leaders World

World leaders call for end to clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh – Al Jazeera English

Battles between Armenian and Azerbaijan forces over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh have continued overnight, as international calls for calm after the heaviest fighting between the two countries in years grew.

The Armenian defence ministry on Monday morning reported fighting throughout the night, while Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces were shelling the town of Terter.

The clashes between the two former Soviet republics, which fought a war in the 1990s, were the latest flare-up of a long-running conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians.

Seventeen Armenian separatist fighters were killed and more than 100 wounded in the fighting that began on Sunday morning, Nagorno-Karabakh leader Araik Harutyunyan said, conceding that his forces had “lost positions”.

Both sides also reported civilian casualties.

Nagorno-Karabakh separatists said one Armenian woman and a child were killed, while Baku said that an Azerbaijani family of five died in shelling launched by Armenian separatists.

“We are tired of Azerbaijan’s threats, we will fight to the death to resolve the problem once and for all,” Artak Bagdasaryan, 36, told the AFP news agency in Yerevan, adding that he was waiting to be conscripted into the army.

Azerbaijan claimed it captured a strategic mountain in the region that helps control transport communications between Yerevan and the enclave.

The clashes prompted a flurry of diplomacy to reduce tension in a decades-old conflict amid fears the violence could spiral out of control.

“We are a step away from a large-scale war,” Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group told AFP.

“One of the main reasons for the current escalation is a lack of any proactive international mediation between the sides for weeks,” she added.

President Donald Trump said on Sunday the United States would seek to end the violence.

“We’re looking at it very strongly,” he told a news briefing. “We have a lot of good relationships in that area. We’ll see if we can stop it.”

The US State Department condemned the violence in a statement, calling for an immediate halt to hostilities and any rhetoric or other actions that could make the situation worse.

US Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement that hostilities could escalate into a wider conflict and urged the Trump administration to push for more observers along the ceasefire line and for Russia “to stop cynically providing arms to both sides”.

Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 after fighting that left 30,000 dead and forced many more from their homes.

Although a ceasefire was reached in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azerbaijan-Armenia frontier.

International diplomacy

Armenia said Azerbaijani forces had attacked civilian targets including Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert, and promised a “proportionate response”.

“We stay strong next to our army to protect our motherland from Azeri invasion,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Twitter.

Azerbaijan denied an Armenian defence ministry statement that said Azerbaijani helicopters and tanks had been destroyed, and accused Armenian forces of launching “deliberate and targeted” attacks along the front line.

“We defend our territory, our cause is right!” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation, echoing the words of Joseph Stalin at the outbreak of World War II in Russia. “Karabakh is Azerbaijan,” he said.

Both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh declared martial law and military mobilisation. Azerbaijan imposed military rule and a curfew in large cities.

#NagornoKarabakh: no longer violations of ceasefire or border incidents. War is resuming. Time for Russia, France and US, individually and jointly, to stop it.

— Dmitri Trenin (@DmitriTrenin) September 27, 2020

Turkey, an Azerbaijan ally, said it was talking to members of the so-called Minsk Group, which mediates between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia, France and the US are co-presidents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone to Pashinyan but no details of the conversation were available, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Aliyev.

Erdogan, promising support for Azerbaijan, said Armenia was “the biggest threat to peace in the region” and called on “the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in their battle against invasion and cruelty”.

Pashinyan hit back, accusing Turkey of “dangerous behaviour” and urging the international community to ensure Ankara does not get involved in the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “extremely concerned” and called on the sides to stop fighting and return to talks.

The European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Pope Francis also urged both sides to stop military actions and return to negotiations.

At least 200 people were killed in a flare-up of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in April 2016. At least 16 people were killed in clashes in July.

Azerbaijan has pledged to take back the territory, by force if necessary, while Armenia has said it will do all it can to defend the area.

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Watching World

Why the World Is Watching a Military Takeover in Mali – The New York Times

Instability in the country is likely to ripple across West Africa and beyond.

Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The military in Mali arrested the country’s president and prime minister on Tuesday in a coup staged after weeks of destabilizing protests over a disputed election, government corruption and a violent Islamist insurgency that has lasted for eight years.

The streets of Bamako, the capital, exploded with both jubilation and gunfire after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and his prime minister, Boubou Cissé, were detained along with other government officials. Around midnight, the president announced on state TV that he was resigning.

The effects of the turmoil could spill beyond the borders of Mali, a country whose strategic location has geopolitical implications for West Africa, the Sahel, the broader Arab world, the European Union and the United States.

France has remained deeply involved in the affairs of Mali, its former colony, decades after the country gained independence.

For the French forces battling Islamists in the region, Mali is part of what some call France’s “Forever War” in the Sahel, the far-stretching land beneath the Sahara.

The United States, too, has military advisers in Mali, and American officials have a keen interest in a stable Malian government whose interests align with the West.

”Mali’s internal governance and security challenges are driving instability across the Sahel,” said Kyle Murphy, a former senior analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“This matters to the United States,” Mr. Murphy added, “because instability in the region allows violent extremists to prey on populations and advance their objectives, and displaces millions of civilians.”

After a previous military coup in 2012, Islamist rebels, some with ties to Al Qaeda, took advantage of the disarray to seize control of large areas of the country’s north, including the ancient city of Timbuktu.

Under their brutal rule, Malians in those areas under jihadist control were forced to follow a strict religious code or risk severe punishment. Women were forced into marriage, and historical sites were demolished.

The rebels lost control of their territories after French forces intervened to help the Malian military drive them out. But armed groups continue to terrorize civilians in the countryside, and the violence has metastasized across borders into the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger.

More than 10,000 West Africans have died, over a million have fled their homes and military forces from West Africa and France have suffered many losses.

“That is the major concern here,” said Chiedo Nwankwor, a researcher and lecturer at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “These various jihadist movements in Africa do not bode well for any Western government.”

In the years following its independence from France in 1960, Mali was viewed as having achieved a good track record in democratic government.

In 1996, a New York Times correspondent on a reporting trip to Mali made note of the pervasive poverty afflicting the citizenry but said the West African country nevertheless had become “one of this continent’s most vibrant democracies.”

But Mali, once cited as a democratic role model in the region, has lurched from one crisis to another since the 2012 coup that overthrew President Amadou Touré a month before elections were to be held.

The factors behind that coup, in part a consequence of the Arab Spring, underscore Mali’s position connecting North Africa with the rest of the continent. After the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya in 2011, hundreds of heavily armed Malian rebels who had fought for the Libyan leader returned home and attacked northern towns, creating the chaos that preceded the military takeover.

Mr. Keïta, the president arrested in Tuesday’s coup, won office in a landslide in 2013. But whatever hopes Mr. Keita raised when he took 78 percent of the vote, his star, and his genuine popularity, gradually faded.

He vowed “zero tolerance” for corruption, but Malians came to view him with mistrust.

Mr. Keita won re-election in 2018, when he ran for a second term, but only after being forced into a runoff. In recent weeks, protesters complained that those in charge had not done enough to address the corruption and bloodshed that have plagued the country. And they accused the president of stealing a parliamentary election in March and installing his own candidates.

After security forces shot and killed at least 11 protesters earlier this summer, the demands for reform only grew.

A team of regional mediators arrived in the capital, Bamako, to try to ease the unrest.

Then the military stepped in.

Ruth Maclean and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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Disney World

Disney World Cutting Hours as Theme Park Struggles Amidst Pandemic –


Just a month after re-opening for park guests, Walt Disney World is re-strategizing as they forge a new path amidst the global coronavirus pandemic. This week, Disney World has announced they will be adjusting the operating hours at all four theme parks at the Orlando resort. The move comes at the same time Disney CEO Bob Chapek went on record saying some park guests are reportedly canceling their trips and billions of dollars lost in the first months of park closures.

