From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"Global Environment 2020 JANUARY-MARCH"

    This file is attached to from “Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
    This link will return you to Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
    Or continue to Global Environment 2020 April-June

Global Environment 2020 JANUARY-MARCH

2020 World Disaster and Environmental Issues

1/1/2020 Twelve dead, several missing as Australia counts the cost of devastating bushfires by Colin Packham
Smoke from the Currowan Fire is pictured from St George’s Basin south of Nowra and looking towards Sussex Inlet and
Lake Conjola, Australia, December 31, 2019 in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. John Wardle via REUTERS
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – A third person was confirmed dead on Wednesday in devastating bushfires that engulfed Australia’s southeast coast this week and a fourth was missing and feared dead, as navy ships rushed to provide supplies and assist with evacuations.
    Twelve people have now lost their lives in fire-related deaths across Australia since blazes broke out a few months ago, including three volunteer firefighters, after a three-year drought in large parts of the nation created tinder-dry conditions.
    Fanned by soaring temperatures, columns of fire and smoke blackened entire towns on Monday and Tuesday, forcing thousands of residents and holidaymakers to seek shelter on beaches.    Many stood in shallow water to escape the flames.
    Bushfires have destroyed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) — an area larger than Japan — and new blazes are sparked almost daily by extremely hot and windy conditions and, most recently, dry lightning strikes created by the fires themselves.
    Cooler conditions on Wednesday gave the country a moment to count the cost of the fires, although there were still more than 100 blazes in New South Wales (NSW) state alone and thousands of firefighters on the ground.
    The body of a man was found in a burnt car early on Wednesday on the south coast of New South Wales after emergency workers began reaching the most damaged areas, and police said the death toll will rise.
    “Sadly, we can report today that police have confirmed a further three deaths as a result of the fires on the South Coast,” NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys told reporters in Sydney.
    “Police are also at Lake Conjola now, where a house has been destroyed by fire and the occupant of that home is still unaccounted for.”
    NSW police did not identify the missing man but said he was 72 years old and authorities have been unable to reach his home.
    Police said early assessments have found nearly 200 homes have been destroyed, though they cautioned it was an early estimate.
    Large-scale livestock and animal casualties are also expected across Australia’s east coast, though Mogo Zoo – home to Australia’s largest collection of primates, along with zebras, white rhinos, lions, tigers and giraffes – was saved.
    The wildlife park was threatened by an out-of-control bushfire, though zoo keepers and firefighters managed to save all 200 animals.
    In Victoria state, four people remain missing, state Premier Daniel Andrews said, after a massive blaze ripped through Gippsland – a rural region about 500 km (310 miles) east of Melbourne.
    About 4,000 people in the town of Mallacoota in Victoria headed to the waterfront after the main road was cut off.
    Mark Tregellas, a resident of Mallacoota who spent the night on a boat ramp, said only a late shift in the wind direction sparred lives.
    “The fire just continued to grow and then the black started to descend.    I couldn’t see the hand in front in my face, and it then it started to glow red and we knew the fire was coming,” Tregellas told Reuters.
    “Ash started to fall from the air and then the embers started to come down.    At that point, people started to bring their kids and families into the water.    Thankfully, the wind changed and the fire moved away.”
    In Milton, a small town on the on the NSW south coast, locals queued for hours for the few remaining items left of shelves on supermarkets.
    Emma Schirmer, who evacuated from her house in Batemans Bay with her three-month child on Tuesday, said the local shop was limiting sales to six items per customer, while a power outage meant shoppers could pay only with cash.
    As shops run low and firefighters struggle with exhaustion, Australia’s military, including Black Hawk helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and naval vessels were being deployed.
    “We’ve got choppers taking 90 firefighters out of the Mallacoota area, they can’t be removed any other way – we’re essentially doing a shift change by the air,” Andrews told reporters.
    NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said authorities were working to restore communications with areas cut off by the fires, and she warned conditions will deteriorate again over the weekend.
    “Weather conditions on Saturday will be as bad as they were” on Tuesday, Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
    Meanwhile, Australia’s capital Canberra was blanketed in thick smoke, reaching about 20 times hazardous levels, prompting health warnings.
    The smoke has also drifted to New Zealand where it has turned the daytime sky orange across the South Island.
(Reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Cynthia Osterman & Kim Coghill)

1/1/2020 Floods in Indonesia’s capital kill nine, force thousands to evacuate
General view during a flood after heavy rain in Bekasi, near Jakarta, Indonesia January 1 2020,
in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Saptono/via REUTERS
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Flash floods inundated swathes of Indonesia’s capital and nearby towns on the first day of the New Year after torrential rainfall overnight, killing at least nine people and forcing thousands of people to evacuate, authorities said on Wednesday.
    “As of 4 pm today, there are 19,079 displaced residents who have been evacuated at temporary shelters throughout Jakarta,” city governor Anies Baswedan told a news conference.
    “The rain in Jakarta has stopped, now we are waiting for the water to recede.”
    Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said at least 9 people had died in flash floods and landslides triggered by the rain in Jakarta and nearby towns.
    Most of the deaths were due to hypothermia, though one was a teenager who was electrocuted by a power line, disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibobo said.
    Television footage showed cars almost completely submerged and people wading through meters murky brown water in some neighborhoods of the capital.
    Water levels in East and South Jakarta as well as in the satellite cities of Tangerang and Bekasi in West Java province started to quickly rise from 3 a.m. local time (2000 GMT), according to the disaster mitigation agency.
    Indonesia’s state electricity utility said it had switched off the electricity in hundreds of districts in Jakarta, which is home to 30 million people.
    The floods also caused the temporary closure of the runway at Jakarta’s domestic Halim airport, with flights redirected to the capital’ bigger Soekarno airport.
    City authorities have in the last few years sought to improve low-lying Jakarta’s vulnerability to flooding during the rainy season.
    More than 50 people died in one of the capital’s deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the center of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.
    Jakarta resident Daniel, whose neighborhood had been waterlogged, told reporters of his disappointment with the city government’s efforts to mitigate the floods, which happen yearly during the rainy season.
    “I only have one hope, which is to ask the current governor to fix this because it impact all the people,” he pleaded.
    “Take the right action please, look at what is happening now, bring the situation back to normal.”
(Reporting by Jakarta bureau; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

1/1/2020 World welcomes 2020, but wildfires, protests, cast a pall over some celebrations by Swati Pandey, Twinnie Siu and Michael Holden
Anti-government demonstrators protest during the 2020 countdown on New Year’s Eve
in Hong Kong, China, January 1, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
    SYDNEY/HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) – The world celebrated the New Year on Wednesday with fireworks displays from Sydney to London, although celebrations were clouded by deadly wildfires in Australia, protests in Hong Kong and India and nuclear tensions with North Korea.
    Large crowds gathered in European capitals for spectacular firework displays that lit up the skies over landmarks like Big Ben in London, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Parthenon in Athens and the Kremlin in Moscow.
    The traditional drop of a Waterford crystal ball on Times Square in New York capped a six-hour New Year’s Eve show. Intermittent rain did little to dampen the festivities as hundreds of thousands of people were treated to performances by pop star Post Malone, the Korea-pop band BTS, and singer songwriter Alanis Morissette.
    In Australia, a million revelers thronged Sydney harbor and nearby districts to watch more than 100,000 fireworks explode above the city, even as thousands of people along the country’s eastern seaboard sought refuge from the bushfires on beaches.
    Thousands in Hong Kong welcomed 2020 on neon-lit promenades in the picturesque Victoria Harbour, breaking into pro-democracy chants shortly after the countdown to midnight.
    Hong Kong authorities canceled the main midnight fireworks display for the first time in a decade, citing security concerns.    A “Symphony of Lights” took place instead, involving projections on the city’s tallest skyscrapers, while smaller-scale pyrotechnics were launched from waterfront rooftops.
    In Japan, people took turns striking Buddhist temple bells, in accordance with tradition.
    Sydney decided to press ahead with its fireworks despite calls by some members of the public for the display to be canceled in solidarity with fire-hit areas in New South Wales, of which the city is the capital.
    Sydney Mayor Clover Moore said planning had begun 15 months ago and that the event also gave a boost to the>     Some towns in eastern Australia canceled their New Year’s celebrations as naval vessels and military helicopters helped firefighters rescue people fleeing the fires, which have turned swathes of New South Wales into a raging furnace.
    The fires have killed at least 11 people since October, two of them overnight into Tuesday, destroyed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) and left many towns and rural areas without electricity or mobile coverage.
    Elsewhere, celebrations from Auckland, New Zealand, to Pyongyang, the capital of isolated North Korea, welcomed in the New Year with fireworks displays.
    Fireworks exploded and confetti rained on revelers after the ball dropped in New York.    High school science teachers and students pressed the button that started the ball on its 60-second descent to count down to the New Year in a gesture to highlight efforts to combat climate change.
    The ball has changed form several times since it first dropped at One Times Square in 1907 as an iron-and-wood sphere and has now become a global symbol of the New Year.
    But amid the celebrations of a New Year and decade, old tensions threatened to flare up.    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Wednesday his country would keep developing nuclear programs and introduce a “new strategic weapon” in the near future, after the United States ignored a year-end deadline to restart denuclearization talks.
    In Hong Kong, rocked by months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations, protesters were urged to wear masks at a New Year rally called “Don’t forget 2019 – Persist in 2020,” according to social media posts.
    Some 6,000 police were deployed and Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, appealed for calm and reconciliation in her New Year’s Eve video message and Chinese leader Xi Jinping hoped “harmony” would return to the territory.
    The protests began in response to a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party, and have evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.
    Thousands of Indians ushered in the year by demonstrating against a citizenship law they say will discriminate against Muslims and chip away at India’s secular constitution.
    The demonstrations came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempts to dampen protests that have run for nearly three weeks.
    Irshad Alam, a 25-year-old resident of the Shaheen Bagh area of New Delhi, stood with his 1-year-old child in his arms and his wife by his side.    He said he had been participating in the protest every day.
    “It’s freezing here,” he said.    “But we are still here because we care about this movement.”
    More than three years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, fresh from winning a parliamentary majority in last month’s election, promised in his New Year’s message to “get Brexit done before the end of this month.”
    “As we say goodbye to 2019, we can also turn the page on the division, rancor and uncertainty which has dominated public life and held us back for far too long,” Johnson added.
(Reporting by bureaux in Sydney, Hong Kong, New Delhi, London, Seoul and Los Angeles; Writing by Gareth Jones, Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney; Editing by Giles Elgood, Leslie Adler and Neil Fullick)

1/2/2020 What can we expect in tech for 2020? By Personal Tech Edward C. Baig USA TODAY
From 5G to automated vehicles, a look ahead
    ’Tis the end of the year when pundits typically dust off the crystal ball and take a stab at what tech, and its impact on consumers, will look like over the next 12 months.
    But we’re also on the doorstep of a new decade, which this time around promises further advances in 5G networks, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, self-driving vehicles and more, all of which will dramatically alter the way we live, work and play.
    So what tech advances can we look forward to in the new year?    Here’s what we can expect to see in 2020 – and in some cases beyond.
5G takes hold
    The next generation of wireless has showed up on lists like this for years now. But in 2020, 5G really will finally begin to make its mark in the U.S., with all four major national carriers – three if the T-Mobile-Sprint merger finally goes through – continuing to build out their 5G networks across the country.
    We’ve been hearing about the promise of 5G on the global stage for what seems like forever, and the carriers recently launched in select markets.    Still, the rollout in most places will continue to take time, as will the payoff: blistering fast wireless speeds and network responsiveness on our phones, improved self-driving cars and augmented reality, remote surgery, and entire smart cities.
    As of the last days of 2019, only a few phones can exploit the latest networks, not to mention all the remaining holes in 5G coverage.    But you’ll see a whole lot more 5G phone introductions in the new year, including what many of us expect will be a 5G iPhone come September.
    When those holes are filled, roughly two-thirds of consumers said they’d be more willing to buy a 5G-capable smartphone, according to a mobile trends survey by Deloitte.
    But Deloitte executive Kevin Westcott also said that telcos will need to manage consumer expectations about what 5G can deliver and determine what the “killer apps” for 5G will be.
    The Deloitte survey also found that a combination of economic barriers (pricing, affordability) and a sense that current phones are good enough, will continue to slow the smartphone refresh cycle.
Devices start to disappear
    Are you ready for all the tech around you to disappear?    No, not right away.    The trend toward so-called “ambient computing” is not going to happen overnight, nor is anyone suggesting that screens and keyboards are going to go away entirely, or that you’ll stop reaching for a smartphone.    But as more tiny sensors are built into walls, TVs, household appliances, fixtures, what you’re wearing, and eventually even your own body, you’ll be able to gesture or speak to a concealed assistant to get things done.
    Steve Koenig, vice president of research at the Consumer Technology Association, likens ambient computing to “Star Trek” and suggests that at some point we won’t need to place Amazon Echo Dots or other smart speakers in every room of house, since we’ll just speak out loud to whatever, wherever.
Self-driving what?
    Self-driving cars have been getting most the attention.    But it’s not just cars that are going autonomous – try planes and boats.
    Cirrus Aircraft, for example, is in the final stages of getting Federal Aviation Administration approval for a self-landing system for one of its private jets, and the tech, which I recently got to test, has real potential to save lives.
    How so?    If the pilot becomes incapacitated, a passenger can press a single button on the roof of the main cabin.    At that moment, the plane starts acting as if the pilot were still doing things.    It factors in real-time weather, wind, the terrain, how much fuel remains, all the nearby airports where an emergency landing is possible, including the lengths of all runways, and automatically broadcasts its whereabouts to air traffic control.    From there the system safely lands the plane.     Or consider the 2020 version of the Mayflower, not a Pilgrim ship, but rather a marine research vessel from IBM and a marine exploration non-profit known as Promare.    The plan is to have the unmanned ship cross the Atlantic in September from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts.    The ship will be powered by a hybrid propulsion system, using wind, solar, state-of-the-art batteries, and a diesel generator.    It plans to follow the 3,220-mile route the original Mayflower took 400 years ago.
Esports betting
    Esports is one of the fastest growing spectator sports around the world, and the Supreme Court cleared a path last year for legalized gambling across the states.    The betting community is licking its chops at the prospect of exploiting this mostly untapped market.    You’ll be able to bet on esports in more places, whether at a sportsbook inside a casino or through an app on your phone.
AI and work
    One of the scary prospects about artificial intelligence is that it is going to eliminate all these jobs.    Research out of MIT and IBM Watson suggests that while AI will for sure affect the workplace, it won’t lead to a huge loss of jobs.
    That’s a somewhat optimistic take given an alternate view that AI-driven automation is going to displace workers.    The research suggests that AI increasingly will help us with tasks that can be automated, but will have a less direct impact on jobs that require skills such as design expertise and industrial strategy.    The onus will be on bosses and employees to start adapting to new roles and to try and expand their skills, efforts the researchers say will begin this year.
    The scary signs are still out there, however.    For instance, McDonald’s is testing AI-powered drive-thrus that can recognize voice, which could reduce the need for human order-takers.
Battery advances
    Perhaps it’s more wishful thinking than a flat-out prediction, but as Westcott puts it, “I’m hoping what goes away are the 17 power cords in my briefcase.”
    But the thing we all want to see are batteries that don’t prematurely peter out, and more seamless charging solutions.
    We’re still far off from the day where you’ll be able to get ample power to last all day on your phone or other devices just by walking into a room.    But “over-the-air” wireless charging is slowly but surely progressing.    In June, for example, Seattle company Ossia received FCC certification for a first-of-its kind system to deliver over-the-air power at a distance.    Devices with Ossia’s tech built-in should start appearing this year.
Foldables won’t fold
    We know how the nascent market for foldable phones unfolded in 2019 – things were kind of messy.    Samsung’s Galaxy Fold was delayed for months following screen problems, and even when the phone finally did arrive, it cost nearly $2,000.    But that doesn’t mean the idea behind flexible screen technologies goes away.
    Samsung is still at it, and so is Lenovo- owned Motorola with its new retro Razr.    The promise remains the same: let a device fold or bend in such a way that you can take a smartphone-like form factor and morph it into a small tablet or computer.    The ultimate success of such efforts will boil down to at least three of the factors: cost, simplicity and utility.
The `tech-lash’ will be dealt with – somehow
    Data scandals and privacy breaches have placed Facebook, Google and other others under the government’s cross hairs, and ordinary citizens are concerned. Expect some sort of reckoning, though it isn’t obvious at this stage what that reckoning will look like.
    Pew recently put out a report that says roughly 6 in 10 Americans believe it is not possible to go about their daily lives without having their data collected.
    “The coming decade will be a period of lots of ferment around privacy policy and also around technology related to privacy,” says Lee Rainie, director of internet and technology research at Pew Research Center. He says consumers will potentially have more tools to give them a bit more control over how and what data gets shared and under what circumstances.    “And there will be a lot of debate over what the policy should be.”
    Open question: Will there be national privacy regulations, perhaps ones modeled after the California law that has gone into effect this year?
Tech battleground for the 2020s: Quantum computing
    In the simplest terms, think something exponentially more powerful than what we consider conventional computing, which is expressed in 1s or 0s of bits.    Quantum computing takes a quantum leap with what are known as “qubits.”
    And while IBM, Intel, Google, Microsoft and others are all fighting for quantum supremacy, the takeaway over the next decade is that the tech may help solve problems far faster than before, from diagnosing disease to cracking forms of encryption, raising the stakes in data security.
This could be the year – finally – for 5G. GETTY IMAGES
    The Samsung Galaxy Fold had a few bumps at its launch but the company is still at it.

1/2/2020 Flood death toll rises in Jakarta, tens of thousands evacuated by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Jessica Damiana
Men push a motorcycle through floodwaters at the Jatinegara area after heavy rains
in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people were evacuated in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta on Thursday after flash floods and landslides in the area killed up to 21 people, with more heavy rain forecast, authorities said.
    The flooding, among the deadliest in years, caused chaos in parts of Southeast Asia’s biggest city with train lines blocked and power outages in some areas.    Swathes of Jakarta and nearby towns were inundated after heavy rain fell on Dec. 31 and into the early hours of New Year’s Day.
    Social affairs ministry spokesman said in a message to Reuters that the death toll had now reached 21, while the disaster mitigation agency said it was 19.
    As of Thursday, over 62,000 people were evacuated in Jakarta alone, disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said, twice as many as a day earlier.
    Thousands of livestock were reported missing and thousands of houses damaged in neighboring province of Banten, media reported.
    Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo told reporters on Thursday that evacuation and safety procedures should be prioritized, and called for more coordination between city administrations and the central government.
    On his Twitter page, Widodo blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the flooding.    He said some projects have been delayed since 2017 due to land acquisition problems.
    Some of the victims had drowned, while others were killed in landslides. Four were electrocuted, while three died of hypothermia.
    Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretary said in a statement, citing the geophysics agency, that extreme weather may continue across Indonesia until Jan. 7 and warned people to remain on alert for further flooding or landslides.
    Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the geophysics agency, told reporters separately that heavy rainfall may continue until mid February.
    Umar Dani, 52, and his family were evacuated overnight from his home in East Jakarta on a rubber boat after water levels rose up to his neck.
    “It has not flooded for so long here. We didn’t have the chance to bring anything,” he said. “I have to live on the streets now.”
    Television footage on Thursday showed rescuers in the nearby city of Tangerang evacuating residents, guiding them across a strong current by holding on to a rope.
    Jakarta police on their Twitter account warned that a number of major streets across the capital were not yet passable, accompanied by a video showing a postal truck being stuck in the middle of a road.
    Jakarta and its surroundings are home to more than 30 million people.    More than 50 people died in one of the capital’s deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the center of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.
    The government announced last year that it is relocating the capital to East Kalimantan province on Borneo, though the planning ministry pledged that the government will invest $40 billion in modernizing Jakarta.
(Additional reporting by Jakarta bureau; Editing by Matthew Tostevin & Kim Coghill)

1/2/2020 Australian authorities steer mass evacuation as wildfires raze holiday towns by Jill Gralow and Sonali Paul
A vehicle is engulfed in yellowish smoke as it travels along a highway during bushfires near Cooma, New South Wales, Australia
January 1, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. Mandatory credit JODIE BRADBY CANBERRA AUSTRALIA/via REUTERS
    BATEMANS BAY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of holiday makers fled seaside towns on Australia’s east coast on Thursday ahead of advancing bushfires, as military ships and helicopters began rescuing thousands more trapped by the blazes.
    Fueled by searing temperatures and high winds, more than 200 fires are burning across the southeastern states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, threatening several towns.
    Long queues formed outside supermarkets and petrol stations as residents and tourists sought supplies to either bunker down or escape the fires, emptying shelves of staples like bread and milk.
    More than 50,000 people were without power and some towns had no access to drinking water.
    Authorities urged a mass exodus from several towns on Australia’s southeast coast, an area hugely popular in the current summer peak holiday season, warning that extreme heat forecast for the weekend will further stoke the fires.
    “The priority today is fighting fires and evacuating, getting people to safety,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney.    “There are parts of both Victoria and New South Wales which have been completely devastated, with a loss of power and communications.”
— Eight people have been killed by wildfires in the eastern states of (NSW) and Victoria since Monday, and 18 are still missing, officials said on Thursday.
— A naval ship arrived on Thursday at the southeastern coastal town of Mallacoota, where 4,000 residents and visitors have been stranded on the beach since Monday night.
— Naval officials said they would open registration for evacuation on Thursday afternoon, with the HMAS Choules able to carry up to 1,000 people on the first trip.    The ship is expected to make two or three voyages over coming days, state authorities said.
— “It’s 16-17 hours to the closest boat port, then we’ve got to come back,” HMAS Choules Commander Scott Houlihan said at an information session on Thursday afternoon. He said that leaving by boat was the only way out of the town.
— Thousands of people had already been evacuated from the greater adjoining region of East Gippsland in Victoria, one of the largest evacuations in the country since the northern city of Darwin evacuated over 35,000 people in the aftermath of cyclone Tracy in 1974.
— “It is hell on earth.    It is the worst anybody’s ever seen,” Michelle Roberts told Reuters by telephone from the Croajingolong Cafe she owns in Mallacoota.    Roberts hoped to get her 18-year-old daughter onto the ship to escape the fires and thick smoke that are engulfing the town.
— Five military helicopters were en-route to the south coast to back up firefighters and bring in supplies like water and diesel, the Australian Defense Force said on Thursday.    The aircraft will also be used to evacuate injured, elderly and young people.
— A contingent of 39 firefighters from North America landed in Melbourne on Friday, bringing the number of U.S. and Canadian experts who have flown in to help deal with the crisis to almost 100.
— Traffic on the main highway out of Batemans Bay on the NSW coast was bumper-to-bumper after authorities called for the town to be evacuated.    Residents of the town reported there was no fuel, power or phone service, while supermarket shelves had been stripped bare of staples.    “Everyone’s just on edge,” local resident Shane Flanagan told Reuters.
— The NSW state government declared a state of emergency, beginning on Friday, giving authorities the power to forcibly evacuate people and take control of services.    The state’s Kosciuszko National Park, home to the Snowy Mountains, was closed and visitors were ordered to leave due to an extreme danger of fire.
— Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged those waiting for help and those stuck in traffic jams “to be patient … help will arrive.”
— Dairies in NSW that had lost power were being forced to dump milk.    “That is the tragedy of what is occurring as a result of these disasters,” Morrison said.
— Temperatures are forecast to soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) along the south coast on Saturday, bringing the prospect of renewed firefronts to add to the around 200 current blazes.    “It is going to be a very dangerous day. It’s going to be a very difficult day,” NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
— Morrison visited volunteer firefighters in the NSW town on Bega as they prepared to head out to the firefront on Friday.    The leader plans to tour stricken regions in Victoria next week.
— The prime minister said the fires will burn for “many, many months … unlike a flood, where the water will recede, in a fire like this, it goes on and it will continue to go on … until we can get some decent rain.”
— Morrison, forced to defend his government’s limited action on climate change, blamed a three-year drought and lack of hazard reduction for the unprecedented extent and duration of this year’s bushfires.
— Bushfires so far this season have razed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) of bushland and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, including 381 homes destroyed on the south coast just this week.
(This story corrects lead paragraph to say Thursday not Wednesday.)
(Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Jill Gralow in Batemans Bay; Editing by Jane Wardell and Neil Fullick)

1/2/2020 Thousands flee fires in Australia, navy helps evacuate the stranded by Jill Gralow and Sonali Paul
A satellite image shows bushfire smoke being blown away from Australia towards New Zealand on
January 2, 2020. in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. NOAA via REUTERS
    BATEMANS BAY, Australia/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of holiday makers fled seaside towns on Australia’s east coast on Thursday as bushfires approached, and military ships and helicopters began rescuing thousands more trapped by the blazes.
    Fueled by searing temperatures and high winds, more than 200 fires are burning across the southeastern states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, threatening several towns.
    The NSW state government declared a state of emergency, beginning on Friday, giving authorities the power to forcibly evacuate people and take control of services.
    “It is hell on earth.    It is the worst anybody’s ever seen,” Michelle Roberts said by telephone from the Croajingolong Cafe she owns in Mallacoota, a southeastern coastal town where 4,000 residents and visitors have been stranded on the beach since Monday night.
    Roberts hoped to get her 18-year-old daughter onto a naval ship, which arrived off the town on Thursday, in order to escape the fires and thick smoke engulfing the town.
    The HMAS Choules is expected to make two or three voyages over the coming days, state authorities said.
    Elsewhere, long queues formed outside supermarkets and petrol stations as residents and tourists sought supplies to either bunker down or escape the fires, emptying shelves of staples like bread and milk.
    More than 50,000 people were without power and some towns had no access to drinking water.
    “Everyone’s just on edge,” said Shane Flanagan, a resident of Batemans Bay on the NSW coast.
    Authorities urged a mass exodus from several towns on the southeast coast, an area popular with tourists during the summer holiday season, warning that extreme heat forecast for the weekend will further stoke the fires.
    “The priority today is fighting fires and evacuating, getting people to safety,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney.    “There are parts of both Victoria and New South Wales which have been completely devastated, with a loss of power and communications.”
    Eight people have been killed by wildfires in NSW and Victoria since Monday and 18 are missing, officials said on Thursday.
    Temperatures are forecast to soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) along the south coast on Saturday, bringing the prospect of renewed firefronts to add to the around 200 current blazes.
    “It is going to be a very dangerous day.    It’s going to be a very difficult day,” NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
    Following are highlights of what is happening across Australia:
*Naval officials said they would open registration for evacuation on Thursday afternoon, with the HMAS Choules able to carry up to 1,000 people on the first trip.
*"It’s 16-17 hours to the closest boat port, then we’ve got to come back,” HMAS Choules Commander Scott Houlihan said on Thursday afternoon. He said that leaving by boat was the only way out of the town.
*Thousands of people had already been evacuated from the adjoining region of East Gippsland in Victoria, one of the largest such operations in the country since the northern city of Darwin evacuated over 35,000 people in the aftermath of cyclone Tracy in 1974.
*Five military helicopters were en route to the south coast to back up firefighters and bring in supplies like water and diesel, the Australian Defence Force said.    The aircraft will also be used to evacuate injured, elderly and young people.
*A contingent of 39 firefighters from North America landed in Melbourne, bringing the number of U.S. and Canadian experts who have flown in to help deal with the crisis to almost 100.
*Traffic on the main highway out of Batemans Bay on the NSW coast was bumper-to-bumper after authorities called for the town to be evacuated.    Residents of the town reported there was no fuel, power or phone service, while supermarket shelves had been stripped bare of staples.
*NSW’s Kosciuszko National Park, home to the Snowy Mountains, was closed and visitors were ordered to leave due to an extreme danger of fire.
*Morrison urged those waiting for help and those stuck in traffic jams “to be patient … help will arrive.”
*Morrison, forced to defend his government’s limited action on climate change, blamed a three-year drought and lack of hazard reduction for the unprecedented extent and duration of this year’s bushfires.
*Bushfires so far this season have razed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) of bushland and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, including 381 homes destroyed on the south coast this week.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Jill Gralow in Batemans Bay; Editing by Jane Wardell, Neil Fullick and Mike Collett-White)

1/3/2019 Bird flu kills 25,000 turkeys in eastern Poland, sparks cull
    WARSAW, Poland – Authorities in eastern Poland said bird flu killed at least 25,000 turkeys in poultry farms near the country’s borders with Ukraine and Belarus.    Polish veterinary authorities on Thursday were planning to cull tens of thousands more birds in the Lubartow area, a major poultry farming region.    The chief veterinarian for Lublin province, Pawel Piotrowski, confirmed that the deadly H5N8 virus was responsible for the turkey deaths in two farms in Stary Uscimow, 30 miles from from the borders with Ukraine and Belarus.

1/3/2020 Indonesia plans cloud seeding to halt rain, floods death toll rises to 43
FILE PHOTO: Youth sits on a car at an area flooded after heavy rains in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 2, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia will carry out cloud seeding on Friday in a bid to prevent further rainfall over the capital Jakarta, after deadly flash floods and landslides following some of the heaviest rains ever recorded.
    The death toll in Jakarta and surrounding areas rose to 43 as of Friday, the country’s disaster mitigation agency said, while tens of thousands of people have been displaced.
    The toll increased from 30 on Thursday night.
    The floods followed torrential rains on Dec. 31 and into the early hours of New Year’s day that inundated swathes of Jakarta and nearby towns, home to about 30 million people.
    The deluge at the start of 2020 was “one of the most extreme rainfall” events since records began in 1866, the country’s Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said in a statement on Friday.
    The agency said climate change has increased risk of extreme weather.
    With more rain forecast, two small planes have been readied to break up potential rain clouds in the skies above the Sunda Strait, while a bigger plane will be on standby, Indonesia’s technology agency BPPT said in a statement.
    “All clouds moving toward the Greater Jakarta area, which are estimated to lead to precipitation there, will be shot with NaCl (sodium chloride) material,” the agency said.
    “Hopefully they will break before they reach the Greater Jakarta area.”
    Cloud seeding, or shooting salt flares into clouds in an attempt to trigger rainfall, is often used in Indonesia to put out forest fires during the dry season.
    The BMKG has warned that “extreme weather” may continue until Jan. 7, while heavy rainfall could last through to mid February.
    Television footage on Friday showed flood waters still inundating some areas of Southeast Asia’s largest city.
    Authorities on Thursday used hundreds of pumps to suck water out of residential areas and public infrastructure, like railways.
    President Joko Widodo blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the disaster, including the construction of a canal that has been delayed since 2017 due to land acquisition problems.
    Widodo last year announced he will move Indonesia’s capital to East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, to reduce the burden on Jakarta, which is overpopulated and sinking.
    More than 50 people died in one of the capital’s deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the center of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.
(Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Richard Pullin)

1/3/2020 Australia urges people to flee as fires set to surge at weekend by Jill Gralow and Wayne Cole
Horses graze amid haze in Jindabyne, a township affected by the Dunns Road bushfire, in New South Wales, Australia,
January 2, 2020, in this image obtained via social media. Sharon Dawson via REUTERS
    BATEMANS BAY, Australia/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Authorities urged Australians on Friday to evacuate parts of the eastern states of Victoria and New South Wales to escape bushfires they fear are set to burn out of control this weekend.
    In a harbinger of the searing conditions expected, a number of fires burnt out of control in South Australia as temperatures topped 40 degrees C (104 F) across much of the state and strong winds fanned flames.
    Victoria declared a state of disaster across areas home to about 100,000 people, with authorities urging people to evacuate before a deterioration expected on Saturday.
    “If they value their safety they must leave,” Michael Grainger of the state’s police emergency responders told reporters.    “I’d suggest personal belongings are of very, very little value in these circumstances."
    “These are dire circumstances, there is no doubt.”
    At the summer holiday peak, authorities have advised tens of thousands of holidaymakers and residents to leave national parks and tourist areas on the south coast of New South Wales, where a week-long state of emergency has been called.
    New South Wales “Tourist leave zone”:
    A death confirmed on Friday takes the state’s toll this week to eight.    Two people have died in Victoria, and 28 are unaccounted for.
    In Victoria, naval vessels Choules and Sycamore started evacuations of about a quarter of the 4,000 people stranded on a beach in the isolated town of Malla¬coota.
    With roads blocked, sea transport and some airlifts are the only way out of the stricken town, although heavy smoke prevented flights on Friday.
    People in the fire-devastated New South Wales town of Cobargo angrily confronted Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a visit on Thursday, with one shouting that the leader should be “ashamed of himself” and had “left the country to burn
    Morrison’s conservative government has long drawn criticism for not doing enough to battle climate change as a cause of Australia’s savage drought and fires.
    This season’s fires have scorched more than 5.25 million hectares (13 million acres) of bushland, with 1,365 homes destroyed in New South Wales alone, including 449 this week on the south coast.
* Weather officials on Friday rated the danger from fire “very high” to “extreme” in most districts in South Australia, with a similar outlook for New South Wales and Victoria on Saturday.
* Please click on links to see maps posted on Twitter by emergency services in both states to predict the spread of fires on Saturday: and
* The head of the opposition Labor Party demanded a national response.    “We haven’t, in my lifetime, had people on beaches waiting to be evacuated in life jackets…like it’s a peacetime version of something that we have seen during wartime,” Anthony Albanese told a news conference.
* Since Monday, wildfires have killed ten people in New South Wales and Victoria, with 28 still missing in the latter.
* Police and emergency officials urged tourists to leave the south coast and Snowy Mountains of New South Wales because of dangerous fire conditions, and set a Friday deadline of 10 a.m. (2300 GMT Thursday) to leave Kosciuszko National Park.
* Thousands of people had already been evacuated from East Gippsland in Victoria, one of the largest such exercises since more than 35,000 people evacuated from the northern city of Darwin in the aftermath of cyclone Tracy in 1974.
* A contingent of 39 firefighters from North America arrived in Melbourne this week, taking to almost 100 the number of U.S. and Canadians helping to tackle the crisis.
* New Zealand will send 22 more firefighters to Australia next week, adding to 157 sent since October.
* Morrison blamed a three-year drought and lack of hazard reduction for the unprecedented extent and duration of the bushfires.
* Morrison said he was inclined not to proceed with plans for a Jan. 13 visit to India because of the fires, following which he was to have visited Japan.
* United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the world was “not winning” the race to tackle global warming.
(Reporting by Jill Gralow and Wayne Cole; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Clarence Fernandez)

1/3/2020 Southeast Australia faces another dangerous day for bushfires
A supplied image obtained on January 3, 2020, shows bushfire evacuees aboard one of HMAS Choules' landing craft being ferried
out the ship at Mallacoota, Australia. AAP Image/Supplied by the Department of Defence, Helen Frank/via REUTERS
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian firefighters were set for a dangerous day on Saturday as fires in New South Wales and Victoria states were expected to burn uncontrollably due to temperatures above 40C (104F) and shifting, strong winds that will fan and spread the flames.
    Authorities have said conditions could be worse than on Tuesday, when out-of-control fires forced thousands of residents and summer holiday-makers to seek refuge on beaches as the flames burnt massive tracts of bushland.
    “It’s going to be a long and difficult day for everybody,” NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters.
    More than 100 fires were burning in NSW on Saturday and more than half were not contained, Fitzsimmons said, adding winds that will shift throughout the day will spread the blazes.
    “We know the fires we’ve got already … but what we need to be vigilant about today as well is the prospect of any new fires that might start under these hot, dry, windy conditions,” he said.
    In Victoria, where a state of disaster has been declared, there were evacuation recommendations for six fires, emergency warnings for another six, and dozens of others still burning.
    There have been 10 deaths from the fires in NSW and Victoria so far this week, about half the total toll for the current fire season, and authorities have said the focus on Saturday is preventing more loss of life.
    To that end, national parks have been closed and people strongly urged earlier this week to evacuate large parts of NSW’s south coast and Victoria’s north eastern regions.     “Today is all about saving lives,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, who has declared a week-long state of emergency.
    “All of the major road networks in NSW are still open, but we can’t guarantee that beyond the next few hours.    So, there are still windows for people it get out if they wish to do so.”
(Reporting by John Mair; Editing by Alistair Bell)

1/3/2020 Death toll rises to 43 in Jakarta following severe flooding by OAN Newsroom
Residents walk near the wreckage of vehicles that were swept away by flood in
Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
    The capitol of Indonesia remains in crisis following the city’s worst flood since 2013.    Friday reports said the death toll in Jakarta has risen to at least 43 with approximately 192,000 others displaced.
    The flooding broke out on New Year’s Day during citywide celebrations.    Torrential rain led to deep floodwaters, which were up to 10 feet in some areas.
Residents hold a lead rope through a flooded neighborhood in Tanggerang outside Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
    Since then, parts of the region have reportedly seen water begin to subside.    However, officials said the city is still in turmoil.
    “Strong currents swept away the cars, so they were overturned,” said one resident.    “The problem is this blocked access for teams providing aid.”
    Moving forward, officials are launching a cloud seeding program in hopes of dispersing any nearby rain clouds while the city recovers.    Cloud seeding introduces chemicals, such as salt, into the atmosphere, which causes the clouds to break up.
Residents move the wreckage of cars that were swept away by flood in
Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

1/4/2020 ‘Too late to leave’: Bushfires out of control across southeast Australia by John Mair and Will Ziebell
A supplied image obtained on January 3, 2020, shows bushfire evacuees aboard one of HMAS Choules' landing craft being
ferried out the ship at Mallacoota, Australia. AAP Image/Supplied by the Department of Defence, Helen Frank/via REUTERS
    SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Bushfires burned dangerously out of control on Australia’s east coast on Saturday, fueled by soaring temperatures and strong winds that had firefighters battling to save lives and property, and authorities said the worst of conditions was yet to come.
    By late afternoon, Victoria had 17 fires rated at emergency or evacuate warning levels and New South Wales had 12 rated emergency, with more than 100 others burning across the states.
    “We are in for a long night and we are still to hit the worst of it,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said at an afternoon briefing.    “It’s a very volatile situation.”
    Authorities have said conditions could turn out to be worse than New Year’s Eve, when fires burnt massive tracts of bushland and forced thousands of residents and summer holidaymakers to seek refuge on beaches.
    As the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) updated its emergency warnings on the fires, it repeatedly delivered the same blunt advice to those who had not evacuated at-risk areas: “It is too late to leave.    Seek shelter as the fire approaches.”
    One fire in southern NSW was generating its own thunderstorm, the RFS said, which created new dangers as lightning strikes could set off new fires.
    As the fires worsened, residents used social media to post photos of the sky turning black and red from the smoke and glare of the fires, including in the Victorian town of Mallacoota, where around 1,000 people were evacuated by sea on Friday.
    The federal government announced an unprecedented call up of army reservists to support firefighters as well other resources including a third navy ship equipped for disaster and humanitarian relief. [L4N29902C]
    Andy Gillham, the incident controller in the Victorian town of Bairnsdale, said the area had avoided the worst of the fires on Saturday but stressed this was an exceptional fire season.
    “In a normal year, we would start to see the fire season kick off in a big way around early January and we’re already up towards a million hectares of burnt country.    This is a marathon event and we expect to be busy managing these fires for at least the next eight weeks,” he said.
– Click on links to see maps posted by emergency services in NSW and Victoria to predict the spread of fires on Saturday: and
    Following are highlights of what is happening across Australia:
– Temperatures topped 45C (113F) in much of the Sydney metropolitan area, with Penrith recording a high of 48.9C (120F) according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Canberra, the national capital, recorded a temperature of 44C just after 4 pm, which the chief minister said was a record for the territory.
– A late southerly wind change expected on Saturday will dramatically lower temperatures, but it will also bring wind gusts of 70-80 kmh (43-50 mph) that are likely to fan the strength and unpredictability of fires that have already isolated towns, with major roads and highways being closed.
– In South Australia, two people died on Kangaroo Island, a popular holiday spot not far off the coast, taking the national toll from this week’s fires to 12. Twenty-one people remain unaccounted for in Victoria, down from 28 reported on Friday.
– South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said more than 100,000 hectares of Kangaroo Island, about one quarter of its total area, had been burnt, but weather conditions have now improved after Friday’s fires.
– The first of thousands of residents and vacationers stranded on a beach in Mallacoota in southeastern Australia landed near Melbourne on Saturday morning after a 20-hour journey by ship. A much bigger ship, carrying about 1,000 people, is due to arrive on Saturday afternoon.
– The focus on Saturday is preventing more loss of life, authorities said. National parks have been closed and people urged earlier this week to evacuate large parts of NSW’s south coast and Victoria’s north eastern regions, magnets for holidaymakers at the peak of Australia’s summer school holidays.
– National death toll in current fire season, which began in September, is 23, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
– Morrison confirmed that his visit to India and Japan scheduled for mid-January had been postponed due to the fires.
– More than 5.25 million hectares (13 million acres) of land has been burnt this fire season.
(Reporting by John Mair, Will Ziebell and Sonali Paul; Editing by Grant McCool, Kim Coghill and Himani Sarkar)

1/5/2020 China takes action on new ‘mystery disease’ by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    HONG KONG – Authorities activated a newly created “serious response” level Saturday as fears spread about a mysterious infectious disease that might have been brought back by visitors to a mainland Chinese city.
    Five possible cases were reported of a viral pneumonia that has also infected at least 44 people in Wuhan, an inland city west of Shanghai, about 570 miles north of Hong Kong.
    The outbreak, which emerged last month, revived memories of the 20022003 SARS epidemic that started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in the mainland, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
    The serious response level indicates a moderate impact on Hong Kong’s population of 7.5 million people.    It is the second-highest in a three-tier system that is part of a new government plan launched Saturday to respond to infectious diseases of unknown cause.
    The city’s health department added an additional thermal imaging system at Hong Kong’s airport on Friday to check the body temperature of arriving passengers.    More staff were assigned for temperature checks at the West Kowloon high-speed rail station that connects Hong Kong to the mainland.
    City leader Carrie Lam, on a visit to the train station Friday to review the health surveillance measures, urged travelers who develop respiratory symptoms to wear surgical masks, seek medical attention and let doctors know where they have been.    The Wuhan health commission said 11 of the 44 people diagnosed with the pneumonia were in critical condition as of Friday.    All were being treated in isolation and 121 others who had been in close contact with them were under observation.
    Most of the cases have been traced to the South China Seafood City food market in the suburbs of sprawling Wuhan, where offerings reportedly include wild animals that can carry viruses dangerous to humans.    The commission said the market was disinfected.
    The most common symptom has been fever, with shortness of breath and lung infections in a small number of cases, the commission said.     There have been no clear indications of human-to-human transmission of the disease.
    The latest cases in Hong Kong are females, ages 12 and 41, who had been to Wuhan in the past 14 days but did not appear to have visited the food market, the Hospital Authority said.    They were in stable condition.
Health surveillance officers check body temperatures of passengers near the immigration
counters at the international airport in Hong Kong. ANDY WONG/AP

1/5/2020 Australia begins damage assessment amid temporary respite from bushfires by John Mair and Paulina Duran
A satellite image shows wildfires burning east of Obrost, Victoria, Australia
January 4, 2020. Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS.
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian authorities began assessing the damage on Sunday from heatwave-spurred bushfires that swept through two states a day earlier, as cooler conditions provided a temporary respite from blazes that have scarred the country’s east coast for weeks.
    Light rain and cooler temperatures in the southeast of the country were a welcome change from the searing heat that has fueled the devastating fires, but officials warned they were not enough to put out almost 200 fires still burning.
    “It certainly is a welcome reprieve, it is psychological relief if nothing else,” New South Wales (NSW) state Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said in an afternoon briefing on the situation.    “But unfortunately it is not putting out the fires.”
    Tens of thousands of homes in both NSW and Victoria states were without power on Sunday as a large-scale military and police effort continued to provide supplies and evacuate thousands of people who have been trapped for days in coastal towns by the fires.
    Initial estimates put damaged or destroyed properties in the hundreds, but authorities said the mass evacuations by residents of at-risk areas appear to have prevented major loss of life.    Twenty-four people have been killed since the start of this year’s wildfire season.
    Fire officials said temperatures were expected to rise again during the week and the next major flashpoint would come by Thursday, but it was too early to gauge the likely severity of the threat.
    “The weather activity we’re seeing, the extent and spread of the fires, the speed at which they’re going, the way in which they are attacking communities who have never ever seen fire before is unprecedented,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
    Thousands of people have been evacuated from coastal towns at the peak of the summer holiday season, in one of the biggest coordinated operations since the evacuation of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy flattened the northern city in 1974.
    Australia has been battling blazes across much of its east coast for months, with experts saying climate change has been a major factor in a three-year drought that has left much of the country’s bushland tinder-dry and susceptible to fires.
    Following are highlights of what is happening across Australia:
– Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Singapore and Papua New Guinea have made offers of military support; New Zealand was sending an additional three Air Force helicopters and crews, two Army Combat Engineer Sections and a command element to support Australian Defense efforts.
– As smoke cleared, about 350 people were due to be airlifted out of the Victorian town of Mallacoota on Sunday, where around 1,000 people were evacuated by sea on Friday.    That would leave about 400 people who had chosen to stay in the community, The Age newspaper reported.
– No fires were burning out of control in the New South Wales, but four fires in Victoria had Evacuate Now or Emergency Level warnings.
– A threat earlier on Sunday to the NSW town of Eden had eased by late afternoon, and authorities said evacuation was no longer necessary.
– Haze from the fires was turning skies orange as far away as New Zealand; police there asked people to not call the emergency phone number.
– In Canberra, officials asked for 100,000 extra breathing masks from the national stockpile as the country’s capital recorded the worst air quality in the world on Sunday, according to the IQAir AirVisual global index.    The masks are expected to arrive on Monday.
– Actors, popstars and Britain’s royal family stepped in to offer support for victims of the fires, helping to raise millions for firefighting services and wildlife shelters.
– The death of a 47-year old man who was defending a friend’s rural property in NSW took the national toll this season to 24.    NSW Premier Berejiklian said there was no one unaccounted for in NSW; Victorian authorities said four people were unaccounted for in Victoria.
– The federal government on Saturday announced an unprecedented call up of army reservists to support firefighters as well other resources including a third navy ship equipped for disaster and humanitarian relief.    It also announced the creation of a federal bushfires response agency. [L4N29902C]
– RFS Commissioner Fitzsimmons criticized the government for not informing him of its policy proposal, saying he found out about it from the media and it created confusion on one of the busiest days ever for fighting fires.
– PM Morrison also faced criticism for a video he posted on social media outlining how the government is tackling the fires.    Morrison has been under sustained attack handling of the crisis after he jetted out for a family holiday in Hawaii.    He apologized and returned early but was heckled and snubbed when he toured fire-hit regions in recent days.
– More than 5.25 million hectares (13 million acres) of land has been burnt this fire season.    Almost 1,500 homes have been destroyed in NSW state alone.
(Reporting by John Mair and Paulina Duran; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jane Wardell)

1/5/2020 Cambodia building collapse kills 36 people, injures 23 others by Prak Chan Thul
A rescue team searches for trapped workers at a collapsed building, which was
under construction in Kep, Cambodia January 3, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer
    PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Thirty-six people were killed and 23 more injured when a tourist guesthouse under construction in Cambodia collapsed, trapping workers under rubble, officials said on Sunday.
    Officials said rescue operations ended two days after the seven-storey concrete building collapsed on Friday in the coastal town of Kep, about 160 km (100 miles) southwest of the capital Phnom Penh.
    The 36 dead included six children and 14 women, officials said in a statement that did not detail why children were at the construction site.
    Kep Governor Ken Satha said that the owners of the building, a Cambodian couple, had been detained for questioning.
    However, Prime Minister Hun Sen defended the government response and said that no officials in Kep province would be fired.
    “Building collapses don’t only happen in Cambodia … they happen elsewhere … including in the United States,” Hun Sen said in a news briefing.
    Cambodia is undergoing a construction boom to serve growing crowds of Chinese tourists and investors.
    The Kep building collapse came six months after 28 people were killed when a Chinese-owned construction site collapsed in Preah Sihanouk province.    Seven people were charged with involuntary manslaughter and Hun Sen fired a disaster management official over that accident.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Kim Coghill and Jane Wardell)

1/6/2020 Australia races to evacuate stranded as bushfires take a breather by Sonali Paul and Jonathan Barrett
A burning gum tree is felled to stop it from falling on a car in Corbago, as bushfires
continue in New South Wales, Australia January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy
    MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian officials used a respite on Monday from fierce wildfires that have killed 24 people across the country’s southeast to race to reopen blocked roads and evacuate people who have been trapped for days.
    A second day of light rain and cool winds brought some relief from heatwave-fuelled blazes that ripped through two states over the weekend, but officials warned the hazardous weather conditions were expected to return later in the week.
    “There is no room for complacency,” New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Monday morning.    Two people remained missing as around 130 fires continued to burn in the state, though not at a high-alert level.
    Authorities redoubled their efforts on Monday to provide supplies and repatriate thousands of people who have been trapped by fire lines in coastal towns for several days.
    “This morning it is all about recovery, making sure people who have been displaced have somewhere safe (to go) and it is making sure we have resources to build up the presence on the ground to clean up the roads, clean up where the rubble exists,” Berejiklian said.
    Dean Linton, a resident of Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains, used the break from an immediate threat to his town to visit his wife and four children who had evacuated to Sydney. He also used the 870 kilometre round trip to pick up a fire-fighting pump and generator to help him protect the family home.
    “There’s a lot of fuel in that national park; it would only take one lightning strike,” Linton told Reuters.
    The bushfire season started earlier than normal this year following a three-year drought that has left much of the country’s bushland tinder-dry and vulnerable to fires.    More than 5 million hectares (12 million acres) of land have been destroyed.
    Following are highlights of what is happening across Australia:
– There were no emergency warnings in fire-ravaged states on Monday following the weather change.    Victoria state had 25 “watch and act” alerts and South Australia had one “watch and act” alert.    In NSW, all fires were back at the “advice” level, the lowest alert level, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
– Fire officials said the light rain that has brought some relief also posed challenges for back-burning efforts to reduce fuel for future fires and bring existing fires under control.
– In Batemans Bay on the New South Wales south coast, power was expected to remain out for several more days.    Further south in Bermagui, food and fuel were running out, Australian Broadcasting Corp reported.
– Military helicopters were due to evacuate more people, including the elderly and young children, from Mallacoota on Monday.    More than a thousand people were evacuated from the Victoria state town by two naval ships on Friday.
– Insurers have received 5,850 bushfire-related claims in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland since the Insurance Council declared a bushfire catastrophe on Nov 8.
– Bushfire losses are estimated at A$375 million ($260 million) since November, with a further A$56 million in insured property losses in September and October, the Insurance Council said.    Figures do not include properties lost over the past 24 to 36 hours in areas such as the NSW Southern Highlands and south coast.
– Accommodation provider Aspen Group said on Monday it expects a A$500,000 hit to both revenue and net operating income from the bushfires.
– Canberra was running short of masks with the nation’s capital blanketed in smoke, ACT emergency services said.    The National Gallery of Australia said it was closed to protect visitors and art works.    The government department responsible for coordinating Australia’s response to disasters and emergency management also closed its doors due to poor air quality.
– Army personnel plan to begin digging graves to bury more than one hundred thousand sheep and cattle killed in the bushfires.
– Actor Russell Crowe skipped Hollywood’s Golden Globes ceremony, where he won an award for playing former Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes in the TV series “The Loudest Voice in the Room.”    Presenter Jennifer Aniston said Crowe stayed in Australia to protect his family from the bushfires and read remarks he had prepared where he said the fires were “climate change based.”
– Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued to face criticism of his handling of the crisis. “Poor political judgment is one thing.    Competency is another thing altogether.    This is the political danger zone Scott Morrison wants to avoid in his handling of the bushfire crisis,” Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, a supporter of the government, said in an article by the newspaper’s national affairs editor on Monday.
– State officials have thanked people for donations of clothes and food, but said that cash was more useful.
– 41 U.S. firefighters are in Victoria with a further 70 from Canada and the United States expected to join on Jan. 8, the Victoria Country Fire Authority said on Twitter.
(GRAPHIC: A devastated east coast –
(Reporting by Sonali Paul and Jonathan Barrett; Additional reporting by Paulina Duran and Swati Pandey in Sydney and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Jane Wardell)

1/6/2020 Quake rattles Puerto Rico, damages homes on southern coast
A house is seen collapsed on its foundation after an earthquake in Guanica, Puerto Rico January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Ricardo
    (Reuters) – A 5.8-magnitude earthquake off the southern coast of Puerto Rico on Monday damaged homes and destroyed a rock formation on a beach that had been a tourist attraction, but there were no reports of injuries.
    The quake was shallow at 3.7 miles (6 km) beneath the surface with an epicenter 8 miles (13 km) south-southeast of Indios, the U.S. Geological Survey said, enough to rattle the southwestern corner of the Caribbean island.
    It was the largest in a series of quakes that have struck the area over the past two weeks.
    Several homes were knocked off their pillars in the towns of Guanica and Guayanilla.    Television images showed a number of elevated homes that crushed vehicles parked beneath the main floor.
    U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said his office would be in contact with local and federal authorities to determine if government aid was needed for the U.S. territory.
    Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez said she convened a meeting of her security team, which was assessing the damage.
    Guayanilla also lost a tourist attraction called the Window of the Caribbean, a rock formation jutting into the sea that formerly featured a doughnut-like hole that provided a frame for the seascape behind it.    With the quake, the top layer of rock and earth fell into the water.
    The top of the frame had been subjected to partial collapse with the recent temblors and finally gave way with Monday’s quake, Telemundo Puerto Rico television reported.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chris Reese)

1/6/2020 U.S. states must target gas, oil use to meet climate goals: report by Valerie Volcovici
FILE PHOTO: A natural gas rig is pictured in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania, November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Brett Carlsen
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ten U.S. states, led by New York, California and Illinois, account for 56% of carbon emissions from buildings nationwide, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that needs to be tackled over the next decade to combat climate change, according to a report released on Monday.
    The Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit that promotes clean energy, analyzed the impact of fossil fuels in buildings nationwide, an economic sector that unlike power providers has not decarbonized over the last decade and accounts for one-tenth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
    With the contraction of coal mining and retirement of coal plants over the last 10 years, electric power-sector emissions have fallen by a quarter.    But emissions from natural gas and other fossil fuels burned in buildings has not budged, the report said.
    “To address the climate crisis, emissions reductions in every sector need to be made,” said Bruce Nilles, manager for building electrification at the Rocky Mountain Institute, in an interview. “But until now, buildings have escaped focus.”
    Policies aimed at banning the use of natural gas in new buildings and instead relying on electricity have started to gain ground in California, Massachusetts and elsewhere as some states aim to break their dependence on natural gas and heating oil.
    Over 20 California cities passed measures to phase out fossil fuels in buildings this year, along with Brookline, Massachusetts.    Both states rank in the top 10 in terms of greenhouse gas emissions from their buildings.
    These policies have alarmed the American Gas Association, which insists that natural gas, which is cleaner burning than coal, should be part of the solution to tackle climate change.
    Scott Prochazka, chair of the AGA, told reporters last month that the trade group will focus on “pulling in natural allies” to help fight against city councils, such as Seattle’s that aim to pass natural gas bans for buildings.
    “We plan on engaging in this issue deeply,” he said.
    The Rocky Mountain Institute analysis found that in several northeastern states, fossil fuel reliance in buildings is much higher in states that have committed to ambitious climate goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
    For states like Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont – as well as the District of Columbia – these targets “cannot be achieved without removing fossil fuels from buildings.”
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Richard Chang)

1/6/2020 Death toll following Jakarta floods hits 66, officials opening temporary shelters by OAN Newsroom
People rest at a temporary shelter for those affected by the floods in Jakarta, Indonesia,
Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Severe flooding in the capital as residents celebrated the new year has killed
dozens of people and displaced hundreds of thousands others. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
    Tens of thousands of Jakarta residents are in shelters as officials grapple with the aftermath of recent deadly flooding. Approximately 173,000 residents have reportedly been displaced.
    As a result, shelters have been inundated with survivors and city officials have launched a disinfectant initiative to stop the spread of waterborne diseases.
    Many government buildings, schools, and malls have also reportedly been turned into temporary shelters.    An official with the National Agency for Disaster Management said evacuees are in need of drinkable water and cleaning products.
    “Utmost needs are clothes, cleansing products and drinkable water,” stated the official.
    This comes as the death toll in Jakarta has reportedly risen to at least 66 people.

1/7/2020 White House proposes regulatory principles to govern AI use by David Shepardson
FILE PHOTO: A sign advertising AI is seen at CES (Consumer Electronics Show)
Asia 2019 in Shanghai, China June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
    LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – The White House on Tuesday proposed regulatory principles to govern the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) aimed at limiting authorities’ “overreach”, and said it wants European officials to likewise avoid aggressive approaches.
    In a fact sheet, the White House said federal agencies should “conduct risk assessment and cost-benefit analyses prior to any regulatory action on AI, with a focus on establishing flexible frameworks rather than one-size-fits-all regulation.”
    The comments come at a time when companies are racing to integrate AI and deep machine learning into their businesses to remain competitive.    However, the technology raises ethical concerns about control, privacy, cyber security and the future of work, companies and experts have said.
    The Trump administration said agencies should “promote trustworthy AI” and “must consider fairness, non-discrimination, openness, transparency, safety, and security.”
    As an example, the White House cited the Food and Drug Administration which is currently considering how to regulate the use of AI and machine learning technologies by medical device manufacturers.
    The White House said, “Europe and our allies should avoid heavy handed innovation-killing models.”    It added, “the best way to counter authoritarian uses of AI is to make sure America and our international partners remain the global hubs of innovation.”
    Last year, the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence issued a set of ethical guidelines and European Union leaders are considering regulatory action.
    Some U.S. states have raised concerns about AI applications.    California’s legislature in September passed a three-year ban on state and local law enforcement using body cameras with facial-recognition software, the latest curb on technology that some say poses a threat to civil liberties.    Some U.S. cities have also voted to bar facial-recognition technology by law enforcement.
    The White House’s Michael Kratsios, chief technology officer of the United States, who will talk about the administration’s AI strategy at the CES trade show in Las Vegas later this week, in a statement said Tuesday’s “principles set the nation on a path of continued AI innovation and discovery.”
    In February, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order for federal government agencies to dedicate more resources and investment to AI-related research, promotion and training.
    A 2018 study from consultancy PwC said 30% of jobs around the world are at risk of automation by the mid-2030s, including 44% of workers with low education.    The study also found automation could boost global gross domestic product by $15 trillion by 2030.
    The White House held a meeting on AI in 2018 with over 30 major companies from a variety of industries, including Ford Motor Co, Boeing Co, Inc and Microsoft Corp, vowing not to stand in the way of the technology’s development.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
[The problem is that an administration like the one that Obama ran would find a way to use it to control the population which I would say the Chinese have already started doing that].

