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Today’s News: March 17, 2020

World News

In China, life returning to normal as coronavirus outbreak slows

Al Jazeera – Draconian measures, which appear to have quelled the outbreak in China, are gradually being relaxed.

European Union To Ban Non-Essential Travel Into Europe

Activist Post – The gradual but accelerating “quarantining” of the world into its constituent parts to halt the spread of the coronavirus just took a major step moments ago, when the FT reported that European countries plan a ban on entry to the 26-state Schengen passport free travel zone in the most radical response yet to the continent’s escalating coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed action – expected to be announced later on Monday – and may be in response to the US ban of all flights from Europe for the next month, would cover all non-essential visits from third countries, with exemptions including for citizens of Schengen countries.

The ban is aimed at non-essential travel to the Schengen area in an effort to curb the coronavirus’s spread across Europe, officials said. The Schengen countries include 22 EU members, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The five EU states not in Schengen – Ireland, Cyprus, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria – may also be invited to also implement the restrictions.

In short, virtually all tourism between the US and Europe is now indefinitely halted.

Exemptions to the ban under discussion include for EU citizens, residents and their family members, as well as workers in crucial sectors such as healthcare and transport, officials said.

SWITZERLAND: Coronavirus: Federal Council declares ‘extraordinary situation’ and introduces more stringent measures

FDHA – At an extraordinary meeting today, 16 March 2020, the Federal Council took the decision to introduce more stringent measures to protect the public. It has declared that an ‘extraordinary situation’ now exists in Switzerland in terms of the Epidemics Act. All shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment and leisure facilities will remain closed until 19 April. Not affected by the new ruling are food stores and healthcare institutions. As of midnight, it is also introducing checks on the borders to Germany, Austria and France. The Federal Council has also authorised the deployment of up to 8000 members of the armed forces to assist the cantons at hospitals and with logistics and security.

In view of the accelerated spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council is introducing more stringent measures to protect the public. It has now declared that an ‘extraordinary situation’ exists in Switzerland in terms of the Epidemics Act. This allows the Federal Council to order the introduction of uniform measures in all cantons. The cantons were given prior notice of the move.

As of midnight tonight, all public and private events are prohibited. All shops, markets, restaurants, bars and entertainment and leisure facilities, such as museums, libraries, cinemas, concert halls and theatres, sports centres, swimming pools and ski areas are to close. Also affected are businesses at which the recommended distance cannot be maintained, such as hairdressers and cosmetics studios.

Provision of the entire population with foodstuffs, medicinal products and essential everyday items is assured; there are sufficient stocks. Food stores, takeaway businesses, company canteens, food home delivery services and pharmacies will remain open, as will petrol stations, railway stations, banks, post offices, hotels, public administrations and social institutions. Maintenance facilities for means of transport may remain open. However, all of these establishments must follow the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health on hygiene and keeping your distance. Hospitals, clinics and medical practices will remain open, but must forego non-urgent medical procedures and treatments. People at

especially high risk should work from home. If that is not possible, they are to be placed on leave by their employers, but will continue to receive their pay.

Shutting schools would reduce coronavirus transmission – expert

The Guardian – Remarks by Prof Neil Ferguson, a leading modeller of the spread of Covid-19, come amid mounting calls for schools to close.

A leading scientist behind the modelling of the spread of the coronavirus has said that shutting schools would reduce the transmission of the disease, as pressure grows on the UK government to introduce closures.

Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London and director of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, said that while it was not fully understood whether children transmitted the virus in the same way as other illnesses, school closures was a measure that could have an effect.

Hard-hit Iran frees more prisoners amid coronavirus outbreak

Al Jazeera – Judiciary says overall figure of those briefly released is 85,000, has taken measures in jails to protect against virus.

UK confirmed coronavirus cases rise 26% to 1,950 in past 24 hours

Reuters – British cases of coronavirus rose 26% to 1,950 from 1,543 the day before, the health ministry said.

Britain reported its first confirmed coronavirus case on Jan. 31. There have so far been 56 reported deaths.

“As of 9am on 17 March 2020, 50,442 people have been tested in the UK, of which 48,492 were confirmed negative and 1,950 were confirmed as positive,” the government said.

U.S. News, Politics & Government

Trump issues national “guidelines” to help stop spread of coronavirus while lawmakers, health officials demand a LOCKDOWN instead

NaturalNews – President Donald Trump on Monday issued a two-page memo containing several “guidelines” for Americans and state leaders to follow over a period of 15 days as a way to limit the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

But for some lawmakers and White House officials, those measures fall far short of what they say is needed: A national lockdown similar to those imposed by China and European governments.

