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  • Many Venezuelans struggle to put food on the table in crisis

    Many Venezuelans struggle to put food on the table in crisisFor Yeri Guerra, getting by during hard times in Venezuela means sometimes skipping meals so her two young boys still at home can eat before heading to school. According to a survey recently published by the U.N. World Food Program, one of every three Venezuelans cope with food insecurity, unable to get enough to meet their basic dietary needs. In an apparent shift for Venezuela, people surveyed said food is now available in a country once riddled by shortages, but it's more difficult to afford because they've lost their jobs as Venezuela's crisis deepens.




  • China Spins Coronavirus Crisis, Hailing Itself as a Global Leader

    China Spins Coronavirus Crisis, Hailing Itself as a Global LeaderThe Chinese government silenced whistleblowers, withheld crucial information and played down the threat posed by the new coronavirus, allowing an epidemic that has killed thousands to take hold across the country.Now the ruling Communist Party, facing a storm of anger from the Chinese public over its missteps, is trying to rehabilitate its image by rebranding itself as the unequivocal leader in the global fight against the virus.The state-run news media has hailed China's response to the outbreak as a model for the world, accusing countries like the United States and South Korea of acting sluggishly to contain the spread."Some countries slow to respond to virus," read a recent headline from Global Times, a stridently nationalistic tabloid controlled by the Chinese government.Online influencers have trumpeted China's use of Mao-style social controls to achieve containment, using the hashtag, "The Chinese method is the only method that has proved successful."Party officials have tried to spin the crisis as a testament to the strength of China's authoritarian system and its hard-line leader, Xi Jinping, even announcing plans to publish a book in six languages about the outbreak that portrays him as a "major power leader" with "care for the people."The attempt to rebrand is a gamble for Xi and the party.Xi, China's most influential leader since former Communist Chairman Mao Zedong, has made it a priority to expand the country's economic and military might around the world and to demonstrate that China can play the role of responsible superpower.The coronavirus outbreak has undermined those global ambitions and the propaganda push suggests the party might be worried about lasting damage. And as the virus spreads to over 50 countries and wreaks havoc on global markets, experts said the campaign could revive concerns about China's secretive approach to managing the crisis."The danger for Xi Jinping is that as the virus spreads globally, the role that China's system of governance played in delaying a timely response will face growing scrutiny and criticism from the international community," said Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow and director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.The rebranding appears to be "a last-ditch effort by Xi to deflect blame and avoid a demand by the international community for an honest accounting of what actually transpired," she added.China is still deep in the throes of a public health crisis, with more than 78,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and at least 2,700 deaths. Factories in many areas have halted production, and authorities have imposed lockdown measures across much of the country, beginning in January in the central city of Wuhan, the center of the outbreak.The government is now working to promote the idea that international experts enthusiastically endorse its approach.A recent story by Xinhua, a state-run news agency, featured experts from several allies of China, including Russia, Cuba and Belarus, lavishing praise on Chinese leaders for showing "openness" and a "highly responsible attitude" in dealing with the outbreak.Memes have circulated featuring recent praise from a World Health Organization expert for China's efforts. One shows the expert and a quote from a recent news conference in which he said he would want to be treated in China if he were infected with the virus.A Twitter post by Xinhua on Thursday asked which part of China's fight against the epidemic was most impressive. The choices included "spirit of self-sacrifice" and "solidarity among Chinese."Eager to highlight the country's successes, Chinese officials and commentators are encouraging other countries to deploy Beijing's playbook in fighting the outbreak, including its strict lockdown measures."The homework that Chinese people wrote with their blood and sweat is right in front of your very eyes, and you aren't capable of copying it?" said one post widely circulated on WeChat, a messaging app.Some in the party are directing their criticism at the United States, a popular foe, accusing U.S. officials of "slandering" China by focusing on the shortcomings in its response. They have argued that the U.S. political system is not capable of dealing effectively with an outbreak."China has acted as a responsible big country," said an article this week in Global Times. "Nonetheless, due to ideological and political prejudice against China, American elites don't believe China's moves and experience are reliable and helpful."The party has sought to play up themes of patriotism and sacrifice and to reframe the crisis as a heroic battle against the virus with Xi at the helm. News sites show photos of medical workers stationed at airports, with the word "attack" splashed across the images in bright red letters. Cartoons circulating online depict doctors and security officials marching in step alongside the words, "We will win this battle!"Authorities have dispatched hundreds of state-sponsored journalists to produce sentimental stories about front-line doctors and nurses. Communist groups have created cartoon mascots meant to stir patriotic feelings.That approach has often provoked blowback from the public. By trying to reframe the crisis as a vindication of the party's governance model, propaganda officials appear to be trying out yet another message.David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, a research program affiliated with the University of Hong Kong, said the party appeared to be in crisis and unsure how to grapple with a relentless outpouring of criticism."They really don't know how to respond to an ongoing event of this magnitude," he said. "There is a lot of inconsistency. And many efforts to gain control of public opinion only throw these problems into sharp relief."Xi appears eager to reframe the crisis as a triumph for the party and a vindication of his efforts to strengthen its control over everyday life in China.He told a teleconference meeting of 170,000 party cadres Sunday that a recent decline in infections "once again demonstrated the notable advantages of the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics."Xi has proved to be an agile political operator, and he has emerged from other crises relatively unscathed. But with the public still fuming over the outbreak, he is likely to face lingering questions about the party's credibility and his leadership, experts said.Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing and a critic of the party, said a propaganda campaign was unlikely to satisfy the public."It is difficult to believe that the Chinese Communist Party has played the role of a hero or leader in the so-called coronavirus prevention in the world," he said.He added that Xi would most likely struggle to regain trust."This crisis has caused a fatal blow to Xi Jinping's personal image," he said. "For a long time to come, the public will continue to doubt him, and this doubt is irreparable."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company




  • 210 people have reportedly died from coronavirus in Iran, but the government is saying the death toll is only 34

    210 people have reportedly died from coronavirus in Iran, but the government is saying the death toll is only 34The death toll in Iran from the novel coronavirus could be far higher than the government is letting on.




  • Germany to Intensify Border Checks in Effort to Contain Virus

    Germany to Intensify Border Checks in Effort to Contain Virus(Bloomberg) -- Germany announced a slew of measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus by people coming into the country from affected areas.A German government task force dealing with the crisis announced late on Friday plans to intensify health checks for cross-border travel into the country, and said travelers arriving from South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran must declare their health status upon arrival. Passengers from China are already required to do so.Train passengers entering Germany must also fill out forms declaring their health status, while rail operators will be required to reported symptomatic travelers to German authorities.The task force also said large events such as next week’s ITB tourism trade fair in Berlin should be canceled. The ITB previously announced that it had scrapped the event, which would have brought 160,000 visitors to Berlin.To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Naomi Kresge in Berlin at nkresge@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Chad ThomasFor 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.




  • Liberal gun owners face dilemma in 2020 field

    Liberal gun owners face dilemma in 2020 fieldLike many liberals, Lara Smith considers herself a feminist, favors abortion rights and believes the nation’s immigration policies under the Trump administration have just been “vile.” Smith and liberal gun owners like her face a quandary as voting in the Democratic primary intensifies with Super Tuesday next week. “You’re alienating a huge part of your constituency,” Smith says of the Democratic field’s gun proposals.




  • Pompeo savaged by Democrats on Capitol Hill over coronavirus, Iran

    Pompeo savaged by Democrats on Capitol Hill over coronavirus, IranSecretary of State Mike Pompeo faced intense criticism Friday from Democrats on Capitol Hill, who questioned him on the Trump administration's response to the growing coronavirus threat, as well as the persistent threat from foes like Iran.




  • Bloomberg Pledges to De-Escalate U.S. Trade Tensions with China

    Bloomberg Pledges to De-Escalate U.S. Trade Tensions with China(Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is pledging to de-escalate trade tensions with China and negotiate lower tariffs on soybeans, cotton and other goods as part of an agriculture policy he said will prioritize cooperation with allies to pressure Beijing.Bloomberg says in a proposal released Friday that while President Donald Trump is touting the initial phase of a trade deal with China signed last month, his trade war has slashed U.S. farm exports, especially soybeans, that are unlikely to recover as much as promised.Trump’s $28 billion in aid to farmers may help some in the short term, but long-term U.S. trading relationships have been damaged and farmers are hurting financially, he said.“Donald Trump’s trade war has been devastating for America’s farmers, causing farm debt and farm bankruptcies to reach record highs,” Bloomberg said in a statement.(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)Bloomberg said he would prioritize cooperation with allies and the World Trade Organization and respond to what he called China’s unfair trade practices such as high tariffs, subsidies and forced technology transfers “by leading international efforts to pressure the country to change its ways.”The former New York mayor pledged to open new international and domestic markets for U.S. farm products but didn’t provide specifics about how he would do it.Bloomberg is also promising to promote more competition in the agricultural industry and “combat farming monopolies,” including by requiring the Justice Department to subject mergers and acquisitions to greater scrutiny and review recent deals.As part of his policy, Bloomberg proposes at least doubling the $2.5 billion in annual federal investment in agricultural research and expanding funding for conservation programs to reduce pollution and emissions.Bloomberg was challenged at the South Carolina Democratic presidential debate this week about an earlier comment that Chinese President Xi Jinping “is not a dictator.” The next night, in a CNN town hall, he said as president he would pressure China on human rights abuses, but again stopped short of calling Xi a dictator.To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Magan CraneFor 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.




