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Phuket Gazette World News: High stakes in Paris race to be first Madame Mayor

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Phuket Gazette World News: High stakes in Paris race to be first Madame Mayor | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

High stakes in Paris race to be first Madame Mayor
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Wanted: Chief executive to run city of two million, seat of government, top global tourist destination and fashion capital. Relevant experience appreciated. Men need not apply.

Paris elects a new mayor this spring who will, barring accidents, be a woman – either a businesslike Socialist with a fat contacts book and an army of volunteers, or a youthful conservative whose Botticelli hair and penchant for playing the harp belie a naked ambition to be president of France.

Both want to reinvigorate the “City of Light” as a dynamic international rival to London or New York, while fixing local gripes about housing shortages and snarled traffic.

A heated campaign has been marked, however, by personal finger-pointing between City Hall insider Anne Hidalgo, deputy to the incumbent, and fiery challenger Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a protégée of former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Whoever wins will be the first woman ever to run Paris and first to hold the mayoral post created in its present form in 1977. It gave conservative Jacques Chirac a springboard to the presidency and also offers substantial powers to transform the future of one of Europe’s oldest and best loved great cities.

“The most important thing for any city of the scale and history of Paris is to demonstrate resilience, to be nimble … to anticipate what’s happening and respond,” said Ricky Burdett, urban studies professor at the London School of Economics in the great rival metropolis. “There is a sense that Paris has been going through a prolonged static period.”

For a nation whose politics remain arguably more dominated by men than some of its neighbours, the novelty of two women at war for the French capital has attracted plenty of attention.

A televised debate on Wednesday also swung a spotlight back on women vying for power in their own right rather than players in the recent drama surrounding the nation’s most powerful man.

The low ratings of Socialist President Francois Hollande, before and after he split from his first lady over his alleged affair with an actress, could hurt Hidalgo. But polls show her ahead, aided by the popularity of her local boss at City Hall.

Hidalgo, 54, has since 2001 been the unflappable deputy to outgoing mayor Bertrand Delanoe. Kosciusko-Morizet, 40, is best known as spokeswoman for Sarkozy during a failed re-election campaign in 2012 marked by attacks on his perceived arrogance.

Incumbent advantage

Socialist campaigners say Paris has become more liveable under Delanoe, who has been notable among other things for being among the few openly gay politicians in France. His municipal bike-sharing service, a beachfront created each August on the banks of the Seine and spending on the arts have been hits with the city’s monied “bobos” – bourgeois bohemians.

Hidalgo, the Spanish-born daughter of immigrants, casts herself as a safe pair of hands who will continue that legacy. Parisians see her as competent, knowledgeable about the city’s problems and someone who has “a lot of contact with the locals,” said Frederic Dabi of Ifop, a polling agency.

But away from the boulevards, charming cafes and scenic bridges lie big-city problems. A housing shortage is worsened by wealthy foreign buyers and a tenth of apartments left vacant by landlords who complain tenants’ rights are too generous.

Though the mayor has no power beyond the line of 19th-century city walls into suburbs that are home to a further 6 million, she will be expected to tackle problems that include rising rents, a transport system struggling to serve poor outlying areas and a brain drain that has seen the city’s brightest financial and creative minds head to London for work.

This is the legacy Kosciusko-Morizet wants to exploit.

A member of Sarkozy’s UMP party whose public recognition factor is enough for her to be known by her initials “NKM”, the candidate casts herself as a champion of the middle class who will tackle crime, let stores open on Sundays, extend hours on the Metro and put a roof over the noisy orbital motorway, the “Boulevard Peripherique”, which divides Paris from the suburbs.

But Kosciusko-Morizet, who has patrician Polish roots and a reputation for iciness, is dogged by accusations she is a carpetbagger who aims merely to use the mayoral post as a launchpad to become France’s first woman president – an ambition she does not deny.

Never shy of pressing her case, she recalls with pride that Chirac once dubbed her “L’Emmerdeuse” – the pain in the neck.

“Her major weakness is that she hasn’t managed to show that she’s completely connected to Paris,” Dabi said.

Yet by reminding voters of national issues like rising taxes and unemployment that have plunged Hollande’s approval ratings to record lows, Kosciusko-Morizet could benefit from broader disillusionment with the Socialist party.

In a New Year message, she said Paris should no longer be “the laboratory for all the Socialists’ mistakes”.

A backlash against her part is a big risk for Hidalgo, said Dabi: “In spite of the left’s advantage and their positive track record, the two unknowns of this election are whether their voters will grow apathetic and whether the national situation will contaminate Paris,” he said.

Polls this month have shown Hidalgo’s left-wing coalition list securing 52-54 percent in a second-round, head-to-head runoff against Kosciusko-Morizet’s list. The mayor herself will be chosen by the 163 city council members elected from local party lists in Paris’s 20 arrondissements, or districts.

