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  • US-Russian crew blasts off for International Space Station Thu, 09 Apr 2020 04:15:25 -0400

    US-Russian crew blasts off for International Space StationNASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner lifted off as scheduled at 1:05 p.m. (0805 GMT, 4:05 a.m. EDT) from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Russian space officials have taken extra precautions to protect the crew during training and pre-flight preparations as the coronavirus outbreak has swept the world. Speaking to journalists Wednesday in a video link from Baikonur, Cassidy said the crew had been in “a very strict quarantine” for the past month and is in good health.


  • Italy, U.K. May Extend Curbs; German Cases Climb: Virus Update Thu, 09 Apr 2020 04:11:47 -0400

    Italy, U.K. May Extend Curbs; German Cases Climb: Virus Update(Bloomberg) -- Italy may extend the lockdown by two weeks after a rise in infections and curbs will likely continue in Britain, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition is improving in intensive care. New cases in Germany climbed the most in five days, three weeks after restrictions were put in place.Singapore is implementing stricter social-distancing measures after a jump in infections. Global cases have topped 1.5 million, less than a week after surpassing the 1 million mark, and Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus may be “reactivating” in people who have recovered.Key Developments:Global cases 1.5 million; deaths pass 88,000: Johns HopkinsUBS and Credit Suisse delay dividend paymentsHalf a billion people at a risk of poverty, according to Oxfam reportWorld economy faces $5 trillion hit, that’s like losing JapanChina Says Accusations It Covered Up Virus are Groundless (3:52 p.m. HK)Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing in Beijing that the World Health Organization had upheld the nation’s objective and science-based position.Russia Cases Jump Again (3:50 p.m. HK)Russia reported 1,459 new cases, up 17%, taking its total to 10,131. This is the country’s biggest daily jump yet, and Russia has now reported more than 1,000 cases for three straight days. Total deaths rose by 13 to 76.Tokyo Finds at Least 180 New Cases (3:46 p.m. HK)Tokyo found at least 180 new cases of coronavirus, the highest number yet in a single day, FNN reported in a flash headline, without attribution. NTV later reported the number at 181.Sweden Hits Back at Trump’s ‘Herd Immunity’ Criticism (3:44 p.m. HK)“He has used a factual error,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in an interview with TV4. Her comments follow Trump’s remarks a day earlier when he told reporters that Sweden is trying to achieve “herd immunity” and “is suffering greatly” from not doing enough.The Nordic country is under intense scrutiny as it continues to experiment with a laxer policy response to the virus despite an accelerating death toll. Restaurants, shopping centers and primary schools all remain open in Scandinavia’s biggest economy.Goldman Sees Virus Causing $75 Billion Funding Hole in Africa (3:28 p.m. HK)“Possibly the most severe impact of the crisis will be on already stretched fiscal balances,” Dylan Smith and Andrew Matheny, Goldman’s economists in London, said in a note. “Budget deficits would likely rise from an average of around 3.5% to high single digits, even before any loosening to soften the economic effects of the corona-crisis.”Earlier, the World Bank said Sub-Saharan Africa will post its first recession in 25 years as the coronavirus pandemic brings economies to a halt and disrupts global trade.Europe Stocks Rally for Fourth Day (3:21 p.m. HK)European equities rose on Thursday as the travel sector and autos bounced back, with the regional benchmark set for its longest winning streak since early February. The Stoxx 600 Index rose 1.7%, marking its fourth day of gains. S&P 500 futures rose as much as 1.1%. Since hitting a low last month, European stocks have risen nearly 20% as governments have rushed to put in place stimulus measures to prop up the economy. European Companies Roundup (3 p.m. HK)Airbus SE plans to cut its monthly aircraft production rate by a third, with CEO Guillaume Faury saying the impact of the pandemic has been “unprecedented.” Air France-KLM expects more than 90% of its capacity to be suspended through the end of May. Click here for a roundup of what other European companies said today.U.K. Economy Shrinks (2:57 p.m. HK)The U.K. economy unexpectedly contracted in February, putting it on an unsteady footing even before the nation imposed more stringent restrictions to contain the coronavirus. GDP fell 0.1% from January, with the downturn driven by a huge drop in construction, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday.The government signaled plans to borrow directly from the Bank of England, easing the pressure to immediately sell bonds for the billions it needs to support the economy through the coronavirus pandemic. The Treasury said Thursday that it’s increasing the long-standing “Ways and Means facility,” a short-term overdraft that it can use if needed to smooth its cash flow and support the functioning of markets.U.K., Italy Consider Extending Lockdown, Reports Say (2:29 p.m. HK)Italy plans to extend its nationwide lockdown by two weeks as scientists warn Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that it’s too early to relax confinement measures, daily La Stampa reported. The government will approve a decree on Friday to extend the closures beyond the current April 13 expiration date, the newspaper said.Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told BBC the country may start easing the lockdown by the end of the month. If scientists confirm that Italy can start a gradual return to activity, “we might begin to relax some measures by the end of this month,” Conte said.The U.K.’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will address the issue of restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak at Thursday’s Downing Street press conference, the Guardian reported. Raab is expected to prepare the public for an extension of the restrictions put in place so far.Hong Kong Airport Officials Take Pay Cut (2:13 p.m. HK)Hong Kong Airport Authority CEO Fred Lam and six executive directors will take voluntary 20% pay cut for six months starting April.“The entire aviation industry is facing unprecedented difficulties because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Lam says in statement on AA’s website. “The AA is also seriously impacted by a significant revenue shortfall because of the plummet in passenger traffic”UBS, Credit Suisse Delay Dividends (2:00 p.m. HK)Switzerland’s two biggest banks proposed pushing back dividend payments as the spreading coronavirus roils markets and upends businesses.Credit Suisse Group AG said on Thursday its board proposes to pay half of its 2019 dividend and intends to distribute the rest in the fall of this year. UBS Group AG, meanwhile, has proposed shareholders approve the bank’s previously announced dividend of $0.73 for the 2019 financial year be paid in two installments, according to an emailed statement.Investors in British-listed companies could lose as much as half of their dividend income this year, according to a report from Link Group. More than a fifth of companies on the European benchmark Stoxx 600 Index have canceled or postponed dividends in recent weeks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.German Cases Jump (1:59 p.m. HK)Infections rose by 5,633 on Thursday, compared with an increase of 4,288 a day earlier, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Germany registered 333 new deaths from the virus, the highest daily toll so far and up from 206 the previous day. That brought the total number of fatalities to 2,349, while 46,300 people have recovered from the virus, up from 36,081 on Wednesday.Air France-KLM Sets Limited Flights Through May (1:38 p.m. HK)Air France-KLM expects more than 90% of its capacity to remain suspended through the end of May as the coronavirus pandemic paralyzes the travel industry worldwide. For the next two months, the airline aims to continue serving only some key city pairs with a “skeleton operation,” according to a statement. Beyond that time frame, the company said, projections are too difficult to provide.Trump, Modi Exchange Tweets on Drug Exports (1:22 p.m. HK)U.S. President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanged tweets on New Delhi’s decision this week to partially lift its ban on the export of a malaria drug Trump believes can help fight Covid-19. Some experts have cast doubt on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.“Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ.”Modi replied, “Times like these bring friends closer. The India-US partnership is stronger than ever.”Coronavirus May ‘Reactivate’ (12:25 p.m. HK)Coronavirus may be “reactivating” in people who have been cured of the illness, according to Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.About 51 patients classed as having been cured in South Korea have tested positive again, the CDC said. Rather than being infected again, the virus may have been reactivated in these people, given they tested positive again shortly after being released from quarantine, said Jeong Eun-kyeong, director-general of the Korean CDC.New Delhi Seals off 20 Districts (12:15 p.m. HK)India’s capital has sealed off 20 districts while the government in the financial center of Mumbai is converting a major sports stadium into a giant quarantine facility. Wearing face masks outside the home has now been made mandatory in both cities.A 21-day national lockdown is slated to end on April 14, although a panel of government ministers advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to only partially lift the closure as the Covid-19 toll rises.‘Virus Bump’ for G-20 Leaders (12:01 p.m. HK)Several Group of 20 leaders, including some who’ve been sharply criticized over their response to the outbreak, are enjoying a bump in their approval rating. Political scientists say this “rally-around-the-leader” effect is common in times of emergency. But it isn’t universal: Japan’s Shinzo Abe, Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil have all lost popularity.To read the full story, click here.Johnson is Improving in Hospital (12:01 p.m. HK)Prime Minister Boris Johnson is spending a third night in the critical care unit where his condition is improving, as officials draw up plans to extend the lockdown in an bid to control the U.K.’s growing coronavirus crisis.Latest data shows Britain’s national picture has turned bleaker, with a record 938 people dying of the virus in the 24 hours to 5 p.m. Tuesday, bringing the U.K. toll to 7,097.To read full story, click here.Apple CEO Cook to Take Questions on Covid-19 (11:42 a.m. HK)Apple Inc. is organizing a company-wide virtual meeting for later this month to allow employees to ask questions of the executive team led by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook.The company sent a note to employees advising them of the plan on Wednesday in the U.S., which Bloomberg News has reviewed. It asked that questions be submitted by end of day on Saturday and also encouraged workers to share their experiences of working through the disruption to daily life that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about. The specific date of the meeting has not yet been disclosed.Low Estimates in Mexico (10:54 a.m. HK)The coronavirus epidemic in the country is about eight times larger than reflected by confirmed cases, Mexico Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said Wednesday. Authorities estimate 26,519 cases in the country.Hong Kong Wants to Avoid ‘Massive Layoffs’ (10:45 a.m. HK)Hong Kong’s spending package will include a HK$80 billion job-security program to subsidize 50% of wages for affected workers for six months. This was part of the HK$137.5 billion ($17.7 billion) fresh stimulus package announced by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Wednesday. Lam and other key officials will reduce their salaries by 10% for one year.“As we are facing an unprecedented challenge, the government has to respond in an unprecedented manner,” Lam said Wednesday.Singapore to Issue Warning (10:03 a.m. HK)The city-state is still seeing far too many public gatherings, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote in a Facebook post. “From today, any group gathering in public will immediately be issued a written warning by enforcement officers,” Lee wrote. Singapore reported its largest daily increase in coronavirus cases on Wednesday.Tightly packed dormitories housing thousands of foreign workers have emerged as one of Singapore’s biggest challenges. Click here to read on dorms.New Zealand to Quarantine All Arrivals (9:18 a.m. HK)From midnight Thursday anyone, including New Zealanders, entering the country will be required to undergo quarantine or managed isolation in an approved facility for a minimum of 14 days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Wellington.“As an island nation we have a distinct advantage in our ability to eliminate the virus, but our borders are our biggest risk,” she said.Kuroda Says Serious Impact on Japan’s Economy (9:11 a.m. HK)The uncertainty surrounding the economy is very high now and financial markets are still nervous, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in a speech Thursday to BOJ branch managers in Tokyo. The BOJ won’t hesitate to ease if needed. Financial markets at home and abroad continue to show nervousness, although they have calmed somewhat.Jack Ma Helps Repair China’s Image (8:15 a.m. HK)China’s richest person is now playing a prominent role in philanthropic efforts that are effectively helping President Xi Jinping improve the country’s image overseas after Covid-19 spread around the world, unleashing a devastating human and economic toll. That’s a stark turn from just 18 months earlier, when Ma had to publicly dispute speculation that the government had prompted him to step down from the e-commerce giant he founded.Half a Billion People at Risk of Poverty (8:00 a.m. HK)The economic hit from coronavirus threatens to put more than half a billion people into poverty unless countries take action to cushion the blow, according to a report from the charity group, Oxfam. Under the most serious scenario of a 20% contraction in income, the number of people living in poverty could increase by between 434 million and 611 million, said the report, which is based on an analysis by researchers at King’s College London and the Australian National University.China Has 63 Cases (7:56 a.m. HK)China had 63 additional confirmed coronavirus cases on April 8, with 61 of them from abroad, according to statement from the country’s National Health Commission. There were 56 asymptomatic cases, half of them from overseas.For 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.


