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China Expands Chaotic Dragnet in Coronavirus Crackdown

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China’s leaders expanded a mass roundup of people possibly sickened with the coronavirus on Thursday, widening their dragnet well beyond the epicenter of the outbreak to at least two more cities in what the government has called a “wartime” campaign to stamp out the epidemic.

But the campaign, first announced last week in the city of Wuhan, already has been marred by chaotic conditions that have isolated vulnerable patients without adequate care and, in some cases, left them alone to die.

The expansion of the decree to “round up everyone who should be rounded up” in the Wuhan area of central China has deepened the nation’s sense of anxiety.

In their zeal to execute the edict, officials in Wuhan, a metropolis of 11 million, have haphazardly seized patients who have not yet tested positive for the coronavirus, in some cases herding them onto buses with no protective measures where they risked infection from others, their relatives said.

After that, patients have been sent to makeshift medical facilities that don’t provide the support they need to recover. With little to no dedicated medical staff on hand to help, some patients die.

One woman was abruptly carted off to a quarantine facility and prohibited from retrieving her supply of heart medication, her daughter-in-law said. A man said he was getting sicker and sicker in his hotel room, but there were no doctors and he was not allowed to leave.

Another man placed in a makeshift shelter fell into a coma for two days, but his family said they couldn’t get him admitted to a hospital. He died.

Despite the upheaval, the mass roundup extended beyond Wuhan to include other cities in central Hubei Province that have been hit hard by the outbreak. The state-run CCTV news broadcaster said the expanded area included the cities of Huanggang and Xiaogan.

A sudden spike in new cases could make the situation worse. Officials in Hubei Province announced on Thursday that they had expanded the criteria for counting new infections to include diagnoses by doctors based on a chest scan and symptoms, rather than a more complicated test. The tally from the outbreak surged as a result, with the province adding nearly 15,000 new cases and 242 new deaths in a single day.

The surge continued on Friday, though not as markedly, when Hubei officials disclosed about 4,800 new cases and 116 additional deaths.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The rise in confirmed cases, to about 52,000 over all in the province, could overwhelm an already burdened health care system, which faces a shortage of hospital beds and medical supplies. Even before the new numbers were reported, many residents had been slipping through the cracks.

One Wuhan resident, Peng Andong, 59, had been suffering from a persistent fever and lung infection for days when his local neighborhood committee told him to go to a makeshift quarantine site last week.

Mr. Peng and his family were told that there would be doctors at the quarantine site, as well as test kits so he could get the official confirmation needed to receive proper treatment. So on Feb. 5, Mr. Peng boarded a bus full of sick patients — none wearing protective gear — and was driven to a hotel converted into an isolation center.

For several days, Mr. Peng messaged with his relatives regularly, updating them on the tumultuous conditions inside the hotel.

“He said it was really chaotic in the first few days and there was no food or medical staff there,” said Peng Bangze, his son. Others have described similar conditions in interviews and in calls for help posted on social media.

Deng Chao, 30, said that although doctors had told him he almost certainly had the coronavirus, he hadn’t yet received the official results from the test that is needed for hospital admission.

Instead he was sent to a Wuhan hotel where he has been in a government-imposed quarantine for nearly a week. Now, he said, he was getting progressively sicker and finding it more difficult to breathe. He said security guards had been stationed at the hotel entrance to prevent patients from escaping — and there were no doctors or medicine.

“This is really like a prison,” Mr. Deng said.

“Send me to a hospital, please, I need treatment,“ he said, in between bouts of coughing. “There is no one to take care of us here.”

The problems are likely to compound the public outrage over the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the most serious health crisis to afflict China under President Xi Jinping. Local officials played down the virus in the early days, while the eventual lockdown of Wuhan cut the city off from critical supplies and resources.

In the converted hotel where Ms. Ma was sequestered for days before she finally secured a hospital room, there were no doctors, medicine or even water, according to a plea for help posted by her daughter-in-law on Chinese social media, one of many similar calls for assistance that have surfaced online in recent weeks.

“Where have your feelings for the people gone?” she wrote, castigating local government officials. “Where have your governance capabilities gone?”

Some say that the lack of medical care in the makeshift quarantine centers has only made their illnesses worse. For some families, the poor conditions have led to the worst news.

