COVID-19: New York Hospital Doctor Prepares For The Worst

Medical supplies and beds are seen inside a tent as volunteers from the International Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse set up an Emergency Field Hospital for patients suffering from the coronavirus in Central Park across Fifth Avenue from Mt. Sinai Hospital on March 30, 2020 in New York. Bryan R. Smith / AFP.

 

With the rapid rise of hospitalizations and a health system nearly at capacity, New York doctor Shamit Patel is preparing for the worst over the next few days, all while hoping he won’t have to start choosing which coronavirus patients to treat.

Just 10 days ago, only half of the 46-year-old internist’s patients at Beth Israel — one of the Mount Sinai hospitals in Manhattan — were suffering from COVID-19.

“We’re not over capacity yet, but we’re planning for it to go over capacity,” he said, adding he thinks the hospital has “planned well.”

The wave of virus patients at Beth Israel corresponds to the one inundating New York City, which shot from 463 confirmed cases two weeks ago to 36,000 on Monday.

“At the rate that I’m seeing, the peak could be anywhere from end of this week to sometime next week,” said Patel.

Under extreme pressure for the past two weeks, he is preparing for the worst, even if “it’s something that we hope we don’t have to see.”

For Patel, the worst would be a situation similar to that in certain regions of Italy, where the health system is so overwhelmed that it can no longer take care of all patients.

READ ALSO: Global Lockdown Tightens As Coronavirus Deaths Mount

“You’re gonna have to be a little quicker in seeing and assessing and getting the treatment plan for each patient,” Patel predicted, noting they “may have to double or triple the number of patients you’re seeing.”

But, he added worriedly, “you can’t really go more than triple the number of patients you’re seeing in a day and provide effective treatment.”

– ‘Picking and choosing’ –

In addition to the limitations of healthcare personnel, Patel is worried about a potential shortage of equipment, particularly of ventilators. New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio talk daily about the need for the machines.

“If you get a surge of patients coming in, and you only have a limited number of ventilators, you can’t necessarily ventilate patients,” Patel said. “And then you have to start picking and choosing.”

Outside of the hospital, Patel is also worried about transmitting the virus to his family. He lives with his 80-year-old father, who suffers from Parkinson’s, and his aunt, who has cancer.

“I don’t want to come back here and actually give it to them because I don’t think they would do well at all,” he said.

He maintains the minimum two meter (six-foot) distance and uses antibacterial wipes generously, while ensuring his relatives have enough food.

“I stay pretty much in my room,” Patel explained, “and then I’ll go out there and periodically check on them.”

But stress and anxiety are ever-present, both at work and at home for Patel and his colleagues, who are running a marathon, as governor Cuomo put it.

“If it’s something that kicks in, then it goes down after it peaks, then we can sustain it for a little while,” Patel said. “But all hands on deck for months on end is something that’s hard to sustain.”

“This is going to be a long and drawn out battle.”

AFP

COVID-19: Quarantine Of New York Is Unnecessary, Says Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

 

US President Donald Trump decided late Saturday against imposing a broad two-week lockdown on New York and its neighbors after a strong pushback from local political leaders and warnings of the panic it could spark.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, late Saturday advised residents of the region not to travel except for essential purposes.

“A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump tweeted, about eight hours after he stunned the New York metropolitan region, the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak, with a proposal to place it under quarantine to prevent residents from leaving.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Coronavirus Cases Rise To 97 As NCDC Confirms Eight More Infections

A lockdown of that type would have been the harshest measure yet taken by the US government to slow the spread of the disease.

Trump had indicated earlier that he was responding to worries in other states, particularly Florida, that travelers from the greater New York City area could spread COVID-19 in their communities.

He told reporters that “heavily infected” New Yorkers were a threat to Florida, a popular southern holiday destination for people in the northeast.

But after strong warnings from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Ned Lamont that the move would spark panic and cause further damage to financial markets, Trump reversed course and said there would only be travel warnings for the region.

