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The Day After (II): What Europe?



“The Day After” for the European Union, the so-called “bloc”, will either have to stay as is and sooner, rather later, dissolve. Or it will have to change in an attempt to survive. This will be difficult as huge organisations like the EU do not historically adapt, but disappear. And yet, the instinct for survival is very strong, and the bloc may radically adapt to the “new norm” because if it doesn’t, its servants will not lose a little, but all.

Maintaining the “status quo ante”

The bloc may stay as-is – an apolitical power structure, ruling half a billion people by a self-reproduced, non-accountable administrative machine, without any democratic legitimisation.

This is the same bloc from which the United Kingdom withdrew and is the EU which ordinary citizens left behind when they entered into house isolation last month. If this will be the bloc that re-surfaces once Europe’s residents are released, it will continue living in its own world, further distancing itself from its own citizens and soon will collapse.

After returning to society, ordinary people will be different. If the Brussels nomenklatura remains the same, it will face a problem, a big problem. Most people after the long home detention will be different. Most, at least for a while, will be better people because they would have spent time with themselves and their families and would have discovered that moderation is a virtue, while forced minimalism, once they are used to it, gives a different dimension to life.

As for the European Union, the inmates who spent day and night in front of a screen sensed that the EU had no political role in the crisis. The bloc has been judged by its citizens as having been “in absentia”.

Indeed, Viktor Orban dissolved the Hungarian Parliament in an unprecedented “coup d’état” and Brussels ignored it, displaying no political capacity to handle the situation.

Dad, is America far away? Shoot-up and swim…

Leaders emerge from confrontations, and the virus crisis is the world biggest confrontation since the Second World War. Whether it’s a confrontation between China and the Western World or between humankind and nature, makes no difference. In any instance, new leaders will emerge. This is typical after large events. Think of what great leaders Europe had after World War II and during the Cold War – Francoise Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, Aldo Moro, Margaret Thatcher and many others who were followed by mediocracies in the years of peace.

The emergence of new leaders is now in the making. In this process, the bloc does not participate as the Brussels bureaucracy although it is the most sophisticated administrative machine of the world. It is politically sterile. It is composed of civil servants and only civil servants who, in the absence of political leaders, began making political decisions. That is what undermined the European project.

In the emerging post-crisis new world, the European Union is needed more than ever, ironically, for the same reasons it was established seven decades ago – to unite Europeans and contain Germany. At that time it was to guarantee that Berlin didn’t dominate Europe again with its Panzers, and today it’s to be sure Germany doesn’t attempt to dominate Europe again with its Deutsche Mark, which masquerades as the euro.

Maintaining and strengthening the European Union, turning it into a united nation that is citizen useful and friendly, is the only way to keep alive the best European achievement of all time.

This will be a difficult task. The European Commission, the presumed government of Europe, must attempt it. It is hard to do so as it must give up all privileges its employees have accumulated and turn them into ordinary civil servants.

Once the bloc’s civil servants realise that if the union disintegrates, their pensions will be paid (if they will be paid) by their own countries of origin and will be at the level of national pensions, they will certainly behave.

The change we need

There are some ideas about the changes the bloc needs to make in order to survive. The most important change is the “presumed government of Europe” must become “the government of Europe” and must become political.

Europe has serious survival problems to address, more than ever, and they are all political. They require political solutions that no administration can give no matter how good it is and how well it is paid. That is why the government of the bloc must become political, democratic, accountable, and at the service of citizens.

“The Day After” sequel of New Europe will provide food for thought to all those pretending they rule Europe from their couch but have a better sense than anybody else about the threats to their jobs and pensions when everything will return to the “new normal”.

In the next episodes, we will provide some ideas as to how the European Commission should change in an attempt to survive. How to make the bloc political; how to bring the Directors General down to earth at the service of the political personnel; how to restore accountability; how to reduce over-regulation; how to restore transparency especially in money matters; how to redefine the role of the cabinets and other unpleasant suggestions, yet essential for the survival of the Union, in the post virus era.

(to be continued)

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The Day After: a new Yalta in the making



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Trump accuses states of asking for unneeded supplies and media of spreading fake news | World news


Donald Trump attempted to discredit media reports of his administration’s failures in the Covid-19 pandemic as he called some outlets in the White House press corps “fake news” at his daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday.

In a rambling introduction to a lengthy and combative briefing the president cited media reports on shortages of ventilators and personal protective equipment and said some state governors had asked for more supplies than they need.

