Month: February 2020

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Trump considering travel restrictions at southern border…


President Donald Trump on Saturday said his administration was also considering travel restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border, after his administration announced new restrictions on travel to Iran and heightened advisories for areas in South Korea and Italy. 

“We are thinking about the southern border, ” Trump said. “We are looking at that very strongly.”

Trump’s comments came during a press conference at the White House Saturday, amid mounting public health concerns about the coronavirus as the disease spreads around the world.  

Mexico, however, has only reported three confirmed cases of the coronavirus so far, while the United States has confirmed 66 cases of the illness. 

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.



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Local spread of coronavirus marks turning point in USA…


By Steve Gorman

Feb 29 (Reuters) – U.S. public health officials have identified four “presumptive” coronavirus cases believed to have emerged from community transmission of the infection, signaling a turning point in strategies needed to contain the disease in the United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement late on Friday citing three cases of unknown origin newly diagnosed by state public health authorities – one each in California, Oregon and Washington state.

If confirmed by the CDC, along with a similar case of unknown origin announced on Wednesday in California, that would bring to four the number of diagnosed individuals in the United States with no history of travel to a country where the virus is circulating and no close contact with an infected person.

Taken together, the four cases are a sign the virus is now spreading within at least four separate locations on the U.S. West Coast spanning nearly 900 miles (1,448 km), from California’s Silicon Valley region in Santa Clara County north to the Puget Sound near Seattle.

U.S. health authorities say it means the respiratory disease that has infected nearly 80,000 people and killed more than 2,800 in China, where it originated, is no longer an imported phenomenon but has taken up residence in the United States.

“What we know now is that the virus is here, present at some level, but we still don’t know to what degree,” said Dr. Sara Cody, chief public health officer for Santa Clara County, speaking of the newly diagnosed case there, the latest of three in her county and the 10th detected in California.

“This case does signal to us that it is now time to shift how we respond,” she told a news conference on Friday.

Local media reported that the illness of two of the patients – a school employee in Oregon and an elementary school student in Washington – have already led to their respective schools being closed temporarily.

The three latest patients – and a fourth new case believed to be travel-related in Washington state – were diagnosed based on results obtained in their respective states from CDC-supplied test kits and are considered “presumptive positive” cases pending CDC confirmatory testing, the U.S. agency said.

Even as confirmation was pending there, local authorities were already working to trace close contacts the patients had with others in a bid to curb transmission.

Until this week, the CDC had counted just 15 confirmed cases in six states as having been detected through the U.S. public health system since Jan. 21, none fatal. Most were contracted by individuals while traveling in China. Only two person-to-person transmissions were documented among them, both between married couples.

An additional 47 cases have been confirmed among people recently repatriated, either from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan or from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the supposed epicenter of the outbreak, according to the CDC.

Health officials said the advent of locally transmitted infections means authorities need to expand their focus from detecting a relatively limited number of cases, identifying close contacts and isolating them, to one that also emphasizes greater prevention among the public at large.

In particular, individuals should be more vigilant about basic hygiene measures, such as washing hands often, avoiding touching their faces, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home from school or work whenever ill, Cody said.

She said schools should plan for increased absenteeism and explore options for expanding learning at home, while businesses likewise allow more work-from-home arrangements, revise their sick leave policies and replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences whenever possible.

“I do understand that this whole situation may feel overwhelming and it’s difficult to think about the possible disruption to our everyday lives, especially when we’re still uncertain about what this may look like,” Cody said. “But we do need everyone to start thinking about what actions we can take now so we can be prepared for the possibility for further spread of the virus.”

Coronavirus is spread primarily through tiny droplets coughed or sneezed directly from an infected person into the face of someone nearby, as opposed to the more contagious “airborne” transmission of a virus like measles, which can remain suspended in enclosed spaces and be breathed in hours after being exhaled by sick individuals, expert says.

Coronavirus can also survive on surfaces, such as handrails and door knobs, for “a very long period of time,” and be picked up by hand that way, though the virus is “very susceptible” to cleaning products, Dr. Christopher Braden, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said on Friday in Santa Clara County.

Still, “It’s mostly a person-to-person transmission that we are concerned about for our communities,” he added.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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TRUMP LIVE



President Trump holds a news conference to provide an update on the coronavirus outbreak.

