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  • Europe toll tops 30,000 as UN warns of world's worst crisis since WWII

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    The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 30,000 lives in Europe alone, a global tally showed on Wednesday, in what the head of the United Nations has described as humanity's worst crisis since World War II. Italy and Spain bore the brunt of the crisis, accounting for three in every four deaths on the continent, as the grim tally hit another milestone even though half of the planet's population is already under some form of lockdown in a battle to halt contagion. Spain reported a record 864 deaths in 24 hours, pushing the country's number of fatalities past 9,000.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 12:12:17 -0400
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    Despite grim projections, Trump resists national quarantine

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 12:04:15 -0400
  • Coronavirus having little impact on climate: UN agency

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    Though factories have shut, planes have been grounded and cars left in the garage, the coronavirus pandemic is having very little impact on climate change, the World Meteorological Organization said Wednesday. Any reductions in pollution and carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be temporary, said Lars Peter Riishojgaard, from the infrastructure department of the WMO, a United Nations agency based in Geneva. Riishojgaard said there was a lot of media speculation about what impact the global pandemic might have on the climate, greenhouse gas emissions and longer-term global warming.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:50:10 -0400
  • Coronavirus and the case for one-world government

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    My headline should be enough to give away the game. I am conscious of the fact that in arguing for one-world government in the face of a global health crisis I am going to be accused of two things. The first will be that I am cheapening the suffering of those affected by what the Chinese first called "Wuhan pneumonia" (a name I prefer to the abbreviation common in English-language media for reasons I will discuss below). The second will be that I am carrying water for Mssrs. Bezos, Gates, Brin, and Buffet, for the UN and the IMF and the WHO and all the other dreaded acronyms. To the first I respond guilty as charged, at least if one assumes (not implausibly) that at present engaging in any activity save for prayer or relief efforts is inherently cheapening. It is the second objection to my thesis that I think should be met head on.By advocating one-world government, am I in fact serving as a toady for billionaires and the organizations that exist to recycle their PowerPoints as humanitarian and cosmopolitan? I say no because I believe that such a system of government is the only real solution to them and their rule, which I will call, in the interest of saving space, the Rule of None. What is the Rule of None? It is not anarchy per se. There is still, under such conditions, a visible state. But the interests of the state (any state) are ultimately subordinate to that of capital itself, which knows no boundaries, respects no customs or arrangements, yields nothing before traditions or bonds or idiosyncrasies. Rule by None means that the only supranational authority is the principle of arithmetical increase for its own sake, which has no master. Men and women control capital, but it would be truer to say that capital controls men and women, perhaps especially the world's wealthiest. Hence the Rule of None.Who flourishes under this Rule? A short answer would be no one. But this is not entirely true. The wealthy become wealthier, as a matter of course, in every country, while the middle class and the poor become immiserated in ways both expected and unexpected. This does not exhaust the list of asymmetries that result from it. In practice countries that profess allegiance to the Rule of None but refuse to abide by it — mouthing along with free trade and economic decentralization as slogans while relentlessly working to enrich their own citizens — enjoy an advantage over those who remain faithful both in word and deed. This is, simply put, the economic history of the United States and, to a lesser extent, Western Europe since the end of the Cold War.The sophists, economists, and calculators who say that freedom of trade and movement are, theoretically speaking, life-enhancing policies are correct. They are also naive. They have forgotten one of the fundamental lessons of their discipline — the so-called prisoners' dilemma. This is why they are wrong and nationalist thinkers are right when they argue that antagonisms between nations will never disappear and that we must replace the global sovereignty of capital with some other, more tangible authority. They only err in locating this new authority in the nation rather than in something higher.This is why I propose replacing the Rule of None with the Rule of One. The One I have in mind is a sovereignty that would be truly global, in the sense that it would be capable, by the principle of subsidiarity, of delegating an infinite number of decisions to the rulers of countries and regions and counties and cities and towns while still reserving for itself the power to decree and, more to the point, to coordinate activity between leaders at all of the aforementioned levels. The Rule of One would look nothing like the United Nations, which betrayed the hopes of Otto von Habsburg and Cardinal Ottaviani by becoming a bloated international charity whose chief beneficiaries are its own officers. Nor would it very much resemble the European Union, which has failed precisely because it is economic rather than political, which is to say, because it decrees that all men must use the same money rather than that all men must obey the same ruler. The Rule of One is not an argument for the elimination of national or local customs. It is, in fact, probably the strongest argument in favor of them that one could make. The Rule of One would be, as Plutarch wrote of Alexander the Great's Camp, "a festival goblet, mixing lives, manners, customs, wedlock, all together," a world in which it is "ordained that every one should take the whole habitable world for his country."There was once a name for the Rule of One: Empire. While many of us would shy away from the idea for aesthetic reasons, I believe there is even an argument to be made that if we were ever to return to the Rule One we should call the person in whom authority is vested "emperor" rather than "president" or, heaven help us, "secretary-general." I think it is equally obvious that he or she would be elected, as were the Holy Roman Emperors of old, rather than the mere inheritors of office.Back to Wuhan pneumonia. So far from being a racist pejorative I say that it is a better name than "COVID-19," a cold abbreviation that obscures the enormous human experience of the disease. Human beings need tangible words for tangible things and events, which is why in the past new illnesses were named after the places in which they appear to have originated (e.g., near the Ebola, the headstream of the Mongala, which is itself a mere tributary of the great Congo River). The event through which we are now living began some months ago in a place called Wuhan. The authorities in that place did their best to conceal the seriousness of the disease from their own citizens and from the rest of the world. They persuaded others whose authority comes to them from the Rule of None — the World Health Organization, the American opinion-making classes — that the virus could not even be transmitted from person to person.These were lies. They were lies that have had consequences not only for the people of Wuhan and of China but for the rest of the world. They were lies that were made possibly only because of a greater and much older lie: that because these people live here in such a place rather than in the place we inhabit ourselves we owe them nothing and will do nothing to aid them, indeed we will quietly abet their misery so long as we are marginally better off. This is the lie that says that men who live far away from us are not our brothers but strangers who must be turned away, isolated behind lines agreed upon by those on either side.The problem is not the name but the lines. The lines must disappear. They will have to disappear even as the names and tongues and customs remain. Wuhan pneumonia reminds us that, despite the wickedness and perfidy of their leaders and ours, the people of Wuhan (and those of Italy and Spain and France and the Congo) are men and women like us, who share our longings and aspirations and worries and fears because all of these things are universal.It is not for me to say when the Rule of None will be displaced. I suspect that even when we are confronted with its obvious shortcomings, as we are whenever a new pandemic emerges, we will refuse to acknowledge them. For the time being those of us who see past the "international wrong" must cling to hope and to symbols. Which symbols? For me the best candidate for a new international peace is not Donald Trump or even Angela Merkel (the wisest of our living politicians) but King Arthur, who, in T.H. White's wonderful novel cycle, dreams before his death of the Rule of One:> He began to think again, but now it was as clearly as it had ever been. He remembered the aged necromancer who had educated him—who had educated him with animals. There were, he remembered, something like half a million different species of animal, of which mankind was only one. Of course man was an animal—he was not a vegetable or a mineral, was he? And Merlyn had taught him about animals so that the single species might learn by looking at the problems of the thousands. He remembered the belligerent ants, who claimed their boundaries, and the pacific geese, who did not. He remembered his lesson from the badger. He remembered Lyo-lyok and the island which they had seen on their migration, where all those puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes had lived together peacefully, preserving their own kinds of civilization without war—because they claimed no boundaries. He saw the problem before him as plain as a map. The fantastic thing about war was that it was fought about nothing—literally nothing. Frontiers were imaginary lines. There was no visible line between Scotland and England, although Flodden and Bannockburn had been fought about it. It was geography which was the cause—political geography. It was nothing else. Nations did not need to have the same kind of civilization, nor the same kind of leader, any more than the puffins and the guillemots did. They could keep their own civilizations, like Esquimaux and Hottentots, if they would give each other freedom of trade and free passage and access to the world. Countries would have to become counties—but counties which could keep their own culture and local laws. The imaginary lines on the earth's surface only needed to be unimagined. The airborne birds skipped them by nature. How mad the frontiers had seemed to Lyo-lyok, and would to Man if he could learn to fly.> > The old King felt refreshed, clear-headed, almost ready to begin again.> > There would be a day—there must be a day—when he would come back to Gramarye with a new Round Table which had no corners, just as the world had none—a table without boundaries between the nations who would sit to feast there.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.More stories from theweek.com Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is what real coronavirus leadership looks like Stephen Colbert airs a 2016 duet with John Prine he'd kept in reserve in case 'we have to cheer up the world' Coronavirus is making American workers say enough is enough

