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Virus spreads to over 60 countries; France closes the Louvre…

PARIS (AP) — Coronavirus cases surged in Italy, and France closed the Louvre Museum on Sunday as the deadly outbreak that began in China sent fear rising across Western Europe. The number of countries hit by the virus climbed past 60, and the death toll worldwide reached at least 3,000.

New fronts in the crisis opened rapidly over the weekend, deepening the sense of crisis that has already sent financial markets plummeting, emptied the streets in many cities of tourists and workers and rewritten the daily routines of millions of people. More than 87,000 worldwide have been infected, with the virus appearing on every continent but Antarctica.

Australia and Thailand reported their first deaths Sunday, while the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic recorded their first infections.

Italian authorities announced that the number of people infected in the country had surged 40% to 1,576 in 24 hours, and five more people had died, bringing the death toll there to 34.

Iran, Iraq and South Korea, among other places, also saw the number of infections rise. Cases in the U.S. climbed to at least 72, with the first death inside the United States reported on Saturday — a man in his 50s in Washington state who had underlying health problems but hadn’t traveled to any affected areas.

Panic-buying of daily necessities emerged in Japan, where professional baseball teams have played spring-training games in deserted stadiums. Tourist sites across Asia, Europe and the Mideast were deserted. Islam’s holiest sites have been closed to foreign pilgrims. And governments have closed schools and banned big gatherings.

In France, the archbishop of Paris told parish priests to put the Communion bread in worshippers’ hands, not in their mouths. French officials advised people to forgo the customary kisses on the cheek upon greeting others. And the Louvre closed after workers who guard the “Mona Lisa” and the rest of its priceless artworks expressed fear of being contaminated by the stream of visitors from around the world.

The Louvre, the world’s most popular museum, got 9.6 million visitors last year, almost three-quarters of them from abroad.

Louvre staffers were also concerned about museum workers from Italy who had come to the museum to collect works by Leonardo da Vinci that were loaned for a major exhibition.

“We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere,” said Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and union representative. “The risk is very, very, very great.” While there are no known infections among the museum’s 2,300 workers, “it’s only a question of time,” he said.

The shutdown followed a government decision Saturday to ban indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

Among the frustrated visitors was Charles Lim from Singapore. He and his wife, Jeanette, chose Paris to celebrate their first wedding anniversary and bought tickets in advance for the Louvre.

“We waited for about three hours before giving up,” he said. “It was incredibly disappointing.”

China, where the outbreak began two months ago, on Sunday reported a slight uptick in new cases over the past 24 hours to 573, the first time in five days that the number exceeded 500. They remain almost entirely confined to the hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan.

South Korea reported 210 additional cases and two more deaths, raising its totals to 3,736 cases and 20 fatalities. South Korea has the second-largest number of infections outside China, with most of the cases in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas.

South Korea’s president used a speech marking the 101st anniversary of an anti-Japanese independence uprising to call for national unity to overcome the crisis.

Iran’s death toll climbed to 54 as the number of confirmed cases jumped overnight by more than half, to 978. The new figures represent 11 more deaths than reported on Saturday.

Around the world, many cases of the virus have been relatively mild, and some of those infected apparently show no symptoms at all.


Barry reported from Milan. Associated Press writers Foster Klug and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo; Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran; Joe McDonald in Beijing; Zarar Khan in Islamabad; and Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed to this report.

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(Top headline, 5th story, link)

Related stories:
Virus spreads to over 60 countries; France closes the Louvre…
‘Psychosis’ in Milan…
DELTA suspends flights…
Empty streets, economic turmoil…
Wall St preps for possible shutdown of trading floor…
Inside White House’s frantic attempts to minimize crisis…
Rumors and chaos in Alabama point to big problems…
Grocers Prepare…
China officials ordered cover-up…
Uighurs sent to work in factory that supplies NIKE…
What End Game Will Look Like…

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Rumors and chaos in Alabama point to big problems…

ANNISTON, Ala. – Not long before local leaders decided, in the words of one of them, that federal health officials “didn’t know what they were doing” with their plan to quarantine novel coronavirus patients in town, a doctor here set out in a biohazard suit to stage a one-man protest along the highway with a sign. “The virus has arrived. Are you ready?” it asked.

