution, Scholz needs to win two-thirds majorities in both houses of Germany’s parliament. And he won’t get them. All of the parties on Germany’s right, from the center to the fringe, are dead-set against anything that sounds to them as guilty as debt. The Christian Democrats even joke, tongue-in-cheek but proudly, that the debt brake is their “fetish.” Nobody is suggesting that profligacy is good government policy. Nor, however, is obstinate stinginess and slavish obedience to arbitrary rules at a time when the world economy is teetering on the edge and only a few countries have the fiscal capacity to help out. Germany, as the only member of the Group of Seven that keeps running budget surpluses, is the biggest and most important of those countries. It’s time the Germans understood their own vital role in the world, and scrapped the well-meant but misguided rule that is causing so many problems. To contact the author of this story: Andreas Kluth at akluth1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andreas Kluth is a member of Bloomberg's editorial board. He was previously editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 01:00:18 -0500
  • Germany’s Obstinate Stinginess Hurts Everyone

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s not often these days that Germany’s Social Democrats have good economic ideas. But a forthcoming initiative by one of them makes eminent sense, and deserves more support than it’s likely to get. Olaf Scholz, the finance minister, wants to suspend the country’s so-called “debt brake,” a constitutional limit on public deficits and borrowing. But the SPD’s senior partners in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats of Chancellor Angela Merkel, are already lining up to dismiss the proposal. They should think again. Germany’s fiscal cap isn’t exactly unique. Switzerland and Austria have versions of it, too, while the European Union and most U.S. states have constraints on public budgets in some other form. But the Germans, as is their wont, have not only made their rules especially stringent but also abided by them rather obsessively.The debt brake came into existence as a constitutional amendment in 2009, just as the global financial implosion was transmogrifying into the euro crisis. The two crises had many causes, but the Germans at the time fixated on one: debt. A moot but plausible reason may have been that the German word for debt (Schulden) happens to be etymologically related to that for guilt (Schuld). The brake has since taken effect in different forms and at different times for the federal, regional and municipal levels of government.The result has been that they’ve all scrimped on public spending for the past decade, just when they should have been investing much, much more, for all sorts of good reasons. One is that German infrastructure, from roads to broadband, is overdue for an update. Another is that the sluggish euro-area economy, including Germany itself, badly needs fiscal stimulus because monetary policy has hit its limits.Yet another good argument for higher public outlays is that, if targeted wisely, they can encourage more private investment too. This in turn could help to correct one of the world’s biggest economic imbalances: Germany’s current-account surplus, which is the world’s largest. By definition, such a surplus is the excess of domestic savings over investment. And its flip side is corresponding deficits in other countries, which are hurting more as a result.Last but not least, there’s no good rationale against boosting public borrowing in order to fund such spending, because it would cost nothing. Indeed, yields on German government bonds are negative — the markets would actually pay, rather than charge, the state to raise more money.A rule that may superficially look prudent is therefore instead a major problem for the European and even global economy, just when it’s at risk of stalling amid trade wars and a looming pandemic. None of these arguments, incidentally, could have escaped German policy makers. For years absolutely everyone — from the International Monetary Fund to the White House and the European Central Bank — has been berating the Germans on these very points. The European Commission just admonished them again, in its latest country report.Given that context, what Scholz plans to propose in March is really only a tiny tweak to the rule. He wants Europe’s biggest economy to take its foot off the brake just one single time, so that the federal government can assume about 40 billion euros ($44 billion) in debt from some 2,500 struggling cities and counties. This would enable municipalities, especially those in economically depressed areas, to borrow and spend on local infrastructure, schools and more.But because the debt brake is in the constitution, Scholz needs to win two-thirds majorities in both houses of Germany’s parliament. And he won’t get them. All of the parties on Germany’s right, from the center to the fringe, are dead-set against anything that sounds to them as guilty as debt. The Christian Democrats even joke, tongue-in-cheek but proudly, that the debt brake is their “fetish.” Nobody is suggesting that profligacy is good government policy. Nor, however, is obstinate stinginess and slavish obedience to arbitrary rules at a time when the world economy is teetering on the edge and only a few countries have the fiscal capacity to help out. Germany, as the only member of the Group of Seven that keeps running budget surpluses, is the biggest and most important of those countries. It’s time the Germans understood their own vital role in the world, and scrapped the well-meant but misguided rule that is causing so many problems. To contact the author of this story: Andreas Kluth at akluth1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andreas Kluth is a member of Bloomberg's editorial board. He was previously editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 01:00:18 -0500
  • Boris Johnson Denies the Laws of Gravity

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    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 01:00:16 -0500
  • Boris Johnson Denies the Laws of Gravity

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    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 01:00:16 -0500
  • Afghans view US-Taliban deal with well-earned skepticism

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    Many Afghans view Saturday's expected signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal with a heavy dose of well-earned skepticism. Arash, an Afghan policeman in the capital of Kabul, was 7 years old when a U.S.-led military coalition ousted the Taliban government in 2001. Afghanistan's economy has been wracked by 18 years of fighting, despite billions of dollars spent on nation building.

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 00:53:03 -0500
  • New Zealand reports first virus patient; case linked to Iran

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    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 00:33:20 -0500
  • Sanders' appeal tested in moderate Virginia on Super Tuesday

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    Rep. Elaine Luria is the kind of up-and-comer the Democratic Party would like to keep in Congress. “When I talk to people across our district, they are very pragmatic, middle of the road,” said Luria, who has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. Like Luria's district, which includes Virginia Beach, where Sanders is holding a rally Saturday night, her state presents a vital test for Sanders' ability to consolidate his position as the clear Democratic 2020 front-runner by winning in a swing state with moderate leanings.