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:43:25 -0400
  • Merkel Warns of Long Road Ahead as Europeans Face Easter Indoors

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    (Bloomberg) -- Germany and Italy prolonged rigid lockdown measures until after Easter and Spain reported its deadliest day yet -- a grim reminder that European governments are struggling to bring the coronavirus under control.Even though infection rates in some countries are showing signs of receding, governments on the continent worry that easing restrictions too soon could backfire. There were 864 new fatalities in Spain on Wednesday, and the number of confirmed cases increased to more than 102,000. Spain, which has been in almost-complete lockdown since March 14, and Italy are the epicenters of the outbreak in Europe.A little over a week after banning gatherings of more than two people, Chancellor Angela Merkel -- who has been self-quarantined at her home since last week -- and German state leaders agreed to extend a nationwide shutdown until April 19. Merkel said the increase in the infection rate had eased slightly, but cautioned it’s too early to relax strict rules on public interaction.“We’re seeing some effect from the measures, but we’re far away from being able to say that we can change the contact restrictions,” Merkel told reporters on an audio conference. She urged Germans to avoid visiting relatives during the Easter vacation. “I know that it’s hard, but it save lives,” she said.The Italian government will keep its nationwide lockdown in place until at least April 13. Both countries also expanded backstops to protect their economies. In Portugal, the government is holding a cabinet meeting Wednesday in Lisbon to discuss extending a state of emergency initially declared on March 18.Merkel reiterated a plea for patience to give the measures time to show a lasting impact. Germany has the third-largest outbreak in Europe with 71,808 infections. The disease has caused 775 deaths in the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.Romania’s death toll continued to rise much faster than in any other country in central and eastern Europe, reaching 85 fatalities on Wednesday. A growing number of doctors and medical workers are getting infected with the new virus, raising concerns about hospital outbreaks that could endanger entire cities, including the capital Bucharest.Alongside protecting public health, concerns about the economic fallout of shutting down large parts of the economy weighed on European leaders. Spanish bankers and lawyers are bracing for a steep surge in insolvencies, as some business leaders say aspects of the government’s 117 billion-euro ($128 billion) crisis response risk making things worse.Germany plugged a gap in its 750 billion-euro rescue package by pledging to help startups with short-term financial assistance worth around 2 billion euros. “For these young, innovative companies, classic credit instruments are often not suitable,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said.In Austria -- where unemployment jumped to the highest level since the end of World War II in March -- the government plans to impose a three-month repayment moratorium on about 162 billion euros of consumer loans to ease the impact of lockdown measures. Still under discussion is how many corporate loans the moratorium would cover.Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is working on a decree to guarantee liquidity to businesses hit by the nationwide lockdown. Urgent measures to provide liquidity to companies will be followed by a decree later in April to help families, according to a government official.The number of new virus cases in Italy leveled off on Tuesday at a two-week low, a sign that the outbreak may be coming under control. Italy has 105,792 total cases, the most after the U.S.In Spain, the number of confirmed cases increased by 7,710 in the past 24 hours, smaller than Tuesday’s of 9,222. Total deaths rose to 9,053.Despite the dip in the number of new infections, “it would be an unforgivable mistake to see this first result as a definitive defeat of the virus,” Speranza said. “The battle is still very long.”(Updates with Merkel comments from fourth 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.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:25:51 -0400
  • Health official says Russian stay at home should be extended - Ifax

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:24:53 -0400
  • Iran general visits Baghdad, tries to forge political unity

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    A top Iranian general arrived in Baghdad this week to try and unify Iraq's fractured political leaders, Iraqi officials said Wednesday, as stiff opposition by one major bloc thwarts the chances the country's latest prime minister-designate can form a government. Esmail Ghaani, head of Iran's expeditionary Quds Force, arrived in Baghdad late Monday, Iraqi officials said, in his first public visit to Iraq since succeeding slain Iranian general Qassim Soleimani.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:17:47 -0400
  • China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Intelligence Says

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    (Bloomberg) -- China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials.The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret and declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.The report was received by the White House last week, one of the officials said.The outbreak began in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, but the country has publicly reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That compares to more than 189,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths in the U.S., which has the largest publicly reported outbreak in the world.Communications staff at the White House and Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.While China eventually imposed a strict lockdown beyond those of less autocratic nations, there has been considerable skepticism of China’s reported numbers, both outside and within the country. The Chinese government has repeatedly revised its methodology for counting cases, for weeks excluding people without symptoms entirely, and only on Tuesday added more than 1,500 asymptomatic cases to its total.Stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei province have driven public doubt in Beijing’s reporting.Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising the White House on its response to the outbreak, said Tuesday that China’s public reporting influenced assumptions elsewhere in the world about the nature of the virus.“The medical community made -- interpreted the Chinese data as: This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data, now that what we see happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain.”China is not the only country with suspect public reporting. Western officials have pointed to Iran, Russia, Indonesia and especially North Korea, which has not reported a single case of the disease, as probable under-counts. Others including Saudi Arabia and Egypt may also be playing down their numbers.U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has publicly urged China and other nations to be transparent about their outbreaks. He has repeatedly accused China of covering up the extent of the problem and being slow to share information, especially in the weeks after the virus first emerged, and blocking offers of help from American experts.“This data set matters,” he said at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday. The development of medical therapies and public-health measures to combat the virus “so that we can save lives depends on the ability to have confidence and information about what has actually transpired,” he said.“I would urge every nation: Do your best to collect the data. Do your best to share that information,” he said. “We’re doing that.”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.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:15:50 -0400
  • Coronavirus: What misinformation has spread in Africa?