  • Khamenei: Mass Ramadan events in Iran may stop over virus Thu, 09 Apr 2020 03:22:35 -0400

    Khamenei: Mass Ramadan events in Iran may stop over virusIran’s supreme leader suggested Thursday that mass gatherings in the Islamic Republic may be barred through the holy Muslim fasting month Ramadan amid the coronavirus pandemic. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comment in a televised address as Iran prepares to restart its economic activity while suffering one of the world’s worst outbreaks. “We are going to be deprived of public gatherings of the month of Ramadan,” Khamenei said during a speech marking the birth of Imam Mahdi.


  • Rising European Cases Raise Doubts Over End to Lockdowns Thu, 09 Apr 2020 02:56:50 -0400

    Rising European Cases Raise Doubts Over End to Lockdowns(Bloomberg) -- A rise in new coronavirus infections in Germany, Italy and Spain is raising questions about the speed with which Europe can begin to relax its stringent restrictions on public life.Germany’s new virus cases climbed the most in five days, according to figures Thursday from Johns Hopkins University. Italy said on Wednesday that it recorded 3,836 new infections, the highest in three days, while in Spain they rose the most in four days. The U.K. reported a record number of deaths as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who remains in intensive care after contracting the virus, showed signs of improvement.“The number of new cases compels us to say that we have to keep our guard high, and maintain the behavior recommended by the experts to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Angelo Borrelli, head of Italy’s civil protection agency. Italy plans to extend its nationwide lockdown by two weeks, daily La Stampa reported Thursday.The increase in cases complicates efforts by European leaders to try and gradually ease the strict rules that have been put in place to slow the march of the pathogen. The restrictions are having a devastating impact on economies across the region, and countries like Germany and Italy are starting to look at if and how they can begin to relax some of the curbs.The impact of the lockdowns is becoming starkly evident, even in the region’s biggest economies. German output is expected to slump almost 10% in the April-June period, the most since records for quarterly data began in 1970, while the French economy shrank the most since World War II in the first quarter.For Italy, the weakest of the continent’s large economies and the country where the restrictions have been in place the longest, the impact is set to be even more dramatic.Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is preparing for a gradual exit from containment measures over the next several months, with some companies and shops possibly reopening as soon as early next week and other firms returning to work beginning May 4.Schools in Italy will likely remain closed until September. Subsequent steps to ease restrictions will depend on the spread of the disease remaining under control. The lockdown, in place since early March, has closed all non-essential activities and banned most movement.Decisive DaysIn Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to consult with regional premiers on April 15 on how soon and to what extent current restrictions can be eased.“We have had the first bits of positive news but it’s much too early to be over-confident or complacent,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Thursday on DLF radio. “The days over Easter will be decisive and only then will we know whether we can begin with any easing.”Economic and social life will not be fully ramped up right from the start but it will be a step-by-step process, Altmaier said. Otherwise, there is a danger restrictions will have to be reimposed if the virus spread intensifies again, he warned.The timing of the end to the unprecedented restrictions imposed on hundreds of millions of Europeans is pitting government authorities against public health officials, who say talk of an exit is too early as the hardest-hit nations are only beginning to slow the spread of the disease.After the emergence of new infections on Wednesday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned countries not to rush into lifting restrictions.“Based on the available evidence, it is currently too early to start lifting all community and physical distancing measures” in Europe, the agency said. “Sustained transmission of the virus is to be expected if current interventions are lifted too quickly.”The continent has been hit hard, suffering more than 65% of worldwide deaths and Spain, Italy, France and Germany trailing only the U.S. in infections.Careful MerkelMerkel has been careful to say that while her government is looking at options for re-opening, for now citizens should remain indoors. Restrictive measures in the country ban gatherings of more than two people, with exceptions for families.France, which has reported more than 112,000 infections, plans to extend confinement rules beyond April 15, and President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation on Monday for the third time since the virus outbreak.In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will ask parliament on Thursday for approval to extend a state of emergency through April 25. The country will return to normal life gradually after that, although experts are still working on how that process will work, Maria Jesus Montero, budget minister and government spokeswoman, told broadcaster Antena 3.The European Commission warned against hasty exits from mass isolation, saying that such measures can be reversed only when the disease’s spread has “significantly decreased for a sustained period of time.”“Any level of (gradual) relaxation of the confinement will unavoidably lead to a corresponding increase in new cases,” the Commission said, according to a draft of an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.(Updates with German figures starting in second paragraph)For 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.


  • As outbreaks flatten in places, Japan, India see more cases Thu, 09 Apr 2020 02:42:36 -0400

    As outbreaks flatten in places, Japan, India see more casesCoronavirus infections are spiking in Japan and creating hot spots in India's congested cities just as the U.S. and some of the hardest-hit European countries are considering when to start easing restrictions that have helped curb their outbreaks of the disease. Japan reported more than 500 new cases for the first time Thursday, a worrisome rise since it has the world's oldest population and COVID-19 can be especially serious in the elderly. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency, but not a lockdown, in Tokyo and six other prefectures earlier this week.


  • 103-year-old Italian says 'courage, faith' helped beat virus Thu, 09 Apr 2020 02:31:53 -0400

    103-year-old Italian says 'courage, faith' helped beat virusTo recover from the coronavirus, as she did, Ada Zanusso recommends courage and faith, the same qualities that have served her well in her nearly 104 years. Italy, along with neighboring France, has Europe’s largest population of what has been dubbed the “super old" — people who are at least 100. As the nation with the world’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths, Italy is looking to its super-old survivors for inspiration.


  • AP PHOTOS: Virus stills Iran's frenetic capital, Tehran Thu, 09 Apr 2020 02:10:39 -0400

    AP PHOTOS: Virus stills Iran's frenetic capital, TehranThe typically frenetic streets of Iran's capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty over recent days due to the new coronavirus outbreak that's gripped the Islamic Republic. Iran’s government for days downplayed the effects of the virus. The same goes for the cinemas, the bus stations and the malls, including a massive one in Tehran's outskirts now housing a newly built clinic for the virus.


  • Trump again hits the World Health Organization for having 'minimized the threat' from COVID-19 Thu, 09 Apr 2020 01:17:00 -0400

    Trump again hits the World Health Organization for having 'minimized the threat' from COVID-19The World Health Organization has declined to criticize President Trump, whose country has nearly three times the number of confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus cases as the next country on the list (Spain), but Trump seems eager to pick a fight with the WHO. After going after the United Nations health agency at Tuesday's White House coronavirus briefing, Trump returned to the theme at Wednesday's briefing, complaining at length about how much the U.S. contributes to the WHO versus China's contribution."The World WHO, World Health, got it wrong, I mean they got it very wrong, in many ways they were wrong," Trump said. "They also minimized the threat very strongly and, not good."> President Trump: "The WHO got it wrong...In many ways they were wrong. They also minimized the threat very strongly...not good."> > Full video here: https://t.co/z42TJyteNI pic.twitter.com/iva6Ur2GuF> > — CSPAN (@cspan) April 8, 2020The WHO did say Jan. 14 that "preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus," but it reversed course by Jan. 30, saying "there has been human-to-human transmission in three countries outside China" and calling it a global health emergency.There is plenty to fault in the WHO's response to what it finally declared a pandemic on March 11, but Trump may not be the best person to offer such criticism.> We can take that as a concession that minimizing the coronavirus threat was harmful. https://t.co/OnYliMV8uE> > — George Conway (@gtconway3d) April 8, 2020Trump's "shifting assessments of the seriousness of the virus over recent months have been well documented," Peter Baker writes in The New York Times. "Initially, he likened it to an ordinary flu that would 'miraculously' go away, then he later called it 'the worst thing that the country has probably ever seen' and declared 'war' against the virus," declaring a national emergency on March 13. Trump's presidential daily briefing had detailed warnings of the threat from the virus spreading through China by early January, ABC News reports. His trade adviser was warning about the dire threat to the U.S. economy and U.S. lives in late January.The Daily Show reminds us how Trump and his allies discussed the coronavirus, and when:"What remains unclear," Baker writes at the Times, "is whether Mr. Trump does not remember saying things that he later denies saying or is trying to impose his own reality."More stories from theweek.com The coming backlash against the public health experts Miami zoo welcomes two clouded leopard kittens Biden is the weakest major party nominee in recent history — but that might be the point


  • 'Houston, we’ve had a problem’: Remembering Apollo 13 at 50 Thu, 09 Apr 2020 01:06:52 -0400

    'Houston, we’ve had a problem’: Remembering Apollo 13 at 50Apollo 13′s astronauts never gave a thought to their mission number as they blasted off for the moon 50 years ago. Jim Lovell and Fred Haise insist they’re not superstitious. As mission commander Lovell sees it, he's incredibly lucky.


  • Trump quietly shuts down asylum at US borders to fight virus Thu, 09 Apr 2020 01:03:59 -0400

    Trump quietly shuts down asylum at US borders to fight virusA U.S. Border Patrol agent wouldn't let Jackeline Reyes explain why she and her 15-year-old daughter needed asylum, pointing to the coronavirus. “The agent told us about the virus and that we couldn't go further, but she didn't let us speak or anything,” said Reyes, 35, who was shuttled to a crossing March 24 in Reynosa, Mexico, a violent border city. People fleeing violence and poverty to seek refuge in the U.S. are whisked to the nearest border crossing and returned to Mexico without a chance to apply for asylum.


  • DC activists team up to feed the needy under lockdown Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:28:58 -0400

    DC activists team up to feed the needy under lockdownA line begins forming as a van pulls into the parking lot of a senior living center in Southeast Washington. Organizer Charlie Gussom Jr. advises those waiting to maintain social distancing by standing on every other sidewalk square. When there's no one left in line, the volunteers start going door-to-door inside the senior center, delivering food to elderly shut-ins.


  • As pandemic deepens, Trump cycles through targets to blame Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:22:34 -0400

    As pandemic deepens, Trump cycles through targets to blameThen, Democratic governors came under fire. China, President Barack Obama and federal watchdogs have all had a turn in the crosshairs. President Donald Trump is falling back on a familiar political strategy as he grapples with the coronavirus pandemic: deflect, deny and direct blame elsewhere.


