Archive for March, 2020

Cat-astrophe in the making? ANOTHER feline tests positive for coronavirus, this time in Hong Kong

Posted by RT on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Cat-astrophe in the making? ANOTHER feline tests positive for coronavirus, this time in Hong Kong

A pet cat has tested positive for the dreaded Covid-19 coronavirus in Hong Kong, after apparently contracting the disease from its owner. Last week, another feline turned out to have the virus in Belgium.

The Hong Kong cat patient was sent to a special animal quarantine facility on Monday, after its owner, a 25-year-old woman, was confirmed to have contracted the disease. Samples collected from the feline’s oral, nasal and rectal cavities tested positive for the virus, but it did not show any symptoms.

“The cat has not shown any signs of disease,” a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said Tuesday.

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FILE PHOTO © Sputnik / Natalia Seliverstova
Cat contracts coronavirus FROM sick owner in new case of human-to-animal transition

As of Tuesday, 27 dogs and 15 cats had been held in the quarantine facility. Four of them have already returned home. Earlier this month, two dogs tested positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong – a Pomeranian and a German Shepard. The Pomeranian died two days after being released from quarantine, yet its demise was linked to its progressive age, rather than to the virus – the dog was 17-years-old.

The other dog remains quarantined despite repeatedly testing negative, according to local media reports.

Last Thursday, a cat tested positive for coronavirus in Belgium, after contracting the disease from its owner. Unlike in Hong Kong, the feline did exhibit symptoms of the disease, namely vomiting, diarrhea, and having troubles breathing.

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Illustration: © Markus Spiske from Pexels
Global Covid-19 death toll hits 40,000 as countries continue to struggle with outbreak

While the news is surely alarming for pet owners, the number of confirmed human-to-animal transmissions is dwarfed by Covid-19’s toll on humans. Earlier in the day, the global coronavirus tally skyrocketed past 800,000, while the death toll reached well over 41,000.

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Russian Covid-19 plane aid to US: Putin asked Trump if he needed help & he accepted, Kremlin spokesman says

Posted by RT on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Russian Covid-19 plane aid to US: Putin asked Trump if he needed help & he accepted, Kremlin spokesman says

A cargo plane loaded with medical supplies and protection equipment may depart for the US by the end of the day Tuesday, the Kremlin said after a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The issue of protective gear was raised during the Monday phone talks, with Putin asking if the US needed help and Trump accepting, Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.

Moscow suggested the aid in anticipation that the US will be able to return the favor if necessary, once its manufacturers of medical and protective equipment catch up with the demand, Peskov said.

The current situation “affects everyone without exception and is of a global nature,” he added.

There is no alternative to acting together in the spirit of partnership and mutual assistance.

On Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House press briefing that “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.”

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(L) US President Donald Trump; (R) Russian servicemen load medical equipment and disinfection vehicles into cargo planes bound for Italy.
‘Happily surprised’? Trump says Russia sent US ‘very, very large’ aid package to combat Covid-19

The comment left everyone scratching their heads, as no one in the US seemed to know anything about the plane in question. It appears the US president was referring to the aid arranged on the phone call as something that’s already happened.

According to Peskov, “some of the American side at least did not contribute to the prompt resolution of technical issues in pursuit of the agreements of the two presidents,” suggesting that the aid might have been dispatched sooner without US bureaucratic obstacles.

Official data show the US has been hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 175,000 confirmed cases and 3,416 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon – overtaking China, where the contagion originated in December, Italy still has the highest death toll in the world, at 12,428.

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France records worst day of Covid-19 deaths as health official laments ‘totally unprecedented’ situation

Posted by RT on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on France records worst day of Covid-19 deaths as health official laments ‘totally unprecedented’ situation

Health officials in France have confirmed the worst one-day fatalities from Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak there, with 499 deaths in a single day. The figure brings the country’s overall toll from the virus to 3,523.

The new tally marks a third consecutive day of increased coronavirus deaths in France.

Delivering the figures in a press briefing on Tuesday, Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon described the situation as "totally unprecedented in the history of French medicine." 

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French President Emmanuel Macron visits the Kolmi-Hopen protective face masks factory, in Saint-Barthelemy-d'Anjou near Angers, France, March 31, 2020. © Reuters / Loic Venance / Pool
France will produce 15mn face masks per week by end-April – Macron

The number of total confirmed cases rose by some 17 percent to 52,128, with over 22,700 people currently hospitalized with the illness. The death toll is expected to rise even higher once the data starts taking into account deaths in retirement homes, as well as in hospitals.

