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US coronavirus cases surpass 8 million as infections spike nationwide – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-10-16 06:23:00
Coronavirus

US cases of the novel coronavirus crossed 8 million on Thursday, rising by 1 million in less than a month, as another surge in cases hits the nation at the onset of cooler weather.

Since the pandemic started, over 217,000 people have died in the United States.

The United States reported 60,000 new infections on Wednesday, the highest since Aug. 14, with rising cases in every region, especially the Midwest.

Health experts have long warned that colder temperatures driving people inside could promote the spread of the virus. They have not pinpointed the reason for the rise but point to fatigue with COVID-19 precautions and students returning to schools and colleges.

According to a Reuters analysis, 25 states have so far set records for increases in new cases in October. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2SFLb7o)

All Midwest and Northeast states have reported more cases in the past four weeks than in the prior four weeks, with the number of new cases doubling in states like Wisconsin, South Dakota and New Hampshire.

In the Midwest, daily new cases hit a record on Wednesday with over 22,000 new infections. The positive test rate tops 30% in South Dakota and 20% in Idaho and Wisconsin.

Ten states on Thursday reported record increases in new cases, including Wisconsin with 4,000 new cases. “Our numbers are high and they’re growing rapidly,” state Health Secretary-Designate Andrea Palm told a news conference.

“We have now surpassed 1,000 COVID-19 patients who are in the hospital. In some regions of our state, our ICU beds are 90% or more full. Over the course of the past six weeks, our average daily deaths have more than tripled,” Palm added.

California remains the state with the most total cases followed by Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia. Those five states account for over 40% of all reported COVID-19 cases in the nation.

With both cases and positive test rates rising in recent weeks, New York City has closed businesses and schools in neighborhood hot spots despite protests from a small contingent of Orthodox Jews.

In addition to rising cases, hospitals in several states are straining to handle an influx of patients.

In the Midwest, COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a record high for a tenth day in a row on Wednesday. Nationally, the United States reported nearly 37,000 hospitalizations, the highest since Aug. 28.

Wisconsin, which reported record hospitalization on Wednesday, has opened a field hospital outside of Milwaukee to handle COVID-19 patients.

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Hurricane Delta roars ashore on storm-battered US southern coast – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-10-10 17:58:00
USA

Delta became the 10th significant storm of the year to make landfall in the United States, which forecasters said was a record.

It roared ashore on Friday near Creole, Louisiana as a Category 2 storm on a scale of five, with winds of 100 miles per hour (160 kilometers per hour), before weakening to a tropical storm early Saturday.

“Damaging winds and a life-threatening storm surge continue over portions of southern Louisiana,” said the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), adding that one monitoring site was reporting a storm surge of eight feet (2.4 meters) above ground.

Delta – which the NHC said ad weakened to a tropical storm early Saturday -caused widespread power outages in the state.

In Lake Charles, a city in southwest Louisiana that was hit hard by Hurricane Laura on August 20, the streets were deserted Friday as a steady rain fell ahead of Delta’s arrival.

The city is still in disarray from the more powerful Laura, which was a Category 4 and ripped roofs off houses and uprooted trees. Streets are still littered with debris.

“I don’t even know if we’ll have a house when we come back,” said resident Kimberly Hester.

“I just pray to God every night we can at least have a house to come home to.”

Arthur Durham, 56, was finishing covering windows at his home with plywood as protection against flying debris.

“I stayed for the last one. I’m pretty well prepared. I have a generator back-up, tools, equipment… I’m pretty self-sufficient,” he told AFP, adding: “I’m used to this.”

– Battered US Gulf –

Earlier, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced that 2,400 National Guard personnel had been mobilized to aid locals.

Hurricane Delta will hit “in the area of our state that is least prepared to take it,” he said late Thursday.

In Lake Charles, Shannon Fuselier drilled plywood over the windows of a friend’s home.

Many neighborhood houses are covered with tarps from previous hurricane damage, and the home Fuselier was working on had already suffered roof damage from a fallen tree and smashed windows during Laura.