  • Democrats press Pompeo over Trump’s ‘failure’ of an Iran policy

    Democrats press Pompeo over Trump’s ‘failure’ of an Iran policySecretary of State Mike Pompeo got an earful on the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran




  • Amazon defers 'non-essential' moves even in U.S. as corporate travel bans spread

    Amazon defers 'non-essential' moves even in U.S. as corporate travel bans spreadCoronavirus fears have intensified in recent days since countries besides China have reported a sharp increase in cases, with six countries reporting their first cases. Amazon is one of the latest companies to clamp down on travel because of the outbreak, which has caused at least 2,797 deaths globally. Google is banning travel to Iran and two Italian regions, Lombardy and the Veneto, where the virus is spreading.




  • Court temporarily halts Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

    Court temporarily halts Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policyDealing a significant blow to a signature Trump administration immigration policy, a federal appeals court ruled Friday that the government can no longer make asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases wind through the U.S. immigration courts. The same court, based in San Francisco, decided to keep another major change on hold, one that denies asylum to anyone who enters the U.S. illegally from Mexico. The twin setbacks for the Trump administration may prove temporary if it appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has consistently sided with the president on immigration and border security policies.




  • U.N. chief says window for containment of coronavirus narrowing


  • Dems joust with Pompeo at hearing, the 1st since impeachment

    Dems joust with Pompeo at hearing, the 1st since impeachmentSecretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the Trump administration's response to the spreading coronavirus but also faced contentious questions from Democrats about the basis for an airstrike that killed Iran's most powerful general and whether the attack had put American security at risk. Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee repeatedly expressed frustration that the panel was afforded only two hours to question Pompeo, who until Friday had gone months without testifying publicly on Capitol Hill.




  • UN envoy says Libya truce nearly broke down amid fighting

    UN envoy says Libya truce nearly broke down amid fightingThe U.N. envoy for Libya on Friday denounced the near breakdown of a fragile truce between the country’s warring sides, citing a “serious violation” over the last 24 hours — attacks on the capital including an early morning shelling of Tripoli’s airport. Ghassan Salame, hosting diplomatic talks in Geneva, also exposed a rift within delegations representing Libya's internationally recognized government in Tripoli and the eastern-based government allied with ex-general Khalifa Hifter. Salame has been mediating three-tiered talks on economic, political and military tracks since an agreement to launch them last month, hoping to end violence and troubles in Libya since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.




  • Iran reports 8 new coronavirus deaths, raising toll to 34

    Iran reports 8 new coronavirus deaths, raising toll to 34Iran on Friday reported eight new deaths from coronavirus, raising its toll to 34, as the number of infections jumped again in the Islamic republic, one of the worst-hit countries. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 143 cases had been detected over the past 24 hours, increasing the total of confirmed infections to 388. "We are currently in a phase in which infections are increasing," he said, predicting that the situation "will continue for some days, even weeks".




  • Sanders-linked group entered into racial discrimination NDA

    Sanders-linked group entered into racial discrimination NDAA political advocacy group founded by Bernie Sanders entered into a nondisclosure agreement with an African American political consultant that bars her from discussing a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at the organization and the Vermont senator's 2016 presidential campaign. The consultant, Tezlyn Figaro, confirmed the existence of the nondisclosure agreement to The Associated Press without providing additional details. The deal is tied to a 2019 lawsuit in which Figaro said she was fired from the Sanders-created political group Our Revolution a year earlier due to her race and in “retaliation for complaining about the organization’s treatment towards her and African-Americans.”




  • UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting on Syria


  • Kosovo’s Bid to Lift Serb Trade Embargo Draws U.S. Rebuke


  • Why is Iran's reported mortality rate for coronavirus higher than in other countries?

    Why is Iran's reported mortality rate for coronavirus higher than in other countries?Iran has now suspended parliament indefinitely due to the outbreak. Secretary of State Pompeo says the U.S. has offered to help Iran respond to the virus.




  • Mexico Has Its First Coronavirus Case, Second Being Verified

    Mexico Has Its First Coronavirus Case, Second Being Verified(Bloomberg) -- A 35-year-old man was confirmed as the first coronavirus case in Mexico and a second case is awaiting final testing, the country’s deputy health minister said on Friday.The first patient has a mild case and has been put in quarantine along with family members in the country’s Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference for further testing, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the health official, said at the National Palace.The man is a resident of Mexico City who took a trip to Italy in February. The case is Mexico’s first, and the second known instance in Latin America after Brazil confirmed a case on Wednesday.“We have the capacity to deal with the situation,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at the press conference.The man traveled to Bergamo, Italy for a conference in February, where he had direct contact with an infected Italian national who normally lives in Malaysia. Three other Mexicans attended the same conference, one in Culiacan in Sinaloa state and another two in other parts of Mexico.They are being closely monitored, and a local health agency confirmed the man in Culiacan contracted the virus. It has sent details to the national agency for confirmation.“We see the state laboratory’s confirmation as valid, but nevertheless we will verify it in our own laboratory,” Lopez-Gatell said. Separately, Lopez-Gatell said that a cruise ship that had been stopped in Cozumel on suspicion of possible infection had no cases aboard and that passengers would be allowed to disembark.Worldwide, more than 83,000 cases have been confirmed and deaths from the virus have topped 2,800 people. On Friday, Iran, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the U.K. all reported new infections. Nigeria confirmed the first infection south of the Sahara desert.The Mexican peso fell 1.4% to 19.7820 per dollar, the weakest level since Oct. 2019. Mexico’s benchmark Mexbol stock index plunged 2.6% after the coronavirus news.(Adds case details, worldwide numbers and stock move throughout.)To contact the reporters on this story: Justin Villamil in Mexico City at jvillamil18@bloomberg.net;Lorena Rios in Mexico City at lriost@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Carolina Wilson at cwilson166@bloomberg.net, Nacha CattanFor 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.




  • Former Prague Muslim leader sentenced on terror charges


  • U.S. sees significant reduction in Afghan violence over last six days


  • Mexico confirms first 2 cases of coronavirus

    Mexico confirms first 2 cases of coronavirusMexico's assistant health secretary announced Friday that the country now has two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. Hugo Lopez-Gatell said one of the patients is in Mexico City and the other in the northern state of Sinaloa. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador appeared to downplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus, saying “it isn't even equivalent to flu."




  • France Mocks U.K. Threats on Trade Talks as ‘For the Birds’