1/7/2020 Puerto Rico declares emergency after strongest earthquake in 102 years by Luis Valentin Ortiz
A home is seen collapsed after an earthquake in Guanica, Puerto Rico January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ricardo Ortiz
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard on Tuesday after a series of earthquakes including one of magnitude 6.4 that was the most powerful to strike the Caribbean island in 102 years.
    The temblors killed at least one person, provoked a protective power outage across the entire island and cut off drinking water to 300,000 customers, Vazquez told a news conference, where she also announced the emergency measures.
    At least 346 people were left homeless, officials said.
    The declaration of emergency will facilitate financial aid for the U.S. territory, and Vazquez said she had already been in contact with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    The island has been rocked by a series of quakes – literally hundreds – since Dec. 28, including 10 of magnitude 4 or greater, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A 5.8-magnitude temblor on Monday damaged some homes on the southern coast.
    Powerful quakes are rare in Puerto Rico, and Tuesday’s 6.4 was the strongest in more than a century, the island’s seismology office Red Sismica said.    On Oct. 11, 1918, a 7.3 magnitude quake and tsunami killed 116 people, according to Red Sismica data.
    The U.S. territory is still recovering from a pair of devastating 2017 hurricanes that killed about 3,000 people and destroyed a significant amount of infrastructure.    Puerto Rico is also working through a bankruptcy process to restructure about $120 billion of debt and pension obligations.
    “We are a resilient people.    We have responded to many difficult situations.    Now this has been asked of us one more time,” Vazquez said.
    One of Tuesday’s quakes triggered an automatic shutdown of electricity across the island as a safety measure, and a later, more powerful quake caused significant damage to some power plants in the southern part of the island, Vazquez said.
    Some 300,000 of Puerto Rico’s 1.3 million water customers lacked service, she said.    The governor confirmed one death, as reported by El Nuevo Dia, that a 73-year-old man died after a wall fell on>     But she said it was too soon to offer an accurate assessment of damage or injuries.
    Vazquez, who assumed office in August after Ricardo Rossello stepped down in the face of massive street protests, repeated pleas for people to remain calm.
    “Nothing is gained by creating hysteria,” she said, while asking people to on check on their neighbors, especially the elderly.
    The first and biggest quake on Tuesday, of magnitude 6.4, struck at a depth of 10.0 km (six miles) at 4:24 am (0824 GMT) near Ponce on the island’s southern coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
    Witnesses on social media described the quake as “super strong” and lasting up to 30 seconds.    It was followed by a number of hefty aftershocks including one measuring 5.8.
    The impact along the country’s southern coast appeared significant.
    The quake severely damaged the Immaculate Conception church in Guayanilla, leaving about half of it standing and surrounded by piles of rubble, according to video posted by Wapa TV. A picture published by El Nuevo Dia showed people removing artifacts.
    At least eight homes collapsed in Yauco, El Nuevo Dia reported, citing Mayor Angel Torres.    Wapa TV video showed one home in Yauco flattened, its roof intact atop debris and slanting until it touched the ground.
    The international airport in Carolina, just east of San Juan, continued normal service with the help of power generators, El Nuevo Dia reported, citing Jorge Hernandez, chief executive of Aerostar Airport Holdings.
    In the town of Guanica, several buildings collapsed.    Further east in Maunabo, video on social media showed people evacuating to higher ground following a tsunami warning.
    The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported a small tsunami measuring around 20 centimeters (7.9 inches).
(Reporting by Luis Valentin Ortiz; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta and Shubham Kalia; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)

1/7/2020 Australia strengthens bushfire defenses as economic, environmental costs mount by Colin Packham
Aerial view of a destroyed house in Batlow, Australia January 6, 2020, in this still image obtained from
video. Nine Network/Seven Network/Australian Broadcasting Corporation Pool/Reuters TV/via REUTERS.
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian firefighters used a break from searing temperatures on Tuesday to strengthen containment lines around huge wildfires as the financial and environmental costs of the crisis mounted.
    More than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land an area the size of South Korea – have been razed by bushfires across the country in recent weeks, according to the latest data, with the southeast particularly hard hit.
    Imagery posted online from the Himawari 8 Japanese satellite and NASA’s Earth Observatory showed plumes of smoke from the fires reaching as far as South America.
    Firefighters on the ground were making the most of a few days of cooler temperatures in the southeast to prepare for the expected return of heat and wind later this week that is expected to fan existing blazes and spark new ones.
    “We need to remain vigilant,” Andrew Crisp, Victoria state’s emergency management commissioner, told reporters.
    “We talk about benign conditions, and the fire is suppressed, but it is still there.    It is still tinder dry.”
    Australia’s bushfire season started earlier than normal this year following a three-year drought that has left much of the country’s bushland vulnerable to fires.
    Thousands of people have been left homeless, while many in rural towns have spent days without electricity, telecommunications and, in some cases, drinking water.    Military-coordinated rescue and support efforts are going on.
    Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the crisis would have a significant economic impact as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg met chief executives of insurers Insurance Australia Group, Suncorp Group and QBE Insurance Group, and local heads of Germany’s Allianz and Switzerland’s Zurich Insurance Group, plus heads of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Group.
    Morrison on Monday pledged A$2 billion ($1.39 billion) to a newly created National Bushfire Recovery Agency.
    The Insurance Council of Australia increased its estimate for damage claims from the fires to more than A$700 million, with claims expected to jump when more fire-hit areas are accessible.
    Following are some highlights of what is happening in the Australian bushfires crisis:
* Two men reported missing in New South Wales have been found, police said.
* Forty-eight U.S. firefighters are scheduled to arrive in Australia on Wednesday, officials said, joining 39 compatriots already on the ground.    A further 18 incident management personnel from the United States and Canada will arrive on Wednesday.
* Prime Minister Morrison said he spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also offered support.
* Morrison attended the funeral of volunteer firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer, who was killed along with colleague Geoffrey Keaton on Dec. 19 after a burnt tree fell in the path of their firetruck, causing it to roll.
* Data showed the fires were beginning to have an effect on the economy.    The ANZ gauge of consumer confidence fell last week to its lowest level in more than four years, while its job advertisement data recorded the biggest monthly drop in seven months in December.
* The military was deployed to help bury an estimated 4,000 dead sheep and cattle.
* Authorities said the number of people calling for urgent medical care in Victoria jumped 51% on Monday as smoke covered the state.
* There were 132 fires ablaze across New South Wales state, but all were back at the “advice” level, the lowest alert rating.
* Victoria state had 39 fires with 13 “watch and act” alerts.
* Almost 1,600 homes have been destroyed in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, authorities said. In Victoria state, authorities believe 300 homes have been destroyed.
* Insurers have received 8,985 bushfire-related claims in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland since the Insurance Council declared a bushfire catastrophe on Nov. 8.    The claims are estimated to have a loss value of A$700 million.    The council recorded the destruction of 1,838 residential properties.
* A member of parliament from Morrison’s party was criticized for an appearance on the “Good Morning Britain” ITV program during which he said there was no link between climate change and the bushfire crisis.    “There is no link, the facts that cause the fires are the drought and the drying of the environment,” lawmaker Craig Kelly said.
(Reporting by Colin Packham and Byron Kaye; additional reporting by Swati Pandey and Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Jane Wardell, Robert Birsel)

1/8/2020 WHO: Death toll from measles outbreak in Congo hits 6,000
    DAKAR, Senegal – The death toll from a measles epidemic in Congo has surpassed 6,000, the World Health Organization said Tuesday as it warned that more funds are needed to save lives during the world’s worst outbreak of the infectious disease.    Measles has killed nearly three times as many people in Congo than an Ebola outbreak in the country that has garnered far more international attention.    WHO said that $40 million is needed for a special six-month plan to vaccinate older children between the ages of 6 and 14.

1/8/2020 Chinese officials increase safety precautions in response to mysterious illness outbreak by OAN Newsroom
Health surveillance officer use device to check temperature of passengers before the immigration
counters at International airport in Hong Kong, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
    Officials in China are looking to keep people safe as a mysterious illness outbreak threatened travelers in the new year.    On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy released a travel warning for the city of Wuhan, citing an outbreak of unknown cause.
    While the travel advisory has only been issued in one province, nearby areas like Hong Kong are preparing to increase safety measures as well.
    “The border entry-exit control points have enhanced health surveillance and inspection. Medical personnel have been advised to stay alert and quarantine the suspected cases as early as possible.    The Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau will keep in close contact with the World Health Organization.” – Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference at the Office of the Chief Executive in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
    59 people are receiving treatment for the illness, which was described as being similar to pneumonia.    It is still being investigated.
    The increase in travel security came in preparation for the thousands who will travel to visit family during the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, which will start on January 25th.
Commuters wear protection masks inside a subway train in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
[I am concerned about this because in the 1980’s when I lived in California I got the Hong Kong flu and was sick with respitory problems for over three weeks and no cure for it, until I had 2 martinis at LAX and it went away.    So I suspect the cure was vodka or vermouth.].

1/9/2020 Extreme weather leaves Congo capital residents underwater by Benoit Nyemba
A Congolese woman walks from a shop through floodwaters along a street after the Congo River burst its banks
due to heavy rainfall in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe
    KINSHASA (Reuters) – Paulin Bolumbu thought his family lived a safe distance from the Congo River, but in November the water overran its banks by more than half a kilometer, inundating his corrugated iron house.
    “The river often bursts its banks but it never came up to this level,” said Bolumbu, clambering across wooden planks he had installed to create a makeshift floor above the floodwater for the family’s beds and clothing.
    A television and radio were stacked higher still atop a wooden cabinet.
    Democratic Republic of Congo is one of several central African countries to be hit by severe flooding in recent months, which researchers have attributed to increasingly intense and unpredictable weather linked to global warming.
    Flooding in November in the capital Kinshasa led to landslides that killed 39 people.
    The rains can be deadly in other ways, too.
    Henry Bofason said two of his children died of typhoid on Dec. 29 and Jan. 2 because of unsanitary conditions in the church where they and more than 700 others had taken shelter.
    “The children are always sick here because the environment is not healthy,” Bofason told Reuters while seated next to his son’s coffin alongside his wife and his remaining five children.
    In the Manzenze and Ngewele neighborhoods, residents say the flooding is the worst in at least 15 years, keeping dozens of city blocks underwater for the last two months.
    Hundreds of residents have abandoned their homes altogether.    Paulin, a motorcycle taxi driver who didn’t give his last name, now ferries clients by canoe around canals choked with leaves and plastic bottles.
    John Waku, the operations manger for Congo’s national meteorology agency, said the floods were the result of climate change coupled with poor drainage and other infrastructure in Kinshasa, a city of more than 12 million people.
    Heavy rainfall in Congo’s northern rainforest swelled the Ubangi River, a tributary of the Congo, in October and November, sending unusually high volumes of water rushing toward Kinshasa.
    “Climate change can manifest itself in an increase in the frequency or the intensity of meteorological phenomena.    There are those two elements here,” Waku said.
    Several of Congo’s neighbors have also seen flooding.    Torrential rains in Central African Republic in October destroyed 10,000 houses and forced 100,000 people from their homes, the United Nations said.
    South Sudan declared a national emergency in October after 420,000 people fled from floods.    Researchers tied the heavy rains to warmer-than-usual waters in the western Indian Ocean that caused increased evaporation.
(The story corrects spelling of meteorology official’s surname in paragraphs 11 and 13)
(Writing by Aaron Ross; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

1/10/2020 Get out”: Australians urged to flee as huge bushfires revitalize by Colin Packham and Wayne Cole
Cows stand in the field with bushfire burning in the background, in Kangaroo Island, Australia January 9, 2020
in this still image obtained from social media. PAUL STANTON - PAUL'S PLACE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY/via REUTERS
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian authorities urged nearly a quarter of a million people to evacuate their homes on Friday and prepared military backup as soaring temperatures and erratic winds were expected to fan deadly bushfires across the east coast.
    Temperatures were expected to shoot well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several parts of the country on Friday, accompanied by high winds, threatening to inflame fires that have already left thousands of people homeless.
    “If you can get out, you should get out, you shouldn’t be in the remote and forested parts of our State,” Andrew Crisp, emergency management commissioner for the state of Victoria, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
    Emergency alert text messages had been sent to 240,000 people in Victoria state alone, telling them to leave, Crisp said.    People in high-risk regions in New South Wales and South Australia states were also urged to think about leaving, but authorities had not provided numbers.
    Twenty-seven people have been killed and thousands subjected to repeat evacuations as monster – and unpredictable – fires have scorched through more than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land, an area the size of South Korea.
    John White, Mayor of East Gippsland, an area that was ravaged by fires on New Year’s Eve, told Reuters that residents were on the move: “people aren’t taking any chances.”
    Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had given instructions to the military so “that they are to stand ready to move and support immediately” as firefighters battle 150 blazes across the country.
    Australia’s wildfires have dwarfed other catastrophic blazes around the world.    Combining 2019 fires in California, Brazil and Indonesia still amounts to less than half the burned area in Australia.
    GRAPHIC: Sizing up Australia’s bushfires –     Australia’s government has maintained there is no direct link between climate change and the devastating bushfires, a stance that has prompted campaigners to plan worldwide protests for Friday.
    “We don’t want job destroying, economy destroying, economy wrecking targets and goals which won’t change the fact that there are bushfires or anything like that in Australia,” Morrison told 2GB Radio, referring to calls for the government to commit to higher carbon emissions cuts.
    Following are some highlights of what is happening in the bushfire crisis:
* There were 134 fires ablaze across New South Wales, with around 50 uncontained on Friday.    All other fires were at the “advice” level, the lowest alert rating.
* Victoria state had 16 fires, two of which were so severe that evacuation orders have been issued. One more fire was at an emergency level.
* In South Australia state, nine fires were ablaze, one of which was at a emergency level.
* Climate protests were planned for Friday in several cities, including Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, targeting the Australian government handling of the crisis and its position on climate change.
* Prime Minister Morrison said on Friday he was considering holding a wide-ranging national inquiry into the bushfires after the immediate crisis had passed.
* NSW authorities said just shy of 2,000 homes have been destroyed in the state, half of those in the past 10 days.
* Australian cricketer Shane Warne’s prized “baggy green” cap raised more than A$1 million at an auction for bushfire relief efforts.
* Authorities have warned that the huge fires, spurred by high temperatures, wind and a three-year drought, will persist until there is substantial rainfall.    The weather agency said there was no sign of that for months.
* Ecologists at the University of Sydney have estimated 1 billion animals have been killed or injured in the bushfires, potentially destroying ecosystems.
* Moody’s Analytics said the cost of the fires could easily surpass that of deadly 2009 Black Saturday fires that destroyed 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres)of land, which cost an estimated A$4.4> * Morrison has pledged A$2 billion ($1.4 billion) to a newly created National Bushfire Recovery Agency.
* About 100 firefighters from the United States and Canada are helping with another 140 expected in coming weeks.
* The fires have emitted 400 megatonnes of carbon dioxide and produced harmful pollutants, the European Union’s Copernicus monitoring program said.
* Smoke has drifted across the Pacific, affecting cities in South America, and may have reached the Antarctic, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said.
(Reporting by Wayne Cole and Colin Packham; editing by Jane Wardell)

1/10/2020 Multi-hazard storm to hit Midwest, Southeast, Northeast U.S. by OAN Newsroom
A man drives through a flooded roadway, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, near Littlerock, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
    A major storm is expected to hit the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast United States this weekend.    The National Weather Service is calling it a “triple threat” and a “powerhouse storm system.”
    It’s expected to hit East Texas on Friday night and will bring heavy rain, potential flooding and severe storms to residents from Dallas to Chicago.    Approximately three to six inches of rain were projected for these areas.
    Areas from Oklahoma City up to Wisconsin and Illinois will have a high chance of snow and ice.    Experts estimated about six inches of snow is possible.
    In the South, severe thunderstorms and intense winds are expected to affect parts of Texas, Northern Louisiana and Southern Arkansas. Experts said there’s even a chance of tornadoes at some point over the weekend.
    More than 40 million people are under flood watch, 25 million are under winter weather alerts and more than 20 million are under extreme wind advisories through Sunday.
    The National Weather Service is urging affected residents, especially those under tornado watch, to download the FCC’s wireless emergency alert app for quick notification of evacuation alerts and more.

1/11/2020 Australian bushfires ease, promise reprieve to build defenses by John Mair and Lidia Kelly
Smoke rises from the Eden Woodchip Mill, from a fire that has been blazing for days, after bushfires
came close the previous week to Eden, Australia January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Bushfire conditions eased in Australia on Saturday after a grueling night for firefighters, with authorities saying they expect at least a week of milder weather in which to step up defenses against the huge blazes still burning.
    Cooler temperatures and rainfall had eased conditions after Friday’s strong southerly wind change that packed gusts of more than 100 kph (60 mph), whipping some fires on the east coast up to the emergency warning level.
    The much needed respite was an opportunity to consolidate and try and get the upper hand over the fires, said Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service.
    “It would appear that we have got at least a week,” Fitzsimmons told a media briefing.    “It will probably be the best seven days we have had without a rise of very dangerous fire ratings.”
    New South Wales police said in a statement that areas not affected by the bushfires of the South Coast, a popular holiday destination, are in a position to reopen for business, although national parks remain close until Feb. 1.
    Officials have been urging foreign tourists to continue visiting Australia, which depends on income from tourism as the industry accounts for 3.1% of the country’s gross domestic product.
    South Australian fire officials said the situation on Kangaroo Island has stabilized after more than 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) had burnt in blazes described as “hell on earth,” by the island’s mayor, Michael Pengill, on Twitter.
    Since October, 27 people have been killed in Australia and thousands subjected to repeat evacuations as huge and unpredictable fires scorched more than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres), an area roughly the size of South Korea.
    The Sydney Opera House was expected to illuminate its sails on Saturday evening with a display of images from the last three months of the fire crisis, honoring those affected and those fighting the flames.
    Despite Saturday’s respite, authorities were clear, however, that the risk was far from over.
    “It is great to have some respite now, so we can reset and refocus in terms of our operational activities and what we can do to support community, but we will have more hot weather,” Andrew Crisp, Victoria’s emergency management commissioner, told reporters.
    Here are key events in the crisis:
* Across New South Wales, nearly 140 fires were stillburning by Saturday afternoon, 59 of them not contained, butnone at emergency level.    About 2,000 homes have been destroyedin the state.
* One New South Wales person was taken to hospital in Sydneyon Friday with serious burns suffered while defending aproperty.
* One fire was still burning at emergency level in Victoriaon Saturday from a total of about 20 burning there.
* A number of fires burning in the Snowy Mountains region in New South Wales and across into Victoria have merged across more than 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of land. They do notpose a threat, authorities say, despite being in an area hard to reach.
* Victoria emergency services minister Lisa Neville urged communities affected by the fires to use the expected milderweather conditions to check on each other.
* Thousands of Australians took to the streets on Friday toprotest against government inaction on climate change, and were supported by protesters in London.
* Westpac estimated total bushfire losses to date at about A$5 billion ($3.4 billion), higher than the 2009 bushfires inVictoria but smaller than the Queensland floods in 2010/11.    It forecast a hit of 0.2% to 0.5% on gross domestic product.
* Australia’s alpine resorts have dusted off wintersnowmaking machines to blast ice-cold water onto dry ski slopes.
* The Insurance Council of Australia increased to more thanA$900 million its estimate of damage claims from the fires, andthey are expected to jump further.
* Health officials in New South Wales urged extraprecautions to avoid heat-related illnesses.
* Australia’s wildfires have dwarfed other recentcatastrophic blazes, with its burnt terrain more than twice theextent of that ravaged by 2019 fires in Brazil, California andIndonesia combined.
* Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged A$2 billion($1.4 billion) to a newly created National Bushfire RecoveryAgency.
* About 100 firefighters from the United States and Canadaare helping, with another 140 expected in coming weeks.
* The fires have emitted 400 megatonnes of carbon dioxideand produced harmful pollutants, the European Union’s Copernicusmonitoring program said.
* Smoke has drifted across the Pacific, affecting cities inSouth America, and may have reached the Antarctic, the U.N.’sWorld Meteorological Organization said.
(Reporting by John Mair and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Clarence Fernandez & Shri Navaratnam)

1/11/2020 Puerto Rico shaken by magnitude 5.9 earthquake by OAN Newsroom
Cars are crushed under a home that collapsed after an earthquake hit Guanica, Puerto Rico, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
    A magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook Puerto Rico on Saturday, adding to damage sustained by the U.S. territory’s recent series of quakes.    The quake struck the southern part of the island at a depth of about three miles.
    Thousands of people remain in shelters or on the streets after a 6.4 quake shook the island on Tuesday, killing one person and damaging hundreds of buildings.

People whose homes are unsafe to enter after the previous day’s magnitude 6.4 earthquake
line up for lunch in an outdoor area of the Bernardino Cordero Bernard High School, amid aftershocks
and no electricity in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
    The island nation’s Governor Wanda Vasquez said President Trump is offering support to those affected by these quakes.    On Tuesday, the president approved an emergency declaration to help with recovery efforts.
    “Thanks to Sen. Scott, I just had a personal call with President Donald Trump, who expressed his support for Puerto Rico,” stated Vasquez.     “We also expressed to him our people’s support for rapid action, not only from the initial declaration, but also from the declaration that we are going to request, which is for a greater disaster.”
    The governor and Florida Sen. Rick Scott toured the Costa Sur Power Plant on Friday.
    “I will work my tail off to make sure all the federal resources that can be available will be available.    I’ve been talking to FEMA, to the Department of Transportation, to the White House, to the Office of Management and Budget, and I will keep doing whatever I can to be helpful.    I’ve talked to President Trump about this…he is committed to making sure that all the federal resources are there.” – Rick Scott, United States Senator
    The plant is located in the town of Guayanilla, which was hit the hardest by Tuesday’s quake.    The toppling of the plant left nearly 3 million residents without power.
    Crews are currently assessing new possible power plant damage.    On Thursday, Puerto Rico’s top energy executive warned the largest plant could be offline for up to a year.
    Reports said since December 28th, nearly 2,000 quakes have shaken the island.    Power is expected to be restored to the region on Monday.
A big rock sits amid the rubble of the low wall it destroyed when it rolled down from a nearby cliff during a
magnitude 5.9 earthquake in Guanica, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

1/11/2020 Mysterious virus spreads in China, over 40 people infected by OAN Newsroom
In this Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, photo released by Hong Kong Government Information Service, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam,
second from right, accompanied by Secretary for Food and Health, Prof. Sophia Chan, right, reviews the health surveillance measures
by officers of the Port Health Division at West Kowloon Station in Hong Kong. (Hong Kong Government Information Service via AP)
    Chinese health officials are still struggling to identify a fast-spreading virus, which has left one person dead and infected many others.     This week, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said more than 40 people have been diagnosed since the start of the outbreak.
    A 61-year-old man, who passed away this week, was said to be the first known death from the virus.    Officials said the first victim was a regular at a live seafood market.
    Although he had health issues prior to being infected, some are linking the pathogen to animal exposure.
    “Tentative diagnoses showed 41 cases suffer from pneumonia caused by a preliminarily determined new type of coronavirus, including two people who have already left hospital.    Seven are in severe condition, one died.    Other patients are in stable condition.” – Hu Die, Chinese Central Television Anchor
    The Wuhan health authority is conducting tests to identify the pathogen.
A health surveillance officer with temperature scanner waits for passengers at the
Hong Kong International airport in Hong Kong, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

1/11/2020 Australian firefighter dies battling blazes, raising death toll to 28
Smoke rises from a fire at the Adaminaby Complex near Yaouk, New South Wales, Australia January 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A firefighter died while on duty on Saturday in Australia’s state of Victoria, raising the toll from this season’s devastating bushfires to 28 deaths as the government deploys mental health services to aid those in affected areas.
    “It is with great sadness that we confirm that a … firefighter from Parks Victoria has been involved in an incident while working on a fire in the Omeo area resulting in a fatality,” Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said in a statement.
    Since October, thousands of Australians have been subjected to repeat evacuations as huge and unpredictable fires scorched more than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres), an area roughly the size of South Korea.
    Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been heavily criticized by the opposition and environmental groups for his handling of the bushfires and his stance on climate change, was set to address the crisis on Sunday morning on ABC News television.
    Meanwhile, his office released a statement saying that more mental health services will be provided for those affected by the fires.
    “We need to ensure the trauma and mental health needs of our people are supported in a way like we never have before,” Morrison was cited as saying.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

1/12/2020 11 dead in massive storm sweeping Midwest, Central Plains by OAN Newsroom
Severe storms sweeping across parts of the U.S. South were blamed for deaths and destruction, such as this unoccupied business
on Main Street in downtown Greenville, Miss., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (Catherine Kirk/The Delta Democrat-Times via AP)
    Severe weather is being blamed for a total of 11 deaths after storms pounded the Midwest and Central Plains.    Sunday reports said people have died in five different states due to tornadoes, icy weather and flooding.
    In northwest Louisiana, three people were killed due to tornadoes and severe storms.    In Iowa, icy roads caused a semi-truck to crash, which killed the driver.    Another man reportedly drowned in Oklahoma.
    Sources said two first responders were killed in Texas.    They were hit by a car in north Lubbock while responding to a crash on icy roads.
This photo provided by Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office shows damage from Friday nights severe weather, including the home of
an elderly in Bossier Parish, La., on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (Lt. Bill Davis/Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office via AP)
    “The people who put on this badge, they give their life to their communities,” stated Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell.    “To my family here in Lubbock, my police department and fire department family, hearts go out to them.”
    Another firefighter was taken to the hospital and is said to be in critical condition.
    An estimated 200,000 homes and businesses from Texas to Ohio are currently without power.

This photo provided by Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office shows damage from Friday nights severe weather in
Bossier Parish, La., on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (Lt. Bill Davis/Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office via AP)

1/12/2020 At least 3 killed after tornadoes hit Alabama by OAN Newsroom
A tornado devastated homes along Settlement Road near Carrollton in Pickens County, Ala., killing several people
Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, as strong storms swept through the southeastern United States. (Gary Cosby Jr./The Tuscaloosa News via AP)
    A group of tornadoes hit Alabama on Saturday, killing at least three people in Pickens County.    Local reports said more than 81,000 people are without electricity across the state.
    Officials said a search is still underway for more possible victims and rescue crews are going door to door to ensure people are safe.
    “It has been a very devastating storm in that area.    People have suffered a lot of loss, including life.    That’s the most important thing, and that’s what we’re addressing at this time.” – Sheriff Todd Hall, Pickens County Sheriff’s Office
    Many of the weather warnings in the state were dismissed after the storm began to move east.
A tornado devastated homes along Settlement Road near Carrollton in Pickens County, Ala., killing several people
Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, as strong storms swept through the southeastern United States. (Gary Cosby Jr./The Tuscaloosa News via AP)

1/12/2020 Small but dangerous: volcano spews ash over Philippine capital by Enrico Dela Cruz and Karen Lema
A view of the Taal volcano eruption seen from Tagaytay, Philippines January 12, 2020 in
this still image taken from social media video. Jon Patrick Laurence Yen via REUTERS
    MANILA (Reuters) – A volcano near Manila spewed a massive cloud of ash that drifted across the Philippine capital on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of flights and closure of schools and government offices as authorities warned of a possible “explosive eruption
    Thousands of people were evacuated from the area near Taal volcano after it suddenly shot a column of ash and steam as high as 15 km (nine miles) into the sky.    Lightning crackled inside the smoke and tremors shook the ground.
    Taal, one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes, sits in the middle of a lake about 70 km (45 miles) south of the center of the capital, Manila.    Authorities said there was a risk that an eruption could cause a tsunami in the lake.     “Taal is a very small volcano, but a dangerous volcano,” Renato Solidum, head of The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told Reuters.    “It is unique because it is a volcano within a volcano.”
    The institute raised the danger level posed by the volcano to 4 out of a possible 5 – meaning “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.”
    The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.
    One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977.    An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people and one in 1754 lasted for a few months.
    “That is the worst case scenario,” Solidum said.
    About 8,000 residents of the volcano island and other high-risk towns were being evacuated, with about 6,000 already out of the danger zone by Sunday evening, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told reporters.
    The volcano and its surroundings are a popular weekend getaway from Manila.
    The drifting ash forced the cancellation of 172 flights in and out of the international airport on Sunday.    General Manager Ed Monreal said flights would also be suspended on Monday because there was ash on the runway.
    President Rodrigo Duterte’s office ordered the suspension of government work in the capital and of all school classes in Manila and other areas affected by the ash.    A statement advised private companies to follow suit.
    In Manila, long queues formed in shops selling face masks as health officials warned of possible breathing problems for people with respiratory ailments and urged the public to stay indoors and use dust masks when going out.
    “When I went to my car to bring my groceries, I saw it was covered in ash.    So I hurriedly went back inside to buy a mask from a drugstore but they had run out,” said Angel Bautista, 41, a resident of Paranaque city, south of the capital.
    Taal’s ash plume was clearly visible from the city of Tagaytay, a well-frequented viewing spot for the volcano.
    “We were having lunch when we heard rumbling.    We saw the volcano erupting.    It rained and some small pebbles fell to the ground,” Jon Patrick Yen, a restaurant customer in Tagaytay, told Reuters.
    “I did not expect to see such spectacle.    We just went by to eat.”
(Additional reporting by Peter Blaza; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Kirsten Donovan)

1/12/2020 Canada province says sorry after training mistake sparks false nuclear alert by David Ljunggrenbr>
The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is seen in an undated aerial photo near
Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ontario Power Generation/Handout via REUTERS.
    OTTAWA (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Ontario on Sunday apologized for wrongly raising the alarm about an incident at a massive nuclear power station near Toronto and blamed a training exercise mistake.
    Angry local mayors demanded an inquiry, saying the emergency message about the ageing Pickering plant had caused unnecessary distress.
    At around 7:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT) cell phone users across Ontario – the most populous of Canada’s 10 provinces – received an alert about the supposed incident. Less than an hour later the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) authority said the message had been a mistake.
    “The alert was issued in error to the public during a routine training exercise,” Ontario’s Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones said in a statement.
    “The government of Ontario sincerely apologizes for raising public concern and has begun a full investigation to determine how this error happened.”br>     The initial message said there had been no abnormal leak of activity from the plant, which is located on the shores of Lake Ontario some 50 km (30 miles) east of downtown Toronto.
    Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan said on Twitter that locals had been very troubled and added: “I have spoken to the province, and am demanding that a full investigation take place.”
    Toronto Mayor John Tory complained that many of the city’s 3 million residents had been unnecessarily alarmed and also pushed for a probe, citing what he said were “far too many unanswered questions.”
    Human error during a training exercise was also blamed for an incident in Hawaii in January 2018 when authorities issued a false alert about an impending ballistic missile attack.
    OPG was not immediately available for comment.
    The plant came online in 1971 and has a power-generating capacity of 3,100 megawatts when fully active.    It is scheduled to be shut down in 2024.
    “OPG has reminded everyone that they’re running an unneeded and aging nuclear station next to Toronto,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a program director at Greenpeace Canada.
    Some social media users posted images from the hit cartoon series the Simpsons, which features a nuclear power plant plagued by safety violations.
.     Cam Guthrie, the mayor of Guelph, a city west of Toronto, said “sending out a ‘hey there was an issue at a nuclear plant but we’re not going to tell you about it specifically and it’s not a big deal’ emergency text, is terrible.”
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Frances Kerry and Lisa Shumaker)

1/13/2020 Rumbling volcano shuts down Philippine capital by Karen Lema and Enrico Dela Cruz
Police officers guard a road nearby the errupting Taal Volcano in Talisay, Batangas, Philippines, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
    MANILA (Reuters) – Schools and businesses shut across the Philippine capital on Monday as a volcano belched clouds of ash across the city and seismologists warned an eruption could happen at any time, potentially triggering a tsunami.
    Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes around Taal, one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes, which spewed ash for a second day from its crater in the middle of a lake about 70 km (45 miles) south of central Manila.
    “The speed of escalation of Taal’s volcanic activity caught us by surprise,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology told reporters.
    “We have detected magma.    It’s still deep, it hasn’t reached the surface.    We still can expect a hazardous eruption any time.”
    Authorities warned that an eruption could send a tsunami surging across the lake.
    More than 16,000 people were evacuated from the volcanic island and the area immediately around it – normally a popular tourist spot.    Dozens of tremors set residents on edge.
    Some tourists ignored the dangers and traveled to towns closest to the volcano to get a better look.
    “It’s a once in a lifetime experience for us,” Israeli tourist Benny Borenstein told Reuters as he snapped photos of Taal from a vantage point in Tagaytay City, about 32 kms away.
    In nearby Talisay Batangas, Vice Governor Mark Leviste said rain had turned ash to mud and trucks were needed to evacuate more people from remote communities.
    “There is no power.    Even water was cut, so we are in need of potable water,” he said.    “We are in need of face masks.”
    In Manila, masks sold out quickly after residents were advised to wear them if they had to go out.    Some wore handkerchiefs across their faces as they breathed air tainted by the smell of sulfur.
    Streets that would normally be snarled with some of the world’s worst traffic were largely empty in the city of 13 million people.
    Schools and government offices were closed on official orders.    The stock exchange suspended trading and many private businesses shut for the day too.
    Flight operations at Manila’s international airport partially resumed, authorities said, after at least 240 flights were delayed or canceled on Sunday.
    One flight that did land carried President Rodrigo Duterte, who was coming back from his home city of Davao in the southern Philippines.    He had been unable to fly on Sunday because visibility was so low.
    One of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, most recently in 1977.    An eruption in 1911 killed 1,500 people and one in 1754 lasted for a few months.
    The island has been showing signs of restiveness since early last year.
    The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.
(Additional reporting by Peter Blaza; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Stephen Coates)

1/13/2020 Power back on, but thousands still homeless, in quake-hit Puerto Rico by Luis Valentin Ortiz
FILE PHOTO: A view of a damaged main power transformer of the Costa Sur power plant
after an earthquake in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Marco Bello
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – Puerto Rico’s public power utility said on Monday it has restored electricity to almost all the island, nearly a week after the strongest earthquake in more than a century knocked out all power and caused at least $110 million in damage.
    Nearly 5,000 people left homeless by a series of quakes have taken refuge in government shelters, officials said on Monday, in addition to hundreds if not thousands more people who are sleeping outside their homes.
    Public power utility PREPA, also known by its Spanish acronym AEE, announced power was restored to 99 percent of homes and businesses while also urging people to conserve energy because the largest generating plant on the Caribbean island remains offline.
    PREPA shut down the power grid as a safety precaution amid a series of earthquakes including one of 6.4 magnitude last Tuesday that damaged nearly 600 buildings and killed at least one person.
    The Costa Sur plant, largest power plant in the U.S. territory with a capacity of 970 megawatts, remained out of commission after suffering severe earthquake damage and could take up to a year to repair.
    As long as it remains offline, the remaining power plants will need to run at or near capacity to meet demand of about 2,000 megawatts.
    “We urge you to moderate your use of electricity for system stability,” PREPA said on Twitter on Monday.
    The island of 3 million people has about 1.5 million electricity customers, with power restored to 99% of them, PREPA said.
    Governor Wanda Vazquez, who assumed office five months ago when her predecessor resigned amid a political scandal, has estimated damage at $110 million, although the newspaper El Nuevo Dia put the figure at $460 million just based on its survey of officials in the municipalities of Ponce, Guanica, Guayanilla, Yauco and Utuado.
    Schools will remain closed until Jan. 22 or until engineers can complete inspections, officials said, as so far only 46% of school buildings have been examined.    Classes had been set to resume on Jan. 9 after the Christmas break but that date has been delayed twice because of the earthquakes.
    Puerto Rico has yet to fully recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people in 2017, and is going through a bankruptcy process to process to restructure about $120 billion of debt and pension obligations.
(Reporting by Luis Valentin Ortiz; Additional reporting and writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

1/14/2020 WHO says new China coronavirus could spread, warns hospitals worldwide by Stephanie Nebehay
    GENEVA (Reuters) – There may have been limited human-to-human transmission of a new coronavirus in China within families, and it is possible there could be a wider outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
    Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to SARS.    A Chinese woman has been quarantined in Thailand with a mystery strain of coronavirus, Thai authorities said on Monday, the first time the virus has been detected outside China.
    In all, 41 cases of pneumonia have been reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, which preliminary lab tests cited by state media showed could be from a new type of coronavirus, and one patient has died.    There have since been no new cases or deaths, Wuhan health authorities said on Tuesday.
    “From the information that we have it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families, but it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit.
    The WHO is however preparing for the possibility that there could be a wider outbreak, she told a Geneva news briefing.    “It is still early days, we don’t have a clear clinical picture.”
    Some types of the virus cause less serious diseases, while others – like the one that causes MERS – are far more severe.     The U.N. agency has given guidance to hospitals worldwide about infection prevention and control in case the new virus spreads.    There is no specific treatment for the new virus, but anti-virals are being considered and could be “re-purposed”, Van Kerkhove said.
    With Chinese New Year approaching on Jan. 25, when many Chinese tourists visit Thailand, the WHO called on Thai authorities, the public and holidaymakers to be on alert.
    Richard Brow, the agency’s representative in Thailand, said anyone with a fever and cough who had spent time in Wuhan should get checked out by a health worker.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng in Bangkok and Vincent Lee; Editing by John Stonestreet and Pravin Char)

1/14/2020 Dozens killed by avalanches in Pakistani and Indian Kashmir
A general view of snow-covered mountains after a heavy snowfall in Neelum Valley near
the Line of Control (LoC), Pakistan, January 14, 2020. REUTERS/M. Saif ul Islam
    ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – At least 59 people were killed and many more were missing after avalanches in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir over the last 24 hours, senior government officials said on Tuesday.
    In neighbouring India, at least 10 people were killed after several avalanches hit the northern-part of Indian-administered Kashmir.
    Two Pakistani officials said many villagers were still stranded by the avalanches in the Neelum Valley area following heavy rain that also triggered landslides.    Many people were reported missing and feared dead as rescue efforts got under way, one of the officials said.     Rescuers had managed to extract more than 50 people from the snow and airlifted them out of the area for treatment.
    Authorities also scrambled to provide relief to local people with another spell of heavy snow expected on Friday.
    At least 53 houses had been completely destroyed by avalanches in the Pakistani administered region known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), officials said.
    “I have asked the National Disaster Management Authority, the military and all our federal ministers to immediately provide all humanitarian assistance on an emergency footing to the affected people in AJK,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted.
    A senior Indian police official said five soldiers were among the 10 killed near the border between India and Pakistan.
    The area is one of the world’s most militarily tense frontiers, where the neighbouring armies have confronted each other over disputed territory for decades.    Kashmir has been divided between Indian and Pakistan since their independence in 1947.
    In 2012, an avalanche engulfed a Pakistani army battalion headquarters near the Indian border, killing at least 124 soldiers and 11 civilians.
    Meanwhile in western Pakistan, heavy snowfall in southwestern Balochistan destroyed several houses in the mountainous region, killing 17 people.
    The disaster management authority declared an emergency in seven districts of the mineral-rich province and sought the army’s help for relief and rescue operations.
    Key highways connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan were blocked due to heavy snow, forcing officials to suspend transportation of essential goods into Afghanistan.
    Severe cold and heavy snow led to the death of 39 people in six provinces of Afghanistan in the past two weeks said Tamim Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Natural Disaster Management Authority in Kabul.
    “We are distributing emergency assistance, including cash to families of the victims,” said Azimi, adding that heavy rain and snow have hampered for rescuers.
(Reporting by Abu Arqam Naqash in Muzzafarabad, Gibran Peshimam in Islamabad, Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar, Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by William Maclean and Alex Richardson)

1/15/2020 Scientists: Stardust older than the sun by Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
    Scientists have discovered the oldest solid material ever found on Earth from a meteorite that fell in Australia about 50 years ago.
    The material that the researchers examined are called presolar grains – or stardust – particles from a star that can eventually form new stars, along with planets, moons and meteorites.
    This particular sample is about 5 billion to 7 billion years old and predates the sun, which the Field Museum in Chicago says is about 4.6 billion years old.
    “This is one of the most exciting studies I’ve worked on,” said Philipp Heck, lead author of the study published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and associate professor at the University of Chicago.
    The stardust was preserved in a meteorite that fell in Murchison, Victoria, in 1969. Researchers at the University of Chicago have been studying the material for about 30 years.
    Presolar grains are extremely rare and were found in only about 5% of meteorites that have fallen to Earth, according to the Field Museum.    They are formed when a star dies.
    “It’s the next best thing to being able to take a sample directly from a star,” said Jennika Greer, a graduate student at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago and co-author of the study.
    From examining this material, scientists were able to deduce that there was a “baby boom” period of stars forming about 7 billion years ago.    The finding contradicts a highly contested debate between experts in the field.
    “Some people think that the star formation rate of the galaxy is constant,” Heck said.    “But thanks to these grains, we now have direct evidence for a period of enhanced star formation in our galaxy 7 billion years ago with samples from meteorites.”
Dust-rich outflows of evolved stars similar to the pictured Egg Nebula are plausible sources of the large premolar silicon carbide
grains found in meteorites like Murchison. W. SPARKS (STSCI) AND R. SAHAI (JPL)/NASA; INSET IMAGE: JANAINA N. AVILA

1/15/2020 Fears for planet dominate as leaders pack for ‘green’ Davos by Mark John
    LONDON (Reuters) – Risks posed by climate change and environmental destruction top the concerns of world decision-makers as they prepare to head to this year’s meeting of the global elite in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, an annual survey found.
    For the first time recorded by the report, which is produced by the think tank that runs the event, the top five concerns were all environmental – from extreme weather to biodiversity loss and events like oil spills and radioactive contamination.
    That came as trade wars and the rise of nationalist politics around the world were also cited by the panel of more than 750 experts and decision-makers surveyed as making it harder for countries to work together on solutions.
    “The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning,” said Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum (WEF), urging more collective action.
    This year’s Davos, which runs next week, has chosen sustainability as its main theme and comes as campaigners such as Greta Thunberg ramp up pressure on business and governments to act on climate change and other environmental threats.
    At the same time, leading economies are behind on pledges to cut carbon emissions made with the 2015 Paris Agreement and activists remain wary of empty promises, pointing to the huge subsidies and private funds still on offer for fossil fuels.     U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to attend, although some world leaders will skip this year’s Davos.    New British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told his ministers to avoid an event seen by many as elitist, a source in his office has said.
    In a bid to preempt criticism that its jetset guests are part of the problem, the WEF said this year’s Davos would use offsets to be fully carbon neutral, line up more electric vehicles and offer local food and non-meat protein options.
    Environmental concerns have been rising up the list of its perceived long-term risks in recent years, a marked change from a decade ago when the West’s biggest economies were thrown into recession by the financial crisis.
    The biggest risk that year was seen as a fresh collapse in asset prices, while inequality was the top concern from 2012 to 2014.    Immigration loomed large in the 2016 survey as hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in Europe, fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
    Aside from the environment, the 2020 survey highlights concerns about shortfalls in governance of the technology sector, struggling health sectors and doggedly high inequality.
    In its methodology for the survey, the WEF said a “global risk” was defined as one that could cause major harm to several countries or industries within the next 10 years.
    Two-thirds of the respondees were male, with a majority from Europe and North America and most aged between 40 and 59.    For the first time, the survey included results from 200 under-30s around the world identified as future leaders in various fields.
(Writing by Mark John; Editing by Alexander Smith)

1/15/2020 WHO warns hospitals worldwide of outbreak of coronavirus affecting dozens in Central China by OAN Newsroom
Wong Ka-hing, the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health holds a
Wuhan Municipal Health Commission press statement of the new type of coronavirus, during a press conference
at the Health Department in Hong Kong, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
    The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning hospitals around the world of a new virus identified in China.    According to reports Tuesday, officials alerted the WHO about the possibility of an outbreak of a new coronavirus.    It has now affected 41 people in Central China.
    Officials have predicted that there has been limited person-to-person transmission of the virus.    The head of the WHO’s Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Unit is urging members to prepare for a widespread outbreak.
    “There is also the possibility of super-spreading events,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove.    “The global community is very familiar of what has happened with SARS in the past and this is something that is on our radar, that is possible, and what we need to prepare ourselves for.”
    Doctors say some symptoms range anywhere from that of the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which is a contagious and fatal respiratory illness.
    Chinese officials are urging tourists to be extra cautious, especially if they are coming into the country for the Chinese New Year on January 25th.
A vendor gives out copies of newspaper with a headlines of “Wuhan break out a new type of coronavirus, Hong Kong prevent SARS repeat” at a street
in Hong Kong, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Health authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan are reporting the first death from a new type
of coronavirus. The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported Saturday that seven other people are in critical condition. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

1/16/2020 Scientists: We just had the warmest decade ever by Grace Hauck and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    The last decade was the warmest on record, federal climate scientists announced Wednesday, with 2019 being the second-warmest year on record.
    Global temperature records began more than 140 years ago in 1880.    The warmest year recorded was 2016, which was just .07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than last year.
    Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA made the announcement at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Boston.
    NASA and NOAA are two keepers of the world’s temperature data and independently produce a record of Earth’s surface temperatures and changes based on historical observations over oceans and land.    The results of this year’s report closely parallel at least three other global temperature analyses.
    Last year was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average from 19012000, the report said.    The world’s five warmest years have all occurred since 2015, with nine of the 10 warmest years occurring since 2005.    And the planet has now experienced 43 straight years (since 1977) with an above-average global temperature.
    Natural environmental changes cannot explain this trend, said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.    It’s human causes – including pollution, deforestation and, above all, greenhouse gas emissions – that are contributing to the high temperatures.
    “We crossed over into more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warming territory in 2015 and we are unlikely to go back,” Schmidt said.    “This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon: we know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
    The rising temperatures are causing increases in some extreme events, such as heat waves, wildfires and intense precipitation.    And it’s costing us big: In 2019, the U.S. saw 14 separate billion-dollar disaster events, accounting for $45 billion in direct losses, the report said.
    Alaska had its warmest year on record in 2019, with its annual temperature 6.2 degrees above the 1925-2000 average.    Alaska is in a part of the world that is experiencing rapid temperature changes, the report said.

1/16/2020 Philippine volcano shows signs of calming, but danger remains by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema
    MANILA (Reuters) – A Philippine volcano that has been spewing ash for days appeared to be calming down on Thursday, but seismologists said the danger of an eruption remained high and authorities warned evacuees not to return to their homes.
    Some residents took advantage of what they perceived as a lull in the activity of Taal, one of country’s most active and deadliest volcanoes, to return home even though a 14 kms (nine mile) exclusion zone remained in place.
    “We are analyzing what this seeming calm of the volcano means,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told reporters.
    The lake inside Taal has dried up, Bornas said, which was to be expected since it began spewing lava fountains a day after it shot giant clouds of ash miles into the air on Sunday.
    Phivolcs said volcanic activity had “generally waned to weak emission of steam-laden plumes.”    Even so, it had recorded more than 100 tremors since Wednesday, meaning magma was still rising.
    More than 53,000 residents have abandoned their homes around Taal to take shelter in evacuation centers, but thousands more are refusing to leave or have already drifted back to check on their animals and possessions.
    Power has been restored in some areas in nearby Tagaytay city where business owners were cleaning away the ash and preparing to start trading again.
    Although Taal is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes at only 311 meters (1,020 feet) high, it can be deadly.    One eruption killed more than 1,300 people in 1911.
    Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, with the most recent in 1977.    The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.
(Additional reporting by Jay Ereno in Cavite; Editing by Stephen Coates)

1/16/2020 Chinese coronavirus cases discovered in Japan and Thailand by OAN Newsroom
Pedestrians wear protective masks as they walk through a shopping district in Tokyo Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
    The new virus spreading in China has made its way to Japan.    On Thursday, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary confirmed the country’s first coronavirus infection, which was traced back to the Chinese city of Wuhan.
    The country’s Ministry of Health said the infected man is in his thirties and possibly contracted the virus after visiting China. Reports said investigations indicated most of the patients worked or visited a particular seafood market in Wuhan.
    More than 40 people in the city have received a preliminary diagnosis of the virus, which can cause the common cold and more serious diseases.
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, right, speaks next to Wong Ka-hing, the Controller of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department
of Health during a press conference at the Health Department in Hong Kong, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
    “The Japanese government held a meeting with the related ministries this morning.    As of now, the case of the constant human to human infection is not confirmed.    As of now, the Health Ministry and related institutions will do their utmost to collect information.” – Yoshihide Suga, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary
    Another case has been identified in Thailand, but no cases have been reported in the U.S. The CDC and the World Health Organization are responding to the emerging public health issue.

1/17/2020 Influenza B virus seen for 1st time in 27 years - Rare early emergence puts kids at higher risk by Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY
    As an infectious disease specialist for the better part of four decades, Bernhard “Bud" Wiedermann has deep expertise on a range of illnesses, from malaria to Lyme disease to recurrent fevers.
    This year’s flu season has thrown him a curveball, though it is thankfully one he can adjust to: a predominant influenza B virus for the first time in 27 years.
    When outbreaks of the flu began a few weeks earlier than usual in the fall, Wiedermann and his colleagues at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., noticed a leading cause was a virus that doesn’t typically emerge until the end of the season and is more likely to affect children.
    “All of us here when we started seeing that coming through, not only from the CDC data but from our own testing, we were like, ‘Wow, what’s going on?    This is very strange'," Wiedermann said.
    Though initial signs pointed to the powerful A(H3N2) strain as the biggest concern this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said most of the illnesses have been caused by B/Victoria viruses, followed by A(H1N1) viruses.
    The effect has been particularly harsh in Louisiana, where a New Orleans pediatric care facility reported 1,268 confirmed B virus infections in children from July 31 to Nov. 21, leading to 23 hospitalizations.
    Nationwide, the CDC said flu activity is high and will remain that way for weeks, although the level of severity appears lesser than in the past.    For the season, the agency has tallied at least 9.7 million cases of the flu, 87,000 hospitalizations and 4,800 deaths.
    More than 68% of the positive results from tests in clinical labs were linked to the influenza B virus, which had not been predominant since the 1992-93 season.    Those infections have accounted for nearly half the hospitalizations reported to the CDC.
    The symptoms are the same regardless of the virus: fever in many cases, as well as a sore throat, cough, body aches, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose and headaches.    But one significant difference is this year’s dominant viruses figure to impact children and young adults more than older folks.
    That makes it imperative for parents to make sure their kids get a flu shot, even at this point in the season, the CDC and Wiedermann said.    In past years, about 75% of the children who died from the flu weren’t vaccinated.

1/17/2020 Smart contact lens gets closer to reality - Company pushing the concept of ‘invisible computing’ Personal Tech by Edward C. Baig USA TODAY
    The “eyes” have it – quite literally.
    Someday when you walk down the street, an augmented user interface will appear like a floating screen above your real-life surroundings.    You may discreetly see your heart rate, glucose reading, a weather forecast, real-time translation or map.    Or maybe the name and title of the person you’re about to run into.
    You might think I’m describing Google Glass or some other kind of bionic spectacles visible to the outside world.    What you’re wearing instead is something way more inconspicuous and straight out of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” – a pair of smart corrective contact lenses that you can control with subtle eye movements and gestures.
    In an off-site hotel room during last week’s CES trade show in Las Vegas, I was treated to an early demonstration of Mojo Lens, billed as the world’s first “true smart contact lens.”    (The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency or DARPA has reportedly shown interest in a smart contact lens developed by the IMT Atlantique engineering firm in France.)    The patented lenses are still a prototype under development, from a venture- backed Silicon Valley startup called Mojo Vision.
    One of the lead investors is Google’s Gradient Ventures; Google parent Alphabet had worked on then halted a project involving a glucose-oriented smart contact lens.
    Commercial availability for the Mojo Lens is likely about two years away, with the more immediate use cases in the enterprise space: areas such as retail, medicine, public safety and hospitality.
Mojo Lens is billed as the world’s first “true smart contact lens.”
A Mojo Lens “smart” contact lens from Mojo Vision.

1/17/2020 Microsoft Windows 10 patch fixes vulnerability by Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY
    Microsoft has released a patch for its Windows 10 operating system to fix a major vulnerability that could expose users to breaches or surveillance.
    The National Security Agency alerted the software giant to the flaw in Windows 10, which is the most widely used operating system.
    Organizations and companies running Windows 10 should implement the patch immediately, Anne Neuberger, the director of the NSA’s Cybersecurity Directorate, told reporters Tuesday.
    The Department of Homeland Security recommended isolating systems that cannot be updated.
    Microsoft confirmed that a security update was released Tuesday.    It also said that its security software can detect and block malware attempting to exploit the vulnerability.
    “Customers who have already applied the update, or have automatic updates enabled, are already protected,” Jeff Jones, senior director with Microsoft, said in a statement.    “As always we encourage customers to install all security updates as soon as possible.”
    The NSA and Microsoft said they have not seen any hackers attempt to exploit the flaw.
    The NSA’s decision to alert Microsoft rather than using the vulnerability to spy on enemy networks marked a shift for the agency.
    Neuberger said the shift was “a recognition of what the mission needs at this point in time.”
    Microsoft says the flaw was in the digital signatures used to determine if software is authentic, one of the ways that software makers work to prevent malware or spyware cloaked as legitimate software.    The NSA discovered a mistake in how Microsoft verified signatures, which hackers could have exploited.

1/17/2020 Paraguay issues health emergency over dengue fever outbreak by OAN Newsroom
File – Patients lie in bed as they are treated for dengue at Barrio Obrero public hospital in
Asuncion, Paraguay. Paraguay has announced a health emergency due to dengue fever. (AP Photo)
    Paraguay has called for a health emergency as a dengue fever outbreak spirals out of control.    The alert was issued this week after hospitals have seen an overflow of patients in the country’s capital.
    500 health care workers will be sent to help assist with treatments, following the declaration.    According to officials, at least 1,700 cases have been reported since October and at least one person has died.
    “Why an emergency declaration? To expedite human resources and to make resources available to purchase supplies and medicine.    The Health Ministry has been planning for supplies and medicines for months.” — Julio Mazzoleni, Health Minister – Paraguay
    The alert is expected to last for three months.    Paraguay previously faced another dengue fever outbreak years ago that killed 17 people and affected thousands more.

1/18/2020 China reports 2nd death in virus flare-up by Yanan Wang, ASSOCIATED PRESS and by Lidia Kelly
    BEIJING – A second person has died from a new coronavirus that has caused an outbreak of pneumonia in central China, health authorities said.
    A 69-year-old man surnamed Xiong fell ill with the respiratory condition on Dec. 31, according to a statement late Thursday from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. He died Wednesday.
    Xiong exhibited abnormal renal function, severe impairment in multiple organs, inflammation of the heart muscle and other pressing conditions when he was admitted to the hospital.    It was not clear from the commission’s statement whether these were preexisting issues or consequences of the viral pneumonia.
    In total, 41 people in Wuhan have been diagnosed with a novel coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more severe diseases such as SARS and MERS.    As of late Thursday, 12 patients have recovered and five were being treated for acute conditions.
    Last Saturday, a 61-year-old man who had abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease died.