  • Nicaragua inaction on virus raises fears of regional spread Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:00:31 -0400

    Nicaragua inaction on virus raises fears of regional spreadInternational health officials are warning that the Nicaraguan government’s perplexing weekslong refusal to take measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus is heightening the risk of an epidemic in Central America even as neighboring countries take tough action. President Daniel Ortega's government urged Nicaraguans to party during Carnival celebrations, and it has said they should keep attending sports events and cultural festivals, and pack the country’s beaches during Holy Week vacations this week. Before schools closed for an extended vacation Friday, principals had threatened to expel students who missed class, and last month a third baseman was banned from professional baseball for three years after he asked to stop playing over virus fears.


  • Horror in Spain Turns to Anger Against Prime Minister Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:00:20 -0400

    Horror in Spain Turns to Anger Against Prime Minister(Bloomberg) -- Every night at 8 p.m., Spaniards head to their balconies and windows to clap for the healthcare workers risking their lives to save others from the coronavirus pandemic. An hour later, there’s a second wave of noise in some neighbourhoods as people come out with pots and pans.This time it’s not in praise, but in protest at the government’s handling of the deadliest emergency to hit Spain since the Franco dictatorship years.The public health crisis that’s seen hospitals overwhelmed, medical staff dying on the front line and harrowing stories of the army finding corpses in nursing homes, risks morphing into a political one for Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.After a series of missteps, his administration is increasingly being blamed for failing to get a grip on the disease. Both daily new cases and deaths resumed their upward trajectory on Wednesday, with fatalities reaching 14,555, the most in the world per capita. A national lockdown was already extended through April 25.“This has been appalling from the start,” said Javier Dueñas, 59, a builder who lives in the Retiro neighborhood of Madrid who just joined the protests against the government. “They should pay a price for all of this.”Just 28% of Spaniards approve of the efforts by their government to deal with the outbreak, compared with 35% three weeks ago, according to a GAD3 poll published Monday by Spanish newspaper ABC.In contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte have more than 60% backing from voters in recent surveys. French President Emmanuel Macron’s overall approval rating jumped to its highest level in nearly two years. In extreme, extraordinary situations, “most countries tend to have a ‘rally behind the flag’ moment” that boosts the country’s leader, said Narciso Michavila, chairman of GAD3. But that hasn’t happened in Spain, largely because of the fiery ideological divisions that have dominated its politics since the Civil War in the 1930s, he said.A month ago, when deaths were already mounting across the Mediterranean in Italy, Sanchez showed support for an International Women’s Day on March 8. Less than a week later, he declared a state of emergency. Now citizens are confined to their homes, and Spain is gripped by Europe’s most-extensive outbreak of Covid-19.  The way Spain is run hasn’t worked in Sanchez’s favor. Keeping a country with different languages and administrations together has never been easy, and the crisis has exposed a weakness in the Spanish federal system.When it comes to healthcare and nursing homes, the central government normally has no direct oversight of the 17 regions. But under the state of emergency announced on March 14, Sanchez changed that, placing them all under the control of the health minister. The government then scrambled to run a sprawling system it had no control over for years.Sanchez has held periodic calls with the regional presidents, though failed to create a solid, united political front, and many regional governments have complained of shortages of medical equipment. The World Health Organization says they’re more acute in Spain than in other countries.“The WHO told Spain we needed to buy hospital material months ago, and they ignored it, then they allowed the March 8 rally,” said Dueñas, the builder in Madrid. “In nursing homes, the elderly are dying because of ineptitude. They didn’t ask for help from opposition parties early on.”Indeed, in some of the worst cases residents of nursing homes were left to die alone in their beds because many centers had no protective gear so staff were not showing up for work. Many of the public facilities have been underfunded during years of financial austerity, and are also far more loosely regulated than other health care services.The situation got so desperate that two weeks ago the Defence Ministry deployed some 7,000 soldiers to help, in Spain’s biggest military peacetime operation. They disinfected over 2,000 facilities across the country. Sometimes, they help move residents because of the staff shortages.“Suddenly, they see a car from the army emergency unit, and they see that they haven’t been abandoned – it’s a boost,” said an army captain leading a battalion in northern Spain. He declined to be identified by name.“This is unlike anything I’ve ever faced,” said the captain. “Missions in Iraq, in Afghanistan, you know when they start and when they end. We just have no idea when this finishes, or what they’ll ask us to do next.”Hospitals from Bilbao to Madrid are likewise overwhelmed. In the capital, two ice rinks have been converted to keep bodies refrigerated until mortuaries can catch up. But it’s the drama unfolding in the nursing homes that has sparked the greatest anger.Read More: Spanish Doctors Are Forced to Choose Who to Let DieDisc jockey Juan Jose Paul, 42, a supporter of Sanchez’s Socialist Party, lost his aunt to the virus, and then authorities misplaced the body for almost a day. “The nursing home catastrophe is where the government really fell down because they should have jumped in much earlier,” said Paul. “This could lose them votes.”The government says its containment measures are having an impact, reducing the daily increase in confirmed cases in percentage terms and the numbers of new entrants to intensive care wards. It points to an aid package for self-employed workers and companies worth as much as a 100 billion euros ($109 billion).Officials have also said they didn’t flout any guidelines for International Women’s Day. It was only the next day, March 9, when WHO recommended banning such public gatherings.“If only we could have known two or three months ago what we know today,” government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said at a press conference this week. “We were one of the first countries to suffer this pandemic, so other countries are learning from us. This government is, as always, self-critical.”Sanchez barely scraped into office after an election in November. He cobbled together a coalition with his main rivals to the left, Unidas Podemos, just three months ago and is relying on support from a mixed-bag of parties, including a group of Catalan separatists.It was Spain’s fourth vote in as many years, and the third time Sanchez was named prime minister since he took power from conservative Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy, who was hit by a political funding scandal and ousted in a no-confidence vote in June 2018.In the weeks prior to declaring a state of emergency on March 14, the government was focused mainly on finding a way to appease demands by Catalan separatists and garner support for a budget in the splintered parliament. The coalition that governs Catalonia, which includes his erstwhile allies, is now openly critical of the prime minister along with the main opposition.QuicktakeHow Catalonia Remains a Thorn in Spanish PoliticsPeople’s Party leader Pablo Casado told Telecinco TV that Sánchez’s handling of the outbreak is “an explosive cocktail of arrogance, incompetence and lies.” The far-right Vox, the third-largest party in parliament, is calling for Sanchez to resign and his administration to be replaced by government of national unity.El Pais newspaper, traditionally supportive of socialist governments, published a harsh op-ed by its former editor-in-chief this week. Other public figures have also expressed their discontentment.“I hope that measures will be taken against the government of @sanchezcastejon and @PabloIglesias when all this is over,” former Atletico Madrid soccer player Álvaro Domínguez lamented in a tweet this month. “You only show incompetence day after day.”For 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.


  • Taiwan protests WHO leader's accusations of racist campaign Wed, 08 Apr 2020 22:40:44 -0400

    Taiwan protests WHO leader's accusations of racist campaignTaiwan's foreign ministry on Thursday strongly protested accusations from the head of the World Health Organization that it condoned racist personal attacks on him that he alleged were coming from the self-governing island democracy. The ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and a high degree of regret" at WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus' remarks at a press briefing Wednesday. Taiwan’s 23 million people have themselves been “severely discriminated against” by the politics of the international health system and “condemn all forms of discrimination and injustice,” the statement said.


  • Coronavirus pandemic poses big challenges for UN peacekeeping operations Wed, 08 Apr 2020 21:55:10 -0400

    Coronavirus pandemic poses big challenges for UN peacekeeping operationsWith 110,000 peacekeepers deployed in more than a dozen countries around a world now ravaged by the coronavirus, the United Nations faces twin challenges: keeping those soldiers safe and, more importantly, persuading governments not to bring them home. Countries that have contributed peacekeepers "might have a legitimate concern to the effect of 'I am not staying here' or 'I am not leaving my men here because if they get infected, they will not be well taken care of,'" the diplomat told AFP. The UN under-secretary general for peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told AFP Wednesday that as of right now he had not received any requests to withdraw peacekeeping troops because of COVID-19.


  • HHS: Federal stocks of protective equipment nearly depleted Wed, 08 Apr 2020 20:54:52 -0400

    HHS: Federal stocks of protective equipment nearly depletedThe Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients. The Department of Health and Human Services told the Associated Press Wednesday that the federal stockpile was in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment in its inventory. The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90% of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments.


  • Global Cases Top 1.5 Million; Singapore Numbers Up: Virus Update Wed, 08 Apr 2020 20:42:19 -0400