  • The Political Pundits of the Future Are on TikTok

    The Political Pundits of the Future Are on TikTokAs Twitter and Facebook continue to dominate conversations about social media and the 2020 presidential election, TikTok is quietly becoming a political force.Teenagers in America -- many of them too young to vote -- are forming political coalitions on TikTok to campaign for their chosen candidates, post news updates and fact check opponents. They are sharing real-time commentary for an audience that is far more likely to watch YouTube videos than turn on a cable news channel.In a sense, these TikTok users are building short-form TV networks, each with a cast of talking heads. On TikTok they're called hype houses, named after the high-powered influencer collab house in Los Angeles. These political houses are not physical homes, but virtual, ideological ones represented by group accounts.There are conservative-leaning houses (@conservativehypehouse, @theconservativehypehouse, @TikTokrepublicans and @therepublicanhypehouse, which amassed more than 217,000 followers in under a month) and liberal ones (@liberalhypehouse, @leftist.hype.house). There are also bipartisan houses, for users who love discourse, and undecided houses, for those who aren't sure what or whom they love."I do feel like TikTok is cable news for young people," said Sterling Cade Lewis, 19, who has nearly 100,000 followers. "CNN and Fox and big-name news media, those are all geared toward people who have honestly grown up with a longer attention span."TikToks, on the other hand, run a maximum of 60 seconds; most videos are as short as 15. "Being able to make shorter videos and educational clips, it's easier to connect with a younger generation who's just swiping through their phones 24/7," Lewis said.In recent months, content on TikTok has been getting more political. Before the general election in Britain in December, TikTok users there voiced their opinions on Brexit through popular formats, including lip syncs, skits and "checks" (self-assessments, essentially). In the United States, political videos have revolved around the Trump administration, the Democratic presidential primary and the general presidential election in November.The nickname "Mayo Pete," for example, was popularized on TikTok, as was a popular meme about Mike Pence, suggesting that he is in favor of gay conversion therapy. (Vice President Pence is opposed to same-sex marriage, but he has never voiced support for conversion therapy.). Political hype houses were born out of this enthusiasm for election-related content.Political TikToks often rely on popular trends and dances. In one video, Kyndal, 14 and a member of @liberalhypehouse, does a dance as she points to statistics about President Donald Trump's history of racist comments.For the most part, these videos revolve around two candidates: Bernie Sanders and Trump. "The Republican hype houses all root for Trump, and the liberal hype houses all root for Bernie," said Javon Fonville, 19, the founder of the progressive hype house (handle: @votebernie2020).Many users are campaigning hard, especially because they may not be of voting age in time for Nov. 3. "I feel like I am making an impact on the election even though I can't vote," Izzy, 17, said of her pro-Sanders TikToks.Many of these creators look up to YouTube's political commentators and have sought to replicate their success on TikTok, where growth can happen rapidly. Benjamin Williams, 19, said the platform is ideal for the kind of videos he wants to make and the audience he hopes to reach. "A lot of political stuff is on Facebook and Twitter, but Gen Z isn't really into that stuff," he said. "With TikTok you can put politics into comedy and have someone their age talking like they're a friend."Williams said he is inspired by YouTubers like Steven Crowder, Tim Pool and Paul Joseph Watson, a prominent far-right personality and Infowars contributor who is known for spreading conspiracy theories.Speaking of which: TikTok has struggled to prevent conspiracy theories from spreading across the app. Media Matters, a nonprofit, recently issued a report on the platform's role in spreading false information on the coronavirus."It worries me a lot that some of these videos have 1 million views," Kyndal, of @liberalhypehouse, said, referring to the misinformation on the platform. "Knowing that 1 million impressionable teens have seen this video and chosen to believe or not believe it."A TikTok spokeswoman wrote in an email: "We encourage our users to have respectful conversations about the subjects that matter to them. However, our Community Guidelines do not permit misinformation that could cause harm to our community or the larger public."For many members of political hype houses, tamping down on misinformation is a top concern. When various accounts began citing the claim that Sanders intended to tax Americans making more than $29,000 a year at a rate higher than 50%, Jordan Tirona, 19, responded with a video debunking it.Though they disagree on major issues, members of different political groups frequently engage with each other. Their videos often go viral when they "duet" on major issues. (Duetting is a feature on TikTok that allows users to respond to videos with videos of their own and post them side by side.)The @republicanhypehouse and @liberalhypehouse accounts frequently duet over health care reform and corporate tax rates. TikTokers across the partisan divide also take part in livestreamed debates on TikTok.Cam Higby, 20, the founder of the bipartisan hype house who also posts under @republicanism, said that ultimately he wants to build a platform on TikTok where anyone can promote their opinions, whether they're on the right or left. He livestreams himself for hours, debating people on TikTok and Discord.Many members of Gen Z will be voting for the first time in the 2020 presidential election. Those who can't have been taking political action in other ways, especially on social media."I think it's cool when you have people who are like 14 trying to get involved in politics and educate themselves," Higby said. "Those are the people -- they're not voting this year, but they'll be voting within the next term."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company




  • Coronavirus Diagnosis in California Highlights Testing Flaws

    Coronavirus Diagnosis in California Highlights Testing FlawsAlready in deep distress, the patient was rushed last week to a hospital in Northern California, severely ill and unable to breathe on her own.Doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center, near Sacramento, provided the woman with critical care but also considered an unlikely diagnosis: infection with the coronavirus.Hospital administrators said they immediately requested diagnostic testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the procedure was not carried out because the case did not qualify under strict federal criteria: She had not traveled to China and had not been in contact with anyone known to be infected.The announcement on Wednesday that the woman was indeed infected left health officials in California searching for people she may have exposed to the virus and testing the medical workers who have treated her. The case has raised difficult questions about whom to test and whether the nation is prepared to keep the virus under control.The California woman's case may also offer the first indication that the virus has spread beyond Americans who had traveled outside the country, or had contact with someone who had.Even before the announcement on Wednesday, frustration had been mounting among health providers and medical experts that the agency was testing too few Americans, which may slow preparations for an outbreak and may obscure the scope of infections."I think the diagnostic issue is the single most important thing that keeps me up at night right now," said Lauren Sauer, director of operations at the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response in Baltimore.CDC officials said on Thursday that they had been unaware that doctors in California made an urgent appeal for diagnostic testing of the woman. But by the end of the day, the agency had revised and broadened its testing criteria, adding to the number of Americans who qualify.In California, health officials are tracing close contacts of the woman, who lives in Solano County but has not otherwise been identified. Health care workers who have treated her are being monitored for the infection, and some employees at the medical center have been told to stay home.Officials are bracing for a larger outbreak in Northern California. "There's almost assuredly going to be a significant number of people testing positive," said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the director of Sacramento County's Department of Health Services.The case has heightened concerns about the nation's ability to test large numbers of people. Only the CDC performs the tests that confirm a novel coronavirus diagnosis, a process that often takes days.The CDC had distributed diagnostic testing kits to state health departments, but they turned out to be flawed. Replacement kits have not yet been distributed.Sauer said Johns Hopkins had treated several patients who did not fit the testing criteria, and for whom it requested coronavirus testing. In all but one case, the hospital was able to persuade the CDC to run a test, or eventually identify another cause for the patient's illness.The CDC is "pretty much the only place we can access testing," she added, and the agency has been unwilling to grapple with cases that don't fit its criteria."The idea that we would have to really fight to get that test done, when CDC is saying they have capacity, is alarming," Sauer said."It is a challenge when the most important piece of information -- does this person have this disease, yes or no -- is not accessible, and there's no timeline for improved accessibility," she said.After the diagnosis in California, the CDC has pledged to greatly expand the state's ability to test patients for the coronavirus, officials said."Testing protocols have been a point of frustration for many of us," Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Thursday. California had just 200 testing kits left, he added.The governor said that Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the CDC, had promised that state physicians would have a much greater ability to test patients who were showing symptoms, a change the governor said "can't happen soon enough."The CDC has committed to sending a team to California to help track people and make sure they are contacted by health officials about their possible exposure, Newsom said."They are being interviewed -- points of contact, family members and others," he said.Experts said they were perplexed by the CDC's inability to fix the test's flaws."The obvious observation is that many countries are capable of testing rather widely," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. "Why can't we?"The CDC operates two laboratories that test for the coronavirus and can handle approximately 400 specimens per day. Agency officials say there is no testing backlog, but it is unclear whether the labs will be able to keep up with demand if the need -- and eligibility -- increases testing substantially.Under the new federal criteria, people with respiratory symptoms who traveled to Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea should be tested -- not just those who traveled in China. So should severely ill patients with acute lower respiratory symptoms who are hospitalized and in whom other diagnoses have been ruled out.A criticism of the new criteria, however, is that doctors will have to wait until someone is extremely ill to test for the virus if that person did not travel to the affected regions or had contact with a known case."If we could identify these people earlier who don't specifically meet one of the two criteria, or some sort of broader travel criteria, we could get them tested," Sauer said. "You have to wait until someone's really sick to push that test now, even with this new criteria."Kenneth E. Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said he planned to appeal to Vice President Mike Pence -- whom President Donald Trump named to lead federal preparations -- "to order the CDC to develop a rapid point of care test" that hospitals could use to screen patients.In the meantime, Raske said, the Wadsworth Center, New York's public health reference laboratory, should be certified to do these tests.If more community-acquired infections turn up, and the disease cannot be contained, the strategy will have to become one of mitigation, said Dr. Neil Fishman, associate chief medical officer for the University of Pennsylvania Health System."That's a little difficult to do when you don't have a readily available test, and when the turnaround time for the test can be days instead of hours," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company




  • Afghan ex-leader welcomes peace deal; criticizes US legacy

    Afghan ex-leader welcomes peace deal; criticizes US legacyOn the eve of a potentially historic deal with the U.S. and the Taliban to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed the signing of the agreement, thanked Americans for their generosity, but had harsh words for the U.S. government and military. “To the American people our message is we are grateful for the help that you gave us in areas where there has been a lot of improvement in Afghan society, together with the rest of the international community,” Karzai told The Associated Press in an interview Friday in the Afghan capital of Kabul . The deal to be signed Saturday in Qatar is to provide for the eventual withdrawal of America's 13,000 troops, as well as for negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government and other prominent Afghan leaders.




