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Banks in Hong Kong condemn violence, urge restoration of ‘harmony’

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The HSBC Holdings Plc headquarters building in Hong Kong, China.

Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Some of Hong Kong’s biggest banks published full-page newspaper advertisements on Thursday calling for the preservation of law and order in the Chinese territory and condemning violence, as weeks of pro-democracy protests show no sign of abating.

HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of East Asia, which published the advertisements in major newspapers in the Asian financial hub, all urged the restoration of social order.

Thousands of Hong Kong residents held an anti-government protest on Wednesday at a suburban subway station where demonstrators were attacked by a mob of white-shirted men last month. Protesters at the subway station on Wednesday were angry that nobody has yet been prosecuted for that violence.

The standoff stopped short of recent intense clashes with police, who refrained from using tear gas or attempting to storm protesters’ lines. Only one rock was seen hitting a police shield and most protesters headed home before midnight.

Anger erupted in June over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for trial but have since grown into one of the biggest populist challenges faced by Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012.

The unrest has been fueled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula adopted after Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 but not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.

A flurry of anti-government demonstrations are planned in coming weeks, including a rally by students on Thursday and another strike in districts across the city in early September.

Continuing protests could deepen the impact on the city’s economy, especially small and medium enterprises, Bank of East Asia warned on Wednesday after reporting a 75% plunge in its first-half net profit due to loan write downs in mainland China.

The protests are already exacting a toll on Hong Kong’s economy and tourism, with the Asian financial hub on the verge of its first recession in a decade.

Standard Chartered said in Thursday’s advertisements the bank supported the special administrative region’s government to uphold social order and “guard the status of Hong Kong as an international financial center”.

HSBC said all parties must resolve disagreement through communication rather than violence. Neither HSBC nor Bank of East Asia referred to the government in their advertisements.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam reiterated on Tuesday that the extradition legislation was dead but has stopped short of withdrawing the bill, as protesters have demanded.

Demonstrators are also calling for an independent inquiry, a halt to descriptions oaf the protests as “rioting”, a waiver of charges against those arrested, and resumption of political reform.

Protests in recent weeks, which have at times drawn more than a million people onto the streets, have also included the storming of the legislature and major disruptions and violence at the airport.

Beijing has reacted sharply and has accused foreign countries, including the United States, of fomenting unrest.

China has also sent clear warning that forceful intervention is possible, with paramilitary forces holding drills in neighboring Shenzhen.

China confirmed on Wednesday that a Chinese national working at Britain’s Hong Kong consulate has been detained in Shenzhen for violating the law, likely worsening already strained ties between Beijing and London.

Britain has said it is “extremely concerned” by reports that staff member Simon Cheng did not return to work on Aug. 9.

Cheng’s family said on Wednesday that they still did not know the location and reason for Simon’s detention.

“We call on the public to continue with the concern for Simon, to help identify why and where he is detained; and to ensure that he will be released as soon as possible.”



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Trump extends shutdown to April 30 as social distancing begins to slow down death rate