1/18/2020 Floods, road closures in Australia as storms lash some bushfire-hit regions by Lidia Kelly
FILE PHOTO: Flooding is seen along a road at the Australian Reptile Park in Somersby, New South Wales in this
still frame obtained from January 17, 2020 social media video. AUSTRALIAN REPTILE PARK /via REUTERS
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Parts of Australia’s east coast were hit by severe storms on Saturday, dousing some of the bushfires that have devastated the region for months but causing road closures and flash flooding.
    Fears of smoke from the fires disrupting the Australian Open tennis receded in Melbourne, where the main tournament was due to start on Monday.
    Despite the heavy rain, authorities were still battling nearly 100 blazes – part of the bushfires that have killed 29 people since September, destroyed more than 2,500 homes and scorched an area nearly one-third the size of Germany.
    Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, three of the states most hit by drought and bushfires, are now dealing with rain bucketing down in several areas.
    Major highways were closed in Queensland on Saturday, with the state getting some of the heaviest rain Australia has seen for months, while power was cut in parts of New South Wales after a stormy night.
    “Heavy, intense rainfall has eased, but showers and thunderstorms still possible through the weekend,” the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland said on Twitter on Saturday.
    “Take care on the roads – if it’s flooded, forget it.” GRAPHIC – Swirling smoke interactive:
    Parts of Queensland’s south saw triple the monthly rainfall overnight.    No major damage has been reported, although some residential areas were flooded and many of the state’s parks and tourist attractions were closed.
    New South Wales fire services welcomed the rain, which they said on Twitter would help to control the 75 fires burning in the state, of which 25 are yet to be contained.    But, they also said that some firegrounds have not seen any rain yet.
    More benign storms were forecast for Victoria over the weekend, which has been hit this week already by severe storms and unhealthy smoke from the bushfires.
    Skies were clear in Melbourne, however, for the final round of qualifying for the Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam, and Victoria’s Environmental Protection rated the air quality as “good,” after an earlier forecast of unhealthy air for the weekend.
    There were still more than a dozen fires burning in Victoria on Saturday, with firefighters battling to contain a big blaze in the state’s mountain region, fifteen times the size of Manhattan.
    Victoria’s emergency service also issued an evacuation warning due to a bushfire on Saturday for French Island, the state’s largest coastal island with a small population of just above 100 people.
GRAPHIC – Sizing up Australia’s bushfires interactive:
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

1/18/2020 Hundreds of Serbians march in capital, demand action on air pollution by OAN Newsroom
A man walks on the bank of Sava river in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
    Serbians are taking to the streets of the country’s capital to demand officials do more to tackle air pollution.    On Friday, several hundred protesters, donning surgical masks and respirators, gathered in Belgrade to demand change.
    Experts said fumes from aging cars and the country’s heavy reliance on coal burning power plants have contributed to its record breaking levels of air pollution.
    Recent data ranked Belgrade the world’s fifth most air polluted city, surpassing Delhi and Beijing.
    “I am here to express my fear about the air pollution situation.    I think people need to go out and say that this is an alarming situation, that it has never been so terrible to see the air.    The number of air polluting particles is alarmingly high and there are measures to reduce it.” – Ivana Vuinovic, protester
A man wearing a face mask attends during a protest against the high levels of air pollution
in Belgrade, Serbia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
    Serbia is a candidate to enter the European Union, but its entry could be delayed due to its air quality.    The levels of pollution in the country fall short of EU environmental standards.
    A UN report last year estimated people in the region are losing 1.3 years from their life span due to air pollution.
A girl walks across a bridge in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

1/19/2020 China says 17 new cases in virus outbreak, Wuhan to restrict large gatherings by Huizhong Wu and Sophie Yu
FILE PHOTO: International travelers arrive at John F. Kennedy international airport
in New York City, U.S., February 4, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Sunday that 17 more people had become infected with a new coronavirus strain, fanning fears it will spread further as hundreds of millions of people travel to celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year.
    Three of those patients are seriously ill, according to a statement issued by the health commission in the central city of Wuhan, where all 62 of the cases in China have occurred.
    Two people have died. Two cases have also been reported in Thailand and one in Japan – each involving people who traveled from Wuhan.
    Wuhan officials have been providing updates on new cases almost daily since Jan. 11, and 17 is the highest number reported since then.
    The World Health Organization said in a tweet on Sunday that some of the new cases appear not to be linked to the Huanan seafood market, believed to the center of the outbreak.    Due to due to China’s efforts to implement broader screening, new cases may be identified in the coming days and weeks, it added.
    “The fact that three cases have been exported to Thailand and Japan without connection to the Huanan Seafood Market suggests that the virus has spread beyond the Huanan Seafood Market into the community,” said David Hui, a professor of respiratory medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
    Chinese health authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Wuhan will strengthen oversight of large-scale events and reduce the number of activities that involve public gatherings, state media quoted Chen Yanxin, the city’s deputy mayor as saying on Sunday.
    Wuhan officials said that since Jan. 14 they are using infrared thermometers at airports, railway stations and other passenger terminals in the city to strengthen screening.
    Airport authorities in the United States as well as most Asian nations are also screening passengers from Wuhan.
    The new virus is from the same large family of coronaviruses that includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.
    Although experts say the new virus does not appear to be as lethal as SARS, there is little known about its origins and how easily it can spread.
    A report published by the London Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis on Friday said there are likely to be “substantially more cases.”    It estimated that by Jan. 12 there were 1,723 cases in Wuhan City with onset of related symptoms.
    The 17 new patients began exhibiting symptoms such as a fever or cough before Jan. 13, the statement in Wuhan said.
    News about the outbreak was trending on Weibo, a microblogging platform in China, on Sunday morning.    Weibo regularly filters content that is deemed sensitive.
    There has been some local-level censorship however.    Two individuals told Reuters they were ordered by police to remove social media posts.
    Many on social media shared the news and called on others to be careful, as travel is increasing during the one-week New Year holidays that begin on Friday.
    “We’re about to celebrate the New Year, hope everyone is safe.    Don’t go to places where there’s a lot of people,” said one user.
(Reporting by Sophie Yu and Huizhong Wu; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Edwina Gibbs)

1/20/2020 ‘Cyborg’ may help fight opioid addiction - Microchips stimulate brain’s reward centers by Coral Murphy, USA TODAY
    Tech these days often is accused of encouraging forms of addiction, but emerging “cyborg” technology may offer an answer for treating the opioid epidemic.    Embedding microchips in the brains of addicts could help to, essentially, rewire them. Gerod Buckhalter is an opioid addict.    He’s among millions of people in America affected by what has become a national plague that kills hundreds each day.    He hopes, though, that the computer chip in his brain can break him from addiction’s hold.
    His dependence took hold after he dislocated his shoulder when he was 15.    Dose after dose of the Percocet he was prescribed for pain post-surgery eventually graduated to heroin.
    “In my eyes, my family didn’t know how I truly felt,” says Buckhalter, who is now 33 years old.    “I felt like I wasn’t harming anybody, so why should anyone care what I’m doing?
    Although it wasn’t what he expected, a group at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute did care.
    In November, West Virginia University launched a clinical trial using deep brain stimulation for patients suffering from treatment-resistant opioid use disorder.    The former high school football star became the nation’s first patient.
    This type of treatment, known as pacemaker technology, has been used to treat heart failure and epilepsy.    It also is known for its “cyborg” approach, or use of embedded technology in human beings, to help treat patients.
    The clinical trial aims to regulate parts of the brain responsible for leading opioid abusers to seek the drug.    These reward centers often get worse over time as the brain becomes chemically imbalanced due to addictive substances.    Changes include lack of selfcontrol and increased anxiety.
    In hopes of restoring this balance, the trial uses brain implants to send electrical signals to the brain.    A microchip is placed in the brain and connected to a battery under the collarbone.    The electrical signals sent via the microchip work to restore dopamine, the hormone responsible for a patient’s drug craving, to a level that’s regulated according to the individual needs of the patient.
    What’s involved?    The procedure begins with a small skin incision in the front part of the head and then a small opening of the bone.     Through that opening in the skull, doctors place the stimulating wires in the reward centers.
    “We’re not advocating for the use of brain implants in patients,” said Ali Rezai, the lead investigator of the clinical trial.    “This is for people who have failed everything.”
    Other types of technologies considered “cyborg” include studies that use pacemakers to stimulate the heart with electrical impulses to maintain a healthy heartbeat.
    Considering the term was coined by NASA researchers in the 1960s for a cybernetic organism that could adapt to space travel, the term has skewed from its original definition.    Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline first defined a cyborg as a “self-regulating man-machine.” That snowballed into movies, books and televisions shows that feature more advanced versions of half-human-halfrobot fictional characters.
    Rezai says he doesn’t consider the experiment as one with cyborg properties since their goal isn’t aimed at augmenting human beings.    Others differ.
    “Since this trial is combining living matter with intelligent materials, this could be considered a ‘cyborganic’ approach,” says Gorka Orive, author of “A New Era for Cyborg Science Is Emerging: The Promise of Cyborganic Beings.”
    The pharmacist dismisses any ethical dilemmas that could be attached to the experiment because it’s viewed as a last resort treatment.
    Likewise, Gregory Kaebnick, medical ethicist and editor at The Hastings Center, says that although he finds this robotic approach calls humanity into question, there are other ethical dilemmas to consider.    “The bigger issues for me would be the risk-benefit trade-off for the patient and the scalability,” Kaebnick says.    “It’s a little hard to see how a massive public health crisis can be effectively addressed by implanting electrodes in people’s brains.”
    The ethicist notes that, even if the trial is successful, who would be able to pay for this treatment?    The procedure could cost $75,000.
    “The problem is particularly afflicting poor people, who have little access to health care in the first place,” he said.    “There’s no chance this is going to be an effective way to respond to the broad, societal epidemic.”
    Rezai emphasized that pacemaker technology is a more advanced approach to treat patients undergoing behavioral issues, such as those brought on by drug addiction.    Similar technology has shown to be successful when treating depression, evolving from the once commonly used treatment known as shock therapy.
    “Instead of a shock treatment sending large, electrical impulses to the brain, this one sends small, programmed signals into the reward area,” Rezai says.
    Others oppose it for reasons that call the human psyche into question.
    “This is philosophically worrisome to me,” says Judy Grisel, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Bucknell University.    “We’re perpetuating the idea that addicts have no choice and never will.    The only way we could do this is to take their brain offline.”
    Grisel does credit the trial for applying safer measures with electrodes, compared with past experiments aimed at reducing addiction.    About 15 years ago, physicians in China would destroy the parts of the brain responsible for drug cravings, leading the country to eventually ban the procedure.
    So far, Buckhalter thinks this is one of the best things that has ever happened to him.
    “Nothing robot about me,” said the former football player.    “How could anybody not think that this is a great thing?
Gerod Buckhalter, a patient at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, shares a moment with
his parents, Regina and Rex, before his procedure. WVU MEDICINE HOSPITAL
The team at West Virginia University implanted a Medtronic deep brain stimulation device in the addiction

1/202020 China confirms spread of new virus as cases surge
Tourist line-up in a health control at the arrival section at Suvarnabhumi international
airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Januaruy 19, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    BEIJING (Reuters) – An outbreak of a new coronavirus in China has spread to more cities, Chinese authorities said on Monday, as the number of patients tripled and a third person died, stoking concerns about containment of the illness.
    The Daxing health commission in the capital Beijing said it had confirmed two cases of coronavirus, while the southern Guangdong province’s health commission confirmed one case in Shenzhen. They mark the first cases in China beyond the central city of Wuhan where the virus first emerged.
    The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said 136 new cases of pneumonia caused by the coronavirus strain had been found in the city over the weekend, adding to 62 already known cases.    A third death occurred on Saturday, the authority said in a statement.
    This brings the total number of known cases worldwide to more than 200, underscoring the challenge for health authorities seeking to contain the outbreak. South Korea on Monday reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, a 35-year-old female Chinese national who had traveled from Wuhan, the fourth patient to be reported outside China.
    Hundreds of millions of Chinese tourists will be traveling domestically and abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday period that starts later this week.
    A report by London Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimated that by Jan. 12 there were 1,723 cases in Wuhan City with onset of related symptoms.    Chinese health authorities have not commented directly on the report.
    Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up screening of travelers from Wuhan.    Last week, two cases were reported in Thailand and one in Japan.    All three involved people from Wuhan or who recently visited the city.
    The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.
    Its symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.
    China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday it will step up prevention efforts, but acknowledged it still doesn’t know the source of the virus.
    Shares in pharmaceutical firms and mask makers in China surged Monday because of the outbreak.
    The outbreak was one of the top trending topics on Chinese social media platform Weibo, where many users expressed concerns about their safety.
    “Who knows how many people who have been to Wuhan may be unaware that they have already been infected?,” one user said.
    China’s Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper, said in an editorial the government needs to disclose all information and not repeat the mistakes made with SARS.    Chinese officials covered up the SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumors forced it to reveal the epidemic.
    “Concealment would be a serious blow to the government’s credibility and might trigger greater social panic,” the editorial said.
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Josh Horwitz in Shanghai, Roxanne Liu and Sophie Yu in Beijing, Joyce Lee in Seoul; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Richard Pullin)

1/20/2020 Australian bushfires fires hit coal output, conditions to worsen
Rubble are seen at a property damaged by bushfires in Kangaroo Valley, Australia, January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Angie Teo
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Mining giant BHP Group said on Tuesday that poor air quality caused by smoke from Australia’s bushfires is hurting coal production, as authorities cautioned a reprieve from hazardous fire conditions could end within days.
    The warning from the world’s biggest miner underscores how an unusually long bushfire season that has scorched an area one-third the size of Germany is damaging the world’s No. 14 economy.    Australia’s tourism and insurance industries have already foreshadowed they face a A$1 billion ($687 million) hit each from the fires.
    “Smoke from regional bushfires and dust have reduced air quality at our operations, which has impacted December 2019 production,” BHP said in a trading update, referring to its energy coal plants in New South Wales state where hundreds of fires have raged.     “If air quality continues to deteriorate then operations could be constrained further in the second half of the year,” it added.
    The fires have killed 29 people and millions of animals, destroyed more than 2,500 homes and razed 11 million hectares (27 million acres) of wilderness since September.    Even with thunderstorms and rain in recent days, scores of fires are still burning on the east coast.
    The disruption has extended to the capital, Canberra, and its two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, all of which have been repeatedly blanketed in thick smoke that has earned them air quality ratings among the worst in the world.
    Last week, a tennis player collapsed during a qualifying round at the Australian Open tournament in Melbourne due to inhaling bushfire smoke, although the competition has continued in more moderate weather this week.
    The Bureau of Meteorology forecast rising temperatures in the state of Victoria on Wednesday, combined with strong winds, creating a new risk of bushfires.
    The New South Wales Rural Fire Service issued a high fire danger rating for Tuesday on the state’s south coast.
    The NSW state government, meanwhile, said it was increasing a grant for primary producers affected by the fires to A$75,000, from A$15,000 previously.
    “Putting money back in people’s pockets as soon as possible will allow affected communities to focus on rebuilding and repairing crucial infrastructure, treating, euthanizing or burying livestock, as well as buying much-needed fodder,” said Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall.
    Here are key events in the bushfire crisis:
* Early on Tuesday, 86 fires were burning across New South Wales, none above the lowest warning level.    There were 27 emergency warnings in Victoria, including one flash flood warning.
* The Bureau of Meteorology warned the East Gippsland region to expect strong winds after thunderstorms rolled through a day earlier.    Earlier this month, people in East Gippsland were evacuated by Navy ships as bushfires destroyed whole towns.
* The Australian Open tennis tournament continues in Melbourne.    The city’s air quality was rated as “good,” according to the Air Quality Index, having been “hazardous” less than a week earlier.
* The tennis community has raised more than A$50 million for bushfire relief, according to Tennis Australia.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; editing by Richard Pullin)

1/21/2020 Small earthquake hits East Tennessee, felt in southern Kentucky by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JACKSBORO – A small earthquake hit East Tennessee on Monday, officials said.
    The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude 3.8 earthquake struck near Fincastle, Tennessee, in Campbell County. A USGS map showed it was felt around East Tennessee and southern Kentucky.
    It was the second earthquake to hit the area in two days.    A magnitude 2.8 earthquake hit on Sunday, the USGS said.
    There were no immediate reports of damage, news but WVLT-TV viewers said they felt the quake.
    Tiffany Martin said it shook her house in Oak Ridge, and Adam Watson said it rattled his dishes in Whitesburg.
    “I felt it pretty good in Williamsburg, Kentucky.    Our entire house shook,” Alisa Potts said.    Fincastle is just south of the Kentucky-Tennessee border, about 60 miles from Corbin, Kentucky.
    According to the USGS, the quake was also felt in parts of Corbin and London.
A 3.6 earthquake in Campbell County, Tenn., was felt in Corbin and London, Ky. USGS

1/21/2020 China confirms human transmission of virus by Yanan Wang and Ken Moritsugu, Associated Press
    BEIJING – The head of a Chinese government team said Monday that human-to-human transmission was confirmed in an outbreak of a new coronavirus, a development that raises the possibility that it could spread more quickly and widely.
    Team leader Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the virus from family members, state media reported.    Some medical workers tested positive for the virus, according to the English-language China Daily newspaper.
    Authorities announced a sharp increase in the number of confirmed cases to more than 200, and China’s leader called on the government to take every possible step to combat the outbreak.
    “The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan and other places must be taken seriously,” President Xi Jinping said in his first public statement on the crisis.    “Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives and health first.”
    The spread of the viral pneumonia comes as the country enters its busiest travel period, when millions board trains and planes for the Lunar New Year holidays.    The outbreak may have started late last month when people picked it up at a market in Wuhan in central China.
    Wuhan health authorities said Monday that an additional 136 cases have been confirmed in the city, raising the total to 198.    Three people have died.
    Authorities announced cases in other Chinese cities for the first time.
    Five people in Beijing and 14 in Guangdong have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, CCTV reported Monday evening.    A total of seven suspected cases have been found in other parts of the country, including in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and in Shanghai.
    Zhong said the two people in Guangdong had not been to Wuhan but became ill after family members returned from the city, the China Daily said.
    The outbreak has put other countries on alert.    Authorities in Thailand and in Japan identified at least three cases, all involving travel from China.
    South Korea reported its first case Monday when a 35-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan tested positive for the coronavirus one day after arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport.    The woman was isolated at a state-run hospital in Incheon city, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
    At least a half-dozen countries in Asia and three U.S. airports started screening airline passengers from central China.
    People in protective suits checked the temperatures of plane passengers arriving in Macao from Wuhan.
    Many of the initial cases of the coronavirus were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, which was closed as authorities investigated.
    Since hundreds of people who came into close contact with diagnosed patients have not gotten sick, the municipal health commission maintained that the virus is not easily transmitted between humans.
    China’s National Health Commission said experts judged the outbreak to be “preventable and controllable.”
    “However, the source of the new type of coronavirus has not been found, we do not fully understand how the virus is transmitted, and changes in the virus still need to be closely monitored,” the commission said in a statement Sunday.
Contributing: researcher Yu Bing in Beijing and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul.
Travelers wear face masks as they walk outside of the Beijing Railway Station on Monday. MARK SCHIEFELBEIN/AP

1/21/2020 China virus fears grow as human transmission and fourth death confirmed by Se Young Lee and Sophie Yu
A man pays for masks at a pharmacy in Beijing, China January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee
    BEIJING (Reuters) – With millions of Asians traveling on Tuesday for the Lunar New Year holiday, authorities in China confirmed that a new virus could be spread through human contact, reporting 15 medical staff had been infected and a fourth person had died.
    The chilling update on the coronavirus outbreak that began in the central city of Wuhan sent shivers through financial markets, as the World Health Organization called a meeting for Wednesday to consider declaring an international health emergency.
    By the end of Monday the number of confirmed cases in China had climbed to 291, the National Health Commission said.
    Some 270 were in Hubei province.    Wuhan, a city of 11 million people is the provincial capital.
    The outbreak was also spreading to other cities, with 15 cases in southern province of Guangdong, five in the capital Beijing and two in Shanghai.
    “Information about newly reported infections suggest there may now be sustained human to human transmission,” WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Takeshi Kasai said in an email statement.
    The scare brought back bad memories of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus that broke out in China in 2002/2003, resulting in the death of nearly 800 people in global pandemic.
    Health authorities around the world have begun to step up screening of travelers arriving from China.    Two cases have already been identified in Thailand, one in Japan and one in South Korea, while the Philippines reported on Tuesday its first suspected case.
    Wuhan Municipal Health Commission confirmed a fourth fatality on Tuesday, disclosing that an 89-year-old man who had underlying health issues, including heart disease, died on Jan. 19.
    Chinese authorities also confirmed for the first time that the virus could spread through human contact and said 15 medical staff had been infected.
    The mounting anxiety was transmitted to regional markets.    China’s onshore yuan fell 0.6%, its biggest daily drop since Aug. 26, 2019, while airline and travel stocks fell across the region.
    European shares also slipped on mounting concerns about the impact of the outbreak, with luxury goods firms particularly hard-hit on worries about weaker demand from Chinese consumers.
    The virus can cause pneumonia, with symptoms including fever and difficulty in breathing.    As those symptoms are similar to many other respiratory diseases, extra screening is needed.
    The origin of the virus has yet to be identified, but the primary source is most likely animal, according to WHO.    Chinese officials have linked the outbreak to a seafood market in Wuhan.
    “The outbreak of a SARS-like coronavirus in Wuhan is developing into a major potential economic risk to the Asia-Pacific region now that there is medical evidence of human-to-human transmission,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific Chief Economist for IHS Markit, in an email statement.
    So far, the WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions but such measures could be discussed at Wednesday’s emergency meeting.
    China’s National Health Commission will also give an update on the outbreak at a press briefing at 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Wednesday.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China will attend the WHO meeting and share relevant information.
    “China is willing to deepen its global cooperation and work with the international community to work together to deal with the epidemic,” Geng told reporters at a regular daily briefing.
    Airport authorities in the United States as well as most Asian nations also are screening passengers from Wuhan.
    Australia on Tuesday said it would screen passengers on flights from Wuhan, while Singapore announced it would quarantine individuals with pneumonia and a history of travel to Wuhan within 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms.
    Wuhan officials have been using infrared thermometers to screen passengers at airports, railway stations and other passenger terminals since Jan. 14.
    Zhong Nanshan, head of the National Health Commission’s team of experts investigating the outbreak, said in footage shown by state television on Monday there was no danger of a repeat of the SARS epidemic so long as precautions were taken.
    Images of long lines of people queuing to buy face masks were circulating widely on Chinese social media, where the outbreak was one of the top trending topics.
    Some online vendors were limiting sales of masks and hand sanitizers as demand surged.
    And Shanghai’s market regulator warned on Tuesday that it will punish speculators who hoard masks and other products used for preventing diseases, according to the Shanghai Observer – a web publication backed by a Communist Party newspaper., China’s top online travel booking platform, said it would refund customers who cancel bookings in Wuhan this month, or whose travel plans are disrupted by quarantines or other regulatory efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Se Young Lee, Sophie Yu and Lusha Zhang in Bejing, John Geddie in Singapore; Editing by Stephen Coates & Simon Cameron-Moore)

1/21/2020 New China virus claims sixth victim as holiday travel stokes risk by Se Young Lee and Lusha Zhang
A man pays for masks at a pharmacy in Beijing, China January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee
    BEIJING (Reuters) – The toll from a new virus in China rose to six deaths and more than 300 cases on Tuesday as millions of Chinese prepared to travel for the Lunar New Year, heightening contagion risks.
    Many in China scrambled to buy face masks to protect themselves from the previously unknown, flu-like coronavirus infection and airports around the world tightened screening.
    The outbreak, which began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, also worried financial markets as investors recalled the economic damage from China’s Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2002/2003 that it initially covered up.
    The SARS coronavirus outbreak killed nearly 800 people then.
    “We’ll stay at home during the holiday.    I’m scared as I remember SARS very well,” said Zhang Xinyuan, who had been bound from Beijing for the Thai resort of Phuket before she and her husband decided to cancel their air tickets.
    Authorities have confirmed more than 300 cases of the new coronavirus in China, mostly in Wuhan, a provincial capital and transportation hub, where it may have come from a seafood market.
    Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty in breathing, and the viral infection can cause pneumonia.
    Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang told Chinese state television on Tuesday six people had died in his city.    The disease was spreading further around other parts of China, however, including five cases in the national capital Beijing.
    Fifteen medical personnel are among those infected.
    Abroad, Thailand has reported two cases and South Korea one, all involving Chinese from Wuhan.    Japan and Taiwan also confirmed one case each, both nationals who had been to Wuhan.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) will hold a meeting on Wednesday to consider whether the outbreak is an international public health emergency.
    “Information about newly reported infections suggest there may now be sustained human-to-human transmission,” said WHO’s regional director for the western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai.
    Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own, set up an epidemic response center.    More than 1,000 beds were prepared in isolation wards in case the virus spreads further.
    North Korea was to temporarily ban foreign tourists, who are mainly Chinese, a foreign tour operator said.
    The scare stirred risk aversion on global markets, with Asia particularly hit.
    Hong Kong, which suffered badly during the SARS outbreak, saw its index fall 2.8% <.HSI>.    Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> lost 0.9% and Shanghai blue chips <.CSI300> 1.7%, with airlines under pressure.
    In Europe, shares of luxury goods makers, which have large exposure to China, were among those declining the most.     China’s yuan fell almost 0.7% in offshore trading to 6.9126 per dollar .    Onshore, it dipped to its lowest in over a week at 6.9094 .
    Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, WHO said the primary source was probably animal.    Chinese officials have linked the outbreak to Wuhan’s seafood market.
    “The outbreak of a SARS-like coronavirus in Wuhan is developing into a major potential economic risk to the Asia-Pacific region now that there is medical evidence of human-to-human transmission,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific Chief Economist for IHS Markit.
    So far, the WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions but they may be discussed on Wednesday.    China’s National Health Commission is also scheduled to give an update at a press briefing at 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Wednesday.
    Airports in the United States, Australia and across Asia have begun extra screening for passengers from Wuhan.
    In the city itself, officials have been using infrared thermometers to screen passengers at airports, railway stations and other passenger terminals since Jan. 14.
    The Lunar New Year is a major holiday for Chinese, many of whom travel to join family or have a foreign holiday. Long lines formed to buy face masks in cities.    Some online vendors limited sales of masks and hand sanitizers as demand surged.
    Shanghai city’s market regulator warned it would punish speculators hoarding masks or other products used for preventing infectious diseases, according to the Shanghai Observer web publication.
    Chinese travel booking platforms from to Alibaba Group’s Fliggy said they would offer free cancellations on bookings made for Wuhan, while South Korean budget airline T’way Air <091810.KS> postponed its launch of a new route to the city.
    Zhong Nanshan, head of the National Health Commission’s team investigating the outbreak, sought to ease alarm, saying in footage shown by state television there was no danger of a repeat of the SARS epidemic so long as precautions were taken.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Se Young Lee, Sophie Yu, Lusha Zhang, Huizhong Wu and Judy Hua in Bejing, John Geddie in Singapore; Josh Smith in Seoul; Kate Kelland in London; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

1/22/2020 1st case of coronavirus reported in US by John Bacon and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday confirmed the first U.S. case of a deadly new coronavirus that has killed six people in China.
    The CDC and Washington state officials said the man, in his 30s, was in good condition at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett.
    Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, called the news “concerning.”
    “We’re still in the early days of this investigation,” Messonnier said.
    The man had no symptoms when he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last Wednesday, but he contacted doctors on Sunday when he started feeling ill, officials said.    He is not considered a threat to medical staff or the public.
    The CDC, which last week began enhanced health screenings at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, said Atlanta and Chicago would be added to the list.    All traveling from Wuhan to the U.S. are now being rerouted to these airports, officials said.
    Hundreds of people in China have been diagnosed with the virus, most in the city of Wuhan.    But it has spread to other areas of the country, and a handful of cases have been diagnosed in Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
    The World Health Organization is gathering a panel of experts on coronavirus Wednesday in Switzerland to determine whether the outbreak constitutes an international public health emergency and how it can be managed.
    Many of the initial cases were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, but Chinese health officials say human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.
    The coronavirus may lead to a severe form of pneumonia which may be deadly, said Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital.    People with a history of chronic lung disease may be at higher risk for “adverse outcomes,” he said.
    “We must be vigilant to ensure that adequate screening processes are in place at all US airports,” Glatter said.
    Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as pneumonia to Middle East respiratory syndrome, known as MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.    Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.    In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.
    The virus can be spread from animals to people.    But it also can be spread by coughing, sneezing and through close contact with an infected person or an object carrying the virus.
    Coronaviruses, Ebola and SARS are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.    Ebola was carried by fruit bats, which spread it to other animals.    SARS was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS from camels to humans.
    There is no vaccine yet, although nine studies are examining coronavirus vaccine development.    And while there is no specific treatment for the coronavirus, recommended measures are similar to those for cold, such as rest and drinking a lot of fluid.
Contributing: Associated Press
Travelers wear face masks outside a train station Tuesday in southern China’s
Hubei province. A coronavirus has killed six people. CHINATOPIX VIA AP

1/22/2020 2020 AND BEYOND: WHERE AI IS GOING by Personal Tech, Edward C. Baig USA TODAY
    Create a digital replica of your aging parent or yourself.
    You’re racing to the airport, unaware there’s a wreck on the highway ahead.
    Fortunately, an artificial intelligence driven system in your vehicle is looking after you.    The system automatically checks on your flight – still on schedule – and determines your chances of making it to the gate on time are slim.    With your permission, it can proactively book an alternate flight.
    “That’s the true virtual assistant in the future,” says Gartner vice president and fellow David Cearley.    “Rather than having conversational interfaces respond to discrete things, it understands the context and can respond to (your) intent.”
    Much has been said and written about the future of AI, and the role it will play – good and potentially bad – in practically everything consumers and businesses engage in. What pretty much everyone agrees on is that AI will make a profound difference through the next decade and beyond, during which we may see a further blurring between human and machine.
    About a year ago, researchers at Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center asked the following: “By 2030, do you think it is most likely that advancing AI and related technology systems will enhance human capacities and empower them?
    Of the nearly 1,000 technologists who weighed in, about two-thirds predicted most of us will be better off, with one-third thinking otherwise.    And most expressed at least some concern over the long-term impact of AI on the “essential elements of being human.”
    Almost no one disputes the fact that AI will continue to get smarter.
    Sriram Raghavan, who heads IBM Research AI, says that this year by combining learning with logic, AI will start to develop a “common-sense” reasoning system, to help businesses deploy more conversational automated customer care and technical support tools.    For his part, Jeff Loucks, executive director of Deloitte’s Center for Technology, Media & Telecommunications, believes that within 10 years, AI-powered robots may help aging people remain in their homes.    And AI embedded in more smart devices will help all of us monitor our health and wellness.
    Are we better off with AI?
  • Of the nearly 1,000 technologists who weighed in, about two-thirds predicted most of us will be better off, with one-third thinking otherwise.
  • Most expressed at least some concern over the long-term impact of AI on the “essential elements of being human.”
The dark side
    Those who worry about the dark side, however, fear that AI will result in data abuse, loss of jobs and an erosion in our ability to think for ourselves.
    And AI systems must be trained without prejudice and bias.    An NYU study from last year pointed out that the people building out such systems are too white and too male.    Alarm bells have been sounded by some of the most famous names in tech.
    Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk has said AI is far more dangerous than nuclear weapons.    The late scientist Stephen Hawking warned AI could serve as the “worst event in the history of our civilization” unless humanity is prepared for its possible risks.
    For some, “deepfakes” are the immediate concern, especially with the 2020 U.S. presidential election coming up.    These rather sophisticated “doctored” videos can make it look like a politician said something outrageous, controversial or out of character.
    There’s even a market for deepfake porn.
    “We are used to Photoshopped photos by now and are sadly also somewhat used to fake news.    But we are really not used to being fooled by our own eyes and ears if we see something on a very crisp and clear video,” says Lars Buttler, CEO of the AI Foundation, an organization that has developed forensics technology to help identify such fakes.
A virtual AI you
    Separate from all that, AI Foundation is developing “personal AIs,” kind of avatars of famous people, starting with a digital version of author and spiritual adviser Deepak Chopra.    On a phone, tablet or computer, this virtual Chopra can recognize you, respond to your questions and even meditate with you, Buttler says.
    By late in the year, though, Buttler believes you’ll be able to create your own personal AIs – perhaps of people close to you like your 5-year-old kid or an elderly parent or grandparent.    And you’ll be able to create a digital replica of yourself that looks, talks and is trained by you.
    “A photo tells us what somebody looks like and (is) frozen in time.    With a video we also add the elements of the tone of their voice, their mannerisms.    But with your own AI, you can literally go back to that point in time and talk to them (or your younger self),” Buttler says.
    Such personal AIs might also be used to entertain, teach or, Buttler suggests, become the future AI equivalent of YouTube stars.    Meanwhile, Snapchat is applying deep-fakery into a new feature called Cameo.    It will let you edit your own face into a customizable video loop or GIF.
    We may make use of virtual assistants and personas in all sorts of ways.
    Gartner’s Cearley envisions a scenario where you’re in your kitchen cooking a roast, assisted perhaps by none-other-than late celebrity chef Julia Child.    You’re not just following some step-by-step video recipe.    A virtual Child (or someone like her) is effectively cooking with you, thanks to AI, sensors, and the fact that your oven and other appliances are connected and can talk to one another.
    At a critical moment when there’s the risk of overcooking the meat, Child might pipe in: “Oh my goodness, it’s time to pull it out,’” she might say.
    It is an example of how AI can drive “radical simplification,” Cearley says.    “The computer is not something that sits on my desk.    The computer is my home, my car and the environment that I’m working through.”

1/22/2020 China virus toll rises to nine as pandemic fears grow by Cate Cadell and David Stanway
A tourist wearing a mask visits Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee
    BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The death toll from a new flu-like coronavirus in China rose to nine on Wednesday with 440 confirmed cases, Chinese health officials said as authorities stepped up efforts to control the outbreak by discouraging public gatherings in Hubei province.
    Another 2,197 people who came into contact with infected people were isolated, with 765 so far released from observation, National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin told reporters, adding that there was already evidence that the virus was being spread through “respiratory transmission.”
    “Recently there has been a big change in the number of cases, which is related to our deepening our understanding of the disease, improving diagnostic methods and optimizing the distribution of diagnostic kits,” Li said.
    As China vowed to tighten containment measures in hospitals, the World Health Organization (WHO) was due to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak of the new coronavirus constitutes a global health emergency.
    The virus, originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei at the end of last year, has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Macau, as well as the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
    The Chinese government has been providing daily updates on the number of cases in a bid to head off public panic, as millions of people prepare to travel domestically and abroad for the country’s Lunar New Year celebrations starting this week.
    “At present, during the Lunar New Year, the rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading and the difficulty of prevention and control,” Li warned, noting that the mutation of the virus could also bring further risks.
    Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Apple supplier Foxconn <2317.TW>, said on Wednesday he was advising company employees not to visit China over the coming Lunar New Year holiday, amid concerns over the virus.
    Fears of a pandemic similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that started in China and killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2003 have roiled global markets, with aviation and luxury goods stocks hit particularly hard and the Chinese yuan tumbling.
    On Tuesday the death toll stood at six with about 300 confirmed cases.
    WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said new cases of the coronavirus would appear as China stepped up monitoring.
    Li said there was as yet no evidence of “super-spreaders” capable of disseminating the virus more widely, as happened during the SARS outbreak.
    Fifteen medical personnel are among those infected in China.    Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.    The viral infection can cause pneumonia and be passed from person to person.
    Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, WHO said the primary source was probably animal. Chinese officials have linked the outbreak to Wuhan’s seafood market.
    The new virus was adapting and mutating, underscoring the challenges for health authorities in controlling the outbreak, Gao Fu, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news briefing.
    Officials found to have covered up infections would be a “sinner for eternity before the Party and the people,” the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Commission said in a post on its WeChat social media account that was subsequently deleted.
    Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called on China on Wednesday to share “correct” information about a new coronavirus and for the WHO not to exclude Taiwan from collaboration on the outbreak for political reasons.
    Taiwan is not a member of the WHO due to the objection of China, which considers the island a Chinese province with no right to participate in international organizations unless it accepts it is part of China.
    Taiwan on Tuesday confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, a woman returning to Taiwan from Wuhan.
    Taiwan joined Australia in warning citizens to avoid travel to Wuhan, and airports around the world have stepped up screening of travelers from China.    Tsai also ordered tour groups from Wuhan not to come to Taiwan for the time being.
    The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau confirmed on Wednesday its first case of pneumonia linked to the newly identified coronavirus and tightened body-temperature screening measures in casinos and around the city.
    Several foreign tour operators said North Korea will ban foreign tourists starting Wednesday due to the spread of the virus.
    The vast majority of tourists to North Korea come from China, Pyongyang’s main supporter.    North Korea is estimated to earn millions of dollars from the steady flow of Chinese tourists.    Tourism is one of the last major ways that North Korea can legally earn foreign cash due to international sanctions.
    Qualifying boxing matches for Asia and Oceania region for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo set to take place in Wuhan in February have been canceled due to fears over the virus, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said on Wednesday.
    However, the Australian women’s soccer team, the Matildas, were still preparing for a trip to Wuhan for Olympic qualifiers early next month, head coach Ante Milicic has said.
    Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd <0293.HK>, one of the airlines affected the most by the SARS outbreak, said it would allow flight attendants to wear a surgical mask while operating mainland China flights due to concerns over the new virus.
    The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union said it had received a “tremendous” amount of messages from members concerned over catching the virus, and attendants on all flights should have the option to wear a mask.
    “All of them are worried about the risk they are taking every time they go to work,” the union said on its Facebook page.
    Cathay’s website said that with immediate effect, rebooking, rerouting and refund charges would be waived for all tickets arriving to or departing from Wuhan through Feb. 15.
    China’s aviation regulator late on Tuesday told mainland carriers to refund or change flights to Wuhan without charge at the request of passengers, which analysts at Daiwa said had affected more than 24 airlines.
    Some other travel firms are also allowing free cancellations on bookings to Wuhan.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell and David Stanway; Editing by Stephen Coates and Michael Perry)

1/22/2020 CDC confirms first case of coronavirus in the U.S. by OAN Newsroom
Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in a subway station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday,
Jan. 22, 2020. The first case of coronavirus in Macao was confirmed on Wednesday, according to state
broadcaster CCTV. The infected person, a 52-year-old woman, was a traveller from Wuhan. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Health officials are tightening up their defenses against the new coronavirus after the first case hits U.S. soil.    This comes after officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the first case of the new virus Tuesday, which has affected a Washington state resident. CDC officials do not believe this to be highly threatening.    The say the risk of outbreak in the U.S. is low.
    “I’m always concerned when there’s the emergence of a new disease, but thankfully this gentleman is doing well and right now I judge the risk to the general American public to be low,” stated Dr. Nancy Messonnier, NCIRD Director.    “Travelers to Wuhan need to be aware of this disease and they should be checking CDC’s travel website where we provide updated information about the precautions that they should take.”
    The 30-year-old patient returned to Washington from a trip to Wuhan, where the coronavirus started on January 15th before U.S. airports began screening travelers.    After four days passed, he went to the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington after experiencing symptoms of pneumonia.
    Medical staff sent specimens to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia where it was confirmed he has the coronavirus.    They were able to treat the patient and are monitoring health workers and other patients who may have come in contact with him.
Providence Regional Medical Center Everett where a man with the first case of coronavirus in the United States is being
treated on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Everett, Wash. A U.S. resident who recently returned from a trip to central
China has been diagnosed with the new virus. Health officials said Tuesday that the man returned to the Seattle area in the
middle of last week after traveling to the Wuhan area, where the outbreak began. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald via AP)
    Washington Governor Jay Inslee has urged residents to stay calm and said he has a plan to take care of future cases.
    “And this is certainly not a moment for panic or high anxiety, it is a moment for vigilance and we are pleased to report that we have a very comprehensive approach that is acting very quickly to respond to this to identify the potential folks who may be subject to transmission,” said the governor.
    According to health officials, the patient is doing well and is being isolated in the hospital for at least two more days.
    Meanwhile, airports in Atlanta and Chicago will start screening passengers coming from Wuhan this week, following the lead of airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.
    The CDC raised the travel notice to Wuhan from Level One to Level Two, and are recommending people traveling there take extra precautions.

1/22/2020 China virus deaths hit 17, heightening global alarm by Cate Cadell and David Stanway
A tourist wearing a mask visits Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee
    BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Deaths from China’s new virus rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 540 cases confirmed, increasing fears of contagion from an infection suspected to originate from illegally-traded wildlife.
    The previously unknown, flu-like coronavirus strain is believed to have emerged from an animal market in central Wuhan city, with cases now detected as far away as the United States.
    Contrasting with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China’s communist government has this time given regular updates to try to avoid panic as millions travel for the Lunar New Year.
    “The rise in the mobility of the public has objectively increased the risk of the epidemic spreading,” National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin said.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) was meeting to rule if the outbreak was a global health emergency.
    After official appeals to stay calm, many Chinese were cancelling trips, buying face masks, avoiding public places such as cinemas and shopping centres, and even turning to an online plague simulation game or watching disaster movie “The Flu” as a way to cope.
    “The best way to conquer fear is to confront fear,” said one commentator on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.
    The virus has spread from Wuhan around China to population centres including Beijing, Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong.
    The latest death toll in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, rose from nine to 17 by midday on Wednesday, state television quoted the provincial government as saying.
    Official newspaper China Daily said 544 cases had now been confirmed in the country.    Abroad, Thailand has confirmed four cases, while the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have each reported one.
    President Donald Trump said the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a good containment plan.    “We think it is going to be handled very well,” he said at Davos in Switzerland.
    Li said the virus, which can cause pneumonia and has no effective vaccine, was being spread via breathing.    Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
    “I believe the government for sure, but I still feel fearful.    Because there’s no cure for the virus,” said Fu Ning, a 36-year-old woman in Beijing.    “You have to rely on your immunity if you get an infection.    It sounds very scary.”
    Fears of a pandemic initially spooked markets, with aviation and luxury goods stocks hit and the yuan falling, but they regained their footing on Wednesday in approval of China’s containment response.
    Across China, companies from Foxconn <2317.TW> to Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] and HSBC Holdings were warning staff to avoid Wuhan and handing out masks.    Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Apple supplier Foxconn, said he was advising employees not to visit China.
    With more than 11 million people, Wuhan is central China’s main industrial and commercial centre and an important transport hub, home to the country’s largest inland port and gateway to its giant Three Gorges hydroelectric dam.
    Chinese officials believe wildlife trafficked at a market there was the source of the coronavirus.
    Two sources said provincial and city officials in Wuhan had been ordered to remain in the city, while those who had already left were instructed to report their whereabouts.
    WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said new cases would appear as China stepped up monitoring.    But Li said there was no evidence of “super-spreaders” capable of disseminating the virus more widely, as happened during the SARS outbreak.    SARS was thought to have crossed to humans from civet cats sold for food.
    Airports round the world stepped up screening from China.
    Russia said it had strengthened its sanitary and quarantine control, Britain said it would start enhanced monitoring of passengers from Wuhan, and Singapore started screening all passengers from China.
    The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau confirmed its first case of pneumonia linked to the coronavirus and tightened body-temperature screening measures.
    A first case emerged in Hong Kong on Wednesday, media reported, with the patient arriving via high-speed railway from the mainland.    “The whole world is watching,” the city’s commerce secretary, Edward Yau, told Reuters.
    Mexico was investigating a potential case.
    North Korea banned foreign tourists from Wednesday due to the virus, several foreign tour operators said, losing one of its main sources of foreign currency.
    Sport too was affected, with some qualifying boxing matches for the 2020 Olympics set for Wuhan cancelled and women’s football qualifiers shifted to Nanjing.
    China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the top legal authority, posted on Tuesday that anyone failing to report virus cases “will be forever nailed to the pillar of historical shame.”
    But despite such openness, some experts were sceptical.
    “We have reason to doubt whether surv (surveillance) is adequate as cases mount,” tweeted Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University Law School in Washington.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell, Lusha Zhang and Jiang Xihao in Beijing, David Stanway in Shanghai, Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong, Ben Blanchard in Taipei, Josh Smith in Seoul, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Kate Kelland in London, Alexandra Alper in Davos, Shreyashi Sanyal in Bangalore, Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Timothy Heritage; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

1/22/2020 Chicago’s O’Hare Airport begins testing travelers from China for coronavirus by OAN Newsroom
Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the high speed
train station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Starting on Wednesday, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport began screening passengers from China amid growing concerns over the coronavirus spreading in that country.    The enhanced medical screening at O’Hare comes as the Chinese New Year approaches, which is expected to increase traffic to and from China.
    Health inspectors will be stationed at the international terminal as travelers arrive from Wuhan, China, where this strain of coronavirus allegedly originated.    Travelers entering the U.S. will only be able to enter through a handful of airports in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Chicago.
    “If you start your travel in Wuhan, no matter where you’re ending up eventually in the U.S., no matter what your intermediate travel may be, your initial point of entry to the U.S. will be in one of the five airportsz,” stated Chicago Health Commissioner Allison Arwady.
Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the high speed
train station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Chinese officials said at least 17 people have died and more than 400 have been sickened by the virus.    The World Health Organization said it will convene an emergency committee on the virus this week to determine if the outbreak has risen to the level of a public health emergency.
    President Trump has said the U.S. is in a good position to handle any cases of the new virus.    While speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, the president said the U.S. has a plan in place and has the situation totally under control.
    “We think it’s going to be handled very well, we already handled it very well,” he said.    “The CDC has been terrific, very great professionals, and we’re in very good shape.”
    On Tuesday, a man in Washington state tested positive for the virus after a recent trip to China.    The man is expected to make a full recovery and the CDC has reassured the public that the risk of outbreak in the U.S. is low.
A health official holds a health alert card at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport
in Tangerang, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

1/23/2020 Cancer research finds new recepter - Discovery may lead to ‘one-size-fits-all’ therapy by Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY
    A team of researchers in the United Kingdom discovered a new type of immune cell that they say could one day be used as a “one-size-fits-all” therapy for most cancers.
    Scientists at Cardiff University say they’ve found a T-cell with a new type of receptor that can recognize and kill most cancers.    Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Immunology on Monday.
    The discovery has not been tested in patients, but study author Andrew Sewell called it “an exciting new frontier.”
    “We hope this new (T-cell receptor) may provide us with a different route to target and destroy a wide range of cancers in all individuals,” he said in a statement.
    Experts in the field not involved in the study were cautiously optimistic about the results.    Dr. Marcel van den Brink, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, called the discover “a very nice step forward” but said more work is needed before determining whether the research could lead to results for patients.
    “We hope this new (T-cell receptor) may provide us with a different route to target and destroy a wide range of cancers in all individuals.” Andrew Sewell, study author
    “It’s very early in the process to figure out if this pathway, if these types of T-cells, really could be used as a way to control cancer,” van den Brink said.
    To treat cancer, doctors have employed surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy for years, but adoptive cell transfer is an immunotherapy treatment that has rapidly emerged in recent years, according to the National Cancer Institute.
    Adoptive cell transfer relies on “collecting and using patients’ own immune cells to treat their cancer,” the institute says, and CAR T-cell therapy, one type of adoptive cell transfer, has advanced the most in clinical trials, with the FDA approving its use in some cases, according to the National Cancer Institute.
    The researchers at Cardiff compared their discovery to CAR T-cell therapy but said it could one day be used in more types of cancer.    Under these new therapies, doctors remove patients’ T-cells, genetically modify them and return them to patients’ blood in order to attack cancer cells.
    The T-cells scan the surfaces of others cells to determine which ones are cancerous, but this process is highly individualized and treatments are limited to certain types of cancer.    That’s because it relies on a cell-surface molecule called human leukocyte antigen, which varies among patients.
    However, the Cardiff researchers say they uncovered a unique T-cell receptor that can find the molecule MR1, which does not vary among people.
    During testing, the team says the Tcells were able to kill a host of cancers, including lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells.    Healthy cells were not killed during lab tests.
    Testing within mice with human cancer also showed promising results, the researchers said.
    Van den Brink said researchers still need to determine what exactly the Tcell receptors are detecting on the MR1 and whether that’s specific to cancer cells.    “If it’s found on normal and cancer cells, then you can’t really develop this as a therapy,” he said.

1/23/2020 Health warning considered for acetaminophen - California may add drug to state’s cancer risk list by Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY
    One of the most commonly used drugs on the market may be declared a carcinogen by California.
    Acetaminophen, an active ingredient in popular pain relief medications such as Tylenol, Excedrin and Midol, has been on the state’s list of drugs under review for years because of tenuous links to cancer.
    In the spring, a panel of scientists appointed by the governor will conduct a public hearing to determine whether acetaminophen will be added to a list of about 900 chemicals the state considers a cancer risk.    A California law called Proposition 65 requires the state to warn its residents about chemicals that may cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.    More than 100 studies published in peer-reviewed journals have yielded mixed results on the question of whether acetaminophen increases the risk of some forms of cancer.    An analysis of those studies by state regulators pointed out it’s difficult to isolate the drug from other cancer-causing factors, such as smoking.
    The International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed acetaminophen in 1990 and 1999, and at neither time did it list the drug as a carcinogen.    In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has told state officials that labeling acetaminophen as cancer-causing would be “false and misleading” and illegal.
    The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents manufacturers and marketers of non-prescription drugs, noted that more than 20 organizations and experts – including medical groups and patient advocates - have urged the Carcinogen Identification Committee not to include acetaminophen on the list.
    But Sam Delson, spokesman for the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said the panel of scientists decided in 2011 that there was enough evidence of elevated cancer risk that considering the addition of acetaminophen to the list should be given "high priority."
    Critics have accused state regulators of overreaching and confusing consumers, noting that California has the biggest list of carcinogenic chemicals in the nation. State officials counter by saying they’re duty-bound to uphold the law.
    "It’s a difficult issue because it’s a very commonly used drug," said Thomas Mack, chairman of the Carcinogen Identification Committee.    “But that doesn’t make any difference.    That’s not what our mandate is.”
    According to, acetaminophen is the most popular pain relief medicine in the U.S., and it’s considered safe and effective with proper use.    The drug, also used to reduce fever, can be found in more than 600 prescription and over-the-counter medications.
    But the FDA warns on its website that misuse of acetaminophen is dangerous and that “taking more than the recommended amount can cause liver damage, ranging from abnormalities in liver function blood tests, to acute liver failure, and even death."
Contributing: The Associated Press
Tylenol may be the best-known brand name for acetaminophen. PAUL SAKUMA/AP

1/23/2020 Thai protesters demand action as air pollution clouds Bangkok by Patpicha Tanakasempipat
A woman wears a mask during an environmental activists' rally to demand rights to clean air, near the Thai Government House
in Bangkok, Thailand, as the country struggles to contain worsening air pollution January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Dozens of activists held a rare protest on Thursday over air pollution in Bangkok, a day after Thai officials closed schools due to concern over the impact.
    Levels of air pollution in the capital, the world’s most visited city, have hovered at unhealthy levels over the past month – over 100 on the air quality index.
    The index breached the 151 threshold seen as dangerously unhealthy for the general public late last week, and continued to climb until it hit 163 on Monday, according to monitor AirVisual.
    Schools were closed for the day on Wednesday, and by Thursday the index dropped back to 121.
    The activists, wearing pollution masks, said they were marching to the Government House because of authorities’ inaction.
    “Air pollution affects everyone … it is life and death for all of us,” said Tara Buakamsri, Thailand director for environmental group Greenpeace, as cars and motorcycles sped by emitting smoke.
    Particles found in dust, soot and smoke and small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, known as PM 2.5, were measured at unhealthy levels for 23 of the past 30 days in Bangkok, data from AirVisual showed.
    Earlier this week, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said healthy people such as himself could manage and those in risky groups should be aware of their tolerance levels and wear masks.
    His comment angered some of the activists.
    “Pushing the burden on the people like this is not something an efficient government would do,” said Chonlatorn Wongrussamee, one of the protesters.
    Tara said protecting the environment and health did not damage economic development but went hand in hand with it at the demonstration, which the activists said was the first such protest in two years.
    When they reached the government headquarters, a senior official in the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Nopadol Phonsen, came out to speak to them, telling them officials were meeting to discuss measures to tackle the issue.
    “We’re all under the same sky.    We want the air we breathe to be clean and healthy,” he said.
    The city’s last moderate air quality day, when the index was between 51 and 100, was Jan 4., and there has been no “good” air reading in the past 30 days, according to AirVisual data.
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; additional reporting by Prapan Chankaew; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

1/23/2020 Coronavirus: A global health emergency? by OAN Newsroom
Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the high speed train station, in Hong Kong,
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.     The first case of coronavirus in Macao was confirmed on Wednesday,
according to state broadcaster CCTV. The infected person, a 52-year-old woman, was a traveller from Wuhan. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Washington, D.C. officials announced it’s now conducting health screenings of travelers arriving from Central China at five U.S. airports amid concerns over the coronavirus.
    “If you start your travel in Wuhan, no matter where you’re ending up, eventually in the U.S., no matter what your intermediate travel may be, your initial point of entry to the U.S. will be in one of the five airports.” — Allison Arwady, commissioner – Chicago Department of Public Health
    Health inspectors will be stationed at the international terminal at LAX, JFK, San Francisco and Chicago as travelers come in from the Central Chinese city of Wuhan, where it is believed this strain of coronavirus originated.    They will be taking temperatures and asking travelers about symptoms, which include runny nose cough, sore throat, headache, fever, shortness of breath and diarrhea.
A health official scans the body temperature of a passenger as she arrives at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport
in Tangerang, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Indonesia is screening travelers from overseas for a new type of
coronavirus as fears spread about a mysterious infectious disease after its first death reported in China. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
    This comes after the CDC reported the first U.S. case earlier this week. A Washington state man in his 30’s contracted the illness after visiting China.    Meanwhile, authorities confirmed a sick passenger who arrived late Wednesday night to LAX from Mexico City with flu-like symptoms is undergoing a medical evaluation due to concerns over the deadly coronavirus.
    Beyond China and the U.S., the coronavirus has hit Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.

1/23/2020 Spain calls emergency meeting as Storm Gloria death toll hits 13
Residents walk on a bridge on the Onyar river during the storm "Gloria" in Girona, Spain, January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
    MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s government will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to deal with the impact of a storm that has caused heavy rains, powerful winds and huge waves, and killed at least 13 people.
    Residents were left grappling with the wreckage of Storm Gloria, including collapsed bridges, damaged railway lines and entire beaches wiped away by waves.
    Catalan authorities confirmed the two latest deaths on Thursday evening.    A man was swept out to sea while fishing in the coastal town of Ametlla de Mar and another was found dead in his car inland in Cabaces, where there has been flooding.    Four people are still missing.
    “I think what’s important right now is that we’re all united, that we work shoulder-to-shoulder and cooperate, as we are doing,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told reporters after flying over areas of eastern Spain that have been hit.
    The national weather authority said the storm had begun to recede but more than 100 roads remained closed and tens of thousands of students were kept out of school.
    Noting that the storm had hit just as the area readied itself for the tourist season, Sanchez said his government had called the emergency meeting to help reestablish normality, guarantee security and address short- and medium-term needs.
    The storm tightened its grip on parts of the peninsula on Sunday, unleashing winds of up to 144 kmh (90 mph) and waves up to 13.5 meters (44 feet) high that slammed into seafront shops, wiping out beaches and boardwalks.
    Near Barcelona, frothy sea foam carpeted several streets in the small town of Tossa de Mar.
    Hundreds of thousands were left without power as the storm covered roads in snow, flooded farmlands and poured saltwater into the Ebro delta in northeastern Spain, swallowing thousands of hectares of rice paddies.
    Those killed by the storm ranged from a 69-year old man pulled into the sea by a wave in Catalonia to another who died as hail pounded the greenhouse in the province of Almeria where he had been working.
    The prime minister said that while every meteorological phenomenon could not be attributed to climate change, it was evident it was having an impact.
    “Public administrations have to reflect on how to shift gears and focus our economic resources and public policies … on a new element – and that is climate change,” said Sanchez.
(Reporting by Paola Luelmo, Emma Pinedo, Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro, writing by Ashifa Kassam; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Timothy Heritage)

1/24/2020 Doomsday clock ticks closer to destruction - Global emergency is 100 seconds to ‘midnight’ by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    The world is 100 seconds to “midnight,” according to the Doomsday Clock, closer to destruction than at any point since the clock was created in 1947.
    Each year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit group that sets the clock, decides whether the events of the previous year pushed humanity closer to or further from destruction.    The clock “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making,” according to the group.
    This year, the group moved the clock from two minutes to 100 seconds to midnight.    The closer to midnight we are, the more danger we’re in, according to the Bulletin.
    “We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds – not hours or even minutes,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.    “It is the closest to Doomsday we have ever been in the history of the Doomsday Clock."
    “We now face a true emergency – an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay.”
    In a statement, the Bulletin said, “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond."
    “Civilization-ending nuclear war – whether started by design, blunder or simple miscommunication – is a genuine possibility,” the group said.    “Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening.    And for a variety of reasons that include a corrupted and manipulated media environment, democratic governments and other institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge.”
    The furthest the clock has been from midnight was 17 minutes in 1991, near the end of the Cold War.
    The Doomsday Clock has moved closer to midnight in three of the past four years.
    The Doomsday Clock did not move in 2019 after its minute hand was set forward in 2018 by 30 seconds, to two minutes before midnight.
    The clock has been maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947.
    The group was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project.
    The scientists created the clock in 1947, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and a nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the Earth.
    The decision was made by the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, along with input from a board of sponsors that includes 13 Nobel Laureates.