The town didn’t think it was. Residents already were unnerved by strange stories posted on Facebook and shared via text messages about helicopters secretly flying in sick patients, that the virus was grown in a Chinese lab, that someone – either the media or the government – was lying to them about what was really going on.

The quarantine plan hastily hatched by the federal Department of Health and Human Services was soon scrapped by President Donald Trump, who faced intense pushback from Alabama’s congressional delegation, led by Republican Rep. Mike Rogers. Americans evacuated after falling ill aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan would not be coming to Anniston, a town of 22,000 people in north-central Alabama, after all. They would remain in the same Texas and California sites where they were taken after leaving the cruise ship.

What happened here over the pastweek illustrates how poor planning by federal health officials and a rumor mill fueled by social media, polarized politics and a lack of clear communication can undermine public confidence in the response to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease named covid-19. The rapidly spreading virus has rattled economies worldwide in recent weeks and caused the deaths of more than 2,900 people, mostly in China.

The panic and problems that burned through Anniston also provided a preview of what could unfold in other communities, as the spread of the virus is considered by health experts to be inevitable.

“Their little plan sketched out in D.C. was not thought out,” said Michael Barton, director of the emergency management agency in Calhoun County, where Anniston is located.

As local officials learned more, Barton added, “We knew then -“

“We were in trouble,” said Tim Hodges, chairman of the county commission.

In Anniston, local leaders were stunned to discover serious problems with the federal government’s plan for dealing with patients infected with the virus – starting with how the patients would get to Alabama, according to interviews with county and city officials, along with business leaders who dealt with the federal response.

“I was shocked,” Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said. “I was shocked by the lack of planning. I was shocked by the manner in which it was presented to us.”

Two HHS officials – Darcie Johnston, director of intergovernmental affairs, and Kevin Yeskey, principal deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response – said in a Feb. 23 meeting with local officials that the patients would be flown from California to the Fort McClellan Army Airfield in Anniston, according to multiple local officials.

The airfield was closed when the Army base was shuttered in 1999. Local officials said they told the HHS officials during the meeting the runway was in bad shape.

“The more we talked,” Hodges said, “the more holes we found.”

The HHS plan also called for housing coronavirus patients at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, a FEMA facility on the old Army base and one of several redevelopment projects at the sprawling outpost.

The center has several brick dormitory buildings – behind tall black fencing – where federal officials planned for the patients to live. Federal officials even picked out the building they wanted to use for the first arrivals: Dorm No. 28, local officials said. A team of federal health workers would care for the patients and U.S. marshals would keep them from leaving the quarantine, local officials said they were told.

The dorms normally house emergency responders from around the country.

But the center doesn’t have any special capabilities for handling infectious diseases, local officials said. The center is used for training. It has isolation hospital rooms – located in a former Army hospital building – but they are mostly just props, with fake equipment and light switches that exist only as paint on walls.

Meanwhile, federal officials never contacted the town’s hospital, Regional Medical Center, about handling covid-19 patients, said Louis Bass, the hospital’s chief executive.

Yet HHS officials said in a statement released to the public Feb. 22 that patients who become seriously ill would be sent to “pre-identified hospitals for medical care.”

“We were surprised,” Bass said.

The hospital does have eight negative-pressure isolation rooms, but patients with serious complications would need to be sent to a larger institution, such as Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, 90 miles away, Bass said.

Emory University Hospital did not respond to a question about whether it was told about the HHS plan.

A federal contract for a local ambulance service was secured at the last moment, after HHS had already issued a statement about its plan for Anniston. Details on how to handle other tasks – including patients’ laundry and food – seemed unfinished.

The preparations for bringing patients to Anniston were handled partly by Caliburn International, a government contractor that previously provided emergency medical services to federal agencies, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Post.

Former Trump chief of staff John Kelly joined the firm based in Reston, Virginia, as a board member last year. Caliburn is the parent company of Comprehensive Health Services, which has come under scrutiny for its operation of medical services at a detention site for migrant children.

A Caliburn spokeswoman referred questions about the Anniston operations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

HHS, through its Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, responded to The Post’s questions about its Anniston operations with a statement noting the office’s staff members “have a long-standing relationship” with the disaster preparedness center and were familiar with its capabilities. The statement also said the federal agency “was considering the facility as a contingency location” and decided during discussions with local officials that “the site would not actually be needed.”

It was Trump who finally canceled the planned quarantine in Anniston on Feb. 23, according to tweets from Rogers and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., that referred to their conversations with the president.

