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  • U.S., South Korea Near Tentative Troop-Funding Deal, Yonhap Says

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 19:39:00 -0400
  • Why a Frenchman built a 'Tudor' castle in Burkina Faso

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    Thibault Fornier lives in an ex-French colony, but is enamoured with all things British.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 19:17:09 -0400
  • 6 European nations condemn North Korean missile launches

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 18:56:37 -0400
  • White House projects 100K to 240K US deaths from virus

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    President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned Americans to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks” ahead as the White House projected there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained. “We really believe we can do a lot better than that,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. Trump called American efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “a matter of life and death” and urged the public to heed his administration’s guidelines.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 18:12:28 -0400
  • Too little too late? Experts decry Mexico virus policy delay

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    Mexico has started taking tougher measures against the coronavirus after weeks of its president hugging followers and saying religious medals would protect him. Some experts warn the sprawling country of 129 million is acting too late and testing too little to prevent the type of crisis unfolding across the border in the United States. Last week Mexico banned non-essential government work as confirmed cases climbed, but took until late Monday to extend that to other business sectors and to bar gatherings of more than 50 people.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 17:57:46 -0400
  • Hospitals overflowing with bodies in US epicenter of virus

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    It has become a grim ritual outside New York City’s hospitals: workers in protective gear loading the bodies of coronavirus victims into refrigerated trailers. A surge in deaths in the epicenter of the crisis in the U.S. has overwhelmed the city’s permanent morgues and filled storage spaces in many hospitals to capacity. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending 85 refrigerated trucks to serve as temporary morgues, the city said.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 17:46:12 -0400
  • Coronavirus: What misinformation has spread in Africa?

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    Which claims about the coronavirus are gaining the most traction in Africa?

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 17:16:43 -0400
  • Globetrotting meteorologist offers advice on sheltering in place after living for a year in Antarctica

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    While the world has been trying to navigate the coronavirus and sheltering at home, Christine Schultz has found herself well-equipped for charting the unknown territory, much as she has done in her career as a female meteorologist.As the station chief for the Global Monitoring Division's (GMD) Atmospheric Research Observatory at the South Pole, Schultz spent 13 months during 2010 into 2011 in one of Earth's most isolated places: Antarctica. Three of those months were spent without the sun hanging in the sky and with temperatures dropping to an average of minus 70 F.It took a span of weeks for the sun to sink below the horizon of the Antarctic ice shelf, plunging the continent into darkness for the winter. For three months, Schultz and about 50 other people wintered on the continent in complete darkness, collecting data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Christine Schultz took her first photo in Antarctica after disembarking the military C-17 aircraft that flew her and the rest of her team there. (Photo / Christine Schultz) "It's a mix of emotions as the sun sets," Schultz told AccuWeather in a Skype interview. "It's excitement for the winter to actually start ... There's also a little bit of trepidation too because it's unknown: How are you going to react without the sun 24/7 for six months? What's it going to be like working in extreme cold conditions that (you) really haven't seen up to that point yet?" she recalled. "There's just a lot of unknowns, so it's both exciting and a little bit frightening."To add to the isolation, planes with supplies stop flying to Antarctica during the winter, as it's physically too cold for them to fly when the temperatures plummet to minus 40 F. Fuel freezes to slush, skis can stick to the ice and the hydraulics begin to falter in the harsh conditions. What the team has on hand starting in February is what they'll have to rely on to last them through the dark, brutal winter.When things broke, especially during the winter, the crew would have to get creative with their fixes and what they had on hand to make those fixes. From fixing her headphones when they broke midwinter to rewiring a computer power supply to replace the broken power supply of the laboratory's LIDAR -- or a laser used to look at aerosols and cloud heights high up in the atmosphere -- crew members used whatever they happened to have at their disposal. Planes with new supplies wouldn't be able to reach the continent until spring.As the station chief, Schultz's job is to run all of the 30 or so different instruments on the site, to perform maintenance, fix things when they break, calibrate the instruments and handle shipping and receiving during the summer months when the planes are flying. One of the instruments Schultz operated at the South Pole was a Dobson Spectrophotometer, which was used to measure ozone. (NOAA / Christine Schultz) "If the instruments were working, then the load was pretty light. But if things broke, that meant we would be out there fixing them as long as it took, basically," Schultz said.The instruments were key for Schultz and her team to record the different conditions and atmospheric composition of the South Pole, contributing to the data and knowledge that other scientists will work with, from vertical profiles of ozone in the atmosphere to surface ozone measurements and measuring carbon dioxide and halocarbons in the atmosphere. During the darker winter months, Schultz and her team did what the satellites couldn't in filling in the gaps that would otherwise go unrecorded.NOAA's GMD has four observatories including the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory (ABO) in Utqiagvik, Alaska; the Mauna Loa ABO on Hawaii's Big Island; American Samoa ABO in Tula, American Samoa and South Pole ABO in Antarctica. All of these locations were chosen for their remote locations back in the 1970s with the goal of measuring the composition of the atmosphere and how it changes over time away from the influence of humans and human pollution.A few corners of the world, including the South Pole where Schultz says at least two people are wintering at the ABO base, have yet to report coronavirus cases. Palau, Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and a handful of other bases on Antarctica haven't reported any COVID-19 cases, according to Yahoo News. Schultz stands under the iconic whale bone arc of Utqiagvik, Alaska, known as the "Gateway to the Arctic." One of NOAA's Atmospheric Baseline Observatories is located at Utqiagvik, Alaska. (NOAA/Christine Schultz) Schultz says it's too early to tell if quarantine could affect pollution or air quality as well as pick up any influences of mitigation efforts, like spraying disinfectant. However, she believes the GMD's long-term records of aerosols and the composition of the atmosphere, as well as other records, could be critical to figuring out what has changed."Our data really are the control to the experiment for what is going on right now," Schultz said.During her time in Antarctica when she wasn't working, Schultz and the rest of the crew found ways to stay entertained in their own shelter-in-place scenario."People get pretty creative over the winter months when there's not a lot of outside stimulus," Schultz said. Over her time spent sheltering from the minus 70 F temperatures, Schultz and the group watched movies, learning how to knit and hit the gym. The aurora australis lit up the sky over the South Pole. (NOAA/Christine Schultz) "My greatest advice for anyone in isolation is to get creative and make sure you have a routine," Schultz said. Especially in the winter months, a routine helped her maintain her sense of day and night. She also suggests not staying in pajamas all day.Schultz compared her isolation in Antarctica not just to sheltering in place for the coronavirus, but also to her first job on a ship as a NOAA Corps officer job doing sonar research and mapping the sea floor near Alaska. For three years, Schultz charted uncharted waters in Alaska, contributing to the safety and navigation of ships at sea."Surprisingly enough I was really well-trained to live in Antarctica because it felt very similar to living on a ship," Schultz said. "You were kind of stuck there." Schultz takes bottom samples in Alaska off of NOAA Ship Rainier. (NOAA/Christine Schultz) Even in Antarctica, where there was plenty of land to roam, Schultz and her team couldn't leave a two-mile radius of the station due to the hazardous conditions.At her current job with the GMD, she oversees the observatories she once worked at and runs the GMD meteorology program. She still helps to fix instruments that break on occasion, only now the different locations provide some variety to how certain instruments break. In the observatory at American Samoa, one of the fans critical for a temperature sensor has broken due to reasons from a swarm of mosquitoes flying in and clogging the machine to a gecko crawling in and dying."Pretty much everything in my line of work I never thought I would do," Schultz said. She had once looked at forecasting or being on TV as her only options with a degree in meteorology until an internship at Mount Washington Observatory, New Hampshire, introduced her to fieldwork. Schultz driving a small boat in Alaska during a tide gauge installation off NOAA Ship "Rainier." (NOAA/Christine Schultz) "I also never thought I would drive a ship as my first job out of school," Schultz said. "As a 22-year-old you don't usually envision yourself piloting a vessel of 50 people, 231-feet long, for a job. But that was a skill that I got to pick up as a NOAA Corps officer. I never thought I would visit any of the Global Monitoring Division's research locations."She had also never envisioned herself going to Antarctica, taking a selfie with the candy cane-like symbolic marker of the South Pole. Schultz diverted from her path one day to take a selfie with the symbolic marker of the South Pole in Antarctica. (Image/Christine Schultz) "My advice for people is always to explore their options and seize opportunities when they present themselves," Schultz said. "I did not end up where I thought I would when I was studying meteorology in school, and I have used it in so many different ways that I didn't even know where possible when I was a student or even just starting my career. So I think keeping your eyes open, being open to taking some risk is really great too and will take you places you didn't know exist."During the last leg of Schultz's stay at Antarctica, she and other group members were watching a movie when they received a frantic call over their radios."The sun's up! The sun's up!"Schultz sprang up, and other crew members dropped what they were doing, all running outside into the biting cold for a sight they hadn't seen in months.Pinks and purples painted the sky, heralding the first sunrise in months as slivers of light began to appear. The sun, and the end to their isolation, was on the horizon.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 16:04:09 -0400
  • Coronavirus is an ‘extremely painful’ example of need for global cooperation: UN Foundation CEO

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    The “extremely painful” need for international coordination during the pandemic should renew commitment to address global threats, said Elizabeth Cousens, the president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 15:45:17 -0400
  • UN chief says COVID-19 is worst crisis since World War II

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    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country, one that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.” There is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict,” the U.N. chief said at the launch of a report on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. Guterres called for a much stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 15:41:57 -0400
  • Coronavirus Outbreak Updated: Keep Up With The Latest Headlines