1/24/2020 Strong earthquake strikes eastern Turkey, six dead by Ezgi Erkoyun
Rescuers are seen in outside a collapsed building after an earthquake in Elazig, Turkey, January 24, 2020.
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake struck eastern Turkey on Friday, killing six people and damaging buildings near the epicentre of the tremor, which was felt in several neighboring countries.
    The magnitude 6.8 quake hit Elazig province, about 550 km (340 miles) east of the capital, Ankara, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks.
    Two regional governors, in Elazig and neighboring Malatya, said three people were killed in each province and 225 people were injured.
    State broadcaster TRT showed footage of police and emergency workers searching a partly collapsed building in Elazig. Windows were smashed and balconies had crashed to the ground.
    At another collapsed building, teams from Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) worked with their hands to remove bricks and plaster from the ruins.
    Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu described the earthquake as a ‘level 3’ incident according to the country’s emergency response plan.    This means it requires assistance at the national level but is one stage short of needing international help.
    The quake struck in a remote, relatively sparsely populated area and it could take some time for authorities to establish the full extent of damage.
    AFAD officials warned residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the danger of further aftershocks.    It said beds, blankets and tents were being sent to the area, where the overnight temperature was below 0 degrees Celsius.
    State media in Syria and Iran both reported the earthquake was felt in those countries.    Local media in Lebanon said the cities of Beirut and Tripoli also felt the quake.
    Turkey has a history of powerful earthquakes.    More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the western city of Izmit, 90 km (55 miles) southeast of Istanbul. About 500,000 people were made homeless.
    In 2011 an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Ercis, some 100 km (60 miles) to the north, killing at least 523 people.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans and Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul, Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Eric Knecht in Beirut and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Editing by Frances Kerry and Gareth Jones)

1/25/2020 Turkey quake kills at least 21, rescuers dig for survivors by Umit Ozdal
Rescue workers search on a collapsed building after an earthquake in Elazig, Turkey, January 25, 2020. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar
    ELAZIG, Turkey (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake struck eastern Turkey late on Friday, killing at least 21 people and collapsing buildings in towns near the centre of the tremor, which was strong enough to be felt in several neighbouring countries.
    The magnitude 6.8 quake shook Elazig province, about 550 km (340 miles) east of the capital Ankara, and was followed by more than 270 aftershocks, 12 of which had magnitudes over 4.
    Seventeen people were killed in Elazig and four more in the neighbouring province of Malatya, said Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD), adding 1,030 others were injured and in hospitals in the region.    It said rescue efforts were underway at three different sites in Elazig.
    Footage early on Saturday showed emergency workers rescuing three people in Elazig after 12 hours under the rubble.    Another woman in Elazig was rescued after 13 hours, while authorities listened for voices, with the government saying 30 more people were still trapped.
State broadcaster TRT showed footage of dozens of workers in the dawn light using shovels to dig out a partly collapsed building in Elazig.     Windows were smashed and balconies from at least four storeys had crashed to the ground.
    Teams worked through the night with their hands, drills and mechanical diggers to remove bricks and plaster from the ruins in the province where the overnight temperature dipped to -8 degrees Celsius.
    “Our houses collapsed … we cannot go inside them,” said a 32-year-old man from the town of Sivrice, epicentre of the quake which struck shortly before 9 p.m. (1800 GMT).
    “In our village some people lost their lives.    I hope God will help us,” said the man, who gave only his first name, Sinasi.    “Our animals died.    Our families gathered around the fire to spend the night, covered with blankets,” Sinasi said as he and a relative tried to warm themselves by a small fire.
    State media in Syria and Iran both reported the earthquake was felt in those countries.    Local media in Lebanon said the cities of Beirut and Tripoli also felt the quake.
    Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu described it as a “Level 3” incident according to the country’s emergency response plan, meaning it called for a national response but did not require international help.
    He said Turkey, which straddles seismic faultlines and is prone to earthquakes, had learnt lessons from previous disasters which helped it address Friday’s incident. Drones were deployed in search operations and to communicate between provinces.
    Emergency teams and rescue equipment were sent from other provinces to Elazig after the quake.    Flag-carrier Turkish Airlines started additional flights to Elazig from Ankara and Istanbul to help transport rescuers.
    AFAD warned residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the danger of further aftershocks.    It said beds, blankets and tents were being sent to the area, where some people sheltered in sports gymnasiums.    Turkey’s Kizilay aid group also sent food, heaters and other materials to the region.
    “I wish God’s mercy to our brothers who lost their lives in the earthquake, and urgent healing for those who were injured,” President Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter.    He said his Interior, Health, and Environment and Urbanisation ministers were in the region for inspections.
    Turkey has a history of powerful earthquakes.    More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the western city of Limit, 90 km (55 miles) southeast of Istanbul.    About 500,000 people were made homeless.
    In 2011, an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Ercis, some 100 km (60 miles) to the north, killing at least 523 people.
(Reporting by Umit Ozdal in Elazig; Additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun, Dominic Evans, Tuvan Gumrukcu, Omer Berberoglu, Mert Ozkan and Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Michael Perry and Mark Potter)

1/27/2020 PUBLIC HEALTH - Rush is on to develop vaccine for coronavirus by Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY
    Drugmakers are hustling to make a vaccine to counter the rapidly spreading respiratory virus that has sickened at least 1,975 people in China and five in the United States.
    The National Institutes of Health has partnered with a Boston-area company, Moderna, on a vaccine targeting the novel coronavirus.    A Pennsylvania biotechnology company, Inovio, also secured a $9 million grant from Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to develop a vaccine.    The company already is developing a vaccine for Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, another type of coronavirus.
    Officials with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases say they can quickly develop a vaccine because Chinese scientists rapidly sequenced the virus’s genome.
    “The agency has the funding and technology,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.    “Barring any bureaucratic or regulatory holdups, which I don’t think will happen, we can almost certainly get into phase one in three months.”
    Even if the vaccine is tested rapidly, it might not come in time to slow the outbreak. Public health efforts to limit the spread of the virus and treat those who are infected will have a more immediate benefit.    The virus, which originated in Wuhan, has spread to surrounding regions in China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and the U.S.

1/27/2020 5 US coronavirus cases have been confirmed - Infection can spread before symptoms show by John Bacon, USA TODAY
    Two more Americans have contracted the new coronavirus that has killed more than 50 people in China, raising the U.S. total to five, authorities confirmed Sunday.
    The virus has been reported in several countries, but all the deaths have been in China.    Most have been in and around Wuhan, a central city of 11 million people that has been the epicenter of the outbreak.
    The Los Angeles County Health Department said the infected person was receiving medical treatment.
    “There is no immediate threat to the general public, no special precautions are required, and people should not be excluded from activities based on their race, country of origin, or recent travel if they do not have symptoms of respiratory illness,” the department said.
    The department said that residents, students, workers and visitors should continue to engage in their regular activities – and practice good public health hygiene “as this is the height of flu season.”
    The department said it was working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal, state and local agencies to monitor the “rapidly evolving situation.”
    In Arizona, officials in Maricopa County said the confirmed case is in a person who recently returned from travel to Wuhan, China.    The patient is a “member of the Arizona State University community” but does not live in university housing.
    “This person is not severely ill and is currently in isolation to keep the illness from spreading,” authorities said.
    The announcements came one day after the California’s Orange County Health Care Agency’s Communicable Disease Control Division said an individual was diagnosed with the virus there.    That patient is hospitalized in isolation and is in good condition.
    “The current risk of local transmission remains low,” the agency said in a statement.    “There is no evidence that person-to-person transmission has occurred in Orange County.”
    The CDC says people who have casual contact with a case are at minimal risk of developing infection.
    The first U.S. case, a Washington state man in his 30s, was diagnosed Tuesday.    A second case, a woman in her 60s, was reported Friday in Chicago.
    Multiple cities and states have been screening patients whose symptoms are consistent with the virus.    The Virginia Health Department said Sunday that it is investigating two residents in central Virginia and one in northern Virginia “who meet both clinical and epidemiologic criteria” for the virus.
    The virus, first diagnosed in China last month, has infected at least 1,975 people and killed 56 people there, according to that nation’s National Health Commission.
    China Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said Sunday that it appeared the “ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger” and that it is infectious before symptoms show, a characteristic that could make it harder to contain.
    “From observations, the virus is capable of transmission even during incubation period” of one to 14 days, Ma said. “There are hidden carriers
    That makes this outbreak different from severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, a virus that was not contagious during incubation.    SARS killed more than 600 people across mainland China and Hong Kong along with more than 100 other people around the world in 2002-2003.
    Ogbonnaya Omenka, an assistant professor and public health specialist at Butler University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, says immediate reporting of symptoms or contact is now more crucial than ever.
    “Asymptomatic transmission of the novel coronavirus definitely makes it more problematic and more difficult to contain,” Omenka told USA TODAY.    “This automatically heightens the level of concern about the existing cases in the United States. Could there be other cases?

1/28/2020 Australia battles new bushfire threat as smoke cloaks capital
FILE PHOTO: A truck drives past charred trees burnt during the recent bushfires near Batemans Bay, New South Wales, Australia, January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian officials warned communities in bushfire-ravaged eastern states to strengthen fire defense on Tuesday amid forecasts of soaring temperatures and strong winds, as one approaching blaze cloaked the capital in thick smoke.
    Bushfires have killed 33 people and about 1 billion animals since September, while 2,500 homes and an area the size of Greece have been destroyed.
    Firefighters have used several days of cooler, damper weather across much of the continent to try to gain control of more than 100 blazes still burning before temperatures rise again from mid-week.
    One blaze in a national park south of Canberra was upgraded to the emergency warning level, as the emergency services chief told residents to stay on alert, given rising winds could spark spot fires in the suburbs.
    People in some areas near in Namadgi National Park were told it was too late to leave.
    “Helicopters and large air tankers are water-bombing, establishing containment lines and undertaking aerial surveillance,” Canberra’s emergency services said in a notice.
    “The fire may pose threats to all lives directly in its path,” Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan told reporters.    “…Firefighters may be unable to prevent a fire from reaching your property. You should not expect a firefighter on your door.”
    Winds of 5 kph had reached gusts as high as 40 kph (3.1-25 mph), she said, fanning the blaze and worsening conditions.
    Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology and firefighting services were predicting temperatures to top 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) over the weekend.
    “Worsening conditions are forecast for later the week so prepare now,” the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said on Twitter.
    People should clear their properties of any flammable vegetation, while any broken roof tiles should be repaired to protect houses from airborne embers, it said.
    Here are Tuesday’s key events in the bushfire crisis:
* NSW firefighters were tackling 60 fires.    Only one fire is at “watch and act” warning level, meaning there was no immediate danger.    The rest are at lower warning levels.
* In Victoria state, there were 16 warnings in place, none of which was deemed an immediate threat to property.
* A high pressure weather pattern is set to move across Australia’s east coast later this week, bring soaring temperatures over the weekend.
* Fires cloaked Canberra in thick, hazardous smoke on Tuesday.
* Researchers from the University of Sydney on Tuesday released a report that found just three days of low-level bushfire smoke exposure increased the threat of cardiac arrest, with people over 65 at higher risk.
(Reporting by Colin Packham in SYDNEY. Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

1/29/2020 ‘Did a plane hit?’ Big quake shakes Miami and Caribbean, damage minor by Kate Chappell
Waves splash from a pool during an earthquake, seen in this still frame obtained from social media video
dated January 28, 2020, in George Town, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. REALVISION.COM /via REUTERS
    KINGSTON (Reuters) – A major earthquake struck south of Cuba on Tuesday, sending shockwaves as far as Miami and sparking panic in the Cayman Islands where it ripped open sinkholes, but did not do serious damage to people or property, initial reports said.
    The magnitude 7.7 quake hit in the sea between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba, at a depth of 6.2 miles (10 km).
    Several aftershocks, including one of 6.1 magnitude much nearer to the Cayman Islands, followed the principal quake.
    Cindi Welcome, 27, a trainee travel agent in Cayman capital George Town, said she first thought her blood pressure was playing up when the tremors struck.    Then she screamed.
    “The building was shaking like paper,” she said.    “The panic was real.    This was the worst we have ever felt.”
    Residents reported drains blowing open and sinkholes appearing, one of which swallowed half a car, said Jewel Hydes, a 44-year-old risk manager on the islands.
    “It was really, really horrific.    Everyone on the island is still in shock,” Hydes said.    “We kept seeing tons of people praying, running out of buildings, ’cause they were swaying.”
    In Miami, Florida, several downtown buildings were evacuated as office workers streamed outdoors to safety.
    Miami personal injury attorney Eli Stiers was in his 29th floor office when he suddenly started feeling queasy.
    “I was like: ‘Did I have some bad sushi?'” he said.    Then he noticed his office door swinging back and forth.    “We were like, did a plane hit the building?    A sinkhole open up?    Then it hit us that it was an earthquake.    You don’t expect that in Miami.”
    The Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue department responded to multiple calls about high-rise buildings swaying.    The department said it had no reports of injuries or structural damage.
    To varying degrees, that message was repeated across the region, despite the strength of the quake.
    Angie Watler, a spokeswoman for police on Cayman Brac, the island nearest the epicenter, said members of the public had reported some damage to buildings and to a swimming pool at the Carib Sands resort on the south of the island.
    Videos from Jamaica and the Caymans showed water sloshing out of pools during the quake.
    Watler said there were no reports so far of injuries but that authorities were still making checks.
    The International Tsunami Information Center said a threat of a tsunami wave had largely passed.    Minor sea level fluctuations up to 1 feet (30 cm) were still possible, it said.
    The quake was also felt in several provinces across Cuba, the government said.    However, it was not strongly felt in the capital of Havana, according to a Reuters witness.
    Don Blakeman, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center, said the impact of quakes was hard to predict but that it happening at sea appeared to have helped.
    “The good news is really that it waved out into the ocean,” Blakeman said by telephone.    “It would have been a much different story if it had been right in Kingston.”
(Reporting by Dave Graham, Stefanie Eschenbacher and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Kate Chappell in Kingston, Zachary Fagenson in Miami, Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington, Marc Frank in Havana and Sarah Marsh in Port-au-Prince; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

1/29/2020 Indian ministries buy more air purifiers as capital battles toxic air by Aditya Kalra and Mayank Bhardwaj
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a mask runs past the India Gate on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, October 28, 2019 REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s government has stepped up the purchase of air purifiers over the last two years, taking the number of devices in ministries to protect against deteriorating air quality to nearly 300, government data seen by Reuters showed.
    Six federal ministries – including the health, foreign and home affairs – bought at least 159 air purifiers during 2018-2019 at a cost of 5 million rupees ($70,353), according to previously unpublished data obtained under a Right to Information (RTI) law.
    That compares with at least 140 air purifiers bought for $55,000 during 2014-2017 for the six ministries and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office, as previously reported by Reuters.    The latest data on purchases for Modi’s office was not available. (
    The purchases come as the federal and city governments faced criticism for failing to address the problem of worsening air pollution, especially in the winter, and drew criticism from one activist.
    “It’s absolutely criminal to spend taxpayers’ money in buying air purifiers for government officials,” said environmentalist Vimlendu Jha, who is a member of a government panel tasked with solving Delhi’s pollution crisis.
    In November, the level of pollution in the capital forced authorities to shut schools, restrict the use of cars and declare a public health emergency.
    A senior official at the environment ministry, which bears the most responsibility for tackling pollution, said there was no particular drive to buy purifiers to protect civil servants.
    “The government is not spending a fortune by buying air purifiers.    And it’s not that officials don’t get to inhale toxic air by confining themselves to their offices,” said the ministry official.
    The six ministries and Modi’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
    Air purifiers can cost up to nearly $1,000 and are too expensive for most Indians.
    Per capita income in New Delhi, a city of more than 20 million, is about $400 a month and thousands of homeless people endure the cold and the toxic air while sleeping on the streets.
    Reuters requested for data using the RTI law from the six ministries as it had comparable numbers previously reported in 2018.    These were the ministries of foreign affairs, tourism, agriculture, health, home affairs and the federal think-tank Niti Aayog.
    Of the total of 159 devices bought by the ministries, the home affairs ministry topped the list with 103 of them in 2018 and 2019, the data showed.    Graphic: Modi’s government purifer purchases 2018-2019 –
    “All the air purifiers have been installed in various offices/rooms of this ministry,” the ministry said in its RTI response, adding the amount spent was 3.1 million rupees ($43,619).
    In October and November, when New Delhi saw some its worst air pollution last year, the foreign ministry bought 12 purifiers. Four of them – bought for the minister’s office – were priced at nearly $1,000 each.
    The federal health ministry bought 23 air purifiers in the last two years, including 14 in 2019, its highest annual purchases since 2015, the data showed.
(The story refiles to correct paragraph 3 to include prime minister’s first name)
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Robert Birsel)

1/30/2020 Heatwave and high winds threaten to reignite Australian wildfires by Paulina Duran
FILE PHOTO: Dead trees mark the scorched landscape surrounding the Kangaroo Valley Bush Retreat after
a wildfire in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia, January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Swathes of southeast Australia were bracing on Thursday for a days-long heatwave that threatens to stoke bushfires that have been burning for months.
    As firefighters and residents prepared for the heightened danger, the New South Wales (NSW) state government launched a six-month inquiry to examine both the causes of and response to this season’s deadly wildfires.
    “We don’t want to waste the opportunity to take on board any recommendations we need to adopt ahead of the bushfire season this year … as we approach summer of 2021,” said Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of NSW.
    NSW state has been one of the hardest hit by bushfires, which started earlier than usual in September.    The blazes have burnt out more than 11.7 million hectares (117,000 sq km) across Australia’s most populous states, killing at least 33 people and about 1 billion animals, and destroying 2,500 homes.
    Fire danger warnings were issued on Thursday for several areas in South Australia state, where temperatures were forecast to exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds were expected to reach 35 kph (22 mph).
    Among them was Kangaroo Island, a popular tourist destination that has already been razed by fires that killed two people.    After a day of heat, by early evening no new fires had emerged.
    “On Friday, there will also be hot and windy conditions, however, some parts of the Island may experience rainfall from mid-morning,” the state’s fire service said.
    “A total Fire Ban is in place on the island, with a rating of SEVERE.”
    In Victoria state, authorities issued a watch and act warning for people near Bendoc in the Snowy Mountains close to the New South Wales border.
    “Don’t wait, leaving now is the safest option – conditions may change and get worse very quickly.    Emergency Services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay,” emergency services officials said.
    The severe heat and high winds are forecast to hit NSW and Victoria states from Friday threatening to spark new life into some of the 87 fires burning across the three states or create new blazes.
    Australia’s dangerous summer weather has largely been driven by temperature variations in the Indian Ocean, which the country’s weather bureau said on Thursday were likely to keep conditions hot and dry until March.
    Martin Webster, a NSW Rural Fire Service officer, highlighted the strains facing the state’s 74,000-strong volunteer brigade as the huge fires continued to burn.
    “Our local crews have been actively involved in firefighting since August and we are still long way from being out of the woods, so we are talking six or seven months of firefighting,” Webster told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
    Here are Thursday’s key events in the bushfire crisis:
* There were five fires burning in the state of South Australia, 64 in New South Wales and 18 in Victoria.
* Berejiklian, firefighting officials and family of three U.S. firefighters killed in a plane crash in remote bushland last week, attended a memorial service where members of the aviation community paid their respects.
* Three firefighters who were trying to contain blazes in the Orroral Valley near Canberra were reported injured after a tree fell on their truck on Wednesday night, the ABC reported. Officials in the capital did not immediately return requests for information.
* Rating agency Moody’s on Wednesday warned increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters related to climate change would likely put at risk the ‘AAA’ credit rating of NSW.
(Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Additional reporting by Colin Packham and Melanie Burton.; Editing by Jane Wardell, Lincoln Feast and Alison Williams)

1/31/2020 Australia on standby for fire threat as heat, winds return by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: Melted metal from a vehicle destroyed in the recent bushfires is pictured in
Conjola Park, New South Wales, Australia, January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian authorities warned on Friday of severe fire danger in densely populated areas this weekend, declaring a state of emergency in the capital, Canberra, as soaring temperatures and strong whipped up huge, unpredictable blazes.
    With temperatures above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), emergency officials urged people to prepare for fires in parts of the southeast including hundreds of miles of coast south of Sydney that has already been badly hit in months of blazes.
    “Tomorrow will be the peak of the heatwave in NSW with some areas expected to reach extreme heatwave conditions,” the New South Wales (NSW) state Rural Fire Service said in a Facebook post late on Friday.
    Australia’s bushfires that have killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals since September.    About 2,500 homes have been destroyed as more than 11.7 million hectares (117,000 sq km) have been razed.
    Andrew Barr, chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), said the area’s first state of emergency since fatal wildfires in 2003 indicated the danger this weekend.    Four people were killed and almost 500 homes destroyed in 2003.
    Officials said an out-of-control fire in the ACT’s south, on the doorstep of Canberra, had grown to 185 sq km, almost 8% of the territory’s land mass.
    “This fire may become very unpredictable.    It may become uncontrollable,” Barr said in a televised briefing.    “The combination of extreme heat, wind, and a dry landscape will place suburbs in Canberra’s south at risk.”
    The state of emergency will run for 72 hours, giving authorities greater powers to order evacuations, close roads and take control of property.
    Victoria state, which adjoins NSW and ACT, is also expected to see heatwave conditions on the weekend.
    In neighboring New Zealand, where smoke from the Australian blazes has turned glaciers brown, firefighters were battling to contain about 25 fires that spread rapidly to cover about 100 hectares on the South Island.    Heatwave conditions were also forecast for much of the country over the weekend.
    Main events on Friday in the bushfire crisis:
** There were 60 active fires in NSW, one at emergency level, 27 in Victoria, of which three were at emergency level.
** Temperatures in Canberra and the southern states of Tasmania and Victoria reached above 40C (104F) on Friday.    The hot weather is forecast to continue over the weekend.
** The Australian Energy Market Operator, attempting to prevent supply shortages, urged people in Victoria to restrict energy use on Friday evening when demand is expected to peak because of unusually high humidity.
** Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who critics say has not done enough to address the impact of climate change, on Friday pledged funding for emissions reduction projects as part of a A$2 billion ($1.37 billion) package to increase gas supplies in NSW.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham in Sydney, additional reporting by Praveen Menon in Wellington; Editing by Alistair Bell and Jane Wardell)

1/31/2020 Public health emergency declared over coronavirus outbreak by OAN Newsroom
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks about the coronavirus in the
briefing room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
    Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak.    During a briefing at the White House on Friday, Azar said temporary measures will go into effect on Sunday.    These measures will include suspending entry of foreign nationals, who pose a risk of transmitting the virus, into the U.S.
    “At this time, the risk to Americans remains low and we are working to keep it that way,” he said.    “We will continue our work to monitor, respond to and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.”
    The secretary also said any Americans returning from China’s Hubei province will be under a mandatory 14 day quarantine. Those returning from other parts of China will undergo screening and be on a self-imposed quarantine.
    Azar added there will likely be more coronavirus cases in the U.S., including cases of limited person-to-person transmission.    More than 200 people have died from the coronavirus in China so far.
FILE – This Wednesday, July 17, 2019, file photo shows American Airlines planes at
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
    The fast spreading virus has caused two major U.S. airlines to halt all flights to China.    On Friday, Delta announced it was canceling all U.S. flights to China between February 6th and April 30th.    American Airlines will halt flights between the two countries until March 27th.
    United has canceled several flights between February 1st and 8th, but held back on canceling all flights.
    The State Department issued a travel advisory on the same day, which warned Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China.
    “By imposing temporary travel restrictions on China, the president has taken decisive action to protect Americans against the Wuhan coronavirus,” stated Sen. Tom Cotton.    “I commend the administration for taking the situation seriously and erring on the side of caution.”

2/1/2020 Australia’s capital braces as hot, windy conditions fuel bushfires by Will Ziebell
Smoke rises as the Big Jack Mountain fire spreads in Bega Valley, New South Wales,
Australia, February 1, 2020. NSW Rural Fire Service/Handout via REUTERS
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Soaring temperatures and strong winds stoked unpredictable bushfires near Australia’s capital city on Saturday, closing a major highway and prompting warnings for some residents that it was too late to evacuate.
    Skies along the Monaro Highway in the Australian Capital Territory turned orange-red as an uncontrolled blaze ballooned to more than 35,000 hectares (74,000 acres) in size.
    “The issue we have with the fire activity is that the fire itself is generating its own weather pattern and that, combined with the wind direction, is what is driving that intensity in the fire,” ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan said in a televised briefing in Canberra.
    The territory, home to the country’s capital, Canberra, declared a state of emergency on Friday in anticipation of the severely hot and windy conditions that are expected to last through the weekend.    It is the area’s first declared emergency since 2003 when four people were killed and almost 500 homes destroyed in wildfires.
    A second major uncontrolled fire was burning slightly further south in the Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales state, the same alpine area where an air tanker crashed on Jan. 22 killing three American firefighters.
    Temperatures were forecast to top 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in several parts of both NSW and the ACT on Saturday, prompting widespread warnings for people to be alert to the potential fire danger.
    More than 60 fires were burning in NSW, with a third of those uncontained and officials issuing emergency level warnings for five in the state’s south.
    Around 20 fires were burning in Victoria state, with one at emergency level.    Away from the firegrounds, intense rainfall was forecast, with authorities warning of potential “dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding.”
    “When it comes to the weather, it’s really the tale of two states,” Victoria Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Saturday.
    Australia’s devastating and prolonged bushfire season has killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals since September.    About 2,500 homes have been destroyed and more than 11.7 million hectares (117,000 sq km) of tinder-dry bushland have been razed.
(Reporting by Will Ziebell in Melbourne; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Jane Wardell)

2/2/2020 Sharks in Mammoth Cave? Explorers’ Kentucky discovery is blowing researchers’ minds by Emma Austin, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    During a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in November, paleontologist John-Paul Hodnett was stunned.
Preserved in the walls of the cave were parts of a large, fossilized shark head – from a shark that lived about 330 million years ago.
    The discovery began when Mammoth Cave specialists Rick Olson and Rick Toomey came across the fossils as they explored and mapped the cave system.    They sent photos to Vincent Santucci, the senior paleontologist for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for help identifying the fossils.     Santucci then sent Hodnett, a paleontologist and program coordinator at Dinosaur Park in Maryland, to help with what became the “Mammoth Cave National Park Fossil Shark Research Project.”
    Some of the shark fossils in the photos were identifiable, but Hodnett said what got him really excited was something else.
    “One set of photos showed a number of shark teeth associated with large sections of fossilized cartilage, suggesting there might be a shark skeleton preserved in the cave,” he said.
    Fossils of shark skeletons are rare because cartilage does not typically survive fossilization.    Shark teeth, however, are made of bone and enamel and preserve well.    Since sharks replace their teeth throughout their lives, shark teeth are one of the most common fossils on the planet, Hodnett said.    “I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to see in the cave during my trip in November,” Hodnett said.    “When we got to our target specimen my mind was blown.”
    The fossils weren’t parts to a full skeleton, but parts of a head that belonged to a shark, about the size of a Great White Shark, which ranges in length from 11 feet to 21 feet.
    Based on what was exposed in the cave wall, Hodnett said the find includes a lower jaw, skull cartilage and several teeth.    Hodnett determined the shark belonged to a species called “Saivodus striatus” from the Late Mississippian period, about 330 million to 340 million years ago.
    Hodnett said the period is not wellrepresented in North America but is well-known in Europe.    “Most significantly, the majority of the shark fossils we discovered come from a layer of rock that extends from Missouri to Virginia but never documented the presence of sharks, until now,” he said.    “It’s like finding a missing puzzle piece to a very big picture.”
    Thanks to the slow erosion of the limestone in the cave, the shark teeth are mostly intact and extremely detailed.
    More than 100 individual specimens have been discovered during the project.    Hodnett said teeth and dorsal fins of other shark species are also exposed in the cave ceiling and walls.
    “We’ve just scratched the surface,” Hodnett said.    “But already it’s showing that Mammoth Cave has a rich fossil shark record.”
    Because the National Park Service has experienced fossil theft and vandalism in the past, it does not release information about the specific location of fossils found in its parks.
    “We want the public to benefit from the scientific information, but at the same time we have a duty to protect these nonrenewable resources,” Santucci said.
    Hodnett said the team is working on presenting a preliminary account of the project in October at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Cincinnati.
    Reach trending reporter Emma Austin at or 502582-4180. Follow her on Twitter at @emmacaustin.
Researchers discovered fossilized remains of a 330-million-year-old shark in November at Mammoth Cave. PROVIDED BY MATT CECIL

Researchers discovered fossilized remains of a 330-million-year-old shark in Mammoth Cave. PROVIDED BY MATT CECIL

2/2/2020 Australia’s capital lifts state of emergency as fire threat subsides by Jonathan Barrett and Will Ziebell
A firefighter from a local brigade works to extinguish flames after a bushfire burnt through
the area in Bredbo, New South Wales, Australia, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Wildfires that threatened Australia’s capital, Canberra, over the weekend have been brought under control as containment lines held and hot and windy conditions eased, prompting authorities to lift a state of emergency.
    While fire in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), home to the capital city, has spread to more than 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres), close to a quarter of the territory’s entire landmass, the heat fuelling the danger is subsiding.
    ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the threat was not yet over and that there may be weeks of firefighting ahead.
    “We may need to return to a state of emergency if the situation requires it,” he said on Sunday.
    The ACT declared a state of emergency leading into the weekend, which gave authorities greater powers to order evacuations, close roads and take control of properties as fire threatened suburban areas.
    It was the first time an emergency was declared in Australia’s capital since 2003 when fires destroyed almost 500 houses and led to four deaths.
    But containment lines supported by airdrops of fire retardant helped keep the blaze back over the weekend, even in the face of wild winds and elevated temperatures which only fell in the capital overnight on Saturday, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
    The dangerous conditions started to ease on Sunday, and there is favorable weather – and even rain – forecast for the rest of the week in the nation’s capital.
    Australia’s prolonged bushfire season has killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals since September.    About 2,500 homes have been destroyed and more than 11.7 million hectares of tinder-dry bushland have been razed.
    The fire in the southern tip of the ACT also crossed into the state of New South Wales (NSW) and destroyed some homes, authorities said on Sunday.
    Seventy fires were burning across NSW late on Sunday afternoon, with 30 of those not contained.    NSW Health issued a statement saying air quality would be poor in parts of the state, including Sydney, due to a combination of bushfire smoke and dust blowing in from drought-hit areas.
    Affected residents were urged to stay indoors and minimize physical activity, NSW Health said, adding those with chronic respiratory and cardiovascular conditions are particularly at risk.
    Parts of NSW were struck by thunderstorms late on Sunday which helped douse flames, although authorities said storms could also trigger new fires.
    “Widespread thunderstorms and lightning strikes today may produce new ignitions,” the NSW Rural Fire Service said in a tweet.
    “Cooler conditions have seen reduced fire activity across most firegrounds today.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in Sydney and Will Ziebell in Melbourne; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

2/2/2020 House Republicans working on bill to plant more than 3B trees in U.S. annually by OAN Newsroom
This April 3, 2019 photo shows the jungle in Peru’s Tambopata province. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
    Rep. Bruce Westerman is working on a bill which would commit the U.S. to planting nearly 3.5 billion trees every year for the next 30 years.    GOP lawmakers are planning to reveal a finished draft of the Trillion Trees Act next week.
Photo of Rep. Bruce Westerman.
    “Plant more trees, use more wood, store more carbon,” he said on Twitter.    “It’s a simple solution with a huge environmental impact, both domestically and internationally.”
    Westerman also wanted to add provisions to offer aid to other countries, who could contribute by planting trees of their own.    The representative said planting trees is the most cost-effective way to limit carbon in the air.
    President Trump recently touted the nation’s commitment to a worldwide tree planting initiative at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
    “Well, we’re doing the one trillion trees, together with lots of other people and lots of other countries,” he said.    “What I want is the cleanest water, the cleanest air, and that’s what we’re going to have.”
    The legislation is part of a larger package Republicans have drafted in an answer to the sweeping climate plan proposed by Democrats.

2/3/2020 Stranded tourists airlifted in New Zealand as rains lash Milford Sound
A road is partially submerged in floodwaters in Southland, New Zealand, February 3, 2020,
in this image obtained via social media. New Zealand Transport Agency via REUTERS
    WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Authorities were preparing on Monday to airlift a busload of stranded tourists from New Zealand’s remote Milford Sound region after torrential rains cut road access to the popular tourist destination.
    A state of emergency has been declared and 382 people were trapped in the Fiordland region, including visitors and staff at a lodge and on tourist boats, the region’s emergency management controller Angus McKay said in a statement.
    “They have plenty of food and are safe and warm,” said McKay, adding that most would likely stay for at least the next day in Milford Sound, which has suffered severe flooding after heavy rain in the last 24 hours.
    Meanwhile, authorities were preparing to airlift a busload of about 27 tourists from one part of the severely flooded region, with roads to the area likely to be shut all week, the New Zealand Transport Agency said in a statement.
    A small number of tourists was also earlier flown to safety by helicopter, the agency said.
    The spectacular fjord on the west coast of the South Island was carved out by ancient glaciers and features towering mountains, waterfalls, and rare marine habitats.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)

2/3/2020 Paradise lost looms for German farmers as swine fever nears by Michael Hogan
FILE PHOTO: A sow is sitting in a pigsty in Tauche, Germany, January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
    TAUCHE, Germany (Reuters) – The German state of Brandenburg has erected about 120 km (75 miles) of electric fencing to prevent wild boars infected with African swine fever (ASF) from straying across the border from Poland and infecting its pig herd.
    Hans-Christian Daniels doesn’t think the barrier will work.
    “It looks rather inevitable that swine fever will come,” said Daniels, whose farm near Tauche, close to the Polish border, has 11,000 pigs.    “This could cause a dramatic fall in prices.”
    ASF, which has led to the deaths of a quarter of the world’s pigs in China and roiled the global meat industry, is dangerously close to Germany, Europe’s largest pork producer.
    A case of the viral disease was discovered in a wild boar in Poland just 12 km from the German border last month.
    A confirmed case in Germany could prompt an import ban, ending the boom times for local pig farmers, who have seen exports to China, the world’s biggest consumer of pork, jump due to outbreaks of ASF in Asia.    It could also have knock-on effects in the Netherlands and Denmark, where the main suppliers of piglets for Germany are based.
    Farmers such as Daniels have taken strict steps to ward off the disease but the biggest risk factor is from wild boars that roam the fields and forests along the German-Polish border feeding on nuts and acorns.    They have already helped infect around 10 countries in eastern Europe, with Poland recording 55 outbreaks of ASF in wild boars in December alone.
    “We do not know exactly how many wild boar we have in Brandenburg but their numbers have been increasing in recent years,” said Anja Semmele of the Brandenburg hunting association.    “Our region is something of a paradise for wild boar, with a mix of forests and farming.”
    “They run very quickly and hunters need a good level of marksmanship to hit and kill the animal humanely.”
    ASF is a highly contagious viral disease that kills almost all the pigs it infects but does not harm humans.    It has been spreading across eastern Europe but is doing the greatest damage in Asia and has devastated pig farms in China in the past year, reshaping global meat trade and raising prices.
    China’s pork output has slumped to a 16-year low as herds were culled to stamp out the disease, leading to a surge in imports of pork, beef and chicken to fill the gap. [nL4N29M0NH]
    Germany’s pork exports to China rose 43% year-on-year in the first seven months of 2019 and it was Germany’s single biggest foreign market.
    Asian countries, including China, regularly impose import bans on pork from regions where ASF has been discovered and German pig farmers could face huge losses from both the drop in exports and costs arising from methods to combat the disease if it is found in Germany, said farmers’ association DBV.
    “It is difficult to estimate how high the damage will be for German pig farmers,” said DBV Secretary General Bernhard Kruesken.    “But we estimate at least a triple-digit million euro sum.”
    Any export ban on German pork would also have knock-on effects for other European countries.
    “The main suppliers of piglets for Germany in the EU are Denmark and the Netherlands.    That means there will be effects in the Dutch and     Danish markets quite immediately,” said Thomas Sanchez, a policy advisor with responsibility for pigmeat at EU farmers group, Copa Cogeca.
    To help deal with the threat of ASF, German and Polish agriculture ministries are considering creating a fenced corridor on both sides of their border and a “drastic” reduction in wild boar numbers by relaxing rules on shooting them. [nL8N29Q2NF]
    The Brandenburg fence was built in December and is designed to be temporary.    Another fence is being built in the border state of Saxony.
    “We have found no signs that the fence has been broken through by wild boars and no sick boars have been found along the fence,” said Gabriel Hesse of Brandenburg’s state health and consumer protection ministry.
    “There are hopes that the fence is effective, but these animals are remarkably strong.”
(Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by Nigel Hunt, Elaine Hardcastle and Carmel Crimmins)

2/3/2020 Solar orbiter spacecraft set to launch from Fla. by OAN Newsroom
File – This illustration from NASA shows the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. (AP Photo)
    A new space craft is set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a mission to the Sun.    According to reports, the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA teamed up with Airbus to clear the solar orbiter for take off.
    A series of tests and final checks over the course of a year were performed on the space craft that now sits on top of a rocket, awaiting its departure.    While on its mission, the satellite will take pictures of the suns poles and make detailed observations of solar activity.
    “The space trough has a number of new technologies that have been developed just for the purpose of flying close to the Sun,” said Daniel Muller, a solar orbiter project scientist.    “We have the specific heat shield design just for solar orbiter that will reach temperatures of over 500 degrees centigrade on the front side and will keep things as cool as just about 50 degrees centigrade on the back side to protect the sensitive electronics.”
    The new space craft is scheduled to lift off on February 9, 2020.

2/4/2020 Lunacy! 13 full moons to light up the sky - More lunar eclipses are on the way, too, experts say by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Moon watchers will have a special year in 2020, with 13 full moons to brighten the night sky, including two supermoons, four lunar eclipses and even a blue moon.
    This spring features two supermoons back to back, in March and April.    A supermoon occurs when the moon is especially close to Earth while it’s full.    April’s supermoon is set to be the bigger of the two, according to
    The moon’s closeness to Earth, naturally, makes it look extra-close and extra- bright – up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than a full moon at its farthest point from Earth.
    There also will be three more penumbral lunar eclipses this year, in addition to the one we had Jan. 10.
    Not as spectacular – or noticeable – as a total lunar eclipse, a penumbral lunar eclipse is a rather subtle phenomenon that occurs when the full moon moves through the outer part of Earth’s shadow (known as the penumbra), according to    About 35% of all eclipses are of the penumbral type, which can be difficult to detect even with a telescope, according to eclipse expert Fred Espenak.
    Two of the three – the ones in July and November – will be visible in the U.S., NASA said.
    But October might be the main moon event of the year.
    The month will have two full moons, including one on Halloween night.    The next time we’ll see an equally spooky moon is 2039. Plan your werewolf costumes accordingly.
    The Halloween full moon will be a blue moon, because it’s the second full moon of the month, which is one of the definitions of a blue moon.
Contributing: Abigail Rosenthal, the Columbus Dispatch
The super blood wolf moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse near Salgotarjan,
northeast of Budapest, Hungary. PETER KOMKA/EPA-EFE
A full moon
    Here are all the remaining nights you can see a full moon this year, along with one of their Native American names, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.    There are some variations in the moon names, but in general, the same ones were used among the Algonquin tribes from New England on west to Lake Superior, said.
  • Feb. 9: Snow moon
  • March 9: Worm moon (supermoon)
  • April 7: Pink moon (supermoon)
  • May 7: Flower moon
  • June 5: Strawberry moon and a penumbral lunar eclipse (not visible in U.S.)
  • July 5: Buck moon and a penumbral lunar eclipse
  • Aug. 3: Sturgeon moon
  • Sept. 2: Harvest moon
  • Oct. 1: Hunter’s moon
  • Oct. 31: Blue moon
  • Nov. 30: Beaver moon and a penumbral lunar eclipse
  • Dec. 29: Cold moon

2/4/2020 Tap water with chlorine may have cancer link by Joshua Bote USA TODAY
    A study from Johns Hopkins raises newfound concerns about the most common water treatment found in American tap water.
    Researchers identified new toxic and carcinogenic byproducts that are produced when chlorine is added to regular drinking water.    Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences & Technology.
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests 4 milligrams of chlorine per liter of drinking water as a safe level.
    Carsten Prasse, an assistant professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study, wants to be clear that chlorination itself is not detrimental to human health.
    Chlorine frequently is used because it’s effective, affordable and easy to administer, said Ngai Yin Yip, an assistant professor of earth and environmental engineering at Columbia University.
    Adding chlorine to drinking water, according to the CDC, kills germs and bacteria and significantly reduces water-borne diseases.
    The study finds that compounds that aren’t detected may be detrimental to long-term health.
    That includes two forms of the toxic compound and known carcinogen BDA, which haven’t been discovered in drinking water until this study.
    Prasse’s team deployed a method that isn’t typically used in water testing, adding an amino acid akin to lysine to chlorinated water.    They then inspected the samples for free radicals.

2/4/2020 Japanese robot could call last orders on human bartenders by Tim Kelly and Akira Tomoshige
A robot bartender moves its arm to make a cocktail at Japanese style bar Izakaya chain "Yoronotaki"
in Tokyo, Japan January 29, 2020. Picture taken on January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Tim Kelly
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s first robot bartender has begun serving up drinks in a Tokyo pub in a test that could usher in a wave of automation in restaurants and shops struggling to hire staff in an aging society.
    The repurposed industrial robot serves drinks in is own corner of a Japanese pub operated by restaurant chain Yoronotaki.    An attached tablet computer face smiles as it chats about the weather while preparing orders.
    The robot, made by the company QBIT Robotics, can pour a beer in 40 seconds and mix a cocktail in a minute.    It uses four cameras to monitors customers to analyze their expressions with artificial intelligence (AI) software.
    “I like it because dealing with people can be a hassle.    With this you can just come and get drunk,” Satoshi Harada, a restaurant worker said after ordering a drink.
    “If they could make it a little quicker it would be even better.”
    Finding workers, especially in Japan’s service sector, is set to get even more difficult.
    The government has eased visa restrictions to attract more foreign workers but companies still face a labor shortage as the population shrinks and the number of people over 65 increases to more than a third of the total.
    Service companies that can’t relocate overseas or take advantage of automation are more vulnerable than industrial firms.    In health care alone, Japan expects a shortfall of 380,000 workers by 2025.
    Japan wants to use the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games beginning on July 27 to showcase service robot technology, with organizers planning to use robots built by Toyota Motor and Panasonic Corp to help visitors, workers and athletes.
    The robot bartender trial at the pub, which employs about 30 people, will last two months after which Yoronotaki will assess the results.
    “We hope it’s a solution,” Yoshio Momiya, a Yoronotaki manager, said as the robot bartender served drinks behind him.
    “There are still a number of issues to work through, such as finding enough space for it, but we hope it will be something we can use.”
    At about 9 million yen ($82,000), the robot cost as much as employing a human bartender for three years.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Akira Tomoshige; Editing by Robert Birsel)
[Will the robot check you driver's license and will they have robot bouncers.].

2/5/2020 Report: Sea level rise getting faster - Gulf Coast sees most significant increases by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    The rate of sea level rise along much of the U.S. coastline continues to accelerate, according to a new report.
    The report’s key message “is a clear trend toward acceleration in rates of sea-level rise at 25 of our 32 tidegauge stations,” said     Virginia Institute of Marine Science emeritus professor John Boon in a statement.    “Acceleration can be a game changer in terms of impacts and planning, so we really need to pay heed to these patterns.”
    Boon and other researchers at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science released the report Monday.
    Sea level rise acceleration was highest along the Gulf Coast, where Grand Island, Louisiana, saw a nearly 8 millimeter yearly increase, double the global average, according to the report. Galveston and Rockport in Texas also had significant increases.
    The report includes 51 years of water level observations, from January 1969 through December 2019.
    Worldwide, sea level has risen about 8 inches since 1880 but, unlike water in a bathtub, it doesn’t rise evenly.    In the past 100 years, it has climbed about a foot or more in some U.S. cities because of ocean currents and land subsidence.
    Here’s why: As the planet’s temperature warms, so do the seas.    Heattrapping greenhouse gases cause more land ice (glaciers and ice sheets) to melt and water to expand. Warmer water simply takes up more room than cooler water.
    Scientists say global warming will be the primary cause of rising sea levels in the future.    Their greatest uncertainty is how quickly the massive West Antarctic ice sheet will melt.
    The current acceleration began around 2013 or 2014, the report says, likely associated with ocean dynamics and ice sheet loss.    In 2019, rates of sea level rise accelerated at all 21 of the stations studied along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts and at seven of the eight monitored stations along the U.S. West Coast.
    “Although sea level has been rising very slowly along the West Coast, models have been predicting that it will start to rise faster,” the marine science institute’s Molly Mitchell said.
    In Alaska, all four stations monitored show relative sea level falling at increasingly rapid rates because of coastal mountain-building, the report said.

2/5/2020 Study is halted as HIV vaccine attempt fails by Associated Press
    The latest attempt at an HIV vaccine has failed, as researchers announced Monday they have stopped giving the experimental shots in a major study.
    The study had enrolled more than 5,400 people since 2016 in South Africa, a country with one of the world’s highest HIV rates.    Last month, monitors checked how the study was going and found 129 HIV infections had occurred among the vaccine recipients compared with 123 among those given a dummy shot, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
    “An HIV vaccine is essential to end the global pandemic and we hoped this vaccine candidate would work.    Regrettably, it does not,” said NIH infectious diseases chief Dr. Anthony Fauci.
    There were no safety concerns, but NIH, which sponsored the study, agreed that vaccinations should stop.
    The experimental shot was based on the only vaccine ever shown to offer even modest protection against HIV, one that was deemed 31% effective in Thailand.    That wasn’t good enough for real-world use but gave scientists a starting point.    They beefed up the shot and adapted it to the HIV subtype that’s common in southern Africa.
    Two other large studies, in several countries, are underway testing a different approach to a possible HIV vaccine.
    The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education.    The AP is solely responsible for all content.
In a 2016 file photo, pharmacist Mary Chindanyika scans a fridge holding a trial HIV vaccine. SCHALK VAN ZUYDAM/AP

2/5/2020 Lights out? Fireflies face extinction threat - Loss of habitat, artificial light are primary reasons by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    One of summer’s most enduring sights may be extinguished forever in some parts of the world.
    Fireflies, aka lightning bugs, are facing a triple extinction threat from habitat loss, artificial light and pesticide use, new research suggests.
    Loss of habitat is the primary threat, scientists say: “Lots of wildlife species are declining because their habitat is shrinking,” said study lead author Sara Lewis of Tufts University, “so it wasn’t a huge surprise that habitat loss was considered the biggest threat.
    “Some fireflies get hit especially hard when their habitat disappears because they need special conditions to complete their life cycle,” she said in a statement.    “For instance, one Malaysian firefly, famous for its synchronized flash displays, is a mangrove specialist.”    In Malaysia, fireflies are diminishing because mangroves are being cut down to make way for palm oil plantations and aquaculture farms.     The second-most serious threat to fireflies is considered to be light pollution.    This is because artificial light at night has grown exponentially during the past century.
    “In addition to disrupting natural biorhythms – including our own – light pollution really messes up firefly mating rituals,” said study co-author Avalon Owens, also of Tufts University.
    “Many fireflies rely on bioluminescence to find and attract their mates, and previous work has shown that too much artificial light can interfere with these courtship exchanges,” Owens said.
    Firefly experts viewed the widespread agricultural use of pesticides as another key threat to firefly survival.
    Working as part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Firefly Specialist Group, the authors surveyed 350 members of the Fireflyers International Network to gauge the threats that the bugs face.
    Fireflies belong to a “widespread and economically important insect group,” the research said, with more than 2,000 different species spread out around the world.
    In some parts of the world, such as Mexico, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, “firefly tourism” is an important part of the local economy, researchers say.
    “Our goal is to make this knowledge available for land managers, policy makers and firefly fans everywhere,” said co-author Sonny Wong of the Malaysian Nature Society.    “We want to keep fireflies lighting up our nights for a long, long time.”
    The research was published Monday in the journal BioScience.
Fireflies are under threat from loss of habitat and the increase in light pollution, which disrupts their mating rituals. ABDESIGN/GETTY IMAGES

2/6/2020 Australia receives a bittersweet bushfire reprieve with floods, cyclone
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from the smouldering remnants of a bushfire near
Bumbalong, New South Wales, Australia, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Many Australians were experiencing a bittersweet break from the threat of bushfires on Thursday, with flooding rains deluging some parts of the eastern states and a tropical cyclone forecast to hit the country’s northwest over the weekend.
    The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued severe thunderstorm warnings for the southeast Queensland state and a flood alert for more than 20 areas in New South Wales (NSW) after the start of heavy rainfall that is expected to continue for several days.
    Cricket Australia said a bushfire fundraising match which was set to be played in Sydney on Saturday had to be rescheduled for Melbourne on Sunday because of the rain.
    Warm, moist air feeding in from the east was bringing the rain, BOM forecaster Mike Funnell told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
    “We are expecting those larger totals and heavier rainfall to come into the northeast coast of NSW and then sort of track slowly southwards.”
    A tropical low off the Kimberley coast in Western Australia state was forecast to develop into a category three cyclone that could hit the Pilbara region, Australia’s iron ore producing heartland, on Saturday.
    The wet weather has helped douse or slow some of the country’s most damaging and long-running wildfires, which have burned through more than 11.7 million hectares (2.8 million acres) of land since September.    The prolonged bushfire season has killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals. More than 2,500 homes have been destroyed.
    Officials, however, have warned the threat was not yet over and that there will likely be weeks more of firefighting ahead.
    Around 60 fires were still burning across NSW and Victoria, the country’s most populous states, with around half of those classified as uncontained.
(Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE; Editing by Jane Wardell and Lincoln Feast.)

2/6/2020 Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $750 million in New Jersey talc case: lawyer
FILE PHOTO: The Johnson & Johnson logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York
Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson was ordered on Thursday by a jury in a New Jersey court to pay punitive damages of $750 million to four plaintiffs who allege that the company’s Baby Powder caused their cancer, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
    J&J said the judge was planning on reducing the damages to $185 million.
    During an earlier phase of the trial, the jury held J&J liable for the plaintiffs’ cancers and awarded them $37.2 million in compensation.
(Reporting by Lisa Girion; Writing by Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler; Editing by Leslie Adler)

2/7/2020 Australia celebrates as heavy rains dampen huge bushfires by Byron Kaye and Renju Jose
Pedestrians hold umbrellas during wet weather in Sydney, Australia, February 7, 2020. AAP Image/Peter Rae/via REUTERS
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Much of Australia’s wildfire-ravaged east coast was drenched on Friday by the biggest rainfall in almost 20 years, dousing some of the most dangerous blazes and providing welcome relief to farmers battling an extended drought.
    The downpour came with its own risks – officials warned of flash floods and landslides across New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state – but was generally greeted jubilantly after months of devastating bushfires.
    “There’s lots of smiles around the place,” NSW Rural Fire Services (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, who has been more accustomed in recent weeks to delivering fire evacuation orders, told reporters in Sydney.
    “It is breaking the back of this fire season, no doubt,” Fitzsimmons said.    “The rain is good for business and farms as well as being really good for quenching some of these fires we’ve been dealing with for many, many months.”
    The deluge had the effect of calming the number of active fires in NSW by 20 in a single day, a success rate that NSW RFS said it was “over the moon” about.
    By afternoon, there were 40 active fires in NSW, less than half the number of blazes at the peak of the crisis, with all burning at the lowest level danger warning of “advice” only.    Neighboring Victoria state had 21 active fires, also at the lowest level.
    Around 11.7 million hectares of Australian wilderness have been razed by a series of huge wildfires since September that have also killed 33 people and more than a billion animals and destroyed thousands of homes.    The horrific extended bushfire season has followed a three-year drought across the country.
    The heavy rainfall across NSW and Victoria state on Friday was something of a welcome surprise after the Bureau of Meteorology’s three-month forecast issued in January forecast continued high temperatures and little rainfall.
    Sydney alone was expected to receive as much as 130 millimeters of rain in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, the biggest one-day rainfall since Feb. 5, 2002, data on the bureau’s website showed on Friday.
    “What we are broadly expecting over the next couple of days is this coastal trough to hang around, to keep delivering this widespread, prolonged, steady rainfall,” BOM forecaster Jane Golding said.
    Fitzsimmons said he was optimistic the continued rainfall over the coming days would help firefighters in NSW get the 17 blazes that are still categorized as “uncontained” under control.
    “We expect rainfall to continue to fall across a lot of these firegrounds and that will result in a number of those being declared contained and hopefully we will be confident we won’t see new ignitions from anywhere in those firegrounds,” he said.
    Some 3,500 kilometers (2174.8 miles) to the northwest, a tropical cyclone was barreling toward the coast of Western Australia where it is expected to make landfall near Port Hedland, the world’s largest iron ore port, on Saturday.
    Destructive wind gusts of up to 150 kilometers per hour could develop overnight Friday night as the cyclone approaches the coast, and very destructive gusts of up to 230 kilometers per hour were expected when Cyclone Damien hits on Saturday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
    Authorities said Port Hedland would be cleared ahead of the cyclone and the Dampier Port also closed.
    Miners Rio Tinto and BHP Group said they were monitoring the situation and making preparations.
    The wet weather prompted some light-hearted remarks at a visit by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to the Sydney office of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca PLC.
    “We are all very, very happy that you are here today, but also importantly that you’re bringing this fine British rain with you,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told guests.
    “We really have brought the rain,” replied Raab.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye, Wayne Cole and Renju Jose; editing by Grant McCool and Jane Wardell)

2/7/2020 Residents of North Macedonia’s capital protest air pollution by OAN Newsroom
High school students in North Macedonia protested in December against high levels of air pollution in Skopje. (Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters Photo)
    One of Europe’s most polluted cities has continued calls for cleaner air.    This week, residents and environmental experts protested in North Macedonia’s capital city of Skopje.
    The city has struggled with hazardous levels of air pollution for years, with levels reaching five to 10 times higher than recommended.     Protesters demanded urgent government interventions to tighten emission standards for older cars, household heating and construction projects.
    A local meteorologist said the city’s pollution issues were due in part to its mountainous location.
    “It is an urban area in the bottom of Skopje valley surrounded by high mountains in all directions,” explained environmentalist Eli Pesevska.    “They represent an obstacle to a more frequent air advection and wind with effective speed.”
    Medical officials in North Macedonia have estimated more than 3,000 people die from air pollution in the country each year.

2/9/2020 Scientists find ‘monster’ early galaxy by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    It lived fast and died young.
    Scientists discovered an unusual “monster” galaxy that existed about 12 billion years ago when the universe was “only” 1.8 billion years old, a new study reported.
    Researchers found that the galaxy, called XMM-2599, formed stars at a high rate and then died.
    “Even before the universe was 2 billion years old, XMM-2599 had already formed a mass of more than 300 billion suns, making it an ultramassive galaxy,” said study lead author Benjamin Forrest, a researcher at the University of California-Riverside.
    “More remarkably, we show that XMM-2599 formed most of its stars in a huge frenzy when the universe was less than 1 billion years old, and then became inactive by the time the universe was only 1.8 billion years old,” Forrest said in a statement.
    The research team found the galaxy formed more than 1,000 solar masses a year in stars at its peak.    The Milky Way forms about one new star a year.
    The study was published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

2/9/2020 Flights axed and floods feared as Storm Ciara clobbers Europe by Kylie MacLellan
Cars sit in floodwater in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, Britain February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Ed Sykes
    LONDON (Reuters) – Storm Ciara lashed Britain and northern continental Europe with heavy rain and wind speeds that reached more than 90 miles an hour (145 kph) in places on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights, train services and sports matches.
    More than 200 flood warnings were issued across Britain, which recorded a maximum wind speed of 93 miles an hour at Aberdaron in Wales.    One severe flood warning was put in place in Yorkshire, northern England, where water was predicted to overflow flood defenses and potentially threaten lives.
    The storm caused major disruption to transport across the region; in the Netherlands, around 240 flights to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest, were canceled as Ciara roared in off the Atlantic with gusts of up to 74 mph (120 kph).
    In Germany, where Ciara was named Sabine, about 180 flights to and from Frankfurt airport – about 15% of all planned flights – were axed.     Lufthansa , Germany’s largest carrier, said it would cancel short and long-haul flights from Munich airport on Monday until 1200 GMT and 1300 GMT, respectively.
    Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings said it had suspended flight operations at Hamburg, Berlin, Hanover, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne and Stuttgart.    Meanwhile, some British domestic and international flights were also canceled, from airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.
    Train services also fell victim to Ciara’s wrath.
    German railway operator Deutsche Bahn warned of severe disruptions and said it would stop long-distance train travel across Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, in the evening.
    Britain’s Network Rail said the weather had caused problems across its network, with fallen power lines, trees and even trampolines blocking tracks, and warned people not to travel unless they had to.
    All shipping movements in and out of Britain’s Port of Dover on the south coast were suspended and the Humber Bridge in northern England was closed to all traffic for only the second time since it opened in 1981.
    London’s eight royal parks, home to more than 170,000 trees, were closed and even the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a tourist draw, was also canceled.
    Sporting events were also hit; Manchester City said its English Premier League soccer match against West Ham was postponed due to “extreme and escalating weather conditions,” while Scotland’s Women’s Six Nations rugby match against England was among the other matches canceled.     All professional Dutch soccer matches were canceled, along with most outdoor sporting events.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Pravin Char)

2/10/2020 Study warns of bee species extinctions - Climate change behind die-offs, scientists say by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Climate change contributed to drastic declines in the population and diversity of bumblebees across North America and Europe, according to a long-term study of more than 60 bee species in the journal Science.
    Researchers discovered bumblebees are disappearing at rates “consistent with a mass extinction.”
    The scientists said North America’s bumblebee populations fell by 46% during the two time periods the study used – from 1901 to 1974 and from 2000 to 2014.
    Bee populations were hardest hit in warming southern regions such as Mexico, because of more frequent extreme warm years, which exceeded the species’ historical temperature ranges, according to the study.
    “If declines continue at this pace, many of these species could vanish forever within a few decades,” study lead author Peter Soroye, a Ph.D. student at the University of Ottawa, said in a statement.
    “We’ve known for a while that climate change is related to the growing extinction risk that animals are facing around the world.    In this paper, we offer an answer to the critical questions of how and why that is,” Soroye said.    “We find that (bee) species extinctions across two continents are caused by hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures.”
    The study found that in the course of a single human generation, the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in a given place has declined by an average of more than 30%.
    Bumblebees are the best pollinators in wild landscapes and the most effective pollinators for important crops such as tomato, squash and berries, Soroye said.    “Our results show that we face a future with many less bumblebees and much less diversity, both in the outdoors and on our plates.”
    In an accompanying perspective article in Science, Jonathan Bridle and Alexandra van Rensburg of the University of Bristol wrote, “The new study adds to a growing body of evidence for alarming, widespread losses of biodiversity and for rates of global change that now exceed the critical limits of ecosystem resilience.”
    Soroye concluded, “We have now entered the world’s sixth mass extinction event, the biggest and most rapid global biodiversity crisis since a meteor ended the age of the dinosaurs.”
A bumblebee draws nectar from the flowers of a cherry tree in a garden
outside Moscow on May 12, 2018. YURI KADOBNOV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

2/10/2020 Scientists discover unusual ‘monster’ galaxy by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    It lived fast and died young.
    Scientists have discovered an unusual “monster” galaxy that existed about 12 billion years ago when the universe was “only” 1.8 billion years old, a new study reports.
    Researchers found that the galaxy, called XMM-2599, formed stars at a high rate and then died.
    Why it suddenly stopped forming stars is unknown.
    “Even before the universe was 2 billion years old, XMM-2599 had already formed a mass of more than 300 billion suns, making it an ultramassive galaxy,” said study lead author Benjamin Forrest, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of California-Riverside.
    “More remarkably, we show that XMM-2599 formed most of its stars in a huge frenzy when the universe was less than 1 billion years old, and then became inactive by the time the universe was only 1.8 billion years old,” Forrest said in a statement.
    The research team found the galaxy formed more than 1,000 solar masses a year in stars at its peak of activity, which is an extremely high rate of star formation.
    In contrast, the Milky Way forms only about one new star a year.
    “XMM-2599 may be a descendant of a population of highly star-forming dusty galaxies in the very early universe that new infrared telescopes have recently discovered,” said study co-author Danilo Marchesini, an associate professor of astronomy at Tufts University.
    As for what happens to the galaxy next, researchers say it could gravitationally attract nearby star-forming galaxies and become a bright city of galaxies.
    “Perhaps during the following 11.7 billion years of cosmic history, XMM-2599 will become the central member of one of the brightest and most massive clusters of galaxies in the local universe,” said study co-author Michael Cooper, a professor of astronomy at the University of California Irvine.
    “Alternatively, it could continue to exist in isolation,” Cooper said.    “Or we could have a scenario that lies between these two outcomes.”
These three panels show, from left, what XMM-2599’s evolutionary trajectory might be,
beginning as a dusty star-forming galaxy, then becoming a dead galaxy, and perhaps ending up as a
“brightest cluster galaxy.” B. SAXTON/NRAO/AUI/NSF; R. FOLEY/NASA/ESA; NASA/STSCI.