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

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:09:48 -0400
  • Coronavirus: Top South African HIV scientist Gita Ramjee dies

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    Tributes are being paid to Gita Ramjee for her world-renowned research into HIV prevention.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 11:02:08 -0400
  • Merkel: Will recommend tracking apps if tests successful

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 10:59:51 -0400
  • Hezbollah shifts attention from Syria fight to battle virus

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    In the streets of Beirut's southern suburbs, Hezbollah paramedics and volunteers on trucks and on foot sprayed disinfectants on shops and buildings. Hezbollah says it is turning the organizational might it once deployed to fight Israel or in the civil war in neighboring Syria to battle the spread of the virus pandemic in Lebanon. It wants to send a clear message to its supporters in Lebanon's Shiite community that it is a force to rely on in a crisis.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 10:41:41 -0400
  • Turkmenistan bans the word 'coronavirus': report

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    The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the news agenda across the globe since the start of this year, but in one secretive Central Asian country you won’t even hear the word ‘coronavirus’ mentioned -- and its putting its citizens in danger, according to a new report. In Turkmenistan, which was ranked at the bottom of the World Press Freedom Index in 2019 -- one place lower than North Korea -- the word ‘coronavirus’ has been removed from the national vocabulary, according to the independent NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The government, led by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who is known in Turkmenistan as the “Father Protector” of the nation, was one of the fastest moving countries in combatting the pandemic by closing its borders in early February.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 10:07:00 -0400
  • Turkmenistan bans the word 'coronavirus': report

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    The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the news agenda across the globe since the start of this year, but in one secretive Central Asian country you won’t even hear the word ‘coronavirus’ mentioned -- and its putting its citizens in danger, according to a new report. In Turkmenistan, which was ranked at the bottom of the World Press Freedom Index in 2019 -- one place lower than North Korea -- the word ‘coronavirus’ has been removed from the national vocabulary, according to the independent NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The government, led by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who is known in Turkmenistan as the “Father Protector” of the nation, was one of the fastest moving countries in combatting the pandemic by closing its borders in early February.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 10:07:00 -0400
  • Russia sends plane with medical supplies to U.S. for coronavirus response

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    The plane will arrive today, after President Donald Trump accepted an offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send personal protective equipment and other gear.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 09:51:40 -0400
  • Germany set to extend social distancing until at least end of Easter holidays - report

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 09:43:03 -0400
  • Saudis Boost Oil Output, Defying Trump’s Plea To End Price War

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    (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia showed no sign of bowing to pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to dial back its oil-price war with Russia. Instead, the kingdom pushed crude supply to record levels.Trump said Tuesday night that he’d spoken to both President Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an effort to broker a truce between the world’s two largest oil exporters. While Russia made some conciliatory noises, Saudi Arabia showed nothing but defiance.The kingdom started the month by boosting supply to more than 12 million barrels a day, the most ever, according to an industry official familiar with the kingdom’s operations. In an apparent show of force, Aramco was loading a record 15 tankers with 18.8 million barrels of oil on a single day earlier this week, according to another official and a tweet from the company.That social media post, boasting how the kingdom will “rise to supply energy,” appeared to be a riposte to U.S. Secretary State Michael Pompeo, who last week urged the Saudis to “rise to the occasion” by dialing back their plan to flood the market.So far, Riyadh has insisted that it will only back away from a decision to flood the global market if all the world’s leading producers -- including the U.S. -- agree to cut output. Russia has struck a more conciliatory tone, saying it would hold back from a major production increase, but hasn’t offered any concrete proposals to end hostilities with its former OPEC+ ally.Trump’s decision to wade into oil diplomacy is driven by the catastrophic impact of the price crash on the American shale industry, largely based in Texas and other Republican-leaning states. But his mission to rein in global supply is overshadowed by the unprecedented loss of demand -- possibly as much as 30% -- caused by the fight against the coronavirus.“Signs of policy discussions are multiplying and we believe such an outcome should no longer be dismissed,” analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a note. Even so, after such a huge drop in consumption it’s questionable “whether policy coordination by OPEC+, the U.S., and oil producers more broadly can save this market.”Read: Trump and Putin Are All Talk on Oil Price Plunge: Julian LeeA senior Russian official said that while they hadn’t spoken to Saudi Arabia yet, Moscow had no plans to increase production given the current market situation. He gave no indication that Russia was willing to consider output cuts, however. It was Russia’s refusal to join Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in deeper reductions that kicked off the price war in early March.“The Russian side traditionally welcomes mutual dialog and cooperation in order to stabilize energy markets,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on conference call on Tuesday. Putin has no immediate plans to speak with the Saudi king or crown prince, but such contacts can be easily arranged, he said.Demand HitWorld oil demand, normally around 100 million barrels a day, will likely be down by 30 millions barrels a day in April and has yet to bottom out as lockdowns due to the virus continue, Chris Bake, an executive committee member at trader Vitol said on Tuesday.The Russian official said it made no sense for producers to boost output in the current situation. Energy Minister Alexander Novak said last month that the country can raise production by 200,000 to 300,000 barrels a day in the short term, and by as much as 500,000 barrels a day in the near future. That’s a fraction of the additional 2 million barrels a day that Saudi Arabia has pledged to pump.“The sharp drop of oil prices has made the bulk of new Russian oil drilling uneconomic, the industry will need to look for ways to optimize” output, said Darya Kozlova, head of oil and gas regulation services at Moscow-based Vygon Consulting.However, even if production is flat, Russia may hike its oil exports to offset falling domestic demand for crude as its own economy goes into shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Kozlova said.Trump MediationOn Tuesday evening in Washington, Trump said the U.S. would meet with Saudi Arabia and Russia with the goal of staunching the historic plunge in oil prices, and has raised the issue directly with the countries’ rulers.“They’re going to get together and we’re all going to get together and we’re going to see what we can do,” he said. “The two countries are discussing it. And I am joining at the appropriate time, if need be.”U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette had a “productive discussion” with Novak on Tuesday and agreed to “continue dialog among major energy producers and consumers, including through the G20,” the Department of Energy said in a statement. The two men agreed that an oil oversupply hurts the global economy, the Russian Energy Ministry said separately.Neither side detailed any steps they are considering to stem the downturn.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.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 09:39:46 -0400
  • Virus deaths in NYC top 1,000 as city prepares for worse