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    The coronavirus pandemic has dominated headlines for the better part of 2020. Keep up to date by checking this live blog every day for major updates related to COVID-19 and its impact on the world economy, U.S. markets and the health of the global population. > Subscribe For Free Coronavirus Updates > > Benzinga is covering every angle of how the coronavirus affects the financial world. For daily updates, sign up for our daily Coronavirus Special Edition newsletter.All times are in Eastern Daylight Time.The Latest News On Coronavirus: US surgeon general warns 'this week, it's going to get bad'March 23, 1:15 p.m.: The war against coronavirus has intensified across the country as more workers are laid off, medical supplies dwindle, and states enact new rules to get Americans to stay home."I want America to understand -- this week, it's going to get bad," US Surgeon General Jerome Adams told NBC's "Today" show Monday. "We really, really need everyone to stay at home. I think that there are a lot of people who are doing the right things, but ... we're finding out a lot of people think this can't happen to them."March 23, 12:17 p.m.: Senators and senior Trump administration officials were scrambling on Monday to strike a deal on a $1.8 trillion measure to bolster the economy, after Democrats blocked action on the package on Sunday, demanding stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses.The vote on Sunday shook markets around the globe and threatened to derail bipartisan talks that had yielded substantial compromises over the outlines of the package, which is emerging as the largest economic stimulus measure in modern history.March 23, 11:30 a.m.: The hunt for masks, ventilators and other medical supplies consumed the U.S. and Europe, as more than 1.5 billion people -- one-fifth of the world's population -- were asked or ordered to stay home on Monday to try to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. Political paralysis stalled efforts for a quick aid package from Congress, and U.S. stocks fell at the opening bell even after the Federal Reserve said it will buy as much government debt as necessary and lend to small and large businesses and local governments to help them cope with the economic damage from the outbreak.March 23, 4:00 a.m.: According to the data from Germany's influential Information and Forschung research, the outburst of coronavirus could cost the economy from €255 to €729 billion in the year 2020.The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is 22,672, with 86 fatal cases at press time.March 23, 3:16 a.m.: The parent company of Primark announced that it would be closing all of its stores across the world, which would lead to a monthly loss of around $760 million worth of net sales. It added that it would stop placing new orders with suppliers. The company estimates that it will be able to recover around 50% of total operating costs.March 23, 2:50 a.m.: Norway's foreign ministry announced on Monday that the United Nations would be creating a fund to support the treatment of coronavirus patients worldwide. The Fund will support developing countries with weak health systems and also handle the long-term consequences.Across the world, almost 340,000 people have been infected by COVID-19, and more than 14,500 have died.March 23, 2:22 a.m.: On Monday, Airbus announced a €15 billion credit facility to strengthen its liquidity access amid the pandemic's impact on the global aerospace industry. To protect the future of the company, the aircraft manufacturer added that it would pull out its 2019 dividend proposal with a total cash value of almost €1.4 billion. March 23, 1:55 a.m.: The South Korea auto industry, which employs almost 12% of the country's workforce, will be supported by the government amid the outbreak of the coronavirus. It would provide logistical and financial support, speed up customs clearance, arrange freight transportation, and liquidity support.With a warning of disruptions to supply chains from Europe and the United States, South Korean exports are expected to diminish in April and May after rising 10% year-on-year in the first 20 days of March.March 22, 10:19 p.m.: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated for the first time on Monday that he may consider postponing the Summer Olympics 2020 from its earlier scheduled date of July 24. The announcement comes amid many countries and athletes seeking for the games to be postponed.March 22, 10:11 p.m.: Canada is the first country to withdraw its athletes from the Olympic and Paralympic Games scheduled for the summer of 2020. Amid the rising coronavirus fears, unless the games are postponed, the country would not send their athletes, The Canadian Olympic Committee said."This is not solely about athlete health - it is about public health," Team Canada said in a statement.March 22, 9:47 p.m.: The Federal government has activated the National Guard to aid the three worst-hit states in the U.S. - New York, California, and Washington, against the COVID-19 impact, President Donald Trump announced. March 22, 8:59 p.m.: Led by the deep impact of the coronavirus epidemic, a record 30.1% drop is expected in the U.S. gross domestic product in the second quarter, as estimated by Morgan Stanley economists.With economic activity coming to a halt, unemployment is also expected to come in at an average of 12.8% for the quarter.March 22: A more than $1-trillion coronavirus relief bill failed a procedural vote in the Senate Sunday evening.Democrats had objected to the bill's provisions, with CNBC reporting that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the legislation had "many, many problems" and benefited corporations more than hospitals, health care workers, cities and states. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, announced Sunday that he tested positive for the virus. > Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19. He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.> > -- Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2020March 22, 6:51 p.m.: S&P 500 futures fell by 5% and hit limit down Sunday. Dow Jones futures were down 5.01% at the time of publication and Nasdaq futures were down 4.88%. March 22, 3:18 p.m.: The U.S. unemployment rate could reach 30% in the second quarter and the gross domestic product could fall by half, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said in an interview published Sunday by Bloomberg. "This is a planned, organized partial shutdown of the U.S. economy in the second quarter," he told the publication. "The overall goal is to keep everyone, households and businesses, whole."March 22, 12:58 p.m.: 3M Co (NYSE: MMM) Chairman and CEO Mike Roman said more than 500,000 respirators are en route from the company's South Dakota plant to New York and Seattle.The company has ramped up N95 respirator production levels to the max and doubled output to a rate of 1.1 billion per year, Roman said in a statement. Of the 35 million respirators being produced per month in the U.S., 90% are designated for health care workers, and the remainder are going to other critical industries such as energy, food and pharmaceutical companies, he said. "Like everyone, I see the pleas from our heroic doctors, nurses and first responders for the respirators and other equipment they desperately need. I want people to know we are doing all we can to meet the demands of this extraordinary time and get supplies from our plants to where they're most needed as quickly as possible."March 21: The FDA said Saturday that it issued an emergency use authorization for the Cepheid Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test. The test will give Americans results in hours rather than days, and Cepheid is planning to roll the test out by March 30, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "With new tools like point-of-care diagnostics, we are moving into a new phase of testing, where tests will be much more easily accessible to Americans who need them."March 20, 2:50 p.m.: Olympic Swimmer Jacob Pebly Calls To Suspend Olympic Swimming Trials> View this post on Instagram > > Links: - Study: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf - Implications of study, per the UM Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/03/modeling-study-suggests-18-months-covid-19-social-distancing-much> > A post shared by Jacob Pebley (@jacob.pebley) on Mar 19, 2020 at 1:22pm PDT March 20: 4 Senators Dumped Millions In Stock Weeks Before Coronavirus Pandemic Hit U.S.Republican senators Richard Burr, Kelly Loeffler and James Inhofe, along with democrat Dianne Feinstein, dumped stocks worth millions ahead of the financial markets plunge in the United States in February, multiple reports suggested Thursday.March 20, 2:02 a.m.: According to the National Health Commission, China recorded 39 new imported cases on Friday. Out of these, 14 were found in Guangdong, eight in Shanghai, and six in Beijing.China's current focus is to protect the mainland from foreign cases as the coronavirus Europe and North America spread is spreading at an unprecedented pace.March 20, 2:00 a.m.: Whole Foods employee was detected positive with the coronavirus and was placed under quarantine. The store located in New York City was closed early Wednesday for additional cleaning and disinfection.Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh said that they continue to be operational nationwide, with deliveries being limited due to increased demand.March 20, 1:38 a.m.: According to the data compiled by AFP from official sources, Italy (3,405 deaths) has surpassed China (3,245 deaths) with the biggest deaths from coronavirus. On Thursday alone, 427 fatalities were recorded.As the toll surged in Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the national lockdown would be extended till April 3.March 20, 1:23 a.m.: Four republican senators are being accused of offloading millions of dollars in stocks after being briefed on the coronavirus outbreak, The Sun reported. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, and Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe are the four names.March 19, 10:17 p.m.: In order to support U.S. businesses, its employees and the American public, Senate Republicans on Thursday formally announced a trillion economic stimulus plan.The package would include direct payments to Americans under a certain income threshold, $200 billion in loans to airlines and distressed industry sectors, and $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses.March 19, 10:04 p.m.: California Governor has issued a statewide stay-at-home order starting Thursday evening for its 40 million residents. Similar orders have been issued in the past few days across the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles. Residents are ordered to leave home only for essential activities.As of Thursday, confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. stood at 11,500.March 19, 9:55 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Energy plans to buy up to 30 million barrels of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) by the end of June.This is in accordance with President Donald Trump's directive to fill the emergency stockpile supporting domestic crude producers.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox Business that amid dropping prices due to the COVID-19 outbreak, he would tell Trump to take advantage of low oil prices and ask Congress for $10 billion to $20 billion to fill up the SPR for the long term.March 19, 9:10 p.m.: Amid the already plunging stock markets led by the coronavirus outbreak, Donald Trump's administration has ordered state labor officials to delay the release of the exact unemployment figures.Protecting the public and financial market sentiment, the Labor Department has been instructed to provide information using generalities to describe claims levels like - very high, large increase.March 19, 9:06 p.m.: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (NYSE: TEVA) announced that it would immediately donate 6 million doses of malaria med hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets through wholesalers to U.S. hospitals in order to support the medication for COVID-19. The company expects to ship these by the end of March, and it would ship more than 10 million tablets within a month's time.March 19, 7:06 p.m.: As per the White House statement, President Donald Trump has annulled the in-person G7 summit amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The summit, which was scheduled for June at the David Camp, will now be conducted through a video teleconference.As of Thursday, confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. stood at 11,500.March 19, 4:06 p.m.: The U.S. State Department is warning American citizens to avoid all international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.> JUST IN: The US State Department is warning American citizens to avoid all international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory is the department's highest-level travel alert. https://t.co/JpUP9ETvFR> > -- CNN Business (@CNNBusiness) March 19, 2020March 19, 3:04 p.m.: The federal government is preparing for the possibility the coronavirus pandemic could last up to 18 months or longer and "include multiple waves of illness," a report obtained by CNN shows, as the number of the cases in the US surpassed 11,000. While the document does not say the Trump administration believes the pandemic will last that long, it indicates officials have to assume a longer timeline to ensure preparedness.March 19, 11:46 a.m.: Headlines From President Trump's Press Conference * Trump Says Will Be Able To Make Malaria Drug 'Almost Immediately' By Prescriptions Or Through States * Trump Says U.S. Is Also Pursuing Anti-Viral Therapies In Addition To Vaccines * Trump Discusses Melaria Treatment Hydroxychloroquine, Sold Under Brand Name Plaquenil (Among Others) By Teva (NASDAQ: TEVA) As Potential Treatment For Coronavirus * Trump Mentions Regeneron At Coronavirus Task Force Presser, Discusses Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) As Near Approval Via FDA, Then Highlights Regeneron Trial (NASDAQ: REGN)March 18, 11:52 p.m.: The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has cut interest rates to a record low 0.25% after slashing the rate to 0.5% earlier this month. It also announced a money-printing program for the first time in its history to combat the coronavirus-driven recessionThe RBA will buy Australian government bonds as part of its first-ever quantitative easing program, and provide a three-year funding facility to provide cheap loans for Australian banks.March 18, 11:12 p.m.: As per the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications data, Japan's core consumer price index (inflation), which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food prices, grew 0.6% in February.Amid falling energy prices and the coronavirus outbreak, the pace was slower than an 0.8% rise in January and matched economists' median estimate for a 0.6% rise.March 18, 11:04 p.m.: New York City now has 1,871 cases of the COVID-19 with 11 deaths, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview on Wednesday. He also clarified his stance on sheltering in place after telling New Yorkers on Tuesday that they should be prepared to do so in order to stem the spread of the virus.March 18, 10 p.m.: For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan, China reported no new cases on Wednesday and Hubei has had no new infections for almost two weeks. As per the state-backed China Daily, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak is expected to see new coronavirus infections dry up by mid-to-late March and the lockdown of the city may be lifted once there are no new cases for 14 days.March 18, 9:50 pm: Harley-Davidson Inc. (NYSE: HOG) said it is suspending production at its factories effective Wednesday through March 29. The move, which came in after one of its workers was infected with the coronavirus, will impact around 2,000 employees at its U.S. factories. Employees will be temporarily laid off but would still receive medical benefits.March 18, 5:10 p.m.: Italy recorded 475 deaths due to the coronavirus in a single day, the highest since the outbreak. Italy is the world's most affected country after China, with almost 3,000 deaths to date.Italy has a total of 35,713 confirmed cases. More than 4,000 people there have recovered. March 18, 4:46 p.m.: After two people tested positive for the coronavirus at NYSE screenings set up this week, the exchange decided that effective March 23 it will temporarily close its historic trading floor and move fully to electronic trading.This is the first time the physical trading floor of the Big Board has ever shut independently while electronic trading continues.As of Wednesday, confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surged to 7,324 in total, with the death toll climbing to 115, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.March 18, 8:45 p.m.: Trump signed a bill providing paid sick leave, free testing and other benefits. A relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits, free coronavirus testing, and food and medical aid to people affected by the pandemic, was signed into law by Trump Wednesday evening after the Senate passed it by a wide margin. It was approved by the House last week.March 18, 8:45 p.m.: Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams have become the first members of Congress to test positive for coronavirus, a grim new indicator of the virus' aggressive spread. "On Saturday evening, Congressman Diaz-Balart developed symptoms including a fever and headache. Just a short while ago, he was notified that he has tested positive for COVID-19," his office said in a news release. The Florida Republican said in a statement that he is "feeling much better" but urged the public to take the virus "extremely seriously."March 18, 4:12 p.m.: The Senate passed the House's coronavirus aid package on Wednesday, sending it to President Trump, who is expected to sign it. Senators voted 90-8 on the bill that passed the House in a middle-of-the-night Saturday vote but needed dozens of pages of corrections and changes, which cleared the chamber on Monday. The measure, which the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will cost $104 billion, is the second package that Congress has passed amid growing concerns about the widespread coronavirus outbreak in the United States that has already bludgeoned the economy.March 18, 2:27 p.m.: The Big 3 Detroit car companies have agreed to temporarily shut down factories in the U.S. to protect workers against the rapidly spreading coronavirus, according to people familiar with the matter, in an unprecedented work stoppage that will affect more than 150,000 factory employees.March 18, 2:15 p.m.: Vice President Pence said during a White House press conference Wednesday that hospitals should move to delay elective procedures, as the nation's medical system scrambles to deal with those sickened by the coronavirus.Also: The White House is asking Congress for a $1 trillion coronavirus relief and economic stimulus plan that would include industry-specific bailouts and payments to individual taxpayers.March 18, 12:49 p.m.: President Donald Trump said during Wednesday's White House press briefing that he will be invoking the Defense Production Act to help make up for potential medical supply shortages as the US battles the coronavirus pandemic.March 18, 11:22 a.m.: Cannes Film Festival has been postponed until October, according to a statement by Cannes organizers. The festival, originally scheduled for June 22 through 26, said it now plans to reschedule to October 26 through 30. Conference organizers said earlier that passes, sponsorship arrangements, and bookings will roll over and remain valid.March 18, 10:01 a.m.: The U.S. and Canada will mutually close their borders for non-essential travel, as announced by President Trump on twitter.> We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!> > -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020March 18, 2:55 a.m.: Chinese medical authorities have revealed that a drug - favipiravir, used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appeared to be effective in coronavirus patients. The drug, which was developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Toyota Chemical, had produced encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients.Patients, with mild and moderate symptoms of the coronavirus, given this medicine, turned negative in a median of four days as compared to 11 days without the drug. Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms.March 18, 12:27 a.m.: According to the International Air Transport Association, the global airline industry needs government aid and bailout measures totaling between $150 billion and $200 billion in order to survive the coronavirus crisis.The warning came as governments around the world indicated that they're actively exploring proposals to save airlines, with Italy's plans to re-nationalize Alitalia among the most advanced. March 18, 12:21 a.m.: As per Goldman Sachs Research estimates, the global GDP growth forecast for 2020 was cut to 1.25%, implying a recession worse than the one seen in 1991 and 2001. Amid the coronavirus spread, disruptions to the global economy are increasing.The bank now sees the U.S. economy contracting by 5% in the second quarter and has slashed China's first-quarter estimate to -9% year-on-year from +2.5% previously.March 17, 11:43 p.m.: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday declared a "human biosecurity emergency" and said the country's citizens should abandon all overseas travel because of the coronavirus epidemic. The formal declaration gives the government the power to close off cities or regions, impose curfews, and order people to quarantine, if deemed necessary.Australia has recorded around nearly 500 coronavirus infections and six deaths.March 17, 11:26 p.m.: Amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus, department stores Macy's, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, and Saks Fifth Avenue are closing all stores while keeping online stores open. All the stores would remain closed for two weeks unless otherwise instructed by the government or public health officials.Macy's said it would close all stores, including Bloomingdale's locations, through March 31 and provide benefits and compensation to its impacted workforce.March 17, 11:00 p.m.: Finance Ministry data released on Wednesday revealed that Japan's February exports slipped 1% year-over-year for the 15th consecutive month. This was mainly due to a decline in U.S. and China-bound shipments of cars and metal processing machinery, respectively, amid the coronavirus epidemic.Imports from China slumped 47.1% from the previous year, seeing their biggest drop since August 1986. This led to Japan's trade balance recording a surplus of $10.34 billion, largest since September 2007.March 17, 10:51 p.m.: After the Philippines closed its financial markets on Tuesday, the country exempted its financial trading platforms from strict coronavirus quarantine procedures and paved the way for stock trading resumption from Thursday.The currency and bond markets were allowed to reopen as early as Wednesday, although they are yet to announce an exact date.March 17, 10:35 p.m.: Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) on Tuesday sought for $60 billion in government loan guarantees and other assistance for the struggling U.S. aerospace manufacturing industry, which faces huge losses from the coronavirus pandemic.It further added that it needs significant government support to meet liquidity needs as it cannot raise that in current market conditions.March 17, 10:30 p.m.: According to a report by Jack Myers, the coronavirus outbreak is likely to erode as much as billion from the advertising and marketing budgets in 2020. Myers, who has been tracking the ad spend market since the 1980s, has tripled his forecast from the earlier estimated $1 billion.With people forced to spend more time at home, streaming video platforms like Hulu, Pluto, Roku, and Direct TV could see ad spending grow 42% higher than the earlier estimated 38% growth.March 17, 10:22 p.m.: European football's governing body UEFA said that it would be delaying the European Championship until 2021, due to be played in June-July 2020.The announcement came after UEFA held crisis talks with national associations as well as clubs and players bodies via videoconference, as Europe is combating the coronavirus pandemic. With the postponement, all domestic competitions currently on hold due to the can now be completed as they have a commitment to finish club seasons by June 30.March 17, 10:15 p.m.: The global dairy auction saw prices plunging to their lowest level in more than a year as the coronavirus outbreak disturbed buying. The average price at the overnight auction fell 3.95 to $2980 a tonne, following the 1.2% fall in the previous auction two weeks ago.March 17, 9:52 p.m.: World Bank on Tuesday said that it had increased its fast-track financing for members to combat the global coronavirus epidemic by $2 billion, taking the total amount to $14 billion.A significant portion of the funding would be used by client financial institutions so that they can continue to offer trade financing, working capital, and medium-term financing to private firms struggling with disruptions in supply chains.March 17, 9:37 p.m.: With the coronavirus outbreak leading to the shift of dates in French Open, the U.S. Open also followed suit, saying it's open to the "possibility of moving the tournament to a later date." Roland Garros pushed its dates ahead by almost three months.The Open said it would make such a move only in "full consultation with the other Grand Slam tournaments, the WTA and ATP, the ITF, and its partners, including the Laver Cup."March 17, 9:21 p.m.: At its annual shareholders' meeting on Wednesday, South Korea tech giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said that it expects higher demand and limited supply for computer chips despite the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S.