“On the recommendation of the White House CoronaVirus Task Force, and upon consultation with the Governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I have asked the (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to issue a strong Travel Advisory,” he said on Twitter.

The CDC then published its advisory which urged residents of the three neighboring states “to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.”

– US epicenter –

New York state has reported in excess of 53,000 cases of the new coronavirus, out of more than 124,000 nationwide.

New York City alone reported a surge of more than 155 deaths Saturday, taking the city’s total to 672, about one-third of the 2,185 fatalities across the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Neighboring New Jersey has reported more than 11,100 COVID-19 cases.

Cuomo told CNN earlier that a lockdown on travel in and out of the global financial and trade hub would not be legal or make sense — especially since there are already local controls on movements.

“Why you would want to just create total pandemonium on top of a pandemic, I have no idea,” he said.

Lamont called New York City, New Jersey and southern Connecticut “the global capital of the world” for commerce and finance.

“If you care as much as the president does about getting this economy going again, you’ve got to be very careful about what you say and what you don’t say,” he said.

– ‘Don’t come here’ –

Yet Trump appeared to be echoing concerns in other states that visiting New Yorkers could exacerbate the spread of coronavirus.

In Rhode Island, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of New York City, police and national guard members were knocking on doors of homes where cars had New York license plates to remind them of a requirement to self-quarantine.

Florida has a large population of retirees but has so far only reported slightly more than 4,000 new-coronavirus cases.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a political ally of Trump, issued executive orders this week mandating two-week self-quarantines for anyone arriving or recently arrived from New York and Louisiana, another US hotbed of the disease.

He said police will put up checkpoints along the state line to remind people of the requirement.

“All we are trying to do is keep our residents here safe. If you are coming from one of the epicenters… don’t come here because we are trying to protect our folks,” he said.

AFP

New York State Declares State Of Emergency, As Coronavirus Cases Rise

A man wears a medical mask on the AirTrain as concern over the coronavirus grows enroute to John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on March 7, 2020 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
A man wears a medical mask on the AirTrain as concern over the coronavirus grows enroute to John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on March 7, 2020 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

 

The governor of New York on Saturday announced a state of emergency as the coronavirus continued to spread in the northeastern state, with 21 new cases. 

A total of 76 people have so far tested positive for the virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters in the state capital of Albany. Ten of those affected have been hospitalized.

The state of emergency, he said, “allows expedited purchasing and expedited hiring, which are the things we need now.”

Cuomo said the state would probably be spending $30 million a week to fight the Covid-19 disease.

The authorities are now “aggressively testing” 24 hours a day, he said. “We want to find positives… (then) we can put them in an isolated situation.”

“That’s the point of the exercise,” Cuomo added. “You isolate them and you slow the spread.”

Fifty-seven of those infected have links to the Orthodox Jewish community in New Rochelle, a city in Westchester County 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of New York City.

“Westchester is an obvious problem,” the governor said. “We talk about contagion in clusters; clusters tend to infect more and more people.”

In an effort to slow the spread of the virus, retirement homes and nursing facilities in the New Rochelle area are banning visits by outsiders.

“We are (being) hypercautious,” Cuomo said.

He said the quarantine period of 14 days for infected people might be extended.

The governor also warned store owners against exploiting the situation by inflating their prices for virus-related products.

“We have reports of stores selling hand sanitizer for $80 a bottle,” he said.

“It’s not worth it to the store owner,” added Cuomo, a former New York attorney general. “You can lose your license… It’s illegal.”

The United States has seen more than 200 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 19 deaths, according to official tallies compiled by AFP.

Sixteen of the deaths have been linked to a retirement home in Washington state, in the northwestern corner of the country.

 

AFP

New York Bans Plastic Bags, Fines Violators $500

Empty plastic bottles are seen in Al-Junaidi mineral water factory in the West Bank city of Hebron, on February 5, 2020.  HAZEM BADER / AFP

 

Consumerist mecca New York targets its throwaway culture this weekend with a ban on single-use plastic bags that has been years in the making and is still rare in America.