Peng Bangze, whose father was sent on a crowded bus to a converted hotel for isolation, recalled visiting last Saturday, after his father had been unreachable all day.

He found his father in a comatose state alone in his room.

Panicked, he called for help. When the ambulance came, both the driver and the hotel security guard refused to help him move his father, a construction worker, into the vehicle for fear of getting infected, the son said. One hour later, the son was told that the hospital had no bed for his father and that he should go home and wait.

Two days — and many phone calls — later, Mr. Peng’s relatives finally received a call from the local government notifying them that a hospital bed had been arranged. But when Mr. Peng’s son arrived at the hotel to help with the transfer, his father was lying face down on the bed, lifeless, in the same position he had left him.

The workers at the isolation venue had no explanation. They disinfected the room, the father’s body was removed for cremation, and the son collected his belongings.

“I don’t know how this happened,” the son said. “It all happened in a few days. How could he suddenly be gone?”

Albee Zhang and Zoe Mou contributed research from Beijing.



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Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows

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Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.

The extent to which fossil fuel emissions, as opposed to natural sources, are responsible for the rising methane levels has long been a matter of scientific debate. Methane seeps from the ocean bed, for instance, and also spews from land formations called mud volcanoes.

To shed light on the mystery, researchers at Rochester’s Department of Earth and Environmental Studies examined ice cores from Greenland, as well as data from Antarctica stretching back to about 1750, before the industrial revolution.

They found that methane emissions from natural phenomena were far smaller than estimates used to calculate global emissions. That means fossil-fuel emissions from human activity — namely the production and burning of fossil fuels — were underestimated by 25 to 40 percent, the researchers said.

The scientists were helped in their analysis by different isotopes found in methane emissions from natural sources, compared to emissions from the production of fossil fuels. Isotopes are versions of an element that have very slight differences, allowing the researchers to differentiate between them.

Daniel J. Jacob, professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University, also described the findings as significant. Current estimates of methane from geological sources “were widely considered too high by atmospheric modelers such as myself,” he wrote in an email.

But he took issue with the suggestion that emissions from fossil fuel production were larger than previously estimated. Fossil fuel emissions are “based on fuel production rates, number of facilities, and direct measurements if available. The natural geological source is irrelevant for these estimates,” he said.

The disagreement reflects an overall discrepancy between what are called “bottom-up” measurements of emissions, those from individual oil and gas sites, as opposed to “top-down” calculations like the ones carried out by the Rochester researchers. “Bottom-up” measurements can be unreliable because of a lack of data from individual oil and gas sites. With “top-down” measurements, on the other hand, the exact source of emissions can be hard to pin down.

The findings come as oil and gas companies face increased pressure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions from their operations to address rising concerns about climate change.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is of particular concern, because it can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. On top of fossil fuel production, livestock, landfills and other sources linked to human activity also emit methane.

Last week, the British oil giant BP set an ambitious climate change goal, saying it aimed to eliminate or offset by 2050 all planet-warming emissions from its oil and gas production, as well as emissions caused by the burning of the oil and gas it pumps from the ground. The company provided few details on how it would achieve that feat, however.

Adding to climate concerns, the Trump administration is moving forward with a plan that effectively eliminates requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from oil and gas facilities. By the Environmental Protection Agency’s own calculations, the rollback would increase methane emissions by 370,000 tons through 2025, enough to power more than a million homes for a year.

Dr. Petrenko, one of the Rochester study’s authors, said that the huge undertaking of studying giant ice cores meant the study relied on a small sampling of data. “These measurements are incredibly difficult. So getting more data to help confirm our results would be very valuable,” he said. “That means there’s quite a bit more research to be done.”

For more climate news sign up for the Climate Fwd: newsletter or follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.





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Rising Kashmir

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Feb 19, 2020 | Dr. Rajkumar Singh

The United States of America took a lion’s share of interest in Kashmir because New Delhi and Islamabad were face to fact on the issue. US policy makers are highly pragmatic, highly cynical. They believed that through an intelligent exploitation of the Pakistani card they can exercise pressure on India. India is democratic, and tolerant; a society that wished not to confront or attack US policies and also hopes to receive from it hitech technology transfers.