-China trade war damaging major markets in Europe and the U.S.March 17, 9:00 p.m.: American Chamber of Commerce in South China survey shows 32% of firms in China's southern manufacturing hub are facing a supply shortage, while 15% have already run out of some supplies driven by the widespread coronavirus.Supplies from within China have been most disrupted, followed by the United States, Asia Pacific, and the European Union. However, the situation within China is expected to recover quickly, while global disruption is expected to worsen as the virus spreads.March 17, 7:25 p.m.: Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) suffered a massive bug in its News Feed spam filter that blocked links to legitimate websites, including Medium, Buzzfeed, and USA Today. The issue blocked shares of some but not all coronavirus-related content, while some unrelated links are allowed through, and others are not.A company spokesperson said that they are looking into the matter and working as quickly as possible to share information.March 17: 4:07 p.m.: Four Nets players test positive for COVID-19. "Of the four, one player is exhibiting symptoms while three are asymptomatic," the team added in a statement. "All four players are presently isolated and under the care of team physicians."March 17, 11:51 a.m.: UK confirmed coronavirus cases rise 26% to 1,950 in past 24 hours> UK confirmed coronavirus cases rise 26% to 1,950 in past 24 hours pic.twitter.com/RfgUrXMUwD> > -- Reuters (@Reuters) March 17, 2020March 17: Trump Administration Pitches 0-Billion Coronavirus Stimulus PackageU.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will ask Senate Republicans for an $850-billion stimulus package on Tuesday intended to tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.This plan includes roughly $50 billion for the struggling airline industry, the newspaper said.March 17, 4:22 a.m.: Volkswagen confirmed on Tuesday that its European plants are preparing for a shutdown of at least two weeks, mainly led by supply-chain constraints amidst coronavirus outbreak.The carmaker confirmed that 31 of its 33 Chinese production sites were back up-and-running. The company refused to issue a precise outlook for 2020, saying, "it is virtually impossible to issue a reliable forecast."March 17, 3:26 a.m.: France Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday that the country's measures to help companies and employees fight the coronavirus storm would cost €45 billion. Also, ammunition would include €300 billion of French state guarantees for bank loans to businesses.Mr. Le Maire added that the French government was assuming the economy would narrow down by almost 1% in 2020, instead of growing more than 1% as earlier estimated.March 17, 2:00 a.m.: U.S. drugmaker Pfizer has signed a deal with Germany's BioNTech SE to co-develop a potential vaccine for the coronavirus using BioNTech's mRNA-based drug development platform, the companies said on Tuesday.March 17, 12:23 a.m.: Thailand recorded 30 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, taking the total to 177, an official from the Ministry of Public Health said. He further added that Eleven of the new cases are connected to a crowded boxing match that saw a large number of coronavirus cases, while other cases are those that worked closely with foreigners.March 17, 12:19 a.m.: Amazon.com announced that it would hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the U.S. in order to handle the rising online orders. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, many consumers have turned to the web to meet their needs.Like Amazon, U.S. supermarket chains Albertsons, Kroger and Raley's have sought new hires to staff busy sections and fulfill online orders.March 17, 12:17 a.m.: Tesla CEO Elon Musk told its employees in an email that they don't have to come to work if they're sick or concerned about the coronavirus. To his knowledge, Musk said that no Tesla employees have tested positive for COVID-19."Much is made of public gatherings, but please be cautious of family gatherings, too," he said. "What is relatively harmless to a child can be dangerous to grandparents."March 16, 11:45 p.m.: Japan's economy narrowed at a 7.1% annualized rate in October-December with economists expecting another contraction in the current period.According to the Reuters Tankan survey, Japanese business confidence plunged to decade lows in March amid the coronavirus outbreak. The sentiment index at manufacturers fell to minus 20 in March from minus 5 in the previous month, while the service-sector gauge dropped 25 points to minus 10, the poll showed. A negative figure means pessimists outnumber optimists.March 16, 11:18 p.m.: As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the globe and more governments lock down borders, there is a clear shift in the epicenter with cases outside China surpassing those inside it.The central Chinese city of Wuhan that was the former epicenter where the viral illness was first detected in December, was down to just one new case on Tuesday. Overall, China reported 21 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, 20 of them imported.China this week relaxed travel restrictions in Hubei, sending thousands of workers back to long-shuttered factories. March 16, 11:06 p.m.: According to the state planner, China's economy will return to normal in the second quarter as government support measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus epidemic take effect. Officials from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also told reporters during a briefing that China has ample policy tools and will roll out relevant measures at an appropriate time.March 16, 9:47 p.m.: In response to the wide impact of the coronavirus epidemic, the Philippines became the first country to halt its stock, bond and currency trading effective Tuesday, until further notice. The virus has infected at least 140 people in the Philippines and killed a dozen.The US-listed exchange-traded fund that tracks the Philippine market plunged 19.5% on Monday after the bourse announced it was shutting.March 16, 9:14 p.m.: As the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the U.S., The House unanimously passed a revised coronavirus emergency bill sending it to the Senate to take it up. The Senate could take up The House's multi-billion package as early as Tuesday.March 16, 9:33 p.m.: Amid the battle to combat the coronavirus outbreak, New Zealand has announced a .1 billion (representing 4% of GDP) economic rescue package. A major share of $5.1 billion will be for wage subsidies for affected businesses in all sectors and regions, effective Tuesday.A dedicated $500 million fund for health was also announced. It includes extra intensive care capacity and equipment for hospitals, support for GPs and primary care and improving video conferencing and telehealth consultations.March 16, 7:46 p.m.: To combat the coronavirus outbreak, the California Legislature approved up to billion in new spending on Monday and further suspended work for the next month amid efforts to contain the illness.Lawmakers agreed on Monday to stay away until April 13, the first unexpected work stoppage in 158 years. But legislative leaders in either chamber can decide to reconvene, and they can extend the recess if necessary.March 16, 4:00 p.m.: President Trump has advised to not hold gatherings of more than 10 individuals for the next 15 days. He also said the economy might already be in a recession and that the CDC has recommended people stop visiting bars and restaurants, but he didn't go as far as to mandate that they shut down.March 16, 2:45 p.m.: Actor Idris Elba announces he has tested positive for COVID-19> This morning I tested positive for Covid 19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I'm doing No panic. pic.twitter.com/Lg7HVMZglZ> -- Idris Elba (@idriselba) March 16, 2020March 16, 2:00 p.m.: The MLB has announced it is suspending opening season:> MLB statement pic.twitter.com/kQ2YqEkBH1> > -- Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) March 16, 2020March 16, 12:56 p.m.: Coronavirus vaccine test opens as U.S. volunteer gets first shot, according to The Associated Press.March 16, 9:30 a.m.: Trading was halted at the market open as the S&P fell down 7% and triggered a ciruit breaker.March 16, 8:51 a.m.: Health and Human Services has suffered a cyber attack, according to Bloomberg. "The attack appears to have been intended to slow the agency's systems down, but didn't do so in any meaningful way, said the people, who asked for anonymity to discuss an incident that was not public"March 16, 4:24 a.m.: Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Monday that the government would create a $4 billion anti-crisis fund to shield its economy from the coronavirus epidemic.He further added that new support measures would include tax breaks for tourism and airline companies and that Russia would expand its preferential loans program for businesses.Russia may miss its growth targets this year as a sharp drop in the oil price, the country's main export, has led the ruble sinking to four-year lows against the dollar.March 16, 4:00 a.m.: With retail, manufacturing sectors facing rising input costs, an outbreak of coronavirus is estimated to cost the Egyptian economy $6.4 billion in the first quarter.Tourism, aviation and real estate sectors were impacted the most, according to Abdel El Moneem El Sayed, Chairman of Cairo Centre for Economic and Strategic Studies. "If the economic impact spills over into the second quarter, this figure is expected to double," he further added.March 16, 3:03 a.m.: National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Monday revealed a year-over-year dip of 13.5% in China industrial output for January - February, during the coronavirus outbreak. It's the fastest pace of decline in three decades, which reflects greater damage than the global financial crisis. China's jobless rate rose to 6.2% in February, compared with 5.2% in December and the highest since the official records were published.March 16, 3:00 a.m.: New York and Los Angeles city mayors ordered restaurants, gyms, theaters, bars and movie theaters closed in an effort to contain the epidemic. Only via delivery or take-out options would be available for selling food.Separately, New York City would shut the U.S. largest public school system as early as Tuesday, sending over 1.1 million children home. MGM resorts announced that all Las Vegas casinos would be closed until further notice.March 16, 1:30 a.m.: After the U.S. interest rate cut overnight, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) decided on additional easing measures at a policy board meeting on Monday amid coronavirus outbreak.BOJ decided to raise the annual corporate bond purchase target by ¥2 trillion and to introduce a new corporate loan plan.March 16, 1:15 a.m.: Turkey Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Monday that the country had recorded 12 new cases making it the highest daily rise since it announced its first case last week.March 16, 12:34 a.m.: While Google is still working on a coronavirus screening and tracking website, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing team has already launched a web portal for tracking COVID-19 infections worldwide.The COVID-19 Tracker, accessible at bing.com/covid, currently lists 168,835 as total confirmed cases, 84,558 active cases, 77,761 recovered cases and 6,516 deaths. March 16, 12:07 a.m.: A clinical trial for a vaccine against the coronavirus will begin on Monday at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. The first participants (45 young, healthy volunteers) will be funded by the National Institutes of Health, and it would take 12 to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine.At the same time, Israeli scientists are on the verge of developing a vaccine themselves, The Jerusalem Post reported. They have been for the last four years already developing a vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus, which affects poultry.March 15, 11:15 p.m.: Alphabet Inc.'s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google has partnered with the U.S. government to launch a nationwide website on Monday dedicated to coronavirus health information, education, prevention, and local resources.Also, Alphabet's life sciences company Verily is collaborating with the California Governor's office, federal, state and local public health authorities to launch a pilot of a COVID-19 testing website in the San Francisco Bay Area Monday. The pilot program will begin in the Bay Area because it has the highest volume of known cases.March 15, 10:25 p.m.: The hardest hit in European countries, Italy recorded 368 new coronavirus deaths - its largest number of fatalities in a day since the start of the outbreak.March 15, 9:44 p.m.: The Financial Services Forum, which represents eight of the nation's largest banks, agreed to stop buying back their own shares through the second quarter.Amidst the coronavirus epidemic, the banks said that they would focus on supporting individuals, small businesses and the broader economy through lending and other important services. The eight banks, which include JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), had earlier decided to repurchase $119 billion of shares in the four quarters.March 15, 9:35 p.m.: The Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe made a statement that "the bank stands ready to purchase Australian government bonds in the secondary market to support the smooth functioning of that market, which is a key pricing benchmark for the Australian financial system."March 15, 9:13 p.m.: In the early stages of the 2020 Democratic debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, coronavirus dominated with the White House hopefuls portraying to be better equipped to handle the crisis than President Donald Trump.March 15, 6:56 p.m.: With 14 new cases of the coronavirus in Australia's capital Victoria reported overnight, a state of emergency has been declared to contain the spread. Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and South Australia also declared a state of emergency as total cases in the continent stand at 300.Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the national 14-day isolation sanction for all travelers into Australia.March 15, 5:14 p.m.: The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates to 0-0.25% amid coronavirus pandemic.March 15, 3:53 p.m.: According to Public Health England (PHE), every four in five are expected to contract the coronavirus in the U.K. With the epidemic rising, almost 80% of the population is estimated to be infected in the next 12 months. It may lead to 7.9 million (15% of the population) people requiring hospitalization lasting until next spring. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, says, " it will dip in the summer, towards the end of June, and come back in November, in the way that usual seasonal flu does. I think it will be around forever, but become less severe over time, as immunity builds up."March 15, 2:20 p.m.: President Trump tested negative for the novel coronavirus. "Last night, after an in-depth discussion with the President regarding COVID-19 testing, he elected to proceed," Sean Conley, the physician to the president, said in a statement released by the White House. "This evening I received confirmation that the test is negative."March 15, 9 a.m.: Nike (NYSE: NKE) will close its retail stores across the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand through March 27.March 14, 5 p.m.: Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ: LULU) will shorten hours at its retail outlets and also suspend yoga classes and run clubs.March 14, 12:31 p.m.: President Trump, at a Saturday White House press conference, says he has been tested for the coronavirus and the test will be completed in the next few days.The Trump administration also confirmed it will be adding Ireland and the U.K. to the list of countries on the coronavirus travel ban.March 14, 11 a.m.: Apple announced it will be closing all retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27.March 13, 3:33 p.m.: President Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus. The emergency declaration will make $50 billion available for states, Trump said from the White House Rose Garden The money can be used for a variety of needs, such as paying for tests, supplies, vaccination and extra help from medical workers, he said.March 13, 1:32 p.m.: Louisiana becomes first state to postpone Democratic primary.> BREAKING Louisiana 1st US state to postpone Democratic primary over virus: official pic.twitter.com/hKPEo4QOEt> > -- AFP news agency (@AFP) March 13, 2020March 13, 11:07 a.m.: President Trump announced he will hold a press conference at the White House at 3 p.m. EST to address the coronavirus pandemic.> I will be having a news conference today at 3:00 P.M., The White House. Topic: CoronaVirus!> > -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020March 13, 10:06 a.m.: The PGA has cancelled The Masters and has posted a statement to their official Twitter account.> Statement from Chairman Ridley:> > "Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone @TheMasters, @anwagolf and @DriveChipPutt National Finals."> > Full details at https://t.co/FX2AN1MLsY pic.twitter.com/Z2DjS5TYdG> > -- The Masters (@TheMasters) March 13, 2020March 13, 9:10 a.m.: The FDA has granted "emergency use" to a new coronavirus test that could prove to be up to 10-times faster than current tests, as reported by Bloomberg.Also, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has reopened all its stores in China as cases of the virus steadily decline.March 13, 3:48 a.m.: Kenya's Minister of Health Mutahi Kagwe announced that the first case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in the country, reported Reuters. The patient, who was diagnosed March 12, had traveled to Kenya from the U.S. via London.Kagwe said that the government has taken preventative measures and is monitoring the patient who is stable, reported Standard Media. They are also in the process of tracing all the people who've been in contact with the patient. March 13, 2:45 a.m.: Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced on Friday that he tested positive for the coronavirus.March 13, 2:08 a.m.: Google reported that an employee from one of its South India offices, in Bengaluru, has been confirmed positive with COVID-19. Employees from the office have been requested to work from home.March 13, 12:50 a.m.: China's Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, has recorded five new cases on Friday with no locally transmitted infections in the rest of the country, reported ABS-CBN News.National Health Commission reported that for the second time in a row, the count is less than 10 with the previous day recording 8 cases. "Broadly speaking, the peak of the epidemic has passed for China," commission spokesman Mi Feng said, according to Reuters.March 12, 10:00 p.m.: Italy's Civil Protection Agency said that the country's death toll from the coronavirus has surged 23% to 1,016 in the past 24 hours, with a total of 5,113 people infected.March 12, 5:38 p.m.: The opening race of the 2020 Formula One season, Grand Prix in Melbourne scheduled for Sunday, has been canceled amid rising coronavirus fears.McLaren pulled out of the race after a member of its crew tested positive for coronavirus while in Melbourne.March 12, 4:45 p.m.: Disneyland (NYSE: DIS) California and California Adventure will close through April starting Saturday.March Madness has been officially cancelled.> Turner Sports and CBS Sports Joint Statement on Cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament: pic.twitter.com/pBpzxUs5fL> > -- March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) March 12, 2020March 12, 3:00 p.m.: The U.S. Federal Reserve announced a new plan to pump trillion in additional liquidity into the financial system."These changes are being made to address highly unusual disruptions in Treasury financing markets associated with the coronavirus outbreak," the Fed said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.March 12, 1:35 p.m.: The National Hockey League said it is pausing its 2019-20 regular season due to coronavirus concerns, with 189 games remaining. March 12, 1:15 p.m.: Intercontinental Exchange Inc (NYSE: ICE), which owns the NYSE, adopted early precautions to preempt the spread of the coronavirus. It called off tours, blocked visitors and cancelled the traditional executive bell-ringing.March 12, 12:30 p.m.: Dr Robert Redfield, head of CDC, has committed the department to cover the full cost of testing and isolation for any and all Americans regardless of insurance.March 12, 12 p.m.: The Big 10 has cancelled the remainder of the Big Ten tournamentThe Big Ten Conference announced today that it will be canceling the remainder of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament, effective immediately.> The Big Ten Conference announced today that it will be canceling the remainder of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament, effective immediately.https://t.co/MeQMNScXKQ> > -- Big Ten Conference (@bigten) March 12, 2020March 12, 11:15 a.m.: Coronavirus expert Dr. Fauci and CDC head Dr. Redfield testify before HouseMarch 12, 11 a.m.: Joe Biden To Address Coronavirus From HometownBiden plans to deliver a speech Thursday from his hometown in Wilmington, Del., on the coronavirus pandemic, an effort to show leadership on an issue that has become central to the campaign while President Trump faces criticism for having played down the severity of the global crisis.March 12, 9 a.m.: Carnival Corp's (NYSE: CCL) Princess Cruises has taken the initiative and announced a voluntary pause of worldwide cruises for 60 days due to the coronavirus spread.Princess Cruises says it plans to be back in operation by May 11.March 12, 7 a.m.: The global coronavirus pandemic is likely to be over by June, according to Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government's senior medical adviser.Also: What You'll Need To Have At Home In Case Of Quarantine March 11, 9:31 p.m.: The NBA suspends its season until further notice after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.March 11, 9:14 p.m.: Actor Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife Rite have contracted the coronavirus.March 11, 9:05 p.m.: President Donald Trump declared a 30-day travel ban from Europe to the United States, effective March 13.March 11, 4:45 p.m. ET: NCAA President Mark Emmert said NCAA Division I basketball tournament games will be played without fans in the arenas.March 11: The World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus as a pandemic. The organization defines a pandemic as a disease that has become widespread around the world. WHO is "deeply concerned" by the "spread and severity" of the virus, said director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom.All The Major Events Canceled By Coronavirus The Latest: The Latest: MLB and NHL Suspends Seasons Also: Sandler Joins Chorus Of Entertainers To Postpone/Cancel Tours Adam Sandler decided to postpone his March tour dates. The will offer refunds, but promised that tickets will still be honored at a later date if they are not returned.Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus has called off a trip to Australia; Madonna shows in Paris have been cancelled after French authorities banned large gatherings; Pearl Jam postponed its U.S. and Canada tour.For the latest on events cancelled due to coronavirus, go here.How Coronavirus Has Grown In The U.S. Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 17Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 13Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 12Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 11Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 10Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 9Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 6Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 5Below is a snapshot of confirmed COVID-19 cases in North America as of March 4. Screenshot courtesy of Johns Hopkins University.See more from Benzinga * Why Caterpillar's Stock Is Trading Higher Today * Why SiriusXM's Stock Is Trading Higher Today * Airlines, Governments And 3PLs Get Creative With Emergency Airlifts(C) 2020 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 15:31:39 -0400
  • AP FACT CHECK: Trump's misfires on virus death rates, tests

