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Global coronavirus cases to soon surpass 30 million: Reuters tally

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Yahoo News

By Jane Wardell

(Reuters) – Global coronavirus cases are expected to pass 30 million on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pandemic showing no signs of slowing.

India was firmly in focus as the latest epicentre, although North and South America combined accounted for almost half of the global cases.

Global new daily case numbers reached record levels in recent days and deaths neared 1 million as the international race to develop and market a vaccine heated up.

The official number of global coronavirus cases is now more than five times the number of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to World Health Organization data.

Around the world, there have been almost 1 million deaths, considered a lagging indicator given the two-week incubation period of the virus. That has well exceeded the upper range of 290,000 to 650,000 annual deaths linked to influenza.

India on Wednesday became only the second country in the world, after the United States, to record more than 5 million cases.

The south Asian nation, the world’s second most populous country, has been reporting more new daily cases than the United States since mid-August and accounts for just over 16% of global known cases.

The United States has about 20% of all global cases, although it has just 4% of the world’s population. Brazil, the third worst-hit country, accounts for roughly 15% of global cases.

It took 18 days for global cases to surge from 25 million to more than 30 million. It took 20 days for the world to go from 20 million to 25 million and 19 days to go from 15 million to 20 million.

The global rate of new daily cases is slowing, reflecting progress in constraining the disease in many countries, despite a few big surges.

Health experts stress that official data almost certainly under-reports both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.

The race to develop and bring to market a novel coronavirus vaccine has grown increasingly frenetic in recent weeks with about 200 candidates in development globally.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said his country could have a vaccine ready for distribution before the U.S. election on Nov. 3, while a Chinese health official this week said China may have a vaccine ready for public use as early as November.

While the trajectory of the coronavirus still falls far short of the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected an estimated 500 million people, killing at least 10% of them, experts worry the available data is underplaying the true impact of the pandemic.

(Open https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps in an external browser for a Reuters interactive graphic)

(Reporting by Jane Wardell; editing by Robert Birsel and Lisa Shumaker)

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Trump bars Americans from staying at 400+ Cuban hotels believed to be under government control

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Trump bars Americans from staying at 400+ Cuban hotels believed to be under government control

Americans visiting Cuba are going to be prohibited from staying at 433 hotels that are believed to be owned or controlled by the government or “certain well-connected insiders,” the State Department announced Wednesday.

The order was taken as part of a broader effort announced by President Donald Trump to tighten restrictions on the Cuban government, a sharp reversal from the more open policies toward the island nation under President Barack Obama.

“Today we reaffirm our ironclad solidarity with the Cuban people and our eternal conviction that freedom will prevail over the sinister forces of communism and evil in many different forms,” Trump said in remarks meant to honor veterans of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, in which Cuban exiles attempted to launch an invasion of their homeland. “Today we declare America’s unwavering commitment to a free Cuba.”

The Trump administration is going to bar Americans from staying at 433 hotels in Havana that it believes are government-controlled. Here’s a city scene in Havana

The sanctions come amid a tight race for the presidency ahead of the Nov. 3 election in the critical swing state of Florida where Cuban-Americans are an important voting bloc.

In announcing the list of hotels, the State Department said the profits from them “disproportionately benefit the Cuban government, all at the expense of the Cuban people, who continue to face repression at the hands of the regime.”

Instead, the department urged travelers to stay at casas particulares, private accommodations owned by “legitimately independent entrepreneurs.”

The order will likely encourage more Cubans to rent rooms or residences through services like Airbnb, said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council in New York.

In addition, it could entice the Cuban government to sell hotels to some of the foreign companies that currently have management contracts to run them, taking them off the list and thus making them able to book U.S. visitors again, Kavulich said.

But with the list limited the number of accommodations for Americans in Cuba, it may force airlines to cut their flight schedules there as well, he added.

The order also prohibits Americans from bringing home Cuban rum or cigars.

The Trump administration has taken several steps to isolate Cuba. In June 2019, it stopped cruise ships from visiting the island, which had been allowed since 2016 following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries two years earlier. That October, it banned flights to all Cuban cities but the capital, Havana.  Earlier this summer, it ordered Marriott to close its Four Points Sheraton hotel in Havana.

Legally, U.S. travelers can still visit Cuba under specific conditions:

  • Family visits

  • Official U.S. government business

  • Journalistic activity

  • Professional research and meetings

  • Educational activities (like those from U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools)

  • Religious activities

  • Support for the Cuban people

  • Humanitarian projects

The battle for Florida: Trump courts Latino votes in Miami as campaigns enter final stretch

Marriott exits Cuba: Trump administration orders Marriott to shutter Cuba hotel by end of August

Visiting Cuba:  How can you still go to Cuba despite new U.S. travel restrictions?

Contributing: Jayme Deerwester and David Oliver, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cuba: Trump bars American travelers from more than 400 hotels

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China running 380 detention centres in Xinjiang: researchers

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China running 380 detention centres in Xinjiang: researchers

China’s network of detention centres in the northwest Xinjiang region is much bigger than previously thought and has been expanded in recent years, according to research presented by an Australian think tank Thursday.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said it had identified more than 380 “suspected detention facilities” in the region — where China is believed to have detained more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking residents.

