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Phuket Gazette World News: Clown kills Mexico cartel head; Arab League sets date for Syria; Tito’s widow is dead

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Phuket Gazette World News: Clown kills Mexico cartel head; Arab League sets date for Syria; Tito’s widow is dead | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Gunman in clown suit kills senior Mexican drug cartel member
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A gunman in a clown costume shot and killed the oldest brother of one of Mexico’s most notorious drug trafficking families in the resort of Los Cabos, authorities said on Saturday.

Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, 63, a former leader of the Tijuana Cartel, was shot in the head late on Friday at a family gathering in the southern tip of the state of Baja California Sur, a spokesman for state prosecutors said.

“A person dressed as a clown took his life,” he said.

Local media reported that the killer had two accomplices, but this was not yet clear, the spokesman said. The gunman fled the scene.

Arellano Felix spent nearly 15 years behind bars for drug-related offenses after his arrest in Mexico in late 1993. Extradited to the United States in 2006, he was later paroled and walked free on his return to Mexico in early 2008.

Another official working with state prosecutors said Arellano Felix, the oldest of the brothers who headed the gang, was not wanted by authorities at the time of his death.

The possibility that his killer had ties to organized crime was being investigated, the official said.

Led by a large family of brothers and sisters, the Tijuana Cartel was one of the most powerful drug gangs in Mexico until it was gradually weakened by the capture or killing of several its leading members during the previous decade.

Arellano Felix’s younger brothers, Francisco Javier, Benjamin and Eduardo are serving prison sentences in the United States. Another of his brothers, Ramon, was killed in a shootout with police in 2002.

Arab League chief says Syria peace talks set for November 23
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said on Sunday peace talks aimed at ending the civil war in Syria were scheduled for November 23, but the international envoy for Syria said no date had yet been set for the long-delayed conference.

International efforts to end the 2-1/2 year conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people have stuttered. But a deal last month for Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons arsenal rekindled efforts to convene the conference, dubbed “Geneva 2”.

“I discussed the Syria file with Lakhdar Brahimi and it was decided that the Geneva meeting would take place on November 23 and arrangements are being made to prepare for this conference,” Elaraby told reporters in Cairo after a meeting with Brahimi, the international envoy for Syria.

“Of course there are many arrangements and many obstacles and difficulties that have to be overcome,” he added.

But at the same news conference, Brahimi said: “The date has not been officially set.”

A senior Syrian official said last week that the conference was scheduled for November 23-24, but co-organizers Russia and the United States said no date had been set.

Brahimi said he would travel to Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Syria, as well as Geneva, to meet American, Russian and Security Council member officials “after which a final date for the Geneva 2 conference will be announced”.

Iran is Assad’s most important regional backer, and the prospect of a peace conference raises questions over whether it will be invited, something Washington has resisted unless Tehran states publicly it would support a transition government in Syria. That would mean Assad should step down.

Also unclear is who, if anyone, would attend from Syria’s divided opposition coalition.

Najib Ghadbian, the opposition coalition’s U.S. representative, said an important component of the coalition had decided against taking part, but other members of the umbrella group could still decide to go, assuming Assad was not there.

Assad’s government has said it would not consider any deal that required the president to step down.

Brahimi, who earlier said there would be no preconditions to attending the peace talks, said on Sunday the opposition was facing “many problems”.

“A conference will not be convened without a convincing opposition that represents an important part of Syria’s opposition population,” Brahimi said.

A “Friends of Syria” meeting, which will include officials from Western and Gulf Arab countries, is due to take place in London on October 22.

Malaysia’s Najib entrenches power as reform drive fades
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Internal voting for top posts in Malaysia’s ruling coalition at the weekend have proved Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to be a canny survivor – five months after a poor showing at national elections – but at a cost to his reform agenda.

In May, Najib seemed dead in the water to some observers after presiding over the long-ruling United Malays National Organisation’s (UMNO) worst election result.

The internal UMNO elections, however, confirmed Najib had seen off challenges from rival factions – including the son of influential former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mukhriz Mahathir, 48, fell just short of snaring one of three vice president positions, all of which went to incumbents backed by Najib. Najib’s allies also retained their dominance of the 25-member UMNO Supreme Council.

Since coming to power in 2009, Najib had eased draconian security laws and pledged to phase out privileges for majority ethnic Malays that have hurt Malaysia’s competitiveness.

Malaysia’s large ethnic Chinese minority and most urban voters largely rejected the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition at the election and Najib has since reversed both policies under pressure from traditionalists.

Despite that, he has not appeased all of his conservative rivals, signalling he will remain under pressure to rein in any reformist instincts. On Friday, Mahathir, 88, launched an outspoken attacks on what he called Najib’s “bad performance”.

Among other barbs, Mahathir said maintaining the status quo in the UMNO hierarchy would hasten the party’s demise after 56 years in power. He also blamed Najib for adding to Malaysia’s debt burden with pre-election handouts, and criticised his economic development programmes for lacking credibility.

“The party finds it unable to reject him simply because there are really no other candidates … the result is they continue to support him despite his poor performance,” Mahathir told Reuters in an exclusive interview.

Najib will present his government’s budget for 2014 on Friday, under pressure from ratings agencies and investors to rein in Malaysia’s high fiscal deficit and debt.

Tilting back to reform?

Mahathir, who argues that UMNO has become too insular and needs to promote new talent, also accused Najib’s government of pandering to the opposition with liberal social reforms before the election and not making good on his latest pledges.