During a White House press conference Monday afternoon, Trump referenced the memo titled, “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” which officials noted was not a national lockdown order.

As USA Features News reported:

Rather, they contain suggestions for Americans and businesses to follow in order to reduce contact and thus help blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

“If everyone makes this change, or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus,” the president told reporters. “We’re going to have a big celebration all together.”

The president, who was no doubt quoting his health experts, added that the outbreak could last into July or August.

Coronavirus vaccine trial administers first dose to participant

CNN – A novel coronavirus vaccine trial in the US has now given a dose to its first participant, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced Monday.

“Martial Law” Being Seen In U.S. and Europe Over COVID-19 Is The Bigger Threat

Activist Post – NYC’s governor Andrew Cuomo wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times begging President U.S. Donald Trump to enact martial law. Meanwhile, other states have already taken shocking martial law measures without an official declaration, showing our potential unconstitutional future under fears of the coronavirus that likely won’t go away after the pandemic has subsided.

All over the U.S. there seems be this new trend — military and police now acting as if we are under martial law without a formal declaration of such. Yet, here we have NYC’s governor Cuomo begging Trump to essentially declare martial law by utilizing the military for the COVID-19 pandemic and federalize shutdowns.

“Slowing the spread of coronavirus is a function of testing and reducing the density of public gatherings. So first, Mr. President, you must stop the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from overregulating the testing process, and authorize states to certify a wider array of testing labs and methods,” Cuomo writes.

Cuomo goes on to express that Trump should utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to transform existing facilities into temporary medical centers.

States cannot build more hospitals, acquire ventilators or modify facilities quickly enough. At this point, our best hope is to utilize the Army Corps of Engineers to leverage its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers. Then we can designate existing hospital beds for the acutely ill.

To sum up what Trump can do to defend against the spread of the coronavirus Cuomo writes, “In short: Localize testing, federalize shutdowns and task the Army Corps of Engineers to expand hospital capacity.”

While building hospital beds in existing facilities and using the military to do so isn’t a bad idea, forced quarantines would be expanding the police state. NYC hasn’t yet gone into “martial law mode,” but other states have basically enacted it in the form of the National Guard being deployed in heavily infected areas. According to reports, the National Guard has been deployed so far to six states with many more expected to follow. Beyond that, there are reports that Kentucky has a patient who refused to self isolate. As a result, the state took things into their own hands by suspending his rights and police are now guarding him armed 24/7 at his house. If that’s not enough, there was a video posted online of New Orleans’ police in several cop cars demanding citizens leave the streets and disperse immediately.

De Blasio says New York City ‘absolutely considering’ shelter in place order amid coronavirus outbreak

Fox – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s “absolutely considering” a citywide lockdown that allows city dwellers to leave their homes only for basic needs such as food and medicines amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The measure would be a major ramp-up in New York City’s COVID-19 response, which already has closed schools, banned gatherings of more than 50 people, limited restaurant service to takeout and delivery, and turned the lights off on Broadway and other entertainment venues.

De Blasio made the comments in a Tuesday morning interview with CNN when asked if New York City could enact a similar shelter-in-place order imposed in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday.

Maryland Governor Orders “Drastic Actions” to be Enforced Statewide by Police and National Guard

Activist Post – Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced a series of dramatic executive orders today to prevent the spread of coronavirus. These actions are to be enforced by police and the National Guard.

According to WBAL-TV he ordered the following social distancing measures.

  • shut down all bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters, effectively starting at 5 p.m. Monday. Drive through and carry out services will be allowed to continue.
  • Following CDC guidelines, settings of 50 of more individuals will be prohibited across the state, including social and recreational events and religious and sports gatherings. (source)

These measures will be strongly enforced. Anne Arundel First Alert reports:

Hogan says State Troopers and National Guard will enforce orders saying “We’re not playing around anymore.” “Emergency orders will carry the full force of the law,” Hogan re-iterated.

“We have never faced anything like this before, said Hogan. He continued, citing “Drastic actions” being taken right now. He warned Marylanders the orders may seem scary and may sound extreme, it is absolutely necessary. (source)

Hogan has ordered the activation of 250 State Troopers for emergency service, 400 Army and Air National Guard, and 1000 more MD National Guard. As well, 1200 Maryland guardsmen are on enhanced readiness status if they are needed.

Illinois News Station Mistakenly Airs Election Results Day Before Primary, Showing Joe Biden Victory

Breitbart – The local Illinois news station WCIA mistakenly aired Election Day results on Monday, showing former Vice President Joe Biden (D) winning, the day before the state’s Tuesday primary election.