The news arrived as people attended an emergency meeting of the Calhoun County Commission. Cheers broke out.

“I guess in our culture today a tweet is considered official,” Barton said.

Anniston has plenty of experience dealing with unwelcome threats – and learning to live with them.

It was for years home to the nation’s chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin and mustard gas. Later, it was the location of a chemical weapons incinerator, where those munitions were carefully destroyed.

The town also deals with the toxic legacy of a former Monsanto plant that for decades polluted the soil and water with PCBs, which were banned in the 1970s amid health concerns. The pollution resulted in a $700 million settlement for 20,000 residents in 2003.

But the novel coronavirus posed a different kind of challenge.

Fear that the HHS plan was flawed gave new energy to already circulating rumors and wild theories about the virus.

Residents didn’t know whom to believe. Trump had said without evidence that CNN and MSNBC were exaggerating the threat. Rush Limbaugh was on the radio saying it was no worse than the regular flu. Facebook posts claimed the outbreak had been foreshadowed by a 1981 Dean Koontz book. And the idea the virus could have been created in a Chinese biochemical lab was floated widely, including by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

The whirlwind caught the attention of Michael Kline, a urologist in Anniston.

“I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on,” he said.

So on the weekend of Feb. 22-23, Kline dressed up in a blue biohazard suit with his “the virus has arrived” sign. He stood along the highway and waved to passing vehicles. He wanted to drum up opposition to allowing infected patients in Anniston. But even the plan was abandoned, Kline said he still wasn’t certain patients weren’t being housed at the old Army base.

Rumors of black helicopters ferrying infected patients to the training center at night were rampant. The local Home Depot sold out of painting and sanding face masks. Hodges, the commissioner, said he heard often from worried residents. But helicopters were common in the area because of a nearby Army depot and National Guard training center. Only now they were nefarious. Other people talked about mysterious vans driving along county roads.

Hodges and Draper held emergency news conferences and meetings to try to lessen the panic. But those meetings also allowed for additional rumors to flourish during public comment periods. A commission meeting included one resident tying the coronavirus to a 1992 United Nations document about climate change.

“That’s how long this has been going on,” he said.

“The public is going crazy,” said Bobby Foster, a business owner who spoke at the meeting and asked the commissioners to try harder to distribute accurate information.

Glen Ray, president of the local NAACP, talked about the virus at a Sunday service at Rising Star United Methodist Church on Feb. 23 to try to calm people’s worries. But he was also dismayed that one of the county commissioners wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat to an emergency meeting about the virus.

“It’s not about Donald Trump,” Ray said later. “A virus is not going to just jump on a Democrat. So at times like this, we need to be coming together. No time for politics.”

Anniston’s flirtation with the dreaded virus did have one positive effect, officials said. It made them realize they need to prepare – that the virus could come without warning and they shouldn’t rely on outsiders alone for expertise.

Barton, the emergency management director, helped create a county infectious disease task force. It has already had its first meeting. The focus is not solely on the coronavirus. It will handle the flu and whatever other viruses pop up in the future.

The public’s interest in the virus hasn’t faded, either.

Barton gave a talk Thursday to a lunchtime meeting of a civic organization, the Exchange Club. It had been planned months ago but he decided to talk about the aborted plan to bring infected patients to town.

People peppered Barton with questions about why federal health officials had ever considered the disaster training facility and how much emergency food they should keep at home. They wanted to know how to avoid getting sick.

Barton suggested hand-washing and keeping a safe distance from sick people.

As he talked, a lady reached into her purse, squeezed some alcohol sanitizer on her hands and passed the bottle around the table.

– – –

The Washington Post’s Emma Brown and Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.

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Madonna bursts into tears trying to walk during concert…

MADONNA burst into tears and struggled to stand after falling off a chair during her Madame X gig in Paris.

The Queen of Pop, 61, had to be helped up by one of her dancers after the accident at Le Grand Rex on Thursday night.

 Madonna's struggles have seen her cancelling a number of dates on the tour


Madonna’s struggles have seen her cancelling a number of dates on the tour

Madonna has been struggling with hip and knee injuries for several months and has needed to use a cane to help her walk.

Her struggles have seen her cancelling a number of dates on the tour but in the French capital she bravely continued to perform through the pain.

