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Lucasfilm to Launch Star Wars: The High Republic Publishing Campaign in 2020 – Star Wars

February 24th, 2020

New stories will explore the Star Wars galaxy set 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace.

Later this year, Lucasfilm will launch an epic new era of Star Wars storytelling that will be explored through multiple voices in adult and young adult novels, children’s books, and comics from a variety of publishers including Disney Lucasfilm Press, Del Rey, IDW Publishing, and Marvel.

Star Wars: The High Republic, which has previously been referred to as “Project Luminous”, will be set in an era when the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Order are at their zenith, about 200 years before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. This period on the Star Wars timeline will not overlap any of the filmed features or series currently planned for production, giving creators and partners a vast amount of room to tell Star Wars stories with new adventures and original characters.

Star Wars: The High Republic - poster

Star Wars: The High Republic concept art.

Star Wars: The High Republic poster art

Star Wars: The High Republic concept art.

“We are so excited to be opening up such a rich, fertile era for our authors to explore,” says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “We’ll get to see the Jedi in their prime.”

Star Wars: The High Republic features the Jedi as we’ve always wanted to see them — as true guardians of peace and justice. This is a hopeful, optimistic time, when the Jedi and the Galactic Republic are at their height. But of course, into this glorious new era something wicked this way comes,” says Lucasfilm publishing creative director Michael Siglain. “This initiative will give readers young and old a new corner of the galaxy to explore through rich, meaningful stories. Plus, readers will learn what scares the Jedi.”

“This was a golden age for the Jedi, and also a time of galactic expansion in the Outer Rim. So expect there to be rich tales of exploration; charting out the galaxy, meeting new cultures, and discovering what pioneer life in the Outer Rim was like. This is an incredible sandbox for our storytellers to play in, both within publishing and beyond, and we can’t wait to see the great fiction they build within it,” says Lucasfilm vice president, franchise content and strategy James Waugh.

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As previously announced, Star Wars: The High Republic has enlisted top-tier, fan-favorite authors Claudia Gray, Justina Ireland, Daniel José Older, Cavan Scott, and Charles Soule to craft this new era of Star Wars publishing.

The first books and comics are set to debut at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim in August 2020 with Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, a massive interconnected story that’s told across various formats by various publishers.

The first wave of Star Wars: The High Republic titles includes:

Star Wars: The High Republic - Into the Dark cover

  • Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray (Young Adult novel, Disney Lucasfilm Press / available for pre-order

Star Wars: The High Republic - A Test of Courage cover

  • Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland (Middle Grade novel, Disney Lucasfilm Press / available for pre-order)

Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures cover

  • Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures by Daniel José Older (IDW Publishing comic book series)

Star Wars: The High Republic (Marvel) cover

  • Star Wars: The High Republic by Cavan Scott (Marvel comic book series)

Star Wars: The High Republic - Light of the Jedi cover

  • Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (Adult novel, Del Rey / available for pre-order)

Stay tuned to StarWars.com for additional details.

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West Coast Express service resumes for Tuesday commute – CityNews Vancouver

February 24th, 2020

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — West Coast Express will run Tuesday morning after an earlier demonstration blocking tracks in Maple Ridge has been cleared.

All train service was cancelled Monday afternoon when protesters gathered on the tracks near Port Haney Station in Maple Ridge. Now that trains are able to return to Mission, service will return to normal.

The Red Braid Alliance said Canadian Pacific Rail police gave protesters a 15-minute grace period to clear out of the area, and they complied.

Ridge Meadows RCMP assisted CP police to end the protest.

“The goal for police in any circumstance is to ensure the safety of everyone and attempt to bring any situation to a peaceful resolution,” said Constable Julie Klaussner in a release. “This includes police preparing for every contingency and possible outcome that could arise and, in this situation, we had a peaceful resolution.”

No arrests have been reported.

Meanwhile, a separate protest has the intersection at Clark Drive and Hastings Street shut down, blocking access to the Port of Vancouver.