As reported via The Hollywood Reporter, Disney World will be opening and closing Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and the Magic Kingdom within an hour or two of the previous hours. However, the hours for the first Disney World location to re-open, Disney Springs, will be unchanged. These new hours across the various Disney World locations will take effect on September 8 and are expected to last through October. It’s unclear if there are plans to revert to the previous hours or further adjust after October.


Image via Walt Disney World

News of these adjusted hours arrives just one month after Disney World completely reopened to guests on July 11. Upon re-opening, it was made clear new health and safety protocols would be in place, like wearing face masks, in order to keep guests safe from the potential spread of COVID-19. The move was monumental, with Disney keen to re-open following a four-month shutdown in the early days of the pandemic which left the company working hard to re-assess how to survive this unprecedented event.

The impact of the pandemic on Disney’s finances has been incredible. During an earnings call last week, it was revealed (via USA Today) the company lost nearly $5 billion in losses in April, May, and June. Additionally, Chapek has noted during that same call (via CinemaBlend) how the second wave of COVID-19 sweeping through the nation as the summer comes to a close has affected guest reservation habits. He shared, “Unfortunately, [COVID-19] struck again and all the numbers started going up. This gave some level of trepidation to travelers that were anxious about long-distance travel getting on a plane and flying to Walt Disney World. So what we’ve seen is that we’ve had roughly 50% of our guest base still traveling from a distance…We’ve also had a higher than expected level of cancellations once somebody does make a reservation because as the disease ebbs and flows they might necessarily cancel.”

Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter @_matineeidle.

Here are the new hours announced earlier this week (all times in ET):

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (previously 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (previously 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  • EPCOT: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (previously 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.)
  • Magic Kingdom: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (previously 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
  • Disney Springs: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (hours remain unchanged)

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Disney World

Disney World Reopening Gets Mixed First Reactions As Fans Give Park’s Welcome Back Videos Horror Treatment – Deadline

As Disney reopened their premier theme park, Walt Disney World, today in Florida amid exploding coronavirus numbers, social media immediately took the entertainment conglomerate to task by criticizing the decision to resume theme parks operations, calling it premature and risky.

Florida has now seen more than 250,000 total cases of confirmed coronavirus cases and has tallied more than 300 deaths in the last three days, with 11,000 new cases reported on today’s park reopening day.

I can’t say how utterly disappointed I am in Disneythey cater to Families and CHILDREN! At what point do they stop with money making and look after the families with CHILDREN?!

Disney World reopens to the general public amid Florida’s surge in virus cases

— sweet bee ? (@tdillner) July 12, 2020

I love Disney World SO MUCH but man it should NOT be open right now ??‍♀️

— Allison Rancour (@AllisonRancour) July 12, 2020

Disney World, which had been shuttered for nearly four months, follows the May reopening of Shanghai Disneyland with safety precautions and strict social distancing rules.

Theme parks journalist Carlye Wisel visited the Disney World today an pointed out that proper social distancing guidelines quickly fell apart when visitors entered the park.

haven’t even made it in the gate yet and my heart is pounding out of my chest.

just had to squeeze past a lane of opposite traffic while there’s this densely packed line for guest services.

this is unacceptable — and I haven’t even made it into the park yet.

— ? carlye wisel (@carlyewisel) July 11, 2020

A Twitter user compared a photo of socially-distancing cast members released by Disney Parks before the opening and a photo from inside Disney World today.

Other early visitors were just happy to be back in the park after the long shutdown.

Some social media users took aim at the cheery “Welcome Back” videos Disney put out ahead of its world resort’s reopening. Remixing the park footage with eerie music, including the opening theme from horror classic The Shining, they reimagined Disney’s reopening as a sign of a dystopian present. See the pair of Disney videos and their dark counterparts.

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health World

World Health Organization holds briefing after scientists say airborne transmission of coronavirus is a “real risk” – CBS News

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Tuesday the coronavirus outbreak is “accelerating, and we have clearly not reached the peak of the pandemic.”

