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Blue Jays hoping extra work will help lift Vlad Guerrero Jr. out of early struggles


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It can be argued that the hype was unreasonable from the outset with Guerrero, but that is both the nature of the beast and a status the young player initially embraced. His coming-out party at the Home Run Derby in Cleveland last July certainly accelerated those expectations, and there’s no looking back now.

“When you are not getting good results, you’re not feeling comfortable at the plate, obviously,” Hernandez said. “He’s working pretty hard. He’ll be the same Vladdy everybody knows pretty soon.”

TEOSCAR TEEING IT UP

If Guerrero is indeed uncomfortable a the plate, Teoscar Hernandez is certainly feeling it, as he holds the early team lead in home runs (four), RBI (six) and (among players who have appeared in more than three games), batting average (.321.)

Jays management has long believed in the obvious talent the outfielder brings to the plate. The key has been for Hernandez to display consistency, something that finally could be on its way.

“I feel really good at the plate,” Hernandez said. “I’m trying to stay with the same plan I had at the end of last year, trying to look for good pitches that I can hit.

“I know I have the power that I can drive the ball out of the park. I’m just trying to stay focused and have more patience at the plate … go with a plan and look for a pitch in the zone I can put a good swing on.”

Like so many of the Jays hitters, Hernandez’s fresh approach in the batter’s box comes from work with Dante Bichette, who is officially listed as a major league coach with the Jays.



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How do coronavirus home antibody tests work, and how do I get one?



The Elecsys laboratory-based test requires a blood sample to be taken by a health professional. Blood serums are obtained, to which reagents are added, and then examined in machines known as cobas e analysers, already widely installed in NHS labs across the country.

The development of an accurate antibody test is seen as key to helping Britain get back to work.

Scientists believe people who produce antibodies after having coronavirus may develop immunity to catching the virus again, making them safe to return to work.

Dr Ron Daniels, a consultant in critical care at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, says: “If you test positive for antibodies, it’s likely you have a degree of immunity. We’re not sure for how long, and how much, so you shouldn’t stop [social] distancing, but best guess it is likely to be partially protective for at least a few months.”

The Government had previously hoped to roll out millions of antibody tests, but supplies from China failed to pass sensitivity and specificity tests. 

Ministers will attempt to recoup taxpayers’ money spent on the fingerprick tests after an Oxford University trial found they returned inaccurate results.

That failure was a significant setback because it had been hoped the antibody tests would show who had already built up immunity, therefore offering a swifter route out of lockdown.

In April, however, Professor Karol Sikora, a private oncologist and Dean of Medicine at the University of Buckingham, validated a test kit using samples from staff at his clinics, which were then verified by a private lab.

Around 6 per cent of staff were found to have had the virus but, crucially, under-40s who had tested positive came back negative, suggesting the test may not be useful for the wider population. 

Siemens Healthineers, a German diagnostics and medical imaging firm, also announced on April 23 that it was producing an antibody blood test to identify past coronavirus infections.

The blood tests were expected to be available to large labs by late May, the company said, adding that it would be able to provide more than 25 million tests per month from June thanks to an upgrade to its manufacturing site in Massachusetts.

Another antibody test being pioneered by Oxford University could be available by the end of May, according to Professor John Newton, the UK’s national testing co-ordinator.

What is an antigen test?

An antigen test detects the presence (or absence) of an antigen, not antibodies. An antigen is a structure within a virus that triggers the immune system’s response to fight off the infection. It can be detected in blood before antibodies are made.

An antigen test is effective because it can take a few days for the immune system to build enough antibodies to be detected in a test, however, antigens can be detected almost immediately after infection. So, in theory, the test can tell much sooner whether someone has the virus.

Antigen tests are used to diagnose HIV, malaria and flu. 



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China coronavirus infections rise as some Spanish companies prepare to restart work | World news


China has seen a rise in Covid-19 cases along its northern border with Russia, as some Spanish factories and construction sites are preparing to resume work amid other continuing restrictions.

On Sunday China’s national health commission reported 108 new infections, the highest number in more than five weeks, surpassing Saturday’s 99, which was nearly double the 46 reported on Friday.

All but 10 of the cases were imported, and seven of the local infections were in the Heilongjiang province, a northern region where authorities are increasing restrictions and monitoring after a rise in people with Covid-19 crossing the Russian border.