Madonna has tried a number of alternative treatments to help her cope with the pain, including washing her blood with oxygen.

The singer has eight remaining gigs in Paris before the mammoth tour comes to an end.

She is expected to return to the stage tomorrow night.

The superstar is dating Ahlamalik Williams, 25, who has been on tour with her since 2015 and appeared in music video God Control.

The Vogue singer has a history with dating younger men, dancers Brahim Zalibat, then 23, and Timor Steffens, then 26, as well as model Kevin Sampaio, then 31.

Madonna insists Prince Harry and Meghan Markle relocate to her Central Park apartment in NYC as Canada is ‘SO boring’ in a bizarre video clip

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Steyer spent $3,373 per vote — earned zero delegates!

Tom Steyer speaks at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

With the results in from South Carolina, a strong case can be made that Tom Steyer has just concluded the worst campaign in the history of presidential politics.

Steyer, the California-based founder of Farallon Capital and the co-founder of Onecalifornia Bank and Beneficial State Bank, became a household name – at least among those households with MSNBC – by being the single largest funder of efforts to impeach President Trump. After telling reporters in January 2019 that he would not seek the presidency, Steyer exercised his prerogative to change his mind and declared his candidacy in July.

According to the FEC, Steyer has spent $253,718,074 through January 31, 2020. All but $3,555,597 was from his own pocket. Pre-Bloomberg, a quarter billion dollars for the first four primaries is a staggering amount. But the incredible lack of return on that investment is even more eye-popping, especially for someone whose campaign’s sole justification was his supposed business acumen.

Nowhere was that total incompetence more on display than in South Carolina. Steyer, whose $253 million failed to merit a single delegate in the first three contests, bet his entire campaign on South Carolina. He spent more time there than any other state and his wife Kat Taylor essentially moved to the state. Instead of a triumph, he dropped out of the race immediately after Biden won the state with 50% of the vote.

According to the New York Times, Steyer spent over $18 million on television alone in the Palmetto State. Steyer’s campaign spending has been so excessive that the Times reports that his name has “turned into a verb” – local activists refer to a candidate foolishly overpaying as “steyering.” Some of that spending was ethically questionable, such as renting a campaign headquarters from Jennifer Clyburn Reed, whose father is Congressman James E. Clyburn, the dean of the state’s Democratic Party. Some of that spending was just … goofy. When the Charleston County Democrats held their “Blue Jamboree,” Steyer not only sponsored the lunch, but bought a ticket for every member of the Benedict College marching band and rented them a bus to get there. All of that spending was inefficient, ineffective and ultimately inept.

The numbers are just staggering.

Let’s make some assumptions. Since the Steyer campaign spent $253 million through January, it’s safe to assume another $30 or so million for February, when television buys were at their highest, so let’s call it $280 million.

His seventh-place finish in Iowa netted him 3,061 votes on the first alignment and zero delegates.

His sixth-place finish in New Hampshire netted him 10,727 votes and zero delegates.

In Nevada, Steyer spent $13.55 million on television ads – more than twice as much as the other five candidates combined. His 9,503 first-alignment votes were sixth most and again failed to capture a single delegate.

When the Leap Day primary in South Carolina finally arrived, it looked like Steyer’s last chance to eke out a return on his huge investment.

With 99% of the total counted, Steyer will finish in third place with 59,814 votes, less than a quarter as many as the state’s winner, Joe Biden. At 11.4% of the statewide vote, it appears he will leave South Carolina — and the presidential campaign — with a single delegate.

So $280 million for 83,000 votes comes to an astonishing $3,373 per vote. His $280 million for one delegate is without precedent. On Saturday, Steyer danced to Back That Azz Up, thanked his staff for being 30% LGBTQ, and withdrew from the race.

(This story has been updated to reflect the Steyer campaign being awarded a single delegate in South Carolina.)

Latest posts by Ken Kurson (see all)

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Uighurs sent to work in factory that supplies NIKE…

The workers in standard-issue blue jackets stitch and glue and press together about eight million pairs of Nikes each year at Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co., a Nike supplier for more than 30 years and one of the US brand’s largest factories.

They churn out pair after pair of Shox, with their springy shock absorbers in the heels, and the signature Air Max, plus seven other lines of sports shoes. 

However, hundreds of these workers did not choose to be here: they are ethnic Uighurs from China‘s western Xinjiang region, sent here by local authorities in groups of 50 to toil far from home.

