Ancient marine life fossils on pavements add beauty to central China heritage


Ancient marine life fossils on pavements add beauty to central China heritage

CHANGSHA-- Paleontological fossils dating back 470 million years have been found in Zhangjiajie, a World Natural Heritage site, in central China's Hunan Province.

The fossils, in shapes of spirals, arcs, cones and ripples, are visible on public buildings, slate roads or steps, with some of their shells and microstructures discernible.

Similar fossils also appear on the tour path in the Zhangjiajie Huanglong Cave, the Tianzi Mountain and the Jinbian Stream, which are found and described by tourists online.

"Some are like small shrimps, some snails. Big ones stretch across the whole stone step, while some are only thumb-sized," a netizen called Ami said in a travel blog at sina.com.

Xing Lida, an associate professor from the Beijing-based China University of Geosciences, recognized the fossils mostly as Sinoceras fossils, which originated in the Ordovician limestone layer in south China.

"These fossils can easily be found on roads, riverside paving stones in Zhangjiajie," Xing said.

According to the official website of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Sinoceras fossils, also known as "Chinese hornstones," are common in nature. Either straight or coiled, the shells of Sinoceras are usually hard with ripple marks on the surface.

As one of the most important and dominant cephalopods back then, Sinoceras lived in the Middle Ordovician age about 470 million years ago.

"In accordance with relevant regulations for paleontological fossil protection, limestone with common fossils in it can be used to pave the road," said Hu Nengyong, former curator of the Geological Museum of Hunan.

"It adds a kind of artistic beauty to the resort," Hu said.

 
 
 



Egypt receives anti-coronavirus materials from China's Xinjiang


Egypt receives anti-coronavirus materials from China's Xinjiang

CAIRO-- Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research received on Sunday a batch of anti-coronavirus materials donated by China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

According to the Chinese Embassy in Egypt, the materials include 100,000 surgical masks, 15,000 N95 masks, 1,000 protective suits and 1,200 testing kits.

When receiving the materials in the Chinese Embassy, Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar expressed his gratitude, calling China's handling of the coronavirus a great success.

"These materials will relieve pressure on the hospitals affiliated to Egyptian universities that are under the supervision of the ministry and will help cure more coronavirus cases in Egypt," said Ghaffar.

Chinese Ambassador Liao Liqiang expressed appreciation for the help the ministry provided for the Chinese students in Egypt, adding that Egyptian students in China are safe and sound.

"The donation of the materials reflects the deep relations between the two countries and there are solid reasons that the bilateral relations will go deeper after COVID-19," said Liao.

On the same day, the Chinese Embassy in Egypt held the seventh online press conference on COVID-19, in which Liao briefed the anti-coronavirus situation in China and cooperation between the countries in this regard.

Another batch of anti-coronavirus materials is scheduled to arrive in Egypt next Tuesday, and a third batch is under coordination between the two sides, Liao said.

"The impacts of the coronavirus on the major bilateral cooperation projects in Egypt are limited and there will be no change in the investments policy by the Chinese side in the future," Liao added.

 
 
 



Have to be really creative to entertain viewers: American Idol judge Katy Perry


Have to be really creative to entertain viewers: American Idol judge Katy Perry

Los Angeles -- With showbiz experimenting ways to keep shows on air while adhering to quarantine measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, pop singer and "American Idol" judge Katy Perry has said the singing reality series will have to be "really creative" to entertain the viewers.

She judges the show on ABC with veteran singer Lionel Richie and country artiste Luke Bryan.

Perry dressed for the occasion in an Easter Bunny costume and did a Facebook Live before Sunday night's episode.

"We're gonna all have to be really creative I know we are going to be really creative," said Perry sitting in a car.

The "Roar" hitmaker added the audience will have tune in to see what her and the rest of the American Idol crew do from their individual homes.

"We'll see how this goes," she added.

Since the pandemic, the network has shifted scheduling for "American Idol", spreading its Hawaii-set episodes on March 29 and April 5.

The live shows were set to air on April 6 but instead was be replaced by two repeats of "Celebrity Family Feud", followed by a primetime special, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Secrets & Surprises".

The first part of "American Idol: This is Me" aired Sunday while part two will air April 19. The special will look at the lives of the Top 20 contestants with unseen footage and performance highlights.