Six-yearly elections in Paris and France’s 37,000 other municipalities will be held in two rounds on March 23 and 30.

Woodland nymph

Kosciusko-Morizet scored a media coup this week from a supportive appearance by Carla Bruni, the singer and former model who married Sarkozy during his presidency. But her campaign has also been coloured by PR gaffes and infighting between the UMP and its centrist allies.

Bolstering critics’ charges that she is out of touch was her observation to Elle magazine that the Paris underground train network is a “place of charm” with unexpected pleasures. The comments set off a barrage of mockery from Parisians forced to brave the crowded and often foul-smelling Metro each day.

A photo of her smoking on a campaign stop with a group of homeless men spurred another flap, her critics calling it a hypocritical posed shot from a candidate who condemns begging.

A 2005 Paris Match photo spread in which NKM posed pregnant on a forest floor has also come back to haunt her. In the shot, she lounges in a flowing gown, like a woodland nymph, her mane of red hair tousled over a shoulder. A harp stands nearby.

On TV’s biggest satire show, her latex puppet aspires to relate to the common people by asking her maid how to dust.

Hidalgo stepped into deep-seated Franco-British rivalry this month by calling London, two hours away by train and home to up to 400,000 French people, “a suburb of Paris”. She scoffed at a British poll which suggested the metropolis on the Thames had unseated Paris as the world’s most visited city.

The competition for that prestigious, and lucrative, title underlines what many neutral observers consider the waning impact on the international stage of a city that was for centuries a magnet and dynamo for European ideas and culture.

“I love Par

— 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

Son of Sultan of Brunei dies at the age of 38

Maya Taylor

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Son of Sultan of Brunei dies at the age of 38 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Scoop

The son of the Sultan of Brunei has died at the age of 38, the government of Brunei has confirmed. Prince Azim, who was 4th in line to the throne, passed away on Saturday morning. While the cause of death has not been confirmed, his Wikipedia entry says he succumbed to a long illness.

CNN reports that the prince had made a name for himself as a Hollywood film producer, where he was known for hosting extravagant parties with celebrity guests that included Mariah Carey, Pamela Anderson, and Janet Jackson, among others. His success in film came despite international condemnation of his father’s harsh rule in Brunei, where parts of Sharia law are in force and capital punishment involves death by stoning.

The nation of Brunei has entered a 7-day mourning period, with leaders from neighbouring countries expressing their condolences on the death of the prince. A statement from the Indonesian embassy in Brunei said Prince Azim, “will always be remembered fondly.” The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, described him as someone who was, “known for his kind and generous spirit, and for his dedication to charitable, educational, and youth causes.”

SOURCE: CNN

 

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World

Malaysian PM called to quit, criticised for “abuse of power” during Covid-19 crisis

Caitlin Ashworth

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Malaysian PM called to quit, criticised for “abuse of power” during Covid-19 crisis | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: Muhyiddin Yassin

While protesters in Thailand are calling on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign, the Malaysia PM Muhyiddin Yassin is experiencing similar calls after he attempted to declare a state of emergency amid a rise in Covid-19 infections, but the request was rejected by the Malaysian King.

Some say the prime minister’s attempt to impose the order was intended to suspend parliament and “curb the government process”. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim recently claimed he had the majority of support in parliament and challenged the prime minister. He suggested the call for a state of emergency was to avoid a vote on the annual supply bill which he may have lost, effectively a vote of no confidence in the current PM and his government.

When Muhyiddin requested a state of emergency, Anwar said the Malaysian PM was trying to “curb the parliamentary process.” He said using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to suspend sessions is an “abuse of power” and called the state of emergency request a “descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism.”

“A state of emergency is declared when there is a threat to our national security. But when the government is itself the source of that threat, then a state of emergency is nothing more than the descent into dictatorship and authoritarianism. I strongly advise Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to consider the legacy of these actions he is taking out of self interest and selfishness.”

Anwar released another media statement after the Malaysian King’s refusal saying it “affirms the strength of the constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.”

King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected the emergency order request yesterday. The prime minister holds a slim majority in parliament, but with his request rejected by the King, his hold on power is now palpably weaker. Now some leaders are calling on Muhyiddin to resign.

Ahmad Puad Zarkashi, a senior leader in the United Malays National Organisation made a Facebook post calling on the prime minister to resign.

“Thankfully, His Majesty the King was not influenced by the political game that could drag the country into more critical territory… The people’s wellbeing is more important. By right, Muhyiddin should step down.”

Opposition lawmaker Wong Chen calls the proposal for a state of emergency “malicious” and says the prime minister should resign or fire ministers who proposed the emergency orders.

SOURCES: Reuters | Twitter: Anwar Ibrahim

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours

The Thaiger

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UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | The Thaiger

Both the rate of new infections and deaths from the coronavirus has begun to spike in the worldwide totals again with some countries and locations having to go back into lockdowns for a second or third time. In the US and parts of Europe a major new surge of cases is concerning health authorities, especially as these countries are now heading into cooler weather, and people gathering indoors.

