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1. As more data on the new coronavirus circulating in China emerges, it’s becoming clear that whatever the country is experiencing now—dozens of deaths, hundreds of people hospitalized, cities of millions quarantined—is just the tip of the outbreak. On Friday, a team of researchers based in the UK and US reported in a preliminary paper that the number of confirmed cases at the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan reflects only 5 percent of people who are actually infected. That would mean that for Tuesday, the last day they included in their analysis, the real number of cases is not 440, as has been reported, but is more like 12,000. The paper, which has not yet undergone peer review, appeared on the Medrxiv preprint server. Already, since Tuesday, the number of diagnosed coronavirus patients in Wuhan has shot up to 729. (via Wired, Medrxiv)
2. The coronavirus discovered in the city of Wuhan has spread to all but two of China’s 31 provinces, indicating that efforts to stem the outbreak with travel bans and cancellations of flights and rail services were failing. As of Friday night, there had been 895 cases of infection and 26 deaths in mainland China, according to Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily and Dxy.com, one of the country’s biggest online network of doctors. The deaths included the first reported outside the epicenter of Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. One was in the northern Hebei province, neighboring Beijing, and another was in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, about 2,400km (about 1,500 miles) from Wuhan. Meanwhile, Europe’s first cases of the Wuhan coronavirus were confirmed in France on Friday, while Nepalese authorities announced the first infection in South Asia. A second case in the US was also confirmed as the global spread of the deadly pneumonia-like illness continued. (via South China Morning Post)
3. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam earlier today declared a virus emergency in the Asian financial hub, announcing a package of measures to limit the city’s links with mainland China. Schools, now on Lunar New Year holidays, would remain shut until Feb. 17, while inbound and outbound flights and high speed rail trips between Hong Kong and Wuhan would be halted. Lam said all official visits to the mainland and official Lunar New Year celebrations would be scrapped immediately. (via Reuters)
4. New research on the Wuhan coronavirus has found the virus may be present in the lungs of individuals with no obvious symptoms, making strict quarantine and contact-tracing regimes crucial to preventing the number of cases from reaching the scale of the 2003 Sars outbreak. Without close surveillance, these patients – described by researchers as “cryptic cases of walking pneumonia” – could prove to be yet another factor in the dangerous trajectory of the Wuhan virus, with the number of infections and countries affected rising rapidly. (via South China Morning Post)
5. Even with three simultaneous international efforts underway to create vaccines for China’s deadly new virus, the process could take months, according to an international epidemiology group funding the research. The announcement comes as officials confirm the first deaths caused by the virus, dubbed “nCoV-2019,” outside the epicenter of the outbreak in Central China. (via caixinglobal.com)
6. Oil prices suffered their worst week in over a year, dragged lower by fears that a deadly new coronavirus spreading throughout China and other countries will weigh on economic growth and hurt demand for crude. Brent, the global gauge of prices, fell 6.4% this past week to notch its biggest weekly percentage decline since December 2018. U.S. crude futures fell 7.5%, marking their largest weekly loss since July. (via The Wall Street Journal)
7. Wall Street retreated yesterday after health officials reported a second case of coronavirus in the US, handing the S&P 500 its steepest drop in more than three months. Confirmation of a patient in Chicago brought a return of investor angst over an outbreak of the deadly virus in China, where authorities have shut down public transportation in multiple cities.