 
 
 



Signs that shows Trump's slow response to coronavirus pandemic


Signs that shows Trump's slow response to coronavirus pandemic

Washington --- By the time US President Donald Trump first spoke publicly about the coronavirus, it may already have been too late.

Interviewed at Davos, a gathering of global elites in the Swiss Alps, the president on January 22 played down the threat posed by the respiratory virus from China, which had just reached American shores in the form of a solitary patient in Washington state.

In the 11 weeks since that interview, the coronavirus has reached every corner of the globe. It has infected more than 500,000 Americans and killed at least 20,000. It has rewritten the rules of society, isolated people in their homes, closed schools, devastated the economy and put millions out of work.

When Trump spoke in Switzerland, weeks' worth of warning signs already had been raised. In the ensuing month, before the president first addressed the crisis from the White House, key steps to prepare the nation for the coming pandemic were not taken.

Life-saving medical equipment was not stockpiled. Travel largely continued unabated. Vital public health data from China was not provided or was deemed untrustworthy. A White House riven by rivalries and turnover was slow to act.

Urgent warnings were ignored by a president consumed by his impeachment trial and intent on protecting a robust economy that he viewed as central to his reelection chances.

The Pentagon first learned about the new coronavirus in December from open source reports emanating from China. By early January, warnings about the virus had made their way into intelligence reports circulating around the government.

On January 3, the head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, received a call from his Chinese counterpart with an official warning. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, was alerted to the virus around the same time.

On January 11, China shared the virus' genetic sequence. That same day, the National Institutes of Health started working on a vaccine.

Ultimately, the US was able to get China's consent to send two people on the WHO team that travelled to China later in the month. But by then precious weeks had been lost and the virus had raced across Asia and had begun to escape the continent.

For much of January, administration officials were doing a delicate balancing act.

But while word of the virus was included in several of the president's intelligence briefings, Trump wasn't fully briefed on the threat until Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called with an update on January 18.

Trump spent much of the conversation wanting to talk about vaping; he was considering a new policy restricting its use.

Moreover, the president was in the middle of his Senate impeachment trial and focused on little else. Trump also had little desire to pressure Beijing or criticize its president, Xi Jinping, with whom he wanted to secure cooperation on ending a yearlong trade war before the reelection campaign kicked into high gear.

By late January, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney held the post in name only as rumours swirled of his impending, post-impeachment departure. He was on the initial coronavirus task force, which was plagued with infighting. At the same time, the White House Office of Management and Budget was clashing with Azar's HHS over money to combat the virus.

HHS wanted to send a special coronavirus funding request to Congress but the White House budget office resisted for weeks, insisting that HHS should instead repurpose $250 million of its existing budget to bolster the national stockpile by buying protective equipment.

HHS, however, claimed that without congressional authorization it could not buy the needed quantities of masks, gowns and ventilators to rapidly bolster the national stockpile. Eventually, an initial request went to Congress for $2.5 billion in virus aid. The bill that Congress quickly passed and Trump signed - the first of three so far - was for $8 billion.

A January 29 memo from senior White House aide Peter Navarro accurately predicted some of the challenges faced by the US from what would become a pandemic, though he was hardly the first to sound the alarm. But he, like Pottinger, was viewed by others in the White House as a "China hawk".

On January 30, the WHO declared the virus a global health emergency while Trump held a packed campaign rally in Iowa. The next day, the US administration banned admittance to the US by foreign nationals who had travelled to China in the past 14 days, excluding the immediate family members of American citizens or permanent residents.

Trump styled it as bold action, but continued to talk down the severity of the threat. Despite the ban, nearly 40,000 people have arrived in the US on direct flights from China since that date, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

The White House denied that it was slow to act.

Federal officials put the CDC solely in charge of developing a test for the virus and left out private interests, a choice that cost precious time when the resulting CDC test proved faulty.

Even as the virus spread across the globe, prevailing voices in the White House urged Trump to avoid big steps that could roil financial markets.

The president had firmly linked his fate to Wall Street, and it took a tumble by the markets for Trump to ratchet up his response. In late February, while Trump was on a trip to India, the Dow Jones plummeted 1,000 points amid rising fears about the coronavirus.

When Trump first took the lectern in the White House briefing room to speak about the virus, the US had 15 coronavirus patients.