“More than six months in, the case for national unity and global solidarity is undeniable,” he said at a WHO briefing Tuesday. “We cannot afford any divisions.”

Tedros stressed that while global deaths have leveled off, many countries are actually seeing cases and deaths rise. 

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said there are several possible explanations for a global death decline. One explanation, he said, could simply be that there’s a lag, and we may see deaths rise again. 

Ryan warned, however, that what is imminently concerning is a daily increase in cases. “That is not purely a result of testing,” he said.

According to Tedros, a team of WHO experts will be traveling to China this week to advance research working to understand how the novel coronavirus first reached humans. 

Ryan said understanding how the virus got from the animal kingdom to humans is an “extremely important” step in managing risk going forward. “There is a trail and we have to follow that,” he said. 

They spoke after scientists urged the agency and other public health organizations to amend their guidelines to reflect the risk that the coronavirus can be airborne.

The WHO has said the coronavirus is only confirmed to be airborne during aerosol-generating medical procedures performed in health care settings, such as intubation. It says the virus primarily spreads through larger respiratory droplets, which don’t travel as far, which is why maintaining social distancing of about 6 feet has been recommended.

But an open letter supported by 239 scientists says airborne transmission of COVID-19 is a “real risk.” 

“Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate, but in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people,” states the letter, entitled “It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of COVID-19.”  

On Tuesday, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said the organization is in the process of producing a scientific brief on the issue that will be published in the coming days. She said the WHO still recommends people physical distance and continue to wear face masks. 

The letter was issued as the United States sees a spike in coronavirus cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Monday the country is still “knee-deep” in the first wave of the pandemic.

–Contributing: Nicole Brown and AFP 

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Champions World

QUIZ: World Cup and NWSL Champions – U.S. Soccer

The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup is underway in Utah with eight teams vying to take home the trophy. Can you name the players who have already won it all for club and for country?

Test your knowledge and see if you can name the 15 players who have won an NWSL championship and a FIFA Women’s World Cup title. Good luck!

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health World

The World Health Organization’s new announcement about COVID-19 was a huge mistake – AlterNet

In a potentially disastrous blunder, the World Health Organization made an announcement on Monday about COVID-19 that experts are saying was a gigantic mistake.

The announcement addressed this question: Can people infected with COVID-19 who don’t display any symptoms still transmit the infection to others? For months now, public health officials have said yes, and this fact has driven many of the extreme measures countries across the world have taken in response. Because the virus that causes COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2, can transmit even when a person doesn’t have symptoms, much of the world’s population has sought to avoid unnecessary contact with others for fear that anyone could be carrying the deadly pathogen.

But in a CNBC article published Monday reported WHO officials suggesting at a recent briefing in Geneva that transmission from people without symptoms is “very rare.” This report blew up on social media, as it gave many who fear the disease new hope and many who have been critical of the extreme measures taken to stop the spread more ammunition. It seemed to suggest to some — erroneously, it’s now clear — that social distancing is not nearly as important as has been assumed.

Pretty quickly, however, clear problems with the report began to emerge. A CNBC tweet about the story initially conveyed a much stronger message than even was WHO officials explicitly said, that asymptomatic people don’t spread the virus. This tweet was later corrected to say that WHO now claims asymptomatic spread is “very rare.”

Even this revised summation of the report is misleading, however. The CNBC article included this vital caveat:

 [Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit] acknowledged that some studies have indicated asymptomatic or presymptomatic spread in nursing homes and in household settings.

More research and data are needed to “truly answer” the question of whether the coronavirus can spread widely through asymptomatic carriers, Van Kerkhove added.