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World Health Organization warns COVID-19 coronavirus could be a ‘potential pandemic’ – Raw Story

February 24th, 2020

The new coronavirus has peaked in China but could still grow into a pandemic, the World Health Organization has warned, as infections mushroom in other countries.

Financial markets have gone into a tailspin after grim news of deaths and outbreaks in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, even as the Chinese epicentre appeared to be calming, with the death toll at its lowest for three weeks.

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But the situation is worsening in other countries, with more than 2,000 cases and 30 deaths reported abroad, prompting a raft of restrictions on travellers from infected nations.

South Korea, Italy and Iran have logged particularly sharp increases in infections and deaths, while several countries in the Middle East reported their first cases of the novel coronavirus.

But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes insisted the virus could still be contained, praising China’s drastic quarantine measures in several cities for helping to prevent an even bigger spread.

“For the moment we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large-scale deaths,” Tedros told reporters in Geneva.

He added, however, that countries should be “doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.”

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The term “pandemic” is used to describe an illness that spreads across numerous communities.

South Korea hotspot

South Korea, which has the largest number of cases outside China, reported 60 more infections and one more fatality on Tuesday, raising its death toll to eight and total patients to nearly 900.

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South Korea’s outbreak has centred around a religious sect in Daegu, the country’s fourth largest city.

The country is on its highest “red” alert. As part of the containment efforts, school holidays were extended nationally while the 2.5 million people of Daegu were told to remain indoors.

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The US Centers for Disease Control raised its caution level to warn Americans against “all nonessential travel to South Korea”.

Italy, which has reported seven deaths and over 200 cases, has locked down 11 towns, while upcoming football matches in its Serie A and the Europa League will be played behind closed doors.

With police manning checkpoints to enforce a blockade, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said that residents could face weeks of lockdown.

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Iran fears

The disease — officially known as COVID-19 — spread to new countries including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman.

At least 12 people have died in Iran, the highest toll outside China.

But there were concerns the situation might be worse than officially acknowledged. The semi-official ILNA news agency quoted one local lawmaker in hard-hit Qom — a religious centre — who said 50 people had died there.

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The Iranian government denied the report, and pledged transparency.

Even so, authorities have only reported 64 infections in Iran, an unusually small number that would mean an extremely high mortality rate.

Michael Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, said a team from the UN agency would be arriving in Iran on Tuesday.

But he cautioned against drawing any conclusions about the mortality rate. Iran “may only be detecting severe cases” because the epidemic was still at an early stage, he said.

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Several countries have taken measures to prevent arrivals from Iran.

China peak

In China, 508 new cases were reported, with all but nine at the epicentre in central Hubei province. Although that was up from 409 on Monday it was much lower than new infections being reported just a week ago.

China’s death toll reached 2,663 on Tuesday, after 71 more people died.

WHO’s Tedros said the epidemic peaked in China between January 23 and February 2.

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China has placed some 56 million in Hubei and its capital under quarantine since late last month, while other regions have enacted some forms of travel curbs and measures to keep millions more people indoors.

Bruce Aylward, leader of a WHO mission of international experts, said late Monday it was time for China to start lifting some of the restrictions.

“Obviously they want to get society back to a more normal semblance of what probably is the new normal, because this virus may be around… for months,” Aylward said.

Reflecting the disquiet, global markets plunged on Monday, with Wall Street off 3.6 percent.

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Bargain buying helped some Asian markets into the green on Tuesday, but disquiet remained, with Tokyo dropping 3.0 percent by lunchtime.

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Harvey Weinstein accusers welcome rape and sexual assault conviction – BBC News

February 24th, 2020

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionDistrict Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr: “Weinstein is a vicious, serial sexual predator”

Accusers of Harvey Weinstein have welcomed the guilty verdicts in the rape and sexual assault case against the former Hollywood mogul.

Actress Rose McGowan told the BBC “this is a great day”, while others said the ruling brought hope to victims that their voices would be heard.