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    Facing a grim reality of surging coronavirus cases, President Donald Trump is making premature assertions about relatively low death rates in the U.S. and revising history about how seriously he viewed the threat, including the need for ventilators. THE FACTS: His suggestion that the U.S. response is better than other countries' because its mortality rate is “just about the lowest” is unsupported and misleading.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 14:49:18 -0400
  • Syria: Air defenses down missiles from Israeli warplanes

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  • U.S. might rethink Iran sanctions in light of coronavirus outbreak -Pompeo

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  • Virus disrupts pregnancy plans, raises anxiety and questions

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    Some pregnant women fear giving birth with no loved ones by their side. The coronavirus pandemic has injected anxiety and uncertainty to an already stressful time and while science about risks is mostly reassuring, doctors want clearer answers too. “There is very limited information available,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a George Washington University public health specialist.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 14:02:07 -0400
  • Keep global food supply chains intact - WTO, UN agencies urge

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:35:03 -0400
  • 'It is ungodly': students react to Liberty University reopening

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    Jerry Falwell Jr, the evangelical institution’s president, faced criticism for downplaying coronavirus risks when inviting students to return to campus * Coronavirus – latest US updates * Coronavirus – latest global updates * See all our coronavirus coverageWith cases of Covid-19 rising rapidly across the US, last week was a strange time for Jerry Falwell Jr to decide to reopen Liberty University.Originally, in keeping with other universities in Virginia, Falwell, the institution’s president. said that only international students or those with nowhere else to go would remain. But on Sunday he welcomed over a thousand students back to campus housing.Falwell Jr had previously compared Covid-19 to the flu, posited that there has been an “overreaction” to the pandemic intended to hurt Donald Trump, and insinuated that the virus was a “Christmas present” from North Korea and China.Falwell Jr told Fox News last Tuesday that students wanted to be there – indeed, some have spoken up in favor of his decision. But others are watching events unfold with a heavy heart.“I’m a pro-life advocate for all ages,” said Jess Schama, a 24-year-old history major at Liberty University.Referencing Falwell’s comments in a Twitter thread, in which he said that young people are unlikely to die from contracting Covid-19, Schama said: “I don’t think that people, even at my age, should be subjected to a virus that could potentially kill. It is so hypocritical that people who would advocate pro-life are OK with this.”> I don’t want to become one of these college presidents who are pushing this problem off on someone else by sending 20 year olds with near zero mortality risk to sit at home for the rest of the semester, often with grandparents in the house who truly are at risk. (2/4)> > — Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) March 15, 2020Schama has an underlying health condition and said she would have feared for her life every day if she remained on campus. Furthermore, while the mortality rate for those under 50 is much lower than for the elderly, a CDC report last week confirmed that with regard to US hospitalizations, of those admitted to intensive care, 36% were aged 45-64 years and 12% were aged 20-44 years.Lauren Lynch, 27, said she was upset by Falwell’s assertion that the population in Lynchburg is less vulnerable than elsewhere. As part of her studies, she works as a mental health clinician in Lynchburg. “A lot of [people here] are at risk. [Many] live in poverty – especially in downtown Lynchburg. A lot of people don’t know that, when they come here, all they see is the Liberty campus,” she said.Furthermore, while states such as New York have thousands of intensive care units, Lynchburg hospitals have 1,174 beds in total – only 55 of which are for intensive care. For that reason, Schama thinks the decision to allow students to return after periods at home during spring break is particularly irresponsible.“You’re putting those people at risk: those who don’t have healthcare, some who are already sick, while these students [come back] from all over the country – from highly populated areas like New York, New Jersey, everywhere,” she said.There is no obligation for students to return to campus, and Falwell has claimed that the school is “completely online” – despite medical, aviation and other practical classes still happening in person. He has described Liberty as being “more like an apartment complex” than a university, with the canteen only open for takeout; but the library is open, as are computer labs. Falwell said that signs remind students not to sit next to each other, and that only every third computer works to prevent students from doing so. Liberty University was contacted for comment, but did not respond in time for publication.Liberty University’s code of conduct, known as the “Liberty Way”, includes not listening to lewd music, engaging in sexual relationships, disobeying faculty members or putting others at risk.Lynch believes that Falwell has been hypocritical and does not practice what the college preaches – for example, the Liberty Way advises against name-calling, and yet, when one parent with concerns contacted Falwell on Twitter (“I’m as right wing as they get, bud. But as a parent of three of your students, I think this is crazy,” said the parent), Falwell responded by calling him a dummy.“I don’t believe he has conducted himself in a very professional manner … He is bringing a horrible name to Christianity,” said Schama.Schama said Falwell’s decision compromises students who want to do the right thing without being insubordinate. She says students have been advised when speaking to the media to remember that Liberty students “are champions for Christ, we are all Christ’s children, and we need to promote ourselves in a godly way”. Schama empathizes with those principles, and believes students should respect authority. However, as a Christian, she feels she has a duty to speak out.“At this point it doesn’t come down to how I think I should be conducting myself on social media. It comes down to what I think is right, and giving a voice to those who can’t speak up because of the potential backlash,” she says. And for her, there is a clear line when it comes to her Christian values: “Absolutely – it is ungodly to allow people to keep spreading an infection that could potentially kill people,” she says.On Sunday, the New York Times reported that one Liberty University student had tested positive for Covid-19 of three that were referred to local hospital centers for testing, while an additional eight were told to self-isolate.Schama believes the New York Times is propagating fake news, and said she had instead been going to the faculty website for updates. Still, she keeps on looking – mainly out of fear for her teachers. “I’m terrified for my lecturers. I really don’t feel like anyone’s safety has been taken into consideration,” she says.What will she do, then, if she finds out later that the numbers are correct?“A lot of people, including myself will be very upset that the university did not speak up sooner. Timing is everything. It would mean it was just putting more people at risk,” she says.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:32:20 -0400
  • Lawmakers Ask Trump To Suspend Sanctions To Help Iran Fight Coronavirus