2/10/2020 Solar probe embarks on unprecedented mission to map sun’s polar regions by Joey Roulette
The Solar Orbiter spacecraft, built for NASA and the European Space Agency, lifts off from pad 41
aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as the full moon is seen above at the Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Joe Rimkus Jr.
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A new probe built by NASA and the European Space Agency set off on a blazing hot journey to the sun on Sunday to take the first close-up look at the star’s polar regions, a mission expected to yield insight into how solar radiant energy affects Earth.
    The Solar Orbiter spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11:03 p.m. ET (0403 GMT Monday), kicking off a 10-year voyage.
    “This was picture perfect. And suddenly you really felt you are connected to the rest of the solar system,” Daniel Mueller, a scientist for ESA who worked on the mission, said after lift-off.
    The minivan-sized spacecraft will deploy solar panels and antennas before carrying on toward the sun, a trek assisted by the gravitational forces of Earth and Venus. It eventually will reach as close as 26 million miles from the sun’s surface, or about 72 percent of the distance between the star and Earth.
    “I have been in solar physics for many years; I just never thought I would actually witness something come to fruition like this and actually launch.    It’s amazing,” said Holly Gilbert of NASA.
    Solar Orbiter’s primary mission of examining the sun’s polar regions will help researchers understand the origins of solar wind, a soup of charged particles highly concentrated at the two poles, which blast through our solar system, affecting satellites and electronics on Earth.
    The mission is also expected to glean insight into how astronauts can be protected from radiation in space, which can damage DNA.
    Solar Orbiter carries 10 instruments packed behind a massive 324-pound (147 kg) heat shield, three of which will peer through tiny windows to survey how the sun’s surface changes over time.
(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

2/11/2020 Antarctica hits record temperature of 64.9°F by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Antarctica made worldwide news last week when one location – an Argentine research base – set a record high temperature for the continent of 64.9 degrees.
    Experts differ on what the new high may have to do with human-caused climate change.
    “This record looks to be a one-time extreme event that doesn’t tell us anything about Antarctic climate change,” David Bromwich, a climate researcher at the Ohio State University, told The Washington Post.    Bromwich added, however, that the peninsula has warmed noticeably since the late 1940s.
    “This is a record from only a single station, but it is in the context of what’s happening elsewhere and is more evidence that as the planet warms we get more warm records and fewer cold records,” Steve Rintoul, an oceanographer and Antarctic expert at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, told the Guardian.
    Eric Steig, a glaciologist studying climate change at the University of Washington, told The Post that “although there is decade-to-decade variability, the underlying trend across most of the continent is warming.”    He said that the record will likely be broken again in the “not-so-distant future.”
    James Renwick, a climate scientist at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, said the new record was likely a result of the warming climate and northwest winds hitting the peninsula, according to the Guardian.
    “The reason the peninsula is warming faster than other places is a combination of natural variations and warming signals,” Renwick told the Guardian.    “It’s a sign of the warming that has been happening there that’s much faster than the global average.”
    He also noted that strong winds coming from the northwest and warmer conditions often go hand in hand.
    AccuWeather senior meteorologist Jim Andrews said that in addition to regional northwest winds “influencing the peninsula,” extremely localized southwest winds were occurring at the base when the new temperature record was set.
    The local southwest winds caused the air to warm and compress as it flowed down from mountains to the south of the base, which sits at sea level, and Andrews explained this is why the temperature was able to climb so high.
    And while one spot in Antarctica may have set an all-time record high temperature, let’s not get carried away: The continent is still bitterly cold overall and isn’t about to replace Cancun as a warm-weather destination anytime soon.
    While the tip of the Antarctic peninsula hit 64.9 degrees, the temperature at Russian research station Vostok was 50 degrees below zero Friday, AccuWeather reported.
    And it’s still far from the continent’s record low, set on July 21, 1983, when the temperature dropped to 128.56 degrees below zero, AccuWeather said.

2/11/2020 Bat meat still popular in parts of Indonesia, despite coronavirus fears
FILE PHOTO: A passenger wearing medical mask stands at the international arrivals terminal of
I Gusti Ngurah Rai airport, following an outbreak of the new coronavirus in China, in Bali, Indonesia
January 31, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken January 31, 2020. Antara Foto/Fikri Yusuf/ via REUTERS
    MANADO, Indonesia (Reuters) – Bat meat is still popular in some parts of Indonesia, despite research suggesting the coronavirus spreading from China might have originated in bats before being passed on to humans.
    Bats are traditionally eaten by the Minahasan people from North Sulawesi in the form of a curry-like dish called Paniki.    Whole bats are used in Paniki, including the head and wings.
    “It (the coronavirus) has not affected sales,” said bat seller Stenly Timbuleng at his stall in Tomohon, a city in North Sulawesi, south of the provincial capital of Manado.
    “In fact… sales continue.    It is always sold out.”
    On an average day, Timbuleng sells 50-60 bats and during festive periods, he can sell up to 600.
    “Bats are the favourite indigenous protein, particularly in North Sulawesi,” Indonesian culinary expert and author of half a dozen of cookbooks, William W. Wongso, told Reuters.
    “My favourite part is the wings,” Wongso added.
    Glands from the armpits and the neck of the bat are first removed to get rid of the bad smell.
    It is then grilled or torched to get rid of the bat’s hairs before being chopped and cooked in a stew of herbs, spices and coconut milk.
    The coronavirus is believed to have originated in a food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife.    Health experts think it may have originated in bats and then passed to humans, possibly via another species.
    In China, the virus has killed more than 1,000 and infected more than 42,700.
    There are 319 coronavirus cases in 24 countries and territories outside of China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese health officials.
    None has been reported in Indonesia, but the outbreak has prompted many Manadonese restaurants in the capital, Jakarta, to take bats off the menu.
    For Manadonese Jufry Mantak, the links between the coronavirus and his favourite dish have not put him off.
    “We have not found any (coronavirus) cases in Manado.    Up till now, there are still many people eating these bats.    Because bats are good, especially when cooked with coconut milk.”
(Reporting by Jeffry in Manado; Writing by Fathin Ungku in Jakarta; Editing by Nick Macfie)

2/11/2020 U.S. companies cut back on installing robots in 2019 by Timothy Aeppel
FILE PHOTO: The aluminium cab of all-new 2015 F-150 pick-up truck moves down the robot assembly line at
the Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn, Michigan, November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo/File Photo
    (Reuters) – The robot invasion slowed a bit last year.
    U.S. companies installed fewer robots in 2019 than they did the year before, the first cut back since 2015, as a downturn in manufacturing fueled by trade wars and weaker demand dampened appetite for the machines.
    Shipments fell to 23,758, a more than 16% drop, according to data seen by Reuters that was set for release on Tuesday by the Association for Advancing Automation, an industry group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
    Robot shipments also fell in Mexico last year, declining 25% to 3,263, while shipments in Canada roughly held steady at just over 3,000 units.
(GRAPHIC: Robot shipments slowed last year,
    A major goal of President Donald Trump has been to drive manufacturers to bring work back to the United States, presumably aided by new automation and robotics that would allow domestic plants to compete with cheaper labor in China and other lower-cost countries.    But that trend appears to have been overwhelmed by a larger slowdown in manufacturing.     Alexander Shikany, vice president of the Association for Advancing Automation, said the slowdown is likely to be short lived.    Orders for new robots in North America, a separate measure that gives a sense of how many machines will be installed in future months, increased last year by 1.6% to 29,988 units, Shikany noted.
    The largest driver of that growth was a more than 50% jump in orders from automakers, which Shikany said were making robots part of their investment in the next wave of automotive technology.
    No. 1 U.S. automaker General Motors Co , for example, recently announced it was investing $2.2 billion to build electric trucks and autonomous electric vehicles at its Detroit-area plant in Hamtramck, Michigan.
    Hytrol Conveyor Co Inc, a privately held company in Jonesboro, Arkansas, that produces conveyor belts and had sales last year of over $200 million, did not cut back on robot installations in 2019.    With demand from e-commerce businesses and other warehouse operations booming, the company spent $1.9 million last year to help automate its assembly line.
    David Peacock, the company’s president, said the company realized three years ago it would have trouble keeping up with demand growth without more robots.
    The investments have not cut jobs.    Headcount at Hytrol Conveyor’s factory has increased 18% over the past three years to 1,300 workers.    Revenues, meanwhile, are up nearly a quarter.
(Reporting by Timothy Aeppel; Editing by Tom Brown)

2/11/2020 World must consider coronavirus ‘public enemy number one’: WHO
Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attends a news conference on the novel
coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization asked countries to be “as aggressive as possible” in fighting the newly named COVID-19 coronavirus on Tuesday.
    “If the world doesn’t want to wake up and consider the virus as public enemy number one, I don’t think we will learn from our lessons,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
    “…We are still in containment strategy and should not allow the virus to have a space to have local transmission.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehey; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

2/12/2020 Iraq capital blanketed by rare snowfall by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    A rare winter storm coated Baghdad in snow Tuesday morning for only the second time in the Iraqi capital in the past century.
    Though snow is common in the mountainous northern region of Iraq, it’s rare in Baghdad.
    The last time the city saw snow was in 2008, but that was a quick, slushy snow.    Tuesday’s snow was the first that stuck since 1914.
    City dwellers took selfies, and children played in parks, lobbing snowballs before the fluffy flakes disappeared and the white cover dissolved into gray puddles.
    Cold temperatures are unusual in Baghdad as winter is typically on the mild side.    The average high temperature in the city is 66 degrees in     February, and the average low is 42, according to the World Meteorological Organization.    In the summer, Baghdad’s average daily high temperature is more than 100 degrees.
    Iraqis young and old on Tuesday said it was the first time they had seen snow falling in Baghdad, according to Agence France-Presse.
Contributing: The Associated Press

2/13/2020 Deep space radio signal is detected by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    For the first time, scientists have detected a radio signal from outer space that repeats at regular intervals.
    The series of “fast radio bursts” – short-lived pulses of radio waves that come from across the universe – was detected about once an hour for four days and then stopped, only to start up again 12 days later.
    This cycle repeated every 16.35 days for more than a year, according to a new paper about the research.
    The bursts originated from a galaxy about 500 million light-years away.
    “The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object,” the scientists said in the paper.
    The repeating pattern, reports Science X Network, “suggests the source could be a celestial body of some kind orbiting around a star or another body.    In such a scenario, the signals would cease when they are obstructed by the other body.”
    It’s not likely to be aliens, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a statement, because the signals are a sign of energetic events that are on the extreme scale of the cosmos.

2/13/2020 Mad cow fright keeps EU cautious on food rules by Philip Blenkinsop
FILE PHOTO: A young calf looks out from a truck January 12, 2001 in Westerheim, Germany as he is transported to be slaughtered
with the rest of his herd after an animal suffering from BSE was found in a farm in this small village./File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The specter of the 1990s BSE crisis means the European Union is likely to reject U.S. demands it ease strict food safety rules, even with President Donald Trump threatening car tariffs if EU countries do not start importing more U.S. farm products.
    With European food and farming exports to the United States worth up to $12 billion a year more than imports, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told the EU last month it should adapt its food regulations to reflect “sound science.”
    But there seems little prospect Brussels will agree.
    Europeans who remember BSE, nicknamed mad cow disease, will not accept any lowering of food standards and no politician could support a trade deal perceived as doing so, said Johan Bjerkem, trade specialist at the European Policy Centre.
    “On top of that, you’re negotiating with Trump, for whom not many Europeans have great sympathy,” he said.    “Combine these things and it will be very difficult to accept a deal on those issues.”
    Trump, who has long complained that the EU’s position on trade is “worse than China,” said on Monday he was training his sights on Europe, raising the prospect of a new trade war.
    The EU bans imports of meat treated with growth hormones or poultry washed with peracetic acid, often dubbed ‘chlorinated chicken.’    Both are standard U.S. farming practices.
    Washington points to inconsistencies — EU salad leaves are regularly washed with chlorine — and says EU rules are a smokescreen for protectionism.    They undoubtedly do benefit EU farmers.
    Brussels’ response is that antimicrobial poultry washes mask otherwise far less strict and hygienic standards.     The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that the various washes are not a safety concern, but do not replace the need for good hygienic practices during processing of poultry carcasses.
    The agency’s study of hormone-treated meat similarly does not conclude that it is unsafe, but says there is insufficient data to prove it is safe.
    The distinction is important, highlighting the “precautionary principle” that guides EU food safety law.
    “The U.S. has strict liability for lawsuits, which we don’t have so much in the EU … Here, the sense is more wanting to minimize the risks,” said Mute Schimpf, food specialist at Friends of the Earth Europe.
    Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which passed to humans and resulted from cattle being fed the remains of other livestock, led to a worldwide ban on British beef exports and the culling of millions of animals.    It and other food scandals, such as dioxin in feed in     Belgium, led to the founding of EFSA in 2002 and inform its safety-first approach.
    “It led to the introduction in Europe of the precautionary principle, the idea that if you’re not certain, don’t take unnecessary risks,” said Erik Millstone, professor of science policy at the University of Sussex.
    Instead of reporting to agriculture ministries or commissioners also concerned about the welfare of farmers and the food industry, food safety agencies became part of policy on health and consumer protection.
    EU labeling laws also tightened at a similar time.    In 2003, labels were required to show the presence of more than trace elements of genetically modified (GM) crops.    The result was that, while millions of tonnes of GM animal feed are imported into Europe, there are no GM food items on sale to EU consumers.
    The United States does not require labeling of GM food and some of its farming lobbies believe Europe is unfairly stigmatizing their products with labels.
    The restrictions though are not only in Europe.
    The United States bans cheese made with unpasturised milk unless it has been aged for 60 days, ruling out imports of French brie and camembert.    Kinder Eggs, a chocolate encasing a plastic toy, are also banned.
    A lot of standards essentially boil down to local customs and a suspicion of standards elsewhere, particularly practices promoted by big foreign business.
    “We work on the principle that if we don’t do it, it must be bad.    Whether that is protectionist or not I leave for others to dwell on,” said Hosuk Lee-Makayama, director of trade think tank ECIPE.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Additional reporting by Jakub Riha; Editing by Catherine Evans)

2/13/2020 Report: U.S. leads world in reducing carbon emissions by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019 file photo, rush-hour traffic heads west, right, and east, left, along the Schuylkill Expressway
in Philadelphia. According to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Americans have
mixed feelings about changing personal habits to conserve energy and reduce emissions that are warming the planet. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
    A new report stated the U.S. is leading the world in reducing carbon emissions, while also seeing economic growth.
    According to the International Energy Agency Tuesday, U.S. CO2 emissions are down almost one gigaton in 2019 from a peak in the year 2000.    This has been the largest decline of any country over that time period.
    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted about the lack of interest the report has received.
    The report also noted an 80 percent increase in carbon emissions from Asia, marking China and India as contributing significantly to the increase.
[AOC and Squad and take you mama Nervous Nancy with you to all the other countries in the world who are polluting and while there stay and do not come back until you change that and take some dead tree paper with you so Nancy can tear them in half to quell her frustrations.].

2/13/2020 5 people dead, millions of dollars in damage done amid Brazil flooding by OAN Newsroom
Trucks are stuck in a flooded street at the CEAGESP food market in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
    At least five people are reportedly dead in Brazil after heavy rains slammed the region this week. Officials confirmed the death toll on Wednesday, saying more than 1,300 people were also taken to shelters in almost two dozen affected cities.
    The rain started at the beginning of the week, causing floods, landslides and road damage in Sao Paulo.
    Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas said dozens of schools were closed and transportation methods remained partially operational.
    According to local reports, the largest farmer’s market in the city was forced to throw away 7,000 tons of food, which was worth almost $5.5 million.
Spoiled fruit and vegetables lay in ruins at the CEAGESP complex in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
    The government is planning to invest $870 million dollars in river management within the next few years.    More rain is expected in the region in coming days.
Men help a woman cross a flooded street in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020.
Torrential downpour flooded the city, causing its main river to overflow its banks. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

2/15/2020 Study: 1/3 of plants, animals at risk by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    One-third of all animal and plant species on the planet could face extinction by 2070 due to climate change, a new study warns.
    Researchers studied recent extinctions from climate change to estimate how many species would be lost over the next 50 years.
    Specifically, scientists from the University of Arizona studied data from 538 species at 581 sites around the world and focused on plant and animal species that were surveyed at the same sites over time, at least 10 years apart.
    “By analyzing the change in 19 climatic variables at each site, we could determine which variables drive local extinctions and how much change a population can tolerate without going extinct,” said Cristian Román-Palacios, of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, in a statement.
    “We also estimated how quickly populations can move to try and escape rising temperatures.    When we put all of these pieces of information together for each species, we can come up with detailed estimates of global extinction rates for hundreds of plant and animal species.”
    The study was published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

2/15/2020 Miss. gov. declares state of emergency due to excessive flooding by OAN Newsroom
In this aerial photo provided by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, area officials monitor a potential dam/levee failure in the
Springridge Place subdivision in Yazoo County, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (David Battaly/Mississippi Emergency Management Agency via AP)
    Mississippi’s governor announced a state of emergency as one of the state’s rivers raged out of control.    Gov. Tate Reeves made the decision Saturday as the Pearl River is expected to reach historic flood levels.
    Officials have been working to curb the flooding as much as possible downstream from the Barnett Reservoir, just north of Jackson.
    During a press conference, Reeves affirmed there were shelters ready if residents should need them.    He also discussed the severity of the flooding and urged residents not to be fooled by the sunny weather as the river continues to rise.
    “I want to be clear, this is a historic event,” stated Reeves.    “We haven’t seen flood levels like this in the area since 1983.”
Snowy egrets take advantage of the temporary closing of the Ross Barnett Reservoir Spillway Park in anticipation
of floodwaters that already have covered both sides of the popular fishing and boat landing between Madison
and Rankin counties, in central Mississippi, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
    The river is expected to peak at 38 feet Sunday, which is just two two feet above the major flood stage.    Nearly 1,000 homes are expected to be impacted by the flooding.

2/17/2020 UN: Antarctic high-temp records will take months to verify
    BERLIN – Record-high temperatures reportedly measured in Antarctica will take months to verify, the U.N. weather agency said Sunday.    “A formal decision on whether or not this is a record is likely to be several months away,” said Jonathan Fowler, of the World Meteorological Organization.    Scientists in Argentina measured a temperature of nearly 65 degrees Fahrenheit on Feb. 6 on a peninsula that juts out from Antarctica toward South America. Last week, researchers from Brazil measured temperatures above 68 degrees.

2/17/2020 Study cautions of extinctions by 2070 - Warming may decimate one-third of all species by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    One-third of all animal and plant species on the planet could face extinction by 2070 due to climate change, a new study warns.
    Researchers studied recent extinctions from climate change to estimate how many species would be lost over the next 50 years.
    Specifically, scientists from the University of Arizona studied data from 538 species at 581 sites around the world and focused on plant and animal species that were surveyed at the same sites over time, at least 10 years apart.
    “By analyzing the change in 19 climatic variables at each site, we could determine which variables drive local extinctions and how much change a population can tolerate without going extinct,” said Cristian Román-Palacios, of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, in a statement.
    “We also estimated how quickly populations can move to try and escape rising temperatures."
    “When we put all of these pieces of information together for each species, we can come up with detailed estimates of global extinction rates for hundreds of plant and animal species.”
    Globally, up to 1 million species are at risk of extinction because of human activities, according to a United Nations report released in May.    Many experts say a “mass extinction event” – only the sixth in the past half-billion years – is already underway.
    This study found that maximum annual temperatures – the highest daily highs in summer – are the key variable that best explains whether a species will go extinct.
    Previous studies have focused on migration to cooler habitats as a way for species to “escape” from warming climates.
    However, this study found that most species won’t be able to do this quickly enough to avoid extinction, based on their past rates of movement.
    Instead, researchers found that many species were able to tolerate some increases in maximum temperatures, but only up to a point.
    They found that about 50% of the species had local extinctions if maximum temperatures increased by more than 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit, and up to 95% if temperatures increased by more than 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Projections of species loss depend on how much climate will warm in the future.
    “If we stick to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, we may lose fewer than 2 out of every 10 plant and animal species on Earth by 2070,” said study co-author John J. Wiens of the University of Arizona.
    The study was published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The common giant tree frog is one of many species impacted by recent climate change. JOHN J. WIENS

2/18/2020 Photos show ‘ice volcanoes’ erupting on Lake Michigan by Bisma Parvez, Detroit Free Press USA TODAY NETWORK
    DETROIT – A cold front brought some interesting phenomena to Lake Michigan: first ice balls, now ice volcanoes.
    National Weather Service meteorologist Ernie Ostuno captured some amazing photos of erupting ice volcanoes Sunday at Oval Beach in Saugatuck, Michigan.
    An ice volcano is a cone-shaped mound of ice formed over a lake by the eruption of water and slush through an ice shelf.
    “Ice volcanoes occur in locations in which waves hit accumulated ice on the shoreline with some force,” said Cort Spholten, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.    “We were cold enough to form ice on the shore of Lake Michigan, and water had broken the surface of that ice,” Spholten said.    “The waves ... were strong enough so the water channels through, it squeezes water upwards and tosses the floating ice up.    As it happens, over the course of hours or days, it forms a cone, and it resembles a volcano.”
    According to Spholten, there have to be very specific conditions for ice volcanoes to form.
    “It needs to stay cold enough to keep the ice around, and waves need to be large enough to force water upwards against the ice shelf,” he said.
    Ice volcanoes can be dangerous, especially when people climb on them.    There may be no way to get out of the icy water if someone slips down the side of one of the mounds.
    The ice volcanoes formed after another rare phenomenon on Lake Michigan.
    Friday, thousands of ice balls rolled up onto the lake shore.    According to experts, the weather conditions have to be just right: The temperatures are just below freezing along shallow beaches.    Slush collects into round shapes, and the waves sculpt ice chunks into orbs.
Ice volcanoes” form from waves forcing water and ice up into and through a cone. NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND RAPIDS

2/18/2020 HHS Official: U.S. can’t confirm coronavirus is related to Chinese bioweapon research by OAN Newsroom
In this Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, photo, medical workers transfer a new coronavirus patient at a hospital in Wuhan
in central China’s Hubei province. Chinese authorities on Monday reported a slight upturn in new virus cases and
hundred more deaths for a total of thousands since the outbreak began two months ago. (Chinatopix via AP)
    A top Trump administration official recently shot down rumors suggesting the coronavirus is a Chinese bioweapon.    While speaking to reporters at an event in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, the assistant secretary for health said they currently have no information to prove it is a manufactured virus.
    Admiral Brett Giroir’s response came after members of Congress questioned the claim by China that the disease came from an animal at a market in Wuhan.    The Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary went on to say health officials are trying to confirm that information amid work toward a cure.
    “What we have done with our policies is we’ve bought time and time is really important,” he stated.    “We have a very good diagnostic test devised by the CDC and you know there were some things that needed to be worked out in some of the controls, but it is a good diagnostic test.”
    The Trump administration reportedly offered to send scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the virus in China more than a month ago, but Chinese leaders have yet to approve.
    So far, the coronavirus has spread to more than 71,000 people globally and has killed nearly 2,000 people in China.

2/19/2020 New coronavirus spreads more like flu than SARS: Chinese study by Julie Steenhuysen
A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model
structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as
the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via REUTERS
    CHICAGO (Reuters) – Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, suggesting it may spread even more easily than previously believed.
    In at least in one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, confirming concerns that asymptomatic patients could also spread the disease.
    Although preliminary, the findings published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, offer new evidence that this novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people mostly in China, is not like its closely-related coronavirus cousins.
    “If confirmed, this is very important,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study.
    Unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract that can result in pneumonia, COVID-19 appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts.    That would make it not only capable of causing severe pneumonia, but of spreading easily like flu or the common cold.
    Researchers in Guangdong province monitored the amount of coronavirus in the 18 patients.    One of them, who had moderate levels of the virus in their nose and throat, never had any disease symptoms.
    Among the 17 symptomatic patients, the team found levels of the virus increased soon after symptoms first appeared, with higher amounts of virus present in the nose than in the throats, a pattern more similar to influenza than SARS.
    The level of virus in the asymptomatic patient was similar to what was present in patients with symptoms, such as fever.
    “What this says is clearly this virus can be shed out of the upper respiratory tract and that people are shedding it asymptomatically,” Poland said.
    The findings add to evidence that this new virus, though genetically similar, is not behaving like SARS, said Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at Scripps Research in La Jolla who uses gene sequencing tools to track disease outbreaks.
    “This virus is clearly much more capable of spreading between humans than any other novel coronavirus we’ve ever seen.    This is more akin to the spread of flu,” said Andersen, who was not involved with the study.
    The researchers said their findings add to reports that the virus can be transmitted early in the course of the infection, and suggest that controlling the virus will require an approach different from what worked with SARS, which primarily involved controlling its spread in a hospital setting.
(This story corrects spelling of scientist’s name in paragraphs 10-11 to Andersen from Anderson)
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

2/19/2020 Factbox: Global efforts to develop vaccines, drugs to fight the coronavirus
A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model
structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as
the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via REUTERS
    CHICAGO (Reuters) – Researchers and drug companies are scrambling to develop vaccines and treatments to fight the new coronavirus that emerged in central China in December and has spread to more than two dozen countries, killing more than 2,000 people.
    There are no proven treatments for the virus and experts say it could take a year or more to have a vaccine ready.    The hope is that strict quarantines in China and elsewhere will contain the virus’ spread long enough for scientists to develop tools to fight it.    The following is a list of some of those efforts:
    Vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize and fight specific viruses or germs, providing immunity against them.    China’s early release of the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus has allowed several research groups and companies to get a quick start on vaccine development without needing live virus samples.
    Several efforts are using various “plug-and-play” vaccine platforms to develop vaccines using genetic material, RNA or DNA, specific to the virus.
    The U.S. National Institutes of Health has started work using a platform developed by U.S. biotech Moderna Inc. Scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc are using a different platform.    The work is backed by grants from global health emergency group the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).    Novavax Inc, which said it created a vaccine candidate for Ebola within 90 days of the release of the genetic sequence, has also announced work on a coronavirus vaccine.
    Large pharmaceutical companies including Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson also are working on coronavirus vaccines, with backing from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
    In China, officials are trying multiple vaccine candidates, including newer DNA and RNA vaccine approaches and a recombinant protein vaccine in which scientists replicate the proteins on the surface of the virus.    Sanofi is using a similar method.
    To speed access to treatments, researchers are repurposing a number of existing drugs in hope of finding something that works against the new virus.
    BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Galidesivir works by interfering with a virus’ ability to replicate.    The antiviral has shown promise in a range of viruses, including cononaviruses, and proven to be safe in healthy volunteers.    The work is backed by BARDA.
    Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc is developing REGN3048-3051, a combination of two antibodies developed from immunized mice that have been genetically altered to produce “humanized” antibodies.    The work expands on Regeneron’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a related coronavirus.    Regeneron will test its drug in humans through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
    Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir is an antiviral that failed against Ebola, but has shown promise in monkeys against a related coronavirus.    Gilead has partnered with Chinese researchers to conduct two clinical trials coordinated by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing.    The studies were expected to be completed in April.
    Chinese officials are testing AbbVie’s two-drug HIV treatment Kaletra, which is designed to keep HIV from replicating in people. The hope is that it will do the same with the new coronavirus.
    The antiviral favipiravir from Japan’s Toyama Chemical was developed to fight RNA viruses such as the new coronavirus.    It has shown preliminary efficacy in a 70-patient clinical trial in Shenzhen city, officials said on Saturday.
    The anti-malaria drug chloroquine phosphate is being tested in 10 hospitals in China in more than 100 patients.    Preliminary results suggest it has at least some benefit in patients with pneumonia, Chinese officials said.
    Chinese scientists also are treating some patients with blood from coronavirus survivors, an older technique that has been used to fight rabies, diphtheria and other infections.    So far, 11 patients with severe pneumonia have shown significant improvement with the treatment, with no severe side effects, officials said.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago and Roxanne Liu in Beijing; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

2/20/2020 Study: Fossil fuels’ harm is greater - It says human-caused emissions undercounted by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    The amount of methane that comes from burning fossil fuels is much higher than previously thought – as much as 40% higher, a new study suggests.
    And the amount from natural sources is far lower.
    Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the climatewarming impact of carbon dioxide over a 20-year span.    It is also the main ingredient in natural gas and is the secondlargest contributor to global warming, after carbon dioxide.
    Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas and oil.
    Emissions of methane into Earth’s atmosphere have increased by about 150% over the past three centuries, but it has been difficult for researchers to determine exactly where these emissions originate.
    In the study, researchers measured methane levels in ancient air samples from the Greenland ice sheet and found that scientists have been “vastly underestimating” the amount of methane humans are emitting into the atmosphere today via fossil fuels.
    There are two types of methane: biological and fossil.    Biological methane can be released naturally from sources such as wetlands or human-caused sources such as landfills, rice fields and livestock.    Fossil methane, which is the focus of the study, can be emitted through natural geologic seeps or as a result of humans extracting and using fossil fuels.
    Reducing fossil fuel use is crucial to reducing climate change, researchers say.
    “Placing stricter methane emission regulations on the fossil-fuel industry will have the potential to reduce future global warming to a larger extent than previously thought,” said study lead author Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester.
    “I don’t want to get too hopeless on this because my data does have a positive implication: Most of the methane emissions are anthropogenic (humancaused), so we have more control,” Hmiel said.    “If we can reduce our (methane) emissions, it’s going to have more of an impact.”
    That’s in contrast to carbon dioxide, which can persist in Earth’s atmosphere for up to a century: “If we stopped emitting all carbon dioxide today, high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would still persist for a long time,” Hmiel said.
    He added, however, that “methane is important to study because if we make changes to our current methane emissions, it’s going to reflect more quickly.”
    The study was published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature.
Pumpjacks work in a field near Lovington, N.M. Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas and oil. CHARLIE RIEDEL/AP

2/23/2020 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Turkey leaves 9 dead, dozens injured by OAN Newsroom
Medics and rescue workers carry a wounded boy to an ambulance after an earthquake hit villages in
Baskale town in Van province, Turkey, at the border with Iran, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. (DHA via AP)
    Several people were killed in Turkey after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake shook the country on Sunday.    Officials have said at least nine people were killed and dozens of others were injured after the quake hit near Turkey’s border with Iran.
    According to reports, more than 1,000 buildings have collapsed, trapping people in the rubble.

Houses are reduced to rubble after an earthquake hit villages in Baskale in
Van province, Turkey, at the border with Iran, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. (IHA via AP)
    Residents have said they tried to rescue children who were stuck in debris, but in some cases were too late.    They added there were “no words to describe it.”
    “There were children under the debris, we thought we heard their voices,” said one witness.    “We didn’t understand what happened exactly, and we pulled out three bodies.”
    Following the quake, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu visited affected areas, met with hospitalized victims and held a meeting with local leaders to coordinate rescue efforts.
    Emergency teams have been sent to the region to help citizens, who remain trapped under fallen buildings.
People remove debris and try to reach people trapped under a collapsed house after an earthquake hit villages
in Baskale town in Van province, Turkey, at the border with Iran, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. (IHA via AP)

2/24/2020 AI summit will look at what’s ahead for Louisville workforce by Grace Schneider, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Companies in Louisville and around the globe are growing increasingly thirsty for data to help them forecast inventory needs, understand how their customers are responding to marketing pitches or speed up package deliveries.
    There’s also widespread concern about how the wave of new technologies will recast the kinds of skills workers will need in the future.
    On Tuesday, a daylong talent summit titled AI & the Future of Work will explore a variety of topics around artificial intelligence, changes in the workplace and how education can help students adapt.
    The annual workforce and education summit organized by regional workforce agency Kentuckiana Works and other groups typically draws about 300 attendees.    But registrations for the gathering this week topped 1,100, and there’s now a waiting list.
    The city’s largest employers, including UPS, Humana, GE Appliances and Norton Healthcare, are sending information technology directors, software developers, data scientists and analysts to the fifth annual summit.    Several college and K-12 educators, as well as workforce and nonprofit leaders from Louisville, Lexington and Southern Indiana, have reserved spots, said Sarah Ehresman, the agency’s director of labor market intelligence.
    There’s no question why AI and automation are huge now, said Aaron Peabody, lead data scientist at Untitled Firm, a Louisville startup.
    “The implications of this technology are massive because it will eventually be the technology, and it is not going away,” Peabody said.    With coworkers, he will demonstrate the firm’s work at a tech showcase during the event at the downtown Kentucky International Convention Center.
    Local experts delving into AI say the technology is evolving quickly, but most of it involves crunching huge chunks of data — for instance, health care metrics on fragile patients who are released from hospitals.
    It’s used to make predictions about problems a patient will encounter and to help doctors and providers identify more proactive ways to get an ill person back to better health.
    At Norton Healthcare, AI is used to help detect patients at risk for developing potentially deadly sepsis infections and for evaluating patients at higher risk for opioid addiction, among other uses, according to Dr. Steven T. Hester, system chief medical officer.     “A lot of what gets lumped under AI is not AI,” said Ben Reno-Weber, director of the local Microsoft Future of Work Initiative.
    Many companies do advanced data analytics, he said, but the next step, programming a machine to “think” in new and novel ways to complete tasks, is the holy grail in AI.
    At the summit, two keynote addresses will feature Microsoft’s Jacky Wright, chief digital officer and corporate vice president; and IBM’s Jonathan Arneault, North America software as a service director, with University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi.
    Several panel discussions will focus on the kinds of workplaces and jobs likely to be most impacted by AI, how to use AI to solve business challenges and how AI and other technologies will reshape work in the future.
    Reno-Weber said Louisville is building a robust data community, with more professionals handling predictive analytics.    U of L, for instance, will soon have 68 graduates in its Master of Business Administration in business analytics.
    Other colleges, he added, are considering adding undergraduate degrees in the field.
    The interest this year from educators has increased significantly because they’re searching for “how to build a workforce whose skills are aligned with industry,” Reno-Weber said.
    For details on the conference, see
    Grace Schneider: 502-582-4082;; Twitter: @gesinfk.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:
GE Appliances unveiled a new version of its Kitchen Hub technology this year that uses artificial intelligence to help home
cooks choose recipes for food they have on hand and to monitor when food is getting overcooked. COURTESY OF GE APPLIANCES

2/24/2020 FATHER GEORGE COYNE 1933-2020 - Astronomer priest delighted by heavens dies - Namesake of an asteroid led Vatican Observatory by John D’Anna, The Arizona Republic USA TODAY NETWORK
    As a scholar, he once told a colleague that without “good science” as a foundation, all of his work would amount to nothing.
    As a priest, he believed not only that faith and reason were not mutually exclusive, but that they enhanced each other.
    And as a man, he sought to bridge the gap between the heavens and heaven itself and left a complicated legacy in the process.    Father George Coyne, a Jesuit priest, astronomer, author and former director of the Vatican Observatory who was instrumental in bringing one of the world’s most sophisticated — and controversial — telescope arrays to the top of Mount Graham in southern Arizona, died earlier this month.    He was 87.
    “He was a remarkable astronomer, a remarkable director, a remarkable Jesuit, a remarkable man,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, current director of the observatory, wrote in a tribute he shared with The Arizona Republic via email.
    “His first words to me when I arrived at the observatory back in 1993 were simple: ‘do good science,’“ Consolmagno wrote.    “He understood that without solid science at our foundation, all the other work of the observatory would be in vain.”
    Consolmagno said, “More than once I recall chatting with him in his office when the telephone would ring; he would ignore it.    ‘You’re with me now,’ he explained.    ‘Why should I let someone else interrupt us?’”    Before his death Feb. 11, Coyne was one of two living men to have had an asteroid named for him.    The other is Consolmagno.
    In a 2010 interview, Coyne addressed the honor with characteristic humor and humility.
    “It was really fun to tell my dad,” he said.    “I’m not giving him grandkids, but at least he’s got something with the family name. As long as it’s not the one that comes and hits the Earth, we’re in good shape.”
An interest in the cosmos
    Coyne, who was born in Baltimore in 1933 and educated in Catholic schools, discovered his love for galaxies, planets and stars as a young Jesuit.
    Coyne graduated from Fordham University in 1958 with a degree in mathematics and received his doctorate in astronomy from Georgetown University in 1962.    He was ordained as a priest in 1965, the same year he arrived as a visiting research professor at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
    In 1969, he was appointed as an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo, site of the pope’s summer home about 15 miles southeast of Rome.
    He maintained his professorship in Tucson and became assistant director at the UA’s planetary laboratory in 1977.    In 1978, the freshly anointed Pope John Paul I, who reigned only 33 days before his death, appointed Coyne director of the Vatican Observatory.    Coyne served there for 28 years before retiring in 2006 as the longest tenured director in the history of the observatory, which traces its legacy to the time of Galileo.
Observatory built amid conflict
    Coyne continued to split his time between Italy and Tucson and he was eventually appointed director of the UA’s Steward Observatory and its Department of Astronomy.
    Over the next decade, he leveraged his association with both institutions to lay the groundwork for the collaborative Mount Graham International Observatory in the Pinaleño Mountains of southern Arizona, a collection of three of the most technologically advanced telescopes.    That collaboration in the name of science would make Coyne a lightning rod.
    Mount Graham, 70 miles northeast of Tucson, is the highest peak in southern Arizona and is one of the state’s 16 officially designated “dark skies” astronomy sites, far from city lights and atmospheric pollution that are the banes of astronomical research.
    The problem, however, was that the peak, which had been wrested from the San Carlos Apache Reservation during Arizona’s territorial days, was still considered sacred by the tribe.    The tribe filed suit to block the project.    In addition, federal wildlife biologists deemed the project a threat to the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel and refused to sign off on it.    The controversy would drag on for nearly two decades.
    After an act of Congress and two presidential waivers, the project was eventually allowed to proceed, with the first telescope becoming operational in 1993, a dozen years after it was first proposed.
    The bitterness of the fight remains.
    When told of Coyne’s death, Robin Silver, co-founder of the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, used the word “evil” to characterize the years of antipathy.
    Silver decried “the pain and suffering that he caused Apache spiritual leaders and traditional elders and his role in the near extinction of the Mount Graham Red Squirrel in his single minded pursuit of siting the Vatican’s telescope on the Apaches’ sacred ground on Mt. Graham.”
    Consolmagno said Coyne regretted the ill will caused by the controversy.
Melding science and religion
    Coyne retired from UA and the Vatican in 2006, but he did not retire from public life, academia or controversy.
    He appeared in the atheist comedian Bill Maher’s 2008 movie “Religulous” and was also a guest on his HBO talk show.
    In his 2010 NPR “On Being” interview, Coyne described the tendency to drag God in “when we find out science is inadequate to understanding certain events in the universe,” something even scientists as great as Isaac Newton did.
    “We tend to want to bring God in as a god of explanation, a god of the gaps. ... Every time we do it, we’re diminishing God and diminishing science,” he said.
    “My personal life is built on the following: I’m a scientist.    I try to understand the universe.    My understanding of the universe does not need God.”
The Crab Nebula is seen in a photo taken through a Vatican telescope atop the
10,500-foot Mount Graham in southern Arizona. RICHARD J. BOYLE/AP


2/24/2020 Digital currency gains on fears of cash, coronavirus by Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY
    Sometimes it’s hard to avoid surfaces and objects that other people have touched, which is a common way for bacteria to travel.    Numerous studies have shown that ATMs, credit cards and those payment tablets popping up in restaurants are rife with all sorts of illness- causing germs.    Plus, despite the rise of digital wallets, millions of Americans still use old-fashioned paper money every day.
    Which raises the question: Can coronavirus live on the cash in your pocket or on the plastic in your purse?
    “Cash is not a good vehicle to transport respiratory viruses, however, cards have a little bit more potential,” said Dr. Susan Whittier, a clinical microbiologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University Medical Center.    “If someone is coughing, and then they hand their credit card to someone across the counter, I wouldn’t rule out the potential of transmission.”
    Viruses, in general, tend to survive longer on such hard surfaces as credit cards and coins than they do on porous surfaces such as fabric and dollar bills, Whittier added.
    Still, Chinese banks have started essentially washing money to destroy potentially infected cash before it’s handed back out.
    “Cash received by banks must be sterilized before being released to customers,” the Chinese government’s website recently announced.    The nation is using ultraviolet light and heat to kill any bacteria on currency.
    While it’s certainly not necessary at this point, making digital payments and transfers could be a viable solution for people shaken by the mere threat of infected cash.
    “Anytime you decrease coming in contact with contaminated surfaces, you’re decreasing your risk of coming in contact with viruses,” Whittier said.
    There’s been a surge of investment in cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin since news of novel coronavirus hit, which may or may not be pure coincidence.
    Bitcoin, a market leader, saw a record month in January, breaking $100,000 a day in China alone, the company’s CEO Stefan Rust told USA TODAY.    The decentralized digital currency saw “a greater surge beyond that” globally in February.    Bitcoin currently is trading $10,152 per share.
    Second to Bitcoin in the mobile payments space is Ethereum, which saw shares gradually rise in mid-January, though shares are priced much lower at $278.    The digital currency platform Ripple saw shares jump around the same time.
    China, which seems to be ground zero for coronavirus cases, is a digitally savvy nation that’s light-years ahead of the U.S. when it comes to doing away with paper money.
    But the potential economic downturn as factories shutter, workers stay home and tourism halts could drive investors to flee risky stocks and park their cash in other places.
    “People are looking for a safe haven and cryptocurrency might be that safe haven,” Rust said.
    Someone also took to Reddit this week to announced a new strain of cryptocurrency dubbed “Coronacoin,” which claims to be backed by the spread of the deadly respiratory illness.    A portion of the funds generated will be donated to Red Cross, according to
    For now, Coronacoin is virtually worthless, trading at less than half a cent, according to the bitcoin tracking site CoinGecko.
    “Cash is not a good vehicle to transport respiratory viruses, however, cards have a little bit more potential.” Dr. Susan Whittier
.     Clinical microbiologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University Medical Center.
The WHO is convening a meeting Tuesday in Geneva to give researchers and medical practitioners
a chance to share information about the coronavirus outbreak.    That will help battle the disease,
but could more have been done sooner? CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

2/25/2020 Jakarta hit by serious flooding for second time this year by Fransiska Nangoy
People ride motorcycles along a flooded street in Bekasi, near Jakarta, Indonesia February 25, 2020
in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Fahkri Hermansyah/ via REUTERS??
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Torrential rain brought floods to Indonesia’s capital on Tuesday, paralyzing large parts of the city as rescue workers used boats to navigate streets turned into murky, brown waterways to get people to safety.
    Indonesia’s weather agency linked the rains to tropical cyclones that brought bad weather to southern parts of the archipelago.    It also warned of high waves in the seas south of Java island.
    Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said more than 200 neighborhoods were affected by the floods.
    “We are concentrating on mitigation.    We have prepared all resources to be deployed,” he told reporters, adding that evacuation posts had been set up with health facilities.
    Low-lying Jakarta and surrounding areas are home to more than 30 million people and extremely vulnerable to flooding.
    At the beginning of the year, the city was hit by some of the heaviest rain since records began, causing floods that killed more than 60 people and displaced about 175,000.
    A spokesman for the Disaster Mitigation Agency said it was too early to assess the number of displaced or the scale of the damage in Tuesday’s floods.    The army and police would help to rescue people, said the spokesman, Agus Wibowo.
    Jakarta’s Search and Rescue Agency said on Twitter its teams were helping people in the west and east of the city.
    It posted videos showing women and children being ferried on a rubber boat and rescuers steering a past a half-submerged minivan.
    Police warned of road closures and disruption to trains.
    State electricity utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) said power was shut off to more than 1,600 substations to ensure safety.
(Additional reporting by Jessica Damiana, Wilda Asmarini and Ed Davies; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Robert Birsel)

2/25/2020 Study: Climate change could be security threat by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Climate change could turn into a “catastrophic” threat to national and global security in the coming decades, warns a report released Monday.
    “Even at scenarios of low warming, each region of the world will face severe risks to national and global security in the next three decades,” the report says.    “Higher levels of warming will pose catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks over the course of the 21st century.”
    The report, titled “A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change: How Likely Warming Scenarios Indicate a Catastrophic Security Future,” was released by the Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan security policy institute.
    To avoid such dire impacts, the report recommends “quickly reducing and phasing out greenhouse gas emissions.”
    Human-caused climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, which release heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere.    This has caused the planet to warm to levels that cannot be explained by natural factors, scientists say.
    The globe has warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since preindustrial times, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
    The report identifies major threats, including heightened social and political instability and risks to U.S. military missions and infrastructure, as well as security institutions worldwide.
    In North America, under a lowwarming scenario (1.8 to 3.6 degrees by 2050), the region “will experience more intense, extreme events like storms and wildfires, with significant impacts on life, property, security infrastructure and democratic institutions,” the report said.
    “The assessment is clear – climate change is a pressing risk to national and global security and will evolve to become a severe and systemic threat the more we allow global temperatures to rise,” said report co-author Sherri Goodman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense.
    “Our panel’s analysis shows that no region of the world will be left unaffected, and climate impacts will interact in dangerous ways in even near-term, lower levels of warming,” Goodman said.
    The report says, “Climate change will present significant threats to U.S. military missions across all of its geographic areas of responsibility as well as to regional security institutions and infrastructure that are critical for maintaining global security.”
A young Gentoo penguin chirps amid a colony of penguins on Ardley Island, Antarctica, on Feb. 3, 2018. MATHILDE BELLENGER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

2/25/2020 Arctic ‘doomsday’ food vault welcomes millionth seed variety by Gwladys Fouche
FILE PHOTO: Television crews stand outside the Global Seed Vault before the opening
ceremony in Longyearbyen in the Arctic, February 26, 2008. REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo
    OSLO (Reuters) – A vault in the Arctic built to preserve seeds for rice, wheat and other food staples contains one million varieties with the addition on Tuesday of specimens grown by Cherokee Indians and the estate of Britain’s Prince Charles.
    The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, built on a mountainside in 2008, was designed as a storage facility to protect vital crop seeds against the worst cataclysms of nuclear war or disease and safeguard global food supplies.
    Dubbed the “doomsday vault,” the facility lies on the island of Spitsbergen in the archipelago of Svalbard, halfway between Norway and the North Pole, and is only opened a few times a year in order to preserve the seeds inside.
    On Tuesday, 30 gene banks deposited seeds, also including offerings from India, Mali and Peru.
    The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in Britain banked seeds harvested from the meadows of Prince Charles’ private residence, Highgrove.
    The vault also serves as a backup for plant breeders to develop new varieties of crops.    The world used to cultivate around 7,000 different plants but experts say we now get about 60% of our calories from three main crops – maize, wheat and rice – making food supplies vulnerable if climate change causes harvests to fail.
    “The seed vault is the backup in the global system of conservation to secure food security on Earth,” Stefan Schmitz, executive director of the Crop Trust, the Bonn-based organization that manages the vault, told Reuters.
    “We need to preserve this biodiversity, this crop diversity, to provide healthy diets and nutritious foods, and for providing farmers, especially smallholders, with sustainable livelihoods so that they can adapt to new conditions.”
    One in nine people go to bed hungry globally, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme, and scientists have predicted that erratic weather patterns could reduce both the quality and quantity of food available.
    The vault was last opened in October.    With Tuesday’s deposit, it contains one million different seeds, from almost all nations.
    In 2015, researchers made a first withdrawal from the vault after Syria’s civil war damaged a seed bank near the city of Aleppo.    The seeds were grown and re-deposited at the Svalbard vault in 2017.
    In October, Norway completed an $11 million, year-long upgrade of the building, which was constructed at Svalbard because the Arctic’s cold climate means its contents will stay cool even if the power fails.    But even the doomsday vault has been affected by climate change as an unexpected thaw of permafrost when it first opened let in water to the tunnel entrance, although no seeds were damaged.
(Additional reporting by Thin Lei Win in Rome; Editing by Susan Fenton and John Stonestreet)

2/26/2020 East Africa’s huge locust outbreak spreads to Congo
    KAMPALA, Uganda – A small group of desert locusts entered Congo, marking the first time the voracious insects were seen in the Central African country since 1944, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency said Tuesday as U.N. agencies warned of a “major hunger threat” in East Africa from the flying pests. Kenya, Somalia and Uganda have battled the swarms in the worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years.    A statement from agencies in the matter called the swarms of locusts “a scourge of biblical proportions.”

2/26/2020 Nine-day heat wave melted 20% of arctic island’s snow by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    A heat wave this month in Antarctica sent temperatures soaring into the mid- to high-60s across northern portions of the normally frigid continent.
    Surprisingly, the warmth melted about 20% of an Antarctic island’s snow in only nine days, according to newly released images from NASA, leaving behind ponds of melted water where the snow had been.
    “I haven’t seen melt ponds develop this quickly in Antarctica,” said Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist at Nichols College in Massachusetts, in a statement.    “You see these kinds of melt events in Alaska and Greenland, but not usually in Antarctica.”
    Pelto said that during the heat wave, which peaked from Feb. 6 to 11, snowpack on Eagle Island melted 4 inches.    This means that about 20% of seasonal snow in the region melted in this one event on Eagle Island, Pelto said.
    He added that such rapid melting is caused by sustained high temperatures significantly above freezing.    Such persistent warmth was not typical in Antarctica until this century, but it has become more common in recent years, NASA said.
    The temperature peaked at 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit at Argentina’s Esperanza Base on Feb. 6, which was Antarctica’s warmest temperature on record.
    A reading of 69.3 degrees was measured a few days later at a research station on Seymour Island, on Feb. 9, but that reading has not yet been officially verified.
    This February heatwave was the third major melt event of the 2019-2020 summer, following warm spells in November 2019 and January 2020.

2/27/2020 Governments ramp up preparations for coronavirus pandemic by Colin Packham and Josh Smith
A driver gets a coronavirus test at a drive-through clinic at a hospital in Daegu, South Korea, February 27, 2020. Yonhap via REUTERS
    SYDNEY/SEOUL (Reuters) – Governments ramped up measures on Thursday to battle a looming global pandemic of the coronavirus as the number of infections outside China, the source of the outbreak, for the first time surpassed those appearing inside the country.
    Australia initiated emergency measures and Taiwan raised its epidemic response level to its highest, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump put his vice president, Mike Pence, in charge of the U.S. response to the looming global health crisis.
    The United States and South Korea postponed joint military drills to limit the spread of the virus, which has emerged far beyond China, where it originated late last year, apparently in a market selling wildlife in the city of Wuhan.
    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country, which has 23 cases of the virus, was operating on the basis of a pandemic and hospitals were under orders to ensure enough medical supplies, personal protective equipment and staff.
    “There is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus,” Morrison told a news conference in Canberra.
    “As a result we have agreed today and initiated the … coronavirus emergency response plan.”
    Stocks sunk deeper into the red, oil prices fell and U.S. Treasuries rallied into record territory as more signs of the global spread of the virus heightened fears of a pandemic.
    Global markets have dropped for six straight days, wiping out more than $3.6 trillion in value. <.MIWD00000PUS>
    The coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed nearly 2,800, the majority in China.    Much remains unknown about the virus but it is clear the ramifications of the world’s second-biggest economy in lockdown for a month or more are vast.
    The rapid spread of the virus in different places – notably Italy, Iran and South Korea – in recent days has met the definition for a pandemic, and raised alarm.
    There have been 3,246 cases outside China, including 51 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
    Denmark confirmed its first case, in a man who returned from a ski holiday in Italy, while Estonia found its first, a man returning from Iran, media reported.
    Brazil confirmed Latin America’s first infection on Wednesday, while several other countries including Pakistan, Romania and Algeria also reported their first cases.
    China reported 433 new cases on Thursday, against 406 a day earlier.
    South Korea reported another 334 new coronavirus cases, pushing its total to 1,595, the most in any country other than China.
    The U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for South Korea after the U.S. military reported on Wednesday its first case of the coronavirus, in a 23-year-old soldier based near the South Korean city of Daegu.
    The South Korean military has also reported a number of infections and confined most troops to base.
    A “command post training,” usually conducted by members of the two militaries’ Combined Forces Command, will be postponed until further notice, the command said.
    The outbreak has played havoc with international aviation with airlines cancelling flights as countries ban visitors from hot spots and nervous passengers put off travel plans.
    News that a Korean Air <003490.KS> flight attendant who worked on flights between Seoul and Los Angeles later tested positive, is likely to unnerve passengers further.
    U.S. health authorities reported the first possible case of community transmission in the United States involving someone who had no relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient.    The United States is managing 59 cases – most of them Americans repatriated from a cruise ship in Japan.
    The number of confirmed cases of the virus on the British-registered Diamond Princess approached 700 with four deaths since the ship docked at a Japanese port on Feb. 3.
    Trump, seeking to calm U.S. stock markets, said the risk from the virus was “very low” in the United States, and it was “very very ready” to face the threat.
    Chinese authorities said the number of new deaths stood at 29 on Thursday, the lowest daily tally since Jan. 28.    The virus that can lead to pneumonia has now killed a total of 2,744 people in China, most in the central province of Hubei.
    Italy reported another 100 cases nationwide, taking the total in Europe’s biggest hot spot to more than 400, while its death toll rose to 12.
    A hotel in Tenerife, in Spain’s Canary Islands, remained locked down for a second day on Wednesday with more than 700 guests, over cases linked to Italy.
    Many of the cases appearing in the Middle East have been linked to Iran, which has had 141 cases and 22 deaths, the most outside China.
    Iraq has reported six cases, and its first in the capital, Baghdad, in a man who had been in Iran.    Iraq on Wednesday banned public gatherings and entry by travelers from Kuwait and Bahrain because of the spread of the virus.
    Kuwait reported 43 confirmed cases while Saudi Arabia suspended foreigners’ entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries with new coronavirus cases.    The kingdom has no cases.
    Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus:
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen, Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey in Washington, Jonathan Allen in New York, Diane Bartz in Chicago, Gavin Jones, Francesca Piscioneri and Crispian Balmer in Rome, Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang in Beijing, Kate Kelland in London, Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul, Paresi Hafezi and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai and Stephanie Nebehay and Michael Shields in Geneva; Writing by Stephen Coates; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)

2/27/2020 Running out of time: East Africa faces new locust threat by Omar Mohammed and Dawit Endeshaw
FILE PHOTO: Desert locusts are seen on a tree at a ranch near the town on
Nanyuki in Laikipia county, Kenya, February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    NAIROBI/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Countries in East Africa are racing against time to prevent new swarms of locusts wreaking havoc with crops and livelihoods after the worst infestation in generations.
    A lack of expertise in controlling the pests is not their only problem: Kenya temporarily ran out of pesticides, Ethiopia needs more planes and Somalia and Yemen, torn by civil war, can’t guarantee exterminators’ safety.
    Locust swarms have been recorded in the region since biblical times, but unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change have created ideal conditions for insect numbers to surge, scientists say.
    Warmer seas are creating more rain, wakening dormant eggs, and cyclones that disperse the swarms are getting stronger and more frequent.
    In Ethiopia the locusts have reached the fertile Rift Valley farmland and stripped grazing grounds in Kenya and Somalia.    Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometer. If left unchecked, the number of locusts in East Africa could explode 400-fold by June. That would devastate harvests in a region with more than 19 million hungry people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.     Uganda has deployed the military.    Kenya has trained hundreds of youth cadets to spray.    Lacking pesticides, some security forces in Somalia have shot anti-aircraft guns at swarms darkening the skies.     Everyone is racing the rains expected in March: the next generation of larvae is already wriggling from the ground, just as farmers plant their seeds.
    “The second wave is coming,” said Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s head of resilience for Eastern Africa.    “As crops are planted, locusts will eat everything.”
    The impact so far on agriculture, which generates about a third of East Africa’s economic output, is unknown, but FAO is using satellite images to assess the damage, he said.
    In Kenya, the region’s wealthiest and most stable country, the locusts are mostly in the semi-arid north, although some crops have been affected, said Stanley Kipkoech, a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture.
    This month, Kenya ran out of pesticide for about a week and a half, he said.    Farmers watched helplessly as their families’ crops were devoured.
    In Ethiopia, the government can only afford to rent four planes for aerial spraying, but it needs at least twice that number to contain the outbreak before harvesting begins in March, Zebdewos Salato, director of plant protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Reuters.
    “We are running out of time,” he said.
    Ethiopia’s single pesticide factory is working flat out.
    The country needs 500,000 liters for the upcoming harvest and planting season but is struggling to produce its maximum 200,000 liters after foreign exchange shortages delayed the purchase of chemicals, the factory’s chief executive Simeneh Altaye said.
    FAO is helping the government to procure planes, vehicles and sprayers, said Fatouma Seid, the agency’s representative in Ethiopia.    It is also urgently trying to buy pesticides from Europe.
Graphic: The spread of locusts in Africa –
    Pest controllers in Somalia can’t enter areas controlled by the Islamist al Shabaab insurgency, said Aidid Suleiman Hashi, environment minister for the southern region of Jubbaland.
    When the locusts invaded, residents blew horns, beat drums and rang bells to scare away the insects.    Al Shabaab fired anti-craft and machine guns at the swarms, Hashi said.    Jubbaland forces, not to be outdone, did so too.
    Under such circumstances, contractors are reluctant to do aerial spraying, FAO said.
    Meanwhile, locusts – which have a life cycle of three months – are breeding.    FAO says each generation is an average of 20 times more numerous.
    When eggs hatch, as they are doing now in northern Kenya, the hungry young locusts are earthbound for two weeks and more vulnerable to spraying than when they grow wings.
    After that, they take to the air in swarms so dense they have forced aircraft to divert.    A single square kilometer swarm can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 people.
    FAO said containing the plague will cost at least $138 million.    So far, donors have pledged $52 million.    Failure means more hunger in a region already battered by conflict and climate shocks.
    Since 2016, there have been droughts in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, then floods, Ferrand said.    In South Sudan, more than half the population already faces food shortages.
    The rains that blessed the region with a bumper crop last year after a prolonged drought also brought a curse.
    A cyclical weather pattern in the Indian Ocean, intensified by rising sea temperatures, contributed to one of the wettest October-December rainy seasons in five decades, said Nathanial Matthews of the Stockholm-based Global Resilience Partnership, a public-private partnership focused on climate change.
    Locusts hatched in Yemen, largely ignored in the chaos of the civil war.    They migrated across the Red Sea to the Horn of Africa, then spread to Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Now they have been spotted in Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania.
    The rains awoke the dormant eggs then stronger and more numerous cyclones scattered the insects.    Eight cyclones tore across the Indian Ocean in 2019, the highest number in a single year since records began, said Matthews.
(Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu, Abdiqani Hassan in Garowe, Somalia, Denis Dumo in Juba; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alexandra Zavis and Mike Collett-White)

2/28/2020 Black hole behind biggest explosion discovered in universe
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronomers have found the biggest explosion seen in the universe, originating from a super-massive black hole.    Scientists reported Thursday that the blast came from a black hole in a cluster of galaxies 390 million light-years away.    The explosion carved out a crater in the hot gas that could hold 15 Milky Ways, said lead author Simona Giacintucci of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.    Astronomers used NASA’s Chandra XRay Observatory and other telescopes to make the discovery.