    Global Cases Top 1.5 Million; Singapore Numbers Up: Virus Update(Bloomberg) -- Global cases of the coronavirus topped 1.5 million, less than a week after surpassing the 1-million mark. New York, the U.K. and Belgium reported their deadliest days so far. Singapore announced its largest daily increase.The crisis will escalate if countries don’t start showing more solidarity, the head of the World Health Organization said, urging the U.S. and China to show “honest leadership” and stop bickering.U.S. Democrats are seeking at least $500 billion in the next stimulus bill, and Hong Kong announced a fresh package valued at about $18 billion. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stable and responding to treatment at a London hospital.Key Developments:Global cases top 1.5 million; deaths pass 88,000: Johns HopkinsSingapore reported its largest daily increaseFederal medical aid to states falls short, House report saysGenome researchers find most NYC cases came from EuropeU.S. recession model at 100% confirms downturn is already hereSmoking helps open gateway to coronavirus infection, study showsJack Ma Helps Repair China’s Image (8:15 a.m. HK)China’s richest person is now playing a prominent role in philanthropic efforts that are effectively helping President Xi Jinping improve the country’s image overseas after Covid-19 spread around the world, unleashing a devastating human and economic toll. That’s a stark turn from just 18 months earlier, when Ma had to publicly dispute speculation that the government had prompted him to step down from the e-commerce giant he founded.Half a Billion People at Risk of Poverty (8:00 a.m. HK)The economic hit from coronavirus threatens to put more than half a billion people into poverty unless countries take action to cushion the blow, according to a report from the charity group, Oxfam. Under the most serious scenario of a 20% contraction in income, the number of people living in poverty could increase by between 434 million and 611 million, said the report, which is based on an analysis by researchers at King’s College London and the Australian National University.China Has 63 Cases (7:56 a.m. HK)China had 63 additional confirmed coronavirus cases on April 8, with 61 of them from abroad, according to statement from the country’s National Health Commission. There were 56 asymptomatic cases, half of them from overseas.Singapore Numbers Surge (7:30 a.m. HK)The city-state reported its largest daily increase in coronaviruscases on Wednesday, just as the country started a partial lockdown. Authorities said there were 142 new cases, bringing Singapore’s total to 1,623. An Indian national who died while awaiting his test result was subsequently confirmed to have the infection, according to the Ministry of Health. Investigations are going on to establish the cause of death, it said. If confirmed, that would be the seventh fatality linked to the disease.Starbucks Sees Six Months of Pain (7:27 a.m. HK)Starbucks Corp. said a sharp slowdown from the coronavirus pandemic will worsen before getting better, with the financial impact extending as far as September. The company based its assessment on the tentative recovery in the Chinese market, its most important along with the U.S. The coffee chain went through social distancing and mandatory closures in the Asian nation earlier in the year, giving it an early glimpse at how the situation would play out in the U.S. and elsewhere.Airlines Squeezed By Delays in U.S. Rescue Package (7:13 a.m. HK)U.S. airlines’ desperate bid for $29 billion in government rescue cash is being frustrated by a lengthening process and demands that companies provide more detailed financial information, people familiar with the situation said.Carriers that filed April 3 for the grants intended to help meet payroll costs expected the checks to begin arriving days ago, said people familiar with the aid discussions. Instead, U.S. Treasury officials have asked for another round of data that appears to be more related to a separate loan process instead of the cash grants, further delaying the relief, the people said.California Has $1.4 Billion Plan to Buy Medical Equipment (5:17 p.m. NY)California Governor Gavin Newsom secured a deal to import 200 million masks on a monthly basis for health care workers, grocery store employees and others on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic, part of a $1.4 billion planned investment in personal protective equipment.Some of that equipment could be shared with other states facing shortages, Newsom said at a press briefing Wednesday,“California is just uniquely resourced,” Newsom said. It can use “the kind of scale that few other states, few other countries can even resource, so we’re pleased to do that and it’s our responsibility to do more.”Read more hereU.S. Cases Climb 9.6%, Deaths Top 14,000 (4:20 p.m. NY)The growth in U.S. coronavirus cases showed signs of slowing Wednesday, even as deaths accelerated in some of the hardest-hit states.U.S. cases rose 9.6% from the day before to 419,975 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. Cases nationally had been climbing an average of 11% a day over the past week. Deaths rose 19% to 14,262.New York had another day of record fatalities, reporting 779 more deaths. The state has lost more than 1,500 to the virus over the past two days, for a total of almost 6,300. Still, Governor Andrew Cuomo said hospitalizations are falling, showing social distancing is working.“Nobody is saying we peaked,” Cuomo said. “We’ve flattened the curve for this point of time.”New Jersey reported a record 275 deaths. California also had one of its deadliest days, with 68 fatalities. Illinois had 82.Michigan, which has the most infections after New York and New Jersey, saw cases increase 7% to surpass 20,000, according to the state health department. Deaths rose by 114 to 959N.J. Has Record New Deaths (1:36 p.m. NY)New Jersey reported a second day of record new deaths from Covid-19 and a tapering of infections. Cases rose by 7% to 47,437, the fourth straight day of increases of 10% or less. In the last two weeks of March, New Jersey saw daily increases from 20% to 82%. Governor Phil Murphy reported 275 new fatalities since yesterday, the biggest one-day increase since the crisis began.N.Y. Reports Record 779 Daily Deaths (1:36 p.m. NY)New York suffered another day of record fatalities from the coronavirus outbreak, reporting 779 additional deaths even as hospitalizations declined.“The number of deaths will continue to rise as those hospitalized for a period of time pass away,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday at his daily virus briefing. The state has lost more than 1,500 people to the virus in the last two days, for a total of almost 6,300. WHO Says World Must Pull Together (1 p.m. NY)The coronavirus crisis will escalate if countries don’t start showing more solidarity, the head of the World Health Organization said, urging the U.S. and China to show “honest leadership” and stop bickering.“If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva Wednesday. “No using Covid-19 to score political points.”When asked about President Donald Trump’s threat to cut funding and claim that the WHO favors China, Tedros said the WHO tries to treat everyone equally, and the WHO will do an assessment of its successes and failures. He urged the U.S., China, Group of 20 countries and the rest of the world to come together and fight.“For God’s sake, we have lost more than 60,000 citizens of the world,” he said. “Even one person is precious.”‘Too Early’ for Europe to Start Easing Restrictions, Agency Says (12:47 p.m. NY)The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned Europe not to rush into lifting restrictions that are helping slow the spread of the pandemic.“Based on the available evidence, it is currently too early to start lifting all community and physical distancing measures” in Europe, the agency said in its latest risk assessment. “Sustained transmission of the virus is to be expected if current interventions are lifted too quickly.”U.K. Announces New High for Fatalities (12:02 p.m. NY)The U.K. reported a further 938 deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, up from yesterday’s record daily total of 786.In total 60,733 people have tested positive for the illness, up from 55,242 reported on Tuesday, according to the latest figures from the Department of Heath and Social Care. The day’s figures indicate a slight increase in the rate of growth.Some 14,682 tests were conducted in the country on April 7, more than the 14,006 conducted the day before. The U.K. aims to conduct 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, seeking to replicate the mass screening seen in countries such as South Korea and Germany.EU Plans to Prolong External-Border Closure Until May 15 (11:45 a.m. NY)The European Commission proposed prolonging until May 15 a ban on most travel into the European Union. Maintaining the restriction on non-essential travel into the bloc for another 30 days is necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the commission said in a recommendation that needs the approval of member-country governments.EU Braces for Arrival of 8,000 Cruise-Ship Passengers (11:00 a.m. NY)Eleven cruise ships carrying around 8,000 passengers in total will arrive at European Unions ports between April 8 and 11, the European Commission said. The EU laid out guidelines for member nations on handling the travelers, saying ships with passengers known to be infected with the coronavirus should be directed to ports close to hospitals with adequate capacity.De Blasio Says Distancing Eases Ventilator Demand (10:55 a.m. NY)New York City’s social-distancing strategy appears to be working, and one result is less demand for ventilators than had been projected, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.The city had estimated that it would need as many as 300 more of the life-saving machines this week to treat coronavirus patients but has needed to add only 100, de Blasio said Wednesday at his daily virus briefing. It has 5,500 in all.Statewide, the infection rate has begun flattening, even as the death count rises.EU Working for Coordinated Ends to Members’ Lockdowns (10:40 a.m. NY)The European Commission is trying to coordinate how member states end lockdowns following criticism that the bloc’s initial response to the pandemic was chaotic. An internal draft of a memo seen by Bloomberg sets out conditions for easing to begin as well as other steps that be needed, such as expanding testing capacities and using apps to gather data. The adoption of the plan has been pushed back, according to commission spokesman Eric Mamer, who told journalists in Brussels that timing is a “tricky issue” since countries are at different stages of the outbreak.Oktoberfest in Doubt as Germany Sees Lasting Impact (8:59 a.m. NY)Bavaria’s state premier cast doubt over the annual Oktoberfest, offering an idea of how long German authorities expect the pandemic to upend social life. Markus Soeder, a political ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told the Bild newspaper that a decision will be taken in June, but that widespread travel and border openings by then are “very unlikely.” The traditional beer festival, which draws millions to the Bavarian capital of Munich, is scheduled to start Sept. 19 and last two weeks. If it takes place at all, “it will be under completely different conditions,” Soeder told Bild.India’s Most Populous State Seals 15 Districts (8:23 a.m. NY)India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has sealed off 15 of its districts worst affected by infections. The state has so far recorded 326 infections and three deaths. India has had total infections of 5,360 and 164 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. A 21-day national lockdown ends April 14.Boris Johnson is Stable, Responding to Treatment (7:54 a.m. NY)U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in a stable condition in intensive care and is “responding to treatment” for a severe coronavirus infection, his spokesman said. Johnson was taken into St Thomas’ hospital in London on Sunday and moved to the critical care unit on Monday after struggling to shake off the symptoms, including a cough and a fever.Democrats Seek At Least $500 Billion in Next Stimulus Bill (7:36 a.m. NY)Democrats want $250 billion in small business aid, with $125 billion channeled through community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, family, women, minority and veteran-owned cos, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.Hong Kong Unveils Virus Relief Package (6:33 a.m. NY)Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a fresh government stimulus package worth about HK$137.5 billion ($17.7 billion) to support the city’s deteriorating economy. The spending package will include an HK$80 billion job security program to subsidize 50% of wages for affected workers for six months.WHO Says Lifting Lockdowns May Be Premature (6 a.m. NY)“To think we’re close to an endpoint would be dangerous,” Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, said at a briefing. Sweden is showing a fresh surge in cases, while the WHO is concerned about a dramatic increase in Turkey, he said. Countries should not lower their guard, he said.“We have got to ensure that the public understands we’re moving to a new phase,” said Bruce Aylward, one of the WHO’s top officials who recently led a mission to Spain. Countries need to make sure they’re hunting the disease down, because the key to eradication is testing patients, isolating them and tracing their close contacts. Some restrictions may need to continue for some time while others are gradually loosened, he said. “It’s not lifting lockdowns and going back to normal. It’s a new normal.”For 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.


  • Trump’s ‘Friend’ Jack Ma Helps Repair China’s Image After Virus Wed, 08 Apr 2020 20:15:21 -0400