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 00:22:29 -0500
  • US schools start planning for possible spread of coronavirus

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    Schools across the United States are canceling trips abroad, preparing online lessons and even rethinking “perfect attendance” awards as they brace for the possibility that the new coronavirus could begin spreading in their communities. Districts have been rushing to update emergency plans this week after federal officials warned that the virus, which started in China, is almost certain to begin spreading in the U.S. Many are preparing for possible school closures that could stretch weeks or longer, even as they work to tamp down panic among students, parents and teachers. President Donald Trump has worked to minimize fears about the virus, but on Wednesday he also recommended that schools to start planning for arrival of the COVID-19 virus “just in case.”

    Fri, 28 Feb 2020 00:18:36 -0500
  • Israel's Netanyahu: security hawk with record term in office

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    Facing a corruption indictment, Benjamin Netanyahu -- Israel's longest-serving prime minister -- is a veteran rightwinger, former elite soldier and a close ally of US President Donald Trump. The Likud party leader prefers the title "Mr Security" and has stayed in power with a mix of divisive populism and portrayal as a world statesman, stressing his ties with foreign leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin -- and especially Trump. Netanyahu was standing next to the US leader at the White House when Trump unveiled his controversial Middle East peace plan last month.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 22:56:10 -0500
  • UN chief: Growing inequality for women should shame world

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    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that inequality for women is growing and it “should shame us all in the 21st century because it is not only unacceptable, it is stupid.” The U.N. chief said in a speech at the New School in New York that gender inequality and discrimination against women is the “one overwhelming injustice across the globe — an abuse that is crying out for attention.” Guterres said gender inequality is “a stain,” just like slavery and colonialism were in previous centuries.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 22:03:31 -0500
  • At least 7 Iranian government officials have coronavirus

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    Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president for women and family affairs, is the latest Iranian government official to contract the COVID-19 coronavirus.At least seven officials in the country have tested positive for the coronavirus. Ebtekar is the highest-ranking woman in Iran's government, and is now quarantined at home, her deputy announced on Thursday. She was photographed on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting, sitting just a few yards away from President Hassan Rouhani.The other infected officials are Iraj Harirchim, deputy health minister; Mojtaba Zolnour, a Parliament member from Qom and head of Parliament's national security and foreign policy committee; Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of Parliament from Tehran; Morteza Rahmanzadeh, the mayor of a Tehran district; Dr. Mohamad Reza Ghadir, head of coronavirus management in Qom; and Hadi Khosroshahi, a major cleric and former ambassador to the Vatican. Iran's official media has reported that Khosroshahi, 81, has died.The first case of coronavirus in Iran was reported on Feb. 19 in Qom. Health Ministry officials on Thursday said there are 245 confirmed cases in the country, and at least 26 people have died from the virus. Health experts estimate there are many more COVID-19 cases in Iran, because the death rate is so high. Friday prayers have been canceled in Tehran and 22 other cities, and all schools and universities are closed until March 21.More stories from theweek.com Harvard scientist predicts coronavirus will infect up to 70 percent of humanity The Daily Show's Jordan Klepper and Roy Wood Jr. poll black voters in South Carolina, ask: 'Who is Tom Steyer!?!' What it's like to be in Venice during coronavirus lockdown

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 21:37:00 -0500
  • Hong Kong Media Tycoon Jimmy Lai Arrested for Unlawful Assembly

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    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 21:18:12 -0500
  • Korea Virus Threat Puts Expected Trump-Kim Face-Off on Hold

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    (Bloomberg) -- The next showdown between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may need to wait until after the virus scare.The U.S. said Thursday that it would postpone joint military exercises planned for the coming weeks, as its ally South Korea copes with one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. The decision removes for now a looming friction point with North Korea, which has denounced the exercises as rehearsal for an invasion and a “main factor of screwing up tensions.”Meanwhile, North Korea has turned inward since neighboring China sounded the alarm about the new virus strain last month, shutting its borders and trumpeting its prevention campaigns in state media. Moves to provoke the U.S. haven’t materialized since Kim told ruling party leaders on New Year’s Eve that he was no longer bound by a freeze on tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.“The virus likely has delayed Pyongyang’s implementation of its U.S. policy,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a Seoul-based analyst for NK News who focuses on North Korean state media. “North Korea has focused on domestic issues after Kim Jong Un’s party plenum speech. After mid-January, the coronavirus has been added to its list of domestic priorities.”This year was expected to bring a return to tensions on the Korean Peninsula after Kim spent much of last year threatening to take a “new path” in nuclear talks with the U.S. in 2020 if Trump didn’t make a more appealing offer. The two leaders have made little progress since Trump walked out of their second formal summit last year in Hanoi.Pressure has piled on Trump in recent days as markets have plummeted on fears the virus will slow the economy, while a whistle-blower cited by the New York Times and Washington Post accused the Department of Health and Human Services of a “failure to protect its employees” responsible for managing the coronavirus outbreak.The coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 82,000 and killed more than 2,800 worldwide, is particularly concerning to impoverished North Korea, which lacks the public health infrastructure of its more developed neighbors. While the country has yet to report any confirmed cases, the border closures have cut off a vital source of cash needed to soften the blow of international sanctions.“As the novel coronavirus infection is hard to curb once it has spread, all the regions and units in the DPRK are intensifying their anti-epidemic work against its making inroads into the country with each passing day,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in a Feb. 21 news report, referring to the country’s formal name.The outbreak also poses risks to the allies, with South Korean cases surging to 1,700 in little more than a week. President Moon Jae-in -- a longtime advocate for greater North Korea ties -- is rushing to get the disease under control before April parliamentary elections that will shape the remainder of his single, five-year term.Some 28,500 American troops are based on the peninsula and at last one U.S. solider has already tested positive for the virus. U.S. Forces Korea raised its risk level to “high” Thursday, restricting service members from attending non-essential, off-base activities and social events that have more than 20 people in attendance.Military officials said the request to delay the exercise was initially made by South Korea and the U.S. accepted it.“Coronavirus is a very serious thing,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. “We in the U.S. military and we in the Department of Defense are taking all kinds of appropriate precautions.”In a separate move, U.S. Forces Korea said Friday it notified thousands of South Korean workers at American military bases that they would be furloughed from April 1 unless Seoul and Washington could reach a new financing deal. Even before the virus erupted, tensions flared between the long-standing allies over a Trump demand for a five-fold increase in what South Korea pays to host U.S. troopsStill, it’s unclear how long the virus will keep tensions at bay. North Korea typically tapers down on its missile testing during its bitter winter and could resume provocations once the weather warms.“The decision to suspend the exercise probably was purely based on a public health perspective,” said Kim Ki-jung, a professor of political science and international studies at Yonsei University who also had advised former South Korean presidents and the foreign ministry on North Korea issues. “But it brings an incidental effect of deescalating tensions.”(Adds notice sent to workers on U.S. bases of furlough)To contact the reporter on this story: Kanga Kong in Seoul at kkong50@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Jon HerskovitzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 21:00:25 -0500
  • AP decides not to declare Iowa caucus winner after recount