The news comes soon after global coronavirus deaths rose above 40,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US and the AFP news agency. Worldwide, more than 820,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 since the outbreak was first recorded late last year in China.

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Illustration: © Markus Spiske from Pexels
Global Covid-19 death toll hits 40,000 as countries continue to struggle with outbreak

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Middle aged also facing greater risk from deadly Covid-19 pandemic — study

Posted by RT on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Middle aged also facing greater risk from deadly Covid-19 pandemic — study

While elderly people face the greatest risk from the coronavirus, patients in their 50s may be also highly affected, according to a newly released study. It comes as global cases of Covid-19 cracked the 800,000 mark.

The research conducted by the British specialists is a comprehensive investigation into deaths and hospitalizations reported to national and provincial health commissions in China.

Among others, scientists estimated "the time between onset of symptoms and outcome (death or discharge from hospital)" using the individual-case data.

Funded by the UK Medical Research Council, and published in the Lancet, the probe said that over 8% of people that were in their 50s needed hospital treatment.

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South Korean soldiers in protective gear in Daegu, South Korea. March 15, 2020. © Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon
Covid-19 pandemic in Asia 'far from over,' countries should brace for 'large-scale community transmission,' WHO warns

That said, it also showed that patients over 80 remain the highest risk category with some 18% needing hospital treatment after contracting the disease.

At the other end of the spectrum 10-19-year-olds were the least at risk category with only 0.04% being hospitalized.

Co-author of the study, Professor Azra Ghani said that the estimates can be basically applied “to any country” for decisions as to how tackle Covid-19.

“There might be outlying cases that get a lot of media attention, but our analysis very clearly shows that at aged 50 and over, hospitalization is much more likely than in those under 50, and a greater proportion of cases are likely to be fatal.”

The study’s findings are based on an analysis of 70,117 laboratory-confirmed and clinically-diagnosed cases in mainland China (as of February, 8) as well as 689 positive cases of people evacuated from Wuhan, the outbreak epicenter, on repatriation flights (as of February, 25) .

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Illustration: © Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
World reaches another grim Covid-19 milestone as global cases surpass 800,000

The latest available figures from the WHO showed that the virus had killed 33,673 people out of 719,700 cases worldwide.

However, according to the Johns Hopkins University, the numbers are even more grim as it counts over 800,000 people affected by the deadly Covid-19.

This puts the mortality rate of all confirmed coronavirus cases at around 4%, but experts stressed that due to the absence of widespread testing, it is impossible to know how many people may have been infected and recovered.

Meanwhile, cases of younger generation increasingly affected by the coronavirus are keep popping up. Belgium has reported Tuesday that a 12-year old girl died from the deadly disease, while Moscow authorities sounded the alarm over the ratio of serious Covid-19 cases among younger people as well. They reported that 40 percent of the patients undergoing artificial lung ventilation are under the age of 40.

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Global Covid-19 death toll hits 40,000 as countries continue to struggle with outbreak

Posted by RT on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Global Covid-19 death toll hits 40,000 as countries continue to struggle with outbreak

The latest coronavirus figures compiled separately by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and the AFP news agency each show that the global death toll from Covid-19 has reached 40,000.

An increasing death toll across both Western Europe and in the US was a major contributor to the somber milestone. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Spanish authorities confirmed a jump of 849 in Covid-19 deaths – the largest number of fatalities the country has recorded in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, authorities in Germany said the country now has at least 67,051 confirmed cases and a cumulative total of at least 650 deaths from the coronavirus.

Earlier on Tuesday, data from Johns Hopkins showed that the world had crossed the 800,000 mark of confirmed cases, despite reported successes in China, the original epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, and other countries who have apparently managed to ‘flatten the curve’ of infection.

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Illustration: © Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
World reaches another grim Covid-19 milestone as global cases surpass 800,000

In recent weeks, the US has seen a massive surge in the number of cases and is expected to become the new epicenter of the crisis in the coming days, with over 164,700 confirmed cases and 3,170 deaths at the time of writing.

The one faint glimmer of hope is that some 172,000 people around the world have recovered from the infection.

