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Frailty of Libya Accord on Display In Merkel-Erdogan Squabble

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(Bloomberg) — Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted a five-day-old agreement to halt fighting in Libya as he squabbled with Chancellor Angela Merkel in public over the viability of the accord.One of the two main Libyan combatants, Khalifa Haftar has failed to commit to a truce and should be shunned by leaders who gathered in Berlin last Sunday to work toward a more durable cease-fire in the North African country’s civil war, Erdogan said.“It’s hard to understand how some countries recognize Haftar,” the Turkish leader told journalists in Istanbul on Friday alongside Merkel, who came for talks.The frailty of the Berlin commitment was also on display as the two leaders bickered over Haftar’s refusal to officially sign an ceasefire agreement.Merkel acknowledged there had been “individual” violations of the truce in recent days, but said violence overall “has significantly dropped.”Erdogan chimed in, saying Haftar hadn’t signed anything, but only verbally accepted a truce, which isn’t “full acceptance.” Merkel rebutted, citing the verbal commitment and an agreement to put forward five names for a committee to hash out the terms of a more permanent cease-fire.“Madame Chancellor, it’s accepted but not signed, I want to make that clear,” Erdogan responded.“I think we misunderstand each other a bit,” Merkel said, agreeing that there was no signing. “You’re right.”Read More:Erdogan’s Libya Gamble Turns Mediterranean Into Sea of TroublesEurope Mulls Military Mission in Libya, Amid Oil Disruption (1)Warring Libya Factions Agree to Set Up Cease-Fire Committee (3)The parrying between the two leaders illustrates the difficulty of resolving the proxy war, which has seen Turkey and Russia back opposing parties in the struggle and outside nations squabble over energy interests. The Libya conflict has raged for years, killing thousands and disrupting the country’s oil output.Haftar, who has led a months-long march on the capital Tripoli, and Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, backed by Erdogan, variously agreed to a truce and pledged to put forward names to secure a more lasting cease-fire.“We won’t leave Sarraj alone,” Erdogan said.\–With assistance from Arne Delfs.To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Istanbul at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Firat Kozok in Istanbul at fkozok@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond ColittFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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Pope Francis Marks Ash Wednesday Mask-Free as Some Italian Towns Cancel Services Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

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(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis celebrated the Ash Wednesday ritual kicking off the Catholic Church’s Lenten season in traditional fashion, while other Masses in northern Italy were canceled over fears of the new coronavirus.

Francis and a long line of priests, bishops and cardinals processed through Rome’s Aventine hill into the 5th-century Santa Sabina basilica for the late-afternoon Mass. Neither the priests nor the faithful were wearing masks, and they all exchanged a sign of peace toward the end of the liturgy. But Rome has largely been spared Italy’s outbreak so far.

Other Catholic countries took precautions. In the Philippines — Asia’s only majority Roman Catholic country — priests sprinkled ashes on the heads of the faithful rather than making the mark of the cross on their foreheads.

“Wherever the ash is placed, on the forehead or on the head, the feeling is the same, it’s uplifting,” Editha Lorenzo, a 49-year-old mother of two wearing a face mask, told The Associated Press in Manila.

At the Vatican, Francis held his general audience as usual in St. Peter’s Square and sent his prayers to victims of the virus and the medical personnel treating them. A handful of the thousands of people gathered wore face masks to protect against the virus, which originated in China and has infected thousands globally including more than 300 people in Italy.

Francis kissed at least one child as he looped through the square in his popemobile and made a point to shake hands with the faithful sitting in the front row. Usually, he only waves. He also greeted prelates with a handshake at the beginning and end of the gathering, but it appeared most clergy were refraining from kissing Francis’ ring or embracing him, as they normally would do.

“I want to again express my closeness to those suffering from the coronavirus and the health care workers who are treating them, as well as the civil authorities and all those who are working to help patients and stop the contagion,” Francis said.

While Francis went ahead with his Ash Wednesday plans as usual, the patriarchate of Venice canceled the Mass scheduled for St. Mark’s Basilica, after a handful of elderly people in the lagoon city tested positive for the virus. The surrounding Veneto region is home to the second main cluster of cases in Italy.

