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Factbox: Stores closed, employees evacuated, travel restricted as coronavirus spreads

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(Reuters) – Companies around the globe from Facebook to Japan’s Nippon Steel have restricted travel to China, as the outbreak of a new coronavirus, which has killed over 100 people and infected more than 4,000 in the world’s most populous country, sparks international alarm.

FILE PHOTO: A police officer wearing a mask stands in front of the closed seafood market in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

Here’s how companies have responded to the outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province:

TRAVEL ADVISORIES/EVACUATIONS/QUARANTINES:

– Facebook asked employees to halt non-essential travel to mainland China and to work from home if they had traveled there. Chinese tech giants including Alibaba and Tencent have asked staff to work from home for a week after an extended Lunar New Year break ends on Feb. 2.

– Tiktok owner Bytedance asked employees who traveled during the holidays to quarantine themselves and work from home for 14 days. E-commerce firm Pinduoduo, UBS Group and property developer Country Garden have advised similar action.

– Standard Chartered banned travel to Hubei and restricted travel to mainland China and Hong Kong, and asked employees returning from Hubei to work from home for 14 days. Commonwealth Bank of Australia said all non-essential employee travel to China should be avoided.

– LG Electronics and electric car battery maker LG Chem banned travel to China.

– South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix urged employees to avoid non-essential trips to China as have LG Display and Japanese carmakers Honda and Toyota. Honda evacuated around 30 employees and their families from Wuhan on a government charter flight.

– Nissan is planning to send back some Japanese staff working at its JV with Dongfeng Motors in Wuhan and their families on the chartered flight as well.

– Samsung Electronics advised employees who recently visited Hubei to stay at home for seven days.

– Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel restricted travel to China.

– Singaporean conglomerate Keppel Corp, which has 170 staff in Wuhan, advised staff to avoid non-work-related visits to and from mainland China and not to travel to Hubei province. It will monitor staff in China and those who have returned to Singapore from there in the past 14 days.

– Novartis said it is asking staff in China to work from home until Feb. 10 and has suspended business travel to and from Wuhan.

– Nestle has deployed additional biosecurity measures at its factories, offices and distribution centers in China. It does not have manufacturing facilities in Wuhan.

– Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) asked staff at its China unit to work from home between Feb. 3 and Feb. 17.

– Brazilian miner Vale SA has suspended travel by its employees to and from China indefinitely and said employees in China will work remotely.

– Goldman Sachs has instructed staff who have been in mainland China to work from home or be out of the office for 14 days since they were last there, according to an internal notice.

STORES SHUT:

– McDonald’s suspended business in five cities in Hubei including Wuhan. Starbucks closed all shops and suspended delivery services in Hubei.

– Yum China Holdings Inc temporarily closed some of its KFC and Pizza Hut stores in Wuhan.

– Luckin Coffee will keep stores closed in Wuhan throughout the Lunar New Year holidays.

– Japan’s Fast Retailing temporarily closed about 100Uniqlo stores in Hubei. IKEA closed its one store in Wuhan.

– Walt Disney temporarily closed its Shanghai and Hong Kong theme parks and resorts during what is likely the busiest time of the year.

– Imax delayed film releases in China.

– H&M has closed 45 stores and suspended business travel to and within China, a spokeswoman said. Staff arriving from China are recommended to stay home for 14 days before returning to work.

– Swatch has closed five stores in Wuhan and suspended all travel to and from China.

AIRLINE REFUNDS/CANCELLATIONS:

– Finnish airline Finnair has suspended its routes to Nanjing and Beijing’s Daxing International airport until the end of March, the first European airline to cancel flights to the country.

– Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and its Cathay Dragon will cut capacity to and from mainland China by 50% or more from Jan. 30 to end-March. The airline will also rebook, reroute or refund tickets booked on or before Jan. 28 for travel by March 31 to or from mainland China.

– Australia’s Qantas Airways said it will offer free refunds for tickets issued worldwide on or before Jan. 24, for journeys to and from mainland China between Jan. 24 and Feb. 29.

– Air Seoul suspended all flights to China and waived refund penalty. Taiwan’s China Airlines rearranged some flights and canceled others.

– China’s mainland airlines, including Air China, China Southern and China Eastern, are offering free refunds across the mainland for tickets purchased before Jan. 24.

– Malaysia’s AirAsia will offer free refunds for tickets booked before Jan. 24, and for travel to and from mainland China until Feb. 15, and return flights between Feb. 16-29.

– Air France KLM is offering to exchange or refund tickets issued for travel to or from China up until Feb. 29. BA-owner IAG is offering the same for tickets until Feb 23.