2/28/2020 Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Spread of the Coronavirus Outbreak
    It has sickened more than 82,600 people, at least 2,809 people have died, all but 65 in mainland China.

2/29/2020 Factbox: Latest on coronavirus spreading in China and beyond
FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of
an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS
(Reuters) – The rapid spread of the coronavirus increased fears of a pandemic on Friday, with eight countries reporting their first cases and the World Health Organization (WHO) raising its global spread and impact risk alert to “very high
** Four more people have died in Italy from coronavirus, the civil protection agency said on Friday, bringing the total to 21, while the number of those testing positive for the illness jumped to 889 from 650 the day before.
** In Europe, Germany warned of an impending epidemic and Greece, a gateway for refugees from the Middle East, announced tighter border controls.    Germany has nearly 60 cases, France about 57 and Spain 32, according to a Reuters count.
** A man who had been aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship has become the first British national to die from the coronavirus.
** Iran announced on Friday the closure of all schools for three days from Saturday as its death toll rose to 34 with 388 people infected.
** South Korea reported its largest daily increase yet as the total number of infections rose by 594 to 2,931 on Saturday.    The death toll stood at 17, up four from a day earlier.
** The South Korean government urged citizens on Saturday to stay indoors as it warned of a “critical moment” in its battle on the coronavirus.
** Mainland China – where the virus originated late last year – reported four new cases on Saturday, the lowest since authorities started compiling such data in January.
** Two new cases of infections of unknown origins were confirmed in the United States, in California and Oregon.
** The U.S. State Department said Americans should reconsider travel to Italy due to the coronavirus outbreak there.
** The coronavirus outbreak is “getting bigger,” the World Health Organization said on Friday after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa’s first case.
** Lithuania, Belarus, Azerbaijan and New Zealand reported their first cases on Friday.    Romania confirmed two more cases following its first on Wednesday and Israel reported its second infection.
** Three cases in Mexico bring Latin America’s cases to four after Brazil reported its first case two days ago, with others suspected.
** Factory activity in China contracted at the fastest pace ever in February, highlighting the damage from the coronavirus outbreak on the world’s second-largest economy.
** Japan’s government plans to create a fund to help companies pay subsidies to workers who need to take days off to look after their children while schools are closed, the Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.
** The virus has caused nearly 80,000 infections and 2,835 deaths, according official Chinese figures.    It has spread to another 46 countries, where about 3,700 cases and 57 deaths have been reported, according to the World Health Organization.
** Recovered patients who were discharged from hospital but later tested positive again have been found not to be infectious, an official at China’s National Health Commission said on Friday.
** At a rally in South Carolina on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump defended his administration’s response to the outbreak and accused Democrats of politicizing the disease, saying: “This is their new hoax.”
** Russia on Friday temporarily barred Iranians from entering the country and said it would also restrict the entry of South Koreans from March 1 as a precaution.
** Vietnam plans to suspend visa-free travel for South Koreans starting on Saturday.
** Switzerland joined countries banning big events, forcing cancellations of next week’s Geneva international car show and all of the weekend’s football matches in the Swiss league.
** Tokyo Disneyland and Osaka-based theme park Universal Studios Japan will be closed from Saturday to March 15, while Tokyo Olympics organizers will make a call next week on how they plan to hold the ceremonial torch relay.
** United Airlines Holdings Inc said it was sharply cutting flights to Japan and South Korea due to slumping demand.
** Coronavirus panic sent world share markets skidding again on Friday, compounding their worst crash since the 2008 global financial crisis and pushing the week’s wipeout in value terms to $5 trillion. [MKTS/GLOB]
(Compiled by Stephen Coates)

3/1/2020 Gatherings banned, travel restricted as coronavirus cases grow worldwide by Steve Holland and Julia Harte
Travellers wearing protective face masks as a precautionary measure arrive on a flight from Italy, after the
second case of coronavirus in Sao Paulo was confirmed, at Guarulhos International Airport
in Guarulhos, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leaders in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas rolled out bans on big gatherings and stricter travel restrictions as cases of the new coronavirus spread around the world.
    The United States on Saturday reported its first death from the disease, a man in his 50s in Washington state, where officials said two of the state’s three cases have links to a nursing home with dozens of residents showing disease symptoms.
    Although most Americans face a low risk from the virus, more U.S. deaths could be imminent following the nation’s first, CNN quoted Vice President Mike Pence as saying.
    “We know there will be more cases,” Pence told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a clip released on Saturday, echoing President Donald Trump’s earlier comments that additional cases in America were “likely.”
    Travelers from Italy and South Korea would face additional screening, Trump and top officials told a White House news briefing, warning Americans against traveling to coronavirus-affected regions in both countries.
    Pence said an entry ban on travelers from Iran would be expanded to include any foreign nationals who have visited Iran in the last 14 days.
    The United States may also restrict travel on its southern border with Mexico, officials said.    However, they encouraged Americans to travel around the country, including states that have recorded some of its more than 60 cases.
    The outbreak is disrupting flight demand and many airlines have suspended or modified services in response.    After Saturday’s press conference, the White House held a call with airlines to discuss new travel restrictions.
    American Airlines Inc said late on Saturday it was suspending all U.S. flights to Milan.
    Ecuador on Saturday reported its first case, in a woman who had traveled from Madrid, while Mexico reported four cases, all in people who had visited Italy.
    Brazilian officials confirmed that country’s second case, a patient in São Paulo who recently visited Italy.
    As governments worldwide stepped up efforts to halt the spread of the virus, France announced a temporary ban on public gatherings with more than 5,000 people in confined spaces.    It reported 16 new cases for a total of 73, and canceled a half-marathon of 40,000 runners scheduled for Sunday.
    Switzerland said it is banning events expected to draw more than 1,000 people.
    More than 700 tourists remain quarantined at a hotel in the Canary Islands, after several Italian guests there tested positive for coronavirus.
    Schools and universities in Italy, which is experiencing Europe’s worst outbreak of the disease, will stay closed for a second consecutive week in three northern regions.    The country has reported more than 1,100 cases and 29 deaths.
    Analysts have warned that the outbreak looks set to shunt Italy’s fragile economy into its fourth recession in 12 years, with many businesses in the wealthy north close to a standstill and hotels reporting a wave of cancellations.
    Iraq reported five new cases of the disease, bringing its total to 13, and Qatar reported its first Saturday, leaving Saudi Arabia as the only Gulf state not to have signaled any coronavirus cases.
    The majority of infections in other Gulf countries have been linked to visits to Iran or involve people who have come into contact with people who had been there.
    Armenia reported its first infection on Sunday, in a citizen returning from neighboring Iran.
    Tehran has ordered schools shut until Tuesday and extended the closure of universities and a ban on concerts and sports events for a week.    Authorities have also banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes as the country’s case load hit nearly 600.
    One Iranian lawmaker, elected in Feb. 21 polls, has died from the disease along with more than 40 other Iranians, and several high-ranking officials have tested positive for the virus.
    Azerbaijan said on Saturday it had closed its border with Iran for two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.    Two Azerbaijanis who traveled to Iran have tested positive for the disease and quarantined.
    Mainland China reported 573 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Feb. 29, up from 427 the previous day, national health officials said on Sunday in China.    The number of deaths stood at 35, down from 47 the previous day, taking the toll in mainland China to 2,870.
    The epidemic, which began in China, has killed almost 3,000 people worldwide, the ministry said.
    Thailand reported its first death from the virus on Sunday, while in Australia, a former passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan died in the western city of Perth.
    Churches closed in South Korea as many held online services instead, with authorities looking to rein in public gatherings, as 376 new infections took the tally to 3,526 cases.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Julia Harte; Additional reporting by Reuters reporters worldwide; Writing by Heather Timmons; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Clarence Fernandez)

3/2/2020 Study: In 15 years, Arctic could see ‘ice-free’ summers by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Climate change is taking its toll on one of the world’s coldest places.
    A study suggests that the Arctic “may be essentially ice-free during summer within 15 years.”
    The study used statistical models to predict the future amount of Arctic ice, which suggested that the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer during the decade of the 2030s – most likely in the year 2034.
    Sea ice is frozen ocean water that melts each summer, then refreezes each winter.    The amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic has been steadily shrinking over the past few decades because of global warming.    It reached its second-smallest level on record in 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
    Sea ice affects Arctic communities and wildlife such as polar bears and walruses, and it helps regulate the planet’s temperature by influencing the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean.
    “The extent of Arctic ice is important to Arctic peoples, whose lands are being affected by increased coastal erosion,” NOAA said in a statement.    “Conversely, the disappearance of ice creates economic opportunities, including the opening of oil fields and new shipping routes.”
    It also affects global weather patterns.
    The study was conducted by scientists at NOAA, the University of Washington, and the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies.     What scientists refer to as the first “ice-free” Arctic summer year will occur when the Arctic has less than 1 million square kilometers of sea ice.    (The thick ice sheets surrounding Canada’s Arctic islands are likely to remain for much longer, even in summer.)    The study was published in the journal Climate.

3/2/2020 Your passwords soon may be a thing of the past by Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY
Do you hate remembering passwords? Soon, you may be able to forget them for good.
    For years, we’ve relied on a secret we share with a computer to prove we are who we say we are.    But passwords are easily compromised through a phishing scam or malware, data breach or some simple social engineering.    Once in the wrong hands, these flimsy strings of characters can be used to impersonate us all over the internet.
    Slowly, we’re kicking the password habit.    With data breaches costing billions, the pressure is on to find more foolproof ways to verify someone’s identity.
    “We are moving into a world which we’re calling passwordless, which is the ability for our applications, devices and computers to recognize us by something other than the old-fashioned password,” says Wolfgang Goerlich, advisory chief information security officer for Cisco-owned security firm Duo.
    Newer forms of identification are harder to imitate: something we are (such as the contours of our face or the ridges of our thumb) or something we have (physical objects such as security keys).
    Intuit, for example, lets users sign into its mobile apps with a fingerprint or facial recognition or their phone’s passcode instead of a password.    Your fingerprint or screen lock can access some Google services on Pixel and Android 7+ devices.
    Goerlich estimates that within five years, we could be logging into most of our online accounts the same way we unlock our phones.    And then we will be able to finally break up with passwords for good.
    What will replace them?    That’s a bit more complicated.
    Any system that depends on a single factor isn’t secure enough, according to Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO of Pindrop, a voice authentication and security company.    Biometric information such as an iris scan or a fingerprint can be stolen, too, and you can’t change those.
    Balasubramaniyan predicts several pieces of information will be used to verify identity.    Machines will analyze our speech patterns or scan our fingerprints.    We’ll also be identified by something we have (our mobile devices, computers, key cards, fobs or tokens) and something we do (our movements and location, our behavior and habits, even how we type).    If that seems more invasive than sharing some random bits of knowledge such as our mother’s maiden name or a PIN number, it is.    But Balasubramaniyan argues these trade-offs are necessary to shield our personal information in a hyper-connected world.    “It’s going to be scary,” he says, but, “it’s time for consumers to demand a higher level of privacy and security.”
Password overload
    Secret words to tell friend from foe have been around since ancient times and, in the early days of the internet, they made a lot of sense.
    We started out with just a handful of passwords to access our email, a few ecommerce sites, maybe an online subscription or two. But soon, we were transferring our entire existence into the cloud, storing our medical and financial information, photos of our kids and our innermost musings there.
    And every time we clicked a link or downloaded an app, we had to come up with another password.    As even more devices connected to the internet, from home surveillance systems to thermostats, we hit password overload.
    Today, people have an average of 85 “Passwords are a 60-yearold solution built on a 5,000 year-old idea.”
    Jonah Stein, co-founder of UNSProject passwords to keep track of, according to password manager LastPass.    Our brains just aren’t wired to squirrel away unique passwords for so many online accounts.    So we reuse and share them.    We jot them down on Post-Its or in Word documents.    We sign in with Facebook or Google.    We shell out a few bucks for a digital password manager.
    But data breaches keep proliferating.    So we’re told to conjure up stronger passwords, the longer and more random the better (use special characters!).    We’re prodded to enable two-factor authentication.    And we grumble so much about it all, our collective frustration has turned into a popular internet meme: “Sorry your password must contain a capital letter, two numbers, a symbol, an inspiring message, a spell, a gang sign, a hieroglyph and the blood of a virgin.”
    Turns out the only fans of passwords are hackers and identity thieves.    Even researcher Fernando Corbató, who helped create the first computer password in the early 1960s, was a detractor before he died.
    Corbató told the Wall Street Journal in 2014 that he used to keep dozens of his passwords on three typed pages.    He called the current state of password security “kind of a nightmare.”
    “Passwords are a 60-year-old solution built on a 5,000-year-old idea,” says Jonah Stein, co-founder of UNSProject, which allows you to access your accounts using the camera on your phone.    “Daily life demands that we create and remember a new password for almost every single thing we do – reading the news, paying bills, or simply ordering a pizza.    The promise of online convenience has been broken by antiquated authentication solutions with unrealistic security best practices.”
    Are we really over passwords?
    So will passwords finally go the way of the eight-track tape?    For years, reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.    Tech leaders have dangled but never delivered on promises to eliminate passwords.
    “There is no doubt that, over time, people are going to rely less and less on passwords,” Microsoft’s billionaire founder Bill Gates told the RSA conference in 2004.    “People use the same password on different systems, they write them down and they just don’t meet the challenge for anything you really want to secure.”
    So what’s taking so long?    Too many options being floated and too little consensus on what will work best.
    Companies, eager for our eyeballs and our business, are holding out for solutions that strike a balance between convenience and security.    With security costs skyrocketing and consumer trust flailing, the industry is under growing pressure to lock down our accounts, security experts say.    By 2023, 30% of organizations will use at least one form of authentication that does not involve a password, a significant increase from the 5% today, according to research firm Gartner.
    One of the major proponents of a password-free world is the FIDO Alliance, which stands for Fast Identity Online.    The consortium of heavyweights from Google to Microsoft is developing technical standards to verify identity.
    Apple recently joined the FIDO Alliance, giving the group even more clout.
    We can’t ditch passwords overnight, but, according to Andrew Shikiar, executive director of the FIDO Alliance, “the imperative is there now.”
    “Businesses are feeling these pain points and they are being pushed to come up with solutions that are not dependent on the old ways of authenticating,” he says.    That the industry is working arm in arm on solutions is “really unprecedented,” Shikiar says.    “This sort of collaboration is a very good sign that, not only is there a way to go past passwords, there is a will.”
Dozens of sessions at the RSA Conference in San Francisco are exploring more
foolproof ways than passwords to confirm someone’s identity. GETTY IMAGES
Getty images

3/2/2020 China urges authorities to prepare for possible locust invasion
FILE PHOTO: A desert locust is seen feeding on a plantation in a grazing land on the outskirt
of Dusamareb in Galmudug region, Somalia December 22, 2019. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China could face a desert locust invasion, a government body warned on Monday, urging local authorities to prepare for the possible arrival of the voracious insects from neighboring Pakistan and India.
    The risk of swarms entering the country is low, although China will be hampered in tracking the locusts by a lack of monitoring techniques and little knowledge of migration patterns, the National Forestry and Grassland Administrations said on its website.
    Locust swarms could enter the Tibet region from Pakistan and India, or the southwestern province of Yunnan through Myanmar, depending on climate conditions, the notice said.    Swarms could also fly across Kazakhstan and into China’s Xinjiang region.
    Authorities in the western region, which also borders Pakistan, said mountains and the absence of tropical and sub-tropical deserts have reduced the chances of locusts migrating into the area, but such a possibility will increase in June and July if outbreaks can not be effectively controlled overseas, Xinhua reported on Monday.
    Customs at Khunjerab, a pass between China and Pakistan in southwestern Xinjiang, have started monitoring surrounding areas within 2 km for locusts.    They are inspecting or sterilizing vehicles and goods crossing the border, targeting locust adults that might come along or soil and plants that contain the insects eggs, according to the state media.
    The desert locusts have already ravaged crops and pastures in several countries in east Africa and swarms have spread into India and Pakistan.
    Locust swarms can fly up to 150 km (90 miles) a day with the wind, and adult insects can consume roughly their own weight in fresh food per day.
    Beijing has set up a task force that will meet this month to monitor and act on any locust invasion, the government body said.
    Local forestry and grassland administrations “must be fully aware of the extreme importance of prevention and control work against locusts,” it said.
    They should store pesticides and equipment and have personnel ready to take immediate and effective measures once locusts are detected, it added.
(Reporting by Hallie Gu and Shivani Singh; Editing by Tom Hogue and Richard Pullin)

3/2/2020 World ‘in uncharted territory’ as coronavirus spreads: WHOM by Hyonhee Shin and Se Young Lee
Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, makes a deep
bow during a news conference at its facility in Gapyeong, South Korea, March 2, 2020. Yonhap via REUTERS
    SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) – Coronavirus is now spreading much more rapidly outside China than within the country, leading the world into uncharted territory, but the outbreak can still be contained, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
    Almost nine times as many cases had been reported in the past 24 hours beyond China than inside, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that the risk of coronavirus spreading was now very high at a “global level
    He said outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were the greatest concern, but that there was evidence surveillance methods were working in South Korea, the worst affected country outside China, and the epidemic could be contained there.
    “We are in uncharted territory – we have never seen before a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission but at the same time which can also be contained with the right measures,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.
    The fight against the coronavirus should become a bridge for peace, Tedros said, commending the United States for supporting sending medical aid to Iran despite the tensions between them.
    Finance ministers of the G7 group of leading industrialized democracies were expected to hold a conference call on Tuesday to discuss measures to deal with the economic impact, three sources told Reuters.
    World stock markets regained some calm as hopes for global interest rate cuts to soften the economic blow steadied nerves after last week’s worst plunge since the 2008 financial crisis.
    The global death toll was up to 3,044, according to a Reuters tally.    A senior U.S. official said he was concerned the numbers in the United States, currently at more than 75 confirmed cases and two deaths, could jump in coming weeks.
    “When you have a number of cases that you’ve identified and they’ve been in the community for a while, you’re going to wind up seeing a lot more cases than you would have predicted,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the infectious diseases unit at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, told CNN.
    The number of available test kits will be ramped up in the next few weeks, officials said.    White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the risk to Americans was still very low.
    South Korea has had 26 deaths and reported another 599 infections on Monday, taking its tally to 4,335 following Saturday’s biggest daily jump.
    Of the new cases in South Korea, 377 were from the city of Daegu, home to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, to which most of     South Korea’s cases have been traced after some members visited China’s Wuhan city where the disease emerged.
    The Seoul government asked prosecutors to launch a murder investigation into leaders of the church.    Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said that if founder Lee Man-hee and other heads of the church had cooperated, fatalities could have been prevented.
    “The situation is this serious and urgent, but where are the leaders of the Shincheonji, including Lee Man-hee, the chief director of this crisis?” Park said on Facebook late on Sunday.
    Lee knelt and apologized to the country on Monday that one church member had infected many others, calling the epidemic a “great calamity.”     “We did our best but were not able to stop the spread of the virus,” Lee told reporters.
    It was not immediately known how many of South Korea’s dead were directly connected to the church.
    Wuhan, at the center of the epidemic in Hubei province, shut the first of 16 specially built hospitals, hurriedly put up to treat people with the virus, after it discharged its last recovered patients, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said.
    News of the closure coincided with a steep fall in new cases in Hubei, but China remained on alert for people returning home with the virus from other countries.
    “The rapid rising trend of virus cases in Wuhan has been controlled,” Mi Feng, a spokesman for China’s National Health Commission, told a briefing.
    “Outbreaks in Hubei outside of Wuhan are curbed and provinces outside of Hubei are showing a positive trend.”
    The virus broke out in Wuhan late last year and has since infected more than 86,500 people, mostly in China.
    Tracking the coronavirus
    Outside China, it has in recent days spread rapidly, now to 53 countries, with more than 6,500 cases and more than 100 deaths.
    The death toll in Italy, the hardest hit European country, has jumped to 52 from 18 and the number of cases to more than 2,000 from 1,694, the Civil Protection Agency said on Monday.
    The vast majority of Italy’s cases are in the wealthy northern regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna, although on Monday authorities in Rome said two people there had tested positive as well.
    Another of the worst-hit nations, Iran, reported infections rising to 1,501 on Monday, with 66 deaths, including a senior official. With stocks of gloves and other medical supplies running low in pharmacies, authorities uncovered a stash of hoarded supplies including millions of gloves.
    Latvia, Saudi Arabia and Senegal reported their first cases.    In Britain, which has 36 confirmed cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to be prepared for further spread of the virus.
    Global factories took a beating in February from the outbreak, with activity in China shrinking at a record pace, surveys showed, raising the prospect of a coordinated policy response by central banks.
    The global spread has forced the postponement of festivals, exhibitions, trade fairs and sports events.    It has crippled tourism, retail sales and global supply chains, especially in China, the world’s second-largest economy.
    Middle East airlines have lost an estimated $100 million so far due to the outbreak and governments should help the carriers through this “difficult period,” an official of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.
    Global airlines stand to lose $1.5 billion this year due to the virus, he added.
    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that the outbreak was pitching the world economy into its worst downturn since the global financial crisis, urging governments and central banks to fight back.
    The S&P 500 <.SPX> index tumbled 11.5% last week.    Roughly $4 trillion has been wiped off the value of U.S. stocks.
    It and other U.S. stock indexes rose on Monday with investors hoping that monetary stimulus from central banks would help tide over the potential economic impact.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Hyonhee Shin and Jack Kim in Seoul, Ju-min Park in Gapyeong, Ryan Woo, David Stanway, Se Young Lee, Emily Chow and Andrew Galbraith in Beijing, Leigh Thomas in Paris, Michelle Price in Washington, Leika Kihara in Tokyo, Jonathan Cable in London, Donny Kwok and Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong and Grant McCool in Washington; writing by Nick Macfie and Philippa Fletcher; editing by Mark Heinrich)

3/3/2020 Study: Half the world’s beaches could go away by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Bye-bye beaches?
    Half of the world’s beaches could disappear by 2100 because of severe erosion linked to climate change, a study published Monday suggests. The main causes are sea-level rise and erosion from storms, the study says, which warned of “the near-extinction of almost half of the world’s sandy beaches by the end of the century.”
    Beaches in the United States will be “greatly affected,” as will shorelines in Canada, Mexico, China and Chile.    In the U.S., beaches along the East Coast and the Gulf Coast will experience the most erosion, lead author Michalis Vousdoukas said in an e-mail to USA TODAY.
    Vousdoukas, of the European Union’s Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, and other researchers used satellite images to track the way beaches have changed over the past 30 years and simulated how global warming might affect them in the future.
    The study found that West Africa will see some of the worst losses, where more than 60% of sandy coastline may be lost in countries such as The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.
    Australia will also take a hit: When the total length of sandy beach projected to be lost is analyzed, Australia would be hit the hardest, with more than 7,000 miles at risk.
    Beaches are valuable for recreation, tourism and wildlife while also providing a natural barrier that protects coastal communities from waves and storms.
    “The projected shoreline changes will substantially impact the shape of the world’s coastline,” more than a third of which is sandy beach, the authors write.
    Sea-level rise is the dominant cause of the predicted loss of the world’s beaches, especially in eastern North America, Vousdoukas said.
    “i>Sea level has been increasing at an accelerated rate during the past 25 years and will continue to do so with climate change,” the study says.    “There is a clear cause-and-effect relationship between increasing sea levels and shoreline retreat, pointing to increased coastal erosion issues.”
    Andres Payo, an expert on coastal hazards and resilience at the British Geological Survey, who wasn’t involved in the study, said that while the study’s methods are sound, its claims should be treated with caution.
    “There are many assumptions and generalizations that could change the outcome of the analysis both qualitatively and quantitatively,” Payo said.
    The study’s authors calculate that up to 40% of shoreline retreat could be prevented by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change but say large and growing populations living along the coast will need to be protected through other measures.
    Citing the example of the Netherlands, which has battled the sea for centuries and even reclaimed substantial areas of low-lying land, the authors say that “past experience has shown that effective site-specific coastal planning can mitigate beach erosion, eventually resulting in a stable coastline.”
    The study was published in the peerreviewed British journal Nature Climate Change.
Contributing: The Associated Press
A May 21, 2008, file photo shows the main beach at Caladesi Island State Park,
a barrier island along the Gulf of Mexico, on Florida’s West Coast. AP

3/3/2020 Indonesia shuts airport after Java volcano erupts
FILE PHOTO: Mount Merapi volcano erupts as seen from Cangkringan district in Sleman, Yogyakarta,
Indonesia March 3, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Rizky Tulus/ via REUTERS
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano erupted on Tuesday morning, sending a 6-km (3.7 mile) column of ash into the air and triggering the closure of the airport in the nearby city of Solo on the densely populated Java island, authorities said.
    The volcano, located near the cities of Yogyakarta and Solo, is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes and a series of eruptions in 2010 killed more than 350 people.
    Indonesia’s Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation issued a red alert and said the ash cloud was moving north.
    The international airport in Solo had been temporarily shut since 9.25 a.m local time (02:25 GMT), Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.    Four flights had been affected.
    The local disaster mitigation agency warned people to keep out of a 3-km exclusion zone around Merapi.
    “Outside a 3-km radius it’s still safe,” Biwara Yuswantana, the head of Yogyakarta’s disaster mitigation agency, told Reuters.    The city is located about 30 km from the volcano.
    The latest eruption, part of a series that started in 2018, sent up a column of ash that affected several neighboring areas, the country’s Geological Disaster Technology Research and Development Centre said in a statement.
    It said the eruption lasted almost eight minutes and warned of a risk of further eruptions due to continuing movements of magma.    The 2,930-metre (9612.86 ft) volcano is a popular site for tourists and its fertile soil is also farmed.
(Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Bernadette Christina; Editing by Ed Davies & Shri Navaratnam)

3/3/2020 EU states call for speedy 2030 climate plan ahead of U.N. climate summit: letter by Nikolaj Skydsgaard
FILE PHOTO: A man demonstrates as Greenpeace stages a climate protest at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
in Schiphol, Netherlands December 14, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo
    COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Twelve EU states are calling for the European Commission to speed the process of setting a new 2030 climate target to serve as an ambitious example at the next global climate summit, according to a letter to the Commission seen by Reuters.
    The European Commission wants to toughen the EU’s 2030 climate target this year, to mandate a 50% or 55% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, rather than the current minimum of 40%.
    But according to a letter signed by a dozen EU states the commission needs to present a climate target plan well before the U.N. climate summit in November to make time for EU members to agree on a final reduction target.
    “If the fact that the EU goes in front is going to have an effect, then it not only needs to be before the summit, but also well in advance,” Dan Joergensen, Denmark’s climate minister and initiator of the letter, told Reuters.
    Parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change are meeting at the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November, where they must commit to tougher targets of reducing emissions.
    Under the Paris Agreement, each country made a pledge to curb domestic emissions.    But the combined efforts of countries’ current pledges would still put the world on track for around 3 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century, far above the level scientists say would avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.
    The letter, addressed to EU’s climate chief, Frans Timmermans, says discussions between member countries on EU’s final 2030 target need to begin in June by the latest.
    That requires the Commission, the European Union’s governing body, to have made its own recommendation and plan before that.
    “We therefore encourage the European Commission to present the 2030 Climate Target Plan as soon as possible and by June 2020 at the latest in order to advance discussions in a timely manner,” the letter stated.
    The document, which was sent to the EU Commission early Tuesday, said a united European bloc could create “momentum” needed for the world’s nations to sharpen their climate ambitions.
    Joergensen deemed it possible to finish negotiations if the plan was ready by June, but even that could pose a challenge.
    “Right now we are in a situation where we fear we will not make it in time because the Commission’s timeline does not suggest a proposal before September,” he said.
    The letter was signed by Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Latvia and France.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen; Additional reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

3/3/2020 At least 22 killed after deadly tornadoes hit Tenn. by OAN Newsroom
A man looks over buildings destroyed by storms Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Tornadoes ripped
across Tennessee early Tuesday, shredding buildings and killing multiple people. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
    A pair of tornadoes ravaged parts of Tennessee. According to reports, at least two tornadoes blew through Nashville early Tuesday morning.    At least 22 residence were killed as a result, with many others sustaining injuries.
    The Nashville Fire Department has reported about 40 structure collapses and over 50,000 residence without power.
    The National Weather Service said the storm system has appeared to die down, but warned conditions could change rapidly.
    An emergency shelter was initially set up at the Nashville Farmer’s Market.    However, power outages have forced officials to move people to the Centennial Sportsplex.
    The Nashville Fire Department has directed anyone wanting to volunteer with recovery efforts to contact Hands on Nashville.
    Meanwhile, President Trump is monitoring the developments. He assured the federal government is with Nashville residents “all of the way during this difficult time.”

3/4/2020 Tornadoes kill at least 25 across Tennessee - Swath of destruction runs through Nashville by Anita Wadhwani and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tornadoes killed at least 25 people and shredded at least 140 buildings in Tennessee as violent storms roared through the state late Monday and early Tuesday, part of a sprawling system that threatened more severe weather all the way from Texas to North Carolina.
    A powerful and deadly storm moving through middle Tennessee spawned a tornado that touched down in Nashville early Tuesday, cutting a swath of destruction that stretched through the city for miles.
    Gov. Bill Lee said “a number of people” were missing and many were injured.    The governor, who declared a state of emergency for Tennessee, said 30 rescue workers suffered injuries.
    “It is heartbreaking,” Lee said at a news conference.    “We have had loss of life all across the state.    Four different counties, as of this morning, had confirmed fatalities.”
    Lee said he was in touch with the White House “to ask for assistance.”
    President Donald Trump tweeted his support and said he would travel to Tennessee on Friday to tour the damage.    “Prayers for all of those affected by the devastating tornadoes in Tennessee,” he wrote.
    The disaster affected voting in Tennessee, one of 14 Super Tuesday states.    Some polling sites in Nashville were moved, and sites across Davidson and Wilson counties were opening an hour late but closing at the usual time, Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced.
    Deaths were confirmed in Putnam, Wilson, Davidson and Benton counties.
    Several children were reported among the dead in Putnam County, which includes the town of Cookeville.
    “This is an absolutely tragic and devastating day for our city and county,” Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton said.
    A preliminary survey indicated the tornado just east of Nashville was an EF-3 on the Fujita Scale, meaning it had winds of about 160 mph.
    At least 48 structures collapsed around Nashville, according to the Nashville Fire Department.    Windows were blown out and power lines torn down in an area that stretched from the Germantown neighborhood, north of downtown, into the Five Points area of East Nashville and more than 20 miles to the east in Mount Juliet.
    Nashville resident Domonique Hodge said the roof came off his 14th Avenue North duplex earlier that morning.
    “That’s the roof right there,” Hodge said, pointing to a pile of shingles and roofing material in the front yard.    He hid in a closet during the storm.
    There was a tornado warning in effect when the tornado hit, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Diamond, who tweeted that “the heart of Nashville had approximately a 5-10 minute lead time from when warning was issued to when tornado hit.”
Contributing: Nashville Tennessean staff and The Associated Press.    Rice reported from McLean, Virginia.
The tornadoes that ripped across Tennessee early Tuesday damaged buildings in Nashville, among other places. MARK HUMPHREY/AP

3/4/2020 Long ago, Earth may have been ‘waterworld’ by Joshua Bote, USA TODAY
    Around 3 billion years ago, Earth may have been covered in water – a proverbial “waterworld” – without any continents separating the oceans.
    That’s according to a new study published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Geoscience by a pair of researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder and Iowa State University.    They uncovered an ancient piece of marine sediment in the Western Australian outback that may have some answers for the evolution of life on Earth.
    Benjamin W. Johnson, an assistant professor of geological and atmospheric sciences at Iowa State, worked in conjunction with Boswell Wing at the University of Colorado to examine a nearly 3.2-billion-year-old piece of oceanic crust.
    Johnson told USA TODAY that one of the biggest suggestions of the research is that “without significant continental crust above sea level,” the ocean would be the only place where early life existed.
    The crust, found in the Panorama district of the Pilbara Craton, provides a clear “isotope archive” for the ocean – or history of the different variants of a specific element in the ocean.
    What that means, according to the researchers, is that the composition of the water at the time contained more oxygen-18 than oxygen-16, the latter of which is more common in the modern ocean and is a slightly lighter isotope.
    The most plausible explanation for that is as the continents formed, the land ended up “sequestering” oxygen- 18 from the oceans.
    This doesn’t mean there was no land on Earth, Johnson said.    Wing explains it as if Earth was like the Galapagos Islands “from the West,” with vast expanses of ocean and tiny islands dotting the ocean.
    “Our work doesn’t mean there was zero dry land, just that it must have been much, much smaller in extent than today, with only small island chains emergent above the ocean,” Johnson told USA TODAY.
    It may also prove the possibility that other, water-heavy planets outside the galaxy could evolve into what Earth looks like now.
If the Earth was a waterworld for the first quarter or so of its history, then perhaps other Earth-like planets elsewhere in the galaxy would undergo a similar evolution,” he said.

3/5/2020 Doctors edit DNA inside patient to treat blindness - Procedure with CRISPR tool ‘very exciting’ by Marilynn Marchione, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Scientists say they have used the gene editing tool CRISPR inside someone’s body for the first time, a new frontier for efforts to operate on DNA, the chemical code of life, to treat>     A patient recently had it done at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland for an inherited form of blindness, the companies that make the treatment announced Wednesday.    They would not give details on the patient or when the surgery occurred.
    It may take up to a month to see if it worked to restore vision. If the first few attempts seem safe, doctors plan to test it on 18 children and adults.
    “We literally have the potential to take people who are essentially blind and make them see,” said Charles Albright, chief scientific officer at Editas Medicine, the Cambridge, Massachusetts- based company developing the treatment with Dublin-based Allergan.    “We think it could open up a whole new set of medicines to go in and change your DNA.”
    Dr. Jason Comander, an eye surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston, another hospital that plans to enroll patients in the study, said it marks “a new era in medicine” using a technology that “makes editing DNA much easier and much more effective.”
    Doctors first tried in-the-body gene editing in 2017 for a different inherited disease using a tool called zinc fingers.    Many scientists believe CRISPR is a much easier tool for locating and cutting DNA at a specific spot, so interest in the new research is very high.
    The people in this study have Leber congenital amaurosis, caused by a gene mutation that keeps the body from making a protein needed to convert light into signals to the brain, which enables sight.    They’re often born with little vision and can lose even that within a few years.
    Scientists can’t treat it with standard gene therapy – supplying a replacement gene – because the one needed is too big to fit inside the disabled viruses that are used to ferry it into cells.
    So they’re aiming to edit, or delete the mutation by making two cuts on either side of it.    The hope is that the ends of DNA will reconnect and allow the gene to work as it should.
    It’s done in an hourlong surgery under general anesthesia.    Through a tube the width of a hair, doctors drip three drops of fluid containing the gene editing machinery just beneath the retina, the lining at the back of the eye that contains the light-sensing cells.
    “Once the cell is edited, it’s permanent and that cell will persist hopefully for the life of the patient,” because these cells don’t divide, said one study leader not involved in this first case, Dr. Eric Pierce at Massachusetts Eye and Ear.
    Doctors think they need to fix a 10th to a third of the cells to restore vision.    In animal tests, scientists were able to correct half of the cells with the treatment, Albright said.
    The eye surgery itself poses little risk, doctors say.    Infections and bleeding are relatively rare complications.
    One of the biggest potential risks from gene editing is that CRISPR could make unintended changes in other genes, but the companies have done a lot to minimize that and to ensure that the treatment cuts only where it’s intended to, Pierce said.    He has consulted for Editas and helped test a gene therapy, Luxturna, that’s sold for a different type of inherited blindness.
    Some independent experts were optimistic about the new study.
    “The gene editing approach is really exciting.    We need technology that will be able to deal with problems like these large genes,” said Dr. Jean Bennett, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who helped test Luxturna at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
    In one day, she had three calls from families seeking solutions to inherited blindness.
    “It’s a terrible disease,” she said.    “Right now they have nothing.”
    Dr. Kiran Musunuru, another gene editing expert at the University of Pennsylvania, said the treatment seems likely to work, based on tests in human tissue, mice and monkeys.
    The gene editing tool stays in the eye and does not travel to other parts of the body, so “if something goes wrong, the chance of harm is very small,” he said.    “It makes for a good first step for doing gene editing in the body.”
    Although the new study is the first to use CRISPR to edit a gene inside the body, another company, Sangamo Therapeutics, has been testing zinc finger gene editing to treat metabolic diseases.    Other scientists are using CRISPR to edit cells outside the body to try to treat cancer, sickle cell and some other diseases.
    All of these studies have been done in the open, with government regulators’ approval, unlike a Chinese scientist’s work that brought international scorn in 2018.    He Jiankui used CRISPR to edit embryos at the time of conception to try to make them resistant to infection with the AIDS virus.    Changes to embryos’ DNA can pass to future generations, unlike the work being done now in adults to treat diseases.
Dr. Jason Comander, inherited retinal disorder specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
in Boston, says technology that allows editing of DNA marks “a new era in medicine.” RODRIQUE NGOWI/AP

3/6/2020 NASA: New mars rover to be named ‘Perseverance’ by OAN Newsroom
In this Dec. 17, 2019 photo made available by NASA, engineers watch the first driving test for the Mars 2020 rover in a clean room
at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. On Thursday, March 5, 2020, NASA announced the explorer’s name will be “Perseverance.” (J. Krohn/NASA via AP)
    NASA has unveiled the name of its new rover that will be sent to Mars later this summer. On Thursday, the space agency announced its latest six-wheeled scout, officially named ‘Perseverance,’ will collect samples from the Martian surface and bring them back home to earth.
    While speaking on the upcoming mission to the red planet, a NASA official said the mission marks “the first leg of the first round trip of humanity to Mars.”
    The name ‘Perseverance’ was chosen through a nationwide contest, which included more than 28,000 student essays.    The student who won the contest, a seventh grader from Virginia, was in attendance for the big reveal.
In this image released by NASA, Alex Mather, the student whose submission, Perseverance, was chosen as the official name of the Mars 2020 rover,
reads his essay entry, Thursday, March 5, 2020, at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Va. (Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via AP)
    “Curiosity, insight, spirit, opportunity.    If you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We’re always curious and seek opportunity.    We have the spirit and insight to explore the Moon, Mars and beyond.    But if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing: perseverance.” — Alex Mather, winner of the Mars 2020 ‘Name the Rover’ essay contest.
    ‘Perseverance’ is scheduled to land on Mars in February of 202 and, if successfull, will be NASA’s fifth rover sent to the red planet.

3/6/2020 Oh gee! 5G vs. 4G can really make your head spin - For many, it’s best to wait until the dust settles by Bob O’Donnell, Special to USA TODAY
    FOSTER CITY, Calif. – If you’ve turned on the TV or browsed the web since the start of the year, you’ve undoubtedly been barraged with news and ads about 5G, the next generation wireless technology.
    What you probably haven’t heard or seen much of, however, is real explanations of what benefits 5G will bring to everyday people versus the 4G service we almost all have today.
    Sure, you may have heard or seen a few comments on speed improvements that come with 5G, but they’re exceedingly short on details and, frankly, don’t really give a complete (or accurate) picture of what you can expect right now in normal use.    Here’s what 5G can do for you right now.
    Not much.
    Ok, that’s a bit harsh, but for most people in most locations, the reality is that even if they go to the effort of buying one of the few 5G-capable phones now available for purchase, their dayto- day experience isn’t going to be much different.     Except for a few locations in a few cities around the country, the download speeds on most 5G phones will not be noticeably different from what you experience with your 4G LTE phone today.    So, if you think your shiny new 5G phone will give you a leg up on friends and family, well, it ain’t necessarily so.
Why should I buy a 5G phone?
    The real reason to buy a 5G phone today (or in the near future) is to prepare you for what is still to come.
    The 5G networks will offer some solid improvements over today’s 4G LTE networks, but most of those benefits are a ways off.    So, when it does come time to replace your current phone, getting a 5G-capable model is a good futureproofing decision.    Why?
    First, the speed benefits of using a 5G phone on a 5G network will start to become more apparent later this year and into next.    Those benefits aren’t necessarily going to be equal on all devices or on all carriers or in all locations, due to a number of factors.
All 5G is not the same
    Most significantly, there are multiple “flavors” of 5G that use different types of radio signals to send and receive data and each of these different flavors has very different characteristics.
    The two main types of 5G service are typically referred to as millimeter wave – often shortened to mmWave – and sub-6 GHz. Just to make things more confusing, the sub-6 segment can be broken down into two sub-segments, called low-band and mid-band.
    The technical details behind all this can get confusing, but the bottom line is that mmWave technology (which is the only version of 5G that Verizon currently offers and is being used to a lesser degree by AT& T and T-Mobile) can go very fast, as in up to about 50 times faster than standard 4G, but not very far.
    In addition, while it’s possible to use mmWave 5G inside certain locations, such as sports and concert venues, it’s generally restricted to outdoor use and it’s subject to a lot of interference.
    Sub-6 5G, on the other hand, is very robust and capable of traveling long distances, particularly the “low-band” sub-segment of the technology.    In fact, it’s what T-Mobile and AT& T are using for their nationwide and broader 5G coverage networks, respectively.
    However, it’s currently not any faster than 4G.    The most interesting opportunity in the near-term is for the “midband” sub-6 flavor of 5G, which is currently only being used by Sprint in a few locations.    Mid-band 5G offers a combination of somewhat faster download speeds than 4G, while maintaining reasonable coverage areas and offering the benefit of working indoors.
Building 5G out will take time
    In addition to the different types of 5G, it’s important to remember that as with any wireless network technology, the build-out of 5G networks can vary significantly by not just what city you’re in, but what part of a city you’re in.
    An important thing to remember about network speeds is that it isn’t just for downloads.    One of the more intriguing 5G-specific applications for mmWave, for example, is that it has enabled the creation of applications that you can use at sporting events or live concerts where you can switch among multiple different HD camera views within the app.
    Along the same lines, when we start to see 5G-equipped virtual reality or augmented reality headsets, it will be possible to start offering much better viewing experiences on these devices, thanks to the amount of data that can be sent to the onboard displays via a mmWave 5G connection.
    USA TODAY columnist Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm.
    There are multiple “flavors” of 5G that use different types of radio signals to send and receive data and each flavor has different characteristics.

3/6/2020 President Trump tours Tenn. tornado damage by OAN Newsroom
President Donald Trump speaks, accompanied by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., right, and first responders
at Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ, a distribution point for relief supplies after damage from
a recent tornado, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Cookeville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    President Trump has toured parts of Tennessee in the wake of several devastating tornadoes, which left two dozen dead and many more injured this week.    On Friday, the president visited Cookeville, which is around 80 miles from Nashville, to survey the damage.
    While speaking with state and local leaders, he praised first responders for their ongoing recovery efforts.    Earlier in the day, he also spoke with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
    “Tennesseans have shown up, we’re the Volunteer State.    We showed up by the thousands to surround our neighbors, to provide hope and assistance, and it’s been inspiring. We’re going to overcome.” – Bill Lee, Governor of Tennessee
    The governor expressed his gratitude to President Trump for making time to visit the state.

President Donald Trump speaks Mike Herrick, with Putnam County Rescue Squad, as he tours damage
from a recent tornado, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Cookeville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    The visit came one day after President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the state.    The president pledged his full support to those affected and ordered federal aid to supplement recovery efforts.
    When asked when the money will kick in, he confirmed that the funding was approved “very quickly, almost immediately.”
    “The mayor called me, the governor called me, we got calls from a lot of people,” stated President Trump.    “That was an immediate emergency, but we spoke and we approved it within minutes of the call.”
    According to local media, this week’s deadly tornadoes caused roughly $20 million in damage.
Maria Lee, wife of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, second from left, hugs Angela Suggs, left, as Matt Suggs is greeted by President
Donald Trump, as they tour damage from a recent tornado, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Cookeville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

3/8/2020 Okla. residents ordered to evacuate amid dozens of wildfires by OAN Newsroom
Photo via Oklahoma Forestry Services.
    Residents in one Oklahoma county have been forced to leave their homes as multiple wildfires swept through the region.    A mandatory evacuation order was issued to Beaver County citizens on Saturday as the fire quickly spread to nearby homes.
    According to state officials, teams are engaging with over a dozen large wildfires, which were fueled by strong winds.    Firefighters from Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas are still working to extinguish the fires, which have burned thousands of acres.
    Authorities began assessing damages on Sunday.    So far, no injuries have been reported.
    Red Cross is assisting with recovery efforts and providing shelter to those in need.    Fire crews are still working to put out the numerous blazes.

3/9/2020 Year’s 1st supermoon is coming Monday - Peak fullness estimated to be at 1:48 p.m. EDT by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    The first supermoon of the year is coming to a sky near you Monday.     This month, the full moon is also known as the worm moon.     March’s full moon will reach peak fullness at 1:48 p.m. EDT Monday, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.    “So look for the spectacularly bright moon as it rises above the horizon that evening,” the Almanac said.
    This year, the March full moon will also be the first of three straight fullmoon supermoons and the year’s second- closest full moon overall, EarthSky said.
    A supermoon occurs when the moon is especially close to Earth while it’s full.
    The moon’s closeness to Earth, naturally, makes it look extra-big and extrabright – up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than a full moon at its farthest point from Earth.
    Monday, the moon will be “only” about 222,081 miles miles from Earth, or about 16,000 miles closer than average.
    The moon’s distance from Earth changes because its orbit isn’t a circle.    When the moon is closest to Earth, astronomers call it perigee.    When the full moon coincides with perigee, you’ve got a supermoon.
    Bigger and brighter than a typical full moon, “supermoon” was coined in 1979 by astrologer Richard Nolle.    It has become an increasingly more popular and media-friendly term in the decades since.
    The full moon this month is nicknamed the worm moon.    For millennia, people across the world, including Native Americans, named the months after nature’s cues.    According to the Old Farmers’ Almanac, full moon names in our part of the world date back to the Native Americans who lived in the northern and eastern USA.    Each full moon has its own name.
    “The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon,” the almanac said.    “Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.”
    Why is this month’s moon called the worm moon?    “At this time of the year, the ground begins to soften enough for earthworm casts to reappear, inviting robins and other birds to feed – a true sign of spring,” according to the almanac.    “Roots start to push their way up through the soil, and the Earth experiences a re-birth as it awakens from its winter slumber.”
    The March full moon is also known as the sap moon, because this is the time of year when the sap of sugar maples starts to flow.
A full moon glows over Mount Pico Sacro in Spain. The full moon this month
is nicknamed the worm moon. Each full moon has a name. LAVANDEIRA JR./EPA-EFE

3/9/2020 Number of reported cases and deaths climbs in US
    In the U.S., more than 500 infections have been reported, and the number was rising almost as fast as tests for the virus could be conducted.    Florida health officials said two people in their 70s who had traveled overseas died in Santa Rosa County in the Panhandle and in the Fort Myers area.    The U.S. death toll was 21 as of Sunday evening.    Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee to “Level 2” to coordinate response to the outbreak.    Level 2 activation is a preparatory, intermediate-level response.    “Let us not panic,” Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said.    “Let us not allow fear to take over our lives.”    Worldwide, there are more than 109,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,800 deaths.

3/9/2020 Plastic-munching worms could help clean planet - But they also are a danger to bees colonies by Joshua Bote, USA TODAY
    A species of caterpillar may provide answers on how to best eradicate plastic waste, a 300 million ton per year problem.
    The waxworm, researchers discovered in 2017, is seemingly able to eat through common types of plastic – including polyethylene, a nonbiodegradable type of plastic that is the most commonly used worldwide.
    “They are voracious feeders during these larval stages,” Bryan Cassone, an associate professor of biology at Brandon University, told USA TODAY.
    Now researchers have offered an explanation: A study published Tuesday in the open peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B finds that the microorganisms in the wax worm’s gut help them consume and metabolize plastics.
    Researchers at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, found that waxworms are able to “ingest and metabolize polyethylene at unprecedented rates” thanks to the microorganisms in their intestines.
    “The caterpillar’s gut microbiota seem to play a key role in the polyethylene biodegradation process,” the researchers wrote.    Researchers found a greater amount of “microbial abundance” in the caterpillars’ guts when they were ingesting plastic than when they ate a traditional diet of honeycomb.    In waxworms, polyethylene metabolizes into a glycol, which is biodegradable.
    Waxworms are not an end-all solution to plastic waste, however. Wax larvae are pests for bees, naturally feeding off honeycomb and running the risk of reducing their populations – and those of plants and crops.
    The hope, Cassone said, is that if researchers can harness what in the gut bacteria helps caterpillars so easily break down plastic, it can be used to design better ways to eliminate plastic from the environment.
The waxworm, researchers discovered in 2017, eats through common types of plastic, including polyethylene. KAAN SEZER, GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

3/10/2020 Magnitude 5.9 quake strikes off N. California by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    FERNDALE, Calif. – A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck a spot off the coast of Northern California on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
    The earthquake hit at 6:59 p.m. and was centered in a spot 55.5 miles west of Ferndale, a town of about 1,300 people along the Pacific Coast.
    The earthquake had a depth of 1.2 miles.
    An earthquake of 3.0 or greater magnitude hasn’t hit the area in the past 10 days, according to the Los Angeles Times.
    It was followed by a magnitude 4.9 aftershock, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which is asking residents to report what they felt.
    There was no reported danger of tsunami or reports of damage.
Contributing: Ashley May, USA TODAY

3/11/2020 At least 44 dead from drinking toxic alcohol in virus-stricken Iran
    Iranian media reported at least 44 people have died from alcohol poisoning, with hundreds hospitalized, after consuming bootleg alcohol in an effort to treat coronavirus.    The Middle Eastern country, which has been hit especially hard by coronavirus – with at least 291 deaths as of Tuesday – has struggled to prevent the spread of the virus.    The majority of deaths attributed to coronavirus in the Middle East are based in Iran.    A false rumor has circulated throughout the country that drinking alcohol can cure or prevent coronavirus.

3/11/2020 What you need to know about the coronavirus today
FILE PHOTO: A person wears a protective face mask during sunset in Navigli district, after a decree orders for the whole of Italy to be
on lockdown in an unprecedented clampdown aimed at beating the coronavirus,in Milan Italy, March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo
    (Reuters) – Here are today’s developments on the coronavirus epidemic:
The red zone of Italy
    Italy’s lockdown measures to try to beat the coronavirus are reducing its economic output by around 10-15%, Lorenzo Codogno, a former Italian Treasury chief economist said on Tuesday.     Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte unexpectedly expanded the so-called red zone to the entire country on Monday night, introducing the most severe controls on a Western nation since World War Two and raising fears for the future, especially among small businesses.
    The death toll in Italy jumped by 168 to 631 on Tuesday.    The increase of 36% is the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.
EU stands shoulder-to-shoulder to weather storm
    “We will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that the European economy weathers this storm,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reassured the EU after a extraordinary summit of leaders, all of whom have now confirmed cases of coronavirus in their countries.
    The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, will set up a joint investment fund with firepower of 25 billion euros ($28 billion) from existing resources to cushion the blow to vulnerable sectors of the bloc’s economies, she said.
    However, the fund will have no fresh money, an EU official said, raising doubts about its effectiveness to provide a sufficient fiscal boost to counter a serious downturn.
The spread
    There are over 119,000 cases of coronavirus globally and 4,296 deaths linked to the virus as of Wednesday 0200 GMT, according to a Reuters tally.
    Over 55% of cases have been reportedly cured, including roughly 61,400 of China’s total 80,909 cases.
    New countries reporting cases in the past 12 hours were Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jamaica and Turkey.
    Fatalities were up over 26% globally from a day earlier, with Italy and Iran reporting 168 and 54 deaths respectively.    Other countries reporting fatalities include Monaco, France, Japan, Lebanon, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
    Panama also recorded its first fatality among seven new confirmed cases, only a day after reporting its first case.
    For an interactive graphic of the spread, click
‘No handshake’ hard to remember
    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke at a news conference earlier this week to announce a ‘no handshake’ policy, but then immediately reverted to type, shaking hands with a health official at the end of the conference.
    “Oh sorry, sorry, no, no, over, we can’t do that anymore!,” the embarrassed premier exhorted when the official pointed out his error, as the two men laughed.
See a selection of coronavirus coverage from Reuters here:
(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

3/11/2020 UK vows to build tunnel under ancient Stonehenge site
FILE PHOTO: A rainbow is seen behind the Stonehenge stone circle as revellers watch the sun set
on the eve of the Summer Solstice, in Amesbury, Britain June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government vowed on Wednesday to build a two-mile tunnel under Stonehenge, the prehistoric site made up of a mysterious circle of stones in southern England.
    Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that for more than three decades, governments have failed to eradicate the traffic bottleneck on roads around the site.
    The plan, first announced in late 2014, has been plagued by delays, escalating costs, and concerns about the impact on a world heritage site.
    “It is one of our most important regional arteries.    It is one of those totemic projects symbolizing delay and obstruction. Governments have been trying to fix it since the 1980s,” Sunak told lawmakers.    “This government is going to get it done.”
    Stonehenge has long created one of Britain’s most scenic traffic jams, as the road narrows and motorists slow down to take in the view of the Neolithic monument.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison)

3/12/2020 WHO labels virus a pandemic = Understand the designation that can ‘cause unreasonable fear’ by Joel Shannon, USA TODAY
    The World Health Organization declared Wednesday that the spread of COVID-19 has become a pandemic after the disease was first detected in China during December and quickly spread to more than 100 locations around the world.
    A pandemic is a global outbreak of a serious new illness that requires “sustained transmission throughout the world,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told USA TODAY in February.
    In the minds of many, the word “pandemic” is closely connected to the 1918 flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people, Fauci said.
    By definition, a pandemic doesn’t require that scale of destruction.    In reality, it’s a loosely defined term.
    “i>We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” reads a statement from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.
    Tedros said WHO was aware the word could “cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over,” if incorrectly used.
    Here’s what you need to know: Why did it take so long for the coronavirus to be called a pandemic?
    WHO cited inaction as a major reason for the timing of the declaration.
    “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Tedros said in a statement.
    “We have therefore made the assessment that #COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
    The declaration comes as coronavirus cases are quickly increasing around the world.    Infections outside China have increased 13-fold in two weeks, Tedros said.    In that same time, the number of countries hit by the outbreak has tripled.
    As of Wednesday, there were more than 118,000 cases spread out over 114 countries, Tedros said.    More than 4,000 people have died.
    WHO expects the numbers to grow, Tedros said.
    The organization has defined a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.”    But there is no strict definition for how serious the illness should be, and earlier pandemics have had varying fatality rates.
    A disease spreading around the world may not be as unusual as it sounds, said William Schaffner, an infectious- disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.
    Advances in technology have made it easier to detect and track new diseases, he told USA TODAY in February.    It’s possible that some diseases have circled the globe undetected, he said.
    Is a pandemic different from an epidemic?
    Yes.    While an epidemic describes an illness affecting a defined region, a pandemic has a global impact.
    In February, Fauci explained why coronavirus hadn’t yet met the definition of a pandemic.    At that time, the virus’ spread in other countries had not yet been sustained for a significant amount of time.    And because many of the cases outside China were related to travel, the global impact wasn’t yet considered widespread.
    That has evolved in recent weeks. In the United States, COVID-19 cases now include people who were traveling to an affected region, close contacts of a known case, and infections acquired in the community with an unknown source, the CDC says.
    Should you worry about the coronavirus pandemic?
    Take typical flu-season precautions: Avoid close contact with people who are sick.    Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth.    Cover your cough.    Stay home when sick.    Clean household objects and surfaces.    Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
    You don’t need a face mask unless you have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms.    Buying up masks takes away precious materials from the health workers who need them most.
Contributing: Ken Alltucker, Jayne O’Donnell, David Jackson and Grace Hauck

3/12/2020 Possible breakthrough made in quantum computing by OAN Newsroom
    An accidental discovery in an Australian lab has great potential to aid the development of quantum computers.
    In a study published in Nature this week, engineers at the University of New South Wales announced they have discovered how to control the nucleus of a single atom by using only electric fields.
    One of the scientists responsible for the discovery explained how this will offer an improvement on the current technology.
    “Like the word says, ‘magnetic resonance’ requires magnetic fields to control and detect the nuclei…that’s how it’s always been done and it works,” explained Andrea Morello, Scientia Professor of Quantum Engineering at UNSW.    “But the problem is that magnetic fields are very difficult to confine to a small space, so if you wanted to act on a single spin, for example, for quantum computing or to make an atomic scale sensor, chances are that the magnetic field would spread out so much that it will effect a lot of other spins in the vicinity.”
    Their breakthrough was first predicted to be possible back in 1961 by Nobel Prize winner Nico Bloembergen, but the Australian scientists are the first to discover a successful way to do it.

