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Phuket Gazette World News: Obama’s no-show raises questions in Asia; Assad to pay price; Red Napoleon dies at 102; Search postponed for survivors in Sicilian wreck

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Phuket Gazette World News: Obama’s no-show raises questions in Asia; Assad to pay price; Red Napoleon dies at 102; Search postponed for survivors in Sicilian wreck | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Obama cancels Asia tour over shutdown; raises questions on U.S. pivot
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: President Barack Obama called off plans to visit Asia and attend two summits because of the U.S. government shutdown, raising questions about the strategic “pivot” to the region that he announced just two years ago.

Obama had planned to depart on Saturday for a four-nation, week-long trip. He cancelled visits to Malaysia and the Philippines earlier this week because of his budget struggle in the U.S. Congress and said late on Thursday he would not attend the regional summits in Indonesia and Brunei.

The political standoff over the U.S. budget has shut down non-essential government services and appeared likely to drag on for another week or longer. Another crisis looms in two weeks when lawmakers must decide whether to increase the U.S. government’s $16.7 trillion debt borrowing limit.

“The president made this decision based on the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown, and his determination to continue pressing his case that Republicans should immediately allow a vote to reopen the government,” the White House said.

Obama was scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, among other leaders, at the summits.

Two of his main aims would have been to discuss the Syria crisis with Putin and to hold talks on a maritime code of conduct for disputed territories in the oil- and gas-rich South China Sea.

“We are disappointed,” said Indonesian Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring on the island of Bali, host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit from Sunday.

“I think the summit will go on, there is a long-term plan. (But) without Obama, you can imagine how disappointed we are. We could hardly imagine he wouldn’t come.”

Obama was also scheduled to attend the East Asia Summit, organised by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in Brunei next week.

Xi, who was on a visit to Malaysia on Friday, did not comment on Obama’s decision. But analysts said the no-show by the U.S. president would work to China’s advantage.

“While his decision is perfectly understandable, it projects a poor image of America as a country that is politically dysfunctional and on the verge of another economic crisis,” said Ian Storey, senior fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

“Meanwhile, cash-rich and self-confident China will have the floor to itself.”

Severe dilemma

Storey said the domestic crisis was posing a severe dilemma for Obama, since it clashed with a cherished foreign policy objective. At the APEC and East Asia Summits two years ago, Obama announced the U.S. strategic pivot, or rebalancing, toward Asia, which was seen as a reaction to the growing clout of China.

“On the one hand he needs to be in Asia to demonstrate America’s commitment to the region and especially to the ASEAN-led regional security architecture that has been one of the central planks of his administration’s Asia policy,” said Storey.

“But with government employees on unpaid leave, Obama cannot afford to leave Washington and be seen hob-nobbing with world leaders on a tropical island.”

The Washington stalemate has idled hundreds of thousands of federal government workers and comes two weeks before Washington faces an even more crucial deadline – raising the U.S. debt limit so the United States can pay its bills. A bitter debate rages over that issue as well and if left unresolved could result in a U.S. debt default.

Denis Blair, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific region, said not too much should be read into Obama’s decision to call off the tour.

“I would read nothing more into the postponement of President Obama’s trip than that he has to stay on and take care of this (crisis),” he told reporters in Manila.

“I’m very confident that he will reschedule and frankly it will be a better visit if he’s not on the phone having to call back home to get reports on the latest development there.”

Secretary of State John Kerry will lead delegations to both summits in place of Obama. Kerry will also go to Malaysia and the Philippines.

Obama phoned both President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Sultan of Brunei to inform them of his decision, the White House said.

Obama looks forward to working with Asian allies and returning to the region at a later date, the White House said.

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato in MANILA:; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan: Editing by Neil Fullick)

Search for victims of Sicily migrant wreck postponed
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Choppy seas prevented divers on Friday from recovering more bodies of migrants who died in a shipwreck off Sicily that has killed an estimated 300, in one of the worst disasters of Europe’s immigration crisis.

Rescue teams have so far recovered 111 bodies and expect to find more than 100 others in and around the wreck, submerged in 47 metres of water less than a kilometer from the shore of the southern island of Lampedusa.

After 155 people were pulled from the water alive on Thursday, strong winds and metre-high waves made it impossible for 40 divers to safely collect bodies. There was little hope of finding more survivors from the almost 500 passengers estimated to have been on board.

“Though the bad sea conditions persist, our guys are ready to go down if a window opens up that makes it safe for them,” coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini told Reuters.

Though the tiny island takes in thousands of immigrants every year and there have been similar wrecks in the past, residents were shaken by the sheer size of the tragedy.

“We should send a ship to bring those who are fleeing wars to Italy safely,” said Enzo, a 44-year-old fisherman.

A black flag bearing the word “shame” was flying over the port, close to a cemetery of rotting boats used by migrants to make past crossings from North Africa.

Lampedusa, a tiny fishing and tourist island halfway between Sicily and the coasts of Tunisia and Libya, has borne the brunt of a crisis which over the years has seen tens of thousands of migrants arrive in unsafe and overcrowded vessels.

Italy is holding a day of mourning on Friday, and schools will observe a minute’s silence in memory of the victims. On Lampedusa, gas stations, restaurants and shops were closed and a public mass was to be held in the evening.

Assad says Turkey will pay for backing Syrian rebels
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told Turkey it will pay a heavy price for backing rebels fighting to oust him, accusing it of harbouring “terrorists” along its border who would soon turn against their hosts.

In an interview with Turkey’s Halk TV due to be broadcast later on Friday, Assad called Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan “bigoted” and said Ankara was allowing terrorists to cross into Syria to attack the army and Syrian civilians.

“It is not possible to put terrorism in your pocket and use it as a card because it is like a scorpion which won’t he

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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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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World

The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble Thai massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by the CNN Travel team. Thailand’s smooth coconut milk and potato-based curry (add meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at Number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also making it into the World’s Best food list.

The hot and spicy shrimp/prawn soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at Number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck, Penang Assam laksa, Malaysia and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

First Place, Massaman curryEmphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Eighth Place, Tom Yum Kung

This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

46th Place, Som Tam/Papaya salad

To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies

Caitlin Ashworth

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AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteer dies | The Thaiger

A volunteer for a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial in Brazil has died. But he never actually received the experimental vaccine, although he was involved in the trial groups. He did, however, die of Covid-19.

But trials on the vaccine, being developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, are set to continue. The university says “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.” The vaccine is also planned to be produced in Thailand and be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021.

The 28 year old volunteer from Rio de Janeiro died from Covid-19 complications, according to CNN Brasil. He was apparently never injected with the experimental vaccine. If the volunteer had been given the Covid-19 vaccine and died, the trial would have been suspended, a source told Reuters, adding that the volunteer may have been part of the control group.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo is helping to coordinate the trials in Brazil and has also recommended the trials continue. So far, 8,000 volunteers have been injected with the first dose of the vaccine and some have already been jabbed a second time, a university spokesperson said.

“Everything is proceeding as expected, without any record of serious vaccine-related complications involving any of the participating volunteers.”

Thailand is set to be the Southeast Asia production site for the new vaccine. If the AstraZeneca trials are successful, the vaccine will be available to the Thai population by the first half of 2021. For Thailand, the vaccine is seen as a lifeline to save the country’s struggling economy, allowing borders to safely reopen and revive the tourism industry.

The company Siam Bioscience will manufacture the vaccine in Thailand and provide injections for the Thai populations as well as the neighbouring countries Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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