Ohio Postpones Democratic Primaries as Three States Go Ahead With Voting

Voice of America – Voters in three U.S. states are set to go to polling places Tuesday to cast ballots in primaries to pick the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, despite worries about the coronavirus outbreak that forced one state to postpone its voting.

Going into Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders 898 to 745 in pledged delegates.

Economy & Business

White House eyes massive $850B stimulus package next, as Senate moves on latest coronavirus bill

Fox – White House officials and congressional lawmakers are signaling they will attempt to push through a third coronavirus spending package worth hundreds of billions of dollars even as the Senate works to move along the more modest second relief bill that focuses on leave for workers and expedited testing for the disease officially known as COVID-19.

Fox News has learned that the White House specifically is pushing an $850 billion stimulus, largely in the form of tax relief measures.

Roughly $500 billion of this would be tied to a payroll tax cut, while $250 billion would come in the form of Small Business Administration loans and another $58 billion would be directed to the airline industry, among other measures.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will attend the Senate GOP’s weekly policy lunch Tuesday — which will take place in a larger room that it usually does so the senators can practice social distancing — to discuss the details of the comprehensive coronavirus proposal from the White House.

“I’m not going to comment on the numbers now. But it’s a big number,” Mnuchin told reporters Monday night.

The Washington Post first reported Tuesday morning that Mnuchin’s proposal would come with the $850 billion price tag. The Post, citing anonymous sources, reported that Mnuchin’s proposal would focus mainly on putting cash in the hands of individuals and businesses.

Exclusive: Amazon stops receiving non-essential products from sellers amid coronavirus outbreak

Reuters – Inc (AMZN.O) is suspending sellers from sending non-essential products to its U.S. and U.K. warehouses until April 5 in the latest move to free up inventory space for much-needed supplies that are in shortage as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a note sent to sellers on Tuesday, Amazon said it is seeing increasing online shopping demand from consumers. As its household staples and medical supplies are running out of stock, it will prioritize certain categories in order to “quickly receive, restock, and ship these products to customers.”

Amazon defined five categories as essential products that can continue shipping, including Baby Product, Health & Household, Beauty & Personal Care, Grocery, Industrial & Scientific, Pet Supplies.

The move follows Amazon’s announcement it will hire 100,000 workers for its warehouses on Monday, as the Seattle-based giant is trying to meet growing online shopping need from people who stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Third-party sellers account for over half of the sales on Amazon. Amazon has been courting sellers to use its own fulfillment system, enabling many of them with faster delivery without the risks of sitting on inventories.

Philippines Is First Country To Halt Its Market “Until Further Notice”

ZeroHedge – Following two weeks of relentless market turmoil, traders were wondering which country’s stock market would be shut down first. Moments ago we got the answer when the Philippine Stock Exchange announced it is suspending trading “until further notice” after the country’s President Rodrigo Duterte expanded a month-long lockdown to the entire main island of Luzon.

“Mass transport suspension and work suspension in the private sector plus the mandate of the government to stay at home constrained us to suspend trading and clearing & settlement for now,” said PSE Chief Operating Officer Roel Refran, who surely welcomes the opportunity to take a break from the crash in the country’s stock market which has wiped out just over a third of market values in since the November highs.

Who’s next?

Earlier on Monday, the CEO of Borsa Italiana, Raffaele Jerusalmi, denied rumors that Italy’s stock market would shut even as the rest of the country is effectively on lockdown, when Ansa quoted him as saying that future decisions on closing stock markets “at aggregate level” are in theory possible but would be up to governments acting collectively. Jerusalmi did not say any such moves were imminent or comment on whether they’ve been discussed at any level.

“If there was a decision at the global level, it could be done, but it is not up to us”, suggesting that the Philippine closure was a rogue decision, although now that one nation’s market is offline it is far more likely that the rest of the world will promptly follow in “coordinated fashion”, especially if Trump fails to spark a BTFD panic with his appropriately timed 3:30pm press conference today, timed strategically to coincide with the traditional last 30 minute market ramp.

US, China trade barbs over coronavirus pandemic

Al Jazeera – Officials from both sides in war of words over origin of coronavirus, with Trump calling it ‘Chinese Virus’.

US airline industry seeks about $50 billion in federal help

CNN – US airlines slammed by the coronavirus are requesting an aid package from the federal government that could amount to about $50 billion, according to industry group Airlines for America.

N.Y. Unemployment Site Goes Down After “Tens Of Thousands” Lose Jobs

ZeroHedge – n many ways the US economy is currently in the eye of the coronavirus storm: cities and states are under quarantine lockdown, the CDC has prohibited any groupings of more than 50 people; stores, clubs, restaurants, bars and hotels are voluntarily shuttering indefinitely as the economy grinds to a halt and yet besides a tapestry of ghost cities across the nation, the immediate impact of the devastating viral storm on the service economy has yet to manifest itself.