– United Airlines is cancelling some flights to China.

HOTELS:

– InterContinental Hotels will allow customers to change or cancel stays scheduled up to Feb. 3 across mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

– Hyatt Hotels said guests who had booked stays through its official channels and are cancelling due to the coronavirus outbreak, or are Chinese guests outbound to its Asia Pacific hotels, can cancel stays or change dates for free.

BOOKING PLATFORMS, AGENCIES:

– Ctrip, China’s largest online booking platform, said more than 300,000 hotels on its platform had agreed to refund on bookings between Jan. 22 and Feb. 8. Refunds also include flight tickets, cruises and car rents

– Fliggy, Alibaba’s booking site, offered similar refunds.

– Some Chinese tour operators such as China International Travel Service offered refunds and many European tour operators canceled tours to China.

Reporting by Sophie Yu in Beijing, Jamie Freed in Sydney, Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo, Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm, Ben Blanchard in Taipei, Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo, Heekyong Yang and Jane Chung in Seoul, Josh Horwitz and Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Neil Jerome Morales in Manila, Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong, Paul Arnold and Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich, Laurence Frost in Paris and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh and Josephine Mason; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Lisa Shumaker and Maju Samuel

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Submits Resignation Letter

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They were the strangest of political colleagues: a nonagenarian onetime autocrat and the former protégé he had jailed for sodomy.

Mahathir Mohamad, the 94-year-old prime minister of Malaysia, and his perennial presumptive heir, Anwar Ibrahim, joined forces in 2018 to oust a governing party to which both had once belonged. That party, the United Malays National Organization, known as UMNO, was at the center of the 1MDB scandal, the brazen looting of billions of dollars of Malaysia’s public funds.

But the unwieldy coalition that brought Mr. Mahathir and Mr. Anwar together crumbled on Monday, the latest twist in a caustic rivalry that goes back decades.

After a flurry of meetings that had political analysts feverishly analyzing whose car was pulling up in which driveway, Mr. Mahathir submitted his letter of resignation as prime minister on Monday afternoon.

The move, however, does not appear to be designed to result in Mr. Mahathir actually giving up leadership of Malaysia, a job that he has held twice.

If Malaysia’s constitutional monarch accepts the resignation letter, the two vying political blocs in the country both appear to support Mr. Mahathir continuing as prime minister — jilting Mr. Anwar.

“The wonderful thing for Mahathir is that it is impossible for him to lose because heads he wins, tails he wins,” said James Chin, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania.

It was a sleight of hand characteristic of Asia’s shrewdest veteran politician — and it left Mr. Anwar fuming, yet again, about a political elder who has repeatedly broken promises that he would eventually step aside to allow Mr. Anwar to become prime minister.

The realignment also raises questions about the future of political and economic overhauls in a country where Malay nationalist politics were promoted during Mr. Mahathir’s first term in office, from 1981 to 2003, and look to be gaining ground again.



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Bernie Sanders is the front-runner because of how we raised our kids

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With his convincing victory in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, Sen. Bernie Sanders is solidifying his status as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination more than ever before.

So how did a life-long avowed socialist and someone who’s never actually won an election as a Democrat get to the top of the party’s mountain?

The simple answer is that he’s being supported by millions of younger Democratic voters, and those voters have been raised to be Sanders voters, even if their parents don’t realize it.

Here’s how it happened:

We convinced everyone college was 100% necessary, and then we made college unaffordable. Since the end of World War II, the chorus of educators, politicians, and journalists making it sound like college was essential for career success only became louder and drowned out any counterargument.

At the same time, college tuition costs have exploded thanks greatly to government programs that produced unintended, but predictable consequences. It mostly started in 1978 when more loans and subsidies became available to a greatly expanded number of students. The cost of college tuition has risen by six times more than the rate of inflation since the 1970s.

Now, millions of American young people are straddled with college loans that look impossible to repay. The total student loan debt in the U.S. now stands at more than $1.6 trillion.

Is it any wonder so many of them are attracted to a candidate who not only promises to forgive their student debts, but presents their predicament as the result of corporate greed and misplaced government priorities?

Luckily for Sanders, young voters supporting him for his college tuition forgiveness promises don’t seem to be too interested in his own family history. His wife Jane Sanders was president of the now defunct Burlington College and she and other administrators were reportedly the subjects of a long-running FBI probe that they misled bank loan officers about the real number of donations pledged to the college.

The FBI probe of the matter ended in 2018, and Jane Sanders was not charged. But the policies she oversaw, which included pushing for major campus expansions, were indicative of some of the root causes of increased college costs in America.

