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Phuket Gazette World News: State of the Union; China angry; Party pope; Don’t say nay

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Phuket Gazette World News: State of the Union; China angry; Party pope; Don’t say nay | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Legacy, political calendar frame Obama’s State of the Union address
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union address with one eye on the political calendar as time ticks down on his bid to advance an agenda that will help shape his White House legacy.

Just three months after winning re-election on November 6, the Democratic president has a narrow window to push through policy priorities on the economy, immigration reform, and gun control.

Analysts say he has roughly a year before Washington turns its attention to the 2014 mid-term elections, which could sweep more Republicans into Congress and accelerate the subsequent “lame duck” status that defines presidents who are not running for office again.

“He basically has a year for major legislative accomplishments because after the first year you get into the mid-term elections, which will partially be a referendum on his presidency,” said Michele Swers, an associate professor of American government at Georgetown University.

Obama’s speech, due to start at 9am this morning (Phuket time), will be a chance for the president to build momentum within that tight time frame.

“I don’t want to say it’s the last important speech he’s going to give, but the window for a second-term president is fairly narrow,” said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman under former Republican President George W. Bush.

With unemployment still high and massive “sequester” spending cuts looming, administration officials say Obama will use the address before a television audience of millions to press Congress to support his proposals to boost the economy.

The White House is eager to show Obama’s commitment to the economy is as great as it is to immigration and gun reforms, and he is expected to spend most of his speech reviving a theme that dominated his 2012 campaign: helping the middle class.

“You will hear … an outline from him for his plan to create jobs and grow the middle class,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday.

“His principal preoccupation as president has been the need to first reverse the devastating decline in our economy and then set it on a trajectory where it’s growing in a way that helps the middle class, makes it more secure, and makes it expand.”

Economy, legacy
The likelihood of passing new short-term economic initiatives that require government spending in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is low, said Jeffrey Bergstrand, a finance professor at the University of Notre Dame and a former Federal Reserve economist.

“What will probably surface is something similar to what he proposed in 2011 and never got through,” he said, referring to proposals that would give grants to state and local governments as well as boost spending on infrastructure and research.

Obama is also expected to call for comprehensive trade talks with the 27-nation European Union.

The White House has signalled Obama will urge U.S. investment in infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy and education, despite Republican opposition to increased government spending and a political divide over how to tame the U.S. budget deficit.

Obama’s advisers argue that his push for immigration reform is also an economic issue, and momentum for change is stronger there than it is for the president’s other policy priorities.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American who is championing immigration reform – albeit with a more restrictive process of legalization than Obama supports – is slated to give his party’s response to Obama’s speech.

The debate over immigration will also play out in the balconies of the House of Representatives, where non-lawmakers will sit to listen to the speech. Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois plans to bring a man who is fighting deportation as his guest to the speech.

Prospects for success on gun control are in doubt, but the president is likely to use his speech to seek more support for proposals he laid out last month after the Newtown, Connecticut, school-shooting massacre.

After giving prominent mention to the fight against climate change and equality for gays in his inaugural address, supporters will be disappointed if he fails to lay out details in those two areas. Obama could advance both issues through executive orders, circumventing Congress and doing more to bolster his legacy.

“A second-term State of the Union is usually written with an eye on history books and I’m sure the president is thinking about what his legacy is going to be,” said Doug Hattaway, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to Hillary Clinton.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the festering civil war in Syria may present Obama with the toughest foreign policy tests of his second term, but they are likely to receive little attention in his speech.

He might raise concerns about cyber attacks, which have hit a succession of major U.S. companies and government agencies in recent months.

Obama will travel to three states in the days after his speech to sell his proposals to the public.

North Korean nuclear test draws anger, including from China
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday in defiance of U.N. resolutions, drawing condemnation from around the world, including from its only major ally, China, which summoned the North Korean ambassador to protest.

Pyongyang said the test was an act of self-defence against “U.S. hostility” and threatened stronger steps if necessary.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting at which its members, including China, “strongly condemned” the test and vowed to start work on appropriate measures in response, the president of the council said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the third of his line to rule the country, has presided over two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear test during his first year in power, pursuing policies that have propelled his impoverished and malnourished country closer to becoming a nuclear weapons power.

North Korea said the test had “greater explosive force” than those it conducted in 2006 and 2009. Its KCNA news agency said it had used a “miniaturised” and lighter nuclear device, indicating it had again used plutonium, which is suitable for use as a missile warhead.

China, which has shown signs of increasing exasperation with the recent bellicose tone of its reclusive neighbour, summoned the North Korean ambassador in Beijing and protested sternly, the Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China was “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed” to the test and urged North Korea to “stop any rhetoric or acts that could worsen situations and return to the right course of dialogue and consultation as soon as possible”.

Analysts said the test was a major embarrassment to China, which is a permanent member of the Security Council and North Korea’s sole major economic and diplomatic ally, because it cast doubt on the extent of Beijing’s influence over its ally.

U.S. President Barack Obama called the test a “highly provocative act” that hurt regional stability and pressed for new sanctions.

“The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

IATA proposes Covid testing before travelling to replace quarantine on arrival

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IATA proposes Covid testing before travelling to replace quarantine on arrival | The Thaiger

The International Air Transport Association is proposing travellers to take a Covid test prior to departure to replace worldwide mandatory quarantines on arrival. The push comes after it announces that international travel is down by 92% this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As many countries are imposing mandatory quarantines that can be not only expensive but up to 14 days long, the IATA is calling for all countries to work together to create a pre-flight testing requirement in all airports.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO says that Covid testing is getting faster, cheaper and more accurate, which is why it is urgent to help kick-start the world economy by doing away with mandatory quarantines.