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SPACEX Prototype Spacecraft Blows Up During Testing In Texas…


A prototype for SpaceX’s Starship super-rocket was destroyed tonight during a pressure test on its pad at the company’s South Texas facility.

  • Streaming video from Boca Chica showed the silo-shaped tank assembly for the prototype known as Starship SN1 wreathed in light and vapor during the test, which was conducted with inert liquid nitrogen. At about 10 p.m. CT (8 p.m. PT), the tank popped. The structure imploded as it flew into the air, then fell to the ground.
  • Initial reports suggested that the tank suffered a structural failure during pressurization. Information about potential injuries or the extent of damage wasn’t immediately available, but we’ve reached out to SpaceX and will update this item with anything we hear.
  • This prototype was designed only for initial rounds of tests. SpaceX plans to use future Starship prototypes for more ambitious tests that would build up to orbital flights. “Not much to worry about here,” Next Spaceflight’s Michael Baylor tweeted. “Test, fail, fix, test, fail, fix is SpaceX’s game. They will learn from it and get it right.”



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'IT'S ALREADY OUT OF THE BAG'


A Washington state man has become the first person in the country to die from the coronavirus, state public health officials confirmed Saturday. The person is not one of the coronavirus cases the state had previously announced.

The death, in King County, is believed to be the first in the U.S. due to the virus. No other information was immediately available about the patient.

“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”

With new coronavirus cases reported in California, Washington and Oregon, officials are trying to accelerate testing as they try to steam what experts and officials believe in an inevitable spread of the virus into communities.

The California Department of Public Health announced eight testing labs that can handle coronavirus in Richmond as well as Alameda, Santa Clara, Tulare, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. Officials also announced the arrival of 1,200 testing kits from the federal government.

“The availability to test at California’s public health laboratories is a significant step forward in our ability to respond rapidly to this evolving situation,” Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer, said in a statement. “As we face the likelihood of community transmission here in California, having this resource where we need it, is essential to better inform public health response and protect our communities.”

The Federal Drug Administration also announced new policies aimed at helping hospitals speed up testing of potential virus patients. The move comes amid complaints about the slow pace of performing tests.

California now has two patients who did not recently travel outside the U.S. or come in contact with someone who did. That raised concerns that the virus was spreading in communities and prompted health officials to find and quarantine anyone who came in contact with them.

While no new cases were reported Saturday so far, officials said it’s inevitable.

“Definitely we will have more cases here,” Peter Beilenson, Sacramento County’s director of health services, said. “You shed virus before you are symptomatic so it’s already out of the bag in a lot of ways. It’s going to spread, it’s just going to spread.”

The ongoing efforts in the Davis area had already led to the voluntary quarantining of dozens of people, including workers at the two hospitals where the first woman was treated as well as UC Davis and other college campuses.

The woman was hospitalized for three days at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville before being moved to UC Davis Medical Center. She was not immediately tested for several days because she did not fit screening criteria set by the CDC at the time, which include both symptoms of the virus and either a recent history of travel to China or close contact with another coronavirus patient.

This gap concerns officials because it could have allowed her to infect others who came in contact with her.

To identify individuals who came into contact with the woman at the hospital, NorthBay officials sifted through medical records to see which clinicians entered her room. Additionally, three days worth of security footage from 8 p.m. Feb. 15 to mid-morning Feb. 19 were scoured to ensure that all visitors and non-clinicians — such as workers who brought in food trays or refilled bathroom supplies — were tallied.

Sacramento County health officials said dozens of people might be quarantined at home based on having contact with the woman. UC Davis spokesman Steve Telliano disputed information that the number could be higher than 70 but refused to say if more or fewer people were quarantined.

Steve Huddleston, vice president of public affairs of NorthBay Healthcare, said the hospital has a staff of about a couple of hundred and that the quarantine affected dozens connected to the hospital. Those employees who have been home, due to quarantine or unrelated matters, have been backfilled.

Three UC Davis students are under 14-day isolation as one awaits test results after showing mild coronavirus symptoms, officials said Thursday.

Health officials in Santa Clara County said the new patient had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected person.

