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Phuket Gazette World News: Putin, Obama at odds over Syria; Rwanda drawn into Congo crossfire; Merkel app gives face time

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Phuket Gazette World News: Putin, Obama at odds over Syria; Rwanda drawn into Congo crossfire; Merkel app gives face time | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

World leaders pressure Obama over Syria at G20 summit
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: U.S. President Barack Obama faced growing pressure from Russia’s Vladimir Putin and other world leaders on Thursday to decide against launching military strikes in Syria, which many of them fear would hurt the global economy and push up oil prices.

At a summit of the Group of 20 (G20) developed and developing economies in St. Petersburg, Putin greeted Obama with a thin smile and a businesslike handshake, a clear sign of the strains between them over how to respond to a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Obama also wore a stiff smile before talks began over dinner on the world economy and then on Syria, and there was none of the arm clutching or hugs between the two presidents that is typical of such occasions.

The rift over Syria overshadowed the discussions on how to revive growth but not before splits emerged within the group over a U.S. plan to wind down an economic stimulus program. The G20 accounts for two thirds of the world’s population and 90 percent of its output.

The first round at the summit went to Putin, as China, the European Union, the BRICS emerging economies and a letter from Pope Francis all warned of the dangers of military intervention in Syria without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

“Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price – it will cause a hike in the oil price,” Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon later told the leaders over the dinner in a tsarist-era seafront palace that any military action must have the Security Council’s backing.

“Let us remember: every day that we lose is a day when scores of innocent civilians die,” his office quoted him as saying. “There is no military solution.”

Obama blames forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the August 21 poison gas attack in the Damascus suburbs that killed up to 1,400 people. Moscow says Obama has not proven that claim and says rebel forces may have carried it out.

In New York, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power left no doubt that Washington had given up trying to work with the U.N. Security Council over the attack.

She said there was “no viable path forward in this Security Council” and accused Russia of holding it hostage. Moscow has signalled it would veto any resolution on the use of force unless Washington produced stronger proof.

Obama has asked the U.S. Congress to approve military action and France has said it is ready to support U.S. intervention.

Showing he was undeterred by the criticism, Obama said before talks with Japan’s prime minister on the sidelines of the summit that using chemical arms was “not only a tragedy but also a violation of international law that must be addressed.”

Aides said he would set out his views at the leaders’ dinner and hoped to build support for military action, although they acknowledged a consensus might be hard to find.

Long after midnight, there was still no word from officials on how the dinner discussion had gone.

Putin was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big summit of world powers, but could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a “bored kid in the back of the classroom” who slouches at meetings.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the “camp of supporters of a strike on Syria” as divided, and said: “It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel saw no chance of agreement between Putin and Obama on Syria. U.S.-Russian ties have long been strained by political differences but went into free fall when Russia harboured Edward Snowden, a former spy agency contractor who leaked details of U.S. intelligence programmes.

Any G20 decision on Syria would not be binding but Putin would like to see a consensus to avert military action in what would mark a significant – but unlikely – personal triumph for the Russian leader.

Loss of Harmony

The G20 achieved unprecedented cooperation between developed and emerging nations to stave off economic collapse during the 2009 financial crisis, but the harmony has since waned.

Member states are at odds as the U.S. recovery gains pace, Europe lags, and developing economies worry about the impact of the Federal Reserve’s plans to stop a bond-buying programme that has helped kick-start the U.S. economy.

“Our main task is returning the global economy towards steady and balanced growth. This task has unfortunately not been resolved,” Putin said. “Therefore systemic risks, the conditions for an acute crisis relapse, persist.”

The BRICS agreed to commit $100 billion to a currency reserve pool that could help defend against a balance of payments crisis, although the mechanism will take time to set up.

There is likely to be an agreement on measures to fight tax evasion by multinational companies at the summit in the spectacular, 18th-century Peterhof palace complex, built on the orders of Tsar Peter the Great.

An initiative will be presented on refining regulation of the $630-trillion global market for financial derivatives to prevent a possible blow-up.

Steps to give the so-called “shadow banking” sector until 2015 to comply with new global rules will also be discussed.

Blast rattles Madagascar over election row
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A makeshift bomb exploded at the entrance of a hotel in Madagascar’s capital on Thursday causing no casualties, police said, and a previously unknown group claimed responsibility telling foreigners to keep out of the nation’s elections.

The blast, though small, will raise tensions on the Indian Ocean island before a fraught presidential vote that has been pushed back for a third time till October 25 over a row about who can run, extending the country’s political crisis.

The former French colony has been in turmoil since President Andry Rajoelina seized power with military support in 2009, ousting former President Marc Ravalomanana and scaring off investors and tourists.

Both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana had reached a deal with regional states to restore order, based on the condition neither would run in the next vote.

But Rajoelina initially changed tack when Ravalomanana’s wife said she was running. The European Union, the United States and the African Union (AU) threatened to impose sanctions if the old candidates persisted in standing for office.

Germain Ratsirombahina, police chief in the capital Antananarivo, said the device went off outside the Hotel Plaza overnight, causing no injuries or damage.

In an email sent to at least one Western embassy, a previously unheard of group calling itself Defenders of the Nation’s Sovereignty said it was behind the blast.

“The Malagasy people will never accept the political manoeuvrings of certain nations aimed at suppressing (Malagasy) rights and freedom to chose their destiny,” it said.

It also said the nation would not accept a court ruling last month that barred Rajoelina, Ravalomanana’s wife and another former president, from running in the election, saying it did “not reflect the popular will”.

A Western d

— 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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