    Trump’s ‘Friend’ Jack Ma Helps Repair China’s Image After Virus(Bloomberg) -- Jack Ma’s influence in the world has gotten bigger since he stepped down as chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.China’s richest person is now playing a prominent role in philanthropic efforts that are effectively helping President Xi Jinping improve the country’s image overseas after Covid-19 spread around the world, unleashing a devastating human and economic toll. That’s a stark turn from just 18 months earlier, when Ma had to publicly dispute speculation that the government had prompted him to step down from the e-commerce giant he founded.New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday became one of the latest to thank Ma, as well as Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai and the Chinese government, for the delivery of 1,000 ventilators to the state. Asked about the donation, President Donald Trump -- who had earlier blamed Beijing for failing to provide enough information about what he had called the “Chinese virus” -- said Ma was “a friend of mine” and “we appreciate it very much.”Ma has now donated at least 18 million masks, testing kits and other supplies to more than 100 countries worldwide, from Africa and Europe to the U.S. and Russia. The donations have helped build goodwill for China’s government, whose official offers of assistance have been met with more suspicion.The European Mayor Who Doesn’t Want China’s Help With VirusWhile wealthy Westerners such as Bill Gates regularly conduct large-scale philanthropic efforts and win praise from politicians, in China it’s a relatively new phenomenon. The Communist Party has an uneasy relationship with billionaires, viewing them as both a necessary evil of private sector-led growth needed to boost incomes and a potential threat if they become too powerful.“For a long time China has relied on official propaganda and massive investment overseas as major instruments for promoting its soft power,” said Zhiqun Zhu, chair of the department of international relations at Bucknell University who was written and edited books on China’s foreign policy. “Billionaire philanthropy is a new approach. Of course, for businesses, it is also a public relations opportunity.”Ma declined a request for an interview sent to the press office of Alibaba, which also declined to comment to emailed questions. The billionaire joined Twitter on March 16, just as tensions were rising between the U.S. and China over who was to blame for the virus as Beijing faced criticism for muzzling doctors who called early attention to the mysterious disease. In his first tweets, he began promoting his foundation’s shipments of aid, posting “all the best to our friends in America” with an emoji of praying hands.Ma has since repeatedly called for the world to unite in the fight against the virus, using the phrase “One world, one fight!” and “Together, we can do this!” In a Weibo post on April 1, Ma denounced “online rumors” that his foundation’s donations were rejected by some recipients and defended the quality of its medical supplies. “Charity is not for praise or acknowledgement, and we are not afraid of criticism or accusations,” he wrote.Other Chinese tech giants also showed their philanthropy. Xiaomi Corp., co-founded by Lei Jun, pledged coronavirus relief for India, where the communications-equipment maker generates lots of revenue. The Globe and Mail reported that Huawei Technologies Co., founded by billionaire Ren Zhengfei, sent more than 1 million masks to Canada, where his daughter -- Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou -- has been fighting extradition to the U.S. since her arrest in 2018. She has denied wrongdoing.Xiaomi said it has donated medical supplies to 15 countries and emphasizes its activities in India because it wants to spur more donations there. In an email, Huawei said “it will do what it can” to donate to governments and communities after taking care of its employees, and said that those decisions have “no link to executives’ personal choices.”“Prominent Chinese entrepreneurs would not make these gestures without permission from the Communist Party,” said Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor emeritus who introduced the concept of soft power in the 1980s. “China has used a government-sponsored propaganda campaign and aid programs to promote the theme that China’s behavior had been benign, and to restore its soft power.”China’s foreign ministry has promoted Ma’s donation of face masks, testing kits and other materials in Africa: In South Sudan, the Chinese ambassador last month posed in photos with local officials and thanked Xi for his painstaking efforts to control he outbreak. State-run media organizations have also prominently covered the donations, particularly those by Ma.‘Friendly Sentiments’“We appreciate the kind donation made by Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation, which vividly illustrates the friendly sentiments of the Chinese people toward the African people,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a March 23 press briefing in Beijing. He added that China would “continue to coordinate and encourage Chinese enterprises and private institutions to actively provide support to African countries.”During his time at Alibaba, Ma regularly met with heads of state, including in 2016 at the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou -- the city near Shanghai where Alibaba is based and Xi once served as party secretary of Zhejiang province. After Trump’s election in 2016, Ma promised to create a million jobs in the U.S. by linking small businesses with Chinese online buyers.Ma, a member of the Communist Party, has also been a vocal backer of Xi’s policies in recent years. In 2016, Ma proposed that the nation’s top security bureau use big data to prevent crime, endorsing the government’s effort to build unparalleled online surveillance of the world’s most-populous nation. He has also said China benefits from the stability of its one-party system and spoke out in favor of the country’s strict online censorship.‘Wings Melt’In a speech at Alibaba headquarters in September 2018, Ma denied that he was pushed aside.“I got rumors from outside China saying ‘It’s because the government wants to push you down.’ Nobody can.” He said he’d been planning his exit for a decade, and wanted to lead the way for Chinese entrepreneurs in passing on a major company to professionals, rather than creating another family dynasty.“Fly too close to the sun, your wings melt,” said Duncan Clark, author of “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built,” which was translated into about 30 languages. “He has to set the right altitude to beat his competitors, stay ahead, but not incur the wrath of the government. He’s just so much better at soft power than the government, in part because in this case he isn’t tied up with the whole ‘original sin’ question about the origins of the virus.”While the U.S. and China have sparred throughout the crisis, some European politicians have also been critical of China -- particularly over test kits they found to be inaccurate. The European Union’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned in a blog post last month that a geopolitical “struggle for influence” is hidden behind the “politics of generosity.”Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, denied on Twitter that China engages in “mask propaganda,” saying that the donations are to “reciprocate kindness and help others to the best of our ability.”David Shambaugh, who once worked at the U.S. National Security Council and is now a professor at George Washington University heading the China Policy Program, said “the more masks the better -- it doesn’t matter where they come from.”Still, Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at SOAS University of London, said the philanthropy from China’s billionaires is accompanied by a “highly orchestrated propaganda operation.” While it’s hard to know what really motivates billionaires like Ma, he said, it can’t be separated from other reasons like “supporting China’s foreign policy and currying favor with the party and Xi.”“Most people in most democracies do not know much about China, or of what their own governments and philanthropists had done in terms of offering medical supplies to China previously,” Tsang said. “And so many will be impressed by the apparent generosity.”For 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.


  • WHO director-general implores world leaders not to politicize the coronavirus pandemic Wed, 08 Apr 2020 20:06:00 -0400

    WHO director-general implores world leaders not to politicize the coronavirus pandemicWithout directly naming President Trump, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday asked global leaders to refrain from politicizing the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.On Tuesday, Trump said he will "strongly consider" ending U.S. funding to WHO, the United Nations health agency. He said WHO "called it wrong" on the pandemic and claimed they "minimized the threat very strongly." WHO declared a global pandemic on March 11, a little more than a week after Trump said the coronavirus would "disappear" like a "miracle."More than 83,000 people have died worldwide from COVID-19, and at least 1.4 million people have been infected. When asked about Trump's comments, Tedros said, "Why would I care about being attacked when people are dying? I know that I am just an individual. Tedros is just a dot in the whole universe." The most important thing now is to save lives, he said, and there is "no need to use COVID to score political points. You have many other ways to prove yourself. If you don't want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it."More stories from theweek.com The coming backlash against the public health experts Miami zoo welcomes two clouded leopard kittens Biden is the weakest major party nominee in recent history — but that might be the point


  • UN delivers 90 tons of COVID-19 aid to Venezuela Wed, 08 Apr 2020 19:19:01 -0400

    UN delivers 90 tons of COVID-19 aid to VenezuelaA plane carrying 90 tons of UN health, water and sanitation aid arrived in Venezuela on Wednesday to help the cash-strapped country fight the coronavirus pandemic. The shipment includes 28,000 Personal Protective Equipment kits for health workers, oxygen concentrators, pediatric beds, water quality control products and hygiene kits, the UN said. "This is the first United Nations humanitarian shipment in support of the Venezuela COVID-19 outbreak," said Peter Grohmann, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Venezuela.


  • Coronavirus in Africa: Emergency laws v individual rights Wed, 08 Apr 2020 19:11:35 -0400

    Coronavirus in Africa: Emergency laws v individual rightsSecurity forces in several states have allegedly abused their powers during the Covid-19 crisis.


  • Trump scapegoating of WHO obscures its key role in tackling pandemic Wed, 08 Apr 2020 18:53:51 -0400

    Trump scapegoating of WHO obscures its key role in tackling pandemicThe World Health Organization has a tiny budget – for which the US is in arrears – but experts have praised its response to the coronavirus crisis * Coronavirus – live US updates * Live global updates * See all our coronavirus coverageDonald Trump has blamed the World Health Organization for failures in the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, even threatening to cut its funding, but most health experts say it has performed well with limited resources.Accusing the WHO of giving bad advice, being “China-centric” and even withholding information, Trump claimed to have stopped US funding in a press briefing on Tuesday, only to claim a few minutes later that he was just considering it, pending a review of its performance.In fact, the US is already about $200m in arrears in assessed contributions (national membership fees). It has given more in donations, and was the biggest single donor in 2019 – certainly far more than China, which gives a paltry amount given the size of its economy.But the US is far from providing the majority of the WHO’s funds, as Trump claimed, and its voluntary contributions have largely been tied to specific projects. WHO’s total annual budget is about $2.5bn, and contributions from member states have not significantly increased over three decades.“The WHO’s budget is around the equivalent of a large US hospital, which is utterly incommensurate with its global responsibilities,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law professor at Georgetown University. “So, if the US president were a global health leader, he’d be leading a call to at minimum double the WHO budget in the face of this pandemic.”Global health experts have generally given the WHO good marks for its transparency and the speed with which it has responded to the coronavirus, under its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. It is universally seen as much better than its sluggish, error-strewn response to the Ebola outbreak in west Africa in 2014, three years before Tedros took over.“I have been a longstanding critic and I’ve described their performance on Ebola as catastrophic. But I think overall their performance on this outbreak has been, not perfect, but pretty good,” Ashish Jha, a public health professor at Harvard, said.“They’ve been very transparent as much as they have known the data. They have had daily calls, they have been very clear about the severity of this illness, and how the global community has to respond.”Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, took part in WHO conference calls about coronavirus from 7 January, according to sources familiar with the conversations.Tedros declared a “public health emergency of international concern” on 30 January, calling on governments to pursue containment and testing efforts. The declaration was criticised by some as coming several days too late, but others say the organisation’s awareness of the dangers was held back by China’s government, which initially suppressed information about the initial outbreak in Wuhan, and refused entry to WHO experts.On the same day Trump was confidently predicting the coronavirus did not present a serious threat to the US, assuring Americans: “It’s going to have a very good ending.”Gavin Yamey, the director of Duke University’s center for policy impact in global health, said: “If the United States had followed the WHO’s very clear advice on identifying cases, isolating cases and conducting contact tracing, then it wouldn’t be in the appalling situation that it is in today.”Despite its declaration, the WHO did not advocate travel restrictions of the sort imposed by Trump a day later on non-American travellers arriving from China. The president has pointed to this as an example of bad advice. But Gostin, who is director of the WHO centre on global health law, said that the organisation cannot generally call for travel bans under international law – and such bans can be counterproductive, leading countries to withhold vital information for fear of economic isolation.“To blame the WHO for acting on the basis of international law and science in ways that are entirely consistent with what WHO practices have been for decades is the height of hypocrisy,” he said.Trump claimed that his ban “shut down” intercontinental transmission of the virus, but an ABC television investigation found that there were 3,200 flights from China to the US in the critical period between December and March.By the time Trump’s ban was announced, it was far too late to stop the virus entering the US. It was already rampant in US communities, but Trump continued to tell Americans that the outbreak would not affect them, and wholesale US testing failed to get off the ground for another six weeks.The US president’s accusations that the WHO is “China-centric” have more resonance with public health scholars. The WHO has largely excluded Taiwan from its discussions, and dodged questions about the Taiwanese response, which has been one of the most effective. But because of pressure from Beijing – which sees Taiwan as an integral part of its territory and opposes any form of recognition – the blindspot is a UN-wide phenomenon.Tedros also praised Chinese transparency and its national response, lauding President Xi Jinping for his “political leadership”, even though Beijing had tried to hide the seriousness of the situation in Wuhan for several critical weeks,.“I think the effusive praise for China, in the early days, was probably unnecessary,” Jha said.Other say that a certain amount of diplomatic flattery was necessary to coax Xi into allowing in WHO experts and sharing information.Amanda Glassman, the executive vice-president and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said a deeper problem is the WHO’s low budget and relatively toothless structure. Unlike the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has no redress against governments that do not cooperate.“It operates in countries at the pleasure and permission of the host country governments. So in the case of China, to be allowed to enter China, it was a negotiation to get there,” Glassman said.She added that the real challenge for the WHO has yet come, when the pandemic really hits poorer countries with fragile, underfunded health services, who rely heavily on the organisation.Unlike the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the US will not be there to take the lead, and it will be up to the WHO to coordinate scarce resources and expertise.“Can they do that in 40 countries at once?” Glassman asked. “That is the part that remains to be tested.”