And as other experts reacted to the report, they were critical of WHO’s conclusions and public stance. Most importantly, it seems WHO’s discussion of “asymptomatic” transmission of the virus focuses on a narrow subset of people who never have symptoms, or have very mild symptoms. The problem is it’s impossible, at first, to tell these people apart from the group that is pre-symptomatic — those that have been infected but have not yet developed symptoms. And there’s extensive evidence to believe that these people can transmit the virus to others, which explains why it can spread so easily. People who have symptoms will be much more likely to stay at home, take sick days at work, and avoid spreading the disease to strangers. People who haven’t experienced their symptoms yet are more likely to be out and about, allowing the virus to spread more widely.

A recent paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded: “Asymptomatic persons seem to account for approximately 40% to 45% of SARS-CoV-2 infections, and they can transmit the virus to others for an extended period, perhaps longer than 14 days.”

Other research has found similar results, which is why so many public health experts were troubled by WHO’s remarks.

“We haven’t seen a lot of evidence of fully asymptomatic people transmitting to many others (though admittedly these tracing studies are hard to do). Pre-symptomatic transmission, on the other hand, is why SARS-CoV-2 has been harder to control than SARS-CoV,” said Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida. “If fully asymptomatic transmission is rare, this could impact how we monitor exposed contacts (how long to quarantine). But otherwise, it seems more of scientific than practical interest. People without current symptoms could be infectious. Act accordingly.” [Emphasis added.]

A. Marm Kilpatrick, a biology professor at the University of California Santa Cruz, made similar arguments.

“Abundant data now shows that transmission from people w/out symptoms makes up a huge fraction (40-50%) of transmission,” he explained.

WHO’s new announcement, he said, “is going to mislead many people and is based on flawed evidence due to how it was collected.”

One part of a problem with the WHO’s claims, he said, is that they’re based on contact-tracing data. But this means it relies on self-reporting about who a person may have contracted COVID-19 from or who they might have passed it on to, and this kind of information is not nearly reliable enough to base confident scientific conclusions on it. This is especially true since much additional evidence does indicate the possibility of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transfer.

“Given uncertainty in infectiousness and bias in contact tracing methodology, there is insufficient for [WHO] to make this claim for asymptomatic transmission and given the confusion b/w pre-symptomatic and truly asymptomatic it’s a misleading PR disaster,” said Kilpatrick.

Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama, said he thought WHO’s announcement was “an irresponsible statement even though it was based on legitimate observations.”

After speaking to WHO, he clarified that it wasn’t recommending people change their behavior based off these findings. People should still wear masks, according to WHO, to prevent the possibility of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic spread.

But the damage may already be done. A small amount of misinformation can spread quickly, and it can be much harder to get the truth out. This is especially true for a topic like COVID-19, which has prompted extensive criticism of experts, some of it justified and some of it spurious, as well as rampant conspiracy theories. WHO’s botched announcement will only add to the confusion and rancor.

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Guardians World

Guardians of the World Economy Stagger From Rescue to Recovery – Bloomberg

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health World

World Health Assembly Applauds Nurses, Midwives As ‘True Health Heroes’ | NBC News – NBC News

Published on 18-May-2020

President Xi Jinping told a virtual gathering of the World Health Assembly that China had “turned the tide” against the coronavirus pandemic.

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Coronavirus World

Coronavirus World Updates – The New York Times

President Trump says the U.S. is pouring billions into its own effort to develop a vaccine. And in Russia, three medical workers who complained about the government’s response have fallen from buildings.

Right Now

Ten players in Germany’s top soccer league were found to have the virus, raising questions about plans for resuming games.


Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

World leaders join to pledge $8 billion for vaccine, but the U.S. sits out.

A fund-raising conference on Monday organized by the European Union brought pledges from countries around the world — including Japan, Canada, Australia and Norway — to fund laboratories that have promising leads in developing and producing a vaccine.

Prime ministers, a king, a prince and Madonna all chipped in to an $8 billion pot to fund a coronavirus vaccine, but President Trump skipped the chance to contribute. Officials in his administration noted that the United States is pouring billions of dollars into its own research efforts.