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    The Iowa Democratic Party on Thursday released updated results of the Iowa caucuses after the completion of a recount requested by the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. In the new results, Buttigieg has 562.954 state delegate equivalents and Sanders has 562.021 state delegate equivalents out of 2,151 counted.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 20:27:52 -0500
  • Grandfather, Navy vet among 5 victims of Wisconsin shooting

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    The five men who were killed by a co-worker at a Milwaukee brewery include an electrician, a Navy veteran, a father of two small children, a fisherman and a grandfather who is being remembered as someone who "always put his family's needs before his own.” Authorities said the five men were working at Molson Coors Brewing Co. on Wednesday when they were killed by a co-worker, who then turned his gun on himself. Milwaukee police Chief Alfonso Morales identified the victims on Thursday as Jesus Valle Jr., 33, of Milwaukee; Gennady Levshetz, 61, of Mequon; Trevor Wetselaar, 33, of Milwaukee; Dana Walk, 57, of Delafield; and Dale Hudson, 60, of Waukesha.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 19:37:24 -0500
  • UN prepared to make humanitarian exemptions for N. Korea on coronavirus

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    The UN Security Council on Thursday declared that it would adopt humanitarian exemptions to the heavy economic sanctions imposed on North Korea to help the impoverished country fight the novel coronavirus, Germany's ambassador to the UN said. "The coronavirus issue was discussed and the committee immediately had given permission to export the equipment" used to fight the illness, said Christoph Heusgen, who heads the United Nations body that applies the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang in an effort to force it to give up its ballistic and nuclear programs.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 19:34:38 -0500
  • Whistleblower: Feds helping evacuees lacked virus protection

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    A government whistleblower has filed a complaint alleging that some federal workers did not have the necessary protective gear or training when they were deployed to help Americans evacuated from China during the coronavirus outbreak. The complaint deals with Health and Human Services Department employees sent to Travis and March Air Force bases in California to assist the quarantined evacuees. The Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates personnel issues, confirmed Thursday it has received the unnamed whistleblower's complaint and has opened a case.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 19:04:51 -0500
  • Western nations demand immediate cease-fire in Syria's Idlib

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    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 18:58:57 -0500
  • Officials scramble to retrace steps of California coronavirus case