Pakistan reports 334 new coronavirus cases, death toll reaches 93


Pakistan reports 334 new coronavirus cases, death toll reaches 93

Islamabad-- Pakistan's coronavirus cases have reached 5,374 with 334 new infections reported, while seven more people have died due to the disease, taking the death toll in the country to 93, health officials said on Monday.

The Ministry of National Health Services reported that 1,095 people had recovered fully, but 44 are still in critical condition.

The number of coronavirus cases on Monday reached 5,374 with 334 new patients added during the last 24 hours, it said.

Seven more people died during this period, taking the total toll in Pakistan to 93, it added.

According to the ministry data, Punjab has 2,594 cases, Sindh 1,411, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 744, Balochistan 230, Gilgit-Baltistan 224, Islamabad 131 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 40 patients.

So far, 65,114 tests have been carried out, including 3,233 during the last 24 hours, the data showed.

A steady rise in the new cases has been registered despite more than three-week lockdown in the country which is going to end on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is chairing a high-level meeting to decide if the nationwide lockdown should be extended.

There is high possibility that it would be extended. Advisor on Health Zafar Mirza said on Sunday that the low number of cases could spike if lockdown was lifted completely.

The US on Sunday overtook Italy as the country with the highest number of deaths due to COVID-19 pandemic with the fatalities crossing 20,000.

The novel coronavirus which originated from China in December has killed 114,185 people and infected over 1.8 million people globally. The US has the highest number of infections (556,044) and deaths (over 20,000), according to Johns Hopkins University data.

 
 
 



Facebook spent USD 23.4 million on Mark Zuckerberg's security, air travel in 2019


Facebook spent USD 23.4 million on Mark Zuckerberg's security, air travel in 2019
 



US marks record over 2,100 coronavirus deaths in one day: Johns Hopkins data


US marks record over 2,100 coronavirus deaths in one day: Johns Hopkins data

Washington: The US has become the world's first country to have registered more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day with 2,108 fatalities reported in the past 24 hours, while the number of infections in America has crossed 500,000, the highest in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

China, where the deadly coronavirus disease started in December last year before spreading across Europe and America killing more than 100,000, has so far recorded 81,000 cases of positive infections and 3,339 deaths.

In terms of fatalities, the US might soon overtake Italy where 18,848 COVID-19 deaths have happened so far. By Friday night, the US had 1,8679 recorded deaths, closely behind Italy. More than 16,000 people have died in Spain and over 13,000 in Germany, the university data said.

By Friday night more than 2,108 Americans had died due to the novel coronavirus and 500,399 people had tested positive with the dreaded disease, it said.

The COVID-19 positive cases in the United States are now more than the other top countries taken together: Spain (158,000), Italy (147,000), Germany (122,000) and France (112,000).

New York, which has emerged as the epicenter of COVID-19 deaths, has registered over 1.7 lakh positive cases, which is more than any other country.

 
 

More than 7,800 people in New York have died due to coronavirus. New Jersey has has nearly 2,000 deaths and more than 54,000 confirmed cases.

Before the start of the week, members of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus had projected between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the US.

While President Donald Trump had said that this was going to be a "terrible, terrible" week in terms of death, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the week was going to be 9/11 and Pearl Harbour moment for the country.

On Friday, Trump told reporters that as per the new projections the death toll was expected to be below 60,000.

"Hard to believe that if you had 60,000 (deaths), you could never be happy, but that's a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking. So they said between 100 and 220,000 lives on the minimum side, and then up to 2.2 million lives if we didn't do anything. But it showed a just tremendous resolve by the people," he said.

Trump has declared a national emergency, has notified major disaster declaration for almost all of the 50 States and more than 95 per cent of the 330 million population are under stay-at-home order.

The American economy is headed for a recession, experts say.

New York, the epicenter, he said is showing signs of a "downward curve," Trump said.

"A lot of that has to do with the aggressive strategy in saving so many lives. We're saving so many lives compared to what it could have been," he said.

"In New York, we're seeing hospital admissions declining very substantially. And nationwide, the number of new cases per day is flattening substantially, suggesting that we are near the peak and our comprehensive strategy is working," Trump said.

Over time, the guidelines to slow the spread are decreasing the rate of new cases very substantially and will result in fewer hospital admissions, he added.

According to Dr Deborah Brix, a member of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus, the mortality rate in the United States is significantly less than many other countries.

"That is really solely the work of our frontline healthcare providers," she said, but cautioned that the country has still not reached the peak.