The number of facilities is around 40 percent greater than previous estimates and, according to Australian researchers, has been growing despite China’s claims that many Uighurs have been released.

Using satellite imagery, eyewitness accounts, media reports and official construction tender documents, the institute said “at least 61 detention sites have seen new construction and expansion work between July 2019 and July 2020.”

Fourteen more facilities were under construction in 2020 and around 70 have had fencing or perimeter walls removed, indicating their use has changed or they have been closed.

US lawmakers recently voted to ban imports from Xinjiang, citing the alleged use of systematic forced labour.

Beijing recently published a white paper defending its policies in Xinjiang, where it says training programmes, work schemes and better education mean life has improved.

It has defended the so-called training centres as necessary to stamp out extremism.

Following the publication of the latest report, Chinese government-controlled nationalist tabloid the Global Times cited “sources” saying Australian Strategic Policy Institute contributors Clive Hamilton and Alex Joske were banned from entering China.

arb/dm/axn

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GOP’s Biden report littered with debunked claims and “Russian disinformation”

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Chuck Grassley; Ron Johnson
Chuck Grassley; Ron Johnson

Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images

Senate Republicans on Wednesday released an interim report of their investigation into Democratic nominee Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden that largely recycles old claims to back up allegations which have already been debunked.

Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, released an interim report titled “Hunter Biden, Burisma and Corruption” less than six weeks ahead of the election.

Johnson previously teased that he had found evidence which would “certainly help Donald Trump win re-election.” But the report largely relies on witnesses who already testified on the matter in the House impeachment inquiry and presents little evidence to support allegations which have been refuted.

“Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” the report said, though it provided no evidence of any policies which were affected.

The report went on to acknowledge as much, undermining its own conclusion by noting that “the extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the report was the culmination of a “sham investigation.” He described the probe as “an attempted political hit job facilitated by the State Department and rooted in the disinformation pushed” by Russian operatives.

“Throughout this effort, I have been deeply disturbed by Senate Republicans’ willingness to disregard national security concerns and push Russian disinformation,” Wyden said. “The Senate must never again be abused in this way.”

The probe was launched after Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden while he worked for the energy firm Burisma, even though Ukrainian prosecutors said there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden.

Trump has falsely claimed that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who had investigated Burisma to protect his son, even though a coalition of western nations had pushed for the prosecutor’s removal over corruption allegations. Multiple State Department officials repeatedly refuted that claim during the impeachment inquiry.

Democrats expressed concerns during the investigation that Johnson’s probe relied on Russian misinformation aimed at hurting Biden. The GOP report devoted 10 of its 87 pages to countering allegations that their probe had fueled a Russian disinformation effort.

Democrats said the Republicans advanced a narrative pushed by sanctioned pro-Russia Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who provided information to the committee. The report claimed that Johnson and Grassley “did not receive” and were “unaware of” the information sent by the lawmaker, arguing that “it is impossible that Derkach’s efforts could have shaped the committees’ investigation in any way.”

But Politico noted that Johnson’s allegations “mirror those pushed by Derkach.” The Ukrainian lawmaker also met with Trump attorney Rudy GIuliani, who led the off-book investigation in Ukraine which ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.

Johnson also had contact with former Ukrainian diplomat Andriy Telizhenko, who worked for Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that represented Burisma, and advanced the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The report cited “confidential sources” nearly 100 times, whose identities remain unclear. Republicans also did not immediately release transcripts from witness interviews, instead only releasing selective quotes from the interviews.

Democrats slammed Republicans for withholding the transcripts. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said releasing the report without simultaneously releasing the transcripts was a “direct violation” of rules that weakened “the committee’s ability to effectively carry out its responsibilities on behalf of the public in the future.”

The report largely relies on the testimony of top State Department official George Kent, who testified during the impeachment proceedings. Echoing his comments to the House last year, Kent told Republican investigators that Hunter Biden’s role on the company was “very awkward” for U.S. officials pushing anti-corruption policies in the country.

The report also cites a New Yorker article published last year, which details a discussion between Joe Biden and an aide about his son’s role at the company. However, the article did not include Biden’s side of the conversation.

The report said Kent and another official had raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest and Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma casting “a shadow” on U.S. policy in Ukraine. But it did not provide any evidence that it affected U.S. policy.

Johnson cast the release of the report as damaging to Biden’s electoral chances.

“People need to take a look at this report very carefully and understand what the ramifications are for electing Joe Biden as president,” he said in a radio interview the day before the report’s release.

Johnson’s repeated insistence that the report would hurt Biden prompted criticism from within his own party.

“It is not the legitimate role of government, for Congress or for taxpayer expense, to be used in an effort to damage political opponents,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said last week, calling the investigation a “political exercise.”

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also confronted Johnson over concerns that his probe would fuel Russia’s disinformation effort, according to Politico.

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told the outlet on Wednesday that Johnson had “wasted months” on the investigation while seeking to “subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars — an attack founded on a long-disproven, hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory.”

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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