After intense international criticism of the Communist Party’s campaign to forcibly assimilate the mostly Muslim Uighur minority by detaining more than a million people in re-education camps, party officials said last year that most have “graduated” and been released. 

But there is new evidence to show that the Chinese authorities are moving Uighurs into government-directed labour around the country as part of the central government’s Xinjiang Aid initiative.

 For the party, this would help meet its poverty-alleviation goals but also allow it to further control the Uighur population and break familial bonds. 

“We can walk around, but we can’t go back [to Xinjiang] on our own,” said one Uighur woman in broken Mandarin as she browsed the street stalls at the factory gate on a recent afternoon.

Nervous about being seen talking to a reporter, she quickly scurried away.

When their shifts end, the Uighur workers – almost all women in their 20s or younger – use hand gestures and rudimentary Mandarin to buy dried fruit, socks and sanitary pads at the stalls.

Then they walk around the corner, past the factory’s police station – adorned with Uighur writing telling them to “stay loyal to the party” and “have clear-cut discipline” – to dormitories where they live under constant supervision.

The Uighur workers are afraid or unable to interact with anyone in this town, north of Qingdao, beyond the most superficial of transactions at the stalls or in local stores, vendors have said.. But the catalyst for their arrival here is well understood.

“Everyone knows they did not come here of their own free will. They were brought here,” said one fruitseller as she set up her stall. “The Uighurs had to come because they did not have an option. The government sent them here,” another vendor told The Washington Post.

The Post did not ask for their names, out of concern for their safety and so they could discuss an issue that is highly sensitive in China. (While visiting Laixi, this Post reporter was surrounded by seven police officers, questioned, and ordered to leave town.) 

The Taekwang factory is one of many where Uighurs are working “under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour” to make goods for more than 80 established global brands, according to an upcoming report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a Canberra-based think tank. 

“The Chinese government is now exporting the punitive culture and ethos of Xinjiang’s ‘re-education camps’ to factories across China,” said Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, the study’s lead author.

In some cases, they found evidence that Uighurs were transferred directly from internment camps to factories.

“For the Chinese state, the goal is to ‘sinicise’ the Uighurs; for local governments, private brokers and factories, they get a sum of money per head in these labour transfers,” Ms Xu said.

Asked about Uighur workers in the factory, Nike said that “we respect human rights in our extended value chain, and always strive to conduct business ethically and responsibly”.

“We are committed to upholding international labour standards globally,” said Nike spokeswoman Sandra Carreon-John, adding that its suppliers are “strictly prohibited from using any type of prison, forced, bonded or indentured labour”.

Kim Jae-min, the chief executive of Taekwang, the factory’s South Korean parent company, said about 600 Uighurs were among 7,100 workers at the plant.

Nike’s manufacturing map shows that the factory has 4,095 employees, of whom 3,445 are “line workers”.

“The purpose of bringing in migrant Xinjiang workers (in addition to other migrant Han Chinese workers) is to offset the local labour shortage, due to increasing number of competing industries for workers in our area,” the CEO said in a statement. 

Teenager hides messages about China and Uighurs in TikTok makeup tutorials 

The ASPI​ report conservatively estimates that more than 80,000 Uighurs were transferred from Xinjiang  to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019.

This figure is consistent with reporting from China’s state broadcaster, which said in November that the Xinjiang government wanted to transfer out 100,000 “surplus labourers” between 2018 and 2020.

Sending young Uighurs away to work can change their mind-set by “distancing them from religiously extreme views and educating them”, said one local government report. 

Xinjiang’s Turkic language-speaking, mostly Muslim Uighurs have much more in common with the cultures of central Asia than with China’s Mandarin-speaking Han majority, and have long chafed at Beijing’s oppressive rule.

By the party’s own count, tens of thousands of Uighurs have been sent to Guangdong and Fujian provinces in the south, and to Zhejiang, Anhui and Shandong in the east.

State media reports have described “poor farmers and herdsmen” sent to enterprises inside and outside Xinjiang, portraying them as grateful.

“We will feel the party’s favour, listen to the party’s words and follow the party wherever and whenever we go,” a 20-year-old called Zulinar Idris was quoted as saying.

An industry of middlemen has cropped up to facilitate the dispatch of Uighurs, touting “semi-military-style management” and “government management with police stationed at factories”.