“Most people don’t think he is doing enough. A lot of people comment when he announces things, it is nothing new,” said Mahathir, whose often authoritarian rule spanned 1981 to 2003.

May’s election was the second straight poll in which the BN coalition saw its parliamentary majority shrink and the first in which it lost the popular vote to the oppos

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

International travel slow to take off, Covid-19 restrictions evolving

Caitlin Ashworth

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International travel slow to take off, Covid-19 restrictions evolving | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Jetstar

While Thailand is working on safely, and slowly, reopening its borders to foreign tourists after a 7 month border closure, other countries are also adapting to new, pandemic-induced, travel measures and restrictions. Now some are slowly lifting restrictions and resuming flights, while some remain grounded. What’s happening in your part of the world?

In all cases, check your local travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, if any. And if you leave a country, what paperwork or restrictions will await you when you return? Don’t book any flights until you’ve done your homework.

Australia

Qantas Airlines flights from Australia to the US will continue to be grounded until at least January 31, 2021 which includes the destinations New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu. The airline will also continue to ground flights to Japan, including Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo.

Singapore

Jetstar Asia, based in Singapore, will resume flights to major destinations in Southeast Asia with flights to Bangkok starting next month. Since flights are always changing due to uncertainties and travel restrictions, flights to select Southeast Asia cities are only being offered from October 25 to November 15. JetStar will then review flights again. Destinations include Clark in the Philippines, Jakarta in Indonesia as well as Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Singapore have agreed on a travel bubble schemed that will allow Hong Kong nationals and Singapore nationals to travel between the 2 countries without going through Covid-19 tests or quarantine periods. But the countries have not announced when the scheme will begin.

Maldives

All incoming tourists and short-term visitors must have a certificate declaring negative Covid-19 test result issued 96 hours before arrival, extending the window from the previous 72 hours.

SOURCE: TTR Weekly

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million

The Thaiger

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Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ipsos

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

New Covid-19 cases are again surging in many countries. Globally, the number of infected people exceeded 40 million as of last night with new infections starting to accelerate again. Today the total number of confirmed cases around the world is 40,323,461. The number of total deaths remains at 1,118,826 and recovered patients at 30,135,040 (as of 4pm Thai time).

Covid19 - US infections

Notably, the death rate from Covid-19 is not rising as treatment for complicated cases continues to rapidly improve. The US, India, Russia, Brazil, the rest of South America, and parts of Europe and the UK, are the current ‘hot spots’ (below).

Regionally, the surge of cases in Myanmar is causing headaches for Thai border officials in the north west of the country. The Governor of Tak decided to close the border checkpoints this morning. But the 2,000 kilometre long land border between Thailand and Myanmar has many unofficial “Natural” crossing points.

In the US, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says following public health measures is the way out of the crisis that has hobbled the economy, claimed thousands of lives and sickened millions.

“The predicted fall surge is here, and rising cases across the US appear to bear that out.”

The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day cases counts last Friday. As of this morning, US time, there were more than 8.5 million cases and 219,674 coronavirus deaths, according to Worldometers.info

“The Covid-19 crisis would have to be ‘really, really bad’ to implement a national lockdown. Despite the climbing totals, a nationwide lockdown is not the way forward unless the pandemic gets “really, really bad.”

Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University says the worst fears of rising cases, leading into winter, are being realised.

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

After hitting an all-time high in July, cases did drop significantly, but the US never reached a level where the public health system could truly get a handle on the outbreak or describe it as ‘contained’.

Now infections are on the rise again, driven by ballooning outbreaks across the country’s interior, especially in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the West.

Contributing to the rise is the return of students to schools and campuses across the country, puzzling resistance to social distancing and mask wearing recommendations, and more people spending time in restaurants and other indoor settings as the weather starts to cool down.

SOURCE: worldometers.info | nor.org

Covid19 - US infections

TABLE: worldometers.com

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns

Maya Taylor

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2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Medical Xpress

After Johnson & Johnson paused phase 3 of its Covid vaccine trials due to safety concerns, a second pharmaceutical company has followed suit. Eli Lilly has halted phase 3 trials of a lab-produced antibody treatment, 24 hours after the Johnson & Johnson decision. The Bangkok Post reports that an unspecified incident led Eli Lilly to call a temporary halt to the trials. The day before, Johnson & Johnson paused its phase 3 trials after a participant fell ill. A spokesperson for J&J says the hiatus is temporary.

The 2 delays follow a similar incident with phase 3 trials of a vaccine being jointly worked on by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, which was briefly delayed last month due to an unexplained illness in one participant. Trials of that vaccine have now resumed globally, with the exception of the US, for reasons unknown. Such snags are par for the course in the final phase testing of vaccine development, particularly as the number of participants is increased significantly to see if very rare side-effects are presented.

A spokesperson for Eli Lilly says the company backs the Data Safety and Monitoring Board in calling a temporary halt to phase 3 trials.

“Lilly is supportive of the decision by the independent DSMB to cautiously ensure the safety of the patients participating in this study.”

Eli Lilly’s trial began in August, aimed at recruiting 10,000 participants, across 50 sites, including the US, Denmark and Singapore, using a lab-produced antibody treatment, similar to that developed by Regeneron and used to treat US President Donald Trump recently. Eli Lilly has not given any further information about the safety concern which has paused phase 3.

Meanwhile, a J&J spokesman says such breaks are to be expected in large-scale trials and that reported illnesses or side-effects may be unrelated to the vaccine.

“It’s not at all unusual for unexpected illnesses in large studies over their duration. In some cases, serious adverse events may have something or nothing to do with the drug or vaccine being investigated.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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