For more than three hours, one by one, global leaders said a few words over video link and offered their nations’ contribution, small or large, whatever they could muster. For Romania, it was $200,000. For Canada, $850 million. The biggest contributors were the European Union and Norway, with each pledging one billion euros, or $1.1 billion.

The details of how the money raised will be distributed remain to be sorted out. The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union that spearheaded the initiative, said the money would be spent over the next two years to support promising initiatives around the globe. The ultimate goal is to deliver universal and affordable access to medication to fight Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The multilateral effort stood in sharp contrast to the solo road the United States is on as scientists everywhere scramble to develop a vaccine to stop the virus that has ravaged most parts of the globe, leaving 250,000 dead so far.

In Washington on Monday, senior Trump administration officials sought to talk up American contributions to coronavirus vaccine efforts worldwide, but did not explain the United States’ absence at the European-organized conference.

The U.S. government has spent money on vaccine research and development, including $2.6 billion through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an arm of the Health and Human Services Department. Jim Richardson, the State Department’s director of foreign assistance, said American companies had also provided $7 billion so far toward a coronavirus vaccine and treatment.

And the United States was not the world’s only major power to be absent from the teleconference. Russia, too, did not participate.

China, where the virus originated, was represented by its ambassador to the European Union and made no financial pledge.

The country has slashed red tape and offered resources to drug companies in a bid to empower the country’s vaccine industry. Four Chinese companies have begun testing their vaccine candidates on humans, more than the United States and Britain combined.

With most sports leagues on pause, baseball in Taiwan and South Korea becomes a global hit.

With sports events canceled across much of the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan and South Korea, which have both been world leaders in controlling the outbreak, are pushing forward with the rarest of spectacles: a professional baseball season.

South Korea’s season starts Tuesday, while Taiwan got underway last month. To adapt the game to the coronavirus age, live spectators are banned. The relative quiet makes the games now feel more like practice rather than the typically raucous regular season competitions.

In Taiwan, the stands are filled with fake spectators instead of real ones, locker rooms stocked with bottles of sanitizer, and players and coaches urged to keep a distance.

Chewing sunflower seeds is frowned upon — what would one do with the shells? Players are encouraged to bump elbows rather than give each other high-fives.

Players and coaches say they feel fortunate to be able to host games at all when many cities in the world remain under lockdown.

“We know many people are still keeping their eyes on us, even though there are no fans,said Chiu Chang-Jung, the manager of the CTBC Brothers team, which on Saturday took on the Rakuten Monkeys at the stadium in Taoyuan, about 30 miles west of Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. “Playing these games is a very lucky and blessed thing.”

Under fire from the media, Boris Johnson’s government fires back.

For a while, as the pandemic worsened, Queen Elizabeth II appealed for solidarity, and a seriously ill Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized, relations between Britain’s government and its news media got a bit less testy.

That’s over.

The culture minister recently accused the BBC of bias in reporting on the shortage of protective gear in hospitals. The health secretary heatedly claimed that The Times of London had misstated policy on shielding older people.

And 10 Downing Street has posted lengthy rebuttals, by unnamed officials, of newspaper articles that detailed its missteps in dealing with the outbreak.

Mr. Johnson has opened his daily briefings to questions and comments from members of the public as well as the press corps, making the famously sharp-tongued British reporters seem meaner by comparison.

“It positions the government and the public against the media, at the very moment that the media is presenting itself as the representative of the people in holding the government to account,” said Meera Selva, the director of the Reuters Journalism Fellowship Program at Oxford University.

The criticism has not abated, but now that Mr. Johnson and his allies have ramped up testing and declared that the worst is over, they have gone back on the offensive with the media, trying to put any talk of failure behind them. It is a return to a pugnacious populism that has served them well in the past.

Latest in science: Researchers are adapting gene therapy to develop a vaccine.

Researchers at two Harvard-affiliated hospitals are adapting a proven form of gene therapy to develop a coronavirus vaccine, which they expect to test in people later this year, they announced on Monday.