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    A northern California woman is believed to be the first to contract the virus with no connection to travel or other casesCalifornia and federal officials were in the midst of an intense effort Thursday to retrace the movements of a northern California woman believed to be the first person in the US to contract the highly contagious coronavirus with no known connection to travel abroad or other known causes.The diagnosis, confirmed Wednesday, marks an escalation of the worldwide outbreak in the US because it means the virus could now spread beyond the reach of quarantines and other preventative measures. But state health officials were quick to reassure the public on Thursday that such a scenario was inevitable and the risk of widespread transmission remained low.The new California case raised questions, however, about how quickly public health officials are moving to diagnose and treat new cases. State and federal health officials disagreed about when doctors first requested the woman be tested.Doctors at the UC Davis Medical Center said they asked the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the woman for the virus on 19 February. But they said the CDC did not approve the testing until Sunday “since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria” for the virus, according to a memo posted to the hospital’s website.Richard Quartarone, a CDC spokesman, said a preliminary review of agency records indicates the agency did not know about the woman until Sunday, the same day the woman was first tested.Quartarone said the agency is concerned about reports of delayed testing and is “investigating this carefully”.The woman lives in Solano county, home to Travis air force base, where dozens of people infected in China or on cruise ships have been treated. But Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, said there was no evidence the woman had any connection to the base.The California governor Gavin Newsom said the state was limited in how many people it could test because it only had 200 testing kits. But he said federal officials have promised to send many more in the coming days.“I’m not going to politicize this moment, and I’m not going to point fingers,” Newsom said. “We have had a very strong working relationship with the (Trump) administration.”Investigators were focused on tracing the woman’s steps to figure out how she got the virus and who else she may have unwittingly infected.The woman, who has not been identified, first sought medical care at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital, in Vacaville, a city of more than 100,000 people about 55 miles (88 kilometers) north-east of San Francisco.She stayed there for three days and was then transferred to a Sacramento hospital where she later tested positive for the virus.Ten experts from the CDC arrived Thursday and were heading to Vacaville to help with the search, said Dr James Watt, interim state epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health.With the patient as ground zero, they are interviewing immediate family members. Then, as with any similar case, they are expanding the net to include more distant family members who may have been in contact, social gatherings the patient may have attended, and any possible time spent at work or events.They are not too worried, for now, about casual contact, because federal officials think the coronavirus is spread only through “close contact, being within six feet of somebody for what they’re calling a prolonged period of time”, said Watt, who was the state’s deputy epidemiologist for 10 years before he took the interim post two months ago.“That’s more than casual contact at a grocery store,” Watt said. “That’s where our focus is going to be. What was the pattern of disease transmission?”Dr Bela Matyas, the Solano County Public Health officer, said public health officials have identified dozens of people, but less than 100 who had close contact with the woman. Those people are quarantined in their homes. A few have shown symptoms and are in isolation, Matyas said. Following the emergence of the California case, the CDC updated its testing criteria on its website, a move that had been in the works for days, according to a federal official familiar with the change.Previously, the number of people being tested in the US had been limited to those who, in addition to showing symptoms, had a history of travel to countries affected by the disease or contact with those who have done so, said Lauren Sauer, director of operations at Johns Hopkins University’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response.“In the US, people are sticking pretty closely to that definition,” Sauer said. But the increasing cases on other continents “are demonstrating we need to do a better job than just where the outbreak originated”.The CDC will continue to advise testing people who have traveled to certain outbreak areas and have fever and certain other symptoms. But now testing is also appropriate if such symptoms exist and flu and other respiratory illnesses have been ruled out and no source of exposure has been identified. As part of that, the CDC has expanded the list of countries that are red flags for testing to include not only China but Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan.UC Davis Medical Center, which has treated other coronavirus patients, has been taking infection prevention precautions since the patient arrived. Officials believe there was a small chance that others at the facility were exposed to the virus and they were asked to stay home and monitor their temperatures, the memo said.All of the 59 other cases in the US have been for people who had traveled abroad or had close contact with others who traveled. Health officials have been on high alert for so-called community spread.Earlier US cases included 14 in people who returned from outbreak areas in China, or their spouses; three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated by the federal government to the US from where the ship was docked in Japan.The global count of those sickened by the virus hovered Thursday around 82,000, with 433 new cases reported in China and an additional 505 in South Korea.The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that can cause colds or more serious illnesses such as Sars and Mers.The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.Officials are advising people to take steps to avoid infection with coronavirus or other respiratory infections like colds or the flu, including washing hands with soap and water and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 18:06:01 -0500
  • CORRECTED-U.S. spy agencies monitor coronavirus spread, concerns about India -sources

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    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 17:06:54 -0500
  • Why is Iran's reported mortality rate for coronavirus higher than in other countries?

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    Four doctors in Iran said that the total number of those infected is likely substantially higher than the number released by Iranian health authorities.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 17:04:41 -0500
  • Do liberals want Trump to spark a panic?

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    I am old enough to remember a time when President Trump's response to coronavirus was decried as heavy handed and authoritarian by observers who thought that restricting air travel to and from China and the imposition of a quarantine were over-the-top responses to a disease that posed less of a threat to the health of the average American than seasonal influenza. These impressions were preceded by sweeping assurances that the assassination of Qassem Soleimani was about to spark war with Iran and that the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement quietly approved by Democratic leaders in the middle of the failed impeachment process would actually worsen our trade relations, to name only a handful of the alas so-far unrealized crises into which L’Éminence orange was confidently assumed to have plunged us in the first month and a half or so of the new year. Perhaps a national moment of silence in acknowledgement of the various dooms to which we have managed not to succumb individually or collectively in the ensuing days would be in order. We are certainly lucky.As of this writing, roughly 60 Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus, which is about the same as the number who own copies of Out of the Bachs, an obscure 1968 garage rock album often considered among the rarest and most valuable in the world. A whopping one of them appears to have contracted the disease on these shores. This seems to me about the best one could hope for given the reality of globalized commerce and the unwillingness of millions around the world to forego travel or subject themselves to inconvenient screening processes. (I for one would be happy to see far more stringent restrictions in place.)You would not know this from reading the headlines or watching television news. On Thursday morning our paper of record greeted us with the following invitation: "Let's Call It Trumpvirus." Let's not, maybe? I am reliably informed that Gail Collins' readers consider her something of a humorist. (Given her audience, one wonders why she did not suggest "covfefevirus," which, no pun intended, would really have knocked them dead.) Her column was painfully unfunny, not because this president never lends himself to mockery but because it assumed that a plague of well-nigh biblical proportions has been visited upon the American people while their feckless commander-in-chief conducts a propaganda campaign meant to distract us from the wagon loads of corpses being carried through the streets.This item is of a piece with hundreds of articles and late-night comedy rants now accusing Trump in some vague manner of downplaying the significance of coronavirus. The impression one gets is that instead of what he is doing now (i.e., taking advice from relevant officials; declaring a public health emergency; instituting the first Centers for Disease Control quarantine in half a century; coordinating a response among an almost uncountable number of federal, state, and local bodies charged with everything from screening travelers and contacting Americans abroad to educating doctors and the general public) he should spend hours a day on television engaged in an omnidirectional attempt to induce panic in as many people as possible.What else would these people prefer to Trump's calm, decisive action here? If he had taken more sweeping measures — restricting business travel by executive order, for example, rather than with the tacit cooperation of Apple and hundreds of other firms — he would have been called a fascist. If he had gone to the airwaves (or his favorite social media platform) to warn everyone of an imminent outbreak, he would be dismissed as an uninformed crank whose scare-mongering posed a more serious threat to global peace and health than the disease itself. Fact-checkers are handing him Pinocchios for saying that the situation is "very much under control." What would have been more accurate? Him declaring that coronavirus is on the verge of destroying civilization as we know it and suggesting the average American family stock up on masks, food, and gasoline and pray that the end, when it comes, be swift and painless? The mind reels.The cynicism of the president's critics here is boundless. There are thousands of valid grounds upon which Trump can be criticized. His administration's sober response to coronavirus is not one of them. To quote The New York Times again: "If you're feeling awful, you know who to blame."I have no trouble believing that millions of my fellow citizens really do feel this way. But their bizarre emotional needs are their own problem, not Trump’s.More stories from theweek.com Harvard scientist predicts coronavirus will infect up to 70 percent of humanity The Daily Show's Jordan Klepper and Roy Wood Jr. poll black voters in South Carolina, ask: 'Who is Tom Steyer!?!' What it's like to be in Venice during coronavirus lockdown

