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Phuket Gazette World News: Fukushima safe after Japan quake; US admits spy tension; Ukrainian life sentence for UK Muslim murder, planting bombs

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Phuket Gazette World News: Fukushima safe after Japan quake; US admits spy tension; Ukrainian life sentence for UK Muslim murder, planting bombs | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Fukushima nuclear plant undamaged after Japan quake
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The operator of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said on Saturday there was no damage or spike in radiation levels at the station after a large earthquake struck in the ocean east of Japan, triggering a small tsunami.

There were no immediate reports of damage on land from the quake, classified as magnitude 7.1 by the Japan Meteorological Agency, which struck about 370 km (230 miles) out to sea. Earlier the agency said the quake had a magnitude of 6.8.

Japanese television said a 30 cm (1 foot) tsunami had reached Japan’s east coast.

A spokesman at Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), operator of Fukushima, said some workers had been ordered to evacuate to higher ground after the quake, but that there was no damage or change in readings at radiation monitoring posts around the plant.

Ships were seen leaving a port south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, where three reactors had meltdowns in 2011 after an earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling and power, as a precaution after the tremor. Buildings shook as far away as Tokyo, 230 km south of the nuclear plant.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a “yellow” warning shortly after the 1710 GMT quake that a small tsunami would reach the northeastern Japanese coast.

A yellow warning is issued when a tsunami is not expected to exceed a height of 1 metre (3 feet), far smaller than the wave that hit the Fukushima plant in 2011 and devastated large swathes of Japan’s eastern seaboard.

U.S. admits spy charge tension with allies
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The United States said on Friday allegations that U.S. intelligence agencies tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others in France and Italy have “posed a moment of tension” with some allies and should not undermine cooperation on such issues as Syria and Iran.

“There is no question that the disclosure of classified information has posed a moment of tensions with some of our allies,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“We are having discussions with those allies,” she said referring to a visit next week by German intelligence chiefs to Washington to seek answers.

She said Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the accusations, based on allegations by fugitive ex-U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden, with officials in France and Italy during a recent visit to Europe.

Psaki said the leaks about U.S. intelligence activities had “created significant challenges in our relationships” with allied nations and a “public distraction.”

“He (Kerry) certainly recognizes that as we look to pursue a range of diplomatic priorities, whether that is working on global issues like Syria, or Iran, or (trade negotiations), it will really be a mistake to let these disclosures get in the way of that,” Psaki said.

Merkel has demanded that President Barack Obama address the issue following the accusations that the U.S. National Security Agency accessed tens of thousands of French phone records as well as monitoring her private phone.

Berlin plans to send officials from its intelligence agency BND to Washington, while members of the European Parliament have said they will fly to the United States on Monday to explore “possible legal remedies for EU citizens.

Washington is currently working closely with European allies on a host of pressing global issues, including negotiations to end a dispute with Iran over its nuclear program and bringing together warring parties for a peace conference in Syria.

Chile’s Bachelet eyes changes to land, water use rules
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Chilean Presidential frontrunner Michelle Bachelet said on Friday she is mulling reforms of land and water-use rules, in the latest hint of what may be in store for the copper powerhouse’s crucial mining and energy sectors.

Land-use plans need to be reformed to clarify where energy projects can be built and the country’s dictatorship-era rules on water usage need to be reviewed, Bachelet said.

The centre-left candidate, poised to cruise to victory in next month’s general election or a likely December runoff, has not yet provided the fine print of her keenly-awaited plans. But she put the spotlight on the need for a solid regulatory framework during a radio debate with eight other candidates vying for the presidency.

“We have to guarantee that environmental institutionality carries out what it’s meant to do,” Bachelet said.

“I’ve put forward a land-use plan, so that we define exactly where energy projects can be built, in collaboration with citizens,” said Bachelet, who was the country’s first female president from 2006-10.

A land-use overhaul would likely be cheered by big industry, which supports clearer rules.

A nebulous regulatory framework has allowed environmental and social groups to take to court even energy projects that are already approved, putting in limbo billions of dollars of investment. Massive coal-fired plants and hydropower investments in pristine Patagonia are particularly unpopular.

While the economy of the world’s No. 1 copper producer has roared on the back of a mining boom, Chile is now wrestling with how to distribute the spoils of the bonanza and protect its environment.

Bachelet also said she wants to review the Andean country’s water rules, which are widely seen as favourable to the mining industry.

Mining, which accounts for roughly 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), have “the right to use any water found during their work,” according to Chile’s Water Code, which dates from Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-90 military dictatorship.

Environmentalists say this is a form of privatizing water. The use of water is of rising concern after a series of droughts, exacerbated by the fact that much mining takes place in Chile’s mineral-rich Atacama desert.

“We have to do an important review of the water code,” Bachelet said. “The state has to first of all guarantee water for human use and without doubt also for production, especially for small-scale farmers,” she added.

Miners awaiting details

Power-intensive miners are craving the specifics of Bachelet’s energy and mining plans, but details have so far been scant. She is poised to unveil more extensive policy proposals on Sunday.

An estimated 8,000 megawatts needs to be added to Chile’s 17,000 MW of power production capacity by the end of the decade, the government says.

Several coal-fired plants were approved under the moderate Bachelet’s government, drawing the ire of environmentalists and hurting her popularity with youth and green groups.

“Coal-fired thermoelectrics were clearly an obligation during the emergency when gas was ending,” Bachelet said, referring to a 2004 gas crisis with Argentina.

Bachelet, who appears to have swerved further left since leaving the La Moneda presidential palace, said she was betting on gas, small-scale hydropower, and renewable energies to combat steep power prices.

“We have to move toward gas-fired thermoelectrics, there are smaller-scale hydropower p

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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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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