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    Deaths from the coronavirus topped 1,000 in New York City as officials warned that the worst of the virus' toll is yet to come. The city's Health Department reported late Tuesday that nearly 1,100 people have died of the virus in the city. More than 1,500 deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded across New York state.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 08:50:40 -0400
  • What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

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    Distressing images of morgue trucks in New York City, taking away the rising number of dead from the new coronavirus, have underscored the latest grim projections for the entire country. — Florida officials were locked in a standoff with two cruise ships steaming toward the coast as more coronavirus hot spots flared around the country and embattled New York City used forklifts to load bodies onto refrigerated trucks in plain view outside overwhelmed hospitals. — Donald Trump, the self-styled “wartime president” is enjoying the high ratings of his briefings and boasting they're up there with that of TV's "The Bachelor."

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 08:42:36 -0400
  • Syrian ex-VP, foreign minister dies of heart attack in Paris

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    Abdul-Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president and foreign minister who was one of the most influential figures in the country before defecting in 2005 to France, has died of a heart attack in Paris, his son said Wednesday. Jihad Khaddam told The Associated Press his father had been in good health, and that the heart attack happened after he fell on his back three days ago. Khaddam played a pivotal role during the civil war in Lebanon and Syria's three-decade domination of its smaller neighbor.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 08:38:06 -0400
  • Who Are the Voters Behind Trump's Higher Approval Rating?

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    Justin Penn, a Pittsburgh voter who calls himself politically independent, favored Joe Biden in a matchup with President Donald Trump until recently. But the president's performance during the coronavirus outbreak has Penn reconsidering."I think he's handled it pretty well," he said of the president, whose daily White House appearances Penn catches on Facebook after returning from his job as a bank security guard. "I think he's tried to keep people calm," he said. "I know some people don't think he's taking it seriously, but I think he's doing the best with the information he had."Although Penn, 40, said he did not vote for Trump, his opinion of the president has improved recently and he very well might back him for a second term.Across the country, the coronavirus has sickened more than 150,000 people, cost millions their jobs and tanked the stock market. Yet the president's approval ratings are as high as they have ever been, despite what most agree to be his slow performance dealing with the crisis, as well as his record of falsehoods about the virus, his propensity to push ideas and treatments that contradict expert advice, and his habit of lashing out at governors on the front lines.While public perceptions are fluid in a crisis, a notable twist in polling at this point is that independents are driving Trump's bump in approval, and some increased Democratic support is a factor as well. Gallup called that "highly unusual for Trump" in reporting its latest survey, which was released last week and showed Trump's approval rating at 49%, equal to the best of his presidency.While Republicans' views of Trump were flat -- a sign they had already topped out -- approval by independents rose by 8 percentage points from early March, while Democratic approval was up by 6 percentage points.Polling experts said that it was normal for the country to rally around a president during a national crisis, and that Trump's dominance of the airwaves alone was enough to sway a slice of voters who don't normally tune in to politics."There are people who haven't even heard Trump that much, while the rest of us have been obsessed," said Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University. "Those people are paying attention and seeing Trump a lot."Every modern president has seen their approval surge after significant national crises, although those bumps have diminished in size in recent administrations, as the country's politics became more polarized. President Barack Obama gained just 7 points after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. The rally-round-the-flag effect is also often fleeting. President Jimmy Carter's approval nearly doubled in 1979 when Iran seized American hostages, but as the crisis dragged on for more than a year, Carter's approval plummeted and he lost reelection.Interviews with about two dozen independent and Democratic voters, most of whom said they "somewhat disapproved" of Trump in a poll last year by The New York Times and Siena College, showed that some now expressed more positive views of him. Their numbers were small, consistent with what pollsters say is by historical standards a modest bump in approval for a commander-in-chief during an emergency.Kathleen Mathien, an independent in Maricopa County, Arizona, said that she did not vote for Trump, but that her opinion of him had risen during his White House appearances to talk about the virus."He's not one to be bullied," she said, adding that she also saw flashes of empathy, a trait many critics find lacking in Trump.Mathien, 64, a designer of cabinetry, explained that she doesn't closely follow politics and finds it difficult to get a true understanding of candidates beyond the "smoke and mirrors" they project. "It's so hard sometimes to vote if you don't know who the real person is," she said. Undecided as of now, she said Trump has a chance to win her vote.Last week, a Monmouth University poll showed the president's overall approval at 46%, an improvement driven in part by higher Democratic support. Patrick Murray, director of the university's Polling Institute, called the shift by some Democrats "microscopic in polling terms.""Any other president and we would expect those job ratings to swing by more than 10 points because of the situation," Murray said.Trump's ratings lag far behind many of the nation's governors, who have seen a sharp increase in their approval ratings as they rush to contain the virus. Unlike Trump's, their approval ratings do not show the same level of partisan divide.More than 7 in 10 voters in states with a significant number of coronavirus cases gave their governor a positive review in the Monmouth survey. Even in states with the fewest reported cases, 61% of Americans said their governor was doing a good job.Still, small shifts in Trump's approval could make a difference in a close-fought general election. A Washington Post/ABC poll this past weekend showed Trump improving on a 7-point deficit against Biden a month ago to reach a near tie with the former vice president, 49% to 47%."President Trump has broken through the narrow range of 42 to 46% approval where he's been for the last two years and indeed for much of his presidency," said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. "It's an open question whether those people who are changing now would actually vote in a different way in November. Some of the independents may. I doubt that many of the Democrats will."Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, said, "I would be a little careful in whether it translates into something permanent," adding, "The challenge for Trump is that he's inconsistent."Robert Taylor, 31, a computer programmer in York County, Pennsylvania, wants Sen. Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic nominee and is unsure if he will vote for Biden in a contest against the president."I'm not one of those people who hate Trump and thinks everything he's done is wrong," he said. He could vote for Trump if the president successfully leads the country through the coronavirus crisis, Taylor said. "We'll see how he handles everything from here on out."Two months ago, Neil Ferguson of Earling, Iowa, stood in a corner for Sen. Amy Klobuchar at Iowa's Democratic caucuses. But he is displeased today by Democrats criticizing Trump's leadership and wants the country to rally around the president at a time of national emergency."At some point we've got to get behind this together," he said. "Every step of the way he's criticized," he said of the president. "I know a lot of voters out here that say yeah, had they given the guy a chance, maybe things would have been a lot better."Ferguson, 67, who is retired from the military, regularly watches the White House briefings, and though he sometimes winces over the president's rambling delivery, he is impressed with Vice President Mike Pence and with Trump's responses to reporters."When he gets to the question-and-answer period, he is pretty point-on," he said. Four years ago Ferguson voted for a third-party candidate, but this year he has decided to vote for the president.Among voters already supportive of Trump, recent polling shows their enthusiasm to support him in November is running well ahead of the enthusiasm of Biden backers. Janice Friedel, a professor in Des Moines, Iowa, and a Democrat, liked Trump before the virus hit, and now her support has grown stronger."I thought President Trump was doing OK, but this really has brought out his strong leadership, his ability to bring people together across the aisle," she said. "I am a Democrat, but I am going to vote for him. I don't see leadership on the Democratic side. But I certainly will vote for Trump."There are some Democrats and independents who were initially inclined to give the president the benefit of the doubt over the coronavirus, but have since concluded that he is failing."In the beginning, when he went on TV he sounded very presidential, sounded like he wanted to get in front of this," said Francis Newberg of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. "I told my wife, 'Listen to this guy, he sounds real.'"But Newberg's opinion swiftly went downhill as he watched the president attack Democratic governors and say that "everything is fine.""It's not fine," said Newberg, who lives with his wife outside Philadelphia in a community for residents over 62. Its three restaurants have closed and staff members now deliver three days of groceries at a time to residents."We had our first case of coronavirus diagnosed in our community," said Newberg, who retired from a phone company. "There's 1,800 of us. If it breaks out in here, there's going to be a lot of boxes outside."In Florida, Jason Berger, an independent voter, told the Times/Siena poll last year that he strongly approved of the president. But Berger, a pharmacy technician, had an about-face as he watched Trump's handling of the outbreak."The biggest pivot point for me was when he mentioned the cruise liner which held Americans, which he didn't want to dock in California because he didn't want the numbers to go up," Berger said, referring to the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was held offshore with 21 infected people aboard in early March. "I found that extremely insulting. Those were Americans and they were sick."Four years ago, Berger, 46, did not vote in the presidential election, deciding to leave the outcome to voters who were more tuned in than he was at the time. He now regrets that decision. "I take full responsibility," he said. He does not intend to sit out another race and will vote for the Democratic nominee in November."We need the government to take care of us in a crisis situation," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 08:25:19 -0400
  • Rural areas fear spread of virus as more hospitals close