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 16:45:00 -0500
  • Russian Firm Dodging U.S. Questions on ‘Putin’s Chef’ Ties

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    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 16:21:56 -0500
  • WHO says virus at 'decisive point' as world battles spread

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    The World Health Organization declared Thursday that the new coronavirus epidemic was at a "decisive point" as countries across the globe battled to contain the deadly outbreak. Saudi Arabia banned pilgrims from visiting Islam's holiest sites as the number of deaths jumped in neighbouring Iran, while Japan and Iraq ordered the closure of schools. Alarm is growing as China is no longer the only breeding ground for COVID-19, with other countries including South Korea and Italy becoming hotbeds of infection, raising fears of a pandemic.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 16:06:19 -0500
  • Feds cite new evidence against former Mexico security chief

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    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 15:01:28 -0500
  • Democrats focus on Super Tuesday even as S. Carolina looms

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    Bernie Sanders will swing through North Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts in the coming days. Elizabeth Warren will make stops in Texas and Arkansas. Amy Klobuchar will be in Tennessee and Virginia.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 14:55:41 -0500
  • States ramp up virus preparations, try to reassure public

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    As worries about the new coronavirus grow in the U.S., state officials are ramping up efforts to prepare for a possible outbreak while simultaneously trying to assure the public that they are well-positioned to handle it. State health officials are checking on stockpiles of supplies such as face masks and respirators and arranging potential isolation sites for sick patients. Governors in several states — including the three most populated, California, Texas, and Florida — sought to ease concerns about the virus Thursday at news conferences.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 14:54:08 -0500
  • Former Baltimore mayor sentenced to 3 years in book scheme

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    The disgraced former mayor of Baltimore was sentenced to three years in federal prison Thursday for arranging fraudulent sales of her self-published children’s books to nonprofits and foundations to promote her political career and fund her run for the city’s highest office. Catherine Pugh spoke through tears for about 10 minutes before her sentencing in federal court in Baltimore. The scandal has shaken Maryland's largest city, which for years has struggled with grinding poverty, political mismanagement, record crime rates and police abuses that led to massive riots.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 14:21:53 -0500
  • AP-NORC poll: How Americans describe 2020 Democrats, Trump

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    As the 2020 campaign intensifies, a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research asked Americans to say what word or phrase comes to mind when they think of the top candidates, including incumbent President Donald Trump. Many Americans think of the former vice president's job when asked about Joe Biden, but one response ranked above all others: He's “old.” Sixteen percent of those thinking of a phrase to describe Biden mention his age, including comparable shares of Democrats and Republicans.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 14:00:56 -0500
  • Israeli top court rules against surrogacy law excluding gays

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    Israel's Supreme Court ruled against a surrogacy law Thursday that critics said discriminated against same-sex couples and which sparked uproar in the LGBT community when it was passed. In a statement, the court said the 2018 law, which expanded access to surrogacy in Israel to single women but excluded gay couples, “disproportionately harmed the right to equality and the right to parenthood” for same-sex couples and that it was unlawful. Israeli same-sex couples looking to become parents are often deterred by the additional costs that come with finding a surrogate in another country, costs they could save if they were allowed to use a surrogate in Israel.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 13:48:42 -0500
  • UK talks tough on EU post-Brexit trade deal

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    Britain put the prospect of a chaotic Brexit back on the table on Thursday as it set out its red lines for upcoming trade talks with the European Union. In its mandate for negotiations that start on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government rebuffed the EU's demands for common trading standards and to maintain existing fishing rights. It set out hopes for a free trade deal with Brussels, but warned it could walk away without one if a "broad outline" of an agreement has not emerged by June.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 13:41:54 -0500
  • Biggest explosion seen in universe came from black hole