But the hurricane is about to hit front and center, and the service-industry mecca of New York City is leading the way.

As the Daily News reports, New York’s unemployment website was overwhelmed Monday as the coronavirus pandemic put tens of thousands of people across the state out of work.

Energy & Environment

Court Requires EPA to Protect Communities Against Worst-Case Chemical Spills

EcoWatch – On Thursday, a federal district court required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue long-overdue protections against worst-case scenario spills of hazardous materials, like in the case of extreme storms, fires, or flooding. The decision approved a negotiated consent decree between the EPA and a coalition of community and environmental organizations, including NRDC, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA), and Clean Water Action.

“This is a victory for the millions of people who live in fear of experiencing catastrophic chemical spills in their own backyards,” says Kaitlin Morrison, an NRDC attorney.

U.S. Military Is World’s Biggest Polluter

EcoWatch – Last week, mainstream media outlets gave minimal attention to the news that the U.S. Naval station in Virginia Beach had spilled an estimated 94,000 gallons of jet fuel into a nearby waterway, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

While the incident was by no means as catastrophic as some other pipeline spills, it underscores an important yet little-known fact—that the U.S. Department of Defense is both the nation’s and the world’s, largest polluter.

Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among others.

In 2014, the former head of the Pentagon’s environmental program told Newsweek that her office has to contend with 39,000 contaminated areas spread across 19 million acres just in the U.S. alone.

U.S. military bases, both domestic and foreign, consistently rank among some of the most polluted places in the world, as perchlorate and other components of jet and rocket fuel contaminate sources of drinking water, aquifers and soil. Hundreds of military bases can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Superfund sites, which qualify for clean-up grants from the government.

Almost 900 of the nearly 1,200 Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities or sites that otherwise support military needs, not counting the military bases themselves.


School Sues to Force Autism Test on 7-Year-Old

Mercoal – The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is suing Angela Bolton-Smith in an effort to force autism testing on her son, Trent, who is 7 years old and a former student in the district.

Trent has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, so Bolton-Smith requested that DISD evaluate him for special education services, but refused testing for autism because he had no such symptoms and she feared a misdiagnosis.

DISD refused to provide special education services to the student until autism testing was performed, so Bolton-Smith appealed to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which sided with her and the student — twice.

Rather than agreeing to provide special education instruction without autism testing, DISD took the highly unusual step of appealing in federal court; Bolton-Smith is now countersuing to recover more than $90,000 in legal fees

Blueberries Prevent Cognitive Decline

Newsmax – It’s known that blueberries are a superfood, but research shows that these tasty, low-calorie berries can also prevent cognitive decline, especially in older women. A study published in “Annals of Neurology” claims that the flavonoids, especially the anthocyanins, found in berries effectively lower the mental decline of adults. The flavonoids, the components that give blueberries their color, can improve brain health, say the researchers.

Blueberries also combat anxiety.

According to Redonline, blueberries contain high amounts of vitamin C and other antioxidants that regulate spikes in the stress hormone cortisol and also boost the levels of the “feel good” hormone serotonin. In addition, the compounds in blueberries help repair the cells that have already been damaged by cortisol, reducing anxiety and restoring calm to the body.

Here are more health benefits:

  • Strengthen bones. According to Organic Facts, blueberries are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamin K, which, along with exercise, are key for preserving and protecting bone health.
  • Anti-aging. The anthocyanins in blueberries fight oxidative DNA damage while the vitamin C helps build collagen, resulting in younger-looking skin and reducing wrinkles.
  • Lowers LDL. The high fiber content in blueberries along with the antioxidants help dissolve the bad cholesterol in your arteries.
  • Lowers blood pressure. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that eating blueberries every day helps lower blood pressure naturally.
  • Manages diabetes. Again, the high fiber content of these berries is essential for a diabetic diet. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, blueberries reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26%.
  • Has anticancer properties. A report published in the Cancer Research Journal revealed that the berries have anticancer properties. Researchers studied the effect of blueberries on cancer cells compared to radiation treatment. They found that the extract of blueberries alone led to a 25% reduction of cancer cells while radiation therapy alone reduced the numbers by only 20%.
  • Weight loss. Blueberries are high in fiber and low in calories, which make them an ideal snack to promote weight loss. One cup of blueberries contains only 15 grams of carbohydrates and 84 calories. You can enjoy them fresh, frozen, or dried.
  • Inflammation. The antioxidants in blueberries combat inflammation in the body, which many experts believe to be the root cause of many of our chronic diseases.