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Attempted coup & assassinations: Venezuelan prosecutors subpoena Guaido as ‘among main perpetrators’ in US-backed regime-change op

Posted by RT on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Attempted coup & assassinations: Venezuelan prosecutors subpoena Guaido as ‘among main perpetrators’ in US-backed regime-change op

Venezuela’s prosecutors have summoned Juan Guaido over his role in the “attempted coup d’etat,” as well as in alleged assassination attempts. Guaido is the main figure in US-backed efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

The move was announced by Attorney General Tarek William Saab on Tuesday in a televised speech. The official described Guaido as “one of the main perpetrators” of a "new" attempted coup.

The move comes after a cache of weaponry, said to be smuggled into Venezuela, was seized in neighboring Colombia last week.

“As part of last week's initial investigation into an attempted coup and assassination, following the unveiling of an arsenal of war, we have issued a summons for one of those responsible to appear next Thursday in the Prosecutor's Office,” Saab stated.

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Venezuela's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Caracas © Wikipedia
‘New way of staging a coup’: Venezuelan FM blasts US for narco-terrorism charges against Maduro

Opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself Venezuela’s “interim president” back then, trying to oust the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro. The takeover effort received broad support from the US and its allies, who rushed to recognize Guaido as the ‘legitimate’ leader of Venezuela.

However, repeated attempts to dislodge Maduro from power, including mass-protests, a failed military coup and a thinly-veiled yet persistent threat of a US-backed invasion, have been unsuccessful so far.

Guaido’s subpoena comes shortly after Washington again ramped up its anti-Maduro game and indicted Venezuela’s president on drug charges. The Venezuelan foreign ministry has brushed off the allegations as “a new form of coup d’etat” that just showed the “desperation” of the “Washington elite.”

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File photo © REUTERS/Manaure Quintero
US State Dept offers $15 MILLION REWARD for help arresting Venezuela's Maduro after indictments

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How disinformation really works: Activists linked to pro-NATO think tank smear Russian Covid-19 aid to Italy

Posted by RT on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on How disinformation really works: Activists linked to pro-NATO think tank smear Russian Covid-19 aid to Italy

With over 11,000 deaths and more than 100,000 cases of Covid-19, Italy is currently a country which feels under siege. But this is no impediment to the think tank racket twisting an offer of support for its propaganda purposes.

Here's what happened. The weekend before last, Vladimir Putin called Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. During the conversation, Conte asked for help, in fighting coronavirus, according to the Kremlin readout which hasn't been contradicted by Italian officials.

Let's be clear from the outset, there was undoubtably a strong PR, as well as practical, element to Russia's assistance. However, there were also advantages to Rome from this approach, as the move may have helped to concentrate a few minds among its traditional allies.

Moscow sent teams of "doctors, protective gear and medical equipment" to the stricken country. The detail included 100 military virologists and epidemiologists, along with eight medical teams, according to Russian news outlets. Most importantly, it delivered 600 ventilators.

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Soldiers in Seriate, Italy March 28, 2020. © Reuters / Flavio Lo Scalzo
'Big mistake': Italy blasts European Commission chief, says Europe needs 'great Marshall Plan' to battle pandemic crisis

A significant amount given Italy apparently had only about 5,000 of the devices. Indeed, a few days after the Putin/Conte call, the New York Times was writing about Italy's "ventilator crisis."

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FILE PHOTO: A field of tomato plants, near Foggia, Italy © Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi
Covid-19 crisis could trigger global food shortage, UN warns

There's usually nothing like a bit of Russian influence to jolt EU and NATO elites into action. As mentioned above, no doubt this was also part of Conte's reasoning. That said, it's also worth mentioning that some other Europeans states have tried to help the Italians. Germany and France, in particular, took patients and sent supplies, despite dealing with outbreaks of their own. Yet, many in Italy feel they haven't done enough.

Putin was also surely thinking ahead to a post-coronavirus crisis time when Italians will remember who stood by them in their hour of need. Especially given Italy is now the third most powerful country in a European Union which has Russia under sanctions.

Indeed as the Diplomatic Editor of BBC’s newsnight, Mark Urban, noted “Russia and China have sent help to Italy. You might argue it’s not huge in scale and given for political reasons. But when Italians remember this crisis and wonder what the US did for them at this hour of need…” 

Urban is a vocal Russia critic and hardly a Kremlin patsy.