The individual is an older adult, a woman with chronic health conditions who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, officials said at a news conference Friday. Her physician contacted the public health department this week to discuss the case and request testing for the novel coronavirus. The department is working to identify contacts and understand the extent of exposure.

On Friday, the states of Washington and Oregon also announced new coronavirus cases in people who hadn’t recently traveled overseas or been exposed to other confirmed cases.

In Oregon, an employee of a Washington County elementary school was diagnosed after first experiencing symptoms Feb. 19 and may have exposed others at the school to the virus, officials said.

In Washington, a Snohomish County high school student tested positive after seeking care at Seattle Children’s North Clinic on Feb. 24, officials said. Washington also announced that a King County woman in her 50s who had traveled to South Korea had contracted coronavirus.

Both those patients and the Santa Clara County woman tested positive for the virus in laboratories in their respective states. They are considered presumptive positive cases until the results are confirmed by CDC testing.



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FIRST US DEATH IN WASHINGTON STATE


“In partnership with the Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Department of Emergency Management and local and community health partners, we are strengthening our preparedness and response efforts. I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed.”



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Thousands Rally in Moscow Against Putin Plans to Revamp Political Power in Russia…


MOSCOW—Thousands of people attended a rally in the Russian capital to commemorate a slain opposition leader in a rebuke to what they see as Vladimir Putin’s plans to stay in power once his final term as president expires.

Saturday’s march was the biggest opposition gathering since Mr. Putin’s announced proposals to dilute the power of the president and boost the role of the State Council, a supervisory body that he already heads. If he succeeds in getting the council listed as an arm of the executive branch, then it is potentially…



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Empty stadiums and no more selfie lines? Coronavirus becomes 2020 X-factor…


If the coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, he said, “We’re going to go through a period, obviously, where public health officials and experts are going to say no shaking hands, no public contact … We may be witnessing an era where television, or more so, social media, becomes the means to campaign in a coronavirus world.”

To most campaign observers, the likelihood of any widespread disruption of the primary remains dim. But if the virus does spread, the mechanical implications for campaigns could be profound.

In the case of an outbreak, said Boyd Brown, a former South Carolina lawmaker and former Democratic National Committee member, “It’s going to be tough. I’m watching [TV] right now and they’re stoking fears, they’re coming live from face mask manufacturing facilities.”

Reaching for an image, Brown, who helped Beto O’Rourke before he abandoned his presidential run, compared the prospect of a coronavirus-afflicted primary to a barren landscape, “very much like the last couple of weeks of the Beto campaign.”

For now, the coronavirus has been felt most severely in the United States in the financial markets and as a point of political positioning, with Democrats criticizing President Donald Trump for his handling of the crisis in recent days.

In South Carolina this week, Mike Bloomberg said the “stock market’s falling apart because people are really worried, and they should be.” Joe Biden pointed to his experience helping respond to the Ebola epidemic, while Elizabeth Warren accused the White House of “absolutely bungling” its response to the disease.

Amy Klobuchar urged Americans to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website “because many doctors are saying it’s just a matter of time before we’re going to start seeing this here.” At a breakfast in South Carolina on Friday, Bernie Sanders ripped into Trump, saying that instead of campaigning in the state, he should “worry about the coronavirus rather than disrupting the Democratic primary right here in South Carolina.”

The Trump administration’s response to the emergency has been uneven. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, told lawmakers that the risk to Americans of coronavirus remains low. But CDC officials have also urged Americans to “prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” including the possibility of child care centers or schools closing.

On Friday, the World Health Organization raised its global risk assessment of coronavirus to its highest level, “very high.”

“There are a whole lot of questions about whether this is going to be enduring or not,” said Bill Carrick, a Democratic strategist who managed Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt’s 1988 presidential campaign. “If it is enduring,” he added, “It could affect rallies. It also could affect travel.”

If the coronavirus does spread during the primary season, its logistical effects could be more painful for some candidates than others. The inability to hold rallies could hurt candidates with less money, such as Biden, who rely more on free media.

That might not hurt a candidate such as Bloomberg, “whose campaign rallies can be a 30-second campaign ad,” said Bob Shrum, a longtime political strategist who served on multiple Democratic presidential campaigns.

