News Burst 30 March 2020
- A top government official in France has admitted that draconian lockdown measures being imposed on the rest of the population shouldn’t be implemented in the country’s migrant-heavy ghettos in order to prevent riots. In a letter leaked to magazine Le Canard Enchaine, French Secretary of State to the Ministry of the Interior Laurent Nunez advises, “It is not a priority to enforce closings in certain neighborhoods and to stop gatherings.”
- The Japan Environment Agency expressed fears the approaching rainy season could jeopardize the safekeeping of piles of contaminated waste collected after the 2011 nuclear disaster. It said March 17 there was a risk of bulk plastic bags stored at 12 temporary sites in six municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture being swept away through the erosion of riverbanks caused by flooding, as well as mudslides and landslides triggered by torrential rains. Officials are desperate to prevent a repeat of what happened last October when Typhoon No. 19 swept hundreds of bags into a river. The ministry said its preventive measures will include transporting stockpiles to other temporary storage facilities and fencing in sites before the rainy season starts in May. Fukushima Prefecture has 721 temporary sites.
- President Hassan Rouhani told members of his cabinet on Sunday that Iran’s record of dealing with the coronavirus epidemic “is acceptable” compared with other countries. He claimed that in some provinces there is “improvement”, while critics say his government’s response has been slow, chaotic and sometimes self-contradictory. Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran’s health minister, tweeted on March 29 that the death toll has risen to 2,640 and the number of infected people has reached 38,309. While the health ministry has issued mostly linear numbers since the outbreak was announced on February 19, Radio Farda’s independent estimate puts the number of deaths at 4,300 and cases of hospitalization at twice the government’s official figure for infections.
- Why nationalize the US banks when you can just nationalize the Federal Reserve? That’s in essence what the White House did Friday by putting the Fed under Treasury Department supervision. But it does not stop there. President Trump is now the world’s banker as he takes control of the Fed’s balance sheet folding it into Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund, which will now contain the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin now will be the 800-lbs gorilla in all debt markets, not just the Treasury market. Commercial Paper, Asset-back securities, corporate bonds and bond ETFs and small business loans are just a few of the markets the administration will be securing through the Exchange Stabilization Fund. Blackrock will be the firm executing all these trades using the Fed’s balance sheet but employing Treasury’s new special purchase vehicles to lawfully prop up these flagging markets. Is this the first step towards ending the Federal Reserve? Unknowable right now, but should this operation last through the end of the year, the Treasury Department will control the majority of US and corporate debt markets directly.
- Japan is moving to refuse entry to all foreign nationals travelling on U.S. passports or who have been in the United States for the past two weeks. Discussions are still being held to decide whether the measure would cover all of the United States or just certain parts, government sources said. The restriction applies even to Japanese nationals returning from the United States.
- Upon hearing that a new coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan in the Hubei province, local authorities’ first instinct, as we know, was to suppress the information. Police reprimanded whistleblowers like the Wuhan-based doctor Li Wenliang, who subsequently died of the disease. This should have motivated Chinese leaders to weigh the costs of censorship and reconsider the appointment of unqualified party members to key public-health positions. The head of the Hubei Provincial Health Commission, dismissed during the crisis, had no medical training or experience in the public-health sector. Moreover, some other countries, especially Singapore and Taiwan, managed to contain the COVID-19 outbreak without incurring the high costs that China did when it placed at least 760 million Chinese under varying degrees of residential lockdown. China’s leaders should be looking to these countries for lessons on smarter crisis response. But, far from learning from past mistakes, China’s leaders are trying to cover them up. As virtually the entire global economy effectively shuts down to contain the China-born virus and deaths in Italy — the pandemic’s new epicenter — exceed 7,500, the Chinese Communist Party has shifted its propaganda machine into high gear. Its goal: change the narrative of the COVID-19 crisis. At home, this has meant touting the CCP’s leadership in mobilizing the country to “win the war” against the virus. It has also meant encouraging the spread on Chinese social media of exaggerated or outright false stories about Western democracies’ “inept” responses to the outbreak. Abroad, China’s propaganda machine is trumpeting declining infection rates as evidence that strong centralized leadership is more effective than democratic governance. Meanwhile, the government is sending humanitarian assistance — including health care workers and medical supplies — to hard-hit countries like Iran, Italy and the Philippines. But if Chinese leaders hope to use the COVID-19 pandemic to build and project soft power, they are likely to be sorely disappointed. For starters, the world is nowhere near ready to forget the role that its initial cover-up played in allowing the virus to spread.
- The coronavirus pandemic led to a rare surge of online posts in Thailand questioning the monarchy on Sunday and a government minister subsequently warned that inappropriate posts could lead to jail. Insulting the monarchy is a crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A Thai-language hashtag that translates to #whydoweneedaking? was one of the top trending topics on Twitter in Thailand after an overseas Thai activist posted about King Maha Vajiralongkorn continuing to travel in Germany during the coronavirus crisis. King Vajiralongkorn, 67, who was crowned last year, has a second home in Germany. He spends much of his time outside Thailand.
- The Dutch government has recalled over half a million face masks it imported from China after discovering that they were faulty. The Netherlands said on Saturday that it had asked its hospitals to return around 600,000 face masks which health professionals are using to treat patients of the coronavirus. The NOS reported that the faulty masks fail to meet safety requirements because they did not fit on the faces of doctors and nurses and were failing to prevent particles of the virus passing through.
- The Chinese embassy in Madrid said on 26 March that the Spanish government had bought a batch of faulty COVID-19 testing kits from an unauthorised Chinese company called Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology. “The Chinese ministry of commerce offered Spain a list of certified providers, which did not include Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology. Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology has not yet been licensed by the Chinese National Medical Products Administration to sell its products,” said the Chinese Embassy. The Spanish association of microbiologists (SEIMC) warned that the testing kits in this batch performed with an accuracy level of under 30%.
- After plunging into Friday’s close, US equity futures markets are extending losses at the open after President Trump extended the virus guidelines (lockdown) until April 30th. Dow futures have erased most of Thursday’s surge gains. But oil was the big mover as WTI plunged as much as 7.5% to a $19 handle, the lowest since early 2002.
- Qatar Airways will have to seek government support eventually, Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said, warning the Middle East carrier could soon run out of cash needed to continue flying. Several states have already stepped in to help airlines that have seen demand decimated almost overnight by the coronavirus outbreak, with the United States offering $58 billion in aid. Qatar Airways is one of few airlines continuing to maintain scheduled commercial passenger services and over the next two weeks expects to operate 1,800 flights. “We have received many requests from governments all over the world, embassies in certain countries, requesting Qatar Airways not to stop flying,” Baker said, however, he warned the airline was burning through cash and only had enough to sustain operations for a “very short period of time”.
- Some 10,521 foreigners in Cambodia, the bulk being from the UK, have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly them out of the Kingdom. The petition is targeted at 15,000 foreigners. Among them are nearly 200 Europeans, the majority being British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled their flights, according to the list shared in a Facebook group “Stranded in Cambodia UK”.
- A light plane evacuating a patient to Japan crashed and exploded shortly after takeoff from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last night, killing all eight people on board that included a medical evacuation crew, the Canadian patient and an American. The Philippine-registered Lion Air West Wing was bound for Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in Japan and had just taken off from Runway 24 when it turned into a fireball at past 8 p.m. yesterday.
Sunspot number: 0
Current Stretch: 19 days
2020 total: 67 days (78%)
2019 total: 281 days (77%)
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Deepest EQ M5.2 98 km Papua New Guinea News Burst 30 March 2020