New Yorkers like to see themselves at the forefront of efforts to save the environment but are used to receiving groceries in free plastic bags, often doubled up to ensure sturdiness.

On Sunday, that will change when New York becomes only the third US state to outlaw the non-biodegradable sacks blamed for choking rivers, littering neighborhoods and suffocating wildlife.

Environmental activists welcome the new law but caution that exemptions will weaken its effect, while some small businesses worry the ban might negatively impact their profits.

At the Westside Market in Manhattan, 66-year-old Janice Vrana, who says she has been shopping with a reusable cloth bag for a decade, is delighted “pervasive” plastic sacks are being banished.

“You could drive over them 500 times with a Mack Truck and they probably wouldn’t break down. Whatever little I can do, I do,” she told AFP.

Janine Franciosa, a 38-year-old who works in advertising, said it is great people are becoming more aware of how their “everyday purchases are affecting the environment.”

But not everyone is happy.

Westside Market manager Ian Joskowitz, 52, told AFP some customers were “upset” because they use free plastic bags as garbage bags.

 Fines 

New York uses some 23 billion plastic bags every year, according to the state government.

About 85 per cent are thrown away, ending up in landfills, and on streets and beaches, it says.

After several failed attempts, lawmakers finally approved the ban in April 2019.

It bars all retailers who pay state taxes — such as department stores, supermarkets, neighbourhood corner stores and gas stations — from providing plastic bags to customers.

Violators can expect fines of up to $500, although officials have said they will give stores time to adapt to the new rules.

The ban will “protect our natural resources for future generations,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo when he announced the legislation last year.

The law allows New York City and counties to levy a five-cent tax on paper bags, with part of the resulting revenue going to an environmental protection fund.

Kate Kurera, deputy director of Environmental Advocates of New York, says the ban will cause “a tremendous reduction” in plastic waste pollution.

She laments, however, that food takeouts, beloved by the city’s 8.6 million inhabitants, are exempt.

Other exemptions include bags for prescription drugs, plastic wrapping for newspapers delivered to subscribers, and bags used solely for non-prepackaged food such as meat and fish.

Kurera wishes the government would make the paper bag fee mandatory to force customers to bring their own carriers, noting that producing paper bags is intensive in terms of oil, fossil fuels and trees used.

‘Live with it!’ 

“Ideally neither bag is preferable,” she told AFP. “Behavior is slower to change when people know they can get a free paper bag.”

Greg Biryla, New York state director at the National Federation of Independent Business, says alternatives can cost up to seven times more than plastic bags.

“They are proportionally more burdensome on small businesses who aren’t ordering in as big a quantity as their big business counterparts,” he told AFP.

California and Oregon have statewide bans of plastic bags while Hawaii has a de facto ban.

Four other states have bans starting soon while Texas has prevented its cities from outlawing plastic bags.

New York is viewed as one of the most innovative cities in the world, but on the issue of plastic, it has some catching up to do internationally.

Ubiquitous across the Big Apple are single-use plastic utensils such as cutlery, straws and stirrers, which European Union countries have voted to outlaw by next year.

New York’s older residents note that plastic bags only became available in US grocery stores in 1979, signalling how quickly habits can change.

“When I was growing up we brought our own bags,” shopper Denise Shaleaon told AFP, adding of the ban: “The New Yorker will have to live with it!”

AFP

Trump Campaign Sues New York Times

US President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House by Marine One, in Washington, DC, November 3, 2019, after returning from a trip to New York. Olivier Douliery / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign on Wednesday filed suit against The New York Times over an OpEd article about links to Russia, the first legal action of its kind after his regular criticism of the “failing” newspaper and other traditional media organizations.

The suit by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc says the Times “knowingly published false and defamatory statements” in the March 27, 2019 column headlined “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo”.