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    Astronomers have discovered the biggest explosion seen in the universe, originating from a super-massive black hole. Scientists reported Thursday that the blast came from a black hole in a cluster of galaxies 390 million light-years away. The explosion was so large it carved out a crater in the hot gas that could hold 15 Milky Ways, said lead author Simona Giacintucci of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 13:40:41 -0500
  • ¿Cómo prepararnos para el coronavirus? 3 preguntas y respuestas

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    Nota del editor: Las autoridades de Salud Pública en los Estados Unidos han advertido que el coronavirus, que se ha propagado en distintas partes de los Estados Unidos, se avecina y el país necesita estar preparado. ¿Pero qué quiere decir esto para usted, y para las autoridades de salud pública? Aubree Gordon, profesora en la Universidad de Michigan lo explica. 1\. ¿Cómo nos preparamos para algo que no podemos predecir?Lo primero, y más importante, es que las personas deben prepararse para que su vida diaria se vea afectada por medidas de salud pública que se emplearán para tratar de limitar el contagio y propagación del virus.Esto puede ser algo tan sencillo como medidas de distanciamiento en círculos sociales que incluye la cancelación de eventos donde se aglomeren muchas personas, hasta medidas que tengan un mayor impacto en el diario vivir como el cierre de escuelas y negocios. También es posible que se les solicite a las personas que permanezcan en sus casas por un periodo de tiempo extenso si hay un brote lo suficientemente grande en el área, tal y como ha ocurrido en China.Para poder prepararse para ello, es recomendable tener suficientes alimentos que duren por un periodo de dos semanas, artículos de higiene personal y un número suficiente de medicamentos que sean de prescripción o sin prescripción médica. Es también muy importante tener copias de récords médicos por motivos de referencia. 2\. ¿Se han reportado 60 casos en los EEUU hasta ahora, por qué puede aumentar este número?Hasta hace poco, todos los casos en los Estados Unidos han sido importados directamente y están relacionados a viajes. Esto quiere decir que, o alguien vino a los Estados Unidos ya infectado con el virus o tuvo contacto con alguien que recientemente ha viajado fuera del país.Para poder darle seguimiento a estos casos, las autoridades de salud pública han estado realizando exámenes en todas las personas que han viajado recientemente a China y que han reportado síntomas o que han tenido contacto con personas que han viajado de China donde inició este brote. De la misma manera, también se está examinando a personas que han tenido contacto con alguna persona con infección confirmada. Personas que hayan tenido un resultado de examen positivo han sido aisladas. Además de ello, a las personas que viajan desde lugares donde también han habido brotes se les ha solicitado que se mantengan en cuarentena en sus casas o el gobierno de los Estados Unidos los ha mantenido en cuarentena por 14 días para prevenir transmisión a partir del día en que fueron infectados pero que todavía no han mostrado síntomas.Sin embargo, conforme el virus se establece en en diferentes países, habrá más ingresos a los Estados Unidos lo cual se podría traducir en que viajeros traigan el virus a los Estados Unidos de otros países. Es inevitable que hayan casos que pasemos por alto lo cual resultará en transmisión entre la comunidad en los Estados Unidos. Puede que esto ya esté pasando.Además, ahora mismo el sistema de salud pública se está concentrando en examinar a individuos con conexión a algún brote conocido en alguna localización específica o conexión con algún caso confirmado. Las autoridades de salud pública y personal médico están buscando activamente los casos en los lugares más obvio, pero esto quiere decir que posiblemente no estén detectando casos de forma temprana en sitios donde no se espera tenerlos. Las autoridades de los Estados Unidos podrán saber que esto ha sucedido si detectan un grupo de casos severos, en cuyo punto ya habrán pasado múltiples cadenas de transmisión y un brote habrá comenzado. 3\. ¿Que ha cambiado y por qué las autoridades de salud pública se encuentran más preocupadas que antes?Los brotes están ocurriendo ahora en múltiples países. También, el hecho de que tengamos múltiples brotes, brotes concurrentes-y que las autoridades de salud pública conozcan poco sobre la dimensión de estos brotes es preocupante.Conforme el virus vaya propagándose a más países, particularmente aquellos con sistemas de salud no tan bien establecidos, será más difícil controlar que haya un propagamiento global. Mientras el número de casos en una localización vayan aumentando, la posibilidad que alguien se infecte viajando desde ese lugar irá en incremento. Y esto por su parte incrementa la posibilidad de que el virus sea introducido a otros lugares.Por ejemplo, había habido pocos casos de COVID-19 detectados en Italia hasta el 22 de febrero de 2020 y todos ellos estaban relacionados a personas que viajaron. Sin embargo, un par de días después, las autoridades detectaron un conglomerado de casos en COVID-19. No existía una conexión clara de estos casos con el antecedente de viajar, lo cual indica que se está dando transmisión en la comunidad. Ahora, los casos importados de Italia, sea por turistas italianos o ciudadanos retornando de Italia han sido detectados en múltiples países. Igualmente, Irán ahora también tiene transmisión en la comunidad y ha exportado casos a múltiples países.En las semanas y meses por venir, este patrón muy probablemente se repetirá en múltiples localizaciones.Traducido por Julio Zuniga Moya, un estudiante de posgrado en el Departamento de Epidemiología en la Escuela de Salud Pública de Universidad de Michigan.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * ¿Qué pasa si el nuevo coronavirus provoca una pandemia? * ¿Por qué el coronavirus nos parece incluso más peligroso de lo que es?Aubree Gordon recibe el apoyo de los National Institutes of Health de Estados Unidos.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 13:20:52 -0500
  • One of Iran's vice presidents has been infected with coronavirus