  • The United Nations goes missing Wed, 08 Apr 2020 18:18:13 -0400
  • Biden vs. Trump: General election battle is now set Wed, 08 Apr 2020 18:12:20 -0400

    Biden vs. Trump: General election battle is now setBarring unforeseen disaster, Joe Biden will represent the Democratic Party against President Donald Trump this fall, the former vice president's place on the general election ballot cemented Wednesday by Bernie Sanders' decision to end his campaign. “I’m confident because Joe Biden's values reflect the values of the majority of the American people that we can win." In Biden and Trump, voters will choose between two white septuagenarians with dramatically different prescriptions for health care, climate change, foreign policy and leadership in an era of extreme partisanship.


  • Wuhan Is Returning to Life. So Are Its Disputed Wet Markets Wed, 08 Apr 2020 17:00:00 -0400
  • Fears of coronavirus outbreak reportedly lead to ceasefire in Yemen Wed, 08 Apr 2020 16:38:00 -0400

    Fears of coronavirus outbreak reportedly lead to ceasefire in YemenFears of the COVID-19 coronavirus are reportedly bringing about a ceasefire in Yemen.The Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen are set to announce a suspension of military operations across the country at midnight Wednesday, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The decision answers a United Nations call to halt combat.There are likely many reasons why the U.N. is pushing for a ceasefire, but the argument that seemingly stuck is that a lack of fighting decreases the chances of a COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen, which so far has not reported any confirmed cases of the disease. Staving off an outbreak is crucial, especially considering Yemen is already steeped in the world's largest humanitarian crisis.It's unclear if the Houthi opposition will follow in the coalition's footsteps, but a spokesman said the group sent the U.N. a plan to end the war, which began in 2014. Read more at Reuters.More stories from theweek.com The coming backlash against the public health experts Miami zoo welcomes two clouded leopard kittens Biden is the weakest major party nominee in recent history — but that might be the point


  • Editorial Roundup: US Wed, 08 Apr 2020 16:27:53 -0400
  • Doctor's death highlights limits of coronavirus death count Wed, 08 Apr 2020 16:12:44 -0400

    Doctor's death highlights limits of coronavirus death countAs the coronavirus bore down on New York, Dr. Doug Bass' family begged him to work from home. “He said he was on the front lines and they needed him,” his brother, Jonathan Bass, told The Associated Press. It happened so quickly he was never tested for COVID-19, but his brother believes he was among the hundreds of undiagnosed cases that, for weeks, have been excluded from the official coronavirus death toll.


  • Outcry over racial data grows as virus slams black Americans Wed, 08 Apr 2020 15:54:35 -0400

    Outcry over racial data grows as virus slams black AmericansAs the coronavirus tightens its grip across the country, it is cutting a particularly devastating swath through an already vulnerable population — black Americans. Democratic lawmakers and community leaders in cities hard-hit by the pandemic have been sounding the alarm over what they see as a disturbing trend of the virus killing African Americans at a higher rate, along with a lack of overall information about the race of victims as the nation’s death toll mounts. Among the cities where black residents have been hard-hit: New York, Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago and Milwaukee.


  • Saudi-led coalition to begin Yemen ceasefire on Thursday -Saudi officials Wed, 08 Apr 2020 15:33:10 -0400
  • Some doctors moving away from ventilators for virus patients Wed, 08 Apr 2020 14:52:07 -0400

    Some doctors moving away from ventilators for virus patientsAs health officials around the world push to get more ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, some doctors are moving away from using the breathing machines when they can. The reason: Some hospitals have reported unusually high death rates for coronavirus patients on ventilators, and some doctors worry that the machines could be harming certain patients. Mechanical ventilators push oxygen into patients whose lungs are failing.


  • Trump Slammed the WHO Over Coronavirus. He's Not Alone. Wed, 08 Apr 2020 14:46:21 -0400

    Trump Slammed the WHO Over Coronavirus. He's Not Alone.President Donald Trump unleashed a tirade against the World Health Organization on Tuesday, accusing it of acting too slowly to sound the alarm about the coronavirus. It was not the first time in this pandemic that the global health body has faced such criticism.Government officials, health experts and analysts have in recent weeks raised concerns about how the organization has responded to the outbreak.In Japan, Taro Aso, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, recently noted that some people have started referring to the World Health Organization as the "Chinese Health Organization" because of what he described as its close ties to Beijing. Taiwanese officials say the WHO ignored its early warnings about the virus because China refuses to allow Taiwan, a self-governing island it claims as its territory, to become a member.Critics say the WHO has been too trusting of the Chinese government, which initially tried to conceal the outbreak in Wuhan. Others have faulted the organization and its leader, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for moving too slowly in declaring a global health emergency.The WHO, a U.N. agency, has defended its response, saying Wednesday that it alerted the world to the threat posed by the virus in a timely manner and that it was "committed to ensuring all member states are able to respond effectively to this pandemic."The agency's defenders say that its powers over any individual government are limited, and that it has done the best it can in dealing with a public health threat with few precedents in history.There will be time later to assess successes and failings, "this virus and its shattering consequences," the United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said Wednesday in a statement praising the WHO as "absolutely critical" to vanquishing COVID-19.Here's why the WHO is coming under attack.The WHO has not pushed China on early missteps.When cases of a mysterious viral pneumonia first appeared in Wuhan in December, Chinese health officials silenced whistleblowers and repeatedly played down the severity of the outbreak.Even as late as mid-January, as the virus spread beyond China's borders, Chinese officials described it as "preventable and controllable" and said there was no evidence it could be transmitted between humans on a broad scale.The WHO endorsed the government's claims, saying in mid-January, for example, that human-to-human transmission had not been proved.Critics say the organization's repeated deference to Beijing exacerbated the spread of the disease. A group of international experts was not allowed to visit Wuhan until mid-February."They could have been more forceful, especially in the initial stages in the crisis when there was a cover-up and there was inaction," said Yanzhong Huang, a global health expert specializing in China at Seton Hall University.Huang noted that during the SARS epidemic in 2002 and 2003, which killed more than 700 people worldwide, the WHO pushed the Chinese government to be more transparent by publicly criticizing it for trying to conceal the outbreak.At one point during the SARS epidemic, officials at hospitals in Beijing forced SARS patients into ambulances and drove them around to avoid their being seen by a visiting delegation of WHO experts, according to reports at the time.WHO officials were slow to declare a public health emergency, critics say.Even as the virus spread to more than half a dozen countries and forced China to place parts of Hubei province under lockdown in late January, the WHO was reluctant to declare it a global health emergency.WHO officials said at the time that a committee that discussed the epidemic was divided on the question of whether to call it an emergency but concluded that it was too early. One official added that they weighed the impact such a declaration might have on the people of China.After the United States announced a ban on most foreign citizens who had recently visited China, the WHO again seemed to show deference to Chinese officials, saying that travel restrictions were unnecessary. The group officially called the spread of the coronavirus a pandemic March 11.Some experts argue that the institution's delay in making such declarations deprived other countries of valuable time to prepare hospitals for an influx of patients."It reinforced the reluctance to take early strong measures before the catastrophe had actually landed on other shores," said François Godement, senior adviser for Asia at Institut Montaigne, a nonprofit group in Paris. "The WHO's tardiness or reluctance to call out the problem in full helped those who wanted to delay difficult decisions."The WHO defended its actions, saying Wednesday that it had "alerted member states to the significant risks and consequences of COVID-19 and provided them with a continuous flow of information" ever since Chinese officials first reported the outbreak Dec. 31.Guterres of the United Nations said, "It is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities." He added in his statement: "Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe and how all those involved reacted to the crisis."China's influence at the WHO is growing.China's leader, Xi Jinping, has made it a priority to strengthen Beijing's clout at international institutions, including the WHO, seeing the U.S.-dominated global order as an impediment to his country's rise as a superpower.China contributes only a small fraction of the WHO's $6 billion budget, while the United States is one of its main benefactors. But in recent years, Beijing has worked in other ways to expand its influence at the organization.The government has lobbied the WHO to promote traditional Chinese medicine, which Xi has worked to harness as a source of national pride and deployed as a soft-power tool in developing countries, despite skepticism from some scientists about its effectiveness.Last year, the WHO offered an endorsement of traditional Chinese medicine, including it in its influential medical compendium. The move was roundly criticized by animal welfare activists, who argued that it could contribute to a surge in illegal trafficking of wildlife whose parts are used in Chinese remedies.China has sought to promote traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of symptoms of the coronavirus both at home and abroad. Last month, the WHO was criticized after it removed a warning against taking traditional herbal remedies to treat the coronavirus from its websites in mainland China.China's role at the WHO will probably continue to grow in the coming years, especially if Western governments retreat from the organization, as Trump has threatened."This is part of China's efforts to more actively engage in international institutions," said Huang, the global health expert. "It will not please every country or every actor, but it's going to affect the agenda of the WHO."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • Eight U.K. Doctors Died From Coronavirus. All Were Immigrants. Wed, 08 Apr 2020 14:46:09 -0400