China Russia map

Heilongjiang’s capital, Harbin, as well as the border city of Suifenhe – which is under some Wuhan-style restrictions – now require all arrivals to quarantine for 28 days and undergo testing. Under the new restrictions, residential units in Harbin – where people have been confirmed to have the virus, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic – are to be locked down for 14 days.

Suifenhe was one of the few routes for people to return to China from Russia after Russia stopped all flights and closed its land border to incoming traffic in late January and early February.

Hubei province, where the outbreak began, again recorded no new cases, but two deaths in Wuhan.

In Europe, Italy and France reported a drop in deaths in the past 24 hours – with Italy, the European nation most afflicted by the disease, reporting its lowest toll in more than three weeks.

Some Spanish companies will resume operations on Monday, at the end of a two-weeks halt to all non-essential activity. The country’s death toll has fallen over recent days, but as a small bump in deaths was reported on Sunday, the prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, warned that the locked-down country was “far from victory”.

“We are all keen to go back out on the streets … but our desire is even greater to win the war and prevent a relapse,” he said. “General confinement will remain the rule for the next two weeks and the only people allowed out will be those going to authorised jobs or making authorised purchases.”

The move to allow some business to resume has drawn criticism from some sectors, which fear infections will rise again. Those returning to work have been advised to maintain social distancing, and face masks will be handed out in metro and rail stations.

“I want to be very clear: we are not entering a phase of de-escalation,” Sánchez said. “The state of emergency is still in force and so is the lockdown. The only thing that has come to an end is the two-week extreme economic hibernation period.”

Italy is expected to let more businesses begin operating on Tuesday.

In the US, Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday night to angrily deny accusations that he rebuffed advice to implement physical distancing measures as far back as February, describing the New York Times, which printed the allegations, as a “fake” paper.

Donald J. Trump
(@realDonaldTrump)

The @nytimes story is a Fake, just like the “paper” itself. I was criticized for moving too fast when I issued the China Ban, long before most others wanted to do so. @SecAzar told me nothing until later, and Peter Navarro memo was same as Ban (see his statements). Fake News!


April 13, 2020

Trump’s top medical adviser on the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, appeared to confirm the allegations, which said he and other administration officials recommended physical distancing measures in February but were rebuffed for almost a month.

Fauci told CNN that “there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then”.

In the same CNN interview, Fauci said any gradual economic re-start in the US would be dependent on rapid and widespread testing. “Once the number of people who are seriously ill sharply declines, officials can begin to think about a gradual re-entry of some sort of normality, some rolling re-entry.”

Fauci believed this could happen in some places by May, but cautioned that easing restrictions would result in more infections. “I mean, that is just reality.”

He said he believed that if there was a “good, measured way of rolling into the steps towards normality”, then people would hopefully be able to vote in the 3 November election “the standard way”.

Current social distancing measures in the US are due to expire on 30 April.

The global number of confirmed cases has passed 1.85 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. There have been more than 114,000 deaths globally, including 19,899 in Italy, where the fatality rate has started to slow.

In other developments:

  • Germany’s number of confirmed coronavirus infections has risen by 2,537 to 123,016. That was lower than a 2,821 increase reported on Sunday and marked the third decline after four days of increases. The reported death toll has risen by 126 to 2,799.

  • Top oil-producing countries agreed Sunday on “historic” output cuts in a bid to boost plummeting oil prices due to the new coronavirus crisis and a Russia-Saudi price war.

  • Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to accept the resignation of his interior minister over an abrupt nationwide lockdown that triggered a spate of panic-buying.

  • Boris Johnson was discharged from hospital and thanked the NHS for “saving [his] life”.

  • The UK government is facing mounting criticism over its coronavirus response, particularly over its failure to secure enough personal protective equipment and tests for NHS and care workers, as the country’s death toll passed 10,000. It followed a warning that the UK could end up with the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe.

  • Thousands of displaced Syrians began returning to Idlib, some driven by fear of the spread of coronavirus to camps near the Turkish border.

  • China vowed to improve treatment of Africans in the southern city of Guangzhou following international pressure. Facing accusations of discrimination linked to the pandemic, China said it rejected all “racist and discriminatory” remarks.





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Work on light rail network halted until April 13




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How will the new visa-free European travel system work – VoxEurop (English)



Set to enter into force next year, the ETIAS scheme aims at speeding up traveling authorisation for travellers from countries which do not require a visa. In this regard, it looks pretty much like the US ESTA. But there is still some confusion on how it works, so here we have a closer look at it.

Ever since the European Union first announced that it was planning to create a new travel system in a bid to enhance security and improve border management, speculations on this system have been of every kind and travelers across the globe have started getting a bit worried about it.