In the Philippines, the Rev. Victorino Cueto, rector of the popular National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Manila metropolis, said the practice of sprinkling ash on heads of devotees was a precaution to prevent the spread of infections but actually is an old tradition based on the Old Testament.

“It’s better to be cautious,” said churchgoer Evet Accion.

On Good Friday, which marks Christ’s death on the cross, bishops in the Philippines strongly suggested that churchgoers refrain from kissing or touching the cross, a common practice among Catholics. “Instead, the faithful are requested to genuflect or make a profound bow as they venerate the cross,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, who heads the bishops’ conference.

Last month, the bishops recommended that Catholics receive the Eucharistic host by the hand instead of the mouth and avoid holding hands in prayer during Masses as precautions amid the viral scare.

___

Gomez reported from Manila, Philippines.





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Trump campaign sues The New York Times over a 2019 Russia op-ed

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President Trump loves to threaten lawsuits against the media, but it looks like he's now actually filing one.The Trump campaign announced Wednesday it's suing The New York Times for libel over a 2019 opinion column, "The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo" by Max Frankel. In the op-ed, Frankel writes "there was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin's oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration's burdensome economic sanctions."The campaign's legal adviser claims these statements were "100 percent false and defamatory" and the Times "was aware of the falsity at the time it published them." Axios notes that to win this lawsuit, the campaign would need to prove the Times acted with "actual malice," which is usually a "high bar" to clear. As CNBC's Christina Wilkie wrote, the "suit claims the Times must've known the *March 2019* op-ed was false because of what was in the *April 2019* Mueller report."The Times said Wednesday the Trump campaign has "turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable." But "fortunately," the Times added, "the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance."Trump has long threatened to sue media organizations for coverage he dislikes, but he generally hasn't ended up following through. As for why, The Washington Post explained in 2018 when Trump threatened to sue the Times over a story about his taxes that "he would be required as part of the discovery process to provide private financial documents that he has long resisted making public."This is something pundits noted on Wednesday, with The Daily Beast's Harry Siegel tweeting, "The Times has to be licking its lips thinking about discovery here if the suit gets that far."More stories from theweek.com Rush Limbaugh is fueling a coronavirus conspiracy theory about Rod Rosenstein's sister Harvard scientist predicts coronavirus will infect up to 70 percent of humanity Trump's coronavirus response is worse than incompetent



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Trump to Speak Tonight; Pakistan Reports Two Cases: Virus Update

