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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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Trump Said He Was the President of Manufacturing. Then Disaster Struck.

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“If we don’t flatten the curve, we’re on a trajectory currently to exceed our capacity in the New Orleans area for ventilators by about April the 4th, and all beds available in hospitals by about April the 10th,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, Democrat of Louisiana, said Sunday on “Meet the Press on NBC. “So we’re doing everything we can to surge capacity. It’s very difficult.”

Industry executives made the point that while the Defense Production Act enabled the White House to create the illusion of decisive executive action, it did not solve the nuts-and-bolts problem of gearing up scores of suppliers or creating Made-in-America production lines where few exist. That is the problem G.M. and Ventec, and other companies involved in the effort like Ford and Medtronic, are facing — often seeking parts from the same suppliers.

“We are moving full steam ahead on ventilators because they know there is an immediate need for increased production,” said Chris Brooks, Ventec’s chief strategy officer, even if it is still unclear whether the customers are hospitals, states or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which the White House has delegated to take charge of the effort.

Mr. Trump came to this crisis belatedly, but once he did he has tried to portray himself as a wartime president, one who is making use of all of America’s talents to fight an invisible but devastating enemy. And in that regard, the best analogy may be Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “arsenal of democracy,” the phrase he used in a Dec. 29, 1940, fireside chat, as he tried to get American industry to support Britain in its fight with Nazi Germany, without getting the United States into the war.

It turned out to be prescient, because industry was already getting onto a wartime footing by the time Japan attacked Pearl Harbor a year later, plunging the United States into a manufacturing frenzy. That is when Ford began churning out B-24 bombers and Sherman tanks.

But in this case, Mr. Trump sought the language of wartime action without the responsibility for making it happen. He welcomed voluntary efforts that were already underway, as manufacturers like Medtronic and the Dutch manufacturing giant Philips promised to ramp up production. The problem was that it was uncoordinated — as if the Pentagon had announced it needed more missiles, more artillery shells and more nuclear weapons but left unclear how many or where they should be delivered.

That was the situation Mr. Kushner found when he entered the effort, at the request of Vice President Mike Pence. He moved the authority to deal with the issue from the Department of Health and Human Services to FEMA, saying that the latter agency knew how to act in a “battle rhythm.” But still, no one knew how many ventilators were already in the market, where they would be needed first or how many more companies could be expected to make. And it was complicated by the fact that many of the largest manufacturers had moved operations offshore, to Ireland, Switzerland and, of course, China.



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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.
More on Covid-19



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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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