While a new requirement to Europe may seem a bit scary, it actually is not as complex and difficult as it seems. ETIAS is, in fact, set to make traveling safer for everyone, and will apply as a requirement only to the nationals of countries traveling visa-free to the Schengen Area. 

While many have attempted to clarify what the ETIAS actually is, most travelers remain either confused or uninformed about it. Following, we have tried to briefly but clearly and simply explain what ETIAS is all about, how travelers will be affected, and who and how will benefit from it. 

What is ETIAS?

The ETIAS abbreviation stands for the European Travel Information and Authorization System. It is a new EU scheme through which nationals of several world countries planning to travel to the Schengen Area will have to apply for and obtain through it a travel authorization named the same – ETIAS – soon in the future.

The system, which will become operational by January 2021, is completely electronical and resembles to schemes operated by other countries as the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) or the Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

It is not a visa, as many have been confused into believing it is, but rather a single document that one can easily apply within minutes, from the comfort of their own home. 

How Does ETIAS Serve to the EU?

Once the ETIAS starts operating, every person planning to travel to the Schengen Area visa-free will have to apply for it online well in advance of their trip.

Each application will undergo detailed security checks before a final decision is given whether the traveler should be permitted to enter the zone or not. The ETIAS system will detect all persons that may pose a threat to the security of the EU and non-EU Schengen Member States, and reject them.

This way the European Union will know who is planning to cross its borders, and prevent from entering those that could disturb the safety of its citizens and other travelers. 

This system will continuously gather, keep track of, and update necessary information regarding visitors. It will also help the EU authorities to improve management of the external borders, make irregular migration more difficult, assist in the detection and decrease of crime and terrorism, therefore reinforcing the visa liberalization policy of the EU at the same time. 

Who Will Need ETIAS?

So far, it is foreseen that the nationals of over 60 world countries that currently have a short-term visa-free travel regime with the EU, will soon need to apply for an ETIAS before taking a trip to any of the Schengen member countries. 

These countries are: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, and Venezuela.

Which Countries Can a Traveler Enter with an ETIAS

Those holding a valid ETIAS will be eligible to enter the 26 Schengen member countries, 22 of which are EU member states, which until the enforcement of this system are permitted to enter visa-free. 

The Schengen member countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Getting an ETIAS – Application Procedures Explained 

The European Union has announced that the procedures to get an ETIAS will be simple and quick, as its purpose is not to make traveling to the Schengen Area more difficult, but to facilitate it and make it safer for every visitor. 

Soon, the European Union will launch a website from which applicants can complete the application form. It is estimated that filling out an ETIAS application will take about 10 minutes.

Applicants will need to provide the following information:

  • Full name

  • Date & place of birth

  • Citizenship

  • Address, email and phone number

  • Education and work experience

  • First EU country the applicant intends to visit in his/her first visit to the Schengen Area

In addition, there will also be background and eligibility questions on applicant’s medical condition, police records, possible trips to conflict zones, and other similar questions, which the European Union has not yet revealed.

How much will ETIAS cost?

As for now, it is foreseen that one ETIAS application will cost €7, while all those under the age of 18 at the time of application will be exempt from paying the fee. No additional service fees will be implemented. 

ETIAS Processing Period

Once the applicant gives in all the information required and pays the ETIAS fee, he/she can submit the application by clicking on the ‘submit’ button (or another similar button that will be given). The system will then check if the given information was correct, the eligibility and risk factors of the applicant.

The processing of each application is expected to take about four days, however, in specific circumstances when the ETIAS system needs to consult other EU schemes in an application may take up to two weeks to be processed.

Each traveler will receive the answer on their application through their email. Those that are granted with an ETIAS will receive the document in their email as well, in the form of an A4 document. This document must be printed and carried when traveling to the Schengen Area. 

Validity of an ETIAS

An approved ETIAS will be valid for a period of three years, starting from the date of issuance. If the passport of the traveler expires before the validity of an ETIAS ends, the document becomes invalid at that time as well.

Rules of Traveling with an ETIAS

Rules of traveling with an ETIAS to the Schengen Area, will remain the same as the current rules of visa-free travel to this territory. This includes:

  • Travelers holding an ETIAS can remain in Europe for a maximum of 90 days within every six months. 

  • Travelers must have a valid passport, with at least three more months of validity left beyond the date of intended departure from the Schengen Area. Those holding passports older than ten years, even if they have enough validity left, will not be able to get an ETIAS in first place. 