"But as encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak. And so, every day, we need to continue to do what we did yesterday and the week before and the week before that, because that's what, in the end, is going to take us up across the peak and down the other side," Brix said.

Globally, 102,669 people have died due to coronavirus and over 1.6 million people have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

 
 
 



Coronavirus update: Virus death toll tops 100,000 as locked down Easter kicks off


Coronavirus update: Virus death toll tops 100,000 as locked down Easter kicks off

Rome: The global coronavirus death toll topped 100,000 Friday as Easter celebrations around the world kicked off in near-empty churches with billions of people stuck indoors to halt the pandemic's deadly worldwide march.

The grim milestone came as the World Health Organization issued a dire warning that prematurely lifting lockdown restrictions -- which have kept more than half the world's population in lockdown -- could spark a "deadly resurgence" of the disease.

The extraordinary measures from New York to New Delhi to Naples have seen businesses and schools closed in a desperate bid to halt the virus's relentless spread and the International Monetary Fund said the world now faces the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

More than 1.6 million people have been infected around the world and the death toll hit 100,661 on Friday -- nearly 70 percent in hard-hit Europe.

The United States, which has quickly emerged as a virus hotspot, clocked more than 1,700 new deaths on Thursday -- bringing its toll to second highest after Italy -- with more than 500,000 infections, by far the most of any country.

But even as deaths and infections continued their upward climb, officials in the United States and Europe expressed some hope the curve could be starting to flatten.

Weekend Easter celebrations that would normally see churches around the world packed with parishioners were replaced by an eerie emptiness Friday as lockdown orders kept millions from leaving their homes.

Even such hallowed traditions as the pope's Easter message are being revamped -- Pope Francis will live-stream from the seclusion of his private library.

"We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity," the pontiff said. "We can either get depressed and alienated... or we can get creative." Worshippers in Germany embraced social distancing orders to celebrate Good Friday -- at a drive-in service held in the western city of Duesseldorf.

"It was a sad feeling at first because I would have liked to be in my church," Catholic priest Frank Heidkamp told AFP, as hundreds of congregation members gathered in a parking lot for the service.

"With this car service we're trying to create a little bit of community," he added. More than four billion people are confined to their homes across swathes of the globe as governments imposed never-before-seen measures to halt the virus's deadly global march.

This week, China started to ease months-old lockdown orders in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December.

Governments in Europe are facing pressure to strike a balancing act between keeping their populations safe without battering economies already bruised by widespread shutdowns.

The World Health Organization on Friday issued a stern warning about lifting lockdown measures.

"I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly." In some countries, glimmers of hope may be emerging.

Spain, the third hardest-hit country, saw its lowest day toll in 17 days, after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the "fire started by the pandemic is starting to come under control".

France reported close to 1,000 new deaths Friday -- but said the number of patients in intensive care fell for the second day in a row.

Italy's toll stood at more than 18,000 Friday, the highest in the world, but daily rises in new infections have slowed dramatically.

Still, the government said Friday it would extend lockdown orders until May 3.

Britain's toll climbed too, with 980 new deaths, and the government resisted calls to lift lockdown measures.

But spirits were lifted there Friday when virus-stricken Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed signs of recovery after a three-day stay in intensive care following his COVID-19 diagnosis at the end of March.

The fallout is shaking every corner of the financial world, and the IMF, which has $1 trillion in lending capacity, said it was responding to calls from 90 countries for emergency financing.

"We anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression," said IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, urging governments to provide lifelines to businesses and households.

EU finance ministers agreed the 500-billion-euro rescue package after late-night talks Thursday, aiming to reduce the pain across the 27-nation bloc, especially in Italy and Spain.

The US Federal Reserve also threw a lifeline to Americans -- some 17 million people there have already lost their jobs -- and chairman Jerome Powell announced a $2.3-trillion financing measure "to provide as much relief and stability as we can".

And major oil producers except Mexico agreed to cut output after a dramatic slump in demand caused by the virus, exacerbated by a Saudi-Russia price war, sent prices crashing to a near two-decade low.

Despite hopeful signs in Western nations and China, there are fears the worst is still to come in much of the developing world.

War-torn Yemen, which has been experiencing one of the world's most acute humanitarian crises, on Friday reported its first case.

