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Coronavirus: Effect on world economy worsens

Coronavirus: Effect on world economy worsens

The coronavirus outbreak’s impact on the world economy grew more alarming, even after President Donald Trump denounced criticism of his response to the threat as a “hoax” cooked up by his political enemies.

China’s manufacturing plunged in February by an even wider margin than expected after efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy, an official survey showed.

The survey, coming as global stock markets fall sharply on fears that the virus will spread abroad, adds to mounting evidence of the vast cost of the disease that emerged in central China in December and its economic impact worldwide.

A coronavirus security check test set up outside Cremona Hospital in Cremona, Italy. (PA)

The monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the Chinese statistics agency and an industry group fell to 35.7 from January’s 50 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate activity contracting.

How Japan has been affected

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a 270 billion yen ($3.8 billion) emergency economic package to help fight the virus as he sought the public’s support for his government’s fight against the outbreak.

Mr Abe said at a news conference that Japan is at critical juncture to determine whether the country can keep the outbreak under control ahead of the Tokyo summer Olympics.

Mr Abe, whose announcement this past week of a plan to close all schools for more than a month through the end of the Japanese academic year sparked public criticism, said the emergency package includes financial support for parents and their employers affected by the school closures.

“Frankly speaking, this battle cannot be won solely by the efforts of the government,” Mr Abe said Saturday (local time).

People wearing face masks wait for bus in a bus stop in a street in western Tehran, Iran. (AP)

“We cannot do it without understanding and cooperation from every one of you, including medical institutions, families, companies and local governments.”

How the Middle East is responding

Iran is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” of people getting tested for the virus as the number of confirmed cases spiked again Saturday, an official said, underscoring the fear both at home and abroad over the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.

The virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have killed 43 people out of 593 confirmed cases in Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.

The new toll represents a jump of 205 cases – a 150 percent increase from the 388 reported the day before.

Earlier Saturday, Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travellers who came from Iran and hadn’t been tested for the virus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks.

Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture will be closed until March 15 to curb the spread of new coronavirus infections. (AP)

Saudi Arabia said it would bar citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council from Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina over concerns about the virus’ spread.

The GCC is a six-nation group including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia closed off the holy sites to foreign pilgrims over the coronavirus, disrupting travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affecting plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.

Despite anxieties about a wider outbreak in the US, Mr Trump has defended measures taken and lashed out Friday at Democrats who have questioned his handling of the threat.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a televised news conference (EPA)

At a political rally Friday night in North Charleston, South Carolina, Mr Trump asserted that Democratic complaints about his handling of the virus threat are “their new hoax”, echoing similar past complaints by the president about the Russia investigation and his impeachment.

Mr Trump accused Democrats of “politicising” the coronavirus threat and boasted about preventive steps he’s ordered in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading across the United States.

Shortly before Mr Trump began to speak, health officials confirmed a second case of the virus in the US in a person who didn’t travel internationally or have close contact with anyone who had the virus.

The list of countries touched by the virus has climbed to nearly 60. More than 85,000 people worldwide have contracted the virus, with deaths topping 2900.

Even in isolated, sanctions-hit North Korea, leader Kim Jong Un called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be “serious consequences” if the illness spreads to the country.

How does coronavirus affect the body? (Graphic: Tara Blancato)

China has seen a slowdown in new infections and on Saturday morning reported 427 new cases over the past 24 hours along with 47 additional deaths. The city at the epicentre of the outbreak, Wuhan, accounted for the bulk of both.

The ruling party is striving to restore public and business confidence and avert a deeper economic downturn and politically risky job losses after weeks of disruptions due to the viral outbreak.

South Korea, the second hardest hit country, reported 813 new cases on Saturday – the highest daily jump since confirming its first patient in late January and raising its total to 3150.

Streets were deserted in the city of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where a state of emergency was issued until mid-March. Seventy cases – the largest from a single prefecture in Japan – have been detected in the island prefecture.

The archbishop of Paris asked all of the French capital‘s parish priests to change the way they administer communion to counter the spread of the coronavirus.

Bishop Michel Aupetit instructed that priests no longer put the sacramental bread in the mouths of worshippers celebrating communion and instead place it in their hands.

He also asked that worshippers not drink wine directly from a shared chalice, and that sacramental bread instead be dipped in wine.

The bishop’s instructions were listed in a statement Saturday from the Paris diocese.

It said a Paris priest tested positive for the virus on Friday after returning from Italy.

The head of the World Health Organization on Friday announced that the risk of the virus spreading worldwide was “very high”, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the “window of opportunity” for containing the virus was narrowing.

Stock markets around the world plunged again Friday. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index took yet another hit, closing down nearly 360 points.

The index has dropped more than 14 percent from a recent high, making this the market’s worst week since 2008.

In Asia, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and events that were expected to attract tens of thousands of people were called off, including a concert series by the K-pop group BTS.

