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Phuket Gazette World News: Putin warns Ukraine over Euro ideals; Germany polls draw near; Grand Theft Auto sales US$800mn in a day; iPhone 5 hack attack; Saudi ponders women drivers

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Phuket Gazette World News: Putin warns Ukraine over Euro ideals; Germany polls draw near; Grand Theft Auto sales US$800mn in a day; iPhone 5 hack attack; Saudi ponders women drivers | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Putin warns Ukraine over Europe ambitions
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine on Thursday he would retaliate with protectionist measures if it signed a landmark trade deal with the European Union and suggested Kiev enter instead into a Russian-led customs union.

A day after Ukraine gave the go-ahead to sign agreements with the EU at a November summit in Lithuania, Putin made clear Moscow would hit back if its market were flooded by competitive goods from the EU because of Kiev removing import duties.

“We would somehow have to stand by our market, introduce protectionist measures. We are saying this openly in advance,” Putin told a gathering of Russia experts and journalists.

He gave no details but said: “We will need to consider how many goods access our market and what protective measures we will have to take.”

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also criticised the former Soviet republic’s “crafty” decision to chart a course away from its traditional close economic relationship with Russia, which is still Kiev’s biggest single trading partner.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Wednesday that the planned agreements with the EU raised the prospect of “a European quality of life” for his former Soviet republic, squeezed between Russia and the EU.

But Azarov said nothing about the imprisonment of his predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko, whose release European envoys have been trying to secure in the run-up to the meeting in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

The 28-member EU has condemned her trial for abuse-of-office and seven-year jail sentence as politically motivated, and her continued confinement threatens prospects of signing agreements that include the one on free trade.

Russia’s pressure has injected new tension into Moscow’s relationship with Ukraine, which has pleaded unsuccessfully for cheaper Russian gas to help its hard-pressed economy.

Azarov on Wednesday spelled out the trade advantages for Ukraine, whose economy is dominated by exports such as steel, chemicals and agricultural produce. He promised there would be softer duties on Ukrainian exports almost immediately.

But Putin said Ukraine had more to gain from joining the Customs Union grouping Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, saying they could join forces to press the EU for better trade conditions.

“What is the advantage of Ukraine signing the EU association agreement and opening up its markets? Yes, this will make its economy more liberal. But will the Ukrainian economy itself be able to cope with this liberalism? I don’t know,” he said.

The pressure from Moscow forms part of a broader drive by Russia to deter former Soviet allies from edging out of its orbit and moving their economy and future trade towards the EU.

But Ukraine, a vast country with a population of 45 million and psychologically tied most closely to Russia by history and shared culture, is the sorest point of contention.

Eurosceptics poised ahead of German polls
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: A new Eurosceptical party is on the brink of entering the German parliament for the first time, an opinion poll showed, casting doubt on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bid to maintain her center-right coalition and complicating her euro zone policy.

Merkel still looks set to secure a third term in Sunday’s general election. But the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has risen on a tide of public hostility to bailouts of indebted southern euro zone countries, could further fragment the lower house, forcing her into a right-left “grand coalition”.

A breakthrough for the party, which advocates forcing weaker members out of the single currency area, would send shock waves around Europe and could spook financial markets, even though its voice in parliament would be small.

An INSA poll on Thursday gave Merkel’s conservatives 38 percent and their liberal Free Democrat (FDP) allies 6 percent, putting the centre-right one point behind the three left-of-centre opposition parties, with a combined 45 percent.

The survey was the first to show the AfD, created just seven months ago, clearing the 5 percent hurdle to win seats in the Bundestag lower house. Its best score in other polls has been 4 percent, but pollsters say it may have higher unavowed support.

If the AfD becomes the first new party to enter the Bundestag since 1990, Merkel would probably have to negotiate a coalition with the pro-European opposition Social Democrats (SPD), with whom she governed in 2005-2009.

The INSA poll was also the first to be taken after Bavarian conservatives won a regional election last Sunday – but it showed no bounce for Merkel in the national race.

The ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) had tried to ignore the AfD, but abruptly changed tack this week and deployed respected Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to attack the sceptics, who want Greece and other bailout recipients out of the euro.

The 71-year-old minister, a veteran supporter of European integration, said the AfD’s anti-euro argument “has no credibility and is extremely dangerous for our prosperity”.

Grumpy old men

Led by university professors and supported, in the words of one pollster, by “grumpy old men”, the AfD is mopping up right-wing protest votes and some of the millions who could not be bothered to cast ballots in 2009.

“The interesting thing is that 41 percent of AfD voters either voted for the ‘other parties’ category or not at all in 2009,” INSA chief Hermann Binkert told Reuters.

Most other AfD supporters said they had voted centre-right last time but nine percent came from the hard Left, also critical of the euro, and a handful from the SPD and Greens.

Merkel and the AfD have ruled out working with each other in the Bundestag, but one CDU leader – Volker Bouffier, who defends his premiership of Hesse in a state vote on Sunday – said he might consider it, before retracting after a storm of criticism.

The AfD, which has mobilised support on social media sites like Facebook and YouTube and crowd-sourced some donations – raising 430,000 euros ($574,000) online in just 48 hours last weekend – says it stands for the interests of ordinary Germans.

In TV campaign spots it argues that taxpayers’ money should be spent on schools, families and pensions rather than helping Greece pay off its debts. It took out a full-page press ad on Thursday saying: “The country needs new leaders!”

If the AfD enters parliament, it might paradoxically help peripheral euro zone states by making a ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD – which wants faster EU integration and more stimulus for economic growth – almost inevitable.

The SPD and Greens have voted for all of Merkel’s euro zone emergency measures in parliament whereas some dissidents in her centre-right coalition have opposed bailouts.

However, a Bundestag platform would give the AfD access to state funding and help it spread Euroscepticism in an electorate exasperated by bailouts ahead of European Parliament elections next year in which protest parties tend to perform well.

Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform, said the likelihood of further bailouts “will play into the hands of those in Germany who see the euro as a mistake”.

“There is a chan

— 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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