Trump could rise or fall on his handling of the crisis, too. In addition to the political calculations — a Morning Consult survey this week found 56 percent of voters approve of his handling of the outbreak, down 5 percentage points from earlier this month — there are his rallies to consider. They are massive and form the identity of his campaign.

Doug Herman, who was a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, suggested the Democratic candidates’ response to the coronavirus so far has been a missed opportunity. Trump, he said, left a wide opening with his handling of the outbreak, requiring the Democratic candidates to be more assertive on the issue.

So far, he said, they haven’t “cracked much beyond a paragraph of thought on it.”

“There’s a thread here with Trump’s cuts and destroying the credibility of the institutions and the media and the scientists in our government — and now all of a sudden we’re supposed to believe Trump, the government advocate, on this?” Herman said.

Functionally, he said the effects of the coronavirus will not materialize in the campaign unless the outbreak impacts “our gatherings, and our day-to-day lives. Only until that happens — when they won’t go to a restaurant, they won’t go to a mall, they won’t send their kids to school — of course it will have an impact.”

Short of that, said Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist, a spreading virus would “put a limit on the types of public interaction that people have at events and rallies and people showing up.”

And he said there is little that campaigns can do. “Think about it. I mean, they can’t test people as they come into the rally,” he said.

Still, Seawright is taking one measure himself. When he boards his next flight, he said, “I’m definitely going to put on a mask.”

Holly Otterbein contributed to this report.



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Satanic scenes on beach as walkers stumble across pig heads on spikes…


Bloody pig heads were placed on spikes and displayed in front of creeped-out walkers on a North Dublin beach.

Spooky images have emerged showing the heads on Portmarnock Beach on Wednesday morning leaving everybody scared and confused.

One walker even rang gardai she was so freaked out by the satanic-looking scene.

The display was actually part of a photoshoot by young filmmakers – although those who took part left the beach without bringing the animal parts with them.

Some locals were very upset as the stretch happens to be the east coast’s only blue and green flag beach.

One woman said she was “shocked” that they left the heads there and “expected they would have been disposed of properly”.

There were also concerns over the environmental aspect.

Walkers stumbled across the weird scene in Portmarnock on Wednesday

The beach is already being fought hard for by locals who have been opposing a monster sewage plant that would see sewage pumped via a large tunnel a few miles out from Velvet Strand.

Over 14,000 people objected to the plans which affect areas stretching from Clonshaugh to Blanchardstown, Belcamp, Baldoyle, Portmarnock, Malahide, Howth and Ireland’s Eye, from where the waste will be pumped into the Irish Sea and Dublin Bay.

The sewage at the Clonshaugh facility will only be treated to secondary level, which does not kill all disease-causing bacteria.

This is unlike Irish Water’s controversial Ringsend plant which treats the sewage to the safer tertiary level.

On 11th November An Bord Pleanala granted permission despite the mass objections.

Now a crowdfund has been launched in a bid to take the case a judicial review in the High Court.

It’s already raised €12,000 of a €20,000 target – you can find out more here .



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Mysterious glowing object suddenly appears in Earth's orbit leaving scientists baffled…


A MYSTERIOUS glowing object which suddenly appeared in the Earth’s orbit has left scientists baffled.

Images of the puzzling object have been released after some speculated it appeared to be a new “minimoon”.

 A view of 2020 CD3 made by the Gemini Observatory

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A view of 2020 CD3 made by the Gemini ObservatoryCredit: Gemini Observatory/NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/AURA/G. Fedorets
 Images of the new moon were captured on February 15

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Images of the new moon were captured on February 15

Earlier this week, the scientific community was abuzz when astronomers found space rock “2020 CD3” has actually been circling Earth for three years.

Scientists say it is too soon to say for sure what the mystery object is and further research is required.

Some astronomers have suggested it could be an artificial object, while others say it might also be an old satellite, or space debris.

And others say the object is a rocky asteroid, which would mean it would be the only second natural satellite to be spotted around the Earth, other than the Moon.

‘NEW SPACE NEIGHBOUR’

Grigori Fedorets, the lead astronomer for the observations, said:  “Either way this is a very compelling object and needs more data to determine what it is”.

Our new space neighbour was discovered on February 15 by astronomers at Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey but will leave Earth’s orbit in the coming months.