Tourist arrivals in Thailand are down 50 percent compared with a year ago, and in Italy – which has reported 888 cases, the most of any country outside of Asia – hotel bookings are falling and Premier Giuseppe Conte raised the spectre of recession.

Assuming there are many more cases with no or very mild symptoms, the rate “may be considerably less than one percent”, US health officials wrote in an editorial in the journal.

That would make the virus more like a severe seasonal flu than a disease similar to its genetic cousins SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome.

Given the ease of spread, however, the virus could gain footholds around the world and many could die.

Europe’s economy is already teetering on the edge of recession. A measure of business sentiment in Germany fell sharply last week, suggesting that some companies could postpone investment and expansion plans.

China is a huge export market for German manufacturers.

Economists have forecast global growth will slip to 2.4 percent this year, the slowest since the Great Recession in 2009, and down from earlier expectations closer to three percent.

For the United States, estimates are falling to as low as 1.7 percent growth this year, down from 2.3 percent in 2019.

But if COVID-19 becomes a global pandemic, economists expect the impact could be much worse, with the US and other global economies falling into recession.

Article was reproduced with permission from AP.

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On Diagnosing Trump From a Distance – The Atlantic

Through the 2016 campaign, I posted a series called “Trump Time Capsule” in this space. The idea was to record, in real time, what was known about Donald Trump’s fitness for office—and to do so not when people were looking back on our era but while the Republican Party was deciding whether to line up behind him and voters were preparing to make their choice.

The series reached 152 installments by election day. I argued that even then there was no doubt of Trump’s mental, emotional, civic, and ethical unfitness for national leadership. If you’re hazy on the details, the series is (once again) here.

That background has equipped me to view Trump’s performance in office as consistently shocking but rarely surprising. He lied on the campaign trail, and he lies in office. He insulted women, minorities, “the other” as a candidate, and he does it as a president. He led “lock her up!” cheers at the Republican National Convention and he smiles at “send them back!” cheers now. He did not know how the “nuclear triad” worked then, and he does not know how tariffs work now. He flared at perceived personal slights when they came from Senator John McCain, and he does so when they come from the Prime Minister of Denmark. He is who he was.

The Atlantic editorial staff, in a project I played no part in, reached a similar conclusion. Its editorial urging a vote against Trump was obviously written before the election but stands up well three years later:

He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar. He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent


The one thing I avoided in that Time Capsule series was “medicalizing” Trump’s personality and behavior. That is, moving from description of his behavior to speculation about its cause. Was Trump’s abysmal ignorance—“Most people don’t know President Lincoln was a Republican!”—a sign of dementia, or of some other cognitive decline? Or was it just more evidence that he had never read a book? Was his braggadocio and self-centeredness a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder? (Whose symptoms include “an exaggerated sense of self-importance” and “a sense of entitlement and require[s] constant, excessive admiration.”) Or just that he is an entitled jerk? On these and other points I didn’t, and don’t, know.

Like many people in the journalistic world, I received a steady stream of mail from mental-health professionals arguing for the “medicalized” approach. Several times I mentioned the parallel between Trump’s behavior and the check-list symptoms of narcissism. But I steered away from “this man is sick”—naming the cause rather than listing the signs—for two reasons.

The minor reason was the medical-world taboo against public speculation about people a doctor had not examined personally. There is a Catch-22 circularity to this stricture (which dates to the Goldwater-LBJ race in 1964). Doctors who have not treated a patient can’t say anything about the patient’s condition, because that would be “irresponsible”—but neither can doctors who have, because they’d be violating confidences.

Also, a flat ban on at-a-distance diagnosis doesn’t really meet the common-sense test. Medical professionals have spent decades observing symptoms, syndromes, and more-or-less probable explanations for behavior. We take it for granted that an ex-quarterback like Tony Romo can look at an offensive lineup just before the snap and say, “This is going to be a screen pass.” But it’s considered a wild overstep for a doctor or therapist to reach conclusions based on hundreds of hours of exposure to Trump on TV.

My dad was a small-town internist and diagnostician. Back in the 1990s he saw someone I knew, on a TV interview show, and he called me to say: “I think your friend has [a neurological disease]. He should have it checked out, if he hasn’t already.” It was because my dad had seen a certain pattern—of expression, and movement, and facial detail—so many times in the past, that he saw familiar signs, and knew from experience what the cause usually was. (He was right in this case.) Similarly, he could walk down the street, or through an airline terminal, and tell by people’s gait or breathing patterns who needed to have knee or hip surgery, who had just had that surgery, who was starting to have heart problems, et cetera. (I avoided asking him what he was observing about me.)

Recognizing patterns is the heart of most professional skills, and mental health professionals usually know less about an individual patient than all of us now know about Donald Trump. And on that basis, Dr. Bandy Lee of Yale and others associated with the World Mental Health Coalition have been sounding the alarm about Trump’s mental state (including with a special analysis of the Mueller report). Another organization of mental health professionals is the “Duty to Warn” movement.