3/13/2020 Markets suffer record meltdown as global coronavirus alarm grows by Steve Holland and Liangping Gao
People walk through the international terminal at LAX airport in front of a Korean Air plane
in Los Angeles, California, U.S., amid reports of the coronavirus, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
    WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – Global markets suffered record falls on Thursday as alarm over the coronavirus intensified, and governments from Ireland to Italy unveiled new measures to try to slow the spread of a disease that has infected more than 127,000 people worldwide.
    Travelers in Europe rushed to board flights to the United States after President Donald Trump imposed sweeping restrictions on travel from the continent, a decision that angered leaders there.
    In Europe, North America and Australia events from sports matches to weddings were canceled or suspended, schools were closed and public gatherings restricted or banned, as normal life for millions began to be directly impacted.
    Trump even suggested that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo could be delayed by a year.
    “Maybe they postpone it for a year… if that’s possible,” Trump told reporters.    “I like that better than I like having empty stadiums all over the place.”
    The White House announced it was stopping public tours, while Rome’s Catholic churches were ordered closed – a move thought to be unprecedented in modern times – and the city’s faithful given dispensation not to attend Sunday mass.    Disneyland in California is shutting the gates of its amusement park.
    But in China, where the epidemic originated, officials said the disease had peaked and the global spread could be over by June if other nations applied similarly aggressive containment measures as Beijing’s communist government.
    Fears of the impact of such restrictions on the movement of people and goods hit global stocks and oil prices hard.
    Major European bourses fell by double-digit percentages for their biggest daily losses on record, led by a 17% slide in Italian stocks <.FTMIB>.    Stimulus efforts from the European Central Bank did little to calm nerves. [.EU]
    On Wall Street stocks slumped around 10% <.DJI> <.SPX> in their worst day since the 1987 “Black Monday” crash. [.N]
    Trump had restricted certain travel from Europe to the United States in a televised address on Wednesday, and on Thursday, weary and confused travelers rushed to airports to board the last flights back to the United States.
    “It caused a mass panic,” said 20-year-old Anna Grace, a U.S. student at Suffolk University on her first trip to Europe, who rushed to Madrid’s Barajas airport at 5 a.m. to get home.
    The outbreak has disrupted industry, travel, entertainment and sports worldwide, and prompted airlines to appeal for urgent aid from their governments.
    But its progress in the epicenter of China’s Hubei province has slowed markedly amid strict curbs on movement, including the lockdown of its capital Wuhan.
    Hubei logged just eight new infections on Wednesday, the first time in the outbreak it has recorded a daily tally in single figures.    The rest of mainland China had seven new cases, six of them imported from abroad.
    “The peak of the epidemic has passed for China,” said Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission.
    The Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, Zhong Nanshan, an epidemiologist renowned for helping combat the SARS outbreak in 2003, said the crisis could be over by mid-year if other countries followed China’s example.
    The coronavirus has infected more than 127,000 people around the world, the vast majority in China, and killed 4,700, according to a Reuters tally.
    In a wave of announcements, countries and U.S. states unveiled stricter new measures to slow the spread of new infections, some of them reminiscent of a war footing.
    “It’s going to spread further,” British Prime Boris Johnson told a news conference.    “I must level with you, level with the British public – more families, many more families, are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
    French President Emmanuel Macron said in a television address on Thursday night that the country was facing its worst public health crisis in a century and announced measures including the closure of all schools, creches and universities from Monday.
    California and New York announced sweeping bans on large gatherings, and more schools, museums and other institutions said they planned to close, including all schools in Ohio and public schools in Maryland.
    In Italy, where the death toll passed 1,000, the government imposed a blanket closure of restaurants, bars and almost all shops except food stores and pharmacies.
    Ireland will shut schools, universities and childcare facilities until March 29 and restrict mass gatherings.
    Some matches in European soccer’s elite Champions League were postponed, while in U.S. sports the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League seasons were both suspended and Major League Baseball delayed its season start.    U.S. college basketball’s “March Madness” tournament was canceled.
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie were in self-isolation after she came down with flu-like symptoms and was tested for the new coronavirus.
    Oscar-winning American actor Tom Hanks tested positive in Australia, where he is on a film shoot.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Woo, Stella Qui, Kevin Yao and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Alexandra Alper, Steve Holland, Susan Heavey, David Lawder, and Richard Cowan in Washington, Marine Strauus in Brussels, William Schomberg in London, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Karolos Grohmann in Ancient Olympia, Ben Blanchard in Taipei, Jill Serjeant in New York, Inti Landauro and Clara-Laeila Laudette in Madrid and Balazs Koranyi and Francesco Canepa in Frankfurt; Writing by Nick Macfie, Mike Collett-White, Alex Richardson and Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Robert Birsel, Andrew Cawthorne, Giles Elgood, Mike Collett-White and Cynthia Osterman)

3/13/2020 Governor calls for all schools to shut down - JCPS says it will close classrooms for 3 weeks by Mandy McLaren and Olivia Krauth, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Answering Gov. Andy Beshear’s call to stem the spread of the coronavirus, schools across Kentucky – including Jefferson County Public     Schools, the state’s largest district – announced they would shut down their classrooms for weeks.
    JCPS, a district of nearly 100,000 students, will close Monday and remain shuttered until April 6.    The Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic Schools also will close for that period.
    Beshear called on all Kentucky public and private K-12 schools to close for at least two weeks – an aggressive but necessary move, he said, after announcing two new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the statewide total to 10.
    A K-12 shutdown would affect nearly 1,500 public schools and roughly 650,000 public school students.
    “I know it is going to create a big challenge,” Beshear said during an evening press conference in Frankfort, but added that the closures are a “crucial step” to stemming the spread of COVID-19.
    The governor said his instructions represented a “significant recommendation” for local districts.    Following his instructions, a flood of districts, including JCPS, Bullitt County Public Schools and Oldham County Schools, announced closures.
    JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said students may continue learning from home, using online lessons or paper copies of assignments.    The assignments aren’t mandatory.
    With the closure, JCPS will miss nine instructional days in addition to its previously scheduled spring break.    Pollio said those nine days likely will be tacked on to the end of the school year, pushing the final day of school to June 10.
    A new bill advancing in the state legislature would allow Kentucky districts to use 20 days of “non-traditional instruction” during the closures.    Schools that implement remote learning during those days, through online or paper-based assignments, would not have to make up missed days at the end of the year.
    Under that program, schools must attest to student learning during a closure.
    Pollio said JCPS would not pursue that route, saying not all families have the resources needed to continue student learning at home.
Instead, JCPS said it would ask lawmakers to forgive its missed days – despite not taking part in the official nontraditional instruction program.    If lawmakers take action, JCPS’ final day of school would not be pushed back, said district spokeswoman Renee Murphy.
    “We are asking lawmakers to forgive any days missed due to preventing the spread of the coronavirus,” Murphy said.    “As it stands right now, we would make up those days at the end of the year, but we are asking for forgiveness.”
    Beshear’s call for statewide school closures came after he had warned each of the state’s 172 school districts to be prepared to close on short notice.
    The Kentucky Department of Education had previously directed all districts to develop plans for continuing lessons from afar, should schools close.    Before Beshear’s directive, several districts already had announced monthlong closures.
    The call for statewide K-12 closures comes after a similar announcement from the governor of Ohio.
    Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday afternoon all public schools there would have an “extended spring break” of three weeks, beginning Monday.
    Maryland also announced it would shut down schools from Monday through March 27.
    Taken together, the Ohio, Maryland and Kentucky closures will affect roughly 3.2 million students.    Before the statewide shutdowns, more than 1 million students across nearly 30 states already had been affected by coronavirus-related school closures, according to the journal Education Week.
    The U.S. Department of Education released guidance Thursday for how the nation’s K-12 schools should handle closures, including how to serve special education students.
    Schools continuing learning remotely should to the “greatest extent possible” ensure students are receiving services normally granted under their individualized education program or 504 plan.    That means some students’ takehome materials should be modified based on student need.
    The federal Education Department also announced that it would consider granting one-year waivers to states should coronavirus closures affect their ability to implement standardized testing – meaning that schools wouldn’t be held accountable for poor scores or for being unable to test their students.
    JCPS’ closure is expected to leave some parents scrambling for child care.    Grandparents who may be typically pulled for emergency care are more susceptible to the virus – and children often do not show symptoms.
    All events scheduled during the closure, including sports leagues, are canceled, JCPS said. With the last day of school now pushed back, high school graduations will likely be later than previously expected.
    JCPS will offer free lunch to all students, regardless of family income, while schools are closed.    Meals will be available for pickup Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. JCPS will offer 35 school meal sites and eight mobile meal sites.     Meals must be taken to go, via drivethru or walk-up, the district said.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio delivers the news Thursday evening that the state’s largest school
district will close Monday and remain shuttered until April 6. MICHAEL CLEVENGER/COURIER JOURNAL

3/13/2020 Factbox: Latest on the spread of coronavirus around the world
A man wearing a protective face mask is seen following an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19),
at Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai, China March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
    (Reuters) – The alarm over the coronavirus intensified and governments from Ireland to Italy unveiled measures to try to slow the spread of a disease that has infected more than 134,500 people worldwide.
    For an interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus, click
– More than 134,500 people have been infected globally and over 4,900 have died, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements.
– Mainland China had eight new cases by Thursday, down from 15 cases a day earlier.    That brings the total number of cases in mainland China to 80,813.    The death toll touched 3,176, up by seven from the previous day.
– Poland has reported its first death from coronavirus.    So far, 47 cases have been confirmed in the country.
– Greece reported its first fatality, a 66 year-old-man who had returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt at the end of February.
– Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus epidemic shot past 1,000 as the economic impact worsened.    The total number of infections rose to 15,113.
– The number of confirmed cases across the UK rose 29% to 590 over the past 24 hours.    Ten people have died.
– The death toll in France rose to 61 from Wednesday’s 48. The country will close all nurseries, schools and universities from Monday.
– Turkish schools will be closed for one week and universities for three weeks from March 16 and sports events will be held without spectators until end-April.
– Austria will deny entry to people arriving from Italy, ban indoor events of more than 100 people and close schools from next week until April, along with the Czech Republic which is also closing schools and universities.
– Bulgaria plans to declare a state of emergency as the country’s confirmed cases rose sharply to 23.
– Ukraine said it would restrict mass events and close schools and universities in capital Kiev.
– U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the suspension of European travel to the United States for 30 days to help curb the spread of a coronavirus pandemic.
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in isolation for two weeks after his wife, Sophie, tested positive on Thursday.    The country on Thursday reported 138 confirmed cases, a 34% increase from Wednesday and a three-fold gain from a week ago.
– Costa Rica, which has reported 22 cases, has ordered all university classes suspended.
– South Korea reported more recoveries than new infections on Friday for the first time since its outbreak emerged in January.    The country recorded 110 new cases, compared with 114 a day earlier, taking the national tally to 7,979.
– A female diplomat from the Philippines mission to the United Nations tested positive on Thursday, according to a note sent to U.N. missions.
– An 80-year old man became the fourth patient in Hong Kong to die due to the coronavirus.
– China’s Hubei province said public transport workers in Wuhan and those engaged in making medical supplies and daily necessities could return to work along with some industries that impact national or global supply chains.
– India said it will suspend a vast majority of visas to the country in a wide-reaching attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
– Total infections in Japan rose to 1,380.
– Thailand reported five new coronavirus cases, bringing the total cases to 75.
– Weeks after Vietnam declared that all its 16 cases had recovered, the number of infections is on the rise following a flight from Britain.
– Saudi Arabia detected 17 new cases, 11 of whom were Egyptians.
– Iran on Thursday reported 75 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 429 in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
– Gabon and Ghana confirmed their first cases on Thursday, becoming the ninth and 10th countries in sub-Saharan Africa to register positive cases.
– South Africa reported its first case of local transmission of the coronavirus on Thursday.
– Australia’s government said it would pump A$17.6 billion ($11.4 billion) into the economy to prevent the outbreak from pushing the country into its first recession in nearly 30 years.
– The Indonesian government has prepared a 120 trillion rupiah ($8.1 billion) stimulus package to support its economy as the spread of coronavirus disrupts global activities.
– Spain placed four towns under quarantine and announced measures to tackle the economic impact.
– Canada will spend C$1 billion ($728 million) to fight the spread of coronavirus and stands ready to do more, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
– Italy will ramp up spending to help the economy, earmarking 25 billion euros ($28.3 billion) to tackle the growing crisis, its Prime Minister said on Wednesday.
– Japan’s government is expected to cut its assessment of the economy in a monthly report due later this month.
– Global stock markets crashed, ending a years-long bull run, with coronavirus panic selling hitting almost every asset class and leaving investors nowhere to hide. [MKTS/GLOB]
– Top Japanese government officials said they were determined to hold “safe and secure” Olympics on schedule, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said Tokyo should consider delaying them for a year because of the pandemic.
– Walt Disney Co will close its theme parks in California and Florida and its resort in Paris from this weekend through the end of the month, the company said on Thursday.
– The impact of the coronavirus on sport swept into the southern hemisphere, with the cancellation of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix adding to an unprecedented shutdown of elite events and competitions around the globe.
– The World Trade Organization’s major biennial meeting, due to be held in Kazakhstan in June, was canceled, dealing a blow to its efforts to update the global rules of commerce.
– Bob Dylan’s upcoming concerts in Japan have been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak, the tour organizer said.
– The Australian Formula One Grand Prix was canceled on Friday due to worries about the coronavirus outbreak.
– The Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch was lit behind closed doors in ancient Olympia.
– India ordered upcoming international cricket matches to be played in empty stadiums.
– The World Endurance Championship (WEC) has canceled Sebring 1,000 Miles race in Florida.
– The National Basketball Association (NBA) said on Wednesday it was suspending the season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player tested positive.>br? – A meeting of G20 Agriculture and Water ministers scheduled for March 17-19 in Saudi Arabia has been postponed.
– FIFA has postponed its annual Congress, due to be held in Ethiopia in June, for three months.
– The inaugural edition of the multi-nation Fed Cup finals that were scheduled to be held in Budapest next month was postponed on Wednesday.
– The world figure skating championships, scheduled to be held in Montreal from March 16-22, have been canceled.
– The International Weightlifting Federation postponed the European championship from April to June.
(Compiled by Jagoda Darlak, Krishna Chandra Eluri and Uttaresh.V; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Arun Koyyur and Anil D’Silva)

3/13/2020 WHO officials rethink epidemic messaging amid pandemic debate by Kate Kelland and Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: People, wearing protective masks following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19),
are pictured in Tokyo, Japan, March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization is considering changing the way it classifies and describes international epidemics, amid a protracted public debate over whether to call the outbreak of the new coronavirus a pandemic.
    Officials at the Geneva-based WHO – who this week described it as a pandemic for the first time – are reviewing how the health agency communicates its risk assessment of disease outbreaks in the future, said two people familiar with the discussions.    They said that included use of the term pandemic as well as PHEIC, which stands for public health emergency of international concern.
    Among ideas that have been discussed is whether to use a more graded approach to capture different levels of severity, rather than binary terminology, the two people said.    That would enable the WHO to dial up the severity of its messaging to prompt global cooperation on issues such as funding and drug development across the public health and scientific community, but without causing unnecessary public alarm.
    WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has publicly signaled support for a more nuanced approach, saying the current system of declaring a public health emergency is too blunt.
    “It’s either red or green,” Tedros said during a Jan. 29 conference with news media.    “I think we have to now revise that. You cannot have just yes or no.    There could be some intermediate situation.”    He suggested a yellow stage that could be “a warning…serious enough but not really red.”
    The agency’s emergency committee on the new coronavirus, which is made up of independent experts, alluded to the internal discussions the following day.    In a Jan. 30 statement following a meeting at which it declared a public health emergency, the panel said it recommended that the WHO “continue to explore the advisability of creating an intermediate level of alert,” between PHEIC or no PHEIC.
    WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said that currently the decision on declaring a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, is “binary.”    She said the WHO’s emergency committee on coronavirus suggested, and the director general agreed, to meet to “review whether the existing instrument is still fit for purpose.”
    The discussion around the agency’s messaging on epidemics comes as it seeks to coordinate the global fight against an outbreak of infection with the newly identified coronavirus, which emerged in December.    Now known as COVID-19, it has spread from China to more than 100 countries, killing thousands of people with more expected to die.
    While many public health experts say the WHO’s response to this epidemic has been timely and decisive, the agency has also drawn criticism from some commentators who say it has been too quick to heap praise on China – a criticism Tedros has strongly rejected, saying China’s drastic measures have slowed the virus spread and allowed other countries to prepare.    The agency also came under intense media scrutiny in recent weeks as it refrained from calling the infectious disease’s spread a pandemic, even as it took grip in scores of countries around the world.
    When the WHO did on Wednesday describe COVID-19 as a pandemic, Director General Tedros said the agency was concerned about “the alarming levels of spread and severity” of coronavirus.    While the characterization doesn’t trigger any formal change in what the agency does or it recommends countries do, some public health experts said it might prompt governments to move more swiftly to make interventions, such as banning or restricting public gatherings or travel.
    Under the WHO’s International Health Regulations, the agency can formally declare a PHEIC (pronounced “fake”), or global health emergency, which it did with COVID-19 on Jan. 30.    Such declarations are made when an epidemic meets two criteria: The outbreak poses a risk to more than one country and it requires a coordinated international response.    The formal designation triggers various moves, including calls for increased funding and resources, recommendations to countries aimed at preventing or reducing cross-border spread of disease and boosting public health measures.
    The WHO has declared PHEICs on five previous occasions, including the West Africa Ebola outbreak starting in 2014 and the 2016 Zika virus outbreak that spread from Brazil.
    In 2009, the WHO declared the outbreak of H1N1 flu a pandemic.    That move later drew criticism from some governments that it triggered some countries to take expensive measures, including stockpiling and prescribing anti-viral drugs and undertaking mass vaccinations against a flu that ultimately turn out to be milder than originally thought.    The then-director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, has defended her decision as the “right call.”
    How the WHO communicates around global epidemics was under review even before the COVID-19 outbreak began in December, according to the two people familiar with the discussions.
    According to one of those people, the discussion was prompted in part by last year’s outbreak of Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which the WHO declared a PHEIC in July 2019. WHO officials wanted to sound an alarm and prompt a global response in terms of funding and vaccines, but there were questions among some officials at the WHO and member states about whether it was truly an international issue because the Ebola outbreak affected only Congo and neighboring Uganda, the person said.    They added that these questions focused discussion on whether a graded approach might be more appropriate.
    When COVID-19 began spreading beyond China, global health officials and experts looked to the WHO to declare a PHEIC.    Even after it did so in late January, the agency faced repeated questions from international media on whether or not the outbreak was a pandemic.
    Some WHO chiefs have expressed concern that using the label pandemic might signal to governments and the public that the coronavirus outbreak had developed to a level where there was no longer action they could take to control its spread.
    That was a key part of the WHO’s message when it did ultimately call the coronavirus as a pandemic.    “We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.    This is the first pandemic that can be controlled,” Tedros said in a tweet Wednesday.
    WHO officials and some global health experts said the media’s focus on the word pandemic was an unwanted distraction for them because, unlike the PHEIC classification, it doesn’t trigger specific responses within countries.
    “There is an unhelpful alignment in people’s minds between this ‘pandemic’ word and some sort of major shift in approach – but this is not the case,” Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies program, told reporters at a March 3 briefing for news media.
    A sign of the WHO’s frustration was visible during a news conference this week – one of around 30 hour-long briefings the WHO has held for international media since the COVID-19 outbreak began.    A senior official who had been asked repeatedly by journalists about whether the disease constituted a pandemic gave a half-joking but tetchy response: “This is a word you love, right?    You just can’t wait, can you?
    Some specialists agree that the external focus on the label pandemic have been a distraction, including Lawrence Gostin, a global health expert at Georgetown University Law School in Washington.    Gostin has been openly critical of the WHO in the past – in particular for what he considered to be moving too slowly to declare international emergencies over Ebola and Zika.    With the COVID-19 outbreak, however, Gostin said the WHO was right to not describe it as a pandemic prematurely because the word tends to generate fear.
    Global health specialists say that more subtleties in how WHO messages around epidemics could be useful, but say they doubt it will make much practical difference.
    “In the end if you move from a binary to a three or four stage process, you’ll always have these semantic arguments,” said Jeremy Farrar, an expert in infectious disease epidemics and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity.    “And is there really a difference between a global epidemic and a pandemic?    And does it make a difference to what we do?” he said.    “I don’t think so.”
(Reporting by Kate Kelland in London and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Cassell Bryan-Low)

3/13/2020 North Korea announces new cancer treatment by OAN Newsroom
In this undated photo provided Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un attends a ruling party meeting in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
    North Korea claims to have developed a new treatment for cancer.    Researchers at the Medical Science Academy this week announced the method is safe to use on humans.
    The procedure reportedly involves sealing radioactive seeds into glass or metal and inserting them inside a tumor.    The radioactive material is said to then gradually kill the cancer cells.
    According to North Korean scientists, the method has already proven successful in test subjects.
    “We’ve already applied this method to treat various cancers, like malignant tumor, in different parts and it worked very well,” stated researcher Choe Il Song.    “We are going to use this treatment for various malignant tumors.”
    Despite drawing attention from medical circles around the world, critics have said the method is not without defects.
In this undated photo provided released on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, by the North Korean government, workers
wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the new coronavirus at a
garment factory in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
    Meanwhile, the head of U.S. Forces in South Korea has said he’s “fairly certain” the coronavirus is in North Korea as well.
    According to General Robert Abrams, the country has not verified any cases, but Pyongyang has placed its military on lockdown for nearly 30 days.
    “It is a closed-off nation, so we can’t say emphatically that they have cases,” he said.    “But we’re fairly certain they do.”
    North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single case of the virus.    Despite this, about 7,000 citizens of the DPRK are reportedly being monitored for showing symptoms of the virus.
In this undated photo provided released on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, by the North Korean government,
workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant on a bus as a precaution against the new coronavirus
at a parking lot in Sinuiju, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

3/13/2020 Air pollution clears in northern Italy after coronavirus lockdown, satellite shows by Matthew Green
FILE PHOTO: The Allianz Tower, the Libeskind Tower and the Generali Tower are pictured amidst
dense fog and smog in Milan, Italy, January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo -/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – Air pollution over northern Italy fell after the government introduced a nationwide lockdown to combat coronavirus, satellite imagery showed on Friday, in a new example of the pandemic’s potential impact on emissions.
    China, where the outbreak started, showed a marked reduction in pollution after the government imposed travel bans and quarantines, and the data from Italy, which was hit hard several weeks later, suggested a similar pattern.
    The European Space Agency (ESA) said it had observed a particularly marked decline in emissions of nitrogen dioxide, a noxious gas emitted by power plants, cars and factories, over the Po Valley region in northern Italy.
    “Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see coincides with the lockdown in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities,” Claus Zehner, who manages the agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite mission, said in a statement.
    ESA published an animation showing how NO2 emissions fluctuated across Europe from Jan. 1-March 11, using a 10-day moving average, clearly showing pollution levels dropping over northern Italy.
    Italy has been hardest hit by the outbreak in Europe, with more than 15,100 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 dead, and the government has imposed the most severe controls placed on a Western nation since World War Two.
    Researchers studying the impact of emissions from industry and transport on climate change and human health are scrambling to understand the possible implications of the pandemic as economies slow, flights are disrupted and quarantines imposed.
    In China, Finland’s Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air says CO2 emissions fell by a quarter, or an estimated 200 million tonnes in the four weeks to March 1 – about half the amount Britain emits in a year.
    Satellite data also showed a sharp fall in Chinese emissions of NO2, starting in Wuhan and then spreading over other cities, including the capital, noticeable over a fortnight in mid-February.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that Europe had now become the epicenter of the pandemic, which has claimed 5,000 lives worldwide.
(Reporting by Matthew Green; editing by Nick Macfie)

3/13/2020 Egypt says nearly 20 killed in freak bad weather
A man rides a cart during a thunderstorm and heavy rains in Cairo, as the government announced a day off while the
rain exceeds the infrastructure's capacity in most cities, Egypt March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Nearly 20 people have been killed in some of the worst storms to hit Egypt in decades, the country’s prime minister said in a statement on Friday.
    The North African country has been battered by heavy rain and strong winds that began in the earlier hours of Thursday and continued on Friday.
    “Egypt has not experienced such weather conditions for nearly 35 or 40 years,” Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said.    “These weather conditions resulted in about 20 deaths across the country.”
    Traffic, trains, ports and flights were affected.
    Thirteen people were injured on Thursday when two passenger trains collided in Cairo because of the weather, the government said.    Local media reported several deaths because of electric shocks, partial collapse of buildings or road accidents over Thursday and Friday.
    Videos and pictures of flooded Cairo streets were circulated widely on social media, with criticism of? ?the government over poor infrastructure.    Many complained of long power and water outages and inadequate drainage.
    Government supporters says the administration of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has inherited mistakes of successive governments stretching back decades and is working to improve infrastructure and develop services.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, Momen Said Attalah and Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Alex Richardson)

3/14/2020 World closes borders, restricts travel to contain coronavirus spread
FILE PHOTO: People wear protective face masks at a residential community following an outbreak
of coronavirus (COVID-19), in downtown Shanghai, China March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
    (Reuters) – Countries around the world on Saturday continued to close borders, impose strict entry and quarantine requirements and restrict large gatherings in efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
    Apple Inc said it will close all its retail stores worldwide, outside Greater China, until March 27.    Apple reopened all 42 of its branded stores in China on Friday as the spread of the virus on mainland China slowed dramatically.
    Countries have shuttered museums, tourist attractions and sporting events to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission, with more than 138,000 people worldwide infected and more than 5,000 dead.
    Colombia said it will close its borders with Venezuela and stop visitors who have been in Europe or Asia, while a U.S. ban on entry for most people from continental Europe was due to start midnight>     The World Health Organization (WHO) says Europe has become the pandemic’s current epicenter after reporting more cases and deaths than the rest of world combined, apart from China where the coronavirus originated last>     Saudi Arabia will suspend all international flights for two weeks, starting Sunday, state news agency SPA said, Taiwan will require travelers from mainland Europe, Britain and Ireland to self-isolate for 14 days, while New Zealand implemented a similar measure for all those entering the country.
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also called on cruise ships, a major source of infections in some countries, not to come to New Zealand until June 30.
    “Alongside Israel, and a small number of Pacific Islands who have effectively closed their border, this decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world,” she said.
    The country has just six confirmed cases and has had no deaths, but Ardern said that number inevitably would rise.
    “That is why ultimately, we must go hard and we must go early,” she told reporters.
    Chilean President Sebastian Pinera announced a ban on public events with more than 500 people on Friday, joining countries such as Australia where the ban will come into force on Monday.
    Britain will introduce emergency laws next week to ban mass gatherings, said a government source, an escalation of its crisis plan which critics had said was too relaxed.
    The Philippines capital Manila, home to 12 million people, announced nighttime curfews on Saturday and urged shopping malls to close for one month.
    “To limit the spread of the virus, we need to limit the movement of people.    We are slowing down the movement of people in Metro Manila,” said Jose Arturo Garcia, general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
    While infections continue to climb around the world, in mainland China the number of new cases is falling.
    The number of new coronavirus cases imported into mainland China from overseas surpassed the number of locally transmitted new infections for the first time on Friday, data released by the National Health Commission showed on Saturday.
    Mainland China had 11 new confirmed cases on Friday, up from eight cases a day earlier, but only four of those – all in the virus epicenter of Hubei province – were locally transmitted.
    Hubei has now seen new infections fall for nine straight days.    All four of the new cases on Friday, down from five a day earlier, were in provincial capital Wuhan.
    The flu-like virus has infected 80,824 people in mainland China, the commission said.
    In a bid to limit the economic damage from a pandemic that has infected the U.S. House of Representatives passed an aid package that would provide free testing and paid sick leave.
    The U.S. military said it will halt most domestic travel, extending earlier restrictions on international travel for its more than a million active-duty troops around the world.
    Travel bans have hammered airlines and travel companies worldwide, while financial markets have been hit by panic selling this week.
    The impact of the coronavirus on everyday life is also deepening.
    The Czech government will shut most shops and restaurants from early Saturday, with exceptions including food stores, pharmacies and gas stations.
    In Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum and the Moulin Rouge cabaret closed their doors.    The Smithsonian museums in Washington were preparing to do so on Saturday and Broadway theaters in New York went dark.
    The kissing of the Blarney Stone, one of Ireland’s oldest tourist traditions, was suspended.
    The global sporting calendar has also been left in tatters with major tournaments canceled, postponed or forced to continue without spectators.
    But sport’s biggest showpiece, the Olympics, will still proceed as planned, according to Tokyo organizers.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon in Wellington; Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Tom Daly and Muyu Xu in Beijing; Samar Hassan in Cairo; Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Sarah Kinosian in Caracas; Idrees Ali, David Morgan and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Richard Pullin)

3/14/2020 Hindu group offers cow urine in a bid to ward off coronavirus by Danish Siddiqui
Members of All India Hindu Mahasabha drink cow urine as they attend a gaumutra (cow urine) party, which according to them
helps warding off coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A Hindu group hosted a cow urine drinking party on Saturday as they believe it wards off the coronavirus, as many Hindus consider the cow sacred and some drink cow urine believing it has medicinal properties.
    Experts have repeatedly asserted that cow urine does not cure illnesses like cancer and there is no evidence that it can prevent coronavirus.
    The “party,” hosted by a group called the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (All India Hindu Union) at its headquarters in the country’s capital, was attended by 200 people, and the organizers hoped to host similar events elsewhere in India.
    “We have been drinking cow urine for 21 years, we also take bath in cow dung.    We have never felt the need to consume English medicine,” said Om Prakash, a person who attended the party.
    Chakrapani Maharaj, the chief of the All India Hindu Union, posed for photographs as he placed a spoon filled with cow urine near the face of a caricature of the coronavirus.
    Leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have advocated the use of cow urine as medicine and a cure for cancer.
    A leader from India’s north eastern state of Assam told state lawmakers earlier this month during an assembly session that cow urine and cow dung can be used to treat the coronavirus.
    The pathogen, which has infected more than 138,000 people worldwide and left over 5,000 dead, has no known scientific cure and governments across the world are struggling to control the spread of the pandemic.
(Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Michael Perry)

3/15/2020 Lockdowns, self-isolation and entry bans imposed to fight global coronavirus spread
FILE PHOTO: A man wears a protective face mask as he walks past Banco de Espana (Bank of Spain), amidst
concerns over coronavirus outbreak, in Barcelona, Spain March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo
    (Reuters) – France and Spain joined Italy in imposing lockdowns on tens of millions of people, Australia ordered self-isolation of arriving foreigners, and Argentina and El Salvador extended entry bans as the world sought to contain the spreading coronavirus.
    Panic buying in Australia, the United States and Britain saw leaders appeal for calm over the virus that has infected over 138,000 people globally and killed more than 5,000.
    Several countries imposed bans on mass gathering, shuttered sporting, cultural and religious events, while medical experts urged people to practice “social distancing” to curb the spread.
    The coronavirus has also taken a toll on church services, with the Vatican saying all papal Easter services will be held without the faithful attending and general audiences and Sunday blessings will be held via internet and TV until April 12.
    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said from midnight Sunday international travelers arriving in the country would need to isolate themselves for 14 days, and foreign cruise ships would be banned for 30 days, given a rise in imported cases.
    “What we’ve seen in recent weeks, is more countries having issues with the virus and that means the source of some of those transmissions are coming from more and more countries,” Morrison told a news conference.
    Australia’s latest restrictions mirror those announced by neighboring New Zealand on Saturday.    Australia has recorded more than 250 coronavirus cases and three deaths.
    The premier of Australia’s second-biggest state Victoria called for even tougher measures such as a ban on U.S. flights.
    “It’s a little difficult to explain why, say, China who have very few new cases, there are travel bans there, but the United States, people are free to travel,” said Daniel Andrews.
    “We are seeing many, many new cases, indeed the majority of Victoria’s new cases are connected to those who have traveled from the United States.”
    U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday.    The United States has recorded more than 2,000 cases and 50 deaths, but has been criticized for slow testing.
    Travel bans and a plunge in global air travel saw further airline cut backs, with American Airlines Inc planning to cut 75% of international flights through May 6 and ground nearly all its widebody fleet.
    The dramatic announcement by the largest U.S. airline came hours after the White House said the United States would widen new travel restrictions on Europeans to include travelers in the United Kingdom and Ireland, starting Monday night.
    Washington has already imposed flight restrictions on China.
    China tightened checks on international travelers arriving at Beijing airport on Sunday, after the number of imported new coronavirus infections surpassed locally transmitted cases for a second day in a row.
    China, where the epidemic began in December, appears to now face a greater threat of new infections from outside its borders as it continues to slow the spread of the virus domestically.
Graphic: Comparing outbreaks –
    Spain put its 47 million inhabitants under partial lockdown on Saturday as part of a 15-day state of emergency to combat the epidemic in Europe’s second worst-affected country after Italy.
    Effective immediately, all Spaniards must stay home except to buy food, medicines, go to work or to the hospital or for emergencies.    Spain had 193 coronavirus deaths and 6,250 cases, public broadcaster TVE said on Saturday, up from 120 deaths reported on Friday.
    France will shut shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities from Sunday with its 67 million people were told to stay home after confirmed infections doubled in 72 hours.
    French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government had no other option after the public health authority said 91 people had died in France and almost 4,500 were now infected.
    “We must absolutely limit our movements,” he said.
    Argentina banned entry to non-residents who have traveled to a country highly affected by coronavirus in the last 14 days, the government officially announced late on Saturday.
    The ban was established for 30 days, according to the decree published in the official bulletin.    Argentina has 45 cases of coronavirus, the health ministry said, up from 21 on March 12.
    Panama said flights arriving from Europe and Asia would be temporarily suspended, with the exception of flights that transport doctors, medical equipment or other humanitarian aid.
    Colombia will expel four Europeans for violating compulsory quarantine protocols, just hours after it closed its border with Venezuela, the government said on Saturday.
    Israel will use anti-terrorism tracking technology and partially shutdown its economy to minimize transmission risks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.
    Cyber tech monitoring would be deployed to locate people who have been in contact with those carrying the virus, subject to cabinet approval, Netanyahu told a news conference in Jerusalem.
    Starting Sunday, South Korea began to subject visitors from France, Germany, Britain, Spain and the Netherlands to stricter border checks, after imposing similar rules for China, Italy and Iran suffering a major outbreak.
    Apart from measuring temperature at the airport, visitors from those countries now need to download an app the South Korean government rolled out to report whether they have any symptoms related to the virus everyday.
    South Korea has been testing hundreds of thousands of people and tracking potential carriers like detectives, using cell phone and satellite technology.
(Reporting by John Irish in Paris; Belén Carreño and Ingrid Melander in Madrid; Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Judy Hua in Beijing; Kate Lamb in Sydney; David Shepardson in Washington; Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

3/15/2020 Lagos gas blast kills 15, destroys several buildings, Nigerian officials say
A firefighter douses the fire at the scene of a pipeline explosion at
Abule-Ado in Lagos, Nigeria, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
LAGOS (Reuters) – An explosion at a gas processing plant on Sunday killed at least 15 people and destroyed about 50 buildings after a fire broke out in a suburb of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, emergency services said.
    The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the explosion was triggered after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant near the corporation’s pipeline in Abule Ado area of Lagos state.
    The impact of the explosion led to the collapse of nearby houses, damaged NNPC’s pipeline and caused the corporation to halt pumping operations on the Atlas Cove-Mosimi pipeline, the state-owned oil company said in a statement.
    Several people were injured and taken to hospital, according to Ibrahim Farinloye, zonal coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
    Plumes of smoke billowed into the air as people watched, while firefighters tried to quench the flames, a Reuters witness said.
    Farinloye told Reuters that “the explosion destroyed over 50 residential houses.”
    Pipeline fires in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest crude oil producer, are common and they are mostly caused by theft and sabotage.    The methods used to steal oil often result in accidents that cause fires.
    “The fire started with smoke,” one eyewitness said.    “The smoke was coming up and later we heard a sound … and some houses collapsed even the roofs.”
    NNPC said that the temporary shutdown of the petroleum products pipeline would not affect the normal supply of products to the Lagos and surrounding towns.
(Reporting by Angela Ukomadu and Seun Sanni in Lagos; Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha, Editing by William Maclean and Alexandra Hudson)

3/16/2020 Early bird: Tiny, ancient ‘bird-dinosaur’ discovered by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    A new species of a bird-like dinosaur that lived 99 million years ago has been identified from a fossilized skull trapped in a block of amber, a study said.
    Even tinier than a hummingbird, it’s among the smallest dinosaurs from the Mesozoic Era yet found.    It’s also one of the most ancient birds ever reported.
    “When I first saw it, I was blown away,” Jingmai O’Connor, a paleontologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead author of the study, told AFP.
    “Amber preservation of vertebrates is rare, and this provides us a window into the world of dinosaurs at the lowest end of the body-size spectrum,” said study co-author Lars Schmitz, a biologist at the W.M. Keck Science Department in California, in a statement.
    The skull specimen, which was discovered in a mine in northern Myanmar, is only about 1/2 inch in length.    The entire bird weighed less than a tenth of an ounce, scientists estimate.
    The animal was given the scientific name Oculudentavis khaungraae.    Oculudentavis means “eye tooth bird,” reflecting notable features that give hints into how the animal lived.
.     The creature’s skull is dominated by a large eye socket that’s similar to a modern lizard’s eye.    The eye socket has a narrow opening and only lets in a small amount of light, which means that Oculudentavis was suited to being active in daylight conditions.
    Its upper and lower jaws contain a large number of sharp teeth and the study authors estimate each jaw would have had 29 to 30 teeth in total.
    Despite its small size, this finding suggests Oculudentavis was a predator and likely ate small arthropods or invertebrates, unlike similar-size modern birds, which have no teeth and feed on nectar.
    “This is truly one of the rarest and most spectacular of finds!” The University of Central Florida paleontologist Ryan Carney, who wasn’t involved with the study, told National Geographic.    “Like capturing Cretaceous lightning in a bottle, this amber preserves an unprecedented snapshot of a miniature dinosaur skull with exciting new features.”
    The researchers concluded that the specimen’s tiny size and unusual form suggests a never-before-seen combination of features.
    “This discovery shows us that we have only a small glimpse of what tiny vertebrates looked like in the age of the dinosaurs,” Schmitz said.
    The study was published in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature.
Top, an artist’s rendering of an ancient bird, imagining what it looked like preying on an insect. Above, Amber
with the Oculudentavis skull inside. The skull is 99 million years old. PHOTOS BY HAN ZHIXIN AND LIDA XING

3/16/2020 by Doina Chiacu and Guy Faulconbridge
A volunteer from Indonesia's Red Cross, wearing a protective suit, sprays disinfectant on trash bins at a school closed
amid the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
    (Reuters) – Coronavirus fears led to a historic drop in U.S. stocks, shut borders and disrupted daily life around the world, as governments took increasingly drastic measures to try to reduce the severity of the global outbreak.
    Financial markets had their worst day in 30 years despite emergency action by global central banks to try to prevent a recession, with U.S. stock markets falling 12% to 13%, wiping out trillions of dollars in market value.
    Just a month ago, financial markets were hitting record highs on the assumption the outbreak would largely be contained in China and not cause disruptions beyond what was seen with earlier viral outbreaks of Ebola, SARS and MERS.    There have now been more cases and more deaths outside mainland China than inside, with 180,000 cases worldwide and over 7,000 deaths.    Tracking the spread
    Canada, Chile and other countries closed their borders to visitors. Peru deployed masked military personnel to block major roads, while Ireland launched a campaign to recruit more healthcare workers.    Airlines slashed flights, shed jobs and asked governments for billions of dollars in loans and grants.
    In contrast to much of the world, Mexico and Brazil still held large political rallies and the United Kingdom kept its schools open.
GRAPHIC: Track the spread of coronavirus –
    U.S. states pleaded with the Trump administration on Monday to coordinate a national response to the outbreak, saying patchwork measures enacted by state and local authorities were insufficient to confront the coast-to-coast emergency that has killed at least 74 Americans.
    A few hours later, President Donald Trump urged Americans to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
    Calling the highly contagious virus an “invisible enemy,” Trump said the worst of the outbreak could be over by July, August or later and warned a recession was possible.
    However, the United States was not yet closing its borders or mandating curfews or business closures on a national scale.
    Many states and cities had already taken those steps or were preparing to.    San Francisco area residents will be urged to shelter in place for three weeks starting on Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
    A White House adviser said the United States could pump $800 billion or more into the economy to minimize economic damage.
    EU finance ministers were planning a coordinated economic response to the virus, which the European Commission says could push the European Union into recession.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) called on all countries on Monday to ramp up testing programs as the best way to slow the advance of the pandemic.
    “We have a simple message to all countries – test, test, test,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva.    “All countries should be able to test all suspected cases. They cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded.”
    In Italy, another 349 people died on Monday, taking the total to 2,158, with nearly 28,000 cases, after 368 deaths were reported on Sunday, a daily toll more dire than even China was reporting at the peak of the outbreak.
    “Many children think it is scary,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference dedicated to answering children’s questions about the pandemic.
    “It is OK to be scared when so many things happen at the same time,” Solberg said.
    Several countries banned mass gatherings such as sports, cultural and religious events to combat the fast-spreading respiratory disease that has infected nearly 179,000 people globally and killed more than 7,000.
    Spain and France, where cases and fatalities have begun surging at a pace just days behind that of Italy, imposed severe lockdowns over the weekend.
    The Middle East business and travel hub of Dubai said it was closing all bars and lounges until the end of March.    Thailand plans to close schools, bars, movie theaters and popular cockfighting arenas.
    Public health experts in the United States and elsewhere are hoping the measures will help spread out the number of new cases over time so as not to overwhelm hospitals and healthcare systems as has happened in Italy.
    Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told daily Corriere della Sera that the outbreak was still getting worse, though the governor of Lombardy, the northern region that has suffered the worst, said he saw the first signs of a slowdown.
    The International Olympic Committee will hold talks with heads of international sports organizations on Tuesday, a source close to a federation briefed on the issue said, amid doubts the Tokyo 2020 Olympics set to start on July 24 can proceed.
(Reporting by Doina Choicu in Washington and Guy Faulconbridge in London; Additional reporting by Leela de Krester and Maria Caspani in New York; Jeff Mason, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Nandita Bose, Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir in Washington; Kate Holton in London; Jan Strupczewski and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Francesca Landini and Elvira Pollina in Milan; John Revill in Zurich; Emma Farge in Lausanne; Kevin Yao in Beijing; Jaime Freed in Sydney; Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Kay Johnson in Bangkok and Tracy; Rucinski in Chicago; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Nick Macfie and Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Peter Graff and Bill Berkrot)

3/17/2020 Australian researchers map immune response to coronavirus by Colin Packham
FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of
an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian researchers said on Tuesday they have mapped the immune responses from one of country’s first coronavirus patients, findings the health minister said were an important step in developing a vaccine and treatment.
    The coronavirus has infected more than 168,000 people worldwide and killed at least 6,610, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
    While the bulk of those infected experience only mild symptoms, it is severe or critical in 20% of patients. The virus mortality rate is about 3.4%, the WHO has estimated.
    As scientists scramble to develop a vaccine, researchers at Australia’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said they had taken an important step in understanding the virus.
    By examining the blood results from an unidentified woman in her 40s, they discovered that people’s immune systems respond to coronavirus in the same way it typically fights flu.
    The findings help scientists understand why some patients recover while others develop more serious respiratory problems, the researchers said.
    “People can use our methods to understand the immune responses in larger COVID-19 cohorts, and also understand what’s lacking in those who have fatal outcomes,” said Katherine Kedzierska, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne, which took part in the research.    COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
    As researchers monitored the Australian patient’s immune response, they were able to accurately predict when she would recover.
    Researchers did not name the patient, but said she was an Australian citizen who was evacuated out of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
    Health Minister Greg Hunt described the development as “world leading” and a major development in research on the disease.
    “It’s about fast-tracking a vaccine by identifying which candidates are most likely to be successful,” Hunt told reporters.    “It’s also about fast-tracking potential therapies and treatments for patients who already have coronavirus.”
    At least a dozen drugmakers around the world are working on vaccines or antiviral and other treatments for the fast-spreading contagion.
    But investment costs for vaccines could run as high as $800 million in a process that, even if accelerated, will likely take more than a year until approval, according to executives from companies involved in the effort.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jane Wardell)

3/17/2020 Global powers unleash trillions of dollars to stem spiraling coronavirus crisis by David Shepardson and David Milliken
A member of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) disinfects the HUCA (Central University Hospital of Asturias) during a 15-day state of
emergency declared to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Oviedo, Spain, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso
    WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s richest nations prepared more costly measures on Tuesday to combat the global fallout of the coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands of people, triggered social restrictions unseen since World War Two and sent economies spinning toward recession.
    With the highly contagious respiratory disease that originated in China racing across the world to infect more than 196,000 people so far, governments on every continent have implemented draconian containment measures from halting travel to stopping sporting events and religious gatherings.
    While the main aim is to avoid deaths – currently at over 7,800 – global powers were also focusing on how to limit the inevitably devastating economic impact.
In the world’s biggest economy, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed pumping $1 trillion into the market. Trump wants to send cash to Americans within two weeks as the country’s death toll approached 100 and more testing sent the number of coronavirus cases to over 5,700. Airlines are among the worst-hit sector, with U.S. carriers seeking at least $50 billion in grants and loans to stay afloat as passenger numbers evaporate.
    Britain, which has told people to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theaters, unveiled a 330 billion pounds ($400 billion) rescue package for businesses threatened with collapse.
    Budget forecasters said the scale of borrowing needed might resemble the vast amount of debt taken on during the 1939-1945 war against Nazi Germany.
    “Now is not a time to be squeamish about public sector debt,” Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, which provides independent analysis of the UK’s public finances, told lawmakers.
    Underlining how the crisis has shaken even the most august of institutions, Britain’s Church of England suspended services while 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth was to move from Buckingham Place to Windsor Castle outside London, where she and her sister, Margaret, were sent for safety during the blitz of London in World War Two.
    France is to pump 45 billion euros ($50 billion) of crisis measures into its economy to help companies and workers, with output expected to contract 1% this year.
    “I have always defended financial rigor in peacetime so that France does not have to skimp on its budget in times of war,” Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin was quoted as saying by financial daily Les Echos.
    The European Union eased its rules to allow companies to receive state grants up to 500,000 euros ($551,000) or guarantees on bank loans to ensure liquidity.
    But even with the promised cash splurges, world stock markets and oil prices were unable to shake off their coronavirus nightmare after Wall Street on Monday saw its worst rout since the Black Monday crash of 1987.
    The Philippines was the first country to close markets, while Europe – now the epicenter of the pandemic – saw airline and travel stocks plunge another 7%.
    With various central banks around the world having cut interest rates to try and help beleaguered economies, investors fret that the banks may have used up their policy ammunition early with far longer to go before the global health crisis is curbed.
    A global recession beckons, with parallels to the 2008 financial crisis, economists say, though many predict a quick bounce-back once the outbreak clears.
    Sports events continued to fall by the wayside.
    Soccer’s Euro 2020 championship and South America’s Copa America both were put back to 2021.
    Pakistan suspended its cricket Super League after an overseas player developed symptoms of coronavirus, the Kentucky Derby horse race was postponed from May until September, and there was continued speculation over the fate of the Olympics in Japan.
    Around the world, bad news was relentless.
    Brazil recorded its first coronavirus death while Peru put its military on the streets.
    Israel’s government authorized the Shin Bet security service to use cellphone-monitoring technology usually used for anti-terrorism to retrace movements of infected people.
    Iran temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners.
    Daily life was turned upside down for millions worldwide.
    “Everything has ground to a halt,” said Tiziana Marra, a wedding planner in Italy, Europe’s worst-hit nation, where the epidemic has created havoc for nuptials.
    “It is as if people are preparing for war,” said an astonished shopkeeper in Rwanda, as panicked consumers clamored to stock up on rice, cooking oil, sugar and flour.    “Prices have gone up – but still they buy.”
Graphic – Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus:
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and David Milliken in London; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Maria Caspani and Susan Heavey in Washington; Andrew MacAskill in London; Leigh Thomas, Geert De Clercq, Benoit Van Overstraeten and Caroline Pailliez in Paris; Philip Puellella and Noor Zainab Hussain in Rome; Clement Uwiringiyimana in Kigali; Catherine Cadell in Beijing; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Giles Elgood, Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler)

3/18/2020 Ice melt accelerating in Greenland, Antarctica by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Here’s some unsettling news from the other global crisis.
    Greenland and Antarctica have lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice in the past three decades; unabated, this rate of melting could cause flooding that affects hundreds of millions of people by the end of the century, NASA said in a statement.
    Satellite observations showed that the regions are losing ice six times faster than they were in the 1990s, according to a new study.    If the current melting trend continues, the regions will be on track to match the “worst-case” scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of an extra 6.7 inches of sea level rise by 2100.
    “That’s not a good news story,” study lead author Andrew Shepherd, from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, told the BBC.
    Scientists said the two ice sheets together lost 81 billion tons per year in the 1990s, compared with 475 billion tons of ice per year in the 2010s – a sixfold increase.
    “Today, the ice sheets contribute about a third of all sea-level rise, whereas in the 1990s, their contribution was actually pretty small at about 5%,” Shepherd told the BBC.    “This has important implications for the future, for coastal flooding and erosion."
    The resulting meltwater boosted global sea levels by 0.7 inch. Of this total sea-level rise, 60% resulted from Greenland’s ice loss and 40% resulted from Antarctica’s.
    The findings were published by an international team of 89 polar scientists from 50 organizations, and are the most comprehensive assessment to date of the changing ice sheets, NASA said.
    The study was published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.
An aerial view shows icebergs near Kulusuk Island, off the southeastern coastline of Greenland. NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

3/18/2020 Australian researchers map immune response to coronavirus by Colin Packham
Katherine Kedzierska, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne,
takes part in the reseach to map immune response to coronvirus, is pictured at an unknown location
in this undated handout picture. University of Melbourne Peter Doherty Institute/Handout via REUTERS
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian researchers said on Tuesday they have mapped the immune responses from one of country’s first coronavirus patients, findings the health minister said were an important step in developing a vaccine and treatment.
    The coronavirus has infected more than 168,000 people worldwide and killed at least 6,610, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
    While the bulk of those infected experience only mild symptoms, it is severe or critical in 20% of patients.    The virus mortality rate is about 3.4%, the WHO has estimated.
    As scientists scramble to develop a vaccine, researchers at Australia’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said they had taken an important step in understanding the virus.
    By examining the blood results from an unidentified woman in her 40s, they discovered that people’s immune systems respond to coronavirus in the same way it typically fights flu.
    The findings help scientists understand why some patients recover while others develop more serious respiratory problems, the researchers said.
    “People can use our methods to understand the immune responses in larger COVID-19 cohorts, and also understand what’s lacking in those who have fatal outcomes,” said Katherine Kedzierska, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne, which took part in the research.    COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
    As researchers monitored the Australian patient’s immune response, they were able to accurately predict when she would recover.
    Researchers did not name the patient, but said she was an Australian citizen who was evacuated out of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
    Health Minister Greg Hunt described the development as “world leading” and a major development in research on the disease.
    “It’s about fast-tracking a vaccine by identifying which candidates are most likely to be successful,” Hunt told reporters.    “It’s also about fast-tracking potential therapies and treatments for patients who already have coronavirus.”
    At least a dozen drugmakers around the world are working on vaccines or antiviral and other treatments for the fast-spreading contagion.
    But investment costs for vaccines could run as high as $800 million in a process that, even if accelerated, will likely take more than a year until approval, according to executives from companies involved in the effort.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jane Wardell)

3/19/2020 5.7 magnitude earthquake hits Utah, already shaken residents by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    A 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Utah on Wednesday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said, knocking out power and rattling residents already shaken up by the coronavirus pandemic.
    About 73,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in the Salt Lake City Area, utility Rocky Mountain Power said, but power was being quickly restored in some areas.
    Some people ran from their homes and into the streets as dishes fell from shelves and pictures from walls.    Operations at Salt Lake City International Airport stopped, and the control tower and concourses were evacuated, the airport tweeted. The airport was expected to reopen later Wednesday.
    The quake also shut down the light rail service for Salt Lake City and its suburbs.
    People in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada reported feeling the quake.
    In downtown Salt Lake City, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ iconic Salt Lake Temple sustained minor damage.    Gov. Gary Herbert warned people to stay away from downtown Salt Lake City while crews checked for further damage.
    There were no immediate reports of injuries, Utah Emergency Management spokesman Joe Dougherty said.
    The quake’s epicenter was located near Magna, Utah, which is just southwest of Salt Lake City, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
    The earthquake hit a little after 7 a.m. local time. An estimated 2.76 million people likely felt the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. Most residents felt their homes shaking for 10 to 15 seconds.
    New father Ryan Jensen, whose baby was born Wednesday morning at Altaview Hospital in West Jordan, Utah, told USA TODAY via text that the “hospital was rocking.     Man oh man as if being born in a pandemic wasn’t enough, man that was nerve rattling.”
    Janis Ferre of Salt Lake City wrote on Facebook: “It sounded as though our house was stretching,” the Salt Lake City Tribune reported.
    Added Holladay resident John E. Henderson: “It felt like somebody picked up my house and dropped it,” the Tribune said.
    It was the largest earthquake in Utah since a 5.9 magnitude quake hit the state in 1992, Utah Emergency Management said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
City workers secure the scene after the top of the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake fell after a 5.7 earthquake
hit the valley in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday. JEFFREY SWINGER/USA TODAY NETWORK