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    As the coronavirus spread across the United States, workers at the lone hospital in one Alabama county turned off beeping monitors for good and padlocked the doors, making it one of the latest in a string of nearly 200 rural hospitals to close nationwide. Now Joe Cunningham is more worried than ever about getting care for his wife, Polly, a dialysis patient whose health is fragile. Cunningham is trusting God, but he’s also worried the virus will worsen in his community, endangering his wife without a hospital nearby.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 07:49:40 -0400
  • UN calls for global response to coronavirus pandemic

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 07:39:40 -0400
  • Iran hits out at US as virus death toll passes 3,000

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    Iran's death toll from the coronavirus has passed 3,000, the health ministry said on Wednesday, as President Hassan Rouhani accused Washington of missing a "historic opportunity" to lift sanctions. Tensions between the arch-foes have soared since President Donald Trump abandoned a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions. Tehran has repeatedly called on Washington to reverse its policy, which has been opposed by US allies, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 07:29:43 -0400
  • Putin working remotely after meeting infected doctor: Kremlin

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    Russian leader Vladimir Putin has decided to handle his duties remotely, the Kremlin said Wednesday, after the head of the country's main coronavirus hospital tested positive following a meeting with the president. Denis Protsenko, who met with Putin last week as the Russian leader visited the Kommunarka hospital in Moscow, said Tuesday he had been infected with the coronavirus but was feeling well. "The president prefers these days to work remotely," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, shortly before Putin was due to hold a cabinet meeting by videoconference.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 07:26:59 -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.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 07:01:52 -0400
  • 10 things you need to know today: April 1, 2020

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 06:53:00 -0400
  • Putin to hold meeting by video-conference after contact with coronavirus doctor - Kremlin

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 06:00:57 -0400
  • An Election Year No One Could Have Predicted

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    (Bloomberg) -- Going into March, the biggest political question in the U.S. was whether Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden would regain his footing as front-runner for the party nomination.Biden duly delivered, but as we enter a new month U.S. politics is being consumed by very different questions and challenges.President Donald Trump is warning Americans to brace for “a painful two weeks,” and scientists on a White House task force are projecting up to 240,000 people could die from the coronavirus outbreak. Biden is expressing doubts that this summer’s Democratic convention can go ahead.The spread of the virus into America is quickly reshaping daily life and shattering traditional election-year politics.It’s wreaking havoc on the economy — which could be in recession when voters decide on Nov. 3 whether to give Trump a second term. Faced with the staggering death projections, Trump has largely abandoned the optimistic tone that characterized his virus response.“Our strength will be tested, our endurance will be tried,” he said.There's a further issue for the president as April shapes up to be a calamitous month for the oil market. Trump said the U.S. would meet with Saudi Arabia and Russia to try to stanch a plunge in prices.The world Trump is navigating today is one that would have been unrecognizable to most Americans just weeks ago. These events will influence voters’ decisions, though for now it's impossible to know how.Global HeadlinesOn hold | Saudi Arabia asked Muslims to defer plans to perform the obligatory annual Hajj pilgrimage as it grapples with the virus. Halting the Hajj, which attracts millions to Islam’s birthplace, would be unprecedented in recent history.China reported 130 new asymptomatic cases in one day, hours after New York City’s death toll topped 1,000. Spain reported 864 new fatalities from the virus, a slight rise from yesterday. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro shifted gears last night on his relaxed virus approach, saying his main concern “was always to save lives.” Asia’s factory activity contracted further in March as the virus crippled supply chains. In China, though, a private survey showed an improvement in manufacturing.Oil impact | Trump’s phone call this week to President Vladimir Putin as part of efforts to end the oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia is being seen by Moscow as a diplomatic win. The view is the U.S. move may strengthen Putin’s hand in negotiating a climb down. Russia isn’t yet holding talks with Riyadh but hasn’t ruled them out, an official says, adding Moscow won’t boost crude output now given oversupply in the market. Saudi Arabia faces deep budget cuts due to the double hit from the virus and plummeting crude prices.Losing points | As the virus sweeps Europe, leaders are turning to China for testing kits — but some are already expressing buyers' remorse. As Andrea Dudik and Radoslav Tomek report, complaints about inaccurate results from the kits could dent China’s efforts to win favor with a region where it has sought for years to build economic and strategic ties.Merkel’s moment | After more than 14 years in office, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is having a good crisis: Polls show surging support for her party and widespread public approval of her policies to combat the virus. Yet as Alan Crawford writes, history may judge her less on her custody of Europe’s biggest economy than on what she does to help the region’s weakest member states through a public-health disaster unparalleled in peacetime.New bond | A firm friendship between Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and Indonesian President Joko Widodo has put the United Arab Emirates in pole position as Widodo seeks investors for an ambitious $400 billion infrastructure program. As Sylvia Westall and Philip J. Heijmans write, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is looking to expand his country’s presence in fast-growing Asian markets, but there are also potential strategic outcomes from their rapport.What to WatchEthiopia has postponed general elections scheduled for August, becoming the first African country to suspend a nationwide vote due to the pandemic. Trump approved a business-backed proposal to delay payment of certain tariffs by three months and could sign an executive order as soon as this week, Jenny Leonard reports. The White House won't reopen the Obamacare exchanges to let uninsured Americans buy health care coverage during the pandemic, after Trump said last week he was considering a special enrollment period.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally ... While health-care providers in the U.S. and Europe struggle to deal with the influx of Covid-19 patients, they’re also grappling with ransomware attacks. As Ryan Gallagher reports, hackers are seeking to exploit the crisis when medical providers are at their most desperate. “They are totally without conscience,” said Malcolm Boyce, manager director at Hammersmith Medicines Research in London. 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.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 05:51:50 -0400
  • Russia Won’t Boost Oil Output Amid Oversupply, Official Says