Weinstein, 67, was convicted in New York City of third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sexual act.

He was cleared of the most serious count of predatory sexual assault.

Weinstein faces up to 25 years in prison over the guilty verdicts relating to two women. His lawyers say he will appeal.

“I’m innocent. How can this happen in America?” Weinstein’s lawyer Arthur Aidala quoted his client as saying.

The former movie executive still faces charges in Los Angeles of assaulting two women in 2013.

In all, at least 80 women had accused him of sexual misconduct stretching back decades, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek.

The allegations were at the centre of the #MeToo movement that prompted women to go public with misconduct allegations against powerful men.

Weinstein once enjoyed phenomenal success with Oscar winners such Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, The King’s Speech and Shakespeare in Love.

He was taken to New York’s Bellevue Hospital reportedly suffering from chest pains after the verdict was announced.

He had been due to be moved to prison on Riker’s Island to await sentencing.

What happened in the New York court?

The jury of seven men and five women reached their verdict on Monday morning, the fifth day of deliberations.

Weinstein – who denied all charges – was convicted of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress, in 2013. The judge ordered him to be sent to jail immediately.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Weinstein showed no emotion in the minutes after the verdict

But the jury acquitted him on two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carried a potential life sentence, and first-degree rape of Mann.

In the minutes after the verdict, Weinstein showed no emotion as he talked to his lead lawyer Donna Rotunno.

A third-degree rape charge in New York is defined as engaging in sexual intercourse with a person who is incapable of consent, or under age 17, or who has not given consent for a reason other than the inability to consent.

Prosecutors portrayed Weinstein as a serial predator who used his position of power in Hollywood to manipulate and attack women.

The defence team said sex between the movie executive and the accusers was consensual, and that the accusers used it to advance their careers.

The allegations amounted to “regret renamed as rape”, the defence said. Two of the accusers kept in contact with Weinstein and had sex with him after the alleged attacks, they pointed out.

How did we get here?

  • Allegations against Weinstein began to emerge in October 2017, when the New York Times first reported incidents dating back decades
  • Weinstein issued an apology acknowledging he had “caused a lot of pain”, but disputed the allegations
  • As dozens more accusations emerged, Weinstein was sacked by the board of his company and all but banished from Hollywood
  • A criminal investigation was launched in New York in late 2017, but Weinstein was not charged until May 2018, when he turned himself in to police.

What were the allegations in this case?

Ms Haleyi, who had worked on one of Weinstein’s television productions, said she was assaulted by the producer after he invited her to his Lower Manhattan home.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Weinstein sexually assaulted former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006

She testified that he backed her into a bedroom, held her down on the bed and forced himself on her.

Ms Mann said that she found herself in an “extremely degrading” relationship with him that did not involve intercourse until he raped her in a New York City hotel room in 2013.

She said he was a “Jekyll and Hyde” figure who could be charming in public but showed his dark side when they were alone.

Another one of Weinstein’s accusers, Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, told jurors he raped her in her apartment one night in the mid-1990s.

Her allegation was too old to be charged as a separate crime, but prosecutors used it in an attempt to demonstrate that the accused was a repeat sexual offender.

Following the verdict, Ms Sciorra said: “I spoke for myself and with the strength of the 80-plus victims of Harvey Weinstein in my heart.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jessica Mann (left) and Anabella Sciorra accused Weinstein of rape

Three other also women testified they were lured to apparent work meetings with Weinstein, then sexually assaulted.

What more reaction has there been?

Rose McGowan told the BBC’s Newshour programme: “The little girl I was when I was hurt, she’s ecstatic…This is a great day. The trash has been taken out.”

The actress, who was an early Weinstein accuser, added: “The fact that we are white women and attractive and of some means and it still took this many of us to even get him to have one day in court – just tells you…how almost impossible it is to even be heard, period, let alone [get] any kind of conviction.”