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    U.S. policy stymies Iran's access to medicine and vital equipment, 32 members of Congress say in a letter shared exclusively with HuffPost.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:07:05 -0400
  • US finds major cross-border tunnel used to smuggle drugs

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    A large haul of drugs, including opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine, being smuggled from Mexico to California was seized from a cross-border tunnel equipped with ventilation, lighting and an underground rail system, authorities said Tuesday. The tunnel connected warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego, extending about 2,000 feet (610 meters) with an average depth of 31 feet (9.5 meters) and width of 3 feet (0.9 meter), according to the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, an investigative team made up of several federal agencies. Authorities seized more than two tons of a variety of drugs, a departure from earlier discoveries that consisted largely of marijuana.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:04:17 -0400
  • Those without broadband struggle in a stuck-at-home nation

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    In Sandwich, New Hampshire, a town of 1,200 best known as the setting for the movie “On Golden Pond," broadband is scarce. Julie Dolan, a 65-year-old retiree in Sandwich, has asthma. Dolan doubts her substandard home internet could manage a remote medical appointment, and these days no one wants to visit the doctor if they can help it.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:00:04 -0400
  • UN begins home food drops for Gaza's needy to stem virus

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    A U.N. aid agency Tuesday began delivering food to the homes of impoverished Palestinians instead of making them pick up such parcels at crowded distribution centers — part of an attempt to prevent a mass outbreak of the new coronavirus in the densely populated Gaza Strip. As the virus continued to spread across the Middle East, Iran, the hardest-hit country in the region, reported 141 new deaths, pushing the death toll closer to 3,000 people. Late Tuesday, Gaza's Health Ministry said two more cases have been confirmed among travelers who returned from Egypt, bringing the number to 12.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 12:56:36 -0400
  • Almost half of U.S. foreign-born in past decade had college

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    Almost half of the foreign-born who moved to the U.S. in the past decade were college-educated, a level of education greatly exceeding immigrants from previous decades, as the arrival of highly skilled workers supplanted workers in fields like construction that shrunk after the Great Recession. New figures released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau show that 47% of the foreign-born population who arrived in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019 had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 36% of native-born Americans and 31% of the foreign-born population who entered the country in or before 2009. What resulted were drops in immigration from Latin America and increases in Asian immigrants who tended to be better educated, experts said.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 12:37:19 -0400
  • US warship captain seeks crew isolation as virus spreads

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    The captain of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier facing a growing outbreak of the coronavirus is asking for permission to isolate the bulk of his roughly 5,000 crew members on shore, which would take the warship out of duty in an effort to save lives. In a memo to Navy leaders, the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt said that the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating and that removing all but 10% of the crew is a “necessary risk” in order to stop the spread of the virus. Navy leaders on Tuesday were scrambling to determine how to best respond to the extraordinary request as dozens of crew members tested positive.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 12:35:42 -0400
  • Trump’s Energy Dominance Gives Way to Incoherence

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The long arc of the American dream of energy independence, having recently soared Icarus-like toward energy dominance, has finally crashed ignominiously into energy incoherence.Since early on in his term, President Donald Trump has boasted about U.S. fossil fuels giving him the whip hand. Yet there was a fatal flaw in his cunning plan: The domestic industries backing him weren’t quite up to the job. Coal policy has been one long exercise in white-boarding ways of  forcing the market by fiat to take more of something it manifestly doesn’t want. With oil and gas, freedom fracks turned out to rest on the unconditional support of capital markets — and the latter now have some rather exacting conditions.Hence, this week’s spectacle of Trump calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to ease up on his oil price war with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Parsley Energy Inc. have written to the Texas Railroad Commission seeking an OPEC-style coordinated cut in oil production in order to preserve “U.S. energy independence,” which they say was a result of “private enterprise and innovation.”There’s much to unpack there, but it’s crucial to take a moment to acknowledge one other development this week: Trump’s announcement of measures to gut the vehicle fuel-economy targets set by the previous administration.Allow me to summarize: America is now so energy dominant that its president seeks favors from an adversary to help bail out domestic oil producers, while simultaneously rolling back policies that would reduce U.S. dependence on oil. Think about another oil shock, the one in 1973 that scarred the baby boomers and sparked America’s independence fetish in the first place. That year, oil demand in the OECD countries outstripped their own supply by almost 27 million barrels a day. A decade later, that gap was just under 18 million a day. Where did those 8.9 million barrels a day go? Half of it was increased production as regions like the North Sea and Alaska really got going. But the other half was reduced demand; partly a function of recession but, more structurally, a concerted effort to stop using oil in power plants and make do with more efficient vehicles.Given the call to the Kremlin this week, let’s add a geopolitical layer to this. Somehow, the U.S. survived and prospered after Saudi Arabia, among others, effectively turned off the oil taps in the 1970s. The following decade, the Soviet Union collapsed partly because it couldn’t handle Saudi Arabia opening the oil taps. The U.S. did well because it used its “private enterprise and innovation” — to borrow Pioneer’s and Parsley’s phrase — to diversify its energy options. The Soviet Union, never particularly famous for those attributes, remained addicted to oil, albeit as a hopeless dealer unable to weather a price drop for what it was pushing.The frackers seeking political help are correct in observing that Covid-19 is an “extraordinary, unforeseeable crisis.” But just as Trump tries to give the coronavirus a Chinese passport to gloss over his administration’s shortcomings, the E&P industry seeks to blame its predicament entirely on external forces. Only last week, Scott Sheffield, Pioneer’s CEO, said in an interview with CNBC that the crash would leave only about 10 publicly traded U.S. oil producers with decent balance sheets versus dozens of “ghosts and zombies” carrying too much debt. That somehow didn’t make it into his letter on Monday, but it rather hints at an underlying problem in this business all of its own making. Here’s a stab at a new approach. First, admit that the Covid-19 demand shock won’t be offset by a coordinated supply cut even if you could arrange it. A supply cut is coming anyway as storage space fills and prices crater. It will be painful, and the government should help the workers and communities affected most by this ( not highly paid CEOs). Second, recognize that the supposed leverage over foreign powers provided by fracking has evaporated along with the industry’s access to the high-yield bond market. The industry will survive, but it will have to restructure and cool its jets.Finally, rather than debase America by horse-trading for an extra $5 on the price of oil (sorry, drivers, there are Texas’ electoral college votes to think about), how about using our technological edge to reduce dependence on oil in the first place? Then the country might be able to act with a bit more (what’s the word?) independence. Step one on that front: Don’t launch a war on efficiency standards that makes even some car manufacturers uneasy. Suggested slogan? “Energy intelligence” has a nice, if somewhat less macho, ring to it.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.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 12:33:17 -0400
  • Trump’s Energy Dominance Gives Way to Incoherence

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The long arc of the American dream of energy independence, having recently soared Icarus-like toward energy dominance, has finally crashed ignominiously into energy incoherence.Since early on in his term, President Donald Trump has boasted about U.S. fossil fuels giving him the whip hand. Yet there was a fatal flaw in his cunning plan: The domestic industries backing him weren’t quite up to the job. Coal policy has been one long exercise in white-boarding ways of  forcing the market by fiat to take more of something it manifestly doesn’t want. With oil and gas, freedom fracks turned out to rest on the unconditional support of capital markets — and the latter now have some rather exacting conditions.Hence, this week’s spectacle of Trump calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to ease up on his oil price war with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Parsley Energy Inc. have written to the Texas Railroad Commission seeking an OPEC-style coordinated cut in oil production in order to preserve “U.S. energy independence,” which they say was a result of “private enterprise and innovation.”There’s much to unpack there, but it’s crucial to take a moment to acknowledge one other development this week: Trump’s announcement of measures to gut the vehicle fuel-economy targets set by the previous administration.Allow me to summarize: America is now so energy dominant that its president seeks favors from an adversary to help bail out domestic oil producers, while simultaneously rolling back policies that would reduce U.S. dependence on oil. Think about another oil shock, the one in 1973 that scarred the baby boomers and sparked America’s independence fetish in the first place. That year, oil demand in the OECD countries outstripped their own supply by almost 27 million barrels a day. A decade later, that gap was just under 18 million a day. Where did those 8.9 million barrels a day go? Half of it was increased production as regions like the North Sea and Alaska really got going. But the other half was reduced demand; partly a function of recession but, more structurally, a concerted effort to stop using oil in power plants and make do with more efficient vehicles.Given the call to the Kremlin this week, let’s add a geopolitical layer to this. Somehow, the U.S. survived and prospered after Saudi Arabia, among others, effectively turned off the oil taps in the 1970s. The following decade, the Soviet Union collapsed partly because it couldn’t handle Saudi Arabia opening the oil taps. The U.S. did well because it used its “private enterprise and innovation” — to borrow Pioneer’s and Parsley’s phrase — to diversify its energy options. The Soviet Union, never particularly famous for those attributes, remained addicted to oil, albeit as a hopeless dealer unable to weather a price drop for what it was pushing.The frackers seeking political help are correct in observing that Covid-19 is an “extraordinary, unforeseeable crisis.” But just as Trump tries to give the coronavirus a Chinese passport to gloss over his administration’s shortcomings, the E&P industry seeks to blame its predicament entirely on external forces. Only last week, Scott Sheffield, Pioneer’s CEO, said in an interview with CNBC that the crash would leave only about 10 publicly traded U.S. oil producers with decent balance sheets versus dozens of “ghosts and zombies” carrying too much debt. That somehow didn’t make it into his letter on Monday, but it rather hints at an underlying problem in this business all of its own making. Here’s a stab at a new approach. First, admit that the Covid-19 demand shock won’t be offset by a coordinated supply cut even if you could arrange it. A supply cut is coming anyway as storage space fills and prices crater. It will be painful, and the government should help the workers and communities affected most by this ( not highly paid CEOs). Second, recognize that the supposed leverage over foreign powers provided by fracking has evaporated along with the industry’s access to the high-yield bond market. The industry will survive, but it will have to restructure and cool its jets.Finally, rather than debase America by horse-trading for an extra $5 on the price of oil (sorry, drivers, there are Texas’ electoral college votes to think about), how about using our technological edge to reduce dependence on oil in the first place? Then the country might be able to act with a bit more (what’s the word?) independence. Step one on that front: Don’t launch a war on efficiency standards that makes even some car manufacturers uneasy. Suggested slogan? “Energy intelligence” has a nice, if somewhat less macho, ring to it.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.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 12:33:17 -0400
  • Nursing homes have too few body bags, many uncounted dead

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    One by one, elderly residents of French nursing homes are going into forced isolation into their rooms. Governments in Europe's hardest-hit countries — Italy, Spain and France — are not routinely testing for coronavirus among elderly residents who fall ill in nursing homes or even those who eventually die there, including those who suffered from symptoms of the disease. The three countries together make up around a third of the global pandemic's confirmed cases, and the lack of testing leaves hundreds, potentially thousands, of victims of the disease uncounted as health authorities try to trace its path.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 12:00:21 -0400
  • G-20 Pivots as Emergency Aid Focus Turns to Developing World

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 11:42:19 -0400
  • Un-baaaaa-lievable: Goats invade locked-down Welsh town

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    Un-baaaaa-lievable: This wild bunch is completely ignoring rules on social distancing. With humans sheltering indoors to escape the new coronavirus, mountain goats are taking advantage of the peace and space to roam in frisky clumps through the streets of Llandudno, a town in North Wales. Andrew Stuart, a video producer for the Manchester Evening News, has been posting videos of the furry adventurers on his Twitter feed and they are racking up hundreds of thousands of views.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 11:24:28 -0400
  • Companies find a new purpose; workplace rules have changed

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    The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments on Tuesday related to the global economy, the work place and the spread of the virus. Less than a week after saying it planned to reopen five North American assembly plants, Ford has decided that those facilities will remain closed indefinitely.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 10:57:36 -0400
  • US ignores calls to suspend Venezuela and Iran sanctions amid coronavirus pandemic