    Eight U.K. Doctors Died From Coronavirus. All Were Immigrants.LONDON -- The eight men moved to Britain from different corners of its former empire, all of them doctors or doctors-to-be, becoming foot soldiers in the effort to build a free universal health service after World War II.Now their names have become stacked atop a grim list: the first, and so far only, doctors publicly reported to have died after catching the coronavirus in Britain's aching National Health Service.For a country ripped apart in recent years by Brexit and the anti-immigrant movement that birthed it, the deaths of the eight doctors -- from Egypt, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Sudan -- attest to the extraordinary dependence of Britain's treasured health service on workers from abroad.It is a story tinged with racism, as white, British doctors have largely dominated the prestigious disciplines while foreign doctors have typically found work in places and practices that are apparently putting them on the dangerous front lines of the coronavirus pandemic."When people were standing on the street clapping for NHS workers, I thought, 'A year and a half ago, they were talking about Brexit and how these immigrants have come into our country and want to take our jobs,'" said Dr. Hisham el-Khidir, whose cousin Dr. Adil el-Tayar, a transplant surgeon, died March 25 from the coronavirus in western London."Now today, it's the same immigrants that are trying to work with the locals," said el-Khidir, a surgeon in Norwich, "and they are dying on the front lines."By Tuesday, 7,097 people had died in British hospitals from the coronavirus, the government said Wednesday, a leap of 938 from the day before, the largest daily rise in the death toll.And the victims have included not just the eight doctors but a number of nurses who worked alongside them, at least one from overseas. Health workers are stretched thin as hospitals across the country are filled with patients, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who this week was moved into intensive care with the coronavirus.Britain is not the only country reckoning with its debt to foreign doctors amid the terror and chaos of the pandemic. In the United States, where immigrants make up more than a quarter of all doctors but often face long waits for green cards, New York and New Jersey have already cleared the way for graduates of overseas medical schools to suit up in the coronavirus response.But Britain, where nearly a third of doctors in National Health Service hospitals are immigrants, has especially strong links to the medical school systems of its former colonies, making it a natural landing place.That was true for el-Tayar, 64, the oldest son of a government clerk and a housewife from Atbara, Sudan, a railway city on the Nile.He had 11 siblings, and one left a special impression: Osman, a brother, who became ill as a child and died without suitable medical treatment. Though el-Tayar rarely spoke of his brother's death, he gave the same name to his oldest son."In my mind, I think that's what led him to medicine," el-Khidir said. "He didn't want anyone else in his family to feel that."After graduating from the University of Khartoum, el-Tayar decided to help address a tide of kidney disease sweeping across sub-Saharan Africa. So he moved to Britain in the early 1990s to train as a specialist transplant surgeon. He returned to Sudan around 2010 and helped set up a transplant program there.But the deteriorating political situation in Sudan and the recent birth of a son persuaded el-Tayar to settle back in Britain, where he went to work once again for the health service. Having lost his status as a senior doctor when he left for Sudan, he had taken up work filling in at a surgical assessment unit in Herefordshire, northwest of London, examining patients coming through the emergency room.It was there that his family believes el-Tayar, working with only rudimentary protective gear, contracted the virus. Sequestered in the western London home where he loved sitting next to his 12-year-old son, he became so short of breath recently that he could not string together a sentence. While on a ventilator, his heart failed him.Had the health service started screening hospital patients for the virus sooner or supplied doctors with better protective gear, el-Tayar might have lived, said his cousin, el-Khidir."In our morbidity analyses, we go through each and every case and ask, 'Was it preventable? Was it avoidable?' " he said. "I'm trying to answer this question with my cousin now. Even with all the difficulties, I've got to say the answer has to be yes."Analysts warn that doctor shortages across countries ravaged by the coronavirus will worsen as the virus spreads. While ventilators may be the scarcest resource for now, a shortage of doctors and nurses trained to operate them could leave hospitals struggling to make use even of what they have.By recruiting foreign doctors, Britain saves the roughly $270,000 in taxpayer money that it costs to train doctors locally, a boon to a system that does not spend enough on medical education to staff its own hospitals. That effectively leaves Britain depending on the largess of countries with weaker health care systems to train its own workforce.Even so, the doctors are hampered by thousands of dollars in annual visa fees and, on top of that, a $500 surcharge for using the very health service they work for.Excluded from the most prestigious disciplines, immigrant doctors have come to dominate so-called Cinderella specialties, like family and elderly medicine, turning them into pillars of Britain's health system. And unlike choosier Britain-born doctors, they have historically gone to work in what one lawmaker in 1961 called "the rottenest, worst hospitals in the country," the very ones that most needed a doctor.Those same places are now squarely in the path of the virus."Migrant doctors are architects of the NHS -- they're what built it and held it together and worked in the most unpopular, most difficult areas, where white British doctors don't want to go and work," said Dr. Aneez Esmail, a professor of general practice at the University of Manchester. "It's a hidden story."When el-Tayar moved to Britain in the 1990s, he was following a pipeline laid by the family of another doctor who has now died after contracting the coronavirus: Dr. Amged el-Hawrani, 55.An ear, nose and throat specialist, el-Hawrani was about 11 when his father, a radiologist, brought the family in 1975 from Khartoum to Taunton, a town in southwestern England, and then Bristol, a bigger city nearby.Many Sudanese doctors at the time were burnishing their skills in Britain before returning home or moving to Persian Gulf countries for higher wages. But el-Hawrani's family turned their home into a staging post for Sudanese doctors interested in longer-term stays, hosting their families during exams or house hunts."The more the merrier," said Amal el-Hawrani, a younger brother of el-Hawrani. "My mum always liked that."Being British-Sudanese in the 1980s was not easy. Race riots flared in cities across the country. Mosques were scarce. Amged el-Hawrani went to school almost exclusively with white British classmates.The young doctor quietly stood up for his family: When someone once tried to kill a 100-year-old fern in their garden by cutting out a ring of bark, el-Hawrani snapped off branches and nailed them across the gap so that nutrients could get across.Still, discrimination bothered him. When it came time to follow his father into medicine, el-Hawrani told his brother that he "wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon but felt that maybe because of certain prejudices he didn't get it."His resolve only grew stronger after an older brother, Ashraf, a fellow doctor, died at 29 of causes related to asthma. Amged el-Hawrani discovered his brother's body.Before el-Hawrani's death, on March 28, he had finally come around to the idea that his only son, Ashraf, named in his brother's memory, would study English instead of the family trade. Ashraf said in a statement that his father "was dedicated towards his family.""Now he has to make his decisions about which university to go to on his own," Amal el-Hawrani said of Ashraf. "He was expecting to have his father's help."The coronavirus has taken a devastating toll on migrant doctors across Britain, leaving at least six others dead: Dr. Habib Zaidi, 76, a longtime general practitioner from Pakistan; Dr. Alfa Sa'adu, 68, a geriatric doctor from Nigeria; Dr. Jitendra Rathod, 62, a heart surgeon from India; Dr. Anton Sebastianpillai, in his 70s, a geriatric doctor from Sri Lanka; Dr. Mohamed Sami Shousha, 79, a breast tissue specialist from Egypt; and Dr. Syed Haider, in his 80s, a general practitioner from Pakistan.Barry Hudson, a longtime patient of Zaidi in southeastern England, recalled their exam table conversations about England's cricket team."He was a big figure in the community," Hudson said. "He had a proper doctor's manner. He didn't rush anybody."For families that love to gather, grieving at a distance has been wrenching.El-Tayar was buried beside his father and grandfather in Sudan, as he had wanted. But because only cargo planes were flying there, his wife and children could not accompany the coffin.At el-Hawrani's burial, an imam said a prayer before a small, spread-out crowd, and the doctor's four living brothers and son lowered his coffin into the ground. Then they dispersed.His brother, Amal el-Hawrani, permitted himself a single intimacy: a hug with his mother, because "I couldn't turn that away," he said.Then she returned to her home in Bristol, along with a son who had visited Amged el-Hawrani in the hospital. Fearful of passing on the virus, he had to forbid her from his room to keep her from bringing in food.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • Saudi officials announce Yemen cease-fire amid pandemic Wed, 08 Apr 2020 14:24:07 -0400

    Saudi officials announce Yemen cease-fire amid pandemicThe Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen announced Wednesday that its forces would begin a cease-fire starting Thursday, a step that could pave the way for the first direct peace talks between the two sides that have been at war for more than five years. In a statement carried by Saudi Arabia's official state news agency, a Saudi military spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki, said that the ceasefire would last two weeks and that it comes in response to U.N. calls to halt hostilities amid the coronavirus pandemic. There was no immediate reaction from Houthi leaders or Yemen's internationally recognized government to the coalition's statement.


  • Dems debate how to hit Trump on virus, economy amid crisis Wed, 08 Apr 2020 14:21:09 -0400

    Dems debate how to hit Trump on virus, economy amid crisisDemocrats are wrestling over how best to assail President Donald Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy’s shutdown, even as the country lurches into an unpredictable campaign season during its most devastating crisis in decades. Trump has provided Democrats with plenty of political fodder, including leading a slow-footed federal response to an outbreak that has caused profound economic, health and social disruption. Democrats are already using reams of video of Trump denying and playing down a crisis now killing hundreds of Americans daily, erasing millions of jobs and closing countless businesses.


  • Girl who inspired Charlotte's Web marijuana oil dies Wed, 08 Apr 2020 13:11:43 -0400

    Girl who inspired Charlotte's Web marijuana oil diesA girl with a rare form of epilepsy whose recovery inspired the name of a medical marijuana oil that drew families of children with similar health problems to Colorado for treatment has died after being hospitalized and treated as a likely coronavirus patient, her mother said Wednesday. Charlotte, who lived in Colorado Springs, died Tuesday after suffering a seizure that resulted in cardiac arrest and respiratory failure, her mother, Paige Figi, said in a statement. Charlotte tested negative for the coronavirus when she was initially admitted to a hospital on Friday but was still treated as a likely COVID-19 case when she was returned to the hospital Tuesday after the seizure because her whole family had been sick for a month with suspected coronavirus symptoms, Figi said.


  • Ecuador struggles to bury coronavirus dead; some bodies lost Wed, 08 Apr 2020 13:06:24 -0400

    Ecuador struggles to bury coronavirus dead; some bodies lostAlfonso Cedeño died at a crowded hospital in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, where the only bed doctors could offer was an ambulance stretcher. Two weeks later, his family doesn’t know where his body is. “My uncle is nowhere to be found,” Alfonso Mariscal said Tuesday.


  • After Trump criticism, U.N. chief says now not the time to assess virus response Wed, 08 Apr 2020 13:06:04 -0400
  • Louisiana responds to coronavirus with rare bipartisanship Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:49:26 -0400

    Louisiana responds to coronavirus with rare bipartisanshipA simple gift from a bitter political rival — a medical mask emblazoned with Louisiana's state seal — has helped Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards pound home a bipartisan plea for people to stay at home and avoid spreading the new coronavirus. The token from Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry — and Landry's pledge to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Edwards in the fight against the pandemic — marked a jaw-dropping truce in a state known for cantankerous politics. Before his recent demonstrations of support, Landry had been at odds with the governor over policy and political turf since both took office in 2016, while Edwards' more than four years in office had been marked by ugly budget battles with a Republican-dominated Legislature.


  • Airlines must refund flights cancelled because of coronavirus- EU Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:36:58 -0400
  • Germany Joins Italy in Starting Debate Over an End to Lockdowns Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:29:42 -0400
  • UN health agency on defensive after Trump slams it on virus Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:12:07 -0400

    UN health agency on defensive after Trump slams it on virusIn a heartfelt plea for unity, the World Health Organization's chief sought Wednesday to rise above sharp criticism and threats of funding cuts from U.S. President Donald Trump over the agency’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The vocal defense from the WHO director-general came a day after Trump blasted the U.N. agency for being “China-centric” and alleging that it had “criticized” his ban of travel from China as the COVID-19 outbreak was spreading from the city of Wuhan. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian and the WHO's first African leader, projected humility and minimized his personal role while decrying invective and even racist slurs against him amid the organizaiton's response to the disease.


  • Full Steam Ahead: Property Rescue Looks at The Impact of HS2 on the Property Market Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:06:00 -0400

    Full Steam Ahead: Property Rescue Looks at The Impact of HS2 on the Property MarketIncredibly, the debate about HS2 has been discussed for longer than Brexit, and yet the government are yet to confirm whether it can fully go ahead.