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(Bloomberg) — U.S. President Donald Trump and federal health officials plan to brief the public Wednesday on efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A top American health official said that the increase in outbreaks outside China will make it harder to keep the virus outside the U.S.Pakistan said it had identified two cases. Brazil confirmed an infection, the first in Latin America. Greece also reported its first case, Italy and Iran confirmed additional infections, and 700 people remained confined in a hotel in Tenerife, the Canary Islands. A European health official warned of more cases.Chevron Corp. asked traders and other staff at its Canary Wharf office in London to work from home as a precaution after an employee was tested for the coronavirus.Key DevelopmentsChina death toll at 2,715, Hubei province adds 52 fatalitiesGlobally 2,771 have died and 81,233 people have been infectedStocks rise in U.S., pare losses in EuropeHong Kong sets stimulus package with one-time cash handoutsClick VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.Pakistan Confirms First Coronavirus Cases (12:05 p.m. NY)Pakistan’s health minister said the country had identified two cases of coronavirus, the first in the country.Both cases are being treated and are stable, Pakistan health minister Zafar Mirza said on Twitter. “No need to panic, things are under control,” Mirza said.Europe Health Official Predicts Wider Outbreak (11:46 a.m. NY)“It is likely that Europe will see similar developments like in Italy, varying from country to country,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in an update Wednesday. “The risk of the occurrence of similar clusters, similar to the ones in Italy, associated with Covid-19 in other countries in the EU/EEA and the U.K. is currently considered to be moderate to high,” ECDC said in its risk-assessment report.Even though “we are still in the containment phase,” European Union member states should review their “pandemic plans,” the bloc’s health chief, Stella Kyriakides, said in Rome earlier today.“All Member States need to inform us about their preparedness plans and how they propose to implement them,” Kyriakides said in a press conference, according to a copy of her prepared remarks. “This is the kind of crucial information that we all need to have if the virus spreads further and I urge Member States to share this with us and each other, as this is important for our mutual security.”White House Says Not Planning to Appoint Virus Czar (11:27 a.m. NY)The Trump administration said it doesn’t plan to appoint a “czar” to take over response to the coronavirus, pushing back on a report in Politico that it was considering doing so.White House spokesman Judd Deere said the talk of a czar being appointed wasn’t accurate:Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has been leading an administration task force on the virus, and has said U.S. containment efforts have been working well so far. “I don’t anticipate one, I think this is working extremely well,” he said Wednesday, responding to questions about the appointment of a czar from Congress. “That would be for the president to decide.”Trump Administration Could Seek More Virus Funding (10:45 a.m. NY)Azar suggested the Trump administration may seek more money for a virus response than the $2.5 billion announced on Tuesday. He told a House panel Wednesday that the administration is planning to spend “at least” that amount and would work with Congress on a final figure.“We’re trying to be flexible,” he said in response to questions.Azar on Tuesday faced critical questioning about the administration’s response from members of both parties at congressional hearings on Tuesday. Democrats responded with their own plans to respond to the virus. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday proposed $8.5 billion in spending for the virus response. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump response “meager, anemic,” and a Democratic aide said the House would vote on its own funding plan the week of March 9.State Department Adds Virus to Italy Travel Advisory (10:44 a.m. NY)The U.S. State Department said travelers to Italy should exercise increased caution when traveling there because of the coronavirus outbreak in the region of Lombardy. The State Department notice tells people to take precautions but doesn’t suggest they cancel travel.The department’s warning has been at Level 2 already because of terrorism risk.NIH’s Fauci Says Global Spread Raises U.S. Risk (10 a.m. NY)A top American health official said that the spread of cases outside China will make it harder for the U.S. to keep the coronavirus outside its borders.“The more you see outside of the United States, the greater the risk of it spilling over into the United States,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.“Nothing has changed inside our country, but things have changed outside that may ultimately have an impact here,” Fauci said during a television interview Wednesday.Schumer Prepares $8.5 Billion Funding Request: (9:55 a.m. NY)U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is preparing a request for emergency coronavirus funding totaling $8.5 billion, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. His request is expected to be finalized early Wednesday and sent to Appropriations committee members.Six Nations Rugby Match on March 7 Is Called Off (9:46 a.m. NY)The Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and Italy, scheduled for March 7, has been called off. Ireland had on Tuesday recommended the match be scrapped on public health grounds.Four More Cases Reported at Resort in Italy (9:30 a.m. NY)The total number of cases in Italy rose to 378. Four infections were reported at a hotel in the coastal resort of Alassio in the Liguria region, which is in lockdown with an adjacent hotel, according to regional Governor Giovanni Toti. Some