“The branches and leaves don’t do that much damage,” said Fuselier, 56. “It’s pieces of metal, steel, frames of other people’s windows, signs from people’s stores, nails.”

Fuselier said she was staying because she didn’t think the storm was strong enough for her to flee.

Edwards has already warned that Delta could sweep up old debris and hurl it like missiles.

Traffic was jammed Thursday as people left Lake Charles.

Terry Lebine evacuated to the town of Alexandria, some 100 miles (150 kilometers) to the north, during the previous hurricane, and was ready to head out again.

“It’s exhausting,” she told AFP. “I’ve got my mother, she’s 81 years old and not in the best of health. Right after we went back home after Laura, we have to leave again for Delta. We were home a good two to three weeks.”

The storm toppled trees and tore down power lines in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday as it swept over the western Gulf of Mexico. But the region escaped major destruction and no deaths were reported.

Delta is the 26th named storm of an unusually active Atlantic hurricane season.

In September, meteorologists were forced to break out the Greek alphabet to name Atlantic storms for only the second time ever, after the 2020 hurricane season blew through their usual list, ending on Tropical Storm Wilfred.

As the ocean surface warms due to climate change, hurricanes become more powerful. Scientists say there will likely be an increase in powerful Category 4 and 5 storms.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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U.S. should try to delay IPO of China’s Ant Group, Senator Rubio says – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-10-10 16:16:00
China

WASHINGTON :
Senator Marco Rubio, who has successfully urged the Trump administration to pursue investigations of Chinese companies, called on Friday for the U.S. government to consider options to delay an initial public offering of China’s Ant Group, the fintech arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

“It’s outrageous that Wall Street is rewarding the Chinese Communist Party’s blatant crackdown on Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy by orchestrating Ant Group’s IPO on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges,” Rubio, a Republican, said in a statement to Reuters.

“The Administration should take a serious look at the options available to delay Ant Group’s IPO,” he added.

The Hong Kong leg of the IPO, part of a dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong, is being sponsored by China International Capital Corp, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley. Credit Suisse is working as a joint global coordinator. Goldman Sachs is also involved.

Ant declined to comment on Rubio’s remarks, but said its business was primarily in China and it is excited about growth prospects there.

It was not immediately clear how the U.S. government could postpone the listing of a Chinese company abroad. But Rubio’s remarks are a sign of growing pressure among China hardliners in Congress, within the administration and elsewhere, for President Donald Trump to sanction Ant before it lists later this month.

Some fear the offering, worth up to $30 billion, could expose scores of U.S. investors to fraud. Others fear it could give the Chinese government access to sensitive banking data belonging to U.S. citizens.

“These digital payment systems are the source of well-founded national security concerns, and the Trump administration should move to protect American users’ sensitive financial data as quickly as possible,” Republican Representative Jim Banks said in a statement when asked whether the administration should impose sanctions on the company.

Ant is China’s dominant mobile payments company, offering loans, payments, insurance and asset management services via mobile apps. Based in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Ant is 33% owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and controlled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

Ant’s Alipay payment platform, like Tencent’s WeChat’s platform, is used primarily by Chinese citizens with accounts in renminbi. Most of its U.S. interactions are with merchants accepting payment from Chinese travelers and businesses in the country.

An anti-China advocacy group known as the Committee on the Present Danger: China, whose membership includes hedge fund manager Kyle Bass and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, penned a letter to Trump last month calling for the company to be added to a trade black list and the IPO to be delayed.

“We believe that the IPO should, at a minimum, be delayed to ensure that…disclosures are faithfully done and properly evaluated as, regrettably, a sizeable portion of the IPO proceeds will almost surely end up in the investment portfolios of millions of retail American investors,” the group said in the letter, dated Sept. 14.

The company could become the latest victim of a years-long technology battle between Beijing and Washington that saw the Trump administration lash out at such Chinese companies as telecoms giant Huawei and surveillance camera maker Hikvision over everything from intellectual property theft, to breaches of sanctions and human rights abuses.