3/19/2020 The global picture: What it tells the US - America’s coronavirus case trajectory nears a turning point by Kim Hjelmgaard and Jim Sergent, USA TODAY
    LONDON – Soon, the United States will find out whether it’s likely to be the next South Korea or Italy or even China when it comes to the acceleration of coronavirus cases and deaths.
    A data analysis by USA TODAY finds that two weeks after the U.S. first entered into community transmission on March 3, America’s trajectory is trending toward Italy’s, where circumstances are dire. U.S. officials are sounding the alarm, urging Americans to heed what federal, state and local officials are asking of them in order to curtail the spread and dampen the impact of the virus on the U.S. population.
    Although it’s too early to draw conclusions about which countries will ultimately weather the COVID-19 storm best, public health data shows nations that are so far faring well at suppressing the outbreak have done so through this combination: easy access to testing, rigorous contact tracing, clear and consistent science-based messaging, and a commitment to studiously abide by quarantines while clamping down on socializing no matter how tempting it may be to stray. “When you’re on an exponential curve, every moment is dangerous,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in an interview.    “This is a particularly critical moment for us to try to bring all the resources and determination of government and the American people to try to get off of it.”
    Outside of China, territories, citystates and countries in Asia such as Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan appear to be making the most progress.    But experts say U.S. comparisons to the experiences of other countries are not clear-cut for a variety of reasons, including population size, different medical systems, America’s geographic expanse, and cultural reasons that are difficult to account for.
    U.S. officials are monitoring what is playing out in other countries, particularly Italy, where rates of transmission and deaths in its northern regions have been so catastrophic that the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care recently drew up guidelines for doctors about how to manage the crisis if the outbreak intensifies.
    “We’re following every single country’s curve,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force response coordinator, in a briefing Wednesday.
    For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.    But for older adults, especially those with pre-existing health conditions, it can cause much more severe illness, including pneumonia.
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s worst-case-scenario is that about 160 million to 210 million Americans will be infected by December.    Under this forecast, 21 million people would need hospitalization, and 200,000 to 1.7 million could die by the end of the year.
    “The extent to which we can prevent direct and excess deaths depends on how quickly we can flatten the outbreak, mobilize health services, and for how long we can prevent a relapse,” said Robert Muggah, founder and director of the Brazil-based security think tank Igarape Institute and a leading expert on pandemics.
    Estimates vary, but most public health experts believe that the U.S. is one to two weeks behind what has befallen Italy, where a near-total lockdown has been imposed on 60 million citizens, with only supermarkets and drug stores open to the public.
    Italian authorities began enforcing their lockdown on March 12, 18 days after the point where community transmission, defined as more than 100 cases, had taken hold, according to World Health Organization data analyzed by USA>     It’s too early to say whether restrictions in Italy, and similar ones in Spain, are working.
    Collins said that if the U.S. takes measures that many Americans might find overly drastic “we should certainly be able to blunt” the U.S. curve.    “But let’s be clear: There’s going to be a very rough road ahead of us over the next weeks and months.”
    In the U.S., 115 people have died amid more than 7,300 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s data dashboard.
    There has been no federally ordered lockdown in the U.S., and access to testing has been sporadic, although President Donald Trump has urged Americans to refrain from gathering in groups of more than 10 people.    San Francisco on Monday became the first U.S. city to order its residents to stay home over the coronavirus outbreak.
    In China, where COVID-19 originated, the outbreak followed a pattern similar to Italy’s.
    The country initially saw an exponential rise in infections.
    Beijing ordered a complete lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province on Jan. 23, about halfway into the first 25 days of reported community transmission.
    Yet after authorities embarked on one of the largest mass mobilization efforts in history, closing all schools, forcing millions of people inside, quickly building more than a dozen vast, temporary hospitals and meticulously testing and tracing anyone who may have encountered the virus, Beijing has appeared to all but eradicate new cases.
    Michael Merson, director of the National University of Singapore Global Health Institute and the Wolfgang Joklik Professor of Global Health at Duke University, said places in Asia such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, enjoy public health factors that are difficult for countries like the U.S., with its fractured system, to replicate.
    In Singapore, “there’s strong government leadership, but also trust in the government,” Merson said.    “Every time a case is identified, there is a very strong action plan to identify contacts.    It’s also very good at promoting handwashing and keeping people at a safe distance from one another."
    “They take prudent steps at prevention, but they haven’t entirely shut the country down.”
Medical staff members arrive for a duty shift Wedneday at Dongsan Hospital in Daegu, South Korea. South Korea has managed to control its
outbreak with the help of a robust screening program, with more than 200,000 people tested, or about 1 in every 250. LEE MOO-RYUL/AP

3/19/2020 Rich nations pump aid into battered economy as coronavirus deaths in Italy overtake China by Guy Faulconbridge and James Mackenzie
A medic wearing protective suit marks the gate of a house after giving information to the residents about
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during an awareness campaign in Srinagar March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
    LONDON/MILAN (Reuters) – The world’s richest nations poured unprecedented aid into the global economy on Thursday as coronavirus cases ballooned in the new epicenter Europe, with the number of deaths in Italy outstripping those in mainland China, where the virus originated.
    With over 236,000 infections and more than 9,700 deaths, the epidemic has stunned the world and drawn comparisons with painful periods such as World War Two, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu.
    U.N. chief Antonio Guterres warned that a global recession, “perhaps of record dimensions,” was a near certainty.
    “This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies,” Guterres told reporters via a video conference.    “We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.”
    Tourism and airlines have been particularly battered, as the world’s citizens hunker down to minimize contact and curb the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness.    But few sectors have been spared by a crisis threatening a lengthy global recession.
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he expected closure of the United States-Canada border to come into effect overnight on Friday.    The U.S. State Department is expected to urge Americans not to travel abroad at all.
    Markets have suffered routs unseen since the 2008 financial debacle, with investors rushing to the U.S. dollar as a safe haven. Wall Street tried to bounce back on Thursday.    The benchmark S&P 500 swung into positive territory after falling as much as 3.3% and was up about 1%. U.S. oil prices rose 20%.
    Policymakers in the United States, Europe and Asia have slashed interest rates and opened liquidity taps to try to stabilize economies hit by quarantined consumers, broken supply chains, disrupted transport and paralyzed businesses.
    The virus, thought to have originated from wildlife in mainland China late last year, has jumped to 172 other nations and territories with more than 20,000 new cases reported in the past 24 hours – a new daily record.
    Cases in Germany, Iran and Spain rose to more than 12,000 each.    An official in Tehran tweeted that the coronavirus was killing one person every 10 minutes.
    Britain, which has reported 144 deaths, was closing dozens of underground stations in London and ordering schools shut from Friday.
    Some 20,000 soldiers were on standby, Queen Elizabeth headed for sanctuary in the ancient castle of Windsor, and the Tower of London was to close along with other historic buildings.
    “Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe,” the 93-year-old monarch said in an address to the nation.
    “I am certain we are up to that challenge.    You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.”
    Italian soldiers transported corpses overnight from an overwhelmed cemetery in Europe’s worst-hit nation where 3,405 people have died, more than in mainland China. Germany’s military was also readying to help.
    Supermarkets in many countries were besieged with shoppers stocking up on food staples and hygiene products.    Some rationed sales and fixed special hours for the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to severe illness.
    Solidarity projects were springing up in some of the world’s poorest corners.    In Kenya’s Kibera slum, for example, volunteers with plastic drums and boxes of soap on motorbikes set up handwashing stations for people without clean water.
    Russia reported its first coronavirus death on Thursday.
    Amid the gloom, China provided a ray of hope as it reported zero new local transmissions of the virus, a sign of success for its draconian containment policies since January.    Imported cases accounted for all 34 new infections in China.
    In the United States, where President Donald Trump had initially played down the coronavirus threat, infections surged with over 10,700 known cases and at least 163 deaths.
    Trump has infuriated Beijing’s Communist Party rulers by rebuking it for not acting faster and drawn accusations of racism by referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.”
    “We continue our relentless effort to defeat the Chinese virus,” he said in opening remarks at a briefing with his coronavirus task force on Thursday.
    The head of the U.S. National Guard said tens of thousands of its troops could be activated to help U.S. states deal with the outbreak now in all 50 states.
    In a bewildering raft of financial measures around the world, the European Central Bank launched new bond purchases worth 750 billion euros ($817 billion). That brought some relief to bond markets and also halted European shares’ slide.
    The U.S. Federal Reserve rolled out its third emergency credit program in two days, aimed at keeping the $3.8 trillion money market mutual fund industry functioning.    The Bank of England cut interest rates to 0.1%, its second emergency rate cut in just over a week.
    China was to unleash trillions of yuan of fiscal stimulus and South Korea pledged 50 trillion won ($39 billion).
    The desperate state of industry was writ large in Detroit, where the big three automakers – Ford Motor Co , General Motors Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV – were shutting U.S. plants, as well as factories in Canada and Mexico.
    With some economists fearing prolonged pain akin to the 1930s Great Depression and others anticipating a bounceback, gloomy data and forecasts abounded.
    In one of the most dire calls, J.P. Morgan economists forecast the Chinese economy to drop more than 40% this quarter and the U.S. economy to shrink 14% in the next.    Ratings agency Moody’s prepared for mass downgradings.
    In Britain, small gin distilleries have started producing hand sanitizer amid a national shortage, a trend mirrored across the globe from Australia to the United States.
    And Monaco canceled its showcase Formula One Grand Prix, the most famous and glamorous race on the calendar, in another high-profile sporting casualty of the epidemic.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaux around the world; Writing by Marius Zaharia, Andrew Cawthorne and Nick Macfie; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Bill Berkrot)

3/20/2020 Historic flooding leaves Amazon communities under water by OAN Newsroom
File – A representational image of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest is shown. (AP Photo)
    Historic storms have slammed the Amazon, which has left hundreds of people homeless.    According to reports, flooding in the Ecuadorian Amazon has caused rivers to burst their banks.    This has sent surging waters into homes, bridges and crops.
    Indigenous communities have been left vulnerable as government resources have been directed toward fighting the coronavirus outbreak.    Elders within the community have said flooding has never been this destructive.
    “According to our elders, we’ve never seen a flooding this big before and people’s homes have been left underwater,” explained Helena Gualinga, indigenous activist.    “And many of them have been completely destroyed, which means that people have been left without their homes.”
    Moving forward, a non-profit group called Amazon Watch has set up a Go-Fund-Me page in support of the communities on the Bobonaza River.    The goal of the fundraiser is to help those made extra vulnerable by the unprecedented natural disaster.

3/20/2020 Russia starts testing coronavirus vaccine prototypes on animals
FILE PHOTO: Specialists put on protective gear inside a hospital for patients infected with coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian scientists have begun testing prototypes of potential vaccines against the new coronavirus on animals in a laboratory in Siberia, Russia’s consumer health regulator said on Friday.
    Russia has reported 199 coronavirus cases so far, less than in many other European countries, but the figure has risen sharply in recent days.    One person diagnosed with the virus has died.
    Scientists in the Vektor State Virology and Biotechnology Centre in the city of Novosibirsk have developed vaccine prototypes based on six different technological platforms and began tests on Monday to try to work out how effective they are and in what doses they could be administered, the regulator said.
    Scientists around the world have warned that the development of a vaccine is a lengthy and complex process that might only yield something for broader use in the next 12-18 months.
    “Most often, laboratory mice and rats are used for such studies, ferrets, lower primates and other special lines of laboratory animals are also used,” the Russian regulator, Rospotrebnadzor, said in a statement.
    Scientists expect it will be possible to start rolling out a vaccine in the last three months of 2020, it added.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)

3/20/2020 WHO: Young people are ‘not invincible’ by OAN Newsroom
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization speaks during a news conference on updates regarding on the novel,
coronavirus COVID-19, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, March 9, 2020. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
    The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned young people they’re still at risk for COVID-19.
    “Today, I have a message for young people: You’re not invincible,” stated WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
    On Friday, health officials stated older patients may be at much higher risk, but emphasized that people under 50 still “make up a significant portion” of virus-related hospitalizations.
    “Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else,” he said.
    Health officials also stressed the importance of solidarity during this a time like this.
    More than 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide.

Food is distributed to people on skid row Friday, March 20, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
    Meanwhile, the vice president’s chief of staff has said he does not foresee the federal government enforcing a nationwide shelter in place order.    This came after multiple states issued ‘Stay At Home’ orders this week to limit the spread of coronavirus.
    Marc Short has said the federal government’s job is to provide guidance and resources, but other than that, it is up to the states to decide.
    “The federal government’s responsibility is to provide state, local officials with the best information possible to make those decisions,” he said.    “I don’t see that sort of mandate coming from us.”
    Short added he doesn’t disagree with states who have issued the order. He has advised localities to work closely with their FEMA administrators to make sure they’re securing the necessary supplies.

3/22/2020 Quake strikes north of Zagreb, damages buildings
Damaged cars and a partially damaged building are seen following an earthquake,
in Zagreb, Croatia March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
    ZAGREB, Croatia (Reuters) – A large earthquake struck north of the Croatian capital Zagreb on Sunday, GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences said, damaging buildings, sending many people into the streets, burying vehicles in rubble and causing several fires.
    The Institute for Urgent Medicine, an emergency hospital, said one child had been admitted with head injuries from a falling roof and the Zagreb Fire Department said the firefighting and rescue operations were ongoing at several locations.
    GFZ said the quake of magnitude 5.3 struck at a depth of 10 kilometers.    It downgraded the magnitude of the quake, which could be also felt across the Western Balkans, from an initial reading of 6.0.
    “It lasted over 10 seconds. By far the strongest I have ever felt,” one witness said, adding that it was followed by several aftershocks.
    Croatia’s Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic appealed via his Twitter account to people in the streets to keep social distance from each other as the country struggles to contain the spread of coronavirus.    So far, Croatia has reported 206 cases of the virus and one death.
    A Reuters reporter on the scene saw a church bell tower damaged, some buildings fell down as people fled apartments and took to the streets and some parts of Zagreb experienced power cuts.
    Ines Ivancic, a seismologist at the government institute for seismology in Croatia, said the tremor was strong but the immediate damage could not be assessed.    She added that the internet was down in some areas.
    The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake measured 5.4, while the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) also reported 5.3 magnitude, followed by another 5.1 magnitude earthquake.
(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru, Igor Ilic in Zagreb and Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo; Editing by Sam Holmes/Christopher Cushing/Susan Fenton)

3/23/2020 Robot designed in China could help save lives on medical frontline by Martin Pollard
FILE PHOTO: A robot designed to help medical workers treat coronavirus patients remotely is pictured during a demonstration for
the media at the aerospace engineering school of Tsinghua University in Beijing, China March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Researchers at one of China’s top universities have designed a robot they say could help save lives on the frontline during the coronavirus outbreak.
    The machine consists of a robotic arm on wheels that can perform ultrasounds, take mouth swabs and listen to sounds made by a patient’s organs, usually done with a stethoscope.
    Such tasks are normally carried out by doctors in person. But with this robot, which is fitted with cameras, medical personnel do not need to be in the same room as the patient, and could even be in a different city.
    “Doctors are all very brave,” said Tsinghua University Professor Zheng Gangtie, the robot’s chief designer.    “But this virus is just too contagious … We can use robots to perform the most dangerous tasks.”
    The idea came to Zheng around the turn of the Lunar New Year.    Wuhan had just been put on lockdown and the number of cases and deaths was rising rapidly every day.
    As an engineer, Zheng wanted to do something to contribute to the relief effort.    On the first day of the Lunar New Year, he heard from his friend, Dong Jiahong, executive president at Beijing’s Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, that the biggest problem was that of frontline workers getting infected.
    Gathering a team, Zheng set to work converting two mechanized robotic arms with the same technology used on space stations and lunar explorers.    The robots were almost entirely automated, and could even disinfect themselves after performing actions involving contact, Zheng said.
    “But the feedback from doctors was that it would be better for there to be less automation, as a personal presence would comfort and calm the patient,” he said.
    The team now has two robots, which have been trialed by doctors at hospitals in Beijing. One is still at the team’s lab at the university, but the other is at the Wuhan Union Hospital, where doctors started training to use it on Thursday.
    If all goes to plan, the robot may be put to use on coronavirus patients in Wuhan from Sunday, Zheng said. It would be joined on its ward rounds by a nurse or other member of staff.
    Zheng would like to build more such robots but funding from the university has run out.    The robots cost RMB 500,000 ($72,000) a piece to make.    He does not plan on commercializing his robot design but hopes a company comes along to take that on.
    China has sent tens of thousands of medical workers to the epicenter of the outbreak, Hubei province, state media say.    More than 3,000 medical workers had been infected by late last month, including whistleblower Li Wenliang, whose death in early February sparked a brief and rare outpouring of grief and rage on Chinese social media.
(This refile corrects headline to say robot, not robotic arm)
(Reporting by Martin Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Karishma Singh and Peter Graff)

3/23/2020 UK scientists to track mutations in coronavirus to map spread by Kate Kelland
FILE PHOTO: A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a
model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as the
coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – UK scientists are to track the spread of the new coronavirus and watch for emerging mutations by using gene sequencing to analyze the strains causing thousands of COVID-19 infections across the country, Britain said on Monday.
    Researchers will collect data from samples from infected patients in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the government said in a statement.
    At least 281 Britons have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that has spread around the world in a pandemic.
    “This virus is one of the biggest threats our nation has faced in recent times, and crucial to helping us fight it is understanding how it is spreading,” said Sharon Peacock, director of Public Health England’s (PHE) national infection service.
    Working in teams across Britain, scientists will map out and analyze the full genetic codes of the COVID-19 samples.
    “Genomic sequencing will help us understand COVID-19 and its spread.    It can also help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions,” Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said in the statement.
    In epidemics, genome sequencing can help scientists monitor small changes in the virus at a national or international scale to understand how it is spreading and whether different strains are emerging.
    “Right now, the important questions we can help answer with sequencing are to help understand the role of international importations into the UK,” said Nick Loman, a professor of microbial genomics and bioinformatics at Birmingham University.
    The 20 million pound ($23 million) project, called the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, will be co-led by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, which specialises in genetic research, PHE and other public health agencies, as well as the National Health Service and several academic institutions.
    “All viruses accumulate mutations over time, some faster than others,” said Paul Klenerman, a professor at Oxford University who will be involved in the work.    “For Covid-19, this has only just begun – but this emerging variation can be tracked in detail.”
(Reporting by Kate Kelland and Andy Bruce; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

3/23/2020 Wheat in Whitehorse: how climate change helps feed Canada’s remote regions by Rod Nickel and Kelsey Johnson
Farmer Steve Mackenzie-Grieve holds some of his wheat yield at the Yukon Grain Farm near
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada February 19, 2020. Picture taken February 19, 2020. REUTERS/Crystal Schick
    WINNIPEG, Manitoba/OTTAWA (Reuters) – After failing to grow wheat in Canada’s subarctic Yukon territory 15 years ago, farmer Steve Mackenzie-Grieve gave it another shot in 2017.
    Thanks to longer summers, he has reaped three straight harvests.    This spring he plans to sow canola on his family’s 450-acre farm near Whitehorse, a city not much further from the North Pole than the heart of Canada’s crop belt>     “If you asked me five years ago if I would be growing wheat, I’d have laughed,” said Mackenzie-Grieve, 62, who harvested some 100 acres last year.
    Canada’s average temperature over land has warmed by 1.7 degrees C (3 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1948, with the north warming by 2.3 degrees C, the government said in 2019.
    More promising for Canada, one of the world’s top grain exporters, is that its frost-free season expanded by more than 20 days on average from 1948-2016, according to a 2018 paper by Environment Canada scientists.
    Large-scale farming with quality harvests remains an elusive challenge in the far north, due to short summers and lack of infrastructure to store and transport commodities.    But a warming climate makes crops possible in far-flung, isolated places.
    Newfoundland and Labrador, with a tiny fraction of Canada’s arable land, plan to add farm area the size of Toronto, the nation’s largest city.    The easternmost province has added 184 hectares (455 acres) of land for fruit and vegetable production since 2017, up nearly one-third, by converting public land to grow crops such as cabbages and cranberries.    It aims to produce 20% of its own food by 2022 – double the existing rate, and has set aside 62,000 hectares for future farmland.
    “Climate change will have a very negative climatic, social and economic impact on the province but there still may be some small offset gains by producing food,” said Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne in an interview. Climate change has made Canada’s food prices “way more volatile” during the past five years, said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the     Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.    Prices of salad greens, for example, spiked due to droughts or excessive rains in California.
    The warming trend has led Santosh Kumar, the scientist who leads Canada’s wheat-breeding program for the northern Prairies, to begin this year assessing test sites further north than ever before.
    Kumar said Canada is “uniquely suited” to add arable land as it has a lot of permafrost, or ground frozen for at least two years straight, that could thaw and become available.
    Russia and Canada have the greatest “frontier area” suitable for agriculture, with 4.3 million and 4.2 million square kilometers respectively, as early as 2060, based on temperature and moisture levels, though not soil suitability, scientific journal PLOS One said in a February paper.    For Canada, that means a potential quadrupling of agricultural land.
    Arable land made up 11% of the world’s land mass in 2016, the most according to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization records dating back to 1961.    Canada’s arable land has dropped by nearly 5% from a peak in 2001 to 43.8 million hectares.
    Expansion in Canada would mean less destruction of the Amazon rainforest and other sensitive environments for farming, said Lenore Newman, associate professor of geography and the environment at University of the Fraser Valley.
    But “hoping for some magical windfall from warming is wishful thinking,” as it is unknown how suitable boreal soils are for agriculture in the Northern Hemisphere, she added.
    Expanding arable land can also hurt the environment as it releases carbon from the soil, the PLOS One paper said.
    Whether farming in remote areas can be profitable is a key question, Kumar said.    “Farmers don’t want to put something in the field just because it can grow.”
    Chris Oram has cleared five acres of new arable land in Newfoundland in each of the last five years with a government subsidy.    He grows modest volumes of corn and melons, covering young shoots in plastic in early spring to trap warmth because of unpredictable weather.
    “It has been a bit hotter, but this year we never took a (corn) harvest because it was so cold and wet,” Oram said.
    But there are limits to expanding farm production as many vegetable growers in Newfoundland & Labrador have no access to cold storage that would allow them to supply grocers year-round.
    Much of the Yukon, where Mackenzie-Grieve farms, is too rocky for crops.    Unlike southern Canadian farmers, he has no commercial grain handler to buy his wheat, so he blends it in livestock feed that he sells.
    “It’s hard to do stuff here.    We’re a long ways from anywhere.    You just figure out how to make it work.”
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Denny Thomas and Richard Chang)

3/23/2020 U.N. chief wants $2 billion to help poor countries combat coronavirus by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: Antonio Guterres, United Nations (UN) Secretary General, speaks at a news conference at the
32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union (AU)
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said on Monday the world body wants $2 billion to help poor countries combat coronavirus and warned that a massive, coordinated package would also be needed to deal with the pandemic’s social and economic impact around the world.
    “The package needs to make households be afloat, make businesses be afloat, keep societies being afloat,” Guterres told a virtual news conference.
    “This will require a double-digit of GDP (gross domestic product) support in the developed world and creating the conditions through the IMF (International Monetary Fund), through the swaps among central banks, through the creation of new facilities,” he said.
    So far more than 351,00 people have been infected and over 15,330 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
    The spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus has drawn comparisons with devastating periods such as World War Two, the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu.
    “We need a much stronger coordination,” said Guterres, adding that he had written to the world’s 20 largest economies (G20) and would join their virtual meeting later this week.
    “Coordination in making sure that not only the developed countries can respond effectively to the disease, but that there is massive support to the developing world not to let the disease spread like wildfire,” he said.
    Guterres said he would launch a $2 billion humanitarian appeal on Wednesday.
    He also called for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
    “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” Guterres said.
    The United Nations has been trying to mediate an end to conflicts in countries including Syria, Yemen and Libya, while also providing humanitarian assistance to millions of civilians.
    “End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” he said.    “It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere.    Now.    That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrea Ricci)

3/24/2020 Antarctic glacier melted 3 miles in only 22 years by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    It’s getting warmer down at the bottom of the world.
    As the global climate heats up, some of the great ice sheets and glaciers in Antarctica are melting, a few of them rapidly.    One, East Antarctica’s Denman glacier, has retreated nearly 3 miles in just the past 22 years, according to a new study.
    Researchers are concerned that the shape of the ground surface under the ice sheet could make it even more susceptible to a climate-driven collapse.    “If fully thawed, the ice in Denman would cause sea levels worldwide to rise almost 5 feet,” the University of California-Irvine said in a statement.
    “East Antarctica has long been thought to be less threatened (than West Antarctica), but as glaciers such as Denman have come under closer scrutiny by the cryosphere science community, we are now beginning to see evidence of potential marine ice sheet instability in this region,” said study co-author Eric Rignot, a scientist at the University of California-Irvine.
    The cryosphere includes all of the world’s frozen places.
    “The ice in West Antarctica has been melting faster in recent years, but the sheer size of Denman glacier means that its potential impact on long-term sea-level rise is just as significant,” he added.
    Sea-level rise is one of the main effects of human-caused climate change.
    It’s important here in the United States because almost 40% of the U.S. population lives in relatively high population- density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion and hazards from storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
    And globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, the United Nations’ Atlas of the Oceans reports.
    Overall, NOAA said global sea levels have risen about 8 to 9 inches since 1880, and about a third of that is coming in just the last 2 1 / 2 decades.    Most of that rise is because of meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets and the expansion of seawater as it warms.
    The Denman glacier experienced a loss of 268 billion tons of ice from 1979 to 2017, according to the study.
    Researchers used radar data from a satellite to measure the ice loss.
    “Because of the shape of the ground beneath Denman’s western side, there is potential for rapid and irreversible retreat, and that means substantial increases in global sea levels in the future,” said study lead author Virginia Brancato of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.    The study was published Monday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

3/24/2020 Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world
FILE PHOTO: Medical workers in protective suits take an elderly coronavirus patient on a stretcher into an ambulance in the emergency
room of the Gemelli Hospital, in Rome, Italy, March 16, 2020. Picture taken March 16, 2020. Policlinico Gemelli/Handout via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating, the World Health Organization said, with more than 377,000 cases now recorded and infections reported from nearly every country.
** More than 377,400 people have been infected across the world and over 16,500 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
** For an interactive graphic tracking global spread: open in an external browser
** Britain could introduce stronger punishments for flouting new restrictions, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said on Tuesday, following measures imposed on Monday that allow people to go out only for limited reasons.
** France’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe, said the country’s lockdown could last several more weeks and that his government was tightening restrictions even> ** The death toll in Italy rose by 602 on Monday, the smallest increase for four days, and the number of new cases also slowed.
** Several more U.S. governors joined the procession of states ordering people to stay at home, and President Donald Trump signaled he’s considering a move in the opposite direction.
** The U.S. government said all court hearings for asylum-seeking migrants in Mexico will be rescheduled because of the outbreak.
** The Canadian province of Ontario announced a two-week shutdown of non-essential businesses and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told people to stay at home or face sanctions.
** Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday he would focus his response to the outbreak on helping the poor rather than major companies.
** Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was forced to walk back a decree letting companies suspend pay to workers, following barbs from congressional leaders and rising discontent over his handling of the crisis.
** Scientists in Singapore say they have developed a way to track genetic changes that speeds testing of coronavirus vaccines.
** China’s Hubei province will lift curbs on outgoing travelers, and other regions are tightening controls as new infections doubled on Monday because of imported cases.
** Police enforced lockdowns across large parts of India on Tuesday, with curfews in some places, and officials warned that the virus was spreading out of big cities into small towns.
** Australia reported a jump in cases on Tuesday that was almost entirely due to passengers who disembarked from a cruise ship in Sydney several days ago.
** New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, urged citizens to reduce contacts to a bare minimum, as the country prepared for a one-month lockdown.
** Macau will ban visitors from mainland China, neighboring Hong Kong and Taiwan who have traveled overseas in the previous 14 days.
** Kyrgyzstan declared a state of emergency in its three biggest cities, locking them down and imposing a curfew.
** Laos recorded its first two coronavirus cases.
** Malaysia, where the number of cases has jumped sixfold in 10 days, is ramping up testing.
** About half of Iran’s government employees were staying at home on Tuesday as the country’s death toll exceeded 1,900.
** Turkey imposed restrictions on grocery store opening hours and numbers of shop customers and bus passengers on Tuesday, as its death toll rose to 37.
** Ivory Coast and Senegal declared states of emergency on Monday, imposing curfews and travel restrictions, and Jordan extended a curfew indefinitely.
** Nigeria closed its land borders on Monday after recording its first death.
** South Africa will impose a nationwide lockdown for 21 days from midnight on Thursday.
** Global equities rebounded almost 2% on Tuesday, off near four-year lows, and the dollar slipped as investors pinned hopes on unprecedented stimulus steps by the U.S Federal Reserve and other policymakers to ease strains in financial markets. [MKTS/GLOB]
** Evidence of the devastation to the global economy mounted on Tuesday as activity surveys for March from Australia and Japan showed record falls, with surveys in Europe and the United States expected to be just as dire.
** The pandemic is taking its toll on aerospace manufacturing, with Boeing saying it would halt production of most wide body jets and Airbus restarting only partial output after a four-day shutdown as suppliers cut jobs.
** The U.S. Senate could pass a $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package as soon as Tuesday, negotiators said.
** South Korea doubled a planned economic rescue package to 100 trillion won ($80 billion) on Tuesday to save companies and put a floor under crashing stocks and bond markets.
** Ecuador will use a 30-day grace period on some bonds to delay making around $200 million in interest payments, and will devote those funds to containing the outbreak.
** A final decision on whether to postpone the Tokyo Olympics will be taken in the coming days, two sources in the Olympic movement told Reuters.
** Australia’s A-league soccer season was suspended on Tuesday.
** Formula One expects to run a shortened season once racing can resume.
(Compiled by Aditya Soni, Milla Nissi and Ramakrishnan M.; editing by Ed Osmond, Sriraj Kalluvila and Timothy Heritage)

3/24/2020 U.S. could be next ‘virus epicenter’ as India locks down, global recession looms by Emma Farge and Sanjeev Miglani
FILE PHOTO: A lone person walks in the rain in a mostly deserted Times Square following the outbreak of Coronavirus
disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
    GENEVA/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The United States could become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, as India announced a full 24-hour, nationwide lockdown in the world’s second-most populous country.
    India joined the ranks of Britain and other countries clamping down to hold back the virus as business activity collapsed from Japan to the United States at a record pace in March.
    The highly contagious coronavirus has caused entire regions to be placed on lockdown.    In some places soldiers are patrolling the streets to keep consumers and workers indoors, halting services and production and breaking supply chains.
    “The global health crisis is rapidly morphing into a global recession, as there is a clear tension between preventing infections and ruining the economy,” said Edoardo Campanella, an economist at UniCredit Bank in Milan.
    But Wall Street bounced from three-year lows as investors pin their hopes on the U.S. Senate passing a $2 trillion stimulus bill.
    Confirmed coronavirus cases around the world exceeded 377,000 across 194 countries and territories as of early Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, more than 16,500 of them fatal.
    In Geneva, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said infections in the United States had greatly increased.
    Over the previous 24 hours, 85 percent of new cases were in Europe and the United States, and of those, 40 percent were in the United States.
    As of Monday, the virus had infected more than 42,000 people there, killing at least 559.
    Asked whether the United States could become the new epicenter, Harris said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential.”
    Some U.S. state and local officials have decried a lack of coordinated federal action, saying that having localities act on their own has put them in competition for supplies.
    President Donald Trump acknowledged the difficulty.
    “The World market for face masks and ventilators is Crazy.    We are helping the states to get equipment, but it is not easy,” he tweeted.
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday the government would impose a nationwide lockdown from midnight for 21 days.
    Health researchers have warned that more than a million people in India could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May, prompting the government to shut down all air and train travel, businesses and schools.
    On Tuesday, Modi, leader of the world’s biggest democracy, went further, saying nobody would be allowed to leave their homes.
    “The only way to save ourselves from coronavirus is if we don’t leave our homes, whatever happens, we stay at home,” Modi said.
    India has so far reported 482 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and nine deaths.
    Olympic Games organizers and the Japanese government had clung to the hope that the world’s biggest sporting event could go ahead, but finally bowed to the inevitable to make Tokyo 2020 the latest and biggest victim of a ravaged sporting calendar.
    After a call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the July 24-Aug. 9 event would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest – as proof of victory over the coronavirus.
    “President Bach said he is in agreement, 100%.”
    It was the first time in the Olympics’ 124-year history that they had been postponed, though they were canceled outright three times during the two 20th-century world wars.
    Of the top 10 countries by case numbers, Italy has reported the highest fatality rate, at around 10%, which at least partly reflects its older population.    The fatality rate globally – the ratio of deaths to confirmed infections – is around 4.3%, though national figures can vary widely according to how much testing is done.
    Britain, believed by experts to be about two weeks behind Italy in the outbreak cycle, on Tuesday began curbs on movement without precedent in peacetime after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the country to stay at home.
    The streets of the capital were quiet as all but essential shops closed and people only went to work if it was unavoidable.
    Johnson had resisted pressure to impose a full lockdown even as other European countries had done so, but was forced to change tack as projections showed the health system could become overwhelmed.
    Meanwhile China’s Hubei province, the original center of the outbreak, will lift curbs on people leaving the area, but other regions will tighten controls as new cases double due to imported infections.
    The provincial capital Wuhan, which has been in total lockdown since Jan. 23, will lift its travel restrictions on April 8.
    However, the risk from overseas infections appears to be on the rise, prompting tougher screening and quarantine measures in cities such as the capital Beijing.
(Additional reporting by Emma Farge, Stephanie Nebehay, Karolos Grohmann, Leika Kihara, Sakura Murakami, Lusha Zhang, Huizhong Wu, Sanjeev Miglani and Nupur Anand; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Jon Boyle and Angus MacSwan)

3/25/2020 Oldest animal ancestor was a worm by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Scientists have discovered a fossil of our earliest ancestor: a tiny, wormlike creature that lived about 555 million years ago, according to a new study.
    “It’s the earliest ‘bilaterian’ .... which is an organism with a front and back, two symmetrical sides and openings at either end connected by a gut,” scientists from the University of California– Riverside said in a statement.
    “It’s the oldest fossil we get with this type of complexity,” UCR geologist and study co-author Mary Droser said.    The tiny fossil, about as big as a grain of rice, was discovered in Australia.
    Evidence for these early fossils is rare, scientists say.    Most studies rely on trace fossils, or the tracks they left behind, rather than preservation of the small, soft-bodied organisms themselves.
    With the help of high-tech 3D laser scanning, scientists were able to locate fossils of the distinct tubelike organisms in a former seabed in presentday South Australia.
    “Bilateral symmetry,” as its known, was a critical step in the evolution of animal life, UCR reported.    It gave organisms the ability to move purposefully as well as a common, yet successful way to organize their bodies.
    “A multitude of animals, from worms to insects to dinosaurs to humans, are organized around this same basic body plan,” according to the UCR statement.
    The tiny animal likely spent its life burrowing through layers of sand on the ocean floor, looking for any organic matter on which to feed, the BBC said.
    The creature was given the Latin name Ikaria wariootia, after Ikara, an indigenous Australian word for “meeting place,” and Warioota, the name of a local creek.
    Droser said the discovery is “what evolutionary biologists predicted.    It’s really exciting that what we have found lines up so neatly with their prediction.”
    The study was published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
An artist's rendering of Ikaria wariootia, likely the oldest animal ancestor yet discovered. SOHAIL WASIF/UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA - RIVERSIDE

3/25/2020 U.S. cybersecurity experts see recent spike in Chinese digital espionage by Christopher Bing and Raphael Satter
FILE PHOTO: A hooded man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in
this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration
    (Reuters) – A U.S. cybersecurity firm said Wednesday it has detected a surge in new cyberspying by a suspected Chinese group dating back to late January, when coronavirus was starting to spread outside China.
    FireEye Inc. said in a report it had spotted a spike in activity from a hacking group it dubs “APT41” that began on Jan. 20 and targeted more than 75 of its customers, from manufacturers and media companies to healthcare organizations and nonprofits.
    There were “multiple possible explanations” for the spike in activity, said FireEye Security Architect Christopher Glyer, pointing to long-simmering tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and more recent clashes over the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 17,000 people since late last year.
    The report said it was “one of the broadest campaigns by a Chinese cyber espionage actor we have observed in recent years.”
    FireEye declined to identify the affected customers.    The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not directly address FireEye’s allegations but said in a statement that China was “a victim of cybercrime and cyberattack.”    The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined comment.
    FireEye said in its report that APT41 abused recently disclosed flaws in software developed by Cisco , Citrix and others to try to break into scores of companies’ networks in the United States, Canada, Britain, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and more than a dozen other countries.
    Cisco said in an email it had fixed the vulnerability and it was aware of attempts to exploit it, a sentiment echoed by Citrix, which said it had worked with FireEye to help identify “potential compromises.”
    Others have also spotted a recent uptick in cyber-espionage activity linked to Beijing.
    Matt Webster, a researcher with Secureworks – Dell Technologies’ cybersecurity arm – said in an email that his team had also seen evidence of increased activity from Chinese hacking groups “over the last few weeks.”
    In particular, he said his team had recently spotted new digital infrastructure associated with APT41 – which Secureworks dubs “Bronze Atlas.”
    Tying hacking campaigns to any specific country or entity is often fraught with uncertainty, but FireEye said it had assessed “with moderate confidence” that APT41 was composed of Chinese government contractors.
    FireEye’s head of analysis, John Hultquist, said the surge was surprising because hacking activity attributed to China has generally become more focused.
    “This broad action is a departure from that norm,” he said.
(Reporting by Raphael Satter and Christopher Bing; additional reporting by the Beijing newsroom; Editing by Richard Pullin and Paul Simao)

3/26/2020 Worldwide virus deaths near 20,000 by Colleen Long, Aritz Parra and David Rising, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    India’s 1.3 billion people, about onesixth of the Earth’s population, found themselves under lockdown amid the global coronavirus spread Wednesday.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that could enable him to extend his hold on power.
    And in Spain, the death toll eclipsed that of China, where the outbreak began.    Spain is now second only to Italy in the number of dead, with over 3,400.
    “If we are not already at the peak, we are very close,” said Fernando Simón, head of Spain’s health emergency coordination center.    “I cannot say that we have reached it.”
    Even once the numbers crest, it would be “counterproductive” to think about relaxing restrictions anytime soon, he said.
    More than 435,000 people worldwide were infected, and the number of dead closed in on 20,000, according to the running count kept by Johns Hopkins University. More than 100,000 have recovered.
    In the U.S., infections were climbing rapidly and had passed the 60,000 mark, with deaths topping 800.    Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced a massive, $2 trillion economic agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight after days of haggling.
    Relief that U.S. politicians have reached a deal on economic support pushed world stock markets up Wednesday.    Indexes in Europe and Asia rose a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its best day since 1933.
    With Americans’ lives and livelihoods hanging in the balance, Trump said he “would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” on April12.    But that statement sharply contradicted health officials’ calls for tighter restrictions on people’s movements.    Scientists and other politicians in the U.S. have warned that the worst is yet to come.
    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state’s infections are doubling every three days, threatening to swamp the city’s intensive care units.    The state had 26,000 infections and more than 200 deaths as of Wednesday.
    “One of the forecasters said to me: ‘We were looking at a freight train coming across the country,’” Cuomo said.    “We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
    In Spain, deaths shot up by more than 700 in a day.    The country said it is buying $467 million of medical supplies from China, including 500 million masks, 5.5 million fast test kits and 950 ventilators.
    Spanish media reported that 23 residents of a Madrid retirement home died from COVID-19 or symptoms related to the virus.    The home’s management said it had been pleading for more staff and supplies, including virus tests, after 55 of its workers had been forced to take medical leave.
    India reported only about 450 cases because of limited testing, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned that if he didn’t act now, the virus could set the world’s largest democracy back decades.
    India is home to the second-largest number of people living in extreme poverty.
The Illinois National Guard operates a COVID-19 drive-thru test site for
medical personnel and first responders Wednesday in Chicago. REX ARBOGAST/AP

3/26/2020 World food security at risk as exporters curb sales, importers buy more by Naveen Thukral
FILE PHOTO: A woman, wearing a protective mask, holds a pack of buckwheat from a new delivery, next to empty shelves in a section
for cereals and groats, in a supermarket in Moscow, Russia March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Tatiana Gomozova - RC23NF986J7D/File Photo
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Global food security concerns are mounting with around a fifth of the world’s population already under lockdown to fight the widening coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 470,000 people across 200 countries, killing 21,000.
    Panic buying of household staples like toilet paper and cleaning products have occurred in nearly every country hit by the virus, and empty shelves in supermarkets have been common.
    Compounding the anxiety stemming from erratic consumer buying has been concern that some governments may move to restrict the flow of food staples to ensure their own populations have enough while supply chains get disrupted by the pandemic.
    “People are starting to get worried,” said Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank.
    “If major exporters start keeping grains at home, it will have the buyers really worried.    It is panicking and not rational, as fundamentally the world is well supplied with food.”
    Vietnam, the third largest rice exporter, and Kazakhstan, the number nine wheat exporter, have already made moves to restrict sales of those staples amid concerns over domestic availability.
    India, the top global rice exporter, has just entered a three-week lockdown that has brought several logistics channels to a halt.
    Elsewhere, Russia’s vegetable oil union has called for a restriction in sunflower seed exports, and palm oil output has slowed in the number two producer Malaysia.
    On the importer side, Iraq announced it needs 1 million tonnes of wheat and 250,000 tonnes of rice after a “crisis committee” advised building up strategic food stocks.
    Together, these moves have raised concerns among agriculture traders about unnecessary food supply distortions.
    Combined global production of rice and wheat – the most widely-traded food crops – is projected to be a record 1.26 billion tonnes this year, according United States Department of Agriculture data.
    That output tonnage should easily surpass total combined consumption of those crops, and should lead to a build in year-end inventories to a record 469.4 million tonnes, USDA data shows.
    However, those projections assume normal crop flows from where they’re produced to where they’re consumed, as well as the usual availability of substitutes.
    Prices for rice are already rising due to expectations of a further squeeze on exports.
    “It is a logistics issue.    Vietnam has stopped exports, India is in a lockdown and Thailand could declare similar measures,” said a senior Singapore-based trader at one of world’s top rice traders.
    Benchmark rice prices in Thailand have climbed to the highest since August 2013 at $492.5 a ton.
    The market had topped $1,000 a ton during the food crisis of 2008, when export restrictions and panic buying buoyed prices.
    “We are unlikely to see a repeat of 2008,” the Singapore rice trader said.    “One thing is that the world has enough supplies, especially in India where inventories are very large.”
    Global rice stocks are estimated to surpass 180 million tonnes for the first time this year, up 28% since the 2015-16 season.
    But those inventories are not distributed evenly, with over 153 million tonnes in China and India alone.
    That means big rice buyers such as the Philippines, the top importer, and others in Asia and Africa could be vulnerable if crop movements are curtailed for long.
    “Our rice inventory is good for 65 days.    We have enough rice for the next two months,” said the Philippines Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
    With additional supply coming from the dry season harvest, Dar told reporters the Philippines has enough rice for the next four months.
    Most wheat buyers in Asia, led by the world’s second largest importer Indonesia, are covered for supplies until June, traders said.
    “As of now we have not seen any wheat importer rushing to cover supplies more than the usual needs,” said one trader in Singapore at an international trading company which sells Black Sea and U.S. wheat in Asia.
    Chicago wheat futures have climbed almost 10% this month.
(Reporting by Naveen Thukral Additional reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila; Editicing by Gavin Maguire & Simon Cameron-Moore)

3/27/2020 Summer in March: Record heat scorching South this week by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Folks in the southern U.S. are getting a summer preview this week as temperatures soar to levels more typical of June than March.
    “Temperatures from the southern Plains to the Southeast will average 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal with highs well into the 80s,” Accu-Weather meteorologist Tyler Roys said.    Highs in the 90s will even be reached in some spots.
    The National Weather Service said that “dozens of record high temperatures are possible across the southern U.S. this week, especially Thursday through Saturday.”
    New Orleans, which already broke daily high temperature records on Monday (88 degrees) and Tuesday (86 degrees), is forecast to erase temperature records every day through Saturday, AccuWeather said.
    A few locations also could approach all-time record highs for the entire month of March, the Weather Channel said.    That includes Jacksonville, Florida, and Montgomery, Alabama, where current March records are 91 degrees and 90 degrees, respectively.
    High humidity will add to the summerlike feel and make it more difficult for the body to cool off.
    The heat is courtesy of a dome of high pressure centered over the Gulf of Mexico that’s expected to bulge northward into the South over the next few days.    “When that happens, there is sinking air in the atmosphere that causes temperatures to heat up,” Weather Channel meteorologist Chris Dolce said.
    It already has been a warm start to the month in the South.    Several cities, including New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, and Atlanta are on pace to see one of their top 10 warmest Marches on record, the Southeast Regional Climate Center said.

3/27/2020 WHO announces COVID-19 drug trial in Spain & Norway by OAN Newsroom
Pharmacist Michael Witte opens a package taken from a freezer that contains the potential vaccine for COVID-19,
the disease caused by the new coronavirus, on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the vaccine,
Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
    The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a new drug trial aimed at combating the coronavirus outbreak.    According to the organization’s director general, the “historic” trial has enrolled its first patients in Spain and Norway.
    The trial will test four drugs to fight COVID-19, including the malaria medication chloroquine and a combination of HIV drugs.
    “Today, we are delighted to announce that in Norway and Spain, the first patients will shortly be enrolled in the Solidarity Trial, which will compare the safety and effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations against COVID-19,” stated Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
    The director general noted more than 100,000 people around the world have recovered from the virus.    He added that no country can fight alone.
    “We can only fight together, ignite the industrial might and innovation of the G20, to produce and distribute the tools needed to save lives,” said Ghebreyesus.
    He also called the “global shortage of personal protective equipment” one of the most urgent threats to the ability to save lives.
    The WHO has already shipped around 2 million pieces of gear to 74 countries.    60 more countries are expected to receive shipments in the near future.

A Red Cross volunteer looks at beds set up for homeless people in the gymnasium of Uranienborg school, which
is closed due to the corona eruption, in Oslo, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Heiko Junge/NTB Scanpix via AP)
    Meanwhile, New York has begun testing three anti-malarial drugs in hopes of finding a treatment.    According to new reports, the state is moving at lightning speed to test these drugs.
    Health officials have said the trials would normally be conducted for at least six months.    However, this study will take just three or four days.
    One group of patients being tested will be give a combination of two drugs that were proven successful by a controversial study in France.    President Trump recently touted the malaria drug, saying it showed early and encouraging results.

3/27/2020 Coronavirus cases top half a million, protective gear lacking: WHO by Stephanie Nebehay and Kate Kelland
FILE PHOTO: Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on
the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) – Coronavirus has infected more than half a million people and killed more than 20,000 globally, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, as he appealed again for protective gear for medical staff working to save lives.
    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, urged countries to refrain from using medicines that have not been demonstrated to be effective against COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
    “The chronic global shortage of personal protective gear is now one of most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives,” Tedros told a Geneva news conference.
    “Health workers in low- and middle-income countries deserve the same protection as those in the wealthiest countries,” he said, adding that the U.N. agency was shipping more supplies.
    Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, said the world was “moving to an uncertain future.”
    “You see many countries around the world are just beginning the cycle of this epidemic.    Some have been through the cycle of the epidemic like Singapore and China and are now desperately trying not to have the disease re-emerge and cause another wave of infections because of disease importations,” he said.
    Elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions have been the hardest hit, but 10 to 15% of people under the age of 50 have moderate to severe infection, Ryan said.
    Asked about reports of infections in young adults, Ryan said: “For most people it is a very mild infection, most young people.    But for a significant minority of people between the age of 20 and 60 this is a significant infection.”
    “What is really emerging is a perception that this disease, while not fatal and not causing critical disease in a younger age group, is causing severe illness in many people,” Ryan said.
    Every infection of COVID-19 presents an opportunity for onward spread, said Dr. Maria van Kerkhove.
    “So even in younger populations, if you do have a mild disease and you think it’s no big deal, what the big deal is is that you may transmit to somebody else who may be part of that vulnerable population who may advance to severe disease and who may die,” she said.
    The data showed that “the majority of children that are infected are experiencing mild disease,” ver Kerkhove said.     “But we do have reports, and there are some publications now that describe severe disease in children.    We have reports of deaths in children.    There is one in China, and I believe one in the United States as well,” she said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Kate Kelland in London; writing by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Gareth Jones)

3/27/2020 Quake rattles West Texas -USGS: No injury reports in 5.0 magnitude shock by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    A 5.0 magnitude earthquake rattled West Texas on Thursday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
    The quake epicenter was about 27 miles west of Mentone, Texas, and was located 3 miles below the surface.    It hit at 10:16 a.m CDT.
    Residents of El Paso, about 175 miles west of the reported epicenter, felt the quake, which was originally rated at 4.7 magnitude.
    The El Paso region isn’t accustomed to being rattled by earthquakes, and incredulous residents wondered aloud on social media about what they had just felt.
    “Did we just have a small scale #earthquake in #ElPaso?    Who else felt it?” said El Pasoan Gera Alvarez, a former University of Texas at El Paso goalkeeper soccer coach.
    Clint, Texas, resident Guillermina Estrada said she felt her bed sway.    “It felt like the vibration of a train when it passes, but bigger,” she said.
    An emergency alert sent by USGS said there were no reports of damage or injuries in the El Paso region.
    At least five smaller earthquakes had been registered near Mentone, Texas, over the past four days.
    The U.S. Geological Survey said “earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the West, are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of similar magnitude in the West.”
Contributing: Lauren Villagran, El Paso Times.

3/29/2020 Scientists stalk eight strains of coronavirus - Research provides hope that killer can be halted by Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
    SAN FRANCISCO – At least eight strains of the coronavirus are making their way around the globe, creating a trail of death and disease that scientists are tracking by genetic footprints.
    While much is unknown, hidden in the unique microscopic fragments of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the illness COVID-19, are clues to the origins of its original strain, how it behaves as it mutates and which strains are turning into conflagrations while others die out because of quarantine measures.
    Labs around the world are turning their sequencing machines, most about the size of a desktop printer, to the task of rapidly sequencing the genomes of virus samples taken from people sick with COVID-19.    The information is uploaded to a website that shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into new but similar subtypes.
    While researchers caution they’re seeing only the tip of the iceberg, the tiny differences between the virus strains suggest shelter-in-place orders are working in some areas and that no one strain of the virus is more deadly than another.    They also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as they evolve.
    “The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other,” said Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
    SARS-CoV-2 first began causing illness in China sometime between mid-November and mid-December.    Its genome is made up of about 30,000 base pairs.    Humans have more than 3 billion.    So far scientists have found only 11 base pair changes even in the virus’s most divergent strains.    That makes it easy to spot new lineages as they evolve, Chiu said.
    “The outbreaks are trackable,” he said.    “We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real time to see what strains or lineages are circulating.”
    In the U.S., most cases on the West Coast are linked to a strain first identified in Washington state.    It may have come from a man who had been in Wu- han, China, the virus’s epicenter, and returned home Jan. 15.    It is only three mutations away from the original Wuhan strain, according to work done early in the outbreak by Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, a medical research center in Seattle.
    On the East Coast, there are several strains, including the one from Washington and others that appear to have made their way from China to Europe and then to New York and beyond, Chiu said.
    Chiu’s analysis shows California’s strict shelter in place efforts appear to be working.    Over half of the 50 SARSCoV- 2 virus genomes his San Francisco- based lab sequenced in the past two weeks are associated with travel from outside the state.
Labs around the nation are analyzing the genetic mutations of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. GETTY IMAGES

3/29/2020 Coronavirus lockdowns give Europe’s cities cleaner air by Kate Abnett
A general view shows the South Tower during the lockdown imposed by the Belgian government to slow down the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Air pollution has decreased in urban areas across Europe during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus, new satellite images showed on Monday, but campaigners warned city-dwellers were still more vulnerable to the epidemic.
    Cities including Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Frankfurt showed a reduction in average levels of noxious nitrogen dioxide over March 5-25, compared with the same period last year, according to the Sentinel-5 satellite images.
    That coincides with lockdowns in many European countries which have curbed road transport – the largest source of nitrogen oxides – and slowed output at gas-emitting factories.
    The new images, released by the European Space Agency (ESA) and analyzed by the non-profit European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), show the changing density of nitrogen dioxide, which can cause respiratory problems and cancer, like heat maps.
    Daily weather events can influence atmospheric pollution, so the satellite pictures took a 20-day average and excluded readings where cloud cover reduced the quality of the data.
    Data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) showed a similar trend over March 16-22.    In Madrid, average nitrogen dioxide levels decreased by 56% week-on-week after the Spanish government banned non-essential travel on March 14.
    The EPHA said people living in polluted cities may be more at risk from COVID-19, because prolonged exposure to bad air can weaken the immune system, making it harder to fight infection.
    “That connection is very likely,” Zoltan Massay-Kosubek, policy manager for clean air at EPHA, told Reuters.    “But because the disease is new, it still has to be demonstrated.”
    Air pollution can cause or exacerbate lung cancer, pulmonary disease and strokes.
    China also recorded a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution in cities during February, when the government imposed draconian lockdown measures to contain the raging epidemic.
    In some regions of Poland, however, nitrogen dioxide levels remained relatively high during the period despite its lockdown, perhaps due to the prevalence of coal-based heating.
    Countries that went into lockdown later – such as Britain, which did so on March 23 – look set for a pollution reprieve in coming weeks, EPHA said.
    Air pollution causes around 400,000 premature deaths each year in Europe, EEA data show.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels; Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko in Warsaw; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

3/30/2020 Experimental drug set for wider usage by Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
    SAN FRANCISCO – An experimental and unproven coronavirus treatment so popular that new requests to use it were halted because of “overwhelming” demand is again available to doctors under an expanded access program.
    President Donald Trump called Remdesivirpromising,” though there is no data to show if it is safe and effective at treating COVID-19.    It was originally created as a potential treatment for the Ebola and Marburg viruses.
    On Saturday, Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day announced in an open letter that his company was again making Remdesivir available outside of the six ongoing clinical trials investigating if it is effective as a treatment for COVID-19 Distribution of the drug will be under a government-approved “expanded accessa” program.
    No data from those trials is yet available that would tell doctors if the drug helps COVID-19 patients.
    O’Day said Gilead, based in Foster City, California, hoped to have at least initial data on whether it works “in the coming weeks.”

3/30/2020 Neanderthals didn’t just hunt mammoths - Researchers say they also knew how to fish by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
    Neanderthals weren’t the clubwielding brutes of popular legend, hunting and eating only woolly mammoths in frozen northern climates.    A new study, for the first time, suggests they were skilled fishermen and that seafood was a key ingredient in their diets.
    In fact, more than 80,000 years ago, Neanderthals were feeding themselves regularly on fish and other marine life.    The first evidence of this has been found in a coastal cave in Portugal.
    Filled with fish bones and crustacean shells that researchers know were left behind by Neanderthals, the cave “provides the first record of significant marine resource consumption among Europe’s Neanderthals,” according to the study.
    The new study reveals fishing and shellfish gathering contributed significantly to the subsistence economy of the Neanderthals.    Up until now, the use of the sea as a source of food at that time had only been attributed to modern humans (Homo sapiens) in Africa.
    In addition to land-based foods, the study suggests that the Neanderthal diet also included mussels, crustaceans and fish as well as waterfowl and marine mammals such as dolphins and seals.    Food from the sea is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other fatty acids that promote the development of brain tissue.
    “If this common consumption of marine resources played an important role in the development of cognitive skills, it did so on the entire humanity, including Neanderthals, and not only the African population that spread later,” said study lead author João Zilhão, a researcher at the University of Barcelona.
    The increased cognitive ability also boosted Neanderthal’s ability for abstract thought, scientists believe.
    “Among other influences, this could also explain the early appearance of a culture of modern people that used symbolic artifacts, such as body painting with ochre, the use of ornaments or the decoration of containers made of ostrich eggs with geometric motifs,” explained study co-author Dirk Hoffmann of the University of Gottingen in Germany.
    “Such behavior reflects human’s capacity for abstract thought and communication through symbols, which also contributed to the emergence of more organized and complex societies of modern humans.”
    The findings jibe with recent evidence that Neanderthals had “surfers’ ear” and may also have dived to collect shells for use as tools, according to the Guardian.    Previous finds in Spain have shown they decorated seashells and were producing rock art 65,000 years ago.
    “Forget about this Hollywood-like image of the Neanderthal as this half naked primitive that roamed the steppe tundra of northern Europe hunting for mammoths and other megafauna with poor and inefficient weapons,” Zilhão told the Guardian.    “The real Neanderthal is the Neanderthal who is in southern Europe.”
    The study was published in the peer reviewed journal Science.
A bust of a Neanderthal man at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. JOHN GURCHE
[This just promotes my work that the Elohim created male and female in Genesis 1:27 and Jehovah the Lord GOD created Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:7 and breathed the soul in us, which is what we are today.].

3/31/2020 Forest fire kills 19 in China’s Sichuan province: state media
Firefighters work on extinguishing a forest fire in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province, China April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer
    BEIJING (Reuters) – A forest fire that is threatening an LPG storage site and two petrol stations has killed 19 people, including 18 firefighters, in southwest China’s Sichuan province, state news agency Xinhua and city officials reported on Tuesday.
    The fire started on Monday at a farm and spread to nearby mountains because of strong winds, burning 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) as of midnight that night, the report said. Xinhua did not say how the fire was started.
    The fire now directly threatens major facilities in downtown Xichang, including a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage station, two gasoline stations, four schools and the city’s largest department store, Xichang’s city government said on its social media account.
    Around 690,000 people live in the city, which is about 340 km (210 miles) southwest of provincial capital Chengdu.
    Images and video released by Chinese state media showed smoke and flames creeping towards Xichang, with fire trucks lined up on a street dowsing trees to prevent the fire from advancing and burning nearby buildings.
    More than 1,200 local residents have been evacuated due to the fire and more than 2,000 firefighters have been dispatched to put out the fire, Xinhua said.
(Reporting by Se Young Lee and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Tom Hogue)
[Boy they sure reported that fire fast but not the start of worldwide pandemic.].

3/31/2020 4.2 earthquake hits southern Puerto Rico amid virus curfew
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A magnitude 4.2 earthquake hit Puerto Rico at a shallow depth and was felt across the U.S. territory on Monday.    The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake occurred at a depth of about 3 miles near the southwest coastal town of Guanica.    No damage was reported.    The quake hit during a monthlong curfew meant to curb the new coronavirus, and it came nearly three months after a series of strong quakes near southwest Puerto Rico killed one person and damaged hundreds of homes.

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