The White House’s own projections show 100,000 Americans could be killed by the virus. On Saturday, Trump said: “There will be a lot of death”.

“It’s therefore critical certain media outlets stop spreading false information,” he said. “I could name them, but it’s the same ones, always the same ones.”

“It’s so bad for our country, so bad for the world.”

Trump then accused state governors of asking for materials which he argued they did not need.

“Many of their cupboards were bare,” he said.

Trump’s administration has sought to redefine the national strategic stockpile as a “back up” for states, and avoid co-ordinating a response to the pandemic.

Earlier, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his state, which has been especially hard-hit, had looked to China for ventilator supplies.

“We’re not yet at the apex,” said Cuomo, who described the crescendo of cases to come as “the number one point of engagement of the enemy”.

Cuomo said he had obtained 1,000 ventilators from the Chinese government with the help of billionaires Joseph and Clara Tsai and Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Oregon had loaned New York another 140, he said.

At the White House, Trump said: “We have given the governor of New York more than anybody has been given in a long time. I think he’s happy… I wouldn’t say gracious.”

He also tried to claim credit for the 1,000 ventilators sent to New York by China and said, “two very good friends of mine brought him those ventilators”.

Cuomo put the New York case load at 113,704 and the death toll at 3,565, most in New York City but with nearly 1,000 deaths in other parts of the state. At lunchtime on Saturday, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland put the national toll at nearly 279,000 cases and 7,170 deaths.

Current projections put the peak of the pandemic in New York between four and 14 days away. Officials hope physical distancing across the state will slow the spread of the disease and forestall the possibility of running out of ventilators and hospital beds.

Cuomo admitted he hoped to see the apex soon, so the experience would soon end. The pandemic, “stresses this country, this state, in a way nothing else has frankly in my lifetime”, he said.

Cuomo’s briefing from the New York state capital, Albany, offered another contrast in leadership between governor and president. While Cuomo’s briefings convey alarming statistics, his frank descriptions of shortages and personal struggles have been praised.

Cuomo said the state had a signed contract for 17,000 ventilators, which he was later told could not be filled because many had already been purchased by China.

Trump retweeted articles about hydroxychloroquine, a treatment for malaria, and then promoted the unproven drug again at the press briefing. Some researchers believe the drug shows promise as a possible treatment for Covid-19 but so far studies lack control groups and are therefore treated as anecdotal. There is no known therapeutic for Covid-19, and no vaccine.

The US federal government’s response to the outbreak has been defined by bungled testing, poor coordination, low stockpiles and planning failures. Federal failure to intervene in supply chains has led to bidding wars for masks and other personal protective equipment, governors have said.

The White House has repeatedly claimed it has 10,000 ventilators in a strategic national stockpile. However, states have reported some of those ventilators are unusable, after the Trump administration failed to ensure the stockpile was properly maintained.

Trump has repeatedly caused confusion, often following hours-long, rambling press conferences featuring attacks on the media. At one such briefing on Friday, the president said he would not follow the advice of his own health department, and wear a mask in public.

“The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure,” Trump told reporters.

“This is voluntary. I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”



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‘They are completely intertwined’: Tentative signs of recovery in China help some Canadian companies weather COVID-19 storm


One night in late January, Canadian Jacob Cooke found himself in Jiangsu province in China, desperately trying to find seats on a plane leaving the country and promising his brother, Joseph, he’d make it to Vancouver.

For more than a decade, they had run a business called WPIC Marketing + Technologies with an ocean between them, helping brands from Canada and, eventually, all over the globe launch e-commerce operations in China.

But that night, panic was washing over China after news channels started reporting on the highly contagious outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan province. There was little information about who was most vulnerable, how the virus spreads or what symptoms to expect, but fears were aroused. Soon, trains were shutting down, hotels were closing their doors and slowly, but surely, ways out of the country were disappearing.

“There was definitely not enough information,” Jacob said. “You didn’t know what to believe, you just wanted to get far enough away from it.”

Jacob also worried about his family, including his wife and their two young sons, aged five and nine, who had travelled from their home in Beijing to visit her family in Jiangsu for Chinese New Year, since it looked like they might be stuck there. After spending hours on the phone, he secured seats on a plane leaving Shanghai for Vancouver, and then tracked down a driver to make the six-hour trek to the airport.

Seven weeks later, after Jacob and his family made it safely back to Vancouver, the situation has in many ways reversed: Canada, and most of the western world, are desperately trying to stop the spread of coronavirus, with new measures being announced almost on an hourly basis that shut down parts of the economy, while China is in recovery.