  • Brexit Was Tough. The Next 10 Months Look No Easier

    Brexit Was Tough. The Next 10 Months Look No Easier(Bloomberg) -- Think four years of political noise over Brexit will subside now that the European Union and Britain are set at last to kick-off negotiations on their future trade relationship? Think again.Politics will be at the forefront of the EU-U.K. talks due to begin on Monday in Brussels. As a result, businesses must take seriously the risk of tariffs and quotas on two-way trade reemerging as of January 2021, when the post-Brexit transition that maintains the economic status quo is due to end.Traditionally, the politicians spend months, even years, grandstanding and promising the electorate prosperity from their proposed policies, then hand things off to the technocrats to toil away in obscurity on hundreds of pages of minutia contained in your average trade deal.But the past week has offered plenty of evidence of the political fireworks to come in EU-British ties over the coming months. It started with each side accusing the other of ditching past promises and ended with the U.K. government threatening to abandon talks halfway through the year.Political divergences over the whole matter belie economic similarities that result from Britain’s almost half-century of EU membership. Like a couple whose long marriage ends without mutual consent, London and Brussels know each other well and their haggles reflect not misunderstandings but rather principle, pride and posturing.The central sticking point is an EU call on the U.K. to continue following the bloc’s rules in policy areas such as state aid, the environment and employment. For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, such a demand for a “level playing field” is tantamount to disregarding the will of the 52% of voters who backed Brexit in the 2016 referendum (and of those who handed him a landslide election victory in December).The degree of future U.K. regulatory alignment with the EU is essentially a technocratic question with high political stakes. Consequently, even with skilled negotiators seeking imaginative solutions, the issue is a potential deal-breaker that would leave both sides imposing tariffs and quotas on each other’s goods by defaulting to basic World Trade Organization arrangements.So stay buckled up for the next bruising phase. The Brexit drama is done, long live the Brexit drama!(To sign up for Bloomberg’s daily Brexit Bulletin, click here.)Charting the Trade WarAmerican sorghum sales soared to a five-year high as the grain proves to be one of the few big crop winners seeing a significant demand boost from the newly enacted U.S.-China trade pact. Net export sales climbed to 444,500 metric tons in the week ended Feb. 20, government data show. It’s the first week of reporting since the phase-one deal between Washington and Beijing went into force. Today’s Must ReadsGlobal slowdown | The world economy may be heading for its worst performance since the financial crisis more than a decade ago as the spread of the coronavirus increasingly dashes hopes of a swift rebound. Searching for clues | On Saturday, China will give the biggest insight yet into how much the coronavirus is hurting its economy, with a key gauge of manufacturing activity set to plunge. Factory disruptions | More than 40% of manufacturers across parts of America’s heartland see negative effects from the coronavirus, according to a survey released by the Kansas City Fed. Slow progress | The economic impact of an Africa-wide deal to establish the world’s largest free-trade area will probably be very modest in the first few years, according an architect of the pact. Splintering NATO | President Donald Trump’s call for a crackdown on Huawei is bleeding into broader questions about ties with some of America’s most steadfast allies since the end of World War II. Economic AnalysisFreight fright | Air-freight volume will struggle with stalled manufacturing and diminished trade cargo. Back to work | China’s economy continues to crawl back, but still has a long way to go to get fully back in business. Coming UpMarch 1: South Korea trade balance March 6: Canadian merchandise trade March 7: China trade balanceTo contact the author of this story: Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Murray at brmurray@bloomberg.net, Zoe SchneeweissFor 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.




  • Fire kills 5 in residential building in Iranian city of Qom


  • Africa May Only See Impact of New Free-Trade Deal After 3 Years


  • Prayers at fire-bombed mosques as India's riot toll grows

    Prayers at fire-bombed mosques as India's riot toll growsMuslims in a northeastern neighborhood of India's capital returned for weekly prayers at fire-bombed mosques on Friday, two days after a 72-hour clash between Hindus and Muslims that left at least 40 dead and hundreds injured. Five days after the riots started, authorities have not said what sparked the worst communal violence in New Delhi in decades. Tensions between Hindu hard-liners and Muslims protesting the Hindu-first policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government had been building for months when the violence exploded Sunday night, on the eve of U.S. President Donald Trump's first state visit to India.




  • Parents of 'terrified' Africans stranded in China want help

    Parents of 'terrified' Africans stranded in China want helpShe wakes every day long before dawn to chat with her three stranded daughters on the other side of the world in China's locked-down city of Wuhan, anxious to see they have started a new day virus-free. “If I don’t get a reply it worries me, but if I get a reply from any of them I say, ‘’Thank you, Jesus,'" Margaret Ntale said. Many countries evacuated citizens from Wuhan after the virus outbreak started there, but thousands of students from African countries have been left behind.




  • Hong Kong Tycoon Lai Arrested in Fresh Crackdown on Activists

    Hong Kong Tycoon Lai Arrested in Fresh Crackdown on Activists(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong media tycoon and a prominent democracy advocate Jimmy Lai, who has long denounced as a traitor by Chinese state media, was among activists swept up in a fresh wave of arrests in the Asian financial hub.Lai, 72, was arrested Friday on suspicion of participating in an unlawful assembly last year and intimidating a reporter in 2017, Hong Kong Superintendent Wong Tung-kwong said. He was given police bail and TV footage showed him leaving the police station shortly after the briefing. He didn’t answer questions from reporters as he approached his vehicle.The move follows years of criticism against Lai in Chinese state media, which has often listed him among a “Gang of Four” democracy advocates fomenting unrest in the former British colony. While the media network Lai founded, Next Digital Ltd. and its Apple Daily newspaper, backs the protests, it’s been years since he was seen as playing a central role in the city’s democracy movement.Hong Kong Protests Fuel Media Tycoon’s Turnaround PlanStill, elder Hong Kong democracy advocates like Lai are often sought out by American diplomats, officials and journalists for insights into the city’s politics. The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper under China’s Communist Party, cited Lai’s meeting with U.S. officials including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in an editorial Friday praising his arrest.“Many believed Lai is the ‘chief traitor’ who has brought chaos to the country and disorder to Hong Kong,” the paper said.The arrests come amid a lull in protest activity following more than six months of nearly non-stop demonstrations and as Hong Kong battles the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus. Earlier this year, Beijing also appointed new hard-line officials to lead the agencies that oversee the city, including the Liaison Office.Next Digital Group Director Mark Simon said by phone that Lai’s arrest probably stemmed from the Liaison Office’s desire to show it was taking action. “This is ridiculous,” Simon said. Next Digital’s shares fell 1.3% on Friday.The Hong Kong police have been going through footage and trying to track down around protesters and other suspects. Two former pro-democracy lawmakers and activists, Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum, were also arrested Friday.Earlier this month, China tapped Xia Baolong, an official best known for carrying out a campaign to remove crosses from churches in Zhejiang province, as director of the Hong Kong & Macau Affairs Office. In January, Beijing had appointed Luo Huining -- a cadre known for executing President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign -- as head of China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.On Aug. 31, the day Lai was accused of participating in an unlawful assembly, tens and thousands of people took to the streets in central Hong Kong to protest China’s refusal to allow a direct vote for the city’s leader. Demonstrators turned out despite a police ban and the arrests of several high-profile pro-democracy activists and lawmakers.Hong Kong saw one of the most tense and violent clashes that weekend, featuring roadblocks set on fire outside the police headquarters in Wan Chai. The city descended into further chaos as riot police stormed into Prince Edward station in Kowloon to make arrests inside subway trains.The allegation of intimidating a reporter stemmed from a 2017 exchange with a journalist from the Oriental Daily newspaper. The outlet had long sought to have Lai prosecuted over the 2017 incident, Simon said.\--With assistance from Dandan Li.To contact the reporters on this story: Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at flung6@bloomberg.net;Sheridan Prasso in Hong Kong at sprasso@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Fion Li at fli59@bloomberg.net, ;Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Iain MarlowFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.