A few days after the aid landed, a campaign began on Twitter to discredit the Russian initiative. The first I saw of it was a tweet from Oliver Carroll, of London’s Independent newspaper, who presumably speaks Italian (I don’t, so I am relying on his translation).

“Some Italians are expressing unease about Putin's Covid-19 emergency aid,” he wrote. “Acc(ording) to La Stampa, 80 percent of supplies (are) “useless," (and) sources worry about high-ranking military officers now in (the) country. Russian soldiers (are) free to roam (in) Italy a few steps away from NATO,” the paper stated.

"La Stampa says China sent masks (and) ventilators; (but) Russia sent irrelevant equipment used for bacteriological and chemical outbreaks,” Carroll added. “(There is a) belief that Russia … (is) not helping us only for great goodness of its people... now beginning to circulate in broad sectors, military and political.”

The newspaper's report seemingly relied on the testimony of an anonymous source, who did not give their name. Thus, we have to take the author's word for it.

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Pallbearers wearing protective masks carry the coffin of a woman in Seriate, Italy March 28, 2020 © Reuters / Flavio Lo Scalzo
Italy Covid-19 death toll passes 10,000 as 889 die from virus in one day

However, the same day, Italy’s Ambassador to Moscow had a rather different point-of-view. “Pasquale Terracciano thanked Russia for its assistance in the fight against novel coronavirus, adding that the humanitarian aid to his country included about 600 medical ventilators,” reported the TASS news agency. It then quoted Terracciano as saying "it is very important that all this medical equipment includes 600 ventilators, which are critically important at this stage of the epidemic."

The same day the President of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, openly dismissed La Stampa’s report. "I say thanks to the Russians who sent us doctors and other people who can help with disinfection," he told an online press conference. Lombardy is the Italian region most affect by the Covid-19 crisis.

“The Russian Federation has sent face masks, ventilators and medical staff and teams to disinfect public buildings and our cities,” Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio said. “They have helped in their own way in an act of solidarity.”

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FILE PHOTO: Russian servicemen load medical equipment and special disinfection vehicles into a cargo plane headed for Italy, at a military airdrome near Moscow.
‘We have many friends in the world’: Italian FM says no ulterior motive to Russian Covid-19 aid, calls it ‘act of solidarity’

As you can see, those entitled to speak for Italy seem to be pretty grateful for Moscow's aid. Nevertheless, predictably, 'Atlanticists' weren't happy. Despite the fact that Trump's America has been about as useful to Europe in this emergency as a wetsuit in the desert. 

Eto Buziashvili of NATO's Atlantic Council adjunct wrote on Twitter that "80% of the Covid-19 supplies supplies that Russia has sent to Italy are useless," citing La Stampa. Her Twitter biography, by the way, claims she's an expert in 'disinformation.'

Next up was Olga Tokariuk, who writes for Atlantic Council as well as a Kiev-based news site, Hromadske, which is bankrolled by the local US embassy. "According to La Stampa sources in the Italian military, 80% of items they [the Russians] brought are useless," she tweeted. This was shared over 600 times.

"Italy recently reported that 80% of Russian aid against #Covid_19 is useless," wrote Dionis Cenusa. He also pens articles for, you guessed it, the Atlantic Council. His intervention was retweeted by more than 400 accounts. Also, note that he says "Italy recently reported," not La Stampa.

I decided to ask Cenusa a perfectly reasonable question. "[Do] you think "Italy" is an anonymous commenter to a single newspaper, and that person (assuming they even exist) has more right to speak for Italy (even though they won't even give their name) than the ambassador to Moscow or the President of Lombardy. Yes? For real?"

Rather than answer, his response was to block me. Which speaks volumes for how the think tank disinformation racket works.

One of Atlantic Council's more high profile lobbyists, Michael Weiss, also joined in. The 'fellow' noted how "80% of Russian coronavirus aid to Italy is useless, apparently."

What's most interesting here the fact that so many of the people pushing the disinformation are connected to the pro-NATO pressure group. Not to mention the fact that they used almost the same form of words. Was this coordination, or coincidence?