It’s still not clear how the deadly virus will be contained, or what its ultimate toll will be, so the horizon in Canada and elsewhere remains too dark to look for silver linings.

Yet if the worst does not come to pass, the Cooke brothers and others who hold deep business ties to China can see how the global connectivity of our economies may help both countries.

An economic recovery is now taking shape in China. Self-isolation is starting to end, people are returning to offices and work in factories has largely resumed its pre-coronavirus level of activity.

China opened up a portion of its Great Wall this past week.

China opened up a portion of its Great Wall this past week.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

FedEx Corp. on a March 17 conference call said 90 to 95 per cent of large manufacturers in China are now open, as are about two-thirds of small manufacturers. The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong and Shanghai SE Composite Index both ended the week on a positive swing after brutal declines since the start of the year.

But as supply chains and demand for goods ramps up in China, they’re slowing elsewhere. Yet there were signs of life even in the depths of China’s outbreak.

Joseph Cooke, president of WPIC, said it’s been a strange year in China. Online sales usually dip during the new year celebration, but they remained steady this year, perhaps because people in self-isolation indulged in “retail therapy,” he said.

As the weeks in lockdown progressed, online sales in China accelerated as brick-and-mortar retail stores stay closed. That also provided a lifeline for many Canadian companies, particularly those that need to move seasonal inventory, WPIC chief executive Jacob Cooke said.

“China coming back online is great for Canadian companies,” he said. “With retail closed here, for example, and a lot of stuff being seasonal, it’s got to move somewhere or it’s going to become useless.”

Some companies’ quarterly earnings reports are already bearing that trend out.

China coming back online is great for Canadian companies

Jacob Cooke

For example, Nike Inc. chief executive John Donahoe on Wednesday reported that his company’s e-commerce sales in China increased more than 30 per cent during the last quarter, even as it had closed 5,000 stores in the country during most of that time.

Other parts of China’s economy appear to be returning to normal as well, offering a potential lifeline to companies from Canada and elsewhere needing to sell their goods.

“I was talking today to someone who was in Beijing and she said, ‘Here’s the thing, there was a traffic jam and I had lunch with someone, and it’s the first time I’ve had lunch with someone in weeks,” said Sarah Kutulakos, executive director of the Canada China Business Council.

She said the key to China’s resumption of regular business activity is that everyone has been “incredibly conservative about social distancing and people are taking that very seriously.”

People wearing masks cross a street during after work rush hour, as businesses start returning to their normal routine, in Beijing.

People wearing masks cross a street during after work rush hour, as businesses start returning to their normal routine, in Beijing.

Thomas Peter/Reuters

That has benefited Canadian companies with operations in China as well.

For example, Toronto-based Neo Performance Materials Inc., which turns rare earth and rare metal-based materials into magnets and other products used in cars and high-tech devices, operates four factories in China, all of which are now operating and shipping goods again.

None of its 1,100 employees there have contracted COVID-19, but the company has said it implemented precautionary measures including temperature checks of its workers.

On a March 12 earnings call with analysts, chief executive Geoff Bedford said the supply chain is largely functional again, with his factories able to procure all the raw materials they need.

Still, it’s not all good news. China is still experiencing the repercussions from the lockdown period, including declining demand.

“We are seeing signs of slowing downstream demand from our customers, particularly for supply chains that are located within China,” Bedford said on the call.

He noted that more than 60 per cent of Neo Performance’s sales are related to the automotive industry, including vehicles manufactured for the Chinese domestic market, which is one particular area where demand is softening. But he also noted that trend was already happening the previous year.

Aurora, Ont.-based auto-parts manufacturer Magna International Inc. on Thursday reported that it expects softening demand in China, though its customers there are ramping up again after extended downtime throughout February. Meanwhile, many of its customers in North America and Europe have reduced production rates or temporarily closed.

Employees eat their lunch while staying 2 meters away from each other at the Dongfeng Fengshen plant on March 24, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.

Employees eat their lunch while staying 2 meters away from each other at the Dongfeng Fengshen plant on March 24, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.

Getty Images

Overall auto sales in the world’s biggest vehicle market dropped 79 per cent in February, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, which does not expect demand to normalize until the third quarter.

WPIC’s Jacob Cooke said Canada’s economy is intricately linked to China’s economy, even if diplomatic spats and trade wars are decoupling the two countries on cultural and political levels.

“They are completely intertwined,” he said. “If either of those pieces go down, it just creates huge problems for the global economy.”