But the diagnosis-at-a-distance issue wasn’t the real reason I avoided “medicalization.” The main reason I didn’t go down this road was my assessment that it wouldn’t make a difference. People who opposed Donald Trump already opposed him, and didn’t need some medical hypothesis to dislike his behavior. And people who supported him had already shown that they would continue to swallow anything, from “Grab ‘em by … ”  to “I like people who weren’t captured.” The Vichy Republicans of the campaign dutifully lined up behind the man they had denounced during the primaries, and the Republicans of the Senate have followed in that tradition.


But now we’ve had something we didn’t see so clearly during the campaign. These are episodes of what would be called outright lunacy, if they occurred in any other setting: An actually consequential rift with a small but important NATO ally, arising from the idea that the U.S. would “buy Greenland.” Trump’s self-description as “the Chosen One,” and his embrace of a supporter’s description of him as the “second coming of God” and the “King of Israel.” His logorrhea, drift, and fantastical claims in public rallies, and his flashes of belligerence at the slightest challenge in question sessions on the White House lawn. His utter lack of affect or empathy when personally meeting the most recent shooting victims, in Dayton and El Paso. His reduction of any event, whatsoever, into what people are saying about him.

Obviously I have no standing to say what medical pattern we are seeing, and where exactly it might lead. But just from life I know this:

  • If an airline learned that a pilot was talking publicly about being “the Chosen One” or “the King of Israel” (or Scotland or whatever), the airline would be looking carefully into whether this person should be in the cockpit.
  • If a hospital had a senior surgeon behaving as Trump now does, other doctors and nurses would be talking with administrators and lawyers before giving that surgeon the scalpel again.
  • If a public company knew that a CEO was making costly strategic decisions on personal impulse or from personal vanity or slight, and was doing so more and more frequently, the board would be starting to act. (See: Uber, management history of.)
  • If a university, museum, or other public institution had a leader who routinely insulted large parts of its constituency—racial or religious minorities, immigrants or international allies, women—the board would be starting to act.
  • If the U.S. Navy knew that one of its commanders was routinely lying about important operational details, plus lashing out under criticism, plus talking in “Chosen One” terms, the Navy would not want that person in charge of, say, a nuclear-missile submarine. (See: The Queeg saga in The Caine Mutiny, which would make ideal late-summer reading or viewing for members of the White House staff.)

Yet now such a  person is in charge not of one nuclear-missile submarine but all of them—and the bombers and ICBMs, and diplomatic military agreements, and the countless other ramifications of executive power.

If Donald Trump were in virtually any other position of responsibility, action would already be under way to remove him from that role. The board at a public company would have replaced him outright or arranged a discreet shift out of power. (Of course, he would never have gotten this far in a large public corporation.) The chain-of-command in the Navy or at an airline or in the hospital would at least call a time-out, and check his fitness, before putting him back on the bridge, or in the cockpit, or in the operating room. (Of course, he would never have gotten this far as a military officer, or a pilot, or a doctor.)

There are two exceptions. One is a purely family-run business, like the firm in which Trump spent his entire previous career. And the other is the U.S. presidency, where he will remain, despite more and more-manifest Queeg-like  unfitness, as long as the GOP Senate stands with him.

(Why the Senate? Because the two constitutional means for removing a president, impeachment and the 25th Amendment, both ultimately require two thirds support from the Senate. Under the 25th Amendment, a majority of the Cabinet can remove a president—but if the president disagrees, he can retain the office unless two thirds of both the House and Senate vote against him, an even tougher standard than with impeachment. Once again it all comes back to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.)

Donald Trump is who we knew him to be. But now he’s worse. The GOP Senate continues to show us what it is.

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One of K-Pop’s biggest stars ignored social distancing rules to visit …

The management of South Korean boyband BTS have apologized after one of the band’s members went to bars while the country’s strict social distancing rules were in place.

BTS, which has seven members, is one of the biggest bands in the world — last year it became the first group in Billboard history to spend five weeks at number one on the Billboard Artist 100 chart.

Jungkook — who, at 22, is the band’s youngest member — visited bars and restaurants in Seoul’s nightlife district Itaewon on April 25, BTS’ label Big Hit Entertainment said in a statement on Monday.

At the time, South Korea was still under strict social distancing rules, and citizens were encouraged to stay home and limit unnecessary contact with others. Those social distancing rules were lifted on May 6.

A total of 187 coronavirus cases have been linked to an Itaewon nightclub cluster, Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of the country’s Central Disease Control Headquarters, said in a briefing on Tuesday. The first reported case as part of this cluster was a 29-year-old man who visited several clubs in Itaewon on the night of May 1 and the early hours of May 2.

In the statement, Big Hit said that Jungkook went out with friends on April 25. But he did not go to the places that the patient had visited in early May, Big Hit said.

“After his visit, there were no symptoms of coronavirus including coughs or fever; and he had voluntarily taken the test at a designated clinic and the result was negative. The artist himself is deeply regretting that he hadn’t faithfully participated in the grand social endeavor to socially distance,” the statement said.

Source: CNN News

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