In a joint letter, actresses Ashley Judd, Lucia Evans and Rosanna Arquette and 19 other Weinstein accusers called it “disappointing that today’s outcome does not deliver the true, full justice that so many women deserve,” but expressed gratitude towards all the women who came forward to speak out against him.

Meanwhile, Ms Rotunno said that “the fight is not over”.

“Harvey is unbelievably strong. He took it like a man and he knows we will continue to fight for him and he knows that this is not over.”

Ms Rotunno said her client was disappointed, but “mentally tough”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionHired by Weinstein to extract information on celebrities

What happens next?

  • Weinstein will be sentenced on 11 March
  • He still faces charges of rape and sexual assault in Los Angeles, and there are other cases under review, according to the county district attorney
  • Civil complaints against Weinstein continue to be fought
  • In December 2019, lawyers said they reached a tentative $25m (£19m) deal with some accusers

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Huawei P40 Pro rumors: Release date, specs, 5G support, colors and 10x optical zoom – CNET

February 24th, 2020
yt-huawei-p40-pro-concept2

This is the Huawei Mate 30 Pro released last year, the company is scheduled to launch the P40 Pro in March.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Huawei isn’t letting the last-minute cancellation of Mobile World Congress stand in the way of its 2020 launch plans. Amid the extraordinary circumstances stemming from the novel coronavirus now dubbed COVID-19, Chinese telecom giant Huawei is pushing forward with plans for its latest generation of flagship phones, the Huawei P40 and P40 Pro, which will be unveiled in Paris on March 26 with an expected release date soon after. Just like its predecessor the P30 series, the upcoming premium phones won’t feature Google’s suite of services (which includes Google Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps and so on) nor will it have the full might of Google’s Android operating system behind it due to the ongoing trade ban with the US. Instead, the phones are expected to operate yet again on Android’s generic open-source operating system and consumers will have to download apps via Huawei’s App Gallery as a substitute for the Google Play Store, which isn’t the case for fellow Chinese phone makers such as Realme.

It is worth noting however that Huawei seems to have a plan to wean the company off its reliance on Google. According to Reuters, Huawei has banded up with Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo to build a challenger to the Google Play Store known as the Global Developer Service Alliance  — and it too will reportedly launch in March.

The launch of the P40 handsets will mark Huawei’s second and latest flagship launch since the US slapped the Chinese telecom giant with an export ban last May. But until official announcements are made in the coming weeks, we leave you the with the most credible rumors of the much-awaited Huawei P40 and Huawei P40 Pro

The P40 Pro may come with a 10x optical zoom camera

Although Huawei’s software (or more specifically its glaring lack of Google apps) may prove to be a dealbreaker for many outside China, it looks likely the Chinese phone maker will continue to push the envelope as far as cameras are concerned. Images shared on Twitter by widely followed leaker Evan Blass purport to show the P40 Pro equipped with a rectangular camera module containing what appears to be five sensors on the back. 

huawei-p40-prohuawei-p40-pro

Leaked images of the Huawei P40 Pro in a black and white color scheme.

Evan Blass/via Twitter

According to known Apple leaker Ming Chi Kuo, a 10x optical zoom camera could be included as one of the sensors in the P40 Pros camera system, making it the world’s first phones to achieve such a feat. The Mate 30 Pro featured a quad-camera set-up, and included a 50x digital zoom and a 5x optical zoom, which catapulted it into the mobile hall of fame. 

Optical zoom is achieved by switching from a wide-angle camera to a telephoto camera. The magnification number is a reflection of the difference of those two lens lengths. Using the telephoto camera without “pinching in” results in a higher-quality image instead of using digital zoom which is what happens when you pinch the screen of your phone while using the main camera — or when you try to zoom in beyond the telephoto camera’s capabilities.

P40 Pro may be equipped with 52mp Sony camera sensor 

According to GizChina, the P40 Pro’s rear camera will come with a 52-megapixel Sony IMX700 sensor, which is 10 megapixels higher than  P30 Pro’s rear camera. The 52-megapixel sensor is significantly lower in terms of resolution than Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra 108-megapixel sensor, but reports suggest this new sensor can bring bigger pixels and better low-light image quality.  