Jacob was in China as it entered the peak of its outbreak and now he’s back in Canada as the coronavirus takes hold here, giving him some insight into how conditions are progressing in both countries.

“This has sort of been the whole process for me,” he said. “You’re basically experiencing it in cycles: you’re either cycling to further and further lockdowns or you’re opening up.”

Right now, Canada and the United States are still cycling to further lockdowns as the number of new cases detected continues to grow daily. But Jacob and his brother Joseph both said it only takes a bit of good news to swing momentum in the other direction.

“I’m feeling like it’s very quiet in Vancouver, and people are staying home,” said Joseph. “Let’s hope we curb the spread.”

Financial Post

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China to supply Europe with masks and medical equipment



In a tweet published on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that China will provide Europe with medical equipment and test kits, following talks with the country’s Prime Minister Minister Li Keqiang.

China’s medical supplies include 2 million surgical masks, 200,000 N95 masks and 50,000 testing kits, as the EU27 bloc is running out of medical equipment, having recording dozens of thousands of COVID-19 cases.

On Wednesday, a group of 300 Chinese intensive-care doctors began to arrive in Italy, the worst-affected country by Coronavirus outside China. To date, Italy has 41,035 confirmed cases and 3,405 deaths.

Belgium’s Health Minister Maggie De Block announced on Wednesday that the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and founder of e-commerce colossus Alibaba would ship 500,000 masks and 30,000 test kits, to be distributed among the health providers.





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#Kazakhstan bars entry to South Korean nationals due to #Coronavirus


Kazakhstan will bar entry to nationals of South Korea from March 8 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, deputy industry minister Berik Kamaliyev said on Thursday (5 March), writes Tamara Vaal.

Health Care Minister Yelzhan Birtanov told the same briefing that the Central Asian nation stood ready to deport foreigners who arrived from South Korea and other countries such as China from where it has banned nationals from entering Kazakhstan due to the virus.

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Category: A Frontpage, China, EU, Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, South Korea





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U.S. to evacuate citizens from virus-hit Diamond Princess ship


The U.S. will evacuate its citizens from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Japan, according to a statement on the American embassy in Japan’s website.

The State Department will provide chartered aircraft to bring American passengers and crew back to the U.S. The ship is the largest infection cluster outside China. An additional 67 cases have been found on board, Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said in televised comments.

The plane will arrive on the evening of Feb. 16 and will transport the passengers first to Travis Air Force Base in California, and some may be moved to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. They will undergo a two-week quarantine.

Some 3,500 people are being kept in quarantine on Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess. The latest cases bring the total infections on the ship to almost 300, fueling concerns that rather than keeping passengers safe, the quarantine is allowing the virus to spread.

Left Behind

Rebecca Frasure and her husband Kent, from Forest Grove, Oregon, won’t be on the evacuation flight. She tested positive for coronavirus and was taken to a Tokyo hospital on Feb. 7. Even though her symptoms of a mild cough, stuffy nose and light fever are gone, recent tests show the virus is still in her system. The couple decided both would stay behind.

“They need to make some effort to evacuate the people who have been in the hospital,” said Rebecca Frasure, 35. “There’s a way to keep people separated. I’ll wear a hazmat suit, masks and gloves — whatever it takes.”

The virus has killed more than 1,500 people since emerging in China’s Hubei province in December. France’s health ministry reported the death of an 80-year-old Chinese tourist in Paris today, the first fatality outside Asia.

Japan has been preparing to allow certain passengers to start disembarking the ship, Health Minister Kato told reporters Friday. About 40 people in Japan now have the virus, with local authorities in the western prefecture of Wakayama announcing three more on Saturday.

Japan said in a statement it’s coordinating with the U.S. over the evacuation and ‘appreciates such measures’

NHK reported Saturday that eight more cases have been confirmed in Tokyo, without saying where it obtained the information.

Japan said in a statement it’s coordinating with the U.S. over the evacuation and “appreciates such measures,” which will help mitigate its burden regarding the medical response to passengers on the ship.

Dow Jones reported the evacuation earlier, citing an official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are about 380 Americans on board the cruise ship, according to the report.

“We recognize this has been a stressful experience and we remain dedicated to providing all the support we can,” the embassy said in the notice on its website.

The Frasures worry how they will ever return home. Kent Frasure said the embassy note said that Americans who decide not to evacuate may not be allowed back until the CDC decides they can enter the country.

“It was very ominous,” he said. “We need some answers on how we can get home.”