Its author was former Times executive editor Max Frankel.

“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,” Frankel wrote.

“The Times was well aware when it published these statements that they were not true,” the campaign alleged in a document signed by lawyer Charles Harder, without clarifying that the column appeared in the Opinion section, which operates separately from the Times newsroom.

“But The Times published these statements anyway, knowing them to be false, and knowing it would misinform and mislead its own readers, because of The Times’ extreme bias against and animosity toward the Campaign”, and because of the Times’ “exuberance to improperly influence” the 2020 election, in which Trump is running for re-election, it said.

The lawsuit comes after Trump’s impeachment acquittal earlier this month in the Republican-majority Senate for abuse of power related to pressure on Ukraine, which is fighting Russian aggression.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, reported last April that there were numerous contacts between members of Trump’s circle and Russia and that the campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

But it said the efforts did not amount to criminal conspiracy.

 First Amendment 

In response to the lawsuit, a New York Times spokesperson said the Trump campaign “has turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable.”

According to the suit filed in the Supreme Court of New York, the campaign is seeking millions of dollars in damages.

“Fortunately, the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance,” the Times spokesperson said.

Bernie Sanders, the clear frontrunner so far among Democratic party hopefuls seeking to challenge Trump in November, issued a statement about the lawsuit.

“Trump has called the press the ‘enemy of the people,’ and now — taking a page from his dictator friends around the world — is trying to dismantle the right to a free press in the First Amendment by suing The New York Times for publishing an opinion column about his dangerous relationship with Russia. Enough,” Sanders said.

AFP

Ex-Guatemalan Presidential Candidate Gets 15-Year Jail Term In US

Vice Principal Gets Life Imprisonment For Raping 12-Year-Old In Ekiti
File Photo

 

A former Guatemalan presidential candidate was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a New York judge on Tuesday for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.

Mario Amilcar Estrada Orellana pleaded guilty to soliciting funds from Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel in a bid to help his election run last year.

Estrada, a candidate for the National Change Union party, had promised to support the drug traffickers’ activities if elected, which was considered unlikely, prosecutors said.

The 59-year-old was arrested in Miami in April 2019.

Estrada and co-conspirator Juan Pablo Gonzalez Mayorga were also charged with trying to hire hitmen to assassinate political rivals and with conspiring to use and possess machineguns.

Gonzalez will be sentenced on April 15.

Surprise Eminem Album Urges Gun Control, Sparks Anger Over Bomb Lyric

 

 

Guess who’s back?… Rapper Eminem surprised fans Friday by dropping a new album featuring a strong anti-gun violence theme but also stoking the kind of controversy that brought him fame.

On the album, one track called “Darkness” tells the story of a loner going on a shooting spree, while another song, “Unaccommodating,” has triggered outcry and muddied the veteran singer’s call for gun control.

The song references the 2017 deadly bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, Britain, which left 22 people dead.

“But I’m contemplating yelling ‘bombs away’ on the game like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting,” the 47-year-old artist, born Marshall Mathers, raps on the track.

READ ALSO: Whitney Houston, Biggie Among Rock Hall Of Fame Inductees

The lyric was met with scorn on social media, with some users dubbing it “disgusting” and “trash.”

The new album, called “Music to be Murdered by,” features appearances from the late rapper Juice WRLD, along with Q-Tip, Ed Sheeran, Anderson. Paak and regular collaborator singer Skylar Grey.

Dr. Dre is credited throughout as a producer.

Eminem released his last album “Kamikaze” in 2018 in a similar sudden fashion. That album included several attacks on President Donald Trump.

The rapper also released Friday a video for “Darkness” that featured audio and footage from the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest US gun massacre carried about by an individual in modern history.

It ends urging viewers to register to vote: “Make your voice heard and help change gun laws in America,” closing text reads.