P40 will support 5G networks

Huawei has all but confirmed that both of its next flagship phones will support 5G, although in 2019 the vanilla P30 model couldn’t support the next-generation network. Two recent listings of what is understood be the P40 and the P40 Pro on TENAA’s certification website (China’s regulatory body for mobile tech) show the devices possessing 5G compatibility, according to MySmartPrice. Although 5G ran into hiccups last year, including patchy coverage, it’s expected to improve this year as coverage expands into new locations among other reasons.

P40 series could come in 5 colors, including blush gold 

The P40 series is understood to be available in five different colors: Black, Ice White, Deep Sea Blue, Silver Frost and Blush Gold, according to 91Mobiles. The blush gold in particular reminds me of the champagne-like color palette used in the iPhone’s newer models. It also comes after the Motorola Razr announced blush gold as its second color for the new Razr, which will be available from this spring.

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The US is telling Americans with pre-existing conditions to avoid trips to Italy – Business Insider – Business Insider

February 24th, 2020
  • The US State Department and Center for Disease Control have issued travel warnings for Italy amid the spread of COVID-19. 
  • The European country currently has the highest number of novel coronavirus cases outside of Asia, with more than 200 infected, and six deaths. 
  • The State Department issued a level two warning for Italy back in January stemming from terrorism concerns. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Center for Disease Control issued a travel warning for Italy, after more then 200 cases of the novel COVID-19 were discovered in the northern region of the country. 

At least six people have died from the virus. The CDC issued a level 2 warning, urging Americans who are “high risk travellers” to reconsider “non-essential” travel. Older individuals or those pre-existing conditions should try and avoid travel to the country. 

Additionally, while the CDC is not recommending an entire ban on travel, it does encourage travelers to avoid people who are sick and wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer more frequently. 

The CDC also stated that those who have been in Italy in the past two weeks and develop any respiratory symptoms, should seek medical help. 

More than 2 million Americans visited Italy in 2016, according to the European Travel Information and Authorization System. 

In January, the US State Department issued a level two travel warning for the country due to terrorism concerns.

The US Embassy in Rome issued a notice on Monday due to COVID-19 outbreaks. 

The message stated that routine visa services in the Milan Consulate would be suspended until March 2 due to staff shortages. The majority of COVID-19 cases were discovered in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, which are close to the popular tourist cities of Milan and Venice. 

Insider previously reported that Italy has placed a dozen cities on lock down to combat the spread. The lockdown prevents 500,000 people from leaving the region. 

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Love, Simon Spin-Off TV Show Moves From Disney+ to Hulu – Vulture

February 24th, 2020

Photo: 20th Century Fox

If you loved Love, Simon, you might love its upcoming TV spin-off Love, Victor, but you’ll have to love it somewhere other than Disney+ after the streaming platform allegedly decided the show’s “adult themes” weren’t the right fit for their viewership. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series adaptation of the 2018 comedy about a teen struggling with coming out (specifically, he’s struggling with being blackmailed for being gay) is now headed to Hulu. A writers room has already opened for its second season.

Love, Victor will reportedly follow Victor, a new gay student at the movie’s Creekwood High School, who must make friends, deal with family problems and, of course, come to terms with his sexuality. Per THR, Disney allegedly took issue with the show’s depiction of “alcohol use, marital issues (among the parents) and sexual exploration,” which, while all awesome fodder for a coming-of-age story, potentially wouldn’t “resonate” for the families with small children who watch the streaming network. If that’s the case, here’s hoping all the tiny Victors and Victorias who might want to see the show also have access to a Hulu log-in when it premieres in June, a tip of the hat to Pride Month.

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COVID-19: South Korea coronavirus cases borders 900 while China reports a further 508 – Global News

February 24th, 2020

China and South Korea on Tuesday reported more cases of a new viral illness that has been concentrated in North Asia but is causing global worry as clusters grow in the Middle East and Europe.