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Xi Jinping’s Coronavirus Challenge


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Chinese hospitals discharge 1,153 recovered patients of coronavirus infection



A total of 1,153 patients infected with the novel coronavirus had been discharged from hospital after recovery by the end of Wednesday, Chinese health authorities announced Thursday, Trend reports citing Xinhua.

Wednesday saw 261 people walk out of the hospital after recovery, the National Health Commission said in its daily report.

By the end of Wednesday, a total of 563 people had died of the disease and 28,018 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection had been reported in 31 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in China.

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Coronavirus: China death toll reaches 212 after WHO declares global emergency – live news | World news






Coronavirus has been declared notifiable disease in Queensland, Australia

Updated





I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who sent in information, it’s been extremely helpful.

Here’s a summary of some key updates before I hand over to the Australia team, who’ll continue the coverage from Sydney:

  • The virus has spread to at least 9,320 people around the world, surpassing that of the SARS epidemic over a year long period (2002-2003).
  • 212 people have died, all in China.
  • There are 98 confirmed cases of infection outside mainland China in at least 18 countries.
  • The United States reported its first case of person-to-person transmission, joining Germany, Vietnam and Japan in recording similar incidents.
  • BA has suspended all flights to and from mainstream China until the end of February. Other countries have also implemented a flight ban, most recently Italy.
  • Almost 200 US citizens have been evacuated and have arrived at a military base in California. They will be isolated for a minimum of 72 hours. The US is said to be planning another airlift in the coming days.
  • France have evacuated 200 citizens who are currently flying back to southern France where there’ll be quarantined for 14 days. The European Commission has said it is planning a flight to evacuate more European nationals.
  • The Chinese Football Association has postponed its domestic games in 2020, and the World Athletics Indoors Championships, due to take place in the Chinese city of Nanjing in March, have been moved to 2021.
  • Google and IKEA became the latest franchises to shut their Chinese shops and offices.

Updated





In Australia, confirmed cases of the virus have climbed to 9, but two people have been released and are “post-viral” according to the country’s health minister, Greg Hunt.

Authorities have been tracking down passengers that were on a plane with a Chinese tourist who flew from Melbourne to the Gold Coast on 27 January.

The 44-year-old man, from Wuhan, was diagnosed with coronavirus and was being treated in isolation in hospital on the Gold Coast.

The Guardian understands that at least one passenger who was on that plane to the Gold Coast has been asked to stay home from work. The passenger is not believed to be at high risk but as a precaution has been asked to remain at home for the time being.

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have confirmed that following a last-minute decision from China, dependents of British nationals and dual nationals will be allowed on to the evacuation flight.

Previously, restrictions imposed by China meant those with Chinese passports were not permitted to leave the country, and China does not recognise dual nationality.

The U-turn meant that Matt Raw and his 75-year-old mother Hazel were given permission to fly along with Raw’s wife Ying, who holds a Chinese passport.

It’s uncertain whether other families in similar situations have been given the go-ahead to board the plane, or whether they have been able to make it to the airport in time.

Updated





Updated



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Coronavirus live updates: WHO considers global emergency declaration as death toll hits 170


The World Health Organization is set to meet Thursday, for the third time in a week, to determine if the deadly coronavirus outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

Such a declaration would trigger tighter containment and information-sharing guidelines, but may disappoint Beijing, which had expressed confidence in defeating the “devil” virus.

Some 6,000 people are being kept on board an Italian cruise ship as tests are carried out on two Chinese passengers suspected of having caught coronavirus, a spokesman for the Costa Crociere cruise company said on Thursday.

Jump to live updates

The couple arrived in Italy on Jan. 25 and boarded the ship, the Costa Smeralda, in the port of Savona that same day. They subsequently came down with a fever and are suffering breathing difficulties

The liner has visited Marseilles in France, and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca this week before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia, north of Rome.

No one was being allowed off the ship while medical checks were carried out to see if the pair had the potentially deadly coronavirus, the company spokesman said.

He said it might take “a few hours” before the situation became clearer.

On Thursday countries began isolating hundreds of citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 170 people.

Follow along below for live updates on the coronavirus outbreak from around the world and Canada:

Read more about the Wuhan coronavirus:

Why a mask won’t protect you from the Wuhan coronavirus

There is a website that tracks and displays the spread of the coronavirus in real time

Coronavirus conspiracy theories: Sorting fact from fiction as speculation reaches fever pitch

Coronavirus outbreak active and spreading, WHO says: ‘Why wouldn’t people be concerned?’



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