  • As Virus Spreads, Koreans Blame Refusal to Stop Chinese Visitors

    As Virus Spreads, Koreans Blame Refusal to Stop Chinese Visitors(Bloomberg) -- In a matter of days, South Korea has swung from confidence that it had escaped the worst of the coronavirus outbreak to a cautionary tale of how quickly the disease can plunge a nation into crisis.Confirmed cases of the deadly disease surged past 2,000 on Friday -- doubling in two days and raising alarm about the worst outbreak outside of neighboring China. Supermarket shelves are emptying, mask prices are soaring and hospital beds are running out in Daegu city, where the disease has stricken many from a religious sect. Epidemiological models predict that infections in Korea will top 10,000 in March.The surge has citizens looking for someone to blame, prompting fresh criticism of South Korea President Moon Jae-in, who confidently predicted two weeks ago that the virus would be terminated “before long” while refusing calls to halt all arrivals from China. With 13 dead from the virus, public fury is coalescing around the government’s handling of the outbreak, especially its efforts to accommodate the country’s bigger, more powerful neighbor.“The government failed to contain this outbreak,” said Kim Su-yeon, a self-development lecturer who lives in Suji, near Seoul. “They were late in their response and they should have blocked the Chinese from coming in from the start,” Kim said, adding, “They have been ineffective in all of their policies.”Governments in places including Japan and Hong Kong have suffered similar backlash for being slow to restrict Chinese visitors, while others that took a harder line, such as Singapore and Taiwan, have seen the pace of new cases slow. Still, it may already be too late for any policy shifts, with outbreaks centered in countries as far-flung as Iran and Italy making it harder to calibrate travel restrictions.Ban EntryIn Korea, disapproval of Moon has risen five percentage points to 51%, the highest since October, according to a weekly Gallup Korea tracking poll released Friday. Some 41% were satisfied by the president’s handling of the virus, compared with 64% two weeks ago. Tellingly, almost two-thirds said they wanted the government to ban all foreign entries from China, rather than the current policy of barring visitors from certain hot spots.The anger is translating into action, with more than 1.2 million people signing a petition demanding Moon’s impeachment for taking what it calls a pro-China approach to the outbreak. The backlash comes just weeks ahead of April 15 parliamentary elections that could put the president’s rivals back into power. A competing petition supporting Moon and the government has garnered more than 900,000 signatures.Moon spokesman Kang Min-seok called criticism of the country’s entry policies “regrettable” and argued that they had helped stem new cases from China.“We’ve rationally taken into consideration the effectiveness of outbreak-prevention measures, as well as the interests of our people,” Kang said in a statement Thursday.Coronavirus: Places That Have Imposed Travel RestrictionsInfections in South Korea are now accelerating more quickly than in China. Daily life has largely ground to a halt in hard-hit Daegu, a southern city of 2.5 million people known for producing textile and apples that’s long been a stronghold of the conservative opposition.“When the president said the virus will soon be under control and that we can go back to our everyday life to continue economic activities, that’s when people started to take their protective masks off, and things got out of hand from there,” said Lee Haemin, a 31-year-old man in the financial industry living in Seoul. “The local economy is now on the verge of falling apart.”Now, buses are empty, restaurants are shut and kids are staying home from school. A concert featuring K-Pop boy band BTS scheduled for March 8 was postponed. Seomun market -- the city’s largest, where vendors hawk everything from fresh vegetables to clothing -- has been closed until Sunday.“Our business is in trouble and we might need to extend the shutdown if this continues,” said Kim Young-ou, president of the Daegu Merchant Association. “I asked the president for financial aid and tax deductions when he visited Daegu, but I don’t know if it’s feasible.”Economic HitAnxiety about the impact on the economy is rising across the country, with the Bank of Korea on Thursday lowering its growth forecast for 2020 to 2.1% from 2.3% in November. The benchmark Kospi index had its worst week since August 2011. Korea’s Finance Ministry said Friday that stabilizing the economy would require extra budget funds in excess of the 6.2 trillion won ($5.1 billion) spent to counter the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, outbreak five years ago.Many Daegu cases have been traced back to South Korea’s “Patient 31,” a 61-year-old local woman who belongs to the Shincheonji religious sect. The church, whose founder says he’s a prophet sent by Jesus Christ to prepare for the end of the word, claims it has 300,000 members. Congregates sit elbow-to-elbow and knee-to-knee, in services that typically last one to two hours.How One Patient Turned Korea’s Virus Outbreak Into an EpidemicWhile authorities don’t yet know how Patient 31 was infected -- she didn’t have a record of traveling overseas -- reports of the sect’s members returning from services in China have inflamed public sentiment. Moreover, several Chinese cities have in recent days moved to enforce quarantines on anyone who recently returned from South Korea, a blanket action of the sort that Seoul has so far spared Chinese arrivals.Fraught RelationsDespite strong business and cultural links, China and South Korea have a complex and fraught relationship, including a shared history of Japanese occupation and fighting on opposite sides in the Korean War. Recent tensions, like how China froze out South Korean businesses and stopped tourism in 2017 after Seoul agreed to host a U.S.-backed missile system, linger close to the surface.Moon’s government fueled public anger when Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said in an exchange with lawmakers Wednesday that the “biggest cause was Korean nationals coming in from China.” He was emphasizing that most of the initial confirmed cases involved Korean nationals who visited Wuhan, not Chinese nationals visiting Korea.The administration has come under fire for failing to stockpile protective masks and sending many to China, when the country now faces shortages. South Korea exported $61.3 million worth of masks to China in January, up from $600,000 in December, according to customs data. Another $118.5 million of masks were sent in the first 20 days of February.‘Hasty Call’“Moon apparently prioritized the economy and diplomacy -- two issues that will really matter once the virus situation is over -- based on a hasty call that this will be over soon,” said Lee Jae-mook, who teaches political science at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. “That made sense to the majority of South Koreans only before they saw other nations do the opposite: sacrifice potential economic benefit for the sake of people’s safety.”On Wednesday, the government limited mask exports to only 10% of daily production and pledged to distribute 3.5 million masks daily via post offices and pharmacies. Health authorities are also now testing around 10,000 people a day while sending extra hospital beds to Daegu.That’s done little to relieve anxiety for residents like Cho Eun-mi. The 32-year-old mother of two says she’s too afraid to go outside.“When I wake up, hundreds of patients are increasing every day,” she said. “The fact that those patients also visited places where I go, like Starbucks, supermarkets near my home, is really freaking me out.”\--With assistance from Peter Pae, Kanga Kong, Jihye Lee and Sam Kim.To contact the reporters on this story: Kyungji Cho in Seoul at kcho54@bloomberg.net;Yoojung Lee in Seoul at ylee504@bloomberg.net;Heesu Lee in Seoul at hlee425@bloomberg.net;Kyunghee Park in Singapore at kpark3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rachel Chang at wchang98@bloomberg.net, Brendan Scott, Emma O'BrienFor 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.




