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Coronavirus
Deaths from China’s coronavirus outbreak surpass deaths from SARS
9 February 2020, 5:01 AM

The number of new coronavirus deaths on the Chinese mainland hit 811 by end of Feb. 8, the National Health Commission said on Sunday morning, surpassing that of the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003.

The new deaths on Saturday reached another daily record at 89, the data showed, pushing the total well over the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Of the coronavirus deaths, 81 were in China’s central Hubei province, where the virus has infected most people. New deaths in Hubei’s capital Wuhan, where the outbreak started, saw a rare decline.

New infection cases on Saturday recorded the first drop since Feb. 1, falling back below 3,000 to 2,656 cases. Of those, 2,147 cases were in Hubei province.

Joseph Eisenberg, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, said it was too early to say whether the epidemic was peaking due to the uncertainty in the number of cases.

“Even if reported cases might be peaking, we don’t know what is happening with unreported cases,” he said. “This is especially an issue in some of the more rural areas.”

The total of confirmed coronavirus cases in China stood at 37,198 cases, showed the commission data.

Death toll hits 21 from Thai shooting after raid into mall
9 February 2020, 3:08 AM

A member of the Thai security forces was killed early on Sunday in a raid into a shopping mall to try to stop a soldier on a shooting rampage, bringing the total death toll to 21, the health minister said.

The killings began at around 3 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Saturday when the soldier opened fire in a house before moving to an army camp and then to the mall in Nakhon Ratchasima in northeastern Thailand, posting messages on Facebook as he went.

Early on Sunday, gunfire broke out at the mall as security forces tried to dislodge the soldier, identified by police as 32-year-old Jakrapanth Thomma.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters at the scene that one member of the security forces was killed and two wounded in the raid. As he spoke, a series of explosions and further shooting echoed from the Terminal 21 mall.

Police closed off streets around the mall and kept journalists behind a security cordon.

After the raid, Reuters video images showed one casualty being wheeled out to an ambulance. Another staggered from the building barechested as he was helped onto a stretcher.

At least 31 other people have been wounded.

Thai media said the suspected shooter had worked at an army base close to Nakhon Ratchasima, which is about 250 km (155 miles) from the capital Bangkok. Before the attack, Jakrapanth had posted on his Facebook account that he was out for vengeance — but he did not say for what.

‘IT APPEARS HE WENT MAD’

“We don’t know why he did this. It appears he went mad,” Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanit told Reuters.

It was unclear how many shoppers and workers remained inside the shopping mall after soldiers and police had earlier escorted hundreds of trapped people to safety, Kongcheep said.

“It was frightening because I could hear the occasional gunshot … we waited a long time for the police to come and help us, many hours.” said Suvanarat Jirattanasakul, 27, her voice trembling after she emerged.

The mall was busy with shoppers on a long weekend for the Buddhist Makha Bucha holiday.

CCTV footage from inside the mall posted on social media showed the gunman dressed in black and wearing a mask, his gun slung over his shoulder with no sign of other people around.

Facebook (FB.O) said it had removed the suspect’s account.

“There is no place on Facebook for people who commit this kind of atrocity, nor do we allow people to praise or support this attack,” a Facebook representative said in a statement.

Major shootings are rare in the Southeast Asian country other than in the far south, where a decades-old insurgency persists.

Nakhon Ratchasima is one of the biggest cities in northeastern Thailand, an island of relative prosperity in a rice growing area that is one of the poorest parts of the country of 69 million people.

On the campaign trail: Biden slams Buttigieg, ‘Guess what? He was a mayor’
9 February 2020, 2:04 AM

Democrats scrambled to gain an edge with voters on Saturday on the last weekend before the party’s next presidential nominating contest in New Hampshire, where Pete Buttigieg began drawing fire as the candidate on the rise.

The problems that plagued the Iowa caucuses overshadowed any victory bump before New Hampshire’s contest on Tuesday and cast a pall as the Democratic Party began the process of picking a nominee to face Republican President Donald Trump in November.

Still, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is enjoying a boost after coming out of Monday’s caucuses tied with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Both men claimed victory, while Senator Elizabeth Warren followed in third place and former Vice President Joe Biden trailed in fourth.

As some public opinion polls showed “Mayor Pete” gaining ground in New Hampshire, the slings and arrows were not far behind.