of the 147 tourists will be transferred and quarantined back home as they don’t show symptoms.Brazil Confirms Coronavirus Case, First in Latin America (9:21 a.m. NY)Brazil has confirmed the first coronavirus case in Latin America and will announce it shortly at a press conference, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.A 61-year-old Brazilian who recently traveled to Northern Italy for work tested positive in a preliminary test, the Health Ministry said in a statement late Tuesday evening. A second round of tests have confirmed the diagnosis, said the person, who isn’t authorized to speak publicly ahead of the press conference.Russia Limits Visas for Iranians, Cuts Korea Flights (9 a.m. NY)Russia has stopped issuing visas to most citizens of Iran and is limiting flights to South Korea, as the country’s top public-health official warned of growing risks that the virus will spread in the country.Authorities are also calling on Russians to refrain from visiting Italy and will extend restrictions already imposed on travel to China until April 1.Though its shares a long land border with China, Russia has so far reported only two local cases of COVID-19, both involving Chinese nationals.Trump Will Hold Coronavirus Press Conference (8:11 a.m. NY)U.S. President Donald Trump said he’ll hold a press conference at the White House Wednesday evening with top health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The White House has been emphasizing that the coronavirus is firmly under control in the U.S., though officials at the CDC have offered up more dire predictions about the virus’s eventual arrival in the U.S. and what the impact would be.U.K. Focused on Containing Virus: Minister (8 a.m. NY)U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said his focus for now is on containing the virus. Britain will roll out a wider public information plan in the coming days and an isolation facility has been set up at London’s Heathrow Airport.EU Health Commissioner Urges Member States to Keep Borders Open (7:28 a.m. NY)European Union member countries plan a joint procurement program to ensure there’s enough protective gear for health-care workers, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said.De Beers Lets Customers Stop Buying Diamonds Destined for China (7:19 a.m. NY)De Beers is allowing its customers to refuse to buy diamonds that are particularly popular with consumers in China and Hong Kong as the coronavirus crisis hits demand in a key gem market, people familiar with the matter said.Vietnam Sees Manufacturing Growth Slowing on Virus (6:47 a.m. NY)Vietnam sees first-quarter growth in the manufacturing sector slowing to 6.28% year-on-year, compared with an earlier projection of 10.47%, if the virus outbreak continues until the end of March.Italy Coronavirus Cases Rise to 374 With 12 Deaths (6:25 a.m. NY)Italy’s coronavirus-linked deaths rose to 12 after a fatality was reported in the Emilia-Romagna region, the head of Civil Protection told a press conference. The total number of cases rose to 374, from 322 previously.Greece Confirms First Coronavirus Case: State-Run ERT TV (6:09 a.m. NY)A 38-year old woman hospitalized in the northern city of Thessaloniki tested positive for the coronavirus, state-run ERT TV reported, citing the Health Ministry.Moody’s Expects Coronavirus to Weigh on 2020 Global Auto Sales (6:48 p.m. HK)Global auto sales are forecast to decline 2.5% in 2020, compared with a previously projected 0.9% drop, Moody’s said in a report.Weibo Says 1Q of 2020 ‘Significantly Impacted’ by Coronavirus (6:06 p.m. HK)Weibo’s first-quarter business has been “significantly impacted” by the coronavirus outbreak in China, the social media platform said.China’s Car Sales Continue to Plunge (5:48 p.m. HK)Retail sales fell 83% from a year earlier in the seven days through Feb. 23, the China Passenger Car Association said on Wednesday. The drop followed a 92% tumble in the first two weeks of February.Europe Cases Rise, More Dead in Iran (5:35 p.m. HK)Italy said cases in Lombardy rose to 259 from 240. France said it found three more cases and reported a fatality.Iran confirmed 44 new cases, taking its total to 139, and the death toll there rose to 19. Bahrain reported a total of 26 cases and shut schools for two weeks, while Kuwait has reported 18 cases so far. Standard Chartered PLC warned Gulf economies will grow at a slower pace than estimated this year as the coronavirus hurts oil demand, trade and tourism.Europe Debt Risk Jumps to Six-Month High (5:30 p.m. HK)The Markit iTraxx Europe Crossover index of credit-default swaps on high-yield companies rises for a third day on Wednesday to its highest since Aug. 23, as the relentless coronavirus spread threatens global growth. The index rose as much as 11.1bps to 268, following a 34-point climb this week.Thailand at Risk of Widespread Outbreak, Minister Says (4:46 p.m. HK)With Thailand’s 40 total confirmed coronavirus cases, the country is at risk of entering “phase 3,” which is the highest level of outbreak advisory, the country’s health minister said.Japanese Doctors Test Avigan to Treat Virus (4:40 p.m. HK)Doctors in Japan are testing several drugs including Fujifilm Holding Corp’s anti-influenza drug Avigan on preclincal research to treat the new coronavirus, according to the health ministry.Fujifilm soared earlier this week following Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato’s comments on the country’s plans to recommend its Avigan drug to treat coronavirus.Spanish Hotel Remains in Lockdown (4:38 p.m. HK)Around 700 guests remained confined to their Canary Islands hotel as Spain stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Italy and other European nations were on high alert.The number of infections in Tenerife has risen to four after two more Italians at the hotel were found to have the virus. Separately, Madrid’s regional government has confirmed a second coronavirus case, Cadena Ser