Monday, February 17, 2020

February 8, 2020  BEIJING (AP) — The number of confirmed cases of the new virus has risen again in China while fatalities increased to 722 on Saturday including an American, as the ruling Communist Party faced anger and recriminations from the public over the death of a doctor who was threatened by police after trying to sound the alarm about the disease over a month ago.

The government announced that another 3,399 people had been diagnosed over the last 24 hours, reversing two days of declines, and raising the total accumulated number of cases on the mainland to 34,546.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said a 60-year-old U.S. citizen diagnosed with the virus died in Wuhan on Wednesday, apparently the first American fatality of the outbreak.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said a Japanese being treated in Wuhan had died of pneumonia and also was likely infected with the virus.

Cruise ship passengers faced more woe as Japan reported three more cases for a total of 64 on one quarantined vessel and turned away another. President Xi Jinping spoke with President Donald Trump on Friday and urged the U.S. to “respond reasonably” to the outbreak, echoing complaints that some countries are overreacting by restricting Chinese travelers.

Following an online uproar over the government’s treatment of Dr. Li Wenliang, the Communist Party struck a conciliatory note, saying it is sending a team to “fully investigate relevant issues raised by the public.”

Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, contracted the virus while treating patients, and his death was confirmed early Friday. Li, one of eight medical professionals in Wuhan who tried to warn colleagues and others when the government did not, had said that police forced him to sign a statement admitting he spread falsehoods.

Even the staunchly pro-government Global Times newspaper said the treatment of Li and other whistleblowers was “evidence of local authorities’ incompetence to tackle a contagious and deadly virus.”

The episode has raised longstanding complaints that party officials lie about or cover up disease outbreaks, chemical spills, dangerous consumer products or financial frauds. Chinese citizens can be jailed on charges of rumor-mongering or making trouble.

Most of the deaths from the virus have been of older people with existing health problems, but disease specialists said Li’s work — eye doctors sit very close to their patients during examinations — may have subjected him to an extra large dose of the virus that made his illness more severe.

In Japan, three more cases were diagnosed Saturday among 3,700 passengers and crew on the quarantined Diamond Princess. Those aboard remain under 14-day quarantine.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said foreign passengers on another ship, Holland America’s Westerdam, won’t be allowed into Japan. He said suspected virus patients were on board. The ship, with more than 2,000 people, was near Okinawa and was seeking another port, said Overseas Travel Agency official Mie Matsubara.

“We are getting desperate,” she said. “We hope we can go somewhere so that passengers can land.”

Hong Kong began enforcing a 14-day quarantine for arrivals from mainland China Saturday.

“If you sign this form you will need to stay at home. They also warned me that I can’t go out. I must stay at home for 14 days,” said Jennifer Cheung, who arrived at Hong Kong seaport from Henan.

Hong Kong has refused to completely seal its border but hopes the quarantine will dissuade travelers from the mainland.

The U.S. announced later Friday that it is prepared to spend up to $100 million to help China and other countries fight the outbreak. The government also said it helped with the effort to deliver nearly 18 tons of medical supplies donated to the Chinese by the American people, including masks, gowns, gauze and respirators.

All but one the deaths in the outbreak have been in China. China’s National Health Commission said about 6,101 of those being treated, or nearly 17%, are in serious condition. The vast majority of the infected are in China; roughly 290 others are in about two dozen other countries, including Japan, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea.

The U.S. has reported 12 cases.

Hundreds more Americans evacuated from the stricken zone in China began arriving Friday in the U.S., where they will be quarantined on military bases for two weeks.

February 16, 2020  AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — An emotional Elton John had to cut short a performance in New Zealand on Sunday after he lost his voice due to walking pneumonia and had to be assisted off stage. John reached out to his fans on Instagram on Sunday, apologizing for ending his show at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium early. “I want to thank everyone who attended tonight’s gig in Auckland. I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia earlier today, but I was determined to give you the best show humanly possible,” he wrote. “I played and sang my heart out, until my voice could sing no more. I’m disappointed, deeply upset and sorry. I gave it all I had. Thank-you so much for your extraordinary support and all the love you showed me during tonight’s performance. I am eternally grateful. Love, Elton xx”

February 2, 20202  MIAMI (AP) — Descending from the air, Lady Gaga kicked off a pre-Super Bowl concert by mimicking her entrance to her Super Bowl halftime performance three years ago, which earned her rave reviews. Headlining the big sports stage was a recurring theme of her Miami concert Saturday night, and the pop star sent a message to Sunday’s featured performers: “I better hear no lip-syncing tomorrow!” Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will join forces to perform at Super Bowl 54 at the Hard Rock Stadium, when the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

MIAMI (AP) — Fat Joe brought New York hip-hop to Miami for an energetic pre-Super Bowl concert a day ahead of the big game. The Bronx rapper was joined by fellow New Yorkers 50 Cent and Remy Ma for the Pepsi Super Splash Pool Party on Saturday at Clevelander South Beach. Joe performed a number of hits, including the Grammy-nominated smashes “What’s Luv?,” “Lean Back” and “All the Way Up.” Ma surprised the audience, rapping on the latter two songs, while her rapper-husband, Papoose, freestyled onstage, earning cheers from the crowd. 50 Cent, who is from Queens, got the loudest applause from the hyped crowd when he performed “What Up Gangsta” and his debut hit, “In Da Club.”

MIAMI (AP) — Vin Diesel says it’s the spirit of Paul Walker that motivates him to continue starring in the “Fast and Furious” saga. Diesel and the cast spoke of the memory of their late screen partner at a special event surrounding the upcoming release of the franchise’s ninth chapter, “F9: Fast and Furious 9.” The recent death of Kobe Bryant reminded Diesel of the loss of his friend. “I can’t make a ‘Fast’ without Pablo in my thoughts, in my everyday activity, in my approach to every scene,” Diesel said, invoking his affectionate nickname for Walker. “His spirit must live in this saga, because his spirit, in so many ways, is what drives me to continue the saga.”