Regarding the “core” issue of Kashmir there is a wide gulf between New Delhi and Islamabad on the one hand and New Delhi-Washington on the other. Pakistan’s single minded and unchanging pursuit had been to oppose and damage India in whatever manner feasible. India insists that the access of Kashmir to India is final and irrevocable.

While the US, similar to Islamabad has maintained that it is a disputed territory. India asserts that Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India of his own free will and that in any case he had the sovereign right to decide which domination he wished to join.

Original US views on Kashmir

There is a widely held view in the US, shared by the State Department that the accession took place under duress and at the very least needs to be revalidated by some sort of reference to the people. Pakistan had been famous, for the decades, as an ally of US, and eventually a frontline state in its crusade against communism.

The fallout of this on the Kashmir dispute was to distort each and every interpretation of events in Kashmir in a way that weakened India’s case at the UN and strengthened Pakistan’s. There is thus a well-founded backlog of distrust that has to be dispelled if the US is to be accepted as a mediator by the Indian public.

On several occasions the US has offered mediation and Pakistan sought Washington’s mediation/intervention in solving the problem. But New Delhi has been of the opinion that bilateral issues should not be solved through mediation of the third party. Coinciding with the Male meeting between Gujral and Sharif, in May 1997 reports from London and Washington spoke of Jammu and Kashmir being on the agenda of the Blair-Clinton talks.

The Beijing regime made extra loud promises of augmented military supplies during the Pakistani President’s visit to China. In an effort to patch-up the differences between India and Pakistan having accepted New Delhi’s position Clinton proposed a meeting with I.K. Gujral to be held during the UN General Assembly session.

Since Pakistan has long been insisting on US intervention in the Kashmir “dispute” the entire rescheduling appeared to be a ploy to hold some kind of a tripartite meeting of the heads of Government of three countries. 

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan, as a part of its strategy paid his four-day visit to China where he discussed the Kashmir issue with China, who has been carefully watching the Indo-Pak talks had expressed optimism that New Delhi and Islamabad would make unremitting efforts to seek a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, thereby normalising  bilateral relations.

US Presidential efforts

President Clinton, before his scheduled meeting with I. K. Gujral on 22 September 1997 laid stress on good Indo-Pak ties. He was also urged in a letter by Dan Burton, a Republican Congressman and  other that his administration should devote “greater attention” to South Asia and help “facilitate a resolution of the Kashmir problem on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.

Clinton and Gujral had an extremely warm and cordial 30-minute-plus meeting that engendered a pleasantly amiable ambience for the discussions. The US President sought to remove India’s apprehensions by declaring that his country had no intention to interfere in its problems with Pakistan, an apparent reference to the Kashmir issue.

When asked to a specific query, a senior State Department official said the two leaders were aware of the sensitivities on the subject. He made it quite clear that the US was very careful not to interfere in any way in the outstanding issues India had with Pakistan, although the US strongly supported the Indo-Pak dialogue that was underway.

Washington made a fresh offer when Pakistan Foreign Minister visited USA, to assist India and Pakistan to resolve their differences but reaffirmed that it has “no intention to interfere” in the on-going bilateral dialogue.

The United States of America in an important decision branded the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the Pakistan based terrorist group promoting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Hailing the decision as a “welcome recognition” of the ground realities in Jammu and Kashmir the External Affairs Ministry hoped that Washington would follow up the decision by recognising “the true nature” of other similar terrorist groups operating from Pakistan.    

The Indian officials also felt that as a next logical step Pakistan should at least be returned to the US State Department’s watch-list of states which are believed to sponsor terrorism if not declare it a ‘rogue’ nation. In an Indo-US dialogue held in October 1997 the US Government acknowledged the seriousness of the problem of cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Other supportive factors

Further in a fresh move Nawaz Sharif during his visit to China in February 1998 reiterated in familiar Pakistani stand on Kashmir and said Jammu and Kashmir was the primary cause of conflict between India and Pakistan. “It remains the flash point threatening regional peace and security.” 

However, Pakistani premier failed to garner Beijing’s support against New Delhi and Kashmir issue never figured in any of the statements made by top Chinese leadership during the visit. Perhaps, Beijing was careful not to annoy India too much in the wake of renewed political and trade ties between Beijing and  New Delhi after painstaking efforts from both sides.