radio reported.Virus to Hurt Diageo, Danone Sales (4:10 p.m. HK)Diageo said the coronavirus will reduce sales by as much as $422 million this year after bars and restaurants were shut in many parts of China. Danone, which sells Evian water, cautioned that first-quarter sales growth will grind to a halt.Hermes International said it’s too early to predict when the Chinese market will recover as the spread of the coronavirus hammers luxury spending there. The French company closed 11 stores in China and has since reopened seven of those.Earlier on Wednesday, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said 25,000 staff will take unpaid leave. Chief Executive Officer Augustus Tang said in an internal memo that Cathay’s challenges “remain acute,” and thanked employees for their support. The Hong Kong-based airline this month asked its 33,000 workers to take three weeks off between March 1 and June 30.South Korean Cases Jump to 1,146 (4:07 p.m. HK)South Korea confirmed 115 more coronavirus cases, bringing total infections to 1,261. A week ago, the country had only 51 cases. The country is emerging as a second coronavirus hot spot in Asia, as the outbreak in China starts to show signs of plateauing. About two dozen countries have levied restrictions on travelers from South Korea, while flights and tour-group trips to the nation are being canceled.The lack of strong containment measures from the South Korean government in the city of Daegu, where most cases are emerging, is sparking questions over whether the virus will continue to spread through the country.A U.S. soldier stationed at a base near Daegu has tested positive, the first time a U.S. service member has been infected, the United States Forces Command said. U.S. Forces Korea raised the risk level to ‘high.’Businesses Rework Asia Supply Chains (12:46 p.m. HK)More than one-quarter of businesses grappling with coronavirus in Asia say they’re setting up or using supply chains that reduce their reliance on China, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.The poll offers a glimpse into firms’ evolving strategies as confirmed cases of the virus accelerate in countries within and outside Asia, slamming global financial markets and forcing policy makers to unveil stimulus packages and monetary easing.Japan Wants Big Events Halted or Scaled Back (12:28 p.m. HK)Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for major sporting and cultural events to be called off, postponed or scaled down over the next two weeks, saying the move was crucial in preventing the domestic spread of the new coronavirus.Abe introduced a new government plan on Tuesday to control the disease that called on employers to encourage telework and stagger working hours in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease.One major concern facing Abe has been whether the virus will derail Tokyo’s plans to host the Summer Olympics later this year. Japanese and Olympic officials have said there is no change to holding the games as planned, but there is a lot at stake for Abe. Tokyo has been preparing for the games for about seven years, spending more than $26 billion to ready the city, according to some estimates.Hong Kong Unveils $15 Billion Stimulus Package (11:49 a.m. HK)Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced a HK$120 billion ($15.4 billion) relief package, in an effort to shore up economic confidence in a city battered by political unrest and the coronavirus. The main feature of Chan’s annual budget announced Wednesday is a payment of HK$10,000 to each permanent resident of the city 18 or older.Carrie Lam’s administration is seeking to put a floor under the collapsing economy, rolling out a bolder budget than has been seen in recent years. Months of political unrest pushed Hong Kong last year into its first annual recession in a decade, with economists forecasting a second annual contraction in 2020 as disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak further depress the city’s output.Brazilian Tests Positive in First Latin America Case (10:44 a.m. HK)A 61-year-old man in Sao Paulo tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what can be the first case of the disease in Latin America. A counter-test is being made by Brazil’s reference hospital, Instituto Adolfo Lutz, the Health Ministry said in a statement published on its website and in its Twitter account.The man traveled to Northern Italy for work Feb. 9 through Feb. 21, and has mild symptoms that match the ones of a suspected Covid-19 infection, the statement said.China Reports 406 Additional Coronavirus Cases (9:50 a.m. HK)China reported 406 new cases from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 78,064. China’s death toll rose by 52 to 2,715, with all the fatalities occurring in Hubei province.A total of 29,745 patients have been discharged from hospitals since the outbreak, the commission said. Hubei province, where the outbreak originated, reported 401 additional confirmed cases.Researchers Make Advances in Virus Testing (8:52 a.m. HK)A medical research team in Singapore has managed to establish links between cases in the city-state using a new testing method.Using a serological test developed by researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School, the team was able to confirm that two individuals had earlier been infected with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, the Ministry of Health announced Tuesday. Serological tests identify antibodies in blood samples, which the immune system produces in response to an infection.\–With assistance from Fabiola Moura, Andrey Biryukov, Marco Bertacche, Dara Doyle and Tereza Elisabeth Pusca.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Adveith Nair in London at anair29@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at swallace6@bloomberg.net, Mark SchoifetFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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