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Phuket Gazette World News: US fiscal talks stumble; Putin political rival facing jail time; al Qaeda suspect pleads innocent

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Phuket Gazette World News: US fiscal talks stumble; Putin political rival facing jail time; al Qaeda suspect pleads innocent | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

U.S. fiscal talks stumble as lawmakers race against time
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Stop-start negotiations to end the U.S. fiscal impasse left congressional leaders and President Barack Obama desperately searching yesterday for a way to reopen the government and raise the country’s debt limit ahead of a Thursday deadline.

Fitch Ratings warned it could cut the sovereign credit rating of the United States from AAA citing the political brinkmanship over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Fitch’s action emphasized how close to an economically damaging default Washington has come and sent U.S. stock futures lower.

Republicans in the fractious House of Representatives said they would try a new approach after their first attempt crash-landed. But differences with an emerging Senate proposal could complicate prospects for final passage before October 17, when the U.S. Treasury says the government will reach its borrowing limit.

The first alternative plan from House Republican leaders failed to gain enough support in a closed-door morning meeting for the House to proceed. The disarray raised questions about what the House will ultimately be able to pass and stoked 11th-hour uncertainty.

“We’re going to continue to work with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to make sure that there is no issue of default, and to get our government reopened,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters after the meeting.

The Senate had appeared to be on a productive track with their own tentative bipartisan fiscal deal, but negotiators halted talks as they waited for House Republicans to move first.

The new plan from House Republicans would not include a previous effort to delay a tax on medical devices that would be used to pay for Obama’s healthcare plan. Obama had objected to that proposal.

But the new plan, which would extend the federal debt limit until February 7 like the Senate, would only provide government funding until December 15. The Senate, which had been close to an agreement, would keep the government open longer, until January 15.

The House will vote on their plan later this morning, Republican Representative Devin Nunes of California told reporters. It is unclear when the Senate will act.

The U.S. Treasury Department seized on the downgrade threat to press Congress. “The announcement reflects the urgency with which Congress should act to remove the threat of default hanging over the economy,” a Treasury spokesperson said.

After the Fitch announcement, S&P 500 futures fell 9.6 points while Dow Jones industrial average futures sank 60 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 7.5 points.

Fits and starts

In the coming hours, much of the focus will be on Boehner and whether he agrees to the demands of the more conservative wing of his party.

Conservative House members, driven by the Tea Party small-government faction, have continued to push for changes to Obama’s signature healthcare law as part of any budget deal.

Those demands sparked the partial government shutdown that began with the dawn of the new fiscal year on October 1, temporarily throwing hundreds of thousands of government employees out of work.

If Congress fails to reach a deal by Thursday, checks would likely go out on time for a short while for everyone from bondholders to workers who are owed unemployment benefits. But analysts warn that a default on government obligations could quickly follow, potentially causing the U.S. financial sector to freeze up and threatening the global economy.

Earlier yesterday, lawmakers expressed hope that the Senate could vote as soon as this morning on a deal being hashed out between Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

“We were on track and Boehner stepped in,” Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters. “McConnell is waiting on Boehner and Boehner is waiting on his caucus.”

After Durbin’s comments, markets got increasingly nervous about the prospects of a last-minute deal.

The House Republican proposal initially floated would have funded the government through January 15, and raised the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by enough to cover the nation’s borrowing needs through February 7, similar to the Senate plan, aides said.

But unlike the Senate, it would have included the two-year suspension of the medical device tax included in Obama’s healthcare law, and a requirement that members of Congress and the administration be covered under the law.

Both House versions would not allow the U.S. Treasury to renew its extraordinary cash management measures to stretch borrowing capacity for months, which had tentatively been allowed under the Senate plan.

Numerous polls show Republicans have taken a hit in opinion polls since the standoff began and the government shutdown. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Monday found that 74 percent of Americans disapprove of the way congressional Republicans have handled the standoff, compared with a 53 percent disapproval rating for Obama.

Another survey released by Gallup yesterday showed American confidence in the U.S. economy fell another five points last week as the government shutdown continued.

The crisis is the latest in a series of budget battles in recent years that have hurt consumer confidence and weighed on the economy. A Monday estimate by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a think tank, said the uncertainty from the frequent showdowns had boosted the unemployment rate by 0.6 of a percentage point, or the equivalent of 900,000 jobs since late 2009.

Putin foe Navalny faces prison if appeal is rejected
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Convicted at a trial he describes as Vladimir Putin’s revenge for his political challenge, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny faces five years in prison if his appeal against a theft conviction is rejected today.

The court hearing in the remote city of Kirov also poses a conundrum for President Putin.

Jailing Navalny would keep Putin’s most prominent critic out of elections for years, curtailing any threat from a young rival with presidential ambitions who scored a strong second-place showing in a Moscow mayoral vote last month.

But it could also revive street protests by Putin’s opponents and human rights activists over what they see as a clampdown on dissent since the 61-year-old president started a six-year third term in 2012.

While Putin denies exerting influence over the courts, many Russians suspect that rulings in high-profile cases are dictated by the Kremlin and result from careful political calculation.

“The Kremlin has an unpleasant decision to make,” said Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst.

A ruling upholding the five-year sentence would be seen by many as evidence that tough tactics will continue despite signals meant to suggest a let-up, such as Putin’s promise of a prisoner amnesty later this year.

A blogger against corruption among Russia’s elite, Navalny helped lead the biggest protests of Putin’s 13-year rule, which were stoked by allegations of fraud in a December 2011 parliamentary election.

The protests have faded, but Navalny has emerged as the main opposition leader, making his trial the most closely watched in Russia since jailed former oil tycoon Mik

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue

Maya Taylor

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China ban on inbound, outbound tour groups to continue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bicanski on Pixnio

The Chinese government is to keep the current ban on inbound and outbound tour groups, amid fears that the winter months could bring a resurgence of Covid-19. The Bangkok Post reports that the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has confirmed on its website that the ban remains in place. After several months with very low case numbers, officials are wary of the virus surging back this winter.

The ban on outbound tours is severely impacting places like Thailand, where former tourist hotspots are already suffering devastating economic consequences from the closure of the country’s borders in late March. Earlier this week, Thailand welcomed its first group of Chinese tourists in 7 months, but the Kingdom has a long way to go to get back to the 10.99 million who visited last year – if it ever does.

As the Covid-19 virus made itself known at the start of 2020, China put a stop to both domestic and outbound tours in January. Since July, domestic tours have started up again as a result of a significant reduction in Covid-19 cases.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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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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