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Coronavirus could impact Chinese purchases of US farm goods – US official
12 February 2020, 3:17 AM

The coronavirus outbreak could reduce Chinese purchases of US agricultural products this year under the Phase 1 trade deal signed by the countries, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Tuesday.

The fast-spreading virus has killed more than 1 000 people in China, where there have been nearly 43 000 cases.

There have been another 319 confirmed cases in 24 other countries,including 13 in the United States.

“We expect the Phase 1 deal will allow China to import more food and open those markets to American farmers, but certainly as we watch this coronavirus outbreak unfold in China it could have an impact on how big, at least in this current year, the purchases are,” O’Brien told an event at the Atlantic Council.

The Phase 1 trade agreement, which was signed on January 15, calls on China to boost its purchases of US agricultural commodities by $40 billion over the next two years.

O’Brien said China plays a critical role in the global supply chain and the coronavirus could be disruptive.

“We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out and whether alternate suppliers can be found,” O’Brien said. “There’s no doubt that the virus could have an impact on the US economy and also on the world economy,” he said.

 

Samsung unveils compact foldable phone, 5G Galaxy S to fend off Apple, Huawei
12 February 2020, 1:43 AM

Samsung’s second attempt at a folding phone after a delayed rollout last year comes as the South Korean firm fends off its traditional rival in the premium smartphone market, Apple Inc, along with ascendant Chinese makers such as Huawei that have eaten into its sales in China and Europe.

Huawei has only released its own folding phones in China, and Apple has yet to release a 5G iPhone of any kind.

Analysts see the folding screen as a nod to fashion-focused consumers, while the 5G phones aim to give Samsung technology bragging rights over Apple.

The Galaxy Z Flip, with folding glass, starts as a large square when closed and expands to look like most smartphones.

It will start at $1,380 and be available from Friday in purple, gold and black, executives said in San Francisco.

Last year’s Galaxy Fold, a larger unit that folds like a book and was panned for its construction, had a plastic screen.

Both phones may have creases at the center of the folding screens. Samsung has called the crease a “natural characteristic” of the technology.

Samsung announced a Galaxy S20 phone, starting at $999 and available in March, which will have a 5G option. The Z Flip, however, is a 4G phone.

“Everybody wants it to have 5G, but with the segment they’re targeting of style-conscious younger folks, right now I think they are going to be OK,” without 5G in the Z Flip, said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.

Samsung was the No. 1 smart phone company overall in 2019, with 21.6% of the global market, according to IDC. But it lost that title to Apple in the December quarter, as cheaper prices for the iPhone 11 launched in the fall helped the U.S. firm mark its best growth since 2015.

Globally it also faces stiff competition from Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which was a close third in market share in the fourth quarter, although the Chinese company is caught in a U.S.-China battle over security and technology, especially in 5G.

The new S20 devices will come equipped with chips that can handle the multiple kinds of 5G networks being built out by different carriers, the first for a phone sold in the United States.

“It’s really about delivering the full potential of 5G,” Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm Inc, which supplied the chips for many of devices announced Tuesday, told Reuters in an interview.

It moved rear camera lenses of the new Galaxy S20 devices, which compete head-to-head with iPhones, into a squarish black panel, bringing cameras closer to the design of the iPhone 11 series. It also showed off two other Galaxy S phones. The device also shoots so-called 8K video, the highest resolution video now commonly available, and Samsung showed how 8K video on its phones could be sent to its televisions.

“The camera battles in smartphones are absolutely back,” said Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.

“Foldables are expensive and very hard to manufacture. It will take time for foldables to become mass-market products,” said Neil Mawston, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, expecting a mass-market takeoff by 2022 or 2023.

“For now, foldables are a super-premium product that can drive profits or a ‘halo effect’ for the Samsung brand.”

Limited foldable display productivity will constrain Samsung, industry officials and analysts say.

Sales are seen at 5 million units at maximum this year, or less than 2% of Samsung’s total smartphone shipments in 2019, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

While China’s coronavirus outbreak has started straining the global supply chain and disrupting smartphone production, the South Korean firm is seen the least affected among major producers, as its main manufacturing base is in Vietnam, analysts said.

China’s Hubei province, epicentre of coronavirus outbreak, reports 94 new deaths on Feb 11
12 February 2020, 1:11 AM

The number of deaths in China’s central Hubei province from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 94 to 1 068 as of Tuesday, the province’s health commission said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.

A further 1 638 new cases were detected in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, the lowest since January 31, when 1 347 new cases were reported.

The total number of confirmed cases of infection in the province stood at 33 366 as of Tuesday.

Most of the new deaths on Tuesday were in Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated.

Wuhan reported 72 new deaths, up from 67 on Monday.

A total of 820 people in Wuhan have now died from the virus.

New confirmed cases in Wuhan increased by 1 104, down from 1 552 on Monday.