As of Saturday morning, Thai time, a total of 42,462,925 people have been infected worldwide with Covid-19, 1,148,698 have died and 31,417,499 have recovered.

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

The following graph shows today’s top ten countries with the most new infections in the past 24 hours…

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: worldometers.info

Here’s a summary of some of the main world Covid-19 headlines…

ITALY

Italy has recorded another record with 19,143 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. That’s up from Thursday’s record of 16,079 new coronavirus cases. 91 coronavirus deaths were also reported on Friday. The governor of Campania in Vincenzo De Luca has made a formal request for a national lockdown and says he will close his region “for 30 to 40 days” to try and control the recent surge.

The governor of Lombardy lamented that it is a “dramatic situation.” Lombardy was the epicentre of one of the first, and most dangerous. clusters in the world after the virus first spread out of China.

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

GRAPH: New cases surging across Italy – worldometers.info

US

A study from the Covid-19 forecasting team at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reports that… if 95% of Americans wore masks in public, more than 100,000 lives could be saved from Covid-19 over the next 4 months.

In a survey done in September, only about 49% of US residents reported that they “always” wear a mask in public.

The study calculated that, if the current extent of mask-wearing were to continue, and states continue with removing social distancing mandates, the death toll across the US from Covid-19 could reach about 1 million deaths by the end of February.

“The study had some limitations, including that the findings are only forecast projections from models and not definitive of what the future holds.”

The IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray maintains that the study still helps offer insight into how mask-wearing can make a difference.

URUGUAY

Uruguay is closing its borders during the summer season as a program to help curb the spread of Covid-19. Uraguay’s President Luis Lacalle Pou says that it will be “a restricted summer”.

“The borders will be basically closed, with exceptions that are already known and perhaps some more.

“Because today there are many cases, or several cases, in the education sector, we have decided to suspend face-to-face classes for two weeks.”

“Public safety measures will be enforced… avoid large gatherings and parties. We will be very strict when it comes to the topic of parties.”

Uruguay, with a total population of 3.5 million, has reported at least 2,701 confirmed new cases of Covid-19 and 53 deaths as of Friday morning and shares borders with Argentina and Brazil, both heavily impacted with a rise of Covid cases.

FRANCE

The head of infectious diseases at Tenon Hospital in Paris, Gilles Pialoux, says France is paying the price for ending the coronavirus lockdown too quickly.

On Thursday, France announced 41,622 new cases, and on Friday 42,032.

It will be “really difficult to avoid a second lockdown given the circulation of the virus.”

Gilles says local lockdowns or lockdowns “by population group” could be the solution. The doctor added the circulation of the virus among the “20-30 year old age group was far beyond the rest of the population”.

EUROPE

5 countries with the highest rate of new Covid infections, when measured against population, are all in Europe.

They are the Czech Republic, Switzerland, France, Belgium and The Netherlands. The number of new infections has risen sharply since the start of October, and continues to surge as the European autumn sets in.

As of last Thursday, the Czech Republic had a rolling daily average (across five days) of 10,579 new cases, meaning 988 new infections a day per 1 million population, a four-fold increase since the start of October. Belgium, was in the same situation with an average of 891 new infections per million residents as of last Thursday. The two countries have by far the highest rate of new Covid-19 infections.

UK

The UK has seen a sharp increase in its rolling averages during October, from 9,729 new cases to 19,290 per day. And the situation in Spain is less dramatic “but the daily average remains stubbornly high”. Infections per million are lower in other European countries, but they are still rising.

In comparison, the rolling averages of new cases in India and Brazil continue to fall, while the US is seeing a gradual but persistent rise. Its rolling average has risen from 43,089 at the start of October to 59,387 this week, representing 179 new cases a day per million population.

The UK’s economic recovery after the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has now flattened out and threatens to reverse and trigger a double-dip recession. The government has announced new restrictions to tackle the second wave which are expected to stifle business activity.

A new survey of business activity indicates private sector growth in the UK falling back as hospitality and transport companies struggled to cope with regional lockdown measures.

US

As autumn spreads across North American, 25 states in the US are reporting rising Covid-19 infections. White House Coronavirus Taskforce officials say there are “early signs of deterioration in the Sun Belt and continued deterioration in the Midwest and across the Northern States”.

Last Wednesday, at least 14 states had recorded their highest seven-day average of new daily cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Including Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Meanwhile, more than 41,000 people are currently hospitalised with the coronavirus across the country, according to the CovidTracking Project. Missouri and Idaho health officials say they’ll “soon be facing a crisis if hospitalisations continue to surge”.

The US reported the highest daily death toll in more than a month, with more than 1,100 new deaths.

UPDATE: World Covid cases surge again, US reports 81,000+ cases in past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

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