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    Ebtekar, one of Iran's vice presidents, was the English-language spokesperson known to the media as "Mary" during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 13:20:25 -0500
  • Iran coronavirus deaths jump to 26, top officials infected

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    The coronavirus epidemic in Iran has cost 26 lives, the health ministry announced Thursday, with a vice president becoming the latest top official to be infected as the spread appeared to accelerate. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a news conference that the tally of infections had risen to 245 with 106 more cases confirmed -- the highest number for a single day since Iran announced its first infections on February 19. Among the latest coronavirus sufferers is one of Iran's seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, who oversees women's affairs.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 12:54:46 -0500
  • Russia announces date for referendum that could extend Putin's rule

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    Russia has announced the date of a national referendum on constitutional changes that could allow Vladimir Putin, now 67, to extend his time in office. While Putin has remained in power, either as president or prime minister, since 1999, current laws prohibit the Russian president from seeking another term, preventing him from serving past 2024. The proposed changes to the constitution could diminish the powers of the Russian presidency while boosting those of the prime minister, a position Putin held from 2008 to 2012 in between his second and third terms as president.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 12:31:00 -0500
  • Saudi Arabia closes two holiest shrines to foreigners as coronavirus fears grow

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    Pilgrims also banned amid broader restriction on visa holders from states deemed most likely to pose a health risk * Coronavirus – latest updatesSaudi Arabia has closed the two holiest shrines of Islam to foreign travellers and banned pilgrims from entering the country as fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak continue to grow in the Middle East.Officials in the kingdom said the ban, announced late on Wednesday, was temporary, but gave no indication how long it might last. It comes amid a broader ban on visa holders from states deemed most likely to pose a risk to regional health.“The kingdom’s government has decided to [suspend] entry to the kingdom for the purpose of umrah and visit to the Prophet’s mosque temporarily,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.While not explicitly stating which countries that referred to, border authorities at Riyadh’s King Khalid international airport were on Thursday screening passengers from Iran, China, South Korea and Italy, from where clusters of coronavirus have spread across neighbouring borders.Saudi Arabia has so far recorded no cases of the virus, but the number infected across the region has steadily increased, with patients quarantined in Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE, Iraq and Lebanon.Officials in Iran said Friday prayers in Tehran will be cancelled this week, as a crackdown on large gatherings gathered pace. Iran remains the regional hotspot for the coronavirus and is the country with the highest death toll outside China, where the Covid-19 outbreak originated.The state-run Irna news agency reported that Iran had confirmed 245 cases and 26 deaths, although experts fear the country is underreporting the number of cases.The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.The UN agency advises people to: * Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap * Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing * Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough * Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers * Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas * Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided they are used correctly.Justin McCurryA state-owned newspaper in Iran said the vice-president, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has recently been diagnosed with coronavirus. Other senior Iranians, including the country’s deputy health minister and top clerics, have been struck down.Meanwhile, Kuwait announced that it had confirmed 43 cases of coronavirus, all of which involved people who had been to Iran.Iraq announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in its capital, Baghdad, taking nationwide infections to six and raising concerns about the capacity of the dilapidated health system to respond.Hours earlier, the Iraqi government announced sweeping measures to try to contain the spread of the virus, ordering the closure of schools and universities, cafes, cinemas and other public spaces until 7 March.Saudi Arabia’s borders have been partially closed to pilgrims from some countries during previous global health scares, such as Ebola in 2014, a mass suspension of foreign travellers visiting Mecca and Medina is a significant development, which may have implications for the annual hajj pilgrimage, which will this year be held in July.“This move by Saudi Arabia is unprecedented,” Ghanem Nuseibeh, the founder of the London-based risk consultancy Cornerstone Global Associates, told Agence France-Presse. “The concern for Saudi authorities would be Ramadan, which starts at the end of April, and hajj afterwards, should the coronavirus become a pandemic.”Hajj attracts close to 3 million people from around the world every year for a pilgrimage, that transforms the holy shrines into the most densely packed pocket on earth for up to one week a year. Along with the Tokyo Olympics, which are also set to be held in July, it is one of the two biggest events in the world in 2020 drawing masses of people from around the planet to gather in close proximity to each other.Such conditions are considered ideal for an even quicker spread of coronavirus, which now exists on every continent, except Antarctica, and in 44 countries. With a global infection rate of more than 80,000 and growing daily, the spread of the virus is now near a pandemic, and public health officials around the globe say a tipping point in which a further breakout cannot be contained, may have already been passed.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 12:19:04 -0500
  • Watchdog: Israel moves ahead with hundreds of settler homes

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    Israel is moving forward on plans to build more than 1,700 homes for settlers in the West Bank, the settlement watchdog Peace Now said Thursday. Peace Now said the housing was spread over 10 settlements, some deep inside the West Bank in areas the Palestinians want for a future state. The housing approvals come days ahead of national elections in Israel, the third straight vote in less than a year after the previous two ended inconclusively.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 12:18:50 -0500
  • Halt of Muslim pilgrimage over virus brings worldwide dismay

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    For years, Ibrahim al-Dabba has been saving up money to make the umrah pilgrimage to Islam's holiest sites in Saudi Arabia, which for many Palestinians is the only way to leave the impoverished and isolated Gaza Strip. The outbreak could potentially affect the much larger annual hajj pilgrimage, set to begin in late July. For the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, the Saudi decision closes one of the last avenues for leaving the narrow coastal strip, which has been ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas and blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 12:06:46 -0500
  • Prague square named after Russian opposition figure Nemtsov