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 05:00:03 -0400
  • Mass testing, empty ICUs: Germany scores early against virus

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    Late last year — long before most people had heard of the new coronavirus now sweeping the globe — scientists in Germany sprang into action to develop a test for the virus that was causing an unusual respiratory disease in central China. “It was clear that if the epidemic swept over here from China, then we had to start testing," said Hendrik Borucki, a spokesman for Bioscientia Healthcare, which operates 19 labs in Germany. Coupled with Germany's large number of intensive care beds and its early social distancing measures, it could explain one of the most interesting puzzles of the COVID-19 pandemic: Why are people with the virus in Germany currently dying at much lower rates than in neighboring countries?

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 03:38:31 -0400
  • Faulty Virus Tests Cloud China’s European Outreach Over Covid-19

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 03:04:53 -0400
  • Ethiopia Becomes First African Nation to Delay Vote on Virus

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    (Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia will postpone general elections that were scheduled for the end of August because of the coronavirus outbreak, the first African country to suspend a nationwide vote due to the pandemic.Delays to the delivery of equipment and the amount of work that would need to be completed amid virus restrictions mean Africa’s second-most populous country won’t be able to vote at that time, the Ethiopian electoral board said Tuesday. A new schedule will be announced “after the risk of the virus has been resolved,” it said.The highly anticipated election is seen as a test of the popularity of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who rose to power almost two years ago following the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn. The 43-year-old swiftly initiated widespread economic reforms and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work toward ending a conflict with neighboring Eritrea, but his reign has also been beset by protests and ethnic violence.“Although the circumstances of the delay are deeply worrying, it does offer an opportunity to reset Ethiopia’s troubled transition,” said William Davison, an analyst with International Crisis Group. “A start would be the ruling party discussing with opponents critical topics such as the conditions for a fair election.”Controlling SpreadEthiopia has 26 confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus, which has swept around the world since originating in China at the turn of the year and triggered a global economic slump. The Horn of Africa country has closed its land borders and deployed security forces to control the spread, while Abiy has called on G-20 leaders to assist Africa with $150 billion in emergency funding and write off or convert debts of low-income countries.Ethiopian Airlines Group has cut about 87 routes, though Africa’s biggest airline hasn’t joined continental rivals Kenya Airways Plc and South African Airways in grounding all international flights. The carrier had lost more than $190 million due to the impact of the coronavirus as of March 21, Abiy said at that time.The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia asked its employees to work from home on March 16 after one of its technical advisers showed coronavirus symptoms, though the test results returned negative, the board said.Ethiopia’s constitution permits the postponement of elections if the country declares a state of emergency. The vote was to be held on Aug. 29.(Updates with airline latest in sixth 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.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 03:04:03 -0400
  • Fake news or the truth? Russia cracks down on virus postings

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    Two weeks ago, an opposition-leaning radio station in Russia interviewed political analyst Valery Solovei, who alleged the government was lying when it said no one had died in the country from the coronavirus. Solovei told radio station Echo Moskvy at least 1,600 people might have died since mid-January. Russia's media and internet watchdog, Roscomnadzor, quickly pressured the station to delete the interview from its website.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 02:25:27 -0400
  • Tencent and United Nations announce global partnership to hold thousands of conversations online through platforms including VooV Meeting for the UN's 75th anniversary

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    Tencent (00700.HK) and the United Nations (UN) today announced a new and innovative global partnership for the UN's 75th anniversary, which will host thousands of online conversations through VooV Meeting (international version of Tencent Meeting), WeChat Work and Tencent Artificial Intelligence Simultaneous Interpretation (Tencent AI SI). This partnership means that amid the coronavirus pandemic, the largest global dialogue to date will be conducted with the technical support from one of the world's largest Internet services and technology companies.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 02:13:00 -0400
  • Saudi official urges Muslims to delay hajj plans over virus

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    A senior Saudi official urged more than 1 million Muslims intending to perform the hajj to delay making plans this year — comments suggesting the pilgrimage could be cancelled due to the new coronavirus pandemic. In February, the kingdom took the extraordinary decision to close off the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to foreigners over the virus, a step which wasn’t taken even during the 1918 flu epidemic that killed tens of millions worldwide. Restrictions have tightened in the kingdom as it grapples with over 1,500 confirmed cases of the new virus.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 02:08:07 -0400
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    New York City deaths top 1,000 with worst to come

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 02:06:41 -0400
  • More than 50 infected with virus at California nursing home

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    A Southern California nursing home has been hit hard by the coronavirus, with more than 50 residents infected — a troubling development amid cautious optimism that cases in the state may peak more slowly than expected. Cedar Mountain Post Acute Rehabilitation in Yucaipa has been told to assume that all of its patients have the COVID-19 virus, San Bernardino County Department of Public Health Director Trudy Raymundo said. As of Tuesday, 51 residents and six staff members had tested positive.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 01:02:20 -0400
  • Census Day arrives with US almost paralyzed by coronavirus

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    Census Day — the date used to reference where a person lives for the once-a-decade count — arrived Wednesday with a nation almost paralyzed by the spread of the novel coronavirus. The virus's spread has forced the U.S. Census Bureau to suspend field operations for a month, from mid-March to mid-April, when the hiring process would be ramping up for up to 500,000 temporary census takers. The bureau also has delayed the start of counts for the homeless and people living in group quarters like college dorms and nursing homes, and has pushed back the deadline for wrapping up the head count from the end of July to mid-August.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 01:01:21 -0400
  • UN General Assembly to decide on rival COVID-19 resolutions

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    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 00:57:37 -0400
  • Trump says 'life and death' at stake in following guidelines

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    President Donald Trump 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. Added Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, “This is a number that we need to anticipate, but we don’t necessarily have to accept it as being inevitable.”