In its report, ASPI said it had found evidence that Uighurs were being exploited and that foreign and Chinese companies were involved, possibly unknowingly, in human rights abuses. 

The researchers found 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces that have used Uighur workers hired through labour transfer programmes from Xinjiang since 2017.

The factories are owned by firms that feed into the supply chain of some of the world’s best-known companies, including Apple, Dell and Volkswagen, the report finds.

BOE Technology Group, which supplies screens to Apple, and O-Film, which makes iPhone cameras, both use Uighur labour, either directly or through contractors, the report found. Apple lists both companies on its latest supplier list.

Apple said that it has strict requirements for suppliers.

“Apple is dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our supply chain is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said spokesman Josh Rosenstock. “We have not seen this report but we work closely with all our suppliers to ensure our high standards are upheld.”

Volkswagen spokesman Nikolas Thorke said that “none of the mentioned supplier companies are currently a direct supplier of Volkswagen”. 

“We are committed to our responsibility in all areas of our business where we hold direct authority,” he said.

Dell said it would look into the report’s findings. “Though our current supplier audit data show no evidence of forced labour in our supply chain, we take all allegations of this nature seriously and will investigate fully,” said spokeswoman Lauren Lee. 

While ASPI could not categorically confirm that the labour was forced, their report said there was clear evidence of “highly disturbing coercive labour practices” that was consistent with the International Labour Organisation’s definition of forced labour. 

Uighur Muslim woman tells Congressional-Executive Commission on China she asked Chinese to kill her whilst in detention camp

At the front gate, the Taekwang factory looks like any other in China. Rows of long buildings sit behind a gate where three flags flutter: the company ensign and a Chinese flag, but also a South Korean one, reflecting the parent company’s home base.

Inside, the workers’ ideology and behaviour are closely monitored. At a purpose-built “psychological dredging office”, officials from Taekwang’s local women’s federation conduct “heart-to-heart” talks and provide psychological consulting to encourage integration, according to photos of the offices published by state media. 

Along the side, the facility resembles a prison. There are watchtowers with cameras pointed in all directions and barbed-wire fences atop the walls, which feature Communist Party propaganda posters extolling the Chinese president Xi Jinping‘s “China dream”.

“All ethnicities are united as one family,” says one placard. 

There is a special police station equipped with facial recognition cameras and other high-tech surveillance that workers must pass through when they enter and exit the factory.

The Uighurs are segregated from the Han workers, both physically and by language, according to more than a dozen local merchants and workers who spoke to The Post about the situation inside the factory. 

“They do not speak Mandarin, and we never have any interaction. We just happen to work in the same factory,” said one middle-aged Han woman as she left work for the day.

“We have two cafeterias,” she said. “Chinese workers eat in one and Xinjiang workers go to a separate one. The Uighur workers are allowed to wander around near the compound, but have to return to their dorms later.”

The workers live under the watchful eye of their cadre manager in dormitory buildings opposite the police station. 

They sometimes go to the one Muslim restaurant in town, often ordering steaming bowls of lamb noodle soup by pointing at the photos on the wall. Signs saying “halal” and other phrases in Arabic have been taped over, in line with orders from the authorities.

There is no mosque in the town or in the factory. Bitter Winter, a website devoted to religious freedom in China, has reported that the Uighur workers are not allowed to pray or read the Quran. 

Instead, they must attend patriotic education and Mandarin classes at a training school called Pomegranate Seeds, the state-run publication China Ethnic News reported.

The school is named after an edict from Mr Xi, who said that “people of all ethnic groups should hold together like pomegranate seeds”.

Communist Party officials in Laixi have posted photos of the Uighur workers studying in the Taekwang factory’s Pomegranate Seeds school, and sitting in rows waving Chinese flags.

Security at the factory is tight. Factory administrators told a Post reporter this was a Nike requirement – Nike inspectors were visiting that day – but locals said it was also to monitor the Uighur workers.

“Some would say they use national-level security standards,” one of the street vendors said. “They keep a detailed account of the workers’ entries and exits, and they have to obey a strict schedule, coming to work or leaving the compound only at specific hours.”

Taekwang did not respond to questions about whether the Uighurs were forced to work in the factory under threat of re-education, nor whether they could pray or observe religious practices while working at the factory.