Rubio was the first to publicly call for a probe into popular Chinese-owned social media app TikTok by a powerful national security committee, which did review it. The Trump administration ultimately banned the app, but a court-imposed injunction pending review has kept the ban from going into effect.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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Trump administration hits 18 countries with aluminum tariffs – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-10-09 22:25:00
USA

The United States on Friday imposed steep new tariffs on nearly $2 billion in aluminum from 18 countries the Commerce Department accuses of dumping into the American market, including Germany, Spain and Brazil.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said China was not on the list but is partially responsible for the flood of aluminum sheet imports that could undermine domestic producers.

“What’s really been happening, actually, is Chinese excess capacity has been dumped into other markets. That, in turn, displaces production which gets dumped here,” Ross said on Fox Business Network.

“It’s a very complicated setup but the net effect is a lot of dumping in the US, and that’s what we’re clamping down on.”

Germany and Brazil face the steepest tariffs of close to 353 percent and 137 percent, respectively. The US imported nearly $287 million of the product from Germany last year, and $97 million from Brazil.

The preliminary decision means the US will immediately begin collecting the tariffs from importers to compensate for the price of aluminum sheeting sold below the cost of production, or helped by unfair subsidies, according to a Commerce Department statement.

The department could overturn the decision in late February, which is also subject to review by the US International Trade Commission. Their final decision is scheduled for April 5, 2021.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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Iran’s Rouhani says new US sanctions cannot break ‘resistance’ – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-10-09 21:14:00
Iran

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Friday dismissed new US sanctions as unable to break the Islamic republic’s “resistance” and said Washington has already done all it can to pressure Tehran.

US President Donald Trump’s administration imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran’s banking sector on Thursday by designating 18 major Iranian banks to “stop illicit access to US dollars”.

“The Americans have so far done all they could against the great nation of Iran,” Rouhani said, according to his official website.

“They cannot break the resistance of the Iranian nation with these inhumane” actions, he added.

According to Rouhani, the US administration is following “domestic aims” by such “political-propaganda attempts”.

The sanctions are part of Washington’s policy of “maximum pressure” against Tehran aimed at reining in the Islamic republic, the arch-foe of US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel.

They were reimposed after Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark accord with world powers and Iran, which limited the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme in exchange for international sanctions relief.

The US claims that transactions involving humanitarian goods such as food and medicine are exempt and that sanctions are “directed at the regime.”

Yet statements from experts and right groups point to the dire humanitarian consequences and the suffering sanctions impose on the Iranian people.

Rouhani said the sanctions are “attempts to create serious obstacles in fund transfers for medicine and food” and called them “cruel, terrorist and inhumane”.

He also called on the world’s “human rights advocates” to condemn the move.

“All countries witness that America’s attempts are completely against international laws and regulations, and in the time of the coronavirus are against human rights,” Rouhani said.

Iran has been struggling to contain the Middle East’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since February, with the virus so far killing more than 28,000 and infecting over 492,000 in the country.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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Police: Shooting outside Detroit strip club leaves 6 wounded – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-09-28 19:21:00
Detroit

DETROIT :
A shooting early Monday outside a Detroit strip club has left six people wounded, police said.

A large group was outside the club on the city’s west side shortly before 2 a.m. when at least one person opened fire, police said, citing preliminary information about the investigation.

Details about what led up to the shooting were under investigation, police said. No arrests were immediately reported.

Those shot were in their 20s, police said. Five were taken by medics to the hospital and another was transported by private vehicle.

Two men were listed in critical condition, police said, and two men and a woman were in stable condition. The condition of another woman who was shot wasn’t immediately known by police.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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Putin says Russia and US should agree not to meddle in each other’s elections – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-09-25 19:06:00
Russia

MOSCOW :
President Vladimir Putin called on Friday for an agreement between Russia and the United States to guarantee not to engage in cyber-meddling in each other’s elections.

In a statement ahead of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3, Putin called for a reset between Russia and the United States and said he wanted an agreement between the two countries to prevent incidents in cyberspace.