Their work employs a method already used in gene therapy for two inherited diseases, including a form of blindness: It uses a harmless virus as a vector, or carrier, to bring DNA into the patient’s cells. In this case, the DNA should instruct the cells to make a coronavirus protein that would stimulate the immune system to fight off future infections.

So far, the team has studied its vaccine candidates only in mice. Tests for safety and potency in monkeys should begin within a month or so at another academic center, the researchers said. But two of seven promising versions are already being manufactured for studies in humans.

At this early stage, Dr. Luk H. Vandenberghe, director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, estimates the manufacturing cost per dose of vaccine to be from $2.50 to $250.

“We are presenting a different angle from everybody else,” Dr. Vandenberghe, director said. Several other vaccine projects involve viral vectors, but no others use adeno-associated viruses.

The approach has several advantages, he added.

One is that the type of vector, an adeno-associated virus, or AAV, is a harmless virus that is already used in two approved forms of gene therapy and has been tested in many patients and found to be safe. Another plus is that the technique requires very small amounts of the vector and DNA to produce immunity, so the yield of doses would be high. In addition, many drug and biotech companies, large and small, already produce adeno-associated virus and could easily switch to producing the form needed for the vaccine.

The research is one of at least 90 vaccine projects speeding ahead around the world in desperate efforts that hold the best and probably only hope of stopping or at least slowing the pandemic.

One potential problem that every vaccine project will be on the lookout for is disease enhancement: the possibility that a vaccine, instead of preventing infection, could actually make the disease worse.

The two scientists said the many research groups forging ahead with vaccine projects were racing not against one another, but against the coronavirus.

They survived the Holocaust, but now they’re confronting the virus.


Credit…via Ben Becher

The generation that endured Nazi death camps is especially vulnerable to the pandemic.

The New York area is home to just under 40,000 Holocaust survivors, down from nearly twice that many in 2011, according to Selfhelp Community Services, which serves Nazi victims. Now those survivors, mostly in their 80s and 90s, face a new menace that targets people like them.

“This pandemic is the greatest threat to this generation since the Second World War,” said Stephen D. Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation, which interviews survivors of genocide.

In New York State, the coronavirus has killed more than twice as many people age 80 and up as it has people under 60.

One got out of Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport train to Sweden, never again seeing his parents, who were exterminated in the death camps. One survived two notorious concentration camps, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and was discovered by British troops on a pile of bodies, half-dead with typhus. One endured freezing temperatures and near starvation in a slave-labor camp in Siberia.

Last month, all three died by the same tiny microorganism, isolated once more from their family members.

And for survivors who have eluded the virus, memories of that dark time, never far out of mind, find new salience in the present plague.

For Diana Kurz, 83, who escaped Vienna with her mother when she was 4 years old, said the coronavirus reminded her of those years in Vienna, when any random encounter might be deadly.

“I guess I picked that up as a child,” she said, “that feeling of dread all the time. That’s what it is like now. You never know if other people on the street are going to give you the virus, or were going to turn you in to the Gestapo because you were a Jew.”

Three Russian medics have plunged from windows after complaining about officials’ handling of the pandemic.

Three medical workers in Russia who had been in disputes with the health authorities over handling the coronavirus have plunged from upper-story windows, local news outlets have reported.

Some reports suggested that the falls, which killed two doctors and left a third in critical condition, were suicides or accidents.

They came amid a police crackdown on doctors who have publicly criticized the government’s response. Russian dissidents have long attributed mysterious falls from balconies and other apparent accidents to state violence.

Aleksandr Shulepov, a medic for an ambulance service in the Voronezh region, south of Moscow, fell on Saturday from a window of a hospital where he was being treated for Covid-19. He was in critical conduction with a fractured skull.

He and a colleague had complained in online videos about a lack of personal protective equipment. He also said he was required to continue working after he tested positive for the virus, according to Vesti Voronezh, a local newspaper.