  • As a tabloid editor, I covered Trump – and his ego. He hasn't changed a bit Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:00:21 -0400

    As a tabloid editor, I covered Trump – and his ego. He hasn't changed a bitAs Trump ad libs his way through the crisis, it’s shocking to realize he’s the same vain, bullying chancer we indulged all those years agoRunning one of the biggest and most important newspapers in America and New York made it impossible to avoid Donald J Trump.His sex life, his money, his businesses – whether they succeeded or failed – his narcissistic branding of city landmarks and his investment in football teams and ice skating rinks made him constant fodder for gossip columnists, investigative teams and sports writers.Whether planting complimentary stories or raging about unfavorable coverage, Trump ensured New York could not ignore him. Newspapers, magazines and TV stations were there to be used to enhance the Trump name.He had no shame in using the media and we had no qualms about capitalizing on his headline-generating power. For decades the competition centered on which tabloid could out-Trump the other. In a city where business leaders are hailed as celebrities, Trump became the undisputed master manipulator – the man who understood that the only thing worse than being written about was not being written about.Stories about him could be lurid. “Best sex I ever had” proclaimed Marla Maples, Trump’s second wife, on the front page of the New York Post in 1990 – a headline and story engineered by Trump, furious that his first wife was engendering sympathy in rival gossip columns.Or stories could be potentially damaging, exposing Trump’s dubious business practices. The Daily News’ relentless coverage of lawsuits against the so-called Trump University filled acres of newsprint and earned me and other executives raging phone calls from the man himself.But there was no denying that his five-letter surname in a headline could sell newspapers. In their book Scandal: A Manual, legendary Daily News gossip columnists George Rush and Joanna Molloy recount how the maids and taxi drivers they met across the city all admitted to a fascination with stories about Trump.> Having masterminded coverage of him for more than a decade, I’m not laughing any moreFor Trump, facts were malleable. The only thing that mattered was column inches. We used Trump and he used us. It was a shameless, but, it seemed, harmless, relationship.All the time, however, Trump was learning the media world – developing a cunning understanding of how a quote or sound bite can be picked up across America, rebroadcast on TV and radio and make its way around the world; understanding how fame and a complete lack of self-censorship were a powerful combination.In those days, much of the backwards and forwards was fun. A ranting phone call from Trump Tower was viewed as a badge of honor, not something to fear; Trump’s anger was something to laugh about as soon as the phone went down.Having masterminded coverage of him for more than a decade, I’m not laughing any more. The very things that brought him headlines are now the behavior that is costing America in ways unimaginable a few months ago.The president’s nightly, often rambling, performances in front of the White House and world’s press have developed a sad, deep, morbid fascination. It is unconscionable that even in the depth of one of the world’s most deadly crises, Trump displays the same unfiltered – and frequently uneducated – outbursts that typified his relationship with his hometown press in the 1980s and 1990s.Instead of being the authoritative, inspiring voice that the nation so desperately needs in its darkest hour, Trump shows much of the same bullying, self-satisfied characteristics he learned in his dealings with the media in New York. In fact, Trump was more comfortable and coherent discussing gossip items as he is trying to inspire a frightened country.It’s frightening enough that, with few exceptions, he surrounds himself with fawning acolytes who massage his ego with an obsequiousness that would bring shame in North Korea. It’s shocking to witness that the vocabulary of the supposedly most powerful man in the world extends only as far as “incredible,” “great” and “amazing”, mostly in reference to himself. And it’s disgraceful to witness him publicly berate journalists and governors who he feels don’t treat him with due deference, as opposed to the respect with which his predecessors were treated. Alone those things make his press briefings excruciatingly embarrassing.What is more unforgivable is watching a president playing loose and fast with facts; a man who lives in an echo chamber of soundbites and quips – whether appropriate or not – shamefully adding to confusion and fear with every mixed message he utters.At a time when the country craves someone of balance and intellect, someone to reassure and calm, someone who can admit mistakes and rectify them, someone who can lead, we’re sadly left with a man who craves attention and affirmation at any cost.As America watches its leader stammer, misspeak and ad lib his way through the coronavirus crisis, it’s shocking to realize that Trump hasn’t changed at all. He’s that same person who would say anything for a headline in the tabloids.And it’s heartbreaking to look back and realize how we feted and indulged him, never considering that with each headline, we were feeding the monster of his ego and enhancing his public profile – a profile that allowed him to eventually take control of the country.When Trump teased journalists with hints of dalliances and bragged of business dealings all those years ago, the price of being beaten was newspaper bragging rights in the morning. Now the price of his uncontrollable narcissism is far more serious, and it’s being paid in American lives. * Martin Dunn is the former editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News. He is now a film-maker based in New York


  • Saudi Arabia’s World Is Coming Undone Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:00:05 -0400

    Saudi Arabia’s World Is Coming Undone(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Saudi Arabia is having a regular week: Facing off against Russia, taking phone calls from the U.S. president and supposedly cobbling together a plan to save the (oil) world. On Thursday, it will preside over an emergency meeting of OPEC+; the next day, a virtual gathering of G20 energy ministers.As opportunities to strut the global stage go, this one comes at a big cost: Like most oil exporters, the country faces a cataclysmic drop in demand. But this isn’t just about the money. A new book lays out why the Covid-19 crisis offers a taste of a far-bigger problem: Saudi Arabia’s world is coming apart. “Disunited Nations,” by geopolitics analyst Peter Zeihan, is a typically engaging read, but it is not a happy book. Zeihan contends the postwar global order that rested largely on U.S. sponsorship (or attention, at least) is unraveling. After seven decades of America suppressing humanity’s tendency toward general mayhem, more or less, with a muscular commitment to free trade and blanket security guarantees, a more Hobbesian future beckons.Few countries have been shaped by the Pax Americana quite like Saudi Arabia, which gets its own chapter. A sparsely populated, largely desert kingdom that emerged from clan warfare amid the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, it would have been a geopolitical backwater — except for its vast reserves of a certain vital commodity. Even then, that would have made it more a target for bigger powers to swoop in than an independent actor. But it just so happened that Saudi Arabia’s emergence as both a country and a major oil producer coincided quite closely with World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. As Zeihan puts it:The Saudis lucked into a world in which their absolute security was a prerequisite for European security and East Asian security and American security. Now those twin pillars that defined the first nine decades of Saudi Arabia’s existence — the oil market and American protection — are crumbling. Long-term growth in global oil demand is no longer a given, and Covid-19 is like a fever dream of all the worst aspects of that. Meanwhile, U.S. ambivalence toward the Middle East has been supercharged by the debacle in Iraq and the shale boom. Even if “energy dominance” has succumbed to its own inanity, U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil has diminished, not least in terms of feeling the need to keep it flowing to nominal allies. While America’s continued enmity with Iran is welcome, the shrug given to September’s attack on the Abqaiq oil-processing facility was a reminder the world has changed nonetheless.Saudi Arabia is trying to adapt. Doing so would have been easier with oil at $100 rather than $30. Oil provides about two-thirds of the government’s revenue, and it has been running deficits for six years already. According to Saudi Arabian Oil Co.’s accounts, royalties, income tax and dividends to the state added up to about $208 billion last year. This year’s take may drop by more than $100 billion, even with jacked-up oil production.(4)Against this stands the Saudi stash: almost $700 billion of net foreign assets.(1)This buys time, but not immunity. Financial markets notice sovereigns (and companies) cannibalizing their balance sheets long before the money runs out. It’s hard to overstate the economic overhaul required. Two-thirds of the national workforce (as opposed to ex-pats) is employed by the government, with wages accounting for about 40% of public spending (which makes budget cuts tough to propose and even tougher to execute).(2)As it often does, oil has brought enormous wealth, but at the price of economic dynamism. One of the most striking aspects of this is how fuel subsidies have distorted Saudi Arabia’s own energy consumption. This does not look like a healthy, modern economy entering a more carbon-constrained world.(5) A recent study of the fiscal models of Gulf Cooperation Council members published by the International Monetary Fund concluded that getting onto a more sustainable path would require an immediate adjustment equivalent to almost a third of the non-oil-and-gas economy on average(3). In other words, these countries are writing checks their future generations can’t cash.At the same time, American backing is diminishing. It isn’t that the U.S. has withdrawn altogether; more that, as threatening letters from senators have demonstrated once again, it can’t be depended upon. In that light, the attempt to rope the U.S. into a brave new market-management scheme — call it OPEC-doubleplusungood — can be seen as an effort to preserve a much broader, but disintegrating, constellation of forces.Far from prompting greater caution, Zeihan expects Saudi Arabia to respond to all this with aggression. Sporting a relatively weak military and surrounded by the proxies of arch-rival Iran, Saudi Arabia’s strategy will be to exploit its primary adversary’s over-extension, using its wealth to fund opposing proxies of its own. The idea being to light enough fires elsewhere in the region in order to avoid a direct, and likely devastating, war. Zeihan calls this “the geopolitics of arson.”Like I said, it’s not a happy book. But while that remains a scenario for now, it isn’t pure conjecture. Saudi Arabia has long experience meddling in other conflicts from Afghanistan to Syria. And it has already adopted a more aggressive foreign policy in Yemen and with regards to Qatar under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.The emergence of MBS, as he is called, represents a jump from the ruling family’s old generation to its millennial incarnation. The ensuing centralization of power in his hands makes that far more than just a symbolic break. One of the most interesting aspects of this to emerge is his apparent embrace of populism, with his, ahem, anti-corruption round-up of fellow princes and easing of some restrictions on women being early examples of this.In a fascinating recent article, Kristin Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington puts these moves in the context of a broader shift toward a more overt nationalism as a means of legitimizing the state. This came to the fore in the recent IPO of Aramco, which ended up being more of an exercise in national pride than mere fundraising. Having encouraged citizens to borrow to buy the shares, the government has, Diwan writes:… effectively multiplied the public’s exposure to oil risk, amplifying the cost of the current downturn. Still, it may not be the last sacrifice the Saudi state demands of its citizens. If the economic situation further declines, the Saudi government is likely to lean further on the new nationalist narrative promoting a strong work ethic and greater self-reliance.It’s fair to say a headstrong ruler lacking institutional checks and fostering nationalist fervor to offset economic hardship is not a model that tends toward mellow outcomes. It does, on the other hand, dovetail all too neatly with Zeihan’s vision of global fracture. Oil bulls banking on Saudi Arabia to save the day this week should ponder what that means for the health of their market when this current crisis has passed.(1) This is based on a simple valuation tool I put together for Saudi Aramco's IPO. Main assumptions for 2020 include net margins for downstream and chemicals operations of $1 per barrel and $100 per tonne and 95% and 90% utilization, respectively. Includes $2.1 billion of free cash flow from Saudi Basic Industries Corp., based on the consensus forecast and assuming 70% ownership for two-thirds of the year. Assumes natural gas production of 10 billion cubic feet per day and output of other liquids and ethane of 2.3 million barrels a day. Upstream costs per barrel of oil equivalent, including depreciation, at $6.(2) Net foreign assets were $679 billion as of 3Q 2019 (source: Bloomberg Intelligence).(3) "Public Wage Bills in the Middle East and Central Asia", International Monetary Fund, 2018.(4) For more on this, see Jim Krane's book "Energy Kingdoms" (Columbia University Press, 2019).(5) "The Future of Oil and Fiscal Sustainability in the GCC Region", International Monetary Fund, January 2020. Thisanalysis uses the Permanent Income Hypothesis. This estimates each country's total wealth and then modelslimiting expenditure to the estimated annuity value of that wealth while saving a significant portion of oil receipts in revenue-generating assets whose dividend income is meant to replace oil revenue in the future. The authors found that, on average, the GCC countries would require an immediate fiscal adjustment equivalent to 32% of their non-hydrocarbon economy in order for future generations to equally share the existing level of wealth.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Liam Denning is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering energy, mining and commodities. He previously was editor of the Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column and wrote for the Financial Times' Lex column. He was also an investment banker.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.


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