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

    Korea Cases Top 2,000; Nigeria Confirms Infection: Virus Update(Bloomberg) -- The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea crossed 2,000. Japan is closing schools to limit the spread of the outbreak. New cases continue to appear outside of China with New Zealand and Lithuania reporting their first infections. Nigeria confirmed its first case, the first reported in sub-Saharan Africa.Equity markets in Hong Kong, Japan and Australia all tumbled. U.S. health authorities moved to greatly expand the number of people who will be tested, adding travelers from several new countries and people with unexplained, severe respiratory illnesses. California is monitoring 8,400 people for signs of the virus after they traveled to Asia. The virus has spread “very slowly” in the U.S., President Donald Trump said in a tweet.Key DevelopmentsConfirmed cases worldwide pass 83,000; global deaths more than 2,800China death toll at 2,788, up 44; cases climb to 78,824, up 327South Korea confirms 256 more cases, bringing total to 2,022Singapore emerges as litmus test for coronavirus containmentHong Kong dog found to have ‘low level’ of virusCoronavirus crisis seeds chaos in Washington and on Wall StreetClick VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.Finnair Warns on Profit Due to Virus (3:47 p.m. HK)Finnair Oyj revised its outlook and warned on profit due to the “fast-developing situation with the coronavirus and its wider than originally estimated impact on the global aviation market,” the company said in a statement.Fast Retailing Reopens More Than 100 China Stores: Reuters (3:43 p.m. HK)Fast Retailing Co., the owner of the Uniqlo clothing brand, reopened more than 100 stores in China in the past week, Reuters reported, citing a statement. Almost all partner factories restarted work, while 125 stores in China are still closed because of the virus.Alitalia Plans About 4,000 Temporary Layoffs: Ansa (3:11 p.m. HK)Alitalia SpA plans to extend temporary layoffs for about 4,000 workers following the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, Ansa reported. Alitalia will extend by seven months to the end of October a temporary layoff plan already in place for 1,175 workers to an additional 2,785 employees.British Airways Parent Says Virus Makes Profit Uncertain (3:10 p.m. HK)British Airways parent IAG SA said the spread of the coronavirus made it impossible to predict earnings this year, as demand weakens in Asia and Europe and companies cut back on businesses travel across the globe.The airline group, which also includes Spain’s Iberia and Aer Lingus of Ireland, said it will reduce capacity by 1% to 2% this year, as industry events are canceled and companies impose restrictions on travel.Germany Quarantines About 1,000 People in Heinsberg: Bild (3:03 p.m. HK)An estimated 1,000 people are isolated in the German district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia after an outbreak in the region, German newspaper Bild reported.Sweden Reports Five New Cases (2:23 p.m. HK)Five new cases have been confirmed in Sweden, the country’s Public Health Agency said in a statement. That brings the total confirmed cases in the country to seven.BOE’s Carney Says Virus May Impact U.K. Economy: Sky (2:10 p.m. HK)The Bank of England’s Mark Carney said the virus could result in an economic-growth downgrade for the U.K., Sky News reported, citing an interview with the central bank governor. Carney said the bank has already seen a drop in activity, though it’s too early to tell how badly the U.K. would be affected.BASF Says Chemical Industry Taking Hit From Virus (2:01 p.m. HK)The chemical industry became the latest sector to be hit by the coronavirus after German giant BASF SE warned the outbreak could help lead to the lowest growth in production since the financial crisis more than a decade ago.The slump in demand may see the German supplier of plastics and additives slide to a second straight year of falling profit, BASF said in a statement on Friday. The epidemic will have a significant impact worldwide, particularly in the first and second quarters, which won’t be fully offset during the remainder of the year.Trump Says Virus Has Spread ‘Very Slowly’ in U.S. (1:14 p.m. HK)The coronavirus has spread “very slowly” in the U.S., President Donald Trump said in a tweet.“So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of ‘Trump,’” he said.Singapore Ministers to Take Pay Cut on Virus: CNA (1:03 p.m. HK)All political-office holders in Singapore will take a one-month salary cut in light of the coronavirus outbreak, CNA reported, citing comments from the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. The government’s actions follow recent moves by some of Singapore’s top companies to freeze pay and cut bonuses as the country attempts to combat the impact of the virus.U.A.E. Cancels Rest of Cycling Tour (Correct) (12:47 p.m. HK)The United Arab Emirates has decided to scrap the remaining rounds of the 2020 U.A.E. Tour after two Italian team members tested positive for the coronavirus.All remaining participants, organizers and administrative staff will be screened and some quarantined, according to the state-run Emirates News Agency. Other people who were in contact with the two cyclists will also be placed under observation.(Corrects to clarify two Italian team members tested positive.)New Zealand, Lithuania Report First Cases (12:38 p.m. HK)New Zealand confirmed its first case after a person who recently returned from Iran was diagnosed with the illness, the Ministry of Health said Friday. The person in their 60s is in isolation in Auckland hospital, the ministry said in an emailed statement.Separately, Lithuania reported its first case. The person was infected in the Italian city of Verona, RIA Novosti said.Abe Adviser Says Japan Needs $45 Billion of Extra Spending (11:45 a.m. HK)An adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan should compile another economic package with fresh spending of at least 5 trillion yen ($45 billion) to respond to a severe hit from the coronavirus outbreak.“We should take it very seriously that this is terrible timing, coming right after the sales tax hike,” Etsuro Honda, one of the key architects of Abenomics, said in an interview. “The impact could be devastating in the short term.”FDA Confirms First Drug Shortage Relating to Virus (11:40 a.m. HK)The Food and Drug Administration confirmed the first drug shortage relating to the coronavirus, Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement. The announcement didn’t name the manufacturer but said “there are other alternatives that can be used by patients.” The shortage is due to an active ingredient used to make the drug, the FDA said.South Korea Completes More Tests of Sect Members (11:31 a.m. HK)South Korea’s health ministry completed tests for 1,299 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus who showed symptoms of fever and coughing, among 9,334 members of the sect in Daegu, Vice Health Minister Kim Ganglip said at a briefing.The results of the tests will be available during the weekend. So far, the ratio of confirmed cases to suspected cases is “very high.”JPMorgan Restricts All Non-Essential Travel Globally (11:29 a.m. HK)JPMorgan Chase & Co. issued global restrictions on non-essential travel to protect its employees and its business against the spreading coronavirus.Because of the continuing spread of the virus, it’s now “restricting all international travel to essential travel only,” the New York-based bank said in a memo distributed to staff. The memo was confirmed by spokespeople at the bank.Hyundai Halts Korea Plant as Worker Infected (10:34 a.m. HK)Hyundai Motor Co. halted operations at its No. 2 plant in Ulsan for disinfection after a worker tested positive, Maeil Business Newspaper reported, without citing anyone.Tokyo Disney to Shut (10:31 a.m. HK)Tokyo Disney Resort will close for two weeks starting Saturday as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, operator Oriental Land Co. said.Two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, will not accept visitors from Feb. 29 to March 15, the company said in a statement Friday. With Disney parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai already closed, this means all of the entertainment company’s resorts in Asia have shut down for the time being due to the spread of the virus.South Korea’s Moon Sees Disapproval Rating Top 50% (9:53 a.m. HK)South Korea President Moon Jae-in’s disapproval rating rose to 51%, the highest level since October, as the virus spreads in the country, a Gallup Korea poll showed. That’s up from 46% a week earlier. The poll showed 51% of respondents aren’t satisfied with the government’s response to the virus.China to Resume Road Traffic in Lower-Risk Regions (9:16 a.m. HK)China will resume buses, subways and taxis in urban and rural areas with lower coronavirus risk, the transport ministry said in a statement. The move is aimed at supporting factory resumptions and stabilizing the economy.Nigeria Confirms First Infection (9:10 a.m. HK)Nigeria confirmed its first case of the coronavirus in Lagos, the West African country’s biggest city and commercial capital, the Health Ministry said. It’s also the first reported in sub-Saharan Africa.Algeria has also reported a case. Health experts have voiced concerns over the possible spread of the virus in places like Africa that may be ill-equipped to handle such a crisis.South Korea Cases Top 2,000 (9:01 a.m. HK)South Korea confirmed 256 more infections, bringing the total in the country to 2,022, the health ministry said in a statement. Among the 256, 182 cases are from Daegu, at the center of the outbreak, and 49 are from the neighboring North Gyeongsang province.Hong Kong Dog Found to Have ‘Low Level’ of Virus (8:49 a.m. HK)The pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong has been found to have a “low level” of the virus, the Hong Kong government said.The dog tested “weak positive,” the city’s agricultural and fisheries department said in a statement, without giving further details. Officials will carry out further tests to confirm whether the dog has really been infected, or if it was a result of environmental contamination of its mouth and nose.Japan Children’s Day-Care Centers to Stay Open (8:06 a.m. HK)Japan’s children’s day-care centers and after-school clubs will stay open, even as schools nationwide close for at least a month in a bid to control the outbreak, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said. Japan wants to make it easy for people to take time off work, Kato said. This is an important time for controlling the domestic spread of the virus, he said.Plague Inc. Removed From Apple’s Chinese Store (8:04 a.m. HK)Plague Inc. -- the mobile simulation of a global pandemic that topped download charts in February after the outbreak -- has been removed from Apple Inc.’s Chinese app store. The eight-year-old game’s developers said on their website Chinese regulators determined it contained “illegal” content. The developers say they’re trying to contact the Cyberspace Administration of China to get the game back online.Plague Inc. became the most downloaded paid game on iPhones in at least 80 countries early this month, according to research firm App Annie.China Death Toll Rises to 2,788, Up 44 (7:53 a.m. HK)China’s death toll rose to 2,788 by the end of Thursday as it reported 44 new fatalities, according to a statement from the country’s National Health Commission. The number of cases climbed to 78,824 as 327 additional infections were reported. Discharged patients increased by 3,622 to 36,117.Hubei, the province at the center of the outbreak, had 318 additional cases and 41 new deaths.Trump Says He’s Doing ‘Incredible Job’ (7:13 a.m. HK)President Donald Trump said his administration has done an “incredible job” preventing the spread of coronavirus after California’s governor said the state is monitoring 8,400 for signs of exposure.Limited Testing in Japan Masks Scale of Infection (6:57 a.m. HK)Japan is becoming a center of concern, with the country’s official infection tally suspected to be the tip of the iceberg of a much wider outbreak.“For every one who tests positive there are probably hundreds with mild symptoms,” said Masahiro Kami, chair of the Medical Governance Research Institute in Tokyo, and a practicing doctor. “Those with mild symptoms are not being tested.”Read more here.U.S. Workers Didn’t Get Protective Gear: Report (5:05 p.m. NY)Federal employees who helped evacuate people from the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China didn’t get protective gear or training, the Washington Post said, citing a whistleblower’s complaint.Trump administration officials disputed the report.“Every precaution has been taken,” said William Walters, a health official with the U.S. State Department. “I can say unequivocally that everyone involved with those evacuations was appropriately equipped and trained.”One member of Congress called the situation deeply concerning. “Finding out that the U.S. government might have put its own personnel in harm’s way is deeply concerning to me,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia.Mask Prices and Interest Spike on Amazon (4:52 p.m. NY)Prices for face masks spiked on Amazon.com Inc. in early February, with many items sold out, according to a firm that tracks traffic on the website.Searches over the past 30 days for N95 masks, which are tighter fitting and filter out smaller particles than surgical masks, surged to 1.3 million on Feb. 10, up from 23,000 on Jan. 10, according to Helium 10, the monitoring company.Daily sales of a 20-pack of popular N95 masks from 3M jumped to more than 1,000 in February, from roughly 25 in December, according to Helium. Prices for the product, which typically sells for $29.99, climbed as high as $99.“Many third-party sellers appear to be outright price-gouging, likely due to low stock and high demand,” Lee said. “Even Amazon, which has kept pricing mostly stable across products, has had to increase prices on some products.”Amazon’s pricing policies suggest the company monitors for gouging and can punish merchants with irregular prices, but the policies lack specifics. “Setting a price on a product or service that is significantly higher than recent prices offered on or off Amazon” is a potential violation, the company says on its policy page.“Sellers set their own product prices in our store and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing products competitively,” Amazon said in an emailed statement. “We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”CDC Expands Coronavirus Testing to More Patients (4:38 p.m. NY)U.S. health authorities moved to greatly expand the number of people who will be tested for the coronavirus, adding travelers from several new countries with outbreaks as well as people with unexplained, severe respiratory illnesses.People showing respiratory symptoms and who have been in China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea within the past 14 days will be screened for the virus under the new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The CDC is also calling for testing of patients who have unexplained, severe lower-respiratory illnesses that require hospitalization, but no other history of potential exposure to coronavirus. The expansion comes after a patient in California, who had no known ties to an infected area, was confirmed to have the virus after a long delay to get tested.Pence Says He’s In Charge, Not Azar (3:36 p.m. NY)U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said he’s now leading the government’s coronavirus task force instead of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.“I’m leading the task force,” Pence said Thursday at a meeting on the virus at HHS headquarters. “We’ll continue to rely on the secretary’s role as chairman of the task force.”Trump initially appointed Azar to lead the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, but on Wednesday, he named Pence to the role at a news conference. The Washington Post reported that Azar was blindsided by the decision, though Azar told lawmakers that he thought Pence’s appointment was “genius.”California Monitoring 8,400 Travelers and Contacts (2:16 p.m.)California is monitoring 8,400 people who flew into its airports from Asia and their close contacts for possible infection from the novel coronavirus, Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday. Thousands of people around the U.S. have been asked to self-isolate or check themselves for symptoms since the U.S. put new limits on travel earlier this month.Those people are scattered across 49 local jurisdictions, he said. There have been 33 people confirmed to be infected with the virus in California.Earlier, health officials said a woman from Northern California has the virus and hadn’t traveled to China. She also didn’t have any close contact with anyone who did and appears to be the first case of community transmission in the U.S.Lagarde: ECB Response Not Required Yet (11:30 a.m. NY)European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said the coronavirus outbreak carefully isn’t yet at the stage that would require a monetary-policy response, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.Lagarde said the ECB would have to determine whether the coronavirus could become a “long-lasting shock” that would affect inflation. “But we are certainly not at that point yet,” Lagarde told the FT.Outbreak Is At Decisive Stage, WHO Says (10:10 a.m. NY)The novel coronavirus has the potential to become a pandemic and is at a decisive stage, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday.“The outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the group’s daily briefing in Geneva.China’s efforts show that containment can work, while clusters of infections in Iran, Italy and South Korea are cause for concern, he said. For a second day, there were fewer new cases in China than in the rest of the world.Several countries that have reported cases previously -- including India, Russia and Vietnam -- haven’t had any new infections in two weeks, Tedros said. However, Finland and Sweden, which had gone without infections for a prolonged period, reported cases Wednesday.Middle East Cases Rise (7:30 a.m. NY)Iran reported 87 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 245 including 26 deaths. The number of patients in Kuwait almost doubled to 43, with all the cases linked to Iran. The United Arab Emirates, which has 13 cases and hasn’t given an update since Saturday, said it’s setting up a medical facility to quarantine patients.Italy Coronavirus Cases Rise to 528, With 14 Possible Deaths (7:09 a.m. NY)Total cases increased from the 400 reported late Wednesday, civil protection head and emergency chief Angelo Borrelli said. Forty people have recovered. The number of possible virus-linked deaths reached 14.(An earlier version was corrected to say the number of cases in South Korea crossed 2,000.)\--With assistance from Isabel Reynolds, Emi Nobuhiro, Dominic Lau, Edwin Chan, Zheping Huang, Josh Wingrove, Shiho Takezawa, Li Liu, Dulue Mbachu, Shinhye Kang, Kanga Kong, Lily Nonomiya, Reed Stevenson, Alfred Liu, Chelsea Mes, Toru Fujioka, Emi Urabe, Eduard Gismatullin, Matthew Brockett, Farah Elbahrawy and Melissa Cheok.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jeff Sutherland in Tokyo at jsutherlan13@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at swallace6@bloomberg.net, ;Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, Tom Redmond, Jeff SutherlandFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.