China reported 508 new cases and another 71 deaths, 68 of them in the central city of Wuhan, where the epidemic was first detected in December. The updates bring mainland China’s totals to 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths.

South Korea now has the second-most cases in the world with 893 and has had a near 15-fold increase in reported infections in a week, as health workers continue to find batches in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas, where panic has brought towns to an eerie standstill.

Of the 60 new cases reported by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49 came from Daegu and the surrounding areas of North Gyeongsang province.

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The country also reported its eight fatality from COVID-19, a man in his 60s who was linked to a hospital in Cheongdo, where a slew of infections has been reported among patients at a mental ward.

The government has vowed to full mobilized public health tools to contain the outbreak to the region surrounding Daegu, but says it isn’t considering restricting travel. All Daegu citizens exhibiting cold-like symptoms, estimating around 30,000 people, will be tested for the virus. The country is also restricting exports to deal with nationwide shortages in facemasks.

READ MORE: New case of COVID-19 confirmed in Toronto, health officials say

Health authorities expected by Wednesday to finish testing some 1,300 members of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonjin Church of Jesus who have exhibited symptoms, before expanding the tests.

The church, which has South Korea’s biggest cluster of infections, has agreed to provide authorities a list of all of its 200,000 members nationwide so they could be screened, which could take months.

South Korea’s cases now outnumber those reported by Japan, where the virus infected almost one-fifth of the passengers and crew on a cruise ship.

Clusters have also emerged in Iran and Italy, and there are concerns the new outbreaks could signal a serious new stage in the global spread of the illness.

Schools were closed in Iran for a second day, and daily sanitizing of public buses and the Tehran metro, which is used by some 3 million people, was begun.

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READ MORE: Seventh case of COVID-19 diagnosed in B.C.

In several countries that reported their first cases on Monday _ Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the infected patients had links with Iran. Iraq and Afghanistan closed their borders with Iran in an effort to stop the further spread.

In Italy, where 229 people have tested positive for the virus and seven have died, police manned checkpoints around a dozen quarantined northern towns as worries grew across the continent.

Austria temporarily halted rail traffic across its border with Italy. Slovenia and Croatia, popular getaways for Italians, were holding crisis meetings. Schools were closed, theatre performances were cancelled and even Carnival celebrations in Venice were called off.

It was a sign of how quickly circumstances could change. Italy had imposed more stringent measures than other European countries after the outbreak began, barring flights beginning Jan. 31 to and from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Until last week, Italy had reported just three cases of infection.

1:17Chinese SWAT team practices takedown of ‘Coronavirus victim’

Chinese SWAT team practices takedown of ‘Coronavirus victim’

But “for the moment we’re not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus,” he said.

China still has most of the world’s cases and deaths from the COVID-19 illness. On Monday, it postponed its most important political meetings of the year, indicating the importance President Xi Jinping places on the battle against the epidemic that has posed one of his biggest political challenges since he took control of the ruling Communist Party in 2012.

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The annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and its chief advisory body usually begin about March 5 and run for more than two weeks, bringing thousands of delegates to Beijing for discussions, speeches and political ceremony. State media noted that many of those delegates are provincial and local leaders fighting on the disease’s front lines.

In South Korea, the start of the new school year has been delayed, and President Moon Jae-in issued the highest alert for infectious diseases.

The government has vowed to full mobilized public health tools to contain the outbreak to the region surrounding Daegu, but says it isn’t considering placing travelling restrictions in and out of the area.

READ MORE: COVID-19 cases spiked outside China this weekend — here’s what that means

“These rapid developments over the weekend have shown how quickly this situation can change,” the health commissioner for the European Union, Stella Kyriakides, said in Brussels. “We need to take this situation of course very seriously, but we must not give in to panic, and, even more importantly, to disinformation.”

After the large increases in COVID-19 cases were reported in other countries, the World Heath Organization said the virus had the potential to cause a pandemic, though it wasn’t one yet.