8. Matteo Salvini made a final campaign push on Friday ahead of an Italian regional election that has taken on national significance, with the leader of the anti-immigration League hoping victory could topple the country’s fragile coalition government. Mr Salvini was due to hold six campaign rallies in Emilia-Romagna as his party tries to win control of the region — a stronghold of the Italian left since the second world war — on Sunday. Polling published before a pre-vote blackout period showed that the contests between Stefano Bonaccini, the region’s incumbent Democratic party (PD) president, and Lucia Borgonzoni, a League senator who is fronting a rightwing coalition, was neck and neck. (via Financial Times)
9. The French government cleared the way for Parliament to review President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to make sweeping changes to the pension system, an overhaul that sparked the longest transport strike in the country’s history. On Friday, French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn and Secretary of State for Pensions Laurent Pietraszewski officially presented the bill to Mr. Macron and his cabinet at the Élysée Palace, allowing Parliament to begin debating the overhaul next month. Parliament is widely expected to pass the measures by the summer because Mr. Macron’s party has a strong majority. (via The Wall Street Journal)
10. The mortgage market in 2019 had its best year since the height of the pre-crisis boom, the latest sign that housing is firming up after showing signs of weakness early last year. Lenders extended $2.4 trillion in home loans last year, the most since 2006, according to industry research group Inside Mortgage Finance. That was also a 46% increase from 2018. (via The Wall Street Journal)
11. Business activity in the U.S. improved in early 2020, contrasting with weaker economic performance in some of the world’s other major economies. Data company IHS Markit said Friday that its composite purchasing managers index for the U.S., a measure of activity in businesses, posted a 10-month high of 53.1 in January, up from 52.7 in December. A level above 50 points to growth in business activity, while a reading below that mark points to contraction. (via The Wall Street Journal)
12. House Democrats concluded their arguments against President Trump on Friday by portraying his pressure campaign on Ukraine as part of a dangerous pattern of Russian appeasement that demanded his removal from office. Ending their three-day presentation in the Senate, the impeachment managers summoned the ghosts of the Cold War and the realities of geopolitical tensions with Russia to argue that Mr. Trump’s abuse of power had slowly shredded delicate foreign alliances to suit his own interests. (via The New York Times)
13. Senate Republicans spent three days listening to the House impeachment managers present a comprehensive case for removing President Donald Trump from office — an elaborate, multimedia narrative laying out a wide array of offenses allegedly committed to benefit the president’s personal political fortunes at the expense of the nation. Yet few Republicans will publicly admit they’ve heard anything done by Trump that was wrong or unethical or inappropriate at all, let alone impeachable. (via Politico)
14. White House lawyers are gearing up for a scorched-earth defense of President Trump in the impeachment trial, mounting a politically charged case aimed more at swaying American voters than GOP senators — and damaging Trump’s possible 2020 opponent, Joe Biden. Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, plan to use their time in the trial to target the former vice president and his son, Hunter, according to multiple GOP officials familiar with the strategy. Trump’s allies believe that if they can argue that the president had a plausible reason for requesting the Biden investigation in Ukraine, they can both defend him against the impeachment charges and gain the bonus of undercutting a political adversary. (via The Washington Post)
15. President Trump, making the first in-person address by a U.S. president at a major anti-abortion rally in Washington, called himself a strong defender of the unborn and blasted Democrats for their “radical and extreme” positions. Mr. Trump spoke Friday at the March for Life event as he tries to consolidate support for his re-election. Trump’s administration touts him as the biggest “pro-life” advocate in the presidency’s history, though he previously described himself as “very pro-choice.” (via Bloomberg)
16. The Trump administration told California it is violating federal law by requiring insurers to cover abortion and threatened to withhold federal funding if the state doesn’t end its mandate, the latest move in a broader White House effort to establish religion-based exemptions to reproductive-rights statutes. Officials in the Republican administration signaled Friday that they could also take aim at similar policies in other states, potentially putting hundreds of billions of dollars in federal health funding at risk. (via The Wall Street Journal)
17. Thirty-four US soldiers have been diagnosed with concussion or traumatic brain injury from an 8 January Iranian missile attack on their base in Iraq, the Pentagon has revealed. The Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said on Friday that eight service members who had been previously transported to Germany had been moved to the United States. President Trump had previously said that the US “suffered no casualties” from the attack, which was a reprisal for the US drone strike assassination of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani. Questioned later about reports of brain injury, Trump downplayed their severity: “I heard that they had headaches. And a couple of other things. But I would say, and I can report, it is not very serious.” (via The Guardian)
18. London’s police department said on Friday that it would begin using facial recognition to spot criminal suspects with video cameras as they walk the streets, adopting a level of surveillance that is rare outside China. The decision is a major development in the use of a technology that has set off a worldwide debate about the balance between security and privacy. Police departments contend that the software gives them a way to catch criminals who may otherwise avoid detection. Critics say the technology is an invasion of privacy, has spotty accuracy and is being introduced without adequate public discussion. (via The New York Times)
19. Clayton Christensen, the management thinker who conceived and developed the idea of “disruptive innovation” and influenced generations of business students and entrepreneurs, has died, aged 67. Universally known as “Clay.” he passed away on Thursday as a result of complications from leukemia. "The Innovators Dilemma" was the book that made him famous. And rightly so.
Quick Links: Mapping the outbreak of China’s coronavirus.A 62-year-old doctor, Liang Wudong, has died from the coronavirus in Wuhan after treating patients. Exhausted central bankers raise the white flag in Davos. Powerful earthquake hits Turkey, killing 20 and sending panicked residents onto the streets. Commercial air travel is safer than ever. Boeing mulls another cut to 787 output in new threat to cash. Mysterious GPS outages are wracking the shipping industry Scientists are attempting to transform nuclear waste into batteries that can last for thousands of years. The mission to stop killer asteroids from smashing into Earth. Levels of certain proteins in the blood may act as concussion biomarkers. A plague of locusts, in pictures. Papyrus is shutting all its stores.
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