In response to the videos, the police warned Mr. Shulepov’s colleague of possible criminal charges for spreading false information, the paper reported. Mr. Shulepov posted a video recanting his allegations.

In the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, Elena Nepomnyashchaya, the chief doctor at a hospital, fell from a window on April 26 and died six days later. She had objected to the regional authorities’ plan to treat Covid-19 patients there, according to TBK, a local news outlet, and had complained about insufficient protective equipment.

Natalya Lebedeva, the head of the ambulance service at Star City, the Russian cosmonaut training center, died on April 24 after a plunge from a window at a hospital where she was being treated for Covid-19.

The authorities reported that it was an accident. The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets wrote that Ms. Lebedeva had committed suicide after managers accused her of allowing the spread of the virus within the space program.

10 German soccer players test positive for the virus as their league weighs restarting games.

As one of the first major sports leagues to detail its plans to return to action, Germany’s top soccer league has become the bellwether for restarting sports events postponed by the coronavirus epidemic.

That decision became more complicated on Monday when 10 players were found to have the virus after blanket testing of 1,724 individuals from the 36 teams in the top two divisions of the league, the Bundesliga. The majority are believed to be asymptomatic.

It was not clear if the results would derail plans to restart the league, a decision that could come on Wednesday. But the test results were seen as a harbinger for the heavy considerations all sports organizations would face as they make reopening plans, many of them contingent on widespread testing.

The National Rugby League in Australia — which is aiming to return on May 28 — ran into similar complications. Four players from the South Sydney Rabbitohs were told to stay home from training on Monday because of flulike symptoms. And the coach of the Sydney Roosters, Trent Robinson, also has symptoms and will be tested.

If the Bundesliga cannot resume its season, even without spectators — a decision with far-reaching financial implications — it would not bode well for the rest of the soccer world. Germany has been lauded for its relative success containing the outbreak, and has one of the lowest death rates among major countries at less than 10 per 100,000 people.

England’s Premier League is expected to decide on Friday whether there is a way forward to reopen amid disharmony among its 20 teams. In Spain and Italy, there are also cautious moves toward playing again. (Spanish players returned to training on Monday but were limited to working out alone.)

Elsewhere, that option has been ruled out, most notably in France, where last week the prime minister declared the season over. The seasons in the Netherlands and in Belgium have also been officially called off.

New Zealand and Australia work toward creating a ‘travel bubble.’

Australia and New Zealand are moving closer toward creating a “travel bubble” that would allow people to fly between the two countries without quarantines — a resumption of traffic that would be a boost for both countries’ economies.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, who joined Australia’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday to discuss the steps required, said on Monday that the move would depend on continued progress in testing and tracing of coronavirus infections in both countries. That could take weeks or months.

“Both our countries’ strong record of fighting the virus has placed us in the enviable position of being able to plan the next stage in our economic rebuild,” she said.

Ms. Ardern and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia told reporters on Tuesday that the ‘bubble’ is an important part of the road back to normalcy for both nations.

Such a travel arrangement could potentially be extended into the Pacific — Fiji has only a handful of reported cases and zero deaths. And plans are also being laid for limited travel between other countries that have controlled the spread of infection.

China and South Korea began easing quarantine requirements for some business travelers on Friday. A day later, trade ministers from Australia, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand and Singapore agreed to a collective effort to resume the flow of not just goods and services, but also people traveling “for purposes such as maintaining global supply chains, including essential business travel,” according to a joint statement.

Public health experts say that any resumption of travel comes with risks, but they also note that conditions vary by country. Travelers from the United States, the main source of coronavirus infections in Australia, may have to wait far longer to book flights around the world without being subject to 14-day quarantines.

Reporting was contributed by Mark Landler, Stephen Castle, Andrew Keh, Javier C. Hernández, Damien Cave, Andrew E. Kramer, Denise Grady, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Lara Jakes and John Leland.

  • Updated April 11, 2020

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.

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