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    Spread of coronavirus has not slowed drumbeat of successive layers of punitive measures imposed by the state department * Coronavirus – live US updates * Live global updates * See all our coronavirus coverageAt a time when all of humanity is facing a common, invisible, enemy, world leaders have called for a suspension of economic sanctions that have increasingly become the pursuit of war by other means.The Trump administration has responded so far by ignoring those appeals and intensifying punitive measures on the two nations it has identified as America’s greatest enemies: Iran and Venezuela.The spread of coronavirus has not slowed the regular drumbeat of successive layers of sanctions imposed by the state department on Iran. Last week, a new list of people and companies linked to the Revolutionary Guard was targeted.On the same day, the justice department unveiled drug trafficking and money-laundering charges against Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and 14 top current and former officials.Briefing the press on the indictment, attorney general William Barr left little doubt about their political nature, portraying the coincidence with the pandemic as serendipity, claiming it will spur on regime change.“It’s good timing, actually,” he said. “The people in Venezuela are suffering, and they need an effective government that responds to the people.”Peter Harrell, a former senior sanctions official at the state department, said: “The administration is taking a kind of ‘kick them while they’re down’ approach, seemingly with the hope that by piling on sanctions and other actions, the administration can capitalize on the virus in Iran and Venezuela to spur greater public opposition to the incumbent governments and perhaps regime change.”The US laid out a new plan for Venezuela on Tuesday, calling it a “democratic transition framework”, proposing Maduro step aside, foreign forces leave the country, and the creation of an interim government, a “council of state” chosen by the major factions of the opposition-run national assembly, in return for sanctions relief.In terms of actual concrete economic damage, last Thursday’s new measures are unlikely to make much difference. Iran and Venezuela are so heavily sanctioned already that there is precious little income left to cut off. But they signal US determination not to relent even in the face of a mounting coronavirus death toll.The new measures have been imposed at a time when both countries, long mired by chronic mismanagement and corruption – are facing plunging oil prices on which both producer nations are dependent for foreign currency.In Tehran, government ineptitude allowed coronavirus to spread unhindered for weeks before serious action was taken. There are now more than 40,000 infections and 2,757 deaths in the country.“The government’s response to the outbreak of Covid-19 in the early weeks is really responsible for where the country is today,” said Ariane Tabatabai, a scholar at Columbia University.In Venezuela, the pandemic has yet to hit in full force: just over 100 cases have so far been reported. But the country is in an even worse state to cope when it does, with disastrous results for its population and the region, home to some 5 million Venezuelan refugees.Only a quarter of Venezuela’s doctors have access to a reliable supply of water and two-thirds are without soap, gloves or masks. There are 73 intensive care beds in the whole country.“If the virus were to take off in Venezuela, and the country were not to receive a huge injection of international support, it would face an absolute disaster,” said Ivan Briscoe, Latin American and Caribbean director at the International Crisis Group.The United Nations secretary general António Guterres, and other top UN officials have called for a sanctions ceasefire around the world“In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us,” Michelle Bachelet, the UN commissioner for human rights, said. “The populations in these countries are in no way responsible for the policies being targeted by sanctions, and to varying degrees have already been living in a precarious situation for prolonged periods.”The Trump administration has insisted that its sanctions regimes are aimed at the governments of Iran and Venezuela and not their populations.It points to exemptions for humanitarian goods, which were established in the last days of the Obama administration.However, such exemptions exist more in theory than in reality. International banks are so skittish about handling any kind of trade with Iran that it is almost impossible to get financing for humanitarian goods purchases.Adding to the uncertainty, some medical equipment that has become essential for fighting the coronavirus is on a list of dual-use items that requires specific US Treasury authorisation. The line between permissible and forbidden items is badly defined.Even before the pandemic hit, the US sought to open up a separate channel for humanitarian goods, through Switzerland, but it is mainly relevant for companies with Swiss subsidiaries and suffered from the same uncertainties as other channels.“The consequence of all that is that Iran has a really hard time making speedy and reliable payments for these types of humanitarian items,” Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, an expert on economic diplomacy and founder of the Bourse & Bazaar. “What that means right now, when you’re dealing with an acute crisis like this and you have a sudden surge in demand. Iran is basically going to be at the back of the line.”On Tuesday, the long-delayed first export was made through a European payments mechanism, Instex, set up 14 months ago to insulate Iran from US sanctions. According to the Wall Street Journal, the shipment was of medical equipment worth 500,000 euros, ordered before the coronavirus outbreak.Venezuela is already selling its oil at a significant discount and the price collapse could make it uneconomical to export. At the same time, the political standoff between Maduro and his US-backed challenger, Juan Guaidó, who are recognised as the head of state by different countries, makes it impossible for the country to get aid money. The International Monetary Fund turned down Maduro’s request for $5bn in emergency aid funds, because of the lack of clarity of who was in charge.Aware of the gravity of the situation, both sides have been in talks about the possibility of a unity government, negotiations that were disrupted by timing of the Maduro indictment – which by charging top generals at the same time, made it less likely the military would desert the incumbent leader.Sanctions advocates argue they are humane alternatives to waging war for foreign policy objectives, but in both Iran and Venezuela that argument is weakening with the advance of the pandemic.Richard Nephew, former principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the state department, said:“It is very difficult to argue that sanctions are intended to serve the best interests of the international community on the whole and the countries being targeted in particular if they are also perceived as worsening an unrelated humanitarian crisis.”

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 10:43:48 -0400
  • Russia's top coronavirus doctor who met Putin tests positive

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    The head of Moscow's main coronavirus hospital who met with President Vladimir Putin a week ago has tested positive, he said Tuesday, as the Kremlin announced the Russian leader's health was fine. Last Tuesday Denis Protsenko met with the Russian leader who inspected the Kommunarka hospital while wearing a bright yellow hazmat suit. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov swiftly told Russian news agencies that Putin took regular tests and there was no reason to worry about his health.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 10:43:33 -0400
  • Lagos lockdown over coronavirus: 'How will my children survive?'

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    Nigeria's commercial hub and the capital have gone into lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 09:31:59 -0400
  • Coronavirus: latest global developments

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    European nations deliver medical goods to Iran in the first transaction under the Instex mechanism set up in January 2019 to bypass United States sanctions on Tehran. President Donald Trump says the US will send some shipments of excess medical equipment worth around $100 million to hard-hit Italy, and later to France and Spain.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 09:16:30 -0400
  • Australia Calls on G-20 to Lead in Global Post-Virus Recovery

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    (Bloomberg) -- Australia says the Group of 20 nations must take the lead in organizing the global economic recovery after the health threat from the coronavirus starts to recede.“It must coordinate the lifting of travel, transport and production restrictions, and commit to fiscal actions that will stimulate a rebound in business activity and get people back to work,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was expected to tell a Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers on Tuesday.As the virus sweeps the world, the G-20 should plan to help put the global economy into “controlled hibernation,” Frydenberg said.“That is –- finance the global health response, maintain financial stability, minimize job losses, keep businesses going, and ensure the basic needs of the global population are met,” he said. “This includes committing to a G-20 fiscal support target, to encourage all economies to act urgently, and send a clear signal to citizens that the G-20 is doing whatever it takes.”Frydenberg also emphasized the International Monetary Fund’s role is “critical,” and called on the G-20 to assess the adequacy of its global financial safety net. “If more resources are required then we need to know soon,” he said.On Monday, Australia unleashed a record A$130 billion ($80 billion) jobs-rescue plan, pledging to subsidize workers’ wages as the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc on the economy and throws thousands out of work. The announcement brought total fiscal and monetary stimulus to buttress the economy to A$320 billion, or 16.4% of gross domestic product.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.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 09:01:00 -0400
  • What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

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    President Donald Trump warned Americans to brace for a “rough two-week period” as public health experts projected 100,000 to 240,000 people could die in the U.S. even if Americans follow social-distancing guidelines. — President Donald Trump warns Americans to brace for a “rough two-week period” ahead as the White House released new projections that there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 08:57:05 -0400
  • Extreme isolation: world's last virus-free corners hold tight

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    A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific may seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic -- but residents on Palau say life right now is far from idyllic. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometres from its nearest neighbours, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific, which has acted as a buffer against the virus.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 08:44:06 -0400
  • Third Party Testing Validates Vivakor's Kuwait Remediation Operations

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 08:30:00 -0400
  • 2 reasons – and 1 disease – that make peace in Syria so difficult

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    Despite many attempts at negotiations, the Syrian war – a conflict with a complicated and constantly changing cast of characters that has killed as many as 585,000 people and displaced over half of Syria’s prewar population – has proved extremely difficult to resolve. As the war grinds on, conditions are only getting worse. For months, the Syrian regime and its Russian allies have been engaged in an assault on Idlib, the last rebel-held region in the country. That has sparked an exodus of nearly a million people toward the now-sealed Turkish border. Although the U.N. has tried to deliver badly needed relief, many Syrians are facing winter conditions without shelter and there are reports of children freezing to death.On top of all this, Syrians are now facing the coronavirus outbreak, which poses a devastating threat to the displacement camps jammed with people fleeing the conflict, who have no opportunity to practice social distancing – or even wash their hands.I am currently working on a book about the war in Syria. The Syrians I’ve spoken with in the course of my research point to many reasons for their country’s tragedy. For many of those I spoke with, those reasons include the Assad regime itself and, for at least some, the rebels as well.But there are two factors that stand out in explaining why the war seems to be so intractable and peace so sadly elusive: First, everyone in Syria is fighting a slightly different war from everyone else. And second, the war involves lots of outside participants, all with their own goals. With a fast-spreading dangerous disease on the doorstep, the situation in Syria looks grimmer than ever. A complex mix of battles and warsThe Syrian war involves a sometimes bewildering constellation of participants. At a bare minimum, they include President Bashar al Assad’s regime; the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its associated armed wings (the YPG and YPJ); the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or IS; and the constantly shifting array of armed groups who make up “the opposition” (sometimes also referred to as “the rebels”), which have included everyone from former army officers, to foreign jihadists, to local warlords.Each group has its own objectives. The rebels and the regime seek control of Syria itself. In contrast, the Kurds and the Islamic State group were (and are) fighting to carve out entirely new territories with new boundaries and new forms of government. These conflicting objectives mean that what might appear from the outside as a single war is really a collection of semi-related subconflicts. By 2012, the nonviolent uprising against the Assad regime the had begun in the spring of 2011 had morphed into a military conflict between the regime and a range of rebel groups. While all of the rebels were bent on removing Assad from power, they often had quite divergent visions of what or who might replace him (although in most cases, the answer was “themselves”). Beginning in mid-2013, fighting erupted in the north between the Kurdish armed groups and the Islamic State group, a conflict that was largely disconnected from the war being waged elsewhere in the country. In 2018, Turkish-sponsored rebel groups attacked Kurdish territory in the north, while other rebel factions continued fighting the regime – and still others fought amongst themselves.All this infighting and complexity means that even if a settlement is reached that satisfies some groups, it is unlikely to satisfy everyone. There will almost certainly be someone left with an incentive to keep fighting. Major international forces are involvedNearly every one of these factions has support from foreign allies. The Assad regime is backed by Russia, Iran and the Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah. The various rebel factions each have their own backers, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The Kurds have received U.S. military support in their campaign against the Islamic State group – which has the dubious distinction of being so unpleasant that no nation is willing to openly support it.This outside support has enabled all the war’s participants to keep fighting for far longer than would have been possible without it. In particular, direct Russian intervention in 2015 probably saved the Assad regime.At the same time, all of these foreign parties are in Syria for their own interests. Russia hopes to preserve both its influence in the region and access to its naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus. Turkey seeks to prevent the Syrian Kurds from establishing their own autonomous territory on its southern border, fearing this would work to the advantage of the PKK, the Kurdish armed group that has been embroiled in a conflict with the Turkish state since the 1980s. Aside from some early support for some parts of the opposition, the U.S. has mostly focused on containing the Islamic State group.All have engaged in military strikes that have cost Syrian lives, including Turkish attacks on Afrin, the American bombardment of Raqqa and Russia’s assault on civilian targets across Syria. From bad to worse?Recent developments suggest that, if anything, the situation in Syria is worsening. Most of the war’s participants, including (and recently, especially) Assad’s regime, have attacked medical facilities, humanitarian aid operations and refugee camps.One new factor stands to significantly complicate the situation in Syria: If there is an outbreak of the novel coronavirus and its associated disease, COVID-19, anywhere in Syria, the results will be catastrophic. The Syrian regime has acknowledged nine cases and one death so far, though the number may well be higher. Given the poor state of the country’s health system, things will likely get much worse.Displacement camps in Syria and refugee camps outside of Syria provide ideal conditions for the spread of disease. With much of the country’s medical infrastructure and equipment damaged or destroyed, especially outside of Damascus, treatment will be extremely difficult.The Assad regime may be close to winning a bitter victory. But the country’s future doesn’t look good. For one thing, an end to the war doesn’t necessarily mean an immediate cessation of all violence; opposition forces may wage a low-grade insurgency for years to come, as has happened in Iraq.Even if violence does end, rebuilding Syria will require an enormous amount of money and human effort – both of which are in short supply there. Many of the Syrians who fled in the war’s early years were young and educated – exactly the people whose skills Syria will desperately need in order to recover. But they may not be willing to return, either out of fear of reprisals from the regime, or because they have nothing to return to.The process of rebuilding Syria will be further hampered by the regime itself; the corruption and repression that protesters objected to in 2011 remain very much a part of Assad’s government. Amnesty International has documented the use of torture against tens of thousands of Syrians, especially in the notorious Sadnaya Prison. Probably unsurprisingly, few of the Syrians I have interviewed expressed much admiration for or confidence in any of the participants in the war – neither for the various nonstate armed groups involved, nor for the regime. As complex as ending the Syrian war has proved, building the Syrian peace may prove to be almost as difficult.[Get facts about coronavirus and the latest research. Sign up for our newsletter.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * The worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century: 5 questions on Syria answered * Turkish attack on Syria endangers a remarkable democratic experiment by the KurdsOra Szekely does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 08:16:46 -0400
  • Feed the soul: In chaotic times, gardening becomes therapy

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    As spring's arrival in the Northern Hemisphere coincides with government stay-at-home orders, the itch to get outside has turned backyard gardens into a getaway for the mind in chaotic times. Gardeners who already know that working with soil is a way to connect with nature say it helps take away their worries, at least temporarily. “I love to see things grow,” Lindsay Waldrop said.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 08:15:52 -0400
  • Sierra Leone overturns ban on pregnant schoolgirls

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    The ban was introduced in 2015 as schools reopened after the Ebola crisis.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 07:37:53 -0400
  • Remote learning poses hurdles for students with disabilities

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    At school, Rose Hayes, 8, works with a team of teachers and therapists trained to help with her genetic condition. Rose, home amid the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered schools across the country, now watches lessons her teacher posts to YouTube. Rose has difficulty working on her own, so they need to stay nearby.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 07:12:07 -0400
  • 10 things you need to know today: March 31, 2020

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 06:45:00 -0400
  • Iran reports 141 new virus deaths, raising total to 2,898