“(I propose) exchanging guarantees of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, including electoral processes, including using information and communication technologies and high-tech methods,” he said.

Moscow’s relations with Washington are at post-Cold War lows as the election looms.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the aim of tilting it in Donald Trump’s favour, including by hacking into the campaign of his rival Hillary Clinton. Moscow denies that charge.

Trump is currently campaigning for re-election against Democrat Joe Biden.

“One of the main strategic challenges of our time is the risk of a large-scale confrontation in the digital sphere,” Putin said in the Kremlin statement.

“We would like to once again appeal to the United States with a proposal to approve a comprehensive program of practical measures to reset our relations in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT).”

He proposed the two countries reach an agreement to prevent major cyberspace incidents, something he compared to a 1972 U.S.-Soviet treaty reached at the height of the Cold War to prevent incidents at sea and in the air from escalating.

He also called for the two countries to fully restore communication lines between their respective agencies to discuss key international information on security issues.

Russia has denied it is attempting to interfere in the 2020 U.S. campaign, despite evidence to the contrary.

Microsoft said two weeks ago that hackers linked to Russia, China and Iran were trying to spy on people tied to both Trump and Biden. Russia and China dismissed the allegations.

Reuters reported on Sept. 9 that Microsoft had alerted one of Biden’s main election campaign advisory firms that it had been targeted by suspected Russian state-backed hackers. The Kremlin called the report “nonsense”.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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TikTok sues Donald Trump administration to block US ban – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-09-19 10:34:00
TikTok

TikTok asked a judge to block the Trump administration from enacting a ban on the Chinese social-media network, as the company brought a geopolitical fight over technology and trade into a U.S. courtroom.

TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance Ltd., filed a complaint in Washington federal court late Friday night challenging President Donald Trump’s executive order that would block U.S. companies from doing business with them.

Trump exceeded his authority when he moved to ban the app, and did so for political reasons rather than to stop an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the U.S., as the law requires, according to the complaint. TikTok also said the ban violates the company’s First Amendment free speech rights.|

Trump’s actions would “destroy an online community where millions of Americans have come together to express themselves,” according to the complaint. The company also claims that the U.S. Commerce Department “ignored evidence” showing TikTok’s commitment to privacy and security of its American users.

Trump issued the order abruptly after stating that TikTok didn’t “have any rights” and that he would ban the app if ByteDance didn’t pay the U.S. to secure government approval of a sale of its U.S. operations — which the president later admitted would be unlawful, according to the complaint.

The suit comes as Trump steps up his campaign against China, betting that a hard line against Beijing will help him win November’s election despite upsetting millions of younger TikTok users. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has urged American companies to bar Chinese applications from their app stores, part of his “Clean Network” guidance designed to prevent authorities in China from accessing personal data of U.S. citizens.

The order followed an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews proposed acquisitions of domestic businesses by overseas investors for national security concerns.

TikTok said it offered alternatives to the president’s ban to address U.S. concerns but that on Friday the Commerce Department “mandated the destruction of TikTok in the United States.”

Any lawsuit challenging such executive orders will face an uphill fight, according to James Dempsey, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology at the University of California at Berkeley.

“Courts generally do not review the president’s determinations on questions of national security,” Dempsey said before the case was filed.

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China holds military exercises near Taiwan as US diplomat visits – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-09-18 21:18:00
China

China said Friday it was conducting military exercises near the Taiwan Strait, as a top US diplomat visits the self-ruled island in a move that has angered Beijing.

Relations between the United States and China are at their lowest point in decades, with the two sides clashing over a range of trade, military and security issues as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

Keith Krach, US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, landed in Taipei on Thursday for a three-day visit, the highest-ranking State Department official to visit in 40 years.

At a press conference on Friday, a Chinese defence ministry spokesman said Beijing was “holding actual combat exercises near the Taiwan Strait” when asked how it would respond to the visit.

“This is a legitimate and necessary action taken to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the current situation in the Taiwan Strait,” Ren Guoqiang told reporters.