“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travelers before departure. This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work.”

He says the removal of such quarantine requirements for nations like Canada and UK would also help those nationals to leave their countries confidently by knowing that accurate testing would be in place. IATA has also asked for feedback and says of those travellers polled, 65% agree that if a person tests negative for Covid-19, then they should not have to undergo a quarantine on arrival. 84% also agree that, instead, travellers should be required to get tested with 88% even agreeing that they would submit to testing as part of the travel process.

Over 5000 travel businesses have reportedly backed the IATA’s proposal after submitting an open letter to the president of the European Commission, demanding the EU to take action. However, testing and later vaccinating 75 billion people could prove to be a monumental task, one that may take months to devise a streamlined plan to carry out.

SOURCE: Travel Off Path

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 deaths about to surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients’ “brain fog”

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Covid-19 deaths about to surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients’ “brain fog” | The Thaiger

The world’s Covid-19-related deaths will pass 1 million today as the the cycle of country lockdowns and re-openings are getting mixed results. As of this morning, Thai time, the number of total deaths has reached 998,721 , with 4-6,000 deaths still being recorded, globally, every day. The surge in daily new world Covid-19 cases has levelled off a bit since July but there has still been 300-320,000 new cases being added every day in September. On a more positive note, the number of daily deaths continues to level off, even dropping some weeks, as treatments continue to improve. At this stage, officially, only .42% of the world’s population has so far been infected.

The milestone comes in a week where another report from the UK catalogues the “brain fog” experienced by former Covid-19 sufferers.

 

Covid-19 deaths about to surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients'The current hotspots for the virus, now 9 months in circulation, of new daily cases is led by India. Yesterday India added nearly 90,000 cases to the world total whilst the US is showing a resurgence in new cases after dropping the average down during August. There is also a resurgence in new cases in parts of Europe, including the UK, which is now recording more new cases as it was at its peak in the first wave in April and May this year. The following graphs records the top 10 countries for new Covid-19 cases recorded yesterday…

Covid-19 deaths about to surpass 1 million whilst more reports emerge about former patients'

SOURCE: worldometers.info

Both South America and India are showing the highest rates of new cases, in pure numbers whilst US health authorities are concerned about the latest surge in new cases as the country starts to head into its autumn and cooler weather.

Meanwhile, more former Covid-19 patients, even those who only suffered mild symptoms, continue to report about long-term effects from the coronavirus.

In Canada, some 130,000 Canadians have recovered but some patients report that they’re experiencing “debilitating side effects” months after their infection. Canadian scientists report that they are finding some of the long-term effects of Covid-19 include heart damage as well as neurological issues like “brain fog” and “difficulty thinking”. Other patients are reporting hair loss, fatigue and even painful lesions called “Covid toes,” many weeks or even months after infection.

One study based out of Italy reports that nearly 90% of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 reported at least one persistent symptom two months later.

39 doctors wrote about these “long-haulers” and their battle with Covid-19 and their persistent symptoms in a manifesto published in the British Medical Journal. Following the report, the doctors called on politicians, scientists and public health officials to conduct more research into chronic Covid-19 symptoms and to create additional clinical services.

“Failure to understand the underlying biological mechanisms causing these persisting symptoms risks missing opportunities to identify risk factors, prevent chronicity, and find treatment approaches for people affected now and in the future.”

The reports also defined the affected patients as not in the current list of “at risk” Covid-19 patients – usually elderly with underlying conditions – but instead representing a much wider demographic of younger and healthy patients who were experiencing the post-Covid symptoms.

SOURCE: BBC | CTV News

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Economy

Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand

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Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand | The Thaiger

Vietnamese finance officials are downgrading expectations for a recovery of the south east Asian nation’s economy in 2021. The normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 has stalled due to a huge drop in local and global demand, and the absence of international tourism. The booming economy, growing at an average of 6% per year since 2012, will struggle to reach a growth rate of 2% this year.

Fuelled by manufactured exports, the Vietnam economy has dropped back to a trickle. The Asian Development Bank estimates that this year’s GDP growth could be as low as 1.8%. The Vietnamese factories, that usually crank out shoes, garments, furniture and cheap electronics, are seeing dropping demand as the world’s consumer confidence drops dramatically.

Stay-at-home rules in Europe and America are keeping are keeping people away from retail stores. And despite the acceleration of online retail, many of the consumers are emerging from the Covid Spring and Summer with vastly reduced spending power.

The headaches of 2020 are also challenging Vietnam to maintain its reputation as south east Asia’s manufacturing hotspot. Rising costs and xenophobic foreign policy have put China ‘on the nose’ with some governments, complicating factory work in China, whilst other south east Asian countries lack infrastructure and are incurring higher wage costs.

One Vietnamese factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which produces footwear for top international brands, has laid off 150 workers earlier this year. There are hundreds more examples of the impact of falling demand in the bustling Vietnamese manufacturing economy.

Vietnam’s border closure is also preventing investors from making trips, setting up meetings and pushing projects forward. Those projects in turn create jobs, fostering Vietnam’s growing middle class. Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel. “International tourism is dead,” says Jack Nguyen, a partner at Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.”

“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements. Who knows when that’s going to be.”

A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result.

“Recovery could take 4 years.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment is now warning that global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as 4 years, perhaps more.

Not that foreign investors in the country are pulling out. Indeed, many are tainge a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive Covid-19. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.

SOURCE: VOA News

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