Islamabad was mainly assisted by Beijing in the manufacturing of armaments as well as development of nuclear technology. Washington too, had been second to none in providing Pakistan’s defence system a strong footing.

Even today despite its efforts for disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, US continued to be an important ally of Islamabad. The United States, even evades toreact when Beijing used to supply defence related equipments to Pakistan.

At present it is an established fact that Islamabad is being helped by China and USA, for the reasons, suited to each country. With active support of the Beijing, Pakistan is making serious efforts to tip its missiles with nuclear warheads and is building a missile factory. Chinese experts were working on guidance and control systems, solid fuel and M-11 missile variants. It had also trained Pakistani personnel on assembling and use of the M-11 missile.

In the series Pakistan test fired two missile systems—a surface-to-air missile named Azna and another anti-tank guided missile, Baktar Shikan at a firing range. Even earlier, in June 1997, Pakistan test fired its medium range surface-to-surface Hatf-III missile which reportedly had a range of nearly 800 kms.  Although Pakistani spokesman in a statement said that they were a routine affair and it has no high military significance.

 

 

Author is head of Department of Political Science, B.N.Mandal University, Main Campus, Madhepura. Bihar

 





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Olay says it will stop skin retouching in its ads by the end of the year

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Olay Regenerist video.

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Procter & Gamble skincare brand Olay said Wednesday it will stop retouching skin in its advertising by 2021.

As part of the commitment, which Olay announced at an event in New York City on Wednesday, the company will kick off a new print campaign called “My Olay” featuring unretouched images of Busy Philipps, Denise Bidot and Lilly Singh. Olay works with ad agency Badger & Winters, which made Olay’s recent Super Bowl ad featuring all women.

Olay’s “Skin Promise” mark will appear on ads in the U.S. and Canada to show that the skin on women featured has not been retouched, the brand said. The “Skin Promise” will expand to all of the brand’s ads on print, digital, out-of-home and with influencer partners by 2021.

Kate DiCarlo, Olay’s senior communications leader, said during a panel at the announcement that the brand had tested out the new no-retouching policy in its Super Bowl ad. “We tested ourselves with the Super Bowl shoot; Our Super Bowl shoot was also unretouched,” she said. 

Brands have been criticized in the past for editing photos in ad imagery. Just over ten years ago, Olay came under fire in the UK for a magazine ad for a beauty product featuring English model and actress Twiggy, which the company admitted had been retouched. Unilever and its agency Ogilvy & Mather came under similar scrutiny after claims that it too had retouched photos of models as part of “Real Beauty” ad campaign for Dove (Unilever later told Ad Age that photos in one campaign had been altered to “remove dust and do color correction,” but not to change the “women’s natural beauty”).

But in the years since, some companies have been moving away from altered photos in their ad imagery. CVS Pharmacy said in January 2018 it would require disclosure for beauty imagery that has been “materially altered” by the end of 2020. It also introduced a “Beauty Mark,” or watermark to show imagery that had not been materially altered, referring to changing a person’s size, shape, proportion, skin color, eye color, wrinkles or other characteristics. Olay says its new standards align with those of CVS’s “Beauty Mark.”

In 2018, Dove launched its “No Digital Distortion Mark” for all branded content globally to represent that images are not distorted to make changes like removing wrinkles or cellulite (though it says it can remove a few things like lipstick or food particles from teeth). The company made its Dove Real Beauty Pledge in 2017 to declare that it never makes alterations to distort the physical appearance of the people in its ads or brand visuals.

Other companies have seen success with Photoshop-free ad imagery, including American Eagle’s Aerie, which started running campaigns with unedited photos models in 2014. The brand’s body-positive messaging helped it gain ground from competitor Victoria’s Secret. 

During the panel, actress Philipps spoke about working with the brand after having images of her edited in the past. 

“Contractually, I am not allowed to have Botox or filler,” she said. “They’re not only just not retouching, but this is my face as it’s lived and as it is, and I’m really proud of that. I love that part of the contract. So when I saw that, I knew they’re really serious about representing lots of different women at different ages with different types of skin, and that’s what I would like to be a part of.” 



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