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    Prague has renamed a square in front of the Russian Embassy after Boris Nemtsov, honoring the slain Russian opposition leader. The change did not immediately draw an angry response from Moscow, as did some other recent moves in the Czech capital, such as a plan to remove the statue of a World War II Soviet commander, Marshall Ivan Stepanovic Konev. Nemtsov was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was murdered near the Kremlin five years ago.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 11:40:49 -0500
  • Q&A: Saudis halt Muslim pilgrimage over virus fears

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    Saudi Arabia's unprecedented decision to halt the umrah pilgrimage amid the global outbreak of a new virus could prevent millions of Muslims from undertaking a major religious rite that many spend years saving up for. Unlike the hajj pilgrimage, which takes place once a year and is required for all Muslims who are able to undertake it, the lesser umrah pilgrimage can be performed year-round. Just like the five-day hajj, which annually brings 2-3 million pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from around the world, umrah is centered on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and includes rituals dating back to the Prophet Muhammad, who founded Islam in the 7th century.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 10:56:48 -0500
  • What's happening: Virus forges on, as world hunts solutions

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    From California to Italy, France, Germany, Spain and beyond, more cases are popping up in which the source of the virus remains a mystery. Health authorities in all these places are working hard to find the original source of infection using what’s called contact tracing, or finding all the people the latest patients were in contact with. U.S. President Donald Trump had reason to worry as stocks tanked further on fears about the virus’ global spread.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 10:32:06 -0500
  • Virus response in Mideast tainted by political views of Iran

    Golocal247.com news

    The coronavirus has killed 26 people in Iran -- the highest toll outside of China where it originated. Many of the over 240 confirmed cases in the region have links to Iran, including dozens in Kuwait and Bahrain, six in Iraq and two in Lebanon. In sharp contrast to Europe, were countries kept borders with Italy open despite a cluster of virus cases there, Iran's neighbors have all announced measures to cut links with the country, either completely closing their borders and suspending air traffic or limiting travel.

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 10:13:11 -0500
  • Trump freaks out about all the wrong things

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    You don't need to worry about the epidemic that's spreading rapidly around the world, killing all those people, and creating economic turmoil, according to someone who knows nothing about it."The Coronavirus is very much under control in the U.S.A.," President Trump tweeted on Monday. "We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!" This was on the same day that U.S. stock markets plunged more than 3.5 percent amid concerns that the coronavirus was very much not under control.The following day, the Centers for Disease Control warned that the coronavirus was headed to the United States, and the Dow Jones dropped more than 800 points. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the CDC's head of respiratory diseases, said, "Disruption to everyday life might be severe."Lesson: When Trump tells you not to worry, you should worry.Not only does the president get things wrong, but his priorities are skewed. He doesn't worry about things he cannot understand, and he doesn't want us to worry about them either. This is a lot of things.Trump wants people to be afraid when they shouldn't be afraid and wants people to be unconcerned when they should be concerned. The rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak is under control. The plunging stock market is nothing to worry about. North Korea is now a pacifist hippie commune. Americans with pre-existing conditions won't lose their health coverage, notwithstanding the Trump administration's attempts to deprive them of it.The man who said that he alone could "fix it" solves problems by wishing them away.Here are the things you shouldn't worry about that Trump wants you to freak out about:In his second month of office, Trump called the media "a great danger to our country."Prior to the 2018 midterm elections, the president stoked fears of a massive caravan of Hispanics. "Sadly, it looks like Mexico's Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States," he tweeted. "Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy."The caravan was such an emergency that Trump didn't have time to spell "emergency" correctly."To those in the Caravan, turnaround," he demanded three days later, mistaking a noun for a verb.Trump's caravan fears subsided after the election, but not entirely. Two weeks after Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, Trump tweeted: "There are a lot of CRIMINALS in the Caravan. We will stop them. Catch and Detain! Judicial Activism, by people who know nothing about security and the safety of our citizens, is putting our country in great danger. Not good!"Judicial activism, though a great danger in regard to criminals in caravans, is welcome — indeed, just — when the criminals are Trump's friends. That is why the president berates judges who don't reinterpret the laws in such a way as to keep him and his cronies out of prison. Trump takes trivial things seriously and serious things trivially, and he makes his personal problems national problems.There are problems in the world that Trump doesn't want to unnerve you about. Real problems, unlike fabricated ones, he is able to solve by going on the internet and declaring them solved.In June 2018, Trump tweeted that "everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea." He declared that "all missle launches have stoped…. We will be fine!" The missile launches have not stopped, and neither have Trump's viral misspellings. (He misspelled "coronavirus" on Wednesday.)It's hard to tell whether Trump is lying or just ignorant about literally everything.In his book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin wrote, "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: It is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."Trump exemplifies the descent of man. Two years ago, he said on purpose, "I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me."His gut, it is true, is larger than most people's brains, but that does not make it smarter. Which is why you should always keep in mind this axiom: The more confidently Trump asserts something, the less confident you should be that it is true.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.More stories from theweek.com Harvard scientist predicts coronavirus will infect up to 70 percent of humanity The Daily Show's Jordan Klepper and Roy Wood Jr. poll black voters in South Carolina, ask: 'Who is Tom Steyer!?!' What it's like to be in Venice during coronavirus lockdown

    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 10:01:00 -0500
  • Libya officials: 21 civilians killed in Tripoli since Jan. 9

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    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 09:58:47 -0500
  • EXPLAINER-Gaps between Britain and EU on eve of talks on post-Brexit ties

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    Thu, 27 Feb 2020 09:36:58 -0500
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