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    Iran said Tuesday 141 more people have died from the novel coronavirus, raising the official toll in one of the world's worst-affected countries to 2,898. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 3,111 new infections have been confirmed over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 44,606. Iran has been scrambling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak since it reported its first cases on February 19.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 06:42:53 -0400
  • Italy Debt Time Bomb Imperils Virus Aid Rollout

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    (Bloomberg) -- As the coronavirus ravages Italy, the European Union has spent weeks arguing with itself about how to help.The disagreements have seen the Germans and Dutch line up against the Italians and French over the best way to deliver aid to economies hit by the pandemic. That has ripped open a long-held wound at the heart of the EU: the divide between north and south.As Alessandra Migliaccio and John Ainger write, there has for years been suspicion that Italy’s endless borrowing could come back to bite not just it, but more fiscally responsible EU states. And that they would once again have to clean up the mess a weaker country had made.But while the EU debates everything from bigger credit lines to coronabonds, Italy is careering toward economic danger.Even as the World Health Organization says there are signs of some stabilization in Europe’s outbreak, Italy is discussing extending its lockdown into May.The social costs are also rising. As John Follain explains, Italy’s depressed south is becoming a powder keg. Police are patrolling the streets of Sicily’s capital, Palermo, amid reports that gangs are using social media to plot looting attacks on stores. Officials worry the mafia may be stirring trouble.Part of being in a union means accepting you’re only as strong as your weakest link (unless you’re the U.K. and opt out). For the EU, that means potentially some gritted teeth and a push toward a consensus on how to respond — before Italy collapses. Global HeadlinesJust In: Spain reported 849 new coronavirus fatalities, marking its deadliest day since the crisis started.In line | Industries that missed out on the largest stimulus bill in U.S. history are already lobbying to ensure they get a piece of the next one. Restaurant owners, hotel operators, renewable power developers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among those seeking funds. Lawmakers have made it clear further help is likely.Airlines seeking aid as part of the just-passed $2.2 trillion stimulus package will be required to propose upfront how the government could retain financial stakes in their companies in exchange.Get shopping | In a bid to jump-start consumption after the virus outbreak in China, authorities are distributing vouchers and offering subsidies on larger purchases such as cars, while state media plays up stories of officials venturing out to enjoy local delights like bubble tea and pork buns. But as Dandan Li reports, many Chinese are hesitant to return to their old lives.Mind the gap | The U.K. government is under pressure from the opposition and the media over the failure to meet its target of testing 10,000 people a day for the virus. Testing levels in Germany, France and Italy far exceed the U.K., despite promises by Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who contracted the illness — that efforts are being ramped up.Punishing aid | Russian President Vladimir Putin has the U.S. to thank for helping him prepare for a global economic crisis, as the steady deluge of sanctions forced the country to boost its reserves and shed debt over the past five years. Natasha Doff and Anya Andrianova explain how the fortress approach that had been pushing Russia’s economy into stagnation is starting to look like good foresight.Costly spat | The U.S. military could put almost half of its 8,500 South Korean civilian workers on furlough amid a dispute over the Trump administration’s demands for a huge bump in troop funding. The workers, who provide services ranging from security to working in mess halls, have been told not to report to American bases as of tomorrow if the countries can’t find a way to extend a cost-sharing deal that expired on Dec. 31.What to WatchBig donors to U.S. presidential campaigns are feeling the economic pinch from the pandemic and holding onto their money just when candidates — especially Democratic front-runner Joe Biden — need it most. President Donald Trump said the U.S. might soon expand the travel ban affecting places like Europe and China to “a few more” nations. The White House could announce as early as today it will dramatically relax automobile emissions and fuel economy standards so that only modest efficiency gains are required through 2026. Vietnam ordered a nationwide 15-day lockdown starting tomorrow, banning gatherings of more than two people and forbidding residents from going outside except for essential needs.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally ... Britain has a fruit and vegetable problem. While it produces more than half of what it eats, the U.K. depends on the EU for a quarter of its food imports, most of its seasonal workers come from abroad, and a 10th of those working in agriculture are over the age of 70, a demographic particularly at risk from the virus. Some Britons are taking matters into their own hands: Sales of seeds for growing food at home are skyrocketing. 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.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 06:04:26 -0400
  • U.S. Base Workers Set for Furlough in Blow to South Korea Alliance

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    (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. military is set to put almost half of its 8,500 South Korean civilian workers on furlough, as the two sides bicker over the Trump administration’s demands for a massive increase in troop funding.About 4,000 workers have been told not to report to American military bases in South Korea as of Wednesday, if the two countries can’t find some way to extend a cost-sharing deal that expired Dec. 31. A breakthrough seems unlikely with President Donald Trump asking for as much as a five-fold increase and South Korea showing no signs of paying anywhere near that much.The furloughs, which the Hankyoreh newspaper said would be the first of their kind, will put new pressure on an alliance that Trump has repeatedly criticized since taking office three years ago. The move comes as the U.S. military struggles to keep coronavirus outbreaks from disrupting operations in South Korea and elsewhere and the allies watch for fresh provocations from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.The two sides have been deadlocked over what’s known as the Special Measures Agreement, with Trump initially demanding about $5 billion a year from South Korea to pay for U.S. security. South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration has indicated that it wouldn’t pay much more than the almost $1 billion it agreed to in a one-year stopgap deal in 2019.South Korea’s lead negotiator, Jeong Eun-bo, said in a statement Tuesday that the two sides were in the “final steps” of negotiations and expressed regret that the U.S. government went ahead with the furlough.“If the Trump administration persists in holding to this level of unreasonable demands it will seriously damage the reliability and credibility of our security alliance,” said Daniel Sneider, a lecturer in international policy at Stanford University who has written about how Japanese and Koreans view their shared history. “It feeds a strain of Korean nationalism that would want to effectively end the alliance and perhaps bring Korea, de facto, under the security umbrella of China.”In the short term, the furloughs of workers, who provide services ranging from security to manning food stations, could mean further disruptions to daily life on bases that serve some 28,000 U.S. service personnel in South Korea. In the longer term, the dispute could accelerate a realignment of an alliance that the U.S. relies on to check China, as well as North Korea.Trump has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. gets a raw deal from partners who host American troops around the world, and he’s focused particular ire on the South Korean agreement. Last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told his counterpart, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, that “as a global economic powerhouse and an equal partner in the preservation of peace on the peninsula, South Korea can and should contribute more to its defense.”South Korea’s National Assembly must sign off on any deal and Trump’s demands have brought about a rare moment of unity from progressives and conservatives in the country who see them as unreasonable. With parliamentary elections set for April 15, siding with Washington could lead to defeat at the ballot box.Missiles Fly“We are currently trying our best to ensure our joint defense posture goes unhindered as well to protect our Korean workers,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said. The USFK Korean Employees Union, which represents the workers, said in a statement last week that negotiations “cannot end with the way the U.S. government and President Trump wants.”Negotiators from the U.S. and South Korea met earlier this month in Los Angeles but a wide gap remains between the two sides, according to a State Department spokesman who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. The official said that South Korea will need to show more focus and flexibility to reach a deal, without specifying what the U.S. is asking or what South Korea is offering.While the U.S. and South Korea have been bargaining, North Korea has been busy testing new types of solid-fuel, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles designed to strike anywhere on the peninsula and evade U.S. interceptors. It has fired off at least nine in March alone, a record for a month.Kim warned on Dec. 31 that bigger provocations could soon come, saying he was no longer bound by a previous promise to halt testing of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. On Monday, a top diplomat was quoted in a state media report issuing a new threat, saying Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s pressure campaign against Pyongyang will result in North Korea looking “to repay the U.S. with actual horror and unrest for the sufferings it has inflicted upon our people.”North Korea Fires Missiles Off Its East Coast; 4th Volley This Month The negotiations in South Korea could affect other U.S. allies hosting troops, such as Japan, with Esper saying the Trump administration wants them to pay more, too. Japanese officials are watching the South Korea negotiations closely with the approach of talks set to begin later this year for a U.S-Japan cost-sharing deal.Daniel Pinkston, a lecturer in international relations at Troy University in Seoul and a former Korean linguist with the U.S. Air Force, said the difficulty in reaching a troop-funding deal “sends the wrong signal to allies, competitors, and challengers who must be questioning U.S. commitments and resolve.”“It increases the likelihood of miscalculation, arms-racing, WMD proliferation, and even armed conflict,” Pinkston said.(Updates with South Korean statement in fifth 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.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 06:00:22 -0400
  • Putin’s Economic Isolation Suddenly Doesn’t Look So Bad

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    (Bloomberg) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has the U.S. Treasury Department to thank for helping his country prepare for a global economic crisis.A steady deluge of economic sanctions and the constant threat of more to come has pushed Russia’s authorities to boost reserves and strip back debt over the past five years. As governments across the globe prepare for what’s set to be the worst economic slump since 2008, the fortress approach that had been pushing Russia’s economy into stagnation is starting to look like good foresight.S&P Global Ratings maintained Russia’s credit rating at BBB- with a stable outlook on Thursday, even as it downgraded a raft of emerging markets due to a plunge in commodity prices.“Previous crises have taught Russia’s Finance Ministry and central bank how to prepare for this one,” said Karen Vartapetov, an analyst at S&P Global Ratings. “They have a lot of crisis experience.”To be sure, Russia’s dependence on commodity exports means it won’t escape a global recession. The budget is already being hammered by oil’s plunge to a 17-year low and the ruble is down 21% this year.Russia moved toward national orders banning residents from leaving their homes except for emergencies due to the spread of coronavirus, with limits taking effect Monday in Mosow and several other regions. The economy could shrink by 5%-10% this year if a full lockdown is imposed, according to a worst-case scenario being discussed by the government.Sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea block many state-owned companies from raising debt abroad, while a measure taken by Washington last year prevents U.S. investors from buying non-ruble government debt. The penalties have left Russia with one of the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios in emerging markets. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said last year that Russia has enough reserves to allow it to survive without borrowing for at least a year.Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has been funneling excess revenues from taxes on oil exports into a giant rainy-day fund, making Russia’s international reserves the fourth biggest in the world. So far Putin hasn’t shown much inclination to tap the funds as virus stimulus, announcing instead a plan to boost the budget through taxes on dividends and large bank deposits.Russia’s continual crisis preparations have come at a cost to the economy, which has stagnated in the past five years. Before the coronavirus outbreak and slump in global oil prices, Putin had promised to boost living standards this year by bumping up spending.One of Russia’s responses to sanctions in 2014 was to place restrictions on imports of certain foodstuffs from the U.S. and Europe. While the measure led to a sharp rise in domestic prices, it also increased farm production, leaving Russia more resilient to distruptions in global trade.“Russia is well prepared for this very new phase of closed borders and closure of international trade and financial processes,” said Sofya Donets, a Moscow-based economist at Renaissance Capital. “It has abundant state buffers and a higher share of local products than it had previously for many consumer goods.”(Updates prices from fifth 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.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 05:49:02 -0400
  • Iran's death toll from coronavirus climbs to 2,898 - health official

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 05:39:08 -0400
  • Commander: Kurdish forces end riots by IS prisoners in Syria

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    Kurdish-led forces have successfully put down riots by Islamic State militants in a prison in northeast Syria with none of the prisoners escaping the facility, the top commander of the U.S.-backed forces said. Mazloum Abdi of the Syrian Democratic Forces tweeted shortly before midnight on Monday that "we were able to avoid catastrophe" in the prison in the northeastern city of Hassakeh. Kurdish authorities run more than two dozen detention facilities, scattered around northeastern Syria, holding about 10,000 IS fighters.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 04:50:16 -0400
  • A Doctor Who Met Putin Just Tested Positive, and Russia’s COVID-19 Crackdowns Could Get Real Ugly.