  • Visitors will still be obligated to hold EU Travel Insurance in order to be permitted to enter from any EU port of entry.

  • Holders of ETIAS, will be able to perform only unpaid activity in the Schengen Area, as tourism, medical checkup or short-term study. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What documents are required to apply for an ETIAS?

While completing the form, the applicant will only need a passport valid for at least six more months beyond the date of the intended stay in the Schengen Area, but not older than ten years.

Can an ETIAS be rejected?

Yes, an ETIAS can be rejected to any applicant for several different reasons. The system could have detected the applicant gave incorrect or false information, was seen as a suspicious or a possible threat to the safety of the EU.

When an applicant receives a negative answer on their application, they will also receive the reason why they were rejected from getting an ETIAS. 

What then?

Those getting a negative decision on an ETIAS application can appeal the decision if they think it was unjust or taken by mistake. 

However, if the reason for the rejection of an ETIAS application is correct and justifiable the applicant should apply for a regular Schengen Visa instead. 

How many times can a traveler enter the EU with an ETIAS?

A traveler can use the ETIAS to visit the European countries in which it is admissible, as soon as the ETIAS is valid, and the traveler does not overstay by violating the 90-days-within-six-months rule. 

Do travelers with a Schengen Visa need ETIAS?

The ETIAS will be mandatory only for visitors from countries that right now can travel to the Schengen Area visa-free. Which means if a person possesses a Schengen visa right now, he or she does not fall under this category, and therefore is not obligated nor eligible for an ETIAS. 

Do those holding long-term visa from one of the Member States need ETIAS?

As a long-term visa/residence permit issued by one of the EU member states permits its holder to travel throughout the whole Schengen Area without the need of getting additional travel permits, ETIAS will not be required from them. 

Do babies and children need ETIAS?

Yes, babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults, will all need to get an ETIAS in order to visit the EU. Children under the age of 18, will however be exempt from paying the fee. Their parents will need to complete the online application form for them. 

What are the differences between an ETIAS and a Schengen Visa?

In essence, they are both permits to enter the Schengen Area. However, it’s the procedures and fees that make all the difference.

While the application process for an ETIAS is completed within 10 minutes, with no documents but a passport required, the process to get a Schengen visa is way more complicated. There are quite e lot of documents required, depending on applicant’s purpose of the visit, including health insurance, proof of accommodation and sufficient financial means. 

In addition, Schengen visa applicants are also required to make an appointment and attend a visa interview, while paying a visa fee of €60, which by February 2020 will increase to €80. 

The processing of an ETIAS is foreseen to take about four days while the processing of a Schengen visa takes 15 business days, in general.



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Chuck Todd claims Republicans are doing Russia’s ‘intelligence’ work for them


Congressional Republicans are doing Russia’s dirty work by shifting the blame for the 2016 election interference onto Ukraine, NBC News’ Chuck Todd said during a Sunday interview with Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana.

“U.S. Senators were briefed… that actually this entire effort to frame Ukraine for the Russian meddling of 2016, of which you just made this case that they’ve done it — that actually this is an effort of Russia propaganda,” Todd said.

“This is a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine. Are you at all concerned you’re doing Russian intelligence work here?” he asked.

Kennedy claimed he was never briefed on the subject, but said Ukrainians were caught meddling in American elections back in December 2018. Todd accused Kennedy of falling for the bait and said he’s playing into Russia’s hands.

“You realize, the only other person selling this argument outside the United States is this man, Vladimir Putin,” Todd shot back.

SEN. KENNEDY CLAIMS FORMER UKRAINE LEADER ‘ACTIVELY’ WORKED WITH HILLARY CLINTON IN 2016

“This is what he said on November 20: ‘Thank God nobody is accusing us any more of interfering in U.S. elections. Now they’re accusing Ukraine’ …You just accused a former president of Ukraine. You’ve done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do. Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?” he pressed.

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Kennedy claimed Todd failed to do his research and said it’s perfectly reasonable to allow President Trump to introduce evidence during the impeachment process, which may point to potential Ukranian corruption.

“Well, let me put it this way, Chuck, let’s suppose — and I don’t believe it — but you’re right and I’m wrong. Then what harm would it do to allow the president of the United States, who has a demonstrated record fighting foreign corruption, to introduce evidence?” he asked.

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“Rounds one and two by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman [Adam] Schiff are as rigged as a carnival ring toss and we both know that,” Kennedy added.



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