Circling back to the original La Stampa piece, it seemed logical to check whether the reporter had any think tank links himself. Not surprisingly, it turns out Jacopo Iacoboni has also written for the Atlantic Council. He most notably assisted Alina Polyakova with a 2017 report dubbed 'The Kremlin's Trojan Horses.' This hit job smeared numerous Italian public figures — such as politician's Beppe Grillo and Matteo Salvini — as effectively operating as proxies for Moscow.

Polyakova has since been appointed to run CEPA, a lobby firm, masquerading as a think tank. It's raison d'être to promote NATO's role in Eastern Europe. To this end, it's funded by American and British weapons manufacturers which have profited from the US-led alliance's expansion. 

It turns out Iacoboni's anti-Russia credentials are quite well known. Indeed, they have even been endorsed by the Intregity Initiative. In case you have forgotten, this was a British government funded undercover "information wars" effort which didn't stay secret for very long.The Integrity Initiative included him in its list of people in particular countries its organizers felt they could use to run anti-Russian coverage. This is not to imply Iacoboni knew he was he being considered by the British for such operations, but it does mean they regarded him as reliably anti-Russian. Which tells its own tale.

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Russian military experts check equipment to fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus infection in Bergamo. © Sputnik / Russia's Defense Ministry
Russian military support ‘much needed’ in Italy's 'critical' battle against Covid-19 – Lombardy VP

The La Stampa story, based on anonymous sources, which may or may not be legitimate, was a curious intervention at a time when Italy is on its knees. It's quite instructive that the think tank crowd, most notably those from Atlantic Council who rarely show any interest in Italian affairs, jumped on it. As is the author's own association with the pro-NATO institution. Make of it what you will.

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Fin24.com | JSE wrap | Financials lead surge amid consecutive gains

Posted by Fin24 Markets on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Fin24.com | JSE wrap | Financials lead surge amid consecutive gains
The financials index rebounded strongly following weakness in the prior session which was induced by the weaker rand and the downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign rating

Fin24.com | JSE wrap | Financials lead surge amid consecutive gains

Posted by Fin24 Markets on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Fin24.com | JSE wrap | Financials lead surge amid consecutive gains
The financials index rebounded strongly following weakness in the prior session which was induced by the weaker rand and the downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign rating

Talk like Doraemon & don’t nag: Malaysian Health Ministry issues coronavirus lockdown advisory for wives, sparking fierce backlash

Posted by RT on March 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Talk like Doraemon & don’t nag: Malaysian Health Ministry issues coronavirus lockdown advisory for wives, sparking fierce backlash

Malaysian health authorities have issued a coronavirus lockdown advisory for wives, urging them not to "nag" their husbands and instead be "feminine." The advice was deemed to be highly sexist and attracted a storm of criticism.

The ministry shared its wisdom on social media, releasing an infographic on how to act 'properly' during isolation. One image provides an insight for wives on how to do house chores while being stuck inside with their spouses.

"If you see your husband carry out a task in a manner that clashes with your own method, avoid nagging," the image reads. Apart from that, women should "mimic the tone of Doraemon" – a robotic cat from a popular Japanese manga – and reinforce their statements with a coy and "feminine" laugh.

In a separate graphic, the ministry also advised women to refrain from making "sarcastic" comments if their spouses are not helping with household tasks.

The advisory promptly went viral and triggered a storm of criticism, with many attacking the graphics as ultimately sexist and dehumanizing.

Others said the ministry should actually teach men not to engage in domestic violence instead of lecturing women on how to pacify their spouses.

Some took a more light-hearted stance, pointing out that the advisory doesn't make any sense since Doraemon, is actually a male robotic cat, while others suggested it might be a bad April Fools' joke released too early.

Following the outrage, the offensive imagery vanished from the ministry's social media. Earlier pieces of 'advice' for women, however, remain readily available. On Friday, for instance, the health authority told women to avoid wearing "home clothes," as well as to keep the dining table, kitchen and living room clean and neat during the lockdown.

"Present yourself as per usual, wear makeup and dress neatly," the graphic reads.

Malaysia's standing movement control order, introduced to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, was extended until April 14 last week. The country has been affected by the pandemic relatively moderately so far with some 2,700 confirmed cases and over 40 deaths.

Worldwide, the coronavirus infection tally has already smashed past the 800,000 mark, while nearly 39,000 people have died from the disease.

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Illustration: © Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
World reaches another grim Covid-19 milestone as global cases surpass 800,000

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