 

US evacuees freed from coronavirus quarantine, officials fear discrimination
12 February 2020, 12:30 AM

Nearly 200 people evacuated from the China coronavirus outbreak were released from quarantine in California on Tuesday with officials urging Americans not to shun them, or workers who helped them, after both groups faced discrimination.

The 195 US citizens, mostly US State Department employees and their families, underwent the United States’ first mandatory quarantine since 1963 after they were evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan.

They were flown by government-chartered cargo jet on January 29 to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County about 60 miles (97 km) east of Los Angeles where they were in quarantine for 14-days – the outer limit of the virus’ possible incubation period.

None tested positive for coronavirus, but their arrival stoked unfounded fears in the local community that they or base personnel would spread the disease, Riverside County public health officer Cameron Kaiser told a press conference.

“They don’t need additional tests, they don’t need to be shunned, they don’t have novel coronavirus,” Kaiser told reporters after his department published a photo of the former patients throwing away their masks in a quarantine graduation ceremony.

The fast-spreading virus has killed more than 1 000 people in China, where there have been nearly 43 000 cases. There have been another 319 confirmed cases in 24 other countries,including 13 in the United States.

Over 800 people have been evacuated from Wuhan on six US evacuation flights since January 28. Hundreds have been quarantined on air bases in California, Texas and Nebraska, according to the US State Department.

The March air base group was limited to a fenced quarantine area where only official medical staff were allowed to enter.

Rear Admiral Nancy Knight, who is running the quarantine operation, said base personnel had been refused housing in the local community due to fears they would spread coronavirus and their children had suffered discrimination at school.

She said neither her staff nor evacuees posed a health risk to the public.

“They have been watched more closely than anyone in the United States at this time,” Knight said of the evacuees. The base has held three commercial airline passengers taken into mandatory quarantine after screening at Los Angeles International Airport, Knight said.

One of these three travellers has been released after completing a 14-day quarantine period, she said.

The United States has also authorized the voluntary departure of US government employees and their relatives from Hong Kong, the State Department said on Tuesday.

The authorization was made “out of an abundance of caution related to uncertainties associated” with the disease, according to a department representative.

Palestine’s Abbas rejects Middle East Peace Plan
11 February 2020, 10:31 PM

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has used a special sitting of the United Nations Security Council to again reject the Middle East Peace Plan put forward by the United States, while also calling for Washington’s sole-mediation role to be changed.

This follows the plan’s rejection by leaders of the African Union, Arab League and member states of the European Union which criticized its departure from internationally agreed parameters.

But Israel’s Ambassador defended the plan as a pragmatic approach to solving the conflict and urged the international community to focus its efforts on bringing to the two sides to the negotiating table.

President Abbas said he’d come to represent the 13 million Palestinian people and to call for a just peace. Arguing that the plan was not fair and that they rejected it.

“It was rejected by us because it considers that East Jerusalem is no longer under the sovereignty of the State of Palestine. That alone is enough for us to reject this plan. It leaves Palestine fragmented without any control on our land, air and sea. It would put an end to the question of Palestinian refugees. It will end all bases for a peace plan. It means a rejection of all agreements and obligations to establish two-states along the pre-1967 lines.”

He held up a map of the proposed discontiguous Palestinian State, comparing it to Swiss Cheese, a proposal he believes would entrench occupation by military force. He later helps up a sequence of maps showing the shrinking Palestinian footprint between 1917 and the 2020 proposal. “They are strengthening the Apartheid regime. This plan rewards the occupation instead of holding it accountable for all the crimes perpetrated against our people and our land.”

He called for the implementation of UN resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative and again for an international mechanism under the auspices of the Middle East Quartet to drive direct negotiations. “However, to be honest, the US alone cannot be the sole mediator. Among the Quartet you are more than welcome, however, as the sole mediator we will not accept.”

The United States called the plan different from its predecessors because it offered Palestinians a realistic prospect for seeing a fully recognised Palestinian State in their lifetime. South Africa for its part warned that peace initiatives must be developed with the full participation of all the parties, particularly the Palestinians themselves and called for the Security Council to support the necessary environment for that to happen.

Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon accused some in the international community of forcing outcomes of negotiations before they’d even begun.

“Israel and the PA previously agreed in internationally endorsed agreements that a border will only be determined through direct and bilateral negotiations yet still some of you against this explicit agreement tried to add a pre-condition that future borders must be negotiated based on the so-called 1967 lines. Let us negotiate, when you tell him that will be the outcome he will not enter the room. That’s what we are doing here. Why should he negotiate with us when you are negotiating for him.”

Danon cited the failure of past blueprints for peace while rejecting President Abbas’ leadership in Palestine.

“President Abbas refuses to be pragmatic. He refuses to negotiate. He’s not interested in finding a realistic solution to the conflict. Mr President let’s not beat around the bush. Progress towards peace will not be made as long as President Abbas remains in his position.”

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, speaking earlier, reiterated the broad international consensus that the organisation remained committed to resolving the conflict based on relevant UN resolutions and international agreements.

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