“He’s a good guy,” Biden said in Manchester. “He’s a great mayor. But guess what? He was a mayor.”

Here is what is happening in New Hampshire on the campaign trail.

EMPHASIS ON “MAYOR”

After what has been a mostly affable Democratic campaign, Biden’s team pulled off the gloves and targeted Buttigieg with a withering digital ad that pits Biden’s decades of experience in public life against that of the two-term mayor.

The video makes liberal use of popular former President Barack Obama in a belittling rundown of some of the smaller issues Buttigieg faced as mayor and also takes a swipe at his troubled record with African Americans.

It shows Biden helping pass the Affordable Care Act while Buttigieg installed decorative lights under city bridges; Biden helping secure the Iran nuclear deal while Buttigieg negotiated lighter regulations for pet chip scanners; Biden helping save the U.S. auto industry while Buttigieg “revitalized the sidewalks of downtown South Bend” with decorative brick.

The ad, which will run on Facebook and YouTube in New Hampshire, extols Biden’s work on the assault weapons ban, while noting that Buttigieg forced out the city’s black police chief.

“We’re electing a president. What you’ve done matters,” the ad says in closing.

Buttigieg spokesman Chris Meagher derided the spot as Washington politics as usual that trivialized the concerns of ordinary communities. “The vice president’s decision to run this ad speaks more to where he currently stands in this race than it does about Pete’s perspective as a mayor and veteran,” he said.

Biden, 77, finished a distant fourth in Iowa and all but conceded he would lose New Hampshire in the first moments of a Democratic debate on Friday night.

For months, people close to the Biden campaign had said going negative would be harmful to his political brand, which is built around empathy and optimism.

But his poor finish in Iowa seems to have altered that calculus. In New Hampshire, he has been much more critical of his rivals by name. The Buttigieg ad marks a significant escalation that likely carries some risk of blowback.

FRONT-RUNNER TO UNDERDOG?

At a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, Biden began to reframe himself as an underdog.

“I’ve never paid attention to all this front-runner talk since I entered the race.” He listed various political and personal setbacks on his life. “I know nothing comes easy.”

He warned that nominating Buttigieg or Sanders would be an unacceptable risk for Democrats.

In line with the ad, he made light of Buttigieg’s tenure as mayor of South Bend, saying there was a difference between managing the budget of a small city and his own work marshaling the $900 billion Recovery Act economic stimulus package through Congress after the 2008-2009 recession.

Of Sanders, Biden said for all his time in Congress, Sanders had made no progress in getting his Medicare for All plan passed. “He hasn’t been able to move the ball a single inch.”

BACKING BLOOMBERG

Billionaire Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg, who campaigned in Oklahoma City on Saturday, racked up another endorsement, this one from U.S. Representative Haley Stevens, one of 31 Democrats who represent congressional districts that Trump won in 2016.

Another of those Democrats, former Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherrill, endorsed Bloomberg on Thursday, followed by former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Friday, making him the first high-level former Trump administration official to back a Democratic hopeful in the 2020 election.

WARREN: WINNING THE UNWINNABLE

In Manchester, Elizabeth Warren held a rally for nearly 800 volunteers before they went door-to-door on a frigid afternoon.

“There’s still a lot of folks out there who are really starting to get worried – worried that this fight against Donald Trump might not be winnable,” she said. “You know, the way I look at this, I’ve been winning unwinnable fights pretty much all my life.”

Coronavirus
American dies of coronavirus in China; five Britons infected in French Alps
9 February 2020, 12:43 AM

A 60-year-old American has died of the new coronavirus, the first confirmed non-Chinese death of the illness, U.S. officials said, as millions of Chinese began returning home after a Lunar New Year break that was extended to try to contain the outbreak.

While the vast majority of cases have been in China, the virus has spread to some two dozen countries abroad, including five British nationals infected in a French mountain resort.

The American man died on Thursday in Wuhan, epicenter of the virus outbreak in the central Chinese province of Hubei, a U.S. embassy spokesman said in Beijing on Saturday. He did not elaborate.

A Japanese man in his sixties and hospitalized with pneumonia in Wuhan, capital of Hubei, also died after suffering symptoms consistent with the new coronavirus, Japan’s foreign ministry said.

The virus has been a blow to China’s already-slowing economy, with Goldman Sachs cutting its first-quarter GDP growth target to 4% from 5.6% previously and saying a deeper hit is possible.