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    MOSCOW—Amid a growing uproar in newly locked-down Russia, news broke on Tuesday that a doctor President Vladimir Putin met with just a week ago during a highly publicized visit to a coronavirus treatment facility has now tested positive for the infection himself. Widely disseminated photos of the visit showed Putin donning an orange hazmat suit, but he had also talked to Dr. Denis Protsenko extensively without protection and photographs show them together with very little "social distancing."Putin's spokesman says the Russian president is tested frequently for coronavirus infection and is just fine. But the news is bound to shake a country already racked by uncertainty, fear, and not a little anger.“You should find abandoned cells used to punish prisoners, cold ones with no food in them, lock them up there,” Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov declared as the Russian Federation went into a nationwide lockdown over the weekend. He was telling his security force commanders how to treat those who disobeyed the curfew and quarantine orders. “Throw them in a big hole, bury them, let them die in it."Most Russian officials are not as blunt and brutal as Kadyrov, a Putin protégé and the point man for some of the more ruthless actions carried out in support of the president. But the coronavirus crisis has brought to the fore the grim authoritarian instincts of several leaders in what was once the Soviet Bloc. As their people try to find masks and rubber gloves to protect themselves, dictators are raising their iron fists, not least, to protect their regimes. Others are still trying to pretend there's no problem at the moment. The crackdowns will come later.One of the most stunning moves was taken in Hungary, a member of the European Union, where the parliament passed a bill giving Prime Minister Viktor Orbán—one of Putin’s closest EU soulmates—virtually unlimited powers to rule by decree; suspending parliament; canceling elections; threatening up to five years in prison for those who spread “fake new” and rumors (read, criticism of the regime); and up to eight years in prison for those who break the quarantine. All this for as long as Orbán wants. “And there it is,” tweeted historian and columnist Anne Applebaum, “The European Union's first dictatorship. None of these powers is needed to fight the virus. But they will help distract and deter opposition, especially when it becomes clear that the government has no better plan.”Here in the Russian capital the picture is more mixed, because Putin himself has sent messages to the public almost as confusing and contradictory as those of President Donald J. Trump in the United States.For weeks and months, as thousands began dying from the disease in China—then Italy, France, Spain, around the world and now with a vengeance in the United States—many epidemiologists warned COVID-19 will kill millions if drastic measures are not taken to stop it. But Russia delayed the actions needed to prevent the worst outbreak scenarios.Putin Worries Coronavirus Could Screw Up His Constitutional ‘Coronation’It was obvious, as we reported, that President Vladimir Putin and his supporters did not want anything to interfere with a planned April 22 referendum to ratify his continued rule for at least another 16 years. It was also apparent that Russia did not want to let anything interfere with its May 9 Victory Day celebrations marking 75 years since the defeat of the Nazis. So the official number of infections in this country that borders the Chinese and European epicenters of the spreading plague remained implausibly low.Last week, the numbers caught up with the Kremlin, as cases became too numerous to deny, and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said flatly the infection rate was much higher than the government was admitting. The number of officially diagnosed Muscovites now exceeds 1,000, with at least nine people killed by the virus. On Tuesday last week, Russia’s Channel One announced: “Our president is on the front lines of the main war on the planet, the war with coronavirus.” Over the last two decades, Russians have seen Putin as a self-styled man of action mobilizing resources to make Russia stronger, richer, greater. TV channels showed the commander-in-chief in the cockpit of a fighter jet wearing a pilot’s uniform. His shirtless shots became iconic. He even appeared to guide migrant birds as he flew an ultra-light aircraft. And now the country watched Putin in a bright yellow hazmat suit touring Moscow’s new coronavirus hospital, although it appears he did not actually meet any coronavirus patients. Putin was giving the public its cue, once again, to follow the leader. And he did meet with the hospital’s chief physician, Dr. Denis Protsenko, whose positive test for coronavirus was just announced this Tuesday.Protsenko, 44, sounded straightforward when he spoke to the BBC last week. He said he was convinced that Russia should be ready for the “Italian scenario,” and that he personally was prepared to put diapers on and work 12 hours a day in intensive care units, like Chinese doctors did at the peak of the epidemic. “I personally would put Moscow on quarantine,” he declared, adding with tact worthy of Trump advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, “The question is about the price for closing down.”But in Putin’s address to the nation the next day, he did not use the word “quarantine” at all. To the relief of many, he announced that nobody would have to go to work until April 5, but they would be paid, and nobody would have to go to the polls to vote for constitutional changes on April 22. The referendum would be postponed.“If Putin made Russians go to polling stations next month, that would threaten thousands of lives; he is careful choosing his words now, he tries to secure his reputation,” Ilya Yashin, a Moscow municipal deputy, told The Daily Beast.After coronavirus cases tripled in many Russian regions on Thursday, Putin ordered most public places closed, including city parks.“If Russia’s epidemics develop like the Italian scenario, which is quite possible, there will be no way for him to secure his reputation—the entire responsibility will be on the government,” said Yashin. If that happens, one can expect even Putin himself to show the iron fist. But for the moment in the nation’s capital that has not yet hammered down. And many Russians, a famously fatalistic people, appear unimpressed with the twin threats of tyranny and pandemic.On Sunday, most of the Russian capital’s downtown was still open, and public transport as well. Bars were closed, but young people continued to hang out in hidden corners. Skateboarders focused on their kickflips, as if no epidemic mattered. A group of hipsters outside a still-open bookstore listened to a girl read aloud, her face pink in the light of sunset. The poem was one of Joseph Brodsky’s: “They loved to sit together on a hillside...” Then on Sunday night, Russia slammed its doors a little harder, in a pattern now familiar to countries around the world: governments first try to persuade, and when that fails, as it usually does, they try to enforce the quarantines and distancing. A few hours before midnight Sunday night, authorities finally announced a complete lockdown for the capital and its 11 million residents. Police cars with loudspeakers began to order pedestrians to hurry back home: everyone in the city now had to stay in their apartments, leaving only for the closest grocery or drug store, or to walk a dog no more than 100 meters from home—the kinds of restrictions imposed in much of Western Europe for weeks now, and in Italy for more than a month. Moscow was joining the club of almost three billion self-isolating people around the globe. Moscow Mayor Sobyanin declared that the epidemic was entering “a new phase.”Yet, as of Monday, authorities reported every fifth Muscovite violated the new regime. Even pro-Kremlin Russian experts said the measures came too late—with all the terrifying examples in the West to prove the point. “It was great we closed down Russia’s border with China in January, but Moscow should have given people a week off from work earlier this month, and authorities should have banned all travel by trains and airplanes from Moscow to other regions,” pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov told The Daily Beast on Monday morning. “That would have protected more than 55 regions, which are now also infected.”  By Monday afternoon, 71 out of 85 Russian regions had reported coronavirus cases—the epidemic is spreading around the world’s largest country like windblown fire through dry grass, affecting its poorest and most vulnerable people even in remote corners of the federation.An infected resident who apparently contracted the disease on a trip to Cuba brought it to the remote town of Apatity, about 1,000 miles north of Moscow, in the Murmansk region. By the weekend, according to television reports, dozens of people in Apatity and nearby Kurskiy were checking into hospitals with coronavirus symptoms, so authorities had to shut down both towns for self-isolation on Monday.The sale of alcohol, wine as well as vodka, has jumped by at least 20 percent compared to March 2019. As for protection from the virus, there was none available. As happened in so many other countries, every pharmacy in town was out of masks and hand sanitizer. Yet many Russians found a kind of perverse courage by comparing what seemed the hypothetical threat of the virus with all too substantive difficulties and dangers of everyday life.A video clip of a song steeped in slavic fatalism mocked the pandemic. Russia is used to nightmares, it proclaimed: “First, our blood is full of alcohol, the whole of life is folded into a black hole; Authorities hypnotize us and sell us out, but we have no infected fellas in our favelas.” Why be worried about COVID-19 if you risk being eaten by a bear or getting killed by a policeman, the authors say. “We lost all our ability to be afraid,” the song concluded: “We don’t give a shit.” The polls reflect that sort of attitude. According to social research by Romir Holding, 54 percent of Russians do not believe in the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, even now, the only man Russians listen to, commander of the coronavirus war Vladimir Putin, still has not given clear instructions about the deadly outbreak, or how to avoid getting infected. Nobody clearly predicted the scale of the epidemic’s storm coming to Russia, nobody talked about the exponential growth of the outbreak in the United States and Europe except to crow as if Russia somehow were exempt.In announcing the week off, Putin did ask Russians not to rely on  traditional “avos,” the typical carelessness and fatalism traditional in the nation’s approach to the dark promise of the future, but the message seems to have been taken with, well, fatalism and carelessness.Moscow is still in the early stages of the inevitable nightmare, when confusion and defiance mingle with fear. So hairdressers are still working, and without masks. Women are going to them without taking the slightest precautions. This, even as thousands of people who suspect they’ve been infected are calling a coronavirus hotline.Russia Claimed It Created a Coronavirus Cure, but It’s an American Malaria DrugEarlier this week Yulia Galyamina, a Moscow politician and scientist lost her sense of smell, developed a fever, and felt weak. Those are all signs of infection. But as in other countries, she found it impossible to get a test unless she could prove she was at death’s door. She called a doctor and the agency supervising tests, but they said they could do nothing for her. “A district [government] doctor said since I was not terribly sick, I could not get tested,” Galyamina told The Daily Beast. “Private labs ask you not to show up if you have had symptoms in the past week.” On Saturday, authorities admitted that 166,000 Russians are on a coronavirus watch list—not confirmed with infection, but suspected of having the contagion or of being at risk. That’s a worrisome number. It suggests the observable cases are vastly higher than those confirmed, and again raises the question of why no clear determination had been made about many of them weeks ago.“Moscow Mayor Sobyanin had guts to tell Putin right into his face on Tuesday that the real situation is much worse than the official reports say,” Vladimir Ryzhkov, professor at the Higher School of Economics, told The Daily Beast. Earlier this month, Putin said that the situation with coronavirus was “under control.” Authorities told Russians not to spread fake news about the pandemic threat. When there were still just a few cases of COVID-19 in Russia, Anastasia Kirilenko, The Insider’s investigative reporter, heard tragic news from Novosibirsk: her 34-year-old cousin died of pneumonia. The Russian health system is in miserable shape in the regions, dozens of district clinics closed in rural remote towns all across the country in the past few years.“Regional paramedics diagnosed my cousin, a young and healthy man, with acute respiratory viral infection but did not do an x-ray to check why he had a high temperature during the last month of his life,” Kirilenko told The Daily Beast. “Now we wonder if my cousin had coronavirus just like thousands of other Russians who are said to have only pneumonia.”  Christopher Dickey also contributed to this article.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 04:49:57 -0400
  • Trump Stops Saying ‘Wuhan Virus’ After Xi Strokes His Ego

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    In a private conversation with President Donald Trump during the rapid acceleration of the coronavirus pandemic, China’s leader Xi Jinping went out of his way to deploy one of the most effective diplomatic maneuvers of the current American era: aggressive flattery.In a phone call to discuss the international health crisis last week, Xi stressed to Trump how decisive, strong, and successful he feels his U.S. counterpart’s public-health and economic responses have been, two U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter said. The flattery came at a time when Trump was continuing to experience a deluge of criticism for his administration’s response to the pandemic. It also came as some of the American president’s most prominent officials were still engaged in a multipronged campaign to castigate the Chinese government for an alleged coronavirus cover-up and to rebrand the illness as the “Chinese virus” and the “Wuhan virus.”Trump had begun incorporating that language into his public utterances, framing the pandemic as a war whose origins were in China. But lately, he has softened his tone and adopted a more deferential stance toward Xi—whom he routinely calls his good “friend” and an “incredible guy”— going out of his way to compliment and excuse Beijing for its response to the virus, and to even publicly shrug off new reporting on China’s disinformation apparatus in the midst of the pandemic.China’s Coronavirus Keeps Spreading but the WHO Still Won’t Declare a Global EmergencyIn the past few days, Trump has also told multiple officials that Xi has assured him that the Chinese government wouldn’t lie about the numbers of reported cases of coronavirus currently coming out of the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, two sources familiar with the comments said.“For a long time, the president has enjoyed an epic bromance with Xi,” a senior administration official said. “If I were them, I would be doing the same thing. Why wouldn’t you try to leverage that relationship with a [U.S.] president who goes on TV so many times to say how great he thinks your guy [Xi] is.”The president’s messaging on Xi and China appears to have trickled down to other parts of the federal government as well. According to two senior Trump administration officials, the State Department has also toned down the tough talk on Beijing for not revealing its coronavirus case numbers sooner.  In recent cables, it appears the department is also no longer calling the virus the “Wuhan virus” and is instead referring to it as “COVID19” or simply “COVID.” As one senior Trump official told The Daily Beast: “There’s an understanding that the department—and the administration as a whole—is going to back away from that terminology.”It is a fairly jarring turn. Just earlier this month, the State Department had transmitted a cable that included a section detailing National Security Council “Top Lines” and official talking points on the “[People’s Republic of China] Propaganda and Disinformation on the Wuhan Virus Pandemic.”The State Department did not return a request for comment. But the shift comes as White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, along with the State Department and FEMA, set up the deliveries of essential medical supplies and protective gear from U.S. health-care distributors based in China. The new tone is particularly notable since, for weeks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had accused China’s leaders of contributing to the global spread of the virus because they took too long to warn the rest of the world of its spread and silenced health-care workers who tried to speak out about it. In his remarks to the press, Pompeo has continuously referred to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus” and brushed off suggestions that such a term was racist. Beijing’s leaders pushed back on the designation, claiming that the terms are xenophobic and inaccurate now that the virus has spread to dozens of countries across the world. Grim Scenes at Chinese Hospitals as Doctors Rush to Treat Deadly Coronavirus“We condemn the despicable practice of individual U.S. politicians eagerly stigmatizing China and Wuhan by association with the novel coronavirus, disrespecting science and WHO,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a recent briefing. “The international society has a fair judgment, and Pompeo’s attempts of slandering China’s efforts in combating the epidemic is doomed to fail.”According to cables reviewed by The Daily Beast, China launched a campaign to discredit the Trump administration's use of the term “Wuhan virus.”“Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease expert widely respected by the Chinese public for his work on both SARS and the coronavirus, has been quoted widely by state-media outlets questioning the origin of COVID-19,” the cable said. “At a March 18 press conference at Guangzhou’s First Affiliated Hospital, Zhong again said there was ‘no evidence’ indicating the virus originated in Wuhan, adding that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to make conclusions about the origin of COVID-19 without further information.”It all amounts to a concession to Beijing from Trumpworld, which for a year has made alleged submissiveness to China—particularly on trade policy—a major political talking point against the president’s likely 2020 Democratic presidential rival. “Joe Biden, incredibly, dismisses China as an economic competitor, so it’s little wonder that while Biden was in office he welcomed China’s rise and sat back and watched as the Chinese ate America’s lunch,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said last year. The president himself has routinely claimed that he’s so tough on China that Beijing desperately wants Biden to win in November, insisting that “China wants Sleepy Joe BADLY!”Senior Trump officials and Capitol Hill lawmakers, alarmed by the recent change of tone in the administration’s public-facing relationship with China, are still pushing for Pompeo and the president to continue to counter China’s disinformation campaign, according to one official working on China policy.And on that front, Foggy Bottom still appears to be complying. Two officials with knowledge of the cables told The Daily Beast that the State Department was asking foreign countries to track Chinese disinformation efforts. One State Department cable said the People’s Republic of China was pushing out stories that focused on “preventing a second wave of outbreaks from ‘imported cases.’” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 04:42:32 -0400
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