  • UN agency says 35 migrants rescued off Libyan coast

    UN agency says 35 migrants rescued off Libyan coastA commercial ship has rescued 35 Europe-bound migrants off Libya's Mediterranean coast and returned them to the capital, Tripoli, the U.N. migration agency said. The International Organization for Migration tweeted that migrants, who were intersected on Thursday, were given medical assistance and relief items upon disembarkation. Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.




  • Steve Bannon Hosts a Dinner of International Populist Leaders

    Steve Bannon Hosts a Dinner of International Populist Leaders(Bloomberg) -- As President Donald Trump grappled with a public health crisis that could threaten his re-election, his former chief strategist was across the street from the White House dining with a group of like-minded Europeans and Latin Americans to plot the next wave of a global surge in right-wing populism.Steve Bannon, an architect of Trump’s 2016 victory who became a senior White House aide, hosted the dinner Wednesday night for Nigel Farage, a key figure in the movement that led to Brexit; Jerome Riviere, a leader in France’s right-wing National Rally party and member of the European Parliament; Eduardo Bolsonaro, a son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro; and Eduardo Verastegui, an actor and staunch Roman Catholic who’s considering a run for president of Mexico.Raheem Kassam, a former editor at Breitbart News, of which Bannon was executive chairman, co-hosted the dinner at the Hay-Adams hotel. He said the purpose of the gathering was “to bring together the great economic nationalist voices from around the world, not just to celebrate the victories of recent years and honor Nigel Farage for the Brexit achievement, but also to look ahead for 2020 and beyond.”Farage told the other guests that he wasn’t content with just Britain leaving the European Union -- his goal is to turn the EU into a “Europe of sovereign nations.” He said he’s setting up an office and will tour Europe spreading his message to build support in other countries to abandon the EU, one guest said.Bolsonaro highlighted the ideological “bridge” between his father and Trump, who he said share a nationalist agenda and approach, according to a recording of the event heard by Bloomberg News.Verastegui talked about his use of art to drive politics and laid out a campaign to run as a right-wing populist nationalist for the Mexican presidency, though the term of the incumbent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, doesn’t end until 2024.The participants chiefly celebrated their recent successes, but “the key strategy point was this is the beginning of a group that will knit together populist nationalists throughout the world with the motto ‘you are not alone,’” Bannon said.“Last night’s dinner was another great milestone in the project dear to our heart -- putting our nations first again,” Riviere said. “Thanks to Steve Bannon’s efforts, patriots of all parts of the world are not isolated. We closely work together for the benefit of our people.”Trump brought Bannon to the White House after his stunning triumph over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Although he became a powerful and highly visible presence in the new administration, Trump took a dim view of perceptions that Bannon was an alt-right Svengali. A Time magazine cover labeling Bannon “The Great Manipulator” hurt his standing, as did his portrayal as a key to the president’s electoral success in a book by Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Joshua Green.Bannon was fired in August 2017, weeks after John Kelly took over as White House chief of staff.He returned to Breitbart. But in early 2018, the president became enraged at his former strategist over remarks in “Fire and Fury,” a book by Michael Wolff about the tumultuous early days of the Trump administration.According to the book, Bannon labeled as “treasonous” Donald Trump Jr.’s and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s 2016 meeting with Russian nationals in which the president’s son expected to receive dirt on Clinton. Wolff also reported that Bannon called Trump’s daughter Ivanka “dumb as a brick.”The shockwaves over “Fire and Fury” soon rippled to Breitbart, and Bannon left there after losing the support of the conservative Mercer family, who had been backers of the news site.He has since turned his attention to encouraging right-wing populist movements in other countries.To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Kathleen HunterFor 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.