“The past few weeks has demonstrated just how quickly a new virus can spread around the world and cause widespread fear and disruption,” WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

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But “for the moment we’re not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus,” he said.

China still has most of the world’s cases and deaths from the COVID-19 illness. On Monday, it postponed its most important political meetings of the year, indicating the importance President Xi Jinping places on the battle against the epidemic that has posed one of his biggest political challenges since he took control of the ruling Communist Party in 2012.

4:05New COVID-19 concerns after possible exposure at school and Air Canada flight

New COVID-19 concerns after possible exposure at school and Air Canada flight

The annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and its chief advisory body usually begin about March 5 and run for more than two weeks, bringing thousands of delegates to Beijing for discussions, speeches and political ceremony. State media noted that many of those delegates are provincial and local leaders fighting on the disease’s front lines.

In South Korea, the start of the new school year has been delayed, and President Moon Jae-in issued the highest alert for infectious diseases.

Amid a push to limit public gatherings nationwide, South Korea’s professional basketball league said Tuesday it will ban spectators until the outbreak is under control, a day after soccer authorities postponed the start of the domestic season. Many companies instructed employees to work from home. Thermal cameras have been installed at major buildings in Seoul, some of which are banning visitors who aren’t wearing masks.

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People who recently visited Daegu and nearby areas were advised to stay at home if possible for two weeks. The halls of the National Assembly were sterilized, and crews in protective suits sprayed disinfectants at shops and food stalls in Seoul.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry has confirmed 13 troops have the virus, resulting in quarantines for many other troops and halting field training.

The United States Forces Korea says a 61-year-old widow of a retired soldier living in Daegu tested positive, the first infection among individuals related to U.S. troops in South Korea. South Korean and U.S. military health professionals were tracing her possible contacts.

In Washington, officials from the United States and South Korea said they were considering curtailing joint military exercises due to the outbreak. Defence Secretary Mark Esper and South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told reporters the virus was a threat to their schedule of exercises, which are held regularly throughout the year.

Esper said he was confident they would find a way to protect troops while also ensuring both countries were ready to face potential threats.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Rail blockade near Hamilton shuts down GO Train service – CTV News

February 24th, 2020

TORONTO — Service was suspended Monday on a stretch of the Lakeshore West GO Line due to a protest near the tracks.

Trains on the line are not running between Aldershot and Hamilton because of the protest, GO Transit said Monday evening.

“The tracks between Aldershot and Hamilton GO are shut down until further notice because of a group of people near the tracks,” GO Transit said in a tweet. “With safety top of mind, we can only run #GOtrains between Aldershot and Union Station.”

Buses were brought in to take affected passengers from Aldershot to Hamilton GO Station Monday evening.

GO Transit service normally ends at Aldershot after rush hour and no further disruptions were anticipated Monday night. However it’s not yet clear whether the morning commute might be impacted.

In online posts, an anarchist group called on supporters to block the rail lines in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who are fighting a pipeline project on their lands.

Images from the scene showed a number of people sitting around camp fires on the tracks, holding signs decrying pipelines as police monitored their actions.

The new blockade comes the same day that Ontario Provincial Police moved in to break up a rail blockade near Belleville, Ont. that has strangled traffic along a key corridor for more than two weeks.

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Washington pledges $1 billion for coronavirus vaccine as pandemic risks grow – Reuters

February 24th, 2020

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will seek $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the coronavirus epidemic and U.S. and South Korean militaries are considering scaling back joint training as the virus spreads in Europe and the Middle East.

A man wearing a face mask rides a bicycle in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

Countries around the world are stepping up efforts to prevent a pandemic of the flu-like virus that originated from China late last year and has now infected more than 80,000 people, 10 times more cases than the SARS coronavirus.

The White House said more than $1 billion of the requested virus budget would go toward developing a vaccine, while other funds would be used for therapeutics and the stockpiling of personal protective equipment such as masks.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries said on Monday they may cut back joint training due to mounting concerns about the spreading coronavirus, in one of the first concrete signs of the virus’s fallout on global U.S. military activities.