The establishment in both parties ignored young voters. As sacred as our politicians make college education sound, it’s nothing compared to the way leaders from both parties talk about programs for older Americans like Social Security and Medicare.

None of that is a mystery, as older Americans have always been more likely to vote. Even though voters aged 18-29 have been showing increased turnout numbers in recent elections, senior citizens still stand atop the heap. In 2016, 71% of Americans 65 and older voted compared to just 46% of 18-29-year-olds. In the 2018 midterms, that gap narrowed to 66% to 36%, but it’s still a wide gap.

All of this focus on older voters and their retirement funds is a nice sentiment but it’s misplaced. Older Americans aren’t just doing okay. A 2017 study of age-based wealth in the U.S. shows that a typical household headed by an adult 65 and older has 47 times the net worth of a household headed by younger Americans. Yep, Papa and Granny are loaded.

Now, helping older people who happen to be poor or on the margins of poverty is something different. But the cultural assumption many of us have about elderly folks needing more financial help in America is pretty much the opposite of the truth.

Throw in the Affordable Care Act, which literally and foolishly leaned on younger and healthier Americans to foot the bill for covering older and sicker people, and you see a pattern here.

Sanders talks plenty about Social Security, and he’s obviously a senior citizen himself. But he usually expands his campaign promises to include younger people, as he did when he took the lead on the Medicare for All promise in 2017.

We told them America’s house was on fire. For all the policy differences and political minutiae Democrats delve into when criticizing President Trump, the most enduring attacks on Trump from the Democratic establishment remain accusations that Trump is supporting white supremacy and is controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

These are over-the-top accusations, and it’s hard to accept that even most elected Democrats actually believe them. But pushing that message on America for the last three-plus years comes at a price for both sides.

For the Democrats, the price is becoming clear: it’s made moderate presidential candidates look less viable than ever.

Think about it: if you really believe the president is a traitor and supporting violent plots against non-white Americans, is this really the time to support mainstream Democrat or Republican candidates?

Sanders may be a career politician, but he’s never been a mainstream politician. His persona and political brand fits much better into the current Democratic narrative that we’re living in desperate times.

Establishment Democrats are reaping what they sowed.

As a result, it’s looking more and more like Sanders has unstoppable momentum going into the Super Tuesday primaries and beyond. The big question now is whether that Democratic establishment will try to derail Sanders before or during the Democratic National Convention.

But either way, the party would be playing with fire and risking alienating those younger voters forever.

Jake Novak is a political and economic analyst at Jake Novak News and former CNBC TV producer. You can follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.





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For China’s Overwhelmed Doctors, an Understanding Voice Across the Ocean

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A nurse called the 24-hour hotline to complain about a constant headache. A doctor said he was feeling ostracized by the public, even as he worked to save patients from the epidemic. One caller said she was feeling suicidal.

The volunteers at Yong Xin Kang Yi (“Use your heart to fight the virus”), a crisis line established for the overworked, overstressed medical staff on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak in China, listen to it all.

“Our principle is just to be emotionally available for them,” said Erjing Cui, 28, a psychotherapist who volunteers for the hotline from Seattle, where she lives. “The most important thing that we’ll try to do is to provide a space and listen and provide empathy to what they have to say.”

Ms. Cui is one of many mental health professionals trying to address the emotional burden of the epidemic, which has subjected doctors and nurses to extreme hardships while rattling the nerves of ordinary people around the globe. In China alone, hundreds of hotlines have been set up by universities, local governments and mental health organizations to help people cope.

But China has a shortage of quality mental health services — just 2.2 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, which is about a fifth of what the United States has. Ms. Cui, who grew up in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, is not the only therapist who volunteers from Yong Xin Kang Yi from North America.

“I think it speaks to the scarcity of well-trained psychiatrists and mental health professionals in China for sure,” said Ms. Cui. She added that many hotlines in China do not provide their volunteers with crisis intervention training.

Yong Xin Kang Yi was formed in late January after Bo Zhu, a doctor at a hospital in Wuhan, China, where the virus emerged, and Hui Cao, a psychology professor in Beijing, grew concerned about the mental well-being of medical staff. The organization now has about 300 volunteers, including therapists, technicians and people involved in public outreach.

Dialing the number connects users to a therapist on call. The service also has a messaging function, hosted by the WeChat platform. In chat groups with hundreds of participants, therapists share recorded meditations, stories and soothing music, like Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”

About 15 to 20 calls come in on a typical day, roughly 40 percent of them from medical workers. Most are brief. At first, they came in more frequently, often from people feeling anxious about the virus.



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