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Phuket Gazette World News: Heavy gunfire heard in Tripoli; NSA offers concessions; Hunt for journalists’ killers; Missionary jailed in North Korea ailing

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Phuket Gazette World News: Heavy gunfire heard in Tripoli; NSA offers concessions; Hunt for journalists’ killers; Missionary jailed in North Korea ailing | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

BREAKING NEWS: Heavy gunfire heard in Libya’s capital Tripoli
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Heavy shooting from guns and anti-aircraft weapons could be heard early this morning in the Libyan capital Tripoli, Reuters witnesses said.

Fighting erupted between militias in the eastern Suq al-Juma area, said a militia source with government ties, adding that he had no further information.

A Facebook website showed what it said were two burned-out cars though Reuters could not verify its authenticity.

An interior ministry official said he had no information about the shooting, when contacted by Reuters. A defence ministry official declined to comment.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s world news pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for international news updates.

U.S. officials offer few concessions on NSA spying
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The U.S. government is open to some changes to how it conducts its phone and Internet surveillance programs as long as they do not undermine the programs’ effectiveness, U.S. officials told a privacy oversight board on Monday.

How exactly the U.S. phone and online data-gathering programs could strike such a balance – helping thwart terrorist plots while also protecting Americans’ privacy – is under review by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Established at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission in 2004, the five-member board is an independent watchdog within the government’s executive branch. It is studying U.S. intelligence surveillance programs in light of recent disclosures that have raised concerns about lax privacy protections.

No timeline has been set for the board’s work, but ultimately it will issue a report to President Barack Obama and Congress on the legal standards now used for online and phone spying by U.S. intelligence agencies and what reforms may best ensure Americans’ privacy is protected.

“I think we’ve learned a lot about some potential reforms that the government was amenable to,” the board’s Chairman David Medine said on Monday after a public hearing with officials from the National Security Agency, FBI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Justice Department.

Medine said he saw some openness from government officials about updating some privacy protections for foreigners and changing how long the government keeps the records it collects.

U.S. classified phone and Internet surveillance programs are under growing scrutiny due to leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Lawmakers are debating several proposed changes to the legal standards governing how much data the NSA gathers, how long it is kept and how it gets accessed.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s world news pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for international news updates.

French and Malian forces hunt journalists’ killers
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The coffins of two French journalists killed in Mali last week were loaded onto a Paris-bound aircraft in the capital Bamako yesterday as French and Malian troops hunted for their killers.

Reporter Claude Verlon, 58, and radio technician Ghislaine Dupont, 51, who both worked for Radio France Internationale, were found dead in northern Mali on Saturday after being kidnapped in the city of Kidal.

In a solemn ceremony attended by the new Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, soldiers carried the two coffins onto a military aircraft that was due to land in Paris on Tuesday morning.

“Mali’s Kidal has witnessed the disappearance … of two courageous fighters for liberty,” Mali’s communication minister, Jean Marie Sangare, said at the ceremony.

Earlier, dozens of journalists accompanied by artists, politicians and residents walked in silence through the capital to the French embassy to mourn Verlon and Dupont.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said French and Malian forces had begun questioning suspects in northern Mali.

“On Sunday, operations were launched to identify a number of people in camps, and they are ongoing,” Fabius told France’s RTL radio. “Suspects have been questioned.”

He declined to comment on French media reports that arrests had been made in camps where former rebels of the Tuareg rebel group MNLA are being held.

A Malian gendarme in Gao said he had no information about the arrests while the leader of the MNLA condemned the killings.

“We will invest fully in the search for the truth so that this mystery is resolved,” Bilal Ag Acherif, secretary general of the MNLA, said at a conference in Ouagadougou.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s world news pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for international news updates.

U.S. missionary jailed in North Korea ‘alone and ailing’
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The mother of jailed U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae, who is serving a 15-year sentence for state subversion in North Korea, said that her son remained isolated and was desperate for contact to the outside world a year after he was first detained.

Myunghee Bae, in an op-ed published in the Seattle Times, provided details about her October visit to the Pyongyang hospital where her son, who is diabetic, was recovering from health ailments that saw him lose 50 pounds in three months.

“It pained me to see how starved he was for a connection to home and the outside world, alone and ailing in a foreign prison,” Bae wrote in the piece, published on Sunday. “I tried to reassure him that he was not forgotten.”

“He has been isolated for one year without anybody to talk to other than his guards and doctors. I could not imagine how hard that must have been for Kenneth, who has always been so outgoing and talkative,” she wrote.

Kenneth Bae, 45, was detained las

— 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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