Brazilian authorities confirmed the first deaths in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, where overcrowding and poor sanitation have raised fears of a catastrophe.

There are similar fears in India.




Donald Trump administration moves to block China-owned telecom service from operating in US


Donald Trump administration moves to block China-owned telecom service from operating in US

The top departments of the US government have endorsed cutting off Beijing-controlled China Telecom from serving the US market because of legal and security risks, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The departments, including Defense, State, and Homeland Security, said after a broad review that the Federal Communications Commission should "revoke and terminate" all authorizations for the Chinese giant's US subsidiary, China Telecom (Americas), to provide international telecommunications services to and from the United States.

"The Executive Branch agencies identified substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks associated with China Telecom's operations, which render the FCC authorizations inconsistent with the public interest," the Justice Department said in a statement.

The agencies -- which also included the Justice Department, the Commerce Department, the US Trade Representative and US counter-intelligence -- said China Telecom is vulnerable to "exploitation, influence and control" by the Chinese government.

They said it has inaccurately reported to US authorities where it stores its US records and how it manages cybersecurity.

The agencies also made the recommendation based on "the nature of China Telecom's US operations," which they said allow Chinese government actors "to engage in malicious cyber activity enabling economic espionage and disruption and misrouting of US communications." The recommendation has to be decided upon by the FCC, but will almost certainly involve the White House, where it could be weighed amid ongoing trade negotiations with Beijing.

It came just five days after President Donald Trump's administration formed an interdepartmental body to formally review national security concerns related to foreign telecommunications companies involved in the United States.

In September 2019 two senators, Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Tom Cotton, asked the FCC to consider banning China Telecom and another company, China Unicom, from the US market over national security concerns.

 
 
 



UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved out of ICU


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved out of ICU

London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care as his condition improves, Downing Street said on Thursday evening.

"The Prime Minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery. He is in extremely good spirits," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Johnson while he is in hospital, had told reporters during the daily briefing that the Prime Minister "continues to make positive steps forwards and is in good spirits".

Earlier on Thursday, Downing Street had confirmed that Johnson continues to improve after he spent a third night in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a London hospital with coronavirus.

The 55-year-old was shifted to the ICU of St Thomas' Hospital in London on Monday night as his condition worsened over 10 days after he had tested positive for coronavirus and went into self-isolation. He has since received "standard oxygen treatment" but has not been diagnosed with pneumonia or required a ventilator to aid his breathing.

"The Prime Minister had a good night and continues to improve in intensive care at St. Thomas' Hospital. He's in good spirits," a Downing Street spokesperson said, providing a health update on the UK PM.

"He's stable, improving, sat up and engaged with medical staff. I've known the Prime Minister for a long time and I wish him well in this difficult time and I think things are getting better for him," UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said earlier on Thursday.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the UK PM while he continues treatment for Covid-19, will chair a virtual Cobra emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss a review of the UK's coronavirus lockdown to consider whether the strict social distancing measures should be extended beyond the 21-day period initially announced by Johnson on March 23.

The measures are set to end next Monday but indications are that they would have to be extended.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething - who will take part in the Cobra meeting - said there was "virtually zero prospect" of government experts advising that it was safe to lift the lockdown, adding the measures would continue for "a number of weeks".

"I think rather than speculate about the future, I think we should focus very seriously on the here and now and the present," said Rishi Sunak, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer who led the daily Downing Street briefing on Wednesday evening.

The senior Indian-origin Cabinet minister, who announced a new 750-million pound fund to support frontline charities across the UK through the pandemic, stressed the importance of the British public continuing to follow the government's stay-at-home guidance especially during what is a usual holiday travel period over a long Easter weekend.

Sunak, who is the next in line in the government's chain of command after UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, also gave his own update on the UK PM's health to confirm that he was sitting up in bed and engaging with his clinical team.

"The latest from the hospital is the Prime Minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving," he had said.

"The Prime Minister is not only my colleague and my boss but also my friend, and my thoughts are with him and his family," he said, adding that the UK PM's illness is a reminder how "indiscriminate this disease is".

The coronavirus death toll in the UK registered another record daily jump of 881 fatalities on Thursday to hit 7,978.

Deputy chief scientific adviser, Dame Angela McLean, had said COVID-19 cases were not "accelerating out of control" in the country and warned against complacency and breaking the lockdown norms.




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