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WASHINGTON: Amid signs that social distancing measures are helping decelerate the death rate from coronavirus infection, the United States has extended its lockdown guidelines to April 30 after President Donald Trump on Sunday accepted expert projections that 100,000-200,000 people could die of coronavirus infection notwithstanding with such a shutdown.
Even holding the death count down to between 100,000, a “horrible number” as it is, would be better than the initial projection of 2.2 million deaths without such mitigation numbers, Trump said at his daily wrangle with the media, echoing experts who persuaded him to walk back on his desire to reopen America for business by Easter Sunday, April 12.
Trump was persuaded into extending the lockdown after the two lead experts on the mission to slow down the coronavirus transmission, Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Deborah Brix, made a compelling presentation to him of latest data showing mitigation efforts were showing results, and not extending them. Having successfully made the case for extending the lockdown, they called the President heeding their advice – which will have a ripple effect across the world — a “wise and prudent decision,” even though Trump had chafed at such advice last week, complaining that if it were left to doctors, they would shut the country for a long time.
The extension of the lockdown came even as the country was shaken by some high profile coronavirus deaths and scenes from New York City, where hospitals are now extending facilities into public places, including the famed Central Park in midtown Manhattan, parts of which was turned into a field hospital to manage the flood of patients.
Among the prominent victims claimed by Covid19 in New York over the weekend was CBS TV producer Maria Mercader, a cancer survivor for 20 years who was felled by the coronavirus in two weeks, and Wall Street executive Peregrine “Peg” Broadbent, both in their 50s. There were reports of two nurses’ deaths and several medical personnel falling ill.
Unprecedented scenes flooded out of New York City over the weekend with footage of dead bodies being loaded into refrigerated trucks parked outside hospitals. Although 98 people died in a space of seven hours on Sunday of Covid-19 and complications arising from it, both the infections spread and fatalities seemed to be slowing down amid strict measures by state and city officials, including threats of a $ 500 fine for those violating the lockdown without good reason.
Despite the scary headlines and footage, death from coronavirus in NYC dropped on Sunday with 304 fatalities reported, down from Saturday’s 485 deaths and Friday’s 398.
Trump meanwhile continued to scrap with journalists, critics, and opposition figures amid stories of raw courage and endurance by the country’s doctors and healthcare professionals who are putting their own lives on line. He berated an African-American journalist, who seem to be his favorite targets, for not being positive and for being “threatening” even though the scribe in question had asked a perfectly valid question quite politely (“you’ve said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment that governors are requesting, they don’t actually need…How is that going to impact how you fill these orders for ventilators or for masks?”)
Having denied he had said anything like that, Trump then went on to make the extraordinary suggestion that US healthcare workers may be stealing or selling surgical masks or hoarding them for themselves because the demand for masks in a New York hospital has gone up from 10,000 to 20,000 to 300,000. “Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?” Trump asked at a trademark rambling Rose Garden press briefing, asking the media to investigate his suspicions. On Monday, Trump unloaded on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling her a “sick puppy” after she accused the President of fiddling when people are dying.
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USNS Comfort Hospital Ship Reaches New York. It’s Not Made to Contain Coronavirus.

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But within the striking white and red hull of the Comfort, some of the crew members say they are scared that they are tempting fate by dropping anchor in New York harbor. As of a week ago, the crew had not been informed of the screening procedures for patients coming aboard, other than temperature checks, according to one person aboard the Comfort familiar with the situation.

He added that there was some talk of conducting X-ray examinations — in an effort to check the lungs for evidence of the virus — but it is unclear if those are proceeding.

Navy officials acknowledge that it will be extremely difficult, yet paramount, to ensure no one with coronavirus gets on board. The ship’s crew will not be allowed off the ship; there will be no visits into Manhattan and of course no trips to bars or restaurants for takeout. Ship personnel will be doing temperature checks and scans and are still working on additional ways to screen patients before they are allowed on board, officials said.

With 12 operating rooms, 1,000 hospital beds, radiology services, a laboratory, pharmacy and CT scanner, the Comfort is its own fully-staffed hospital. It responded to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, and showed up off the coast of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. It has even been to New York before, when, in the days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Comfort provided aid and medical help largely for emergency medical workers.

It floated in the Arabian Sea during the Iraq war in 2003, receiving and treating injured Marines and soldiers. Treating combat wounds is its main function. The ship, a refurbished oil tanker that was commissioned in 1987, has never before been involved in a response to an infectious disease pandemic, Captain Amersbach said.

But other military hospitals have seen their own share of sudden mysterious infectious diseases.

Lt. Gen. Ron Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, recalled that during the early stages of the Iraq war, from 2003 to 2005, Army medics suddenly started seeing pneumonia cases in “otherwise young, healthy, what-should-be low-risk service members.” Alarmed, the military started digging and realized that there was a new kind of bacteria in Iraq that American troops were not used to, and the exposure had led to complications.



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US History Cold War Politics Part 3

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