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Phuket Gazette World News: Syrian opposition to attend Geneva; US airlines playing it safe over East China Sea; Price jumps for Philippines’ typhoon rebuilding; Vietnam attacks social media

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Phuket Gazette World News: Syrian opposition to attend Geneva; US airlines playing it safe over East China Sea; Price jumps for Philippines’ typhoon rebuilding; Vietnam attacks social media | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Syrian opposition to attend Geneva peace conference
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Syrian National Coalition opposition group will attend the “Geneva 2” talks in January aimed at ending the civil war, the group’s president, Ahmad Jarba, said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters and the Associated Press, he also said regional power Iran should only be allowed to attend if it stopped taking part in the bloodshed in Syria and withdrew its forces and proxies.

The Coalition had previously said it was ready to attend if humanitarian aid corridors were set up and political prisoners released. It insists that President Bashar al-Assad can play no future role in Syria.

“We are now ready to go to Geneva,” said Jarba on a visit to Cairo, adding that the opposition views the Geneva talks as a step to a leadership transition and a “genuine democratic transformation in Syria”.

“There is no way that the individual responsible for the destruction of the country can be responsible for building the country,” said Jarba, referring to Assad.

Syria said on Wednesday that Western countries which also demand that Assad step down should either stop “dreaming” or forget attending the peace talks.

Jarba rejected the idea of Iran attending “under the current reality”.

“Iran is responsible for and takes part in the killing in Syria in a very clear way. It killed thousands of Syrians with its Revolutionary Guards and mercenaries from Hizbollah, which is considered a terrorist group,” he said.

“If Iran is serious about resolving the Syrian crisis, it must first withdraw its Revolutionary Guards and (Lebanese) Hizbollah mercenaries.”

Iran is the main backer, along with Russia, of Assad during a conflict that has lasted more than two years, killed more than 100,000 people and uprooted millions more. Tehran has said it would attend Geneva 2 if invited and on Wednesday called for a ceasefire ahead of the talks scheduled for January 22.

U.S. tells airlines to take safety measures over East China Sea
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The United States said on Wednesday it had advised U.S. airlines to take steps to operate safely over the East China Sea as it tries to determine whether China’s new airspace defence zone rules apply to civil and commercial aircraft.

“We’re attempting to determine whether the new rules apply to civil aviation and commercial air flight,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a daily briefing.

“In the meantime U.S. air carriers are being advised to take all steps they consider necessary to operate safely in the East China Sea,” she added.

Philippines’ typhoon rebuilding may cost more, last longer than Aceh
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Philippines’ post-typhoon reconstruction could take as long as 10 years, with the leadership of President Benigno Aquino put to a test amid complex problems such as property rights, missing title deeds and land zoning, experts said on Wednesday.

The task will likely take longer and cost more than the rebuilding of Indonesia’s Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami, they said.

Super typhoon Haiyan wiped out or damaged practically everything in its path as it swept ashore on November 8, with seven-metre storm surges destroying around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province alone.

Haiyan killed at least 5,500 people, left more than 1,700 missing, displaced as many as four million and destroyed around $563 million worth of crops and infrastructure.

“The enormity of this disaster is unprecedented at least in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of the geography,” said Sanny Jegillos, coordinator for crisis prevention and recovery at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “It’s much, much larger than the tsunami in Aceh.

“The rehabilitation cost will be more expensive for Haiyan, because a unit of a school will be more expensive than a school built in Aceh because of the design parameters.”

The government’s initial estimates point to a reconstruction cost of as much as 250 billion pesos. Aceh’s rebuilding over eight years required nearly $7 billion, funded by the Indonesian government and international donors.

Manila has said new structures in the typhoon-prone areas must be able to withstand winds of 300 kph, close to Haiyan’s maximum winds when it slammed into Eastern Samar province before crossing the central Philippines.

Sonny Rosal, head of the United Architects of the Philippines which is helping the National Housing Authority (NHA) design stronger houses, said there were challenges related to government buy-outs of landowners in risky areas, re-establishing title and revising the national building code which now specifies that public structures must withstand winds of only up to 250 kph.

“What is being discussed now in the NHA is that it may take us 10 years to be able to rebuild. It’s not that easy. A lot is involved here,” Rosal said. “It’s like building a new country.”

On Wednesday, a government task force assigned to draw up a recovery and rehabilitation plan submitted its immediate, medium-term and long-term goals to Aquino, who demanded more specific details before giving final approval. The task force will report back to Aquino on Friday with more refinements.

That plan will likely identify only immediate needs and plans of action, since a longer-term rebuilding strategy will take weeks if not months to complete, officials said.

In Japan’s case, it completed its long-term reconstruction plan six months after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“This case (Haiyan) is much more complex than the Japanese experience. The Japanese experienced only a tsunami,” said Kimio Takeya, an engineer and expert for reconstruction planning at the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“In this area, there was a storm surge and strong wind combination.”

Vietnam announces big fines for social media “propaganda”
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Vietnam will hand out fines of 100 million dong (about 152,000 baht) to anyone criticising the government on social media, under a new law announced this week, the latest measure in a widening crackdown on dissent by the country’s communist rulers.

Comments that did not constitute criminal offences would trigger fines if held to be “propaganda against the state”, or spreading “reactionary ideology”, according to the law signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Vietnam has repeatedly drawn fire for the harsh treatment and lengthy jail terms it has given to bloggers who criticised its one-party regime. The number of arrests and convictions has soared in the last four years.

The new decree is vaguely worded and did not say what comments amounted to a criminal offence, which can be punished with prison, or an “administrative violation” that rates a fine.

Internet penetration is soaring in a country of an estimated 90 million people, a third of whom use the internet and about 20 million of whom have Facebook accounts, a report published at a seminar on informatio

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million

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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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Crime

Thai police to verify “Boss” whereabouts with UAE embassy

Maya Taylor

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Thai police to verify “Boss” whereabouts with UAE embassy | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Following recent reports that the elusive Red Bull heir, Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, is living in Dubai, Thai police say they’re writing to the UAE embassy to verify the claims (the embassy is in Witthayu road… we can send you the address if you need so you can ‘drop in’ and have a chat).

Boss is wanted in relation to a 2012 hit-and-run incident that claimed the life of Wichian Klanprasert, a 47 year old Bangkok policeman. Wichian died after his bike was dragged 100 metres by a Ferrari which then fled the scene. The vehicle was allegedly being driven by Boss.

Incredibly, Boss managed to flee Thailand in 2017. Charges that were initially dropped against him in July this year have recently been re-instated following an independent inquiry. Recently, rumours began circulating that due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the wanted Red Bull heir is currently living in Dubai. Assistant National Police Chief Jaruwat Waisaya says Thai police are submitting a letter to the embassy of the United Arab Emirates to enquire as to his whereabouts.

“We want to confirm with the local authorities whether he is in the UAE or not. If he is, we will coordinate with them to extradite him to Thailand so he can face trial.”

A red Interpol notice has been issued for Boss, meaning if he enters a country that is a member of Interpol, officials should inform the Royal Thai Police. However, enforcement of the notice is at the discretion of individual countries. The United Arab Emirates is an Interpol member country.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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