“It’s certainly not going to be a return to normal next week,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics in Singapore.

The death toll in mainland China rose to 723 on Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, looking likely to pass the 774 deaths recorded globally during the 2002-2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Most of the deaths in China have occurred in and around Wuhan. Across mainland China, the number of cases stood at 34,598, the WHO said.

The virus has spread to 27 countries and regions, according to a Reuters count based on official reports, infecting more than 330 people. Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China – in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both victims were Chinese nationals.

WHO expert Mike Ryan told a news conference in Geneva that the number of new cases in Hubei had stabilized over the last four days, “which may reflect the impact of control measures put in place”.

Speaking later to Reuters he cautioned, however, that “it’s not a decline. That can just mean four days of relative calm before it accelerates.”

The latest patients outside China include five British nationals staying in the same chalet at a ski village in Haute-Savoie in the Alps, French health officials said, raising fears of further infections at a busy period in the ski season.

The five, including a child, had been lodged in the same chalet with a British man believed to have contracted the virus in Singapore. They were not in a serious condition, the officials said.

France issued a new travel advisory for its citizens, saying it did not recommend traveling to China unless there was an “imperative” reason. Italy asked children traveling from China to stay away from school for two weeks voluntarily.

‘STAY STRONG’

Hidden among the statistics are poignant tales of grief and frustration. Canadian mother Amelia Pan is at home while her two-year-old daughter, Cerena, is running a fever and stranded in Hubei where her father has contracted the virus.

“I am just hanging in there,” Pan said in a Skype interview. “I need to stay strong so I can fight for my family.”

China’s Communist Party rulers have sealed off cities, canceled flights and closed factories, a response that has dented the world’s second-biggest economy and had ripple effects globally for financial markets and businesses dependent on China.

China’s economy will sputter toward normal on Monday, as millions return to the big cities after the biggest holiday of the year. The holiday was extended, but many workplaces will remain closed and many white-collar workers will continue to work from home. U.S. electric carmaker Tesla’s (TSLA.O) factory in Shanghai will resume production on Monday, a government official said on Saturday. Apple Inc APPL.O said it was working to reopen its China corporate offices and call centers and was making preparations to reopen retail stores there.

But Chinese authorities have blocked a plan by Apple supplier Foxconn (2317.TW) to resume production from Feb. 10 over concerns about the spread of the virus, Japan’s Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.

Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), facing supply chain disruptions, said it had postponed restarting production at most China plants in its joint venture with SAIC Motor (600104.SS) and the Tianjin plant in its JV with FAW Group SASACJ.UL until Feb. 17.

News of the death on Friday of Li Wenliang, a doctor who was reprimanded by police for raising the alarm about the new coronavirus, sparked outrage on Chinese social media.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong introduced a two-week quarantine on Saturday for all people arriving from the mainland, or who have been there during the previous 14 days.

The Pentagon is shrinking the size of its delegation traveling to the Singapore Airshow 2020 and U.S. defense firms Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Raytheon Co (RTN.N) said they would not attend. Singapore has 40 coronavirus infections.

Another three people on a cruise liner off Japan tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases from the ship to 64, Japan’s health ministry said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCL.N) on Friday banned “any guests holding Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passports, regardless of when they were there last” from boarding the company’s ships.

The WHO warned on Friday against the “unnecessary, unhelpful profiling of individuals based on ethnicity”.

Rofhiwa Maemu victorious in 10 round battle against Themba Hobyani
28 December 2019, 10:28 AM

Former African Boxing Union and WBA Pan African boxing feather-weight champion, Rofhiwa “War Child” Maemu has won by points in a non-title fight scheduled for ten rounds against Themba Hobyani. Maemu exchanged blows with Hobyani in the main fight in the boxing tournament staged by Ndzhelele Women’s Sports Promotion at Sibasa near Thohoyandou in Limpopo last night.

Maemu says he’s ready to take any fight, including a national title. “One thing that I love more about this kind of win is that I’m winning them in the back yard, you understand. I should go for the SA if ever they are allowing because you know what I realized is that here in South Africa is not easy for coaches to take me as they are opponents. It is not too easy. It doesn’t just like wake up in the morning and say like we gonna face war child. No, no. It is not like that is what I realized. Otherwise I will just take any fights as they come.

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