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 00:22:22 -0400
  • Trump allies warn against feud with swing state governor

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    President Donald Trump's allies are trying to contain a politically risky election year fight with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as he struggles to balance presidential politics with a global pandemic in one of the nation's most important swing states. Both sides have tried to de-escalate the feud this week, although Trump's supporters in particular sought to downplay tensions that ratcheted up over the weekend when the Republican president unleashed a social media broadside against Whitmer, a Democrat who had been critical of the federal government's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Trump has clashed with other Democratic governors as well, but he saved his most aggressive insults for the first-term female governor, who is considered a leading vice presidential prospect for his opponent.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 00:09:27 -0400
  • Angela Merkel Can’t Isolate Herself From Pressure to Save Europe

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    (Bloomberg) -- Just across the River Spree from the quiet of Berlin’s Museum Island during lockdown, Angela Merkel sits in self-imposed quarantine in her city center apartment. The galleries at the UNESCO World Heritage Site may boast more World War II bullet holes than visitors in the time of coronavirus, but the calm eludes the German chancellor.After more than 14 years in office, Merkel has returned to the front line of crisis fighting and is in her element again. At 65, she’s more in demand than ever as Europe’s most powerful leader steers her country through what she describes as the greatest challenge since the war. Polls show a surge in support for her party and broad public approval of her policies.Yet history may judge her less on her custody of the region’s powerhouse economy than on what she does to help its weakest members through a public-health disaster unparalleled in peacetime.The last crisis to undermine the European integration project was financial as Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus required bailouts between 2010 and 2015 to keep the continent’s single currency intact. This time, people are dying in their thousands and Italy, the euro region’s third-biggest economy, risks going into meltdown.“Obviously it’s a legacy moment,” said Daniel S. Hamilton, a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins who is currently Richard von Weizsaecker fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.“The crisis is really doing a number on European unity,” and Germany above all countries has the greatest stake in maintaining a united Europe, he said. “It’s reached a stage where Germany will have to show that it is part of the solution to restoring faith in the European project.”As the European Union’s longest serving leader, Merkel’s dilemma is whether she goes all out to help the bloc emerge intact from the pandemic, or risk it splintering along national lines.Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned the Covid-19 response could give succor to nationalist, anti-EU parties that have gained ground across the continent since the onslaught of the European debt crisis in late 2009.The difference now is that every country is affected and the threat to the EU’s integrity more palpable still. As the virus spread, nations restored border controls and embarked on their own missions to tackle the outbreak while the EU stalled.“The way in which countries help or do not help each other can shape perceptions of European integration for a long time to come,” Holger Schmieding and Kallum Pickering, economists at Berenberg Bank, wrote on Sunday. “A perceived lack of such solidarity could jeopardize the long-term cohesion of the EU and the euro zone.”The expectations weighing on the chancellor are a result of both Germany’s status as the bloc’s dominant economic player and Merkel’s long years of experience. She is one of few world leaders still in power who recall first-hand the task of combating the fallout from the financial crisis—and indeed the pressure she was under to act.During the euro-area crisis, the Obama administration clashed with Merkel’s government over what it saw as an insufficient willingness to use Germany’s economic might to stop the turmoil proliferating. The sense in Greece and elsewhere in Europe was that Germany had a special responsibility to help and further atone for its role as aggressor in World War II.That narrative is again being aired during the coronavirus. Italian regional leaders and mayors took out a full page advert in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung this week reminding Germany of the debt relief it was granted in 1953 and called for the same kind of magnanimity from Berlin now.“It is solidarity that you Germans were shown by many European countries after the war and up until reunification,” the officials said. “Dear German friends, memory helps in making the right decisions.”Yet such appeals fail to acknowledge the domestic political reality of keeping a fractious coalition and the German public on board, something that Merkel balanced through the long years of turbulence. The exception was the migration crisis of 2015-2016, when her decision to open the borders to refugees from Syria strained German society more than at any time since reunification of east and west 25 years earlier.Merkel has learned from her mistakes then, and is taking time to communicate her actions to the public even while in self-quarantine. In her weekly podcast on Saturday, she highlighted government efforts to bring security “in these uncertain times,” and drew attention to her “long negotiations” with fellow EU leaders last week during a six-hour video-conference.After that virtual meeting, EU leaders came under fire for failing to come up with a common response to the pandemic, with Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte singled out for leading resistance to joint European debt sales dubbed “coronabonds.” Germany has long ruled out pooled debt on the grounds that it would mean underwriting weaker states at its own taxpayers’ expense.Italy’s Conte called on Germany and the Netherlands to set aside their reservations and support such “extraordinary” measures, in an interview with Spain’s El Pais newspaper published Monday. Conte is one of nine EU leaders to urge the use of coronabonds to combat the crisis.Schmieding, Berenberg’s chief economist and also a veteran of the Greek crisis, said the political logic for coronabonds is now “overwhelming.” He pointed to the contrast between the government’s decisive actions to shield the German economy with a package worth some 750 billion euros ($827 billion) and its lackluster support for a “forceful” common European response.Germany regards the fact it is spending so much to shore up its economy as a key line of defense for Europe as a whole, according to a senior government official.Quicktake‘Coronabonds’ Could Bail Out EuropeIt has already ditched a legal requirement to adhere to balanced budgets—a focus that French President Emmanuel Macron once referred to as a “fetish”—to allow debt financing. A further stimulus program is being considered for after the pandemic to kick start recovery, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said in a Bloomberg Television interview.European disagreement is fanned by the “toxic debate” steered by German conservatives that southerners are now seizing the opportunity to pull Berlin into a “transfer union,” said Jana Puglierin, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.At the same time, “it’s not helpful if you push Merkel into a corner and blame her or Germany for everything,” she said. Merkel “really is a pro-European and she wants to hold this project or club together, said Puglierin. “But don’t expect her to agree to something that is not possible.”German polls show overwhelming support for Merkel’s government during the pandemic. Some 74% of respondents to broadcaster ZDF’s regular Politbarometer survey last week said the measures to fight the economic fallout were correct, while 79% said Merkel was doing a good job. The chancellor remains Germany’s most popular politician.The political dividend is clear, with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union-led bloc jumping about 10 percentage points in less than a month to its highest level since before the 2017 election. Party infighting over the candidate best placed to succeed her before next year’s election has disappeared from public view. Even just the perception of a “Germany First” approach has seen support drop for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, whose roots lie in opposition to euro-area bailouts.Still, Merkel has signaled her willingness to risk a potential backlash by doing more to help as the death toll and economic hit from the pandemic increase.She favors deploying the European Stability Mechanism, a bailout fund set up in 2012 to help euro members. Scholz, her finance minister, has said that in addition, Germany is ready to help the European Investment Bank step in to aid European companies in a liquidity crisis; that it backs the relaxation of EU deficit rules; and sees the bloc’s multi-annual budget as another tool that can be used to help. That amounts to a potent package without the use of coronabonds, Scholz said.Germany has supplied masks and other medical aid, while using the air force to fly in a handful of seriously ill coronavirus patients from Italy and France for treatment. “Luftwaffe planes once caused fear and panic in these countries,” Der Spiegel wrote. “Today they come as friends in times of need.”Whether it’s enough to ride out the crisis and help the EU emerge intact remains to be seen. Hamilton of Johns Hopkins compared the situation to a hurricane.“We’ll weather the storm with great damage, but what exactly will have to happen in terms of disaster relief and recovery is still, I think, anybody’s guess,” he said.As Merkel weighs her response, she has one important event in her diary that serves as a reminder of the need for European unity: May 8 is the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, known in Germany as the Day of Liberation.Additional German help for Europe’s worst affected nations during the pandemic would give the commemoration special resonance, and probably mark Merkel’s last crisis act as chancellor.“I always thought it was not about Germany first, it was about Europe when it came to Merkel,” said Puglierin at the European Council of Foreign Relations. “Who if not her?”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.