Ren also warned that the Chinese military had “sufficient ability” to counter any external threat or challenge from Taiwan separatists.

– ‘Causing trouble’ -Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory, to be absorbed into the Chinese mainland — by force if necessary.

China’s Communist leadership baulks at any recognition of Taiwan — which has been ruled separately from China since the end of a civil war in 1949 — and has pursued a decades-long policy of marginalising the democratic island.

Ren accused the United States of “frequently causing trouble” over Taiwan, which he said “is purely China’s internal affairs, and we won’t tolerate any external interference”.

An editorial in the nationalist, state-backed Global Times newspaper later warned “war will inevitably break out” if the US and Taiwan continue to “make provocations.”

According to Taipei’s defence ministry, 18 Chinese aircraft — including bombers and fighters — entered Taiwan’s southwest air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Friday and also crossed the so-called median line that divides the Taiwan Strait.

The ministry said Taiwan’s military “scrambled fighters, and deployed air defence missile system to monitor the activities”.

“We hope the other side can exercise restraint and not… heighten conflicts between the two sides. These military intimidations have caused resentment among the Taiwanese people,” it said in a statement.

In recent weeks, Taiwan has reported a sharp rise in incursions by Chinese warplanes into its ADIZ.

Chinese jets also made a brief incursion across the midline of the strait in August, as US health chief Alex Azar made his country’s highest-level visit to Taiwan since 1979 — the year Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

Washington’s increased outreach to Taiwan under President Donald Trump has become yet another US-China flashpoint.

The US said Krach was visiting Taiwan to attend Saturday’s memorial service for late president Lee Teng-hui, who died in July aged 97.

On Friday, Krach met with foreign minister Joseph Wu to discuss bilateral issues and exchange views on future collaborations, according to Taipei authorities. He is also scheduled to join President Tsai Ing-wen for dinner at her official residence.

China has ramped up pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016, as she refuses to acknowledge its idea that the democratic island is part of “one China”.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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North Korea issues shoot-to-kill orders to prevent coronavirus: US – News in USA by Post24x7

2020-09-11 10:38:00
Coronavirus

North Korean authorities have issued shoot-to-kill orders to prevent the coronavirus entering the country from China, according to the commander of US forces in the South.

The impoverished North — whose crumbling health system would struggle to cope with a major virus outbreak — has not confirmed a single case of the disease that has swept the world since first emerging in China, the North’s key ally.

Pyongyang closed its border with China in January to try to prevent contamination, and in July state media said it had raised its state of emergency to the maximum level.

US Forces Korea (USFK) commander Robert Abrams said that the border shutdown had increased demand for smuggled goods, prompting authorities to intervene.

The North introduced a new “buffer zone, one or two kilometers up on the Chinese border,” Abrams told an online conference organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on Thursday.

“They’ve got North Korean SOF (Special Operations Forces) out there. … Strike forces, they’ve got shoot-to-kill orders in place.”

The border closure had effectively “accelerated the effects” of economic sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear programs, he added, with imports from China plunging 85 percent.

The isolated country is also grappling with the aftermath of Typhoon Maysak, with its state media reporting more than 2,000 houses have been destroyed or inundated.

As a result, Abrams did not expect to see any major provocations from Pyongyang in the near future, although he said it might show off a new weapons system at next month’s celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the founding of Kim Jong Un’s ruling party.

“The regime right now — the military — is focused principally on getting their country recovered and to help mitigate the risk of Covid-19,” he said.

“We’re not seeing any indications right now of any sort of lashing out.”

But CSIS published on its website a satellite image of North Korea’s Sinpo South naval shipyard, which its experts believe shows activity that could indicate preparations for a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

A new North Korean missile test would be yet another sign of the lack of progress in denuclearization talks between the US and Pyongyang, which have been stalled despite multiple meetings between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Trump, who is seeking reelection in November, was the first sitting US leader to meet a member of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea since its founding.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted, without further explanation: “Kim Jong Un is in good health. Never underestimate him!”

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