  • Dozens of Turkish soldiers killed in strike in Idlib in Syria

    Dozens of Turkish soldiers killed in strike in Idlib in SyriaUS condemns attack which Turkish official says killed 33 of its soldiers, in Ankara’s worst day of the conflict so farDozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed in an airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province, in a dramatic escalation in the battle for control of the country’s last opposition stronghold.Turkish officials said at least 33 of its military personnel were killed in the attack on Thursday night, and more than 30 others injured. Military sources among moderate and jihadist rebel factions fighting in the north-western province bordering Turkey said the deaths followed a precision strike on a two-storey building in the village of Balioun.A Turkish convoy, part of reinforcements sent to the area to aid rebel groups earlier this month, was subjected to heavy shelling on Thursday morning. The soldiers had taken cover in Balioun, basing themselves in the local council building.Rahmi Dogan, the local governor of the south-eastern Turkish province of Hatay on the border with Idlib, said ambulances streamed from a Syrian border crossing to a hospital in the nearby town of Reyhanli on Thursday night. Map of turkey, syria, idlibTurkish officials have blamed the Syrian regime for the attack, but several sources in Idlib and unverified footage of the nighttime strike suggested it had been carried out by the Russian air force, which has helped Damascus conduct a ferocious three-month-old offensive on Idlib.Russia’s defence ministry denied on Friday that its planes had carried out the strike but said Turkish troops should not have been in the Idlib area and had given no warning of their presence to the Syrian government. In a further escalation, Russia said it was sending two frigates armed with cruise missiles to the Mediterranean Sea off the Syrian coast, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday.After the attack in Idlib, the United Nations called for urgent action in north-west Syria, warning that “the risk of greater escalation grows by the hour”.Nearly a million civilians have been displaced in Idlib near the Turkish border since December as Syrian government forces push to retake territory from rebels and jihadist groups, marking the worst humanitarian crisis of the country’s nine-year war.Although Ankara and Moscow share important trade, energy and defence links, the relationship has already been sorely tested by the recent violence in Syria, where they back opposing sides.Turkey responded with airstrikes on “all known” Syrian government targets, said the country’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, early on Friday. Altun said authorities had decided to respond in kind to the attack.“We urge the international community to fulfil its responsibilities” to stop the regime’s “crimes against humanity”, he said. “We cannot stand by and watch as past events in Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are repeated today in Idlib.”Turkey’s activities on the ground in Syria would continue, he added.The US state department expressed concern over the attack on its Nato ally. Nato said it was calling a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the request of Turkey to discuss the Syria situation. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, chaired an emergency security meeting overnight, at the same time Turkish officials briefed reporters that Ankara had decided it would no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land and sea – a move calibrated to win EU and Nato support for its operation in Idlib.Turkish police, coastguard and border security officials have already been ordered to stand down, Turkish officials added.Around 170,000 people are camped out in desperate conditions on Idlib’s border with Turkey in winter weather as they flee the swift advance of Bashar al-Assad’s army and allied militias backed by Russian airpower.Turkey is unwilling to take in any more Syrians on top of the 3.6 million refugees it already hosts. In an effort to secure its southern border, Ankara took the unprecedented step of sending thousands of troops and convoys of equipment to Idlib in the past three weeks, leading to direct clashes with regime forces for the first time.While Idlib province and the surrounding countryside are technically protected by a de-escalation deal brokered in 2018, the agreement broke down last year after control of most of the area was wrested from more moderate rebel groups by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate.Despite warnings from the UN and aid agencies that fighting in Idlib would put 3 million civilians at risk, Damascus launched an attritional and then full-scale campaign on the province, arguing that HTS was not covered by the de-escalation deal.Turkey has helped rebels to retake one town but had already lost 17 military personnel in the campaign before a strike on Thursday morning killed three, and the evening strike killed at least 22, marking the biggest single day of losses for the country’s forces.Turkish attempts to broker a ceasefire, and growing international calls for a halt to the violence, have so far been met with indifference from the Kremlin. Erdogan has vowed Ankara will not take the “smallest step back” in the standoff with Damascus and Moscow over Idlib, giving the regime until the end of the month to pull back.The US senator Lindsey Graham called on Thursday for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Idlib and called on Donald Trump to help stop the violence against civilians there.“The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran, and the Russians,” Graham, a Republican and an ally of the US president, said in a statement.“I am confident if the world, led by the US, pushed back against Iran, Russia, and Assad that they would stand down, paving the way for political negotiations to end this war in Syria.”Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US ambassador to Nato, said Thursday’s events should show Turkey “who is their reliable partner and who isn’t” and prompt it to drop its purchase of a major Russian missile defence system, which Washington says threatens the western alliance.




  • Turkey, Russia talk tensions in Syria as migrants push west

    Turkey, Russia talk tensions in Syria as migrants push westThe presidents of Turkey and Russia spoke by phone Friday to try to defuse tensions that rose significantly in Syria after 33 Turkish troops were killed in an airstrike blamed on the Syrian government, and a new wave of refugees and migrants headed for the Greek land and sea border after Turkey said it would no longer hold them back. The attack Thursday marked the deadliest day for the Turkish military since Ankara first entered the Syrian conflict in 2016 and also was the most serious escalation between Turkish and Russian-backed Syrian forces, raising the prospect of an all-out war with millions of Syrian civilians trapped in the middle.




  • Germany’s Obstinate Stinginess Hurts Everyone

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




  • Germany’s Obstinate Stinginess Hurts Everyone

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




  • Boris Johnson Denies the Laws of Gravity


  • Boris Johnson Denies the Laws of Gravity


  • Afghans view US-Taliban deal with well-earned skepticism

    Afghans view US-Taliban deal with well-earned skepticismMany Afghans view Saturday's expected signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal with a heavy dose of well-earned skepticism. Also on Saturday, but in the Afghan capital Kabul, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will sign a declaration “recommitting the international community's commitment to Afghanistan,” said Sediq Sediqqui, spokesman for Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani. Arash, an Afghan policeman in the capital of Kabul, was 7 years old when a U.S.-led military coalition ousted the Taliban government in 2001.




  • New Zealand reports first virus patient; case linked to Iran


  • Sanders' appeal tested in moderate Virginia on Super Tuesday

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




  • US schools start planning for possible spread of coronavirus

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




  • Israel's Netanyahu: security hawk with record term in office

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




  • UN chief: Growing inequality for women should shame world

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




  • At least 7 Iranian government officials have coronavirus

    At least 7 Iranian government officials have coronavirusMasoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president for women and family affairs, is the latest Iranian government official to contract the COVID-19 coronavirus.At least seven officials in the country have tested positive for the coronavirus. Ebtekar is the highest-ranking woman in Iran's government, and is now quarantined at home, her deputy announced on Thursday. She was photographed on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting, sitting just a few yards away from President Hassan Rouhani.The other infected officials are Iraj Harirchim, deputy health minister; Mojtaba Zolnour, a Parliament member from Qom and head of Parliament's national security and foreign policy committee; Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of Parliament from Tehran; Morteza Rahmanzadeh, the mayor of a Tehran district; Dr. Mohamad Reza Ghadir, head of coronavirus management in Qom; and Hadi Khosroshahi, a major cleric and former ambassador to the Vatican. Iran's official media has reported that Khosroshahi, 81, has died.The first case of coronavirus in Iran was reported on Feb. 19 in Qom. Health Ministry officials on Thursday said there are 245 confirmed cases in the country, and at least 26 people have died from the virus. Health experts estimate there are many more COVID-19 cases in Iran, because the death rate is so high. Friday prayers have been canceled in Tehran and 22 other cities, and all schools and universities are closed until March 21.More stories from theweek.com Gwyneth Paltrow confesses her least favorite performance The New Yorker wordlessly sums up Trump's coronavirus problem Trump Jr. claims Democrats want coronavirus to kill 'millions of people,' prompting congressman to threaten 'serious altercation'




  • Korea Virus Threat Puts Expected Trump-Kim Face-Off on Hold

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





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