    Wed, 01 Apr 2020 00:00:52 -0400
  • Moqtada al-Sadr Is Courting Irrelevance in Iraq

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 23:59:51 -0400
  • Moqtada al-Sadr Is Courting Irrelevance in Iraq

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 23:59:51 -0400
  • U.S., South Korea Near Tentative Troop-Funding Deal, Yonhap Says

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    (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and South Korea have tentatively reached a military cost-sharing agreement, the Yonhap News Agency reported, potentially ending months of bickering over the Trump administration’s demands for a massive increase.The announcement could come as early as Wednesday, the Seoul-based news service reported, citing a South Korean government official it didn’t identify. The two sides agreed to sign a multiple-year contract rather than another stopgap one-year deal, it said.The seven-decades-old military alliance was dealt a blow Wednesday when the U.S. military put almost half of its 8,500 South Korean civilian workers on furlough due to the funding dispute. General Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, called the furloughs “heartbreaking” and “unfortunate,” saying in a statement the move was “not what we envisioned or hoped what would happen.”The furlough was a first of its kind for the American security partnership that serves as a check on China, as well as North Korea. It also unsettled operations at military facilities in South Korea, where about 28,000 U.S. service personnel are stationed.The two sides are putting the finishing touches on the deal, the person told Yonhap on the condition of anonymity, adding various possibilities still remained open. The report did not mention how the two sides bridged a gap after President Donald Trump asked for as much as a five-fold increase and South Korea showed no signs of paying anywhere near that much.South Korea’s foreign ministry and the U.S. State Department declined to comment on the Yonhap report.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 deal in 2019.The tensions over funding 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.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 nine in March alone, a record for a month.More MoneyNegotiators from the U.S. and South Korea met in March in Los Angeles but a wide gap remained between the two sides, according to a State Department spokesman who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.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. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told his counterpart, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, in February 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.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.(Adds comment from U.S. general)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 23:06:21 -0400
  • AP PHOTOS: Indian migrants walk hundreds of miles to go home

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    Young parents balanced children on their shoulders. Over the past week, India’s migrant workers — the mainstay of the country’s labor force — spilled out of big cities that have been shuttered due to the coronavirus and returned to their villages, sparking fears that the virus could spread to the countryside. It was an exodus unlike anything seen in India since the 1947 Partition, when British colonial rule ended and the subcontinent was split between Hindu-majority India and mostly Muslim Pakistan.

    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 22:22:30 -0400
  • UN Security Council urges cease-fire in Afghanistan

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    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 22:07:52 -0400
  • Michael Cohen-Linked Fundraiser Made Illegal Campaign Contributions

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    (Bloomberg) -- A Southern California venture capitalist who contributed $900,000 to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee agreed to plead guilty to making almost $1 million in illegal campaign contributions from 2012 to 2016.Imaad Shah Zuberi, 49, also admitted he hid his work for foreign nationals while he lobbied U.S. government officials and evaded paying taxes, according to the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.The charges don’t appear linked to contributions made to the Trump campaign, but Zuberi has been linked to people in Trump’s orbit who have come under the scrutiny of federal prosecutors, including the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.Zuberi, who ran the venture capital firm Avenue Ventures, solicited foreign nationals and representatives of foreign governments for money, which he used to hire lobbyists and public relations people and to make campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats, according to prosecutors. He also pocketed money from foreign sources for his personal use, prosecutors said.“Mr. Zuberi’s multi-faceted scheme allowed him to line his pockets by concealing the fact that he was representing foreign clients, obtaining access for clients by making a long series of illegal contributions, and skimming money paid by his clients,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in the statement. “Mr. Zuberi circumvented laws designed to insulate U.S. policy and our election process from foreign intervention.”Zuberi’s plea agreement with prosecutors doesn’t include a cooperation clause. Zuberi’s lawyer, Thomas O’Brien, declined to comment.Read more on Trump inaugural committee hereZuberi made campaign contributions that gave him access to high-level U.S. officials, some of whom took action to help his clients, according to prosecutors.The $900,000 to the Trump inaugural committee came through Avenue Ventures, according to a person familiar with the case. For that, Zuberi got a table at the president’s candlelit dinner, slated to be near seats for Vice President Mike Pence and Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy.In February, prosecutors in New York served a subpoena on the inaugural committee, demanding records of its finances, according to a person familiar with the matter. Zuberi and Avenue Ventures were the only donors named in the subpoena, the New York Times reported at the time.Prosecutors asked Cohen about his dealings with Zuberi after the president’s former lawyer pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other crimes, the newspaper reported.Zuberi took about $6.5 million from the government of Sri Lanka as part of a 2014 contract to help to rehabilitate that country’s image in the U.S., prosecutors said. Of that money, less than $850,000 went to lobbyists and public relations firms, while more than $5.65 million went to Zuberi and his wife, they said.He also pocketed the bulk of the money investors put in U.S. Cares, a company created to export humanitarian goods to Iran, according to the Justice Department. Of the $7 million invested in 2013 and 2014, Zuberi allegedly used more than 90% to buy real estate, pay down credit cards, remodel properties and make charitable donations.He faces as long as 15 years in prison.(Corrects reference to Zuberi seating arrangement and spelling of Broidy’s name in 8th paragraph, and removes reference to Broidy in third paragraph, in story that appeared on Oct. 22, 2019)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 20:49:00 -0400
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