John Blakeslee, head of science at the international Gemini Observatory, told The Independent: “Obtaining the images was a scramble for the Gemini team because the object is quickly becoming fainter as it moves away from Earth.

“It is expected to be ejected from Earth’s orbit altogether in April.”

Astronomer Kacper Wierzchos from the Catalina Sky Survey announced the discovery on Wednesday, saying: “BIG NEWS. Earth has a new temporarily captured object/possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3.

“On the night of Feb 15, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found a 20th magnitude object.

“The object has just been announced by the MPC and its orbit shows that it entered Earth’s orbit some three years ago.

“The object has a diameter between 1.9 – 3.5 m assuming a C-type asteroid albedo.

“But it’s a big deal as out of ~ 1 million known asteroids, this is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth.”

The mystery object is one of just a handful of Earthly “mini moons” ever discovered.

Images show the object glowing at the centre, with stars streaking from the movement of the telescope in tracking the object as it made its way around the Earth.

The news was announced the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, which flags up smaller space objects.

“The object is temporarily bound to the Earth,” astronomers at the MPC said.

 Astronomers were able to image the moon several times

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Astronomers were able to image the moon several times

“No evidence of perturbations due to solar radiation pressure is seen, and no link to a known artificial object has been found.

“Further observations and dynamical studies are strongly encouraged.”

We don’t know exactly how big it is yet – but astronomers estimate it’s roughly six to 12 feet.

That’s based on sunlight reflected from the object, allowing for a guess at its possible size.

The Moon is Earth’s only major natural satellite, but that doesn’t mean we’re all alone in our quiet corner of space.

A small natural object named 2006 RH120 was confirmed to have entered a temporary Earth orbit during 2006 and 2007.

And 2020 CD3 appears to be the second example of this kind of scenario.

The Moon – our closest neighbour explained

Here’s what you need to know…

  • The Moon is a natural satellite – a space-faring body that orbits a planet
  • It’s Earth’s only natural satellite, and is the fifth biggest in the Solar System
  • The Moon measures 2,158 miles across, roughly 0.27 times the diameter of Earth
  • Temperatures on the Moon range from minus 173 degrees Celcius to 260 degrees Celcius
  • Experts assumed the Moon was another planet, until Nicolaus Copernicus outlined his theory about our Solar System in 1543
  • It was eventually assigned to a “class” after Galileo discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter in 1610
  • The Moon is believed to have formed around 4.51billion years ago
  • The strength of its gravitational field is about a sixth of Earth’s gravity
  • Earth and the Moon have “synchronous rotation”, which means we always see the same side of the Moon – hence the phrase “dark side of the Moon”
  • The Moon’s surface is actually dark, but appears bright in the sky due to its reflective ground
  • During a solar eclipse, the Moon covers the Sun almost completely. Both objects appear a similar size in the sky because the Sun is both 400 times larger and farther
  • The first spacecraft to reach the Moon was in 1959, as part of the Soviet Union’s Lunar program
  • The first manned orbital mission was Nasa’s Apollo 8 in 1968
  • And the first manned lunar landing was in 1969, as part of the Apollo 11 mission

 

On April 27, 2016, an asteroid called 469219 Kamo’oalewa was found to be a stable “quasi-satellite”.

It’s not a true satellite, but instead orbits the Sun and circles around Earth as well in a “co-orbit”.

Kamo’oalewa is also much bigger than 2020 CD3 at 135 feet.

But both asteroids pale in comparison to the proper Moon, which is around 2,160 miles across.

In other news, mysterious radio signals being sent from a galaxy far, far away are baffling astronomers and scientists.

The unexplained ‘fast radio bursts’ (FRBs) have been detected hitting the earth on a 16-day cycle for more than a year.

This is the first time inter-galactic signals have been recorded on a regular cycle rather than random batches.

FRBs discharge as much power as hundreds of millions of Suns but last just a few milliseconds.

A recent mind-blowing photo revealed by Nasa shows the ISS crossing in front of the Moon.

A supersonic 990mph Nasa X-plane as quiet as the “thump of a car door” is nearly ready.

Nasa recently revealed a surreal photo of Earth taken from 4billion miles away.

Nasa releases video outlining plans to create infrastructure on the Moon to support missions to Mars and beyond


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