The company provides “special food to our employees from Xinjiang” and “optional Mandarin language for non-Mandarin speakers, that will help ensure a positive work environment and job success”, said the chief executive.

For their part, top party officials are pleased with the efforts.

“By ‘encouraging’ ethnic minorities in Xinjiang to ‘interact and develop themselves,’” Wang Yang, who is leading the Xinjiang labour policies, said at a meeting in the Xinjiang city of Hotan, “China has immensely promoted the interaction and integration among different ethnicities.”

The Washington Post

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Confirmed in Rhode Island…

The Rhode Island Department of Health has announced the state’s first “presumptive positive” case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The person is in their 40s and had traveled to Italy in mid-February, the department says. The news release does not reveal the person’s gender or hometown.

It says that the person has had “limited travel” in Rhode Island since returning from Italy, and that the person has not gone back to work since returning to the country.

Outreach has begun to people who were in direct contact with the person, the Health Department says, and there are “extensive efforts underway to ensure that they undergo a period of 14 days of self-monitoring for symptoms at home with public health supervision (quarantine). As long as anyone exposed to the individual does not have symptoms outside of their home setting, the virus cannot spread to other people in the community.”

The person’s immediate family members have been self-quarantining at home since it was determined that the person met the criteria, based on travel history, to be evaluated for coronavirus, the Health Department says.

The department says it is coordinating closely with the hospital where this person is currently being treated — which it does not reveal — and that infection control protocols are being followed.

“The Rhode Island Department of Health has been preparing for weeks to ensure that we have a structure in place to, to the best of our ability, limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Rhode Island. We fully anticipated having a first case of COVID-19,” said Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said in the news release. “We are not seeing widespread community transmission in Rhode Island, and the general level of risk for Rhode Islanders is still low. However, everyone in Rhode Island has a role to play in helping us prevent the spread of viruses, just like the flu. It is very important that people wash their hands regularly, cover their coughs and sneezes, and stay home if they are sick.”

Alexander-Scott and Gov. Gina Raimondo will give a news conference at 11:45 a.m. Sunday to discuss the situation.

More to come.

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PENCE: More Deaths Coming…

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New case in Chicago…

EXCLUSIVE: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that a new case of the coronavirus appeared in Chicago overnight, marking the latest spread of the outbreak in the United States.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Azar confirmed the latest infection as fears mount that the virus will continue to spread across the country.

“We’ve had 23 cases here in the United States that are not a result of us repatriating individuals from Japan or China,” Azar said. “Of those individuals, we’ve got cases in Chicago as well as Washington and Oregon where we do — and two in California where we do not yet know why they contracted the novel coronavirus.”


There are now three cases of the coronavirus in Illinois, with the Chicago Tribune reporting Saturday night that the latest case “resulted in presumptive positives for COVID-19.” The patient is hospitalized in isolation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols have been implemented, as officials try to locate and monitor anyone who had contact with the infected individual.

According to the Associated Press, there have been 62 cases of the coronavirus in the United States with one death so far.

The man who died was in his 50s, had underlying health conditions and no history of travel or contact with a known COVID-19 case, health officials in Washington state said at a news conference. A spokesperson for EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.

“At this point we do not know how this gentleman contracted the illness,” Azar said. “Right now there’s a large investigation going on in the nursing home, the hospital, contact tracing to try to determine where that disease was introduced and how it might have spread.”


A growing number of cases in California, Washington state and Oregon are confounding authorities because the infected people hadn’t recently traveled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveler or an infected person.

Azar tried to assuage concerns that the outbreak of coronavirus wil spread widely among the American public, telling Fox News that the chances on contracting the virus “remains low,” but noted that “things can change rapidly.”

“The risk to any individual American remains low,” Azar said. “Thanks to the efforts the president has taken, they stay low.  We’re working to keep it that way.

He added: “But things can change rapidly.  They should know we have the best public health system in the world though looking out for them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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New International Travel Restrictions…

Health officials in the state of Washington reported the first coronavirus death in the U.S. on Saturday, as the White House imposed additional international travel restrictions.

Vice President Mike Pence, head of the government’s task force on the virus, said at a briefing that the U.S. will bar foreign nationals who have traveled to Iran in the past 14 days. The government is also strongly advising people against travel to areas in Italy and South Korea that are affected by the virus and has asked those countries to ensure…

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