The disclosure came during a visit to the Pentagon by South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, who acknowledged following talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that 13 South Korean troops had tested positive for the virus.

“We do regard this situation as a serious one,” Jeong told a news conference, adding he had suspended military vacations and off-base leave.

“We have also limited their movement across the nation.”

Earlier on Monday, the U.S. military said a 61-year-old woman in South Korea who tested positive for the virus had recently visited a U.S. military base in the southeastern city of Daegu.

The woman, who was the widow of a former U.S. servicemember, visited a store at Camp Walker on Feb. 12 and 15, the military said. It was the first infection connected to U.S. Forces Korea, which counts about 28,500 American troops on the peninsula.

U.S. Forces Korea said it was raising the risk level to “high” across the country. It urged U.S. troops to limit travel and “use extreme caution when traveling off-installation.”

South Korea – which remains technically at war with the nuclear-armed North – has the most virus cases in Asia outside China and reported 60 new cases on Tuesday, increasing the total number of infected patients in the country to 893.

Of the new cases, 16 were in the southeastern city of Daegu, where a church at the center of the outbreak is located, and 33 were from North Gyeongsang Province, health officials said.

Americans should avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea due to the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.

Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said it was too early to talk about cancelling the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which start on July 24, due to the coronavirus. Japan has 850 cases, most from a cruise ship, and has recorded four deaths.

Questions have risen about whether the Olympics should be moved or canceled, with one London mayoral candidate saying London was ready to host the games if needed.

PEAK IN CHINA

China reported a rise in new coronavirus cases in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, on Tuesday while the rest of the country saw a fourth-straight day of declines.

Hubei had 499 new confirmed cases on Feb. 24, the National Health Commission said, up from 398 a day earlier and driven mainly by new infections in the provincial capital of Wuhan.

Mainland China reported 508 new cases, up from 409 on Feb. 23, bringing the total number to 77,658.

The epidemic in China peaked between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and has been declining since, said the World Health Organization (WHO). China’s actions of locking down cities and severely restricting the movement of people has probably prevented hundreds of thousands of cases, it said.

“They’re at a point now where the number of cured people coming out of hospitals each day is much more than the sick going in,” said head of the WHO delegation in China, Bruce Aylward.

Italy on Monday became the new frontline in the fight against the coronavirus with 220 cases reported from just three on Friday. The death toll in Italy stands at seven.

Italian authorities have sealed off the worst-affected towns, closed schools and halted the carnival in Venice, where there were two cases.

Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Afghanistan and Iraq reported their first new coronavirus cases, all in people who had been to Iran where the toll was 12 dead and 61 infected. Most of the Iran infections were in the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom.

Asian share markets were trying to stabilize on Tuesday after the surge of cases outside mainland China and fears of a pandemic sent global markets into a tailspin.

Some dealers cited a Wall Street Journal report on a possible vaccine as helping sentiment, though human tests of the drug might not start until the end of April.

European equities markets suffered their biggest slump since mid-2016 on Monday, gold soared to a seven-year high and oil tumbled 4%.

The Dow Jones Industrials and S&P 500 posted their biggest one-day percentage drops in over two years and Nasdaq had one of its worst days since December 2018.

Wall Street’s fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index , jumped to a one-year high.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the word “pandemic” did yet not fit the facts.

“We must focus on containment while preparing for a potential pandemic,” he told reporters in Geneva, adding that the world was not witnessing an uncontained spread or large-scale deaths.

Outside mainland China, the outbreak has spread to about 29 countries and territories, with a death toll of about two dozen, according to a Reuters tally.

Slideshow (14 Images)

Graphic – Tracking the novel coronavirus: here

Graphic – Wuhan coronavirus: here

Reporting by Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang in Beijing; Jeff Mason and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Michael Perry; Editing by Stephen Coates

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