737 MAX: After 10 Months Of Crisis For Boeing, Questions Remain

 

 

Boeing is still far from seeing an end to its continuing crisis over the 737 MAX airplane. Ten months after two fatal crashes led to the grounding of the aerospace giant’s star passenger jet, many serious questions remain, including the date of its return to service.

David Calhoun, 62, a former top executive at General Electric, is to take charge of the aircraft manufacturer on Monday, after CEO Dennis Muilenburg was ousted in late December over what critics said was his catastrophic handling of the crisis.

– What exactly happened? –
On March 10, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashed southeast of Addis Ababa just minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 on board.

It was the second accident in five months for the model, which Boeing launched in May 2017 as a competitor for Airbus’s A320neo in the lucrative narrow-body aircraft segment.

The October 2018 crash in Indonesia of a Lion Air 737 MAX had claimed 189 lives.

On March 13 of last year, the United States and Canada became the last two countries to ground MAX planes. Thus began Boeing’s crisis.

When will the MAX fly again?

It’s hard to say. The most optimistic prediction is late February or early March, but some experts, including the respected Richard Aboulafia of the Virginia-based Teal group, speak of late April or early May.

United Airlines has ruled out flying the MAX before June.

Investigations by Indonesian and Ethiopian authorities raised questions about the plane’s automated flight control system known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System).

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered Boeing to provide a fix, which the company is working on.

But as a result of the crisis FAA has subjected the MAX, which was only partially inspected during its original flight certification, to microscopic scrutiny.

The agency at first detected a problem with the microprocessor that manages flight systems and then, more recently, a flaw in the electrical wiring.

Once Boeing has resolved all problems, the FAA should set a date for a test flight — the last major hurdle before the MAX is green-lighted to return to service.

Boeing has taken one major step in that direction: after long resisting having MAX pilots train on flight simulators rather than on computers — a longer and more costly option, but one demanded by European and Canadian regulators — Boeing has finally backed that course.

– Is Boeing still building and delivering the MAX? –
Boeing suspended MAX deliveries a few days after the planes were grounded. It had continued to produce the aircraft, but has built none since January 1.

From mid-March to the end of December, Boeing produced 400 MAX planes, bringing the total number built to 787. Of those, 387 were in service when orders to ground them went out.

The planes are parked at different Boeing sites in the US.

Is Boeing in financial trouble?

No. As of the end of September, the company had $10 billion in hand and about $20 billion in available funds, according to financial documents.

Besides passenger planes, Boeing builds military aircraft and equipment. It also has a space division.

Nevertheless, the costs linked to the MAX crisis have continued to mount. They had already reached $9.2 billion by the end of September and should soar as Boeing deals with demands for damages and compensation from airline companies, aircraft-leasing firms, parts suppliers and victims’ families.

To cover future expenses, the company expects to turn to the financial markets to borrow up to $5 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

– What about Boeing employees?? –
The company so far has ruled out any firings or layoffs, which could provoke a political outcry in this US election year.

Boeing has already shifted thousands of workers to other programs — building its 767, 787 and 777/777X models — and has promised to find jobs for others.

– How are suppliers affected? –
The consequences vary. Engine builders like General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines, through their CFM joint venture, are partially spared since they also build engines for Airbus.

Along with other smaller American suppliers, they will profit from Airbus’s surprise decision to ramp up production of the A320 in the southern US city of Mobile, Alabama.

But the Spirit AeroSystems group, which provides fuselages and other parts for the MAX, has been hard hit; the 737 program represents more than half its turnover. The company plans to cut 16 percent of its workforce — around 2,800 employees — and has not ruled out further cuts.

– Is Airbus profiting as Boeing struggles? –
Airbus received orders for 768 planes in 2019 and delivered 863. Boeing, which has yet to publish its full-year figures, had delivered 345 as of the end of November, while 84 orders were lost.

Airbus also gained ground in the important middle of the market sector with its launch of the A321XLR, which will give air carriers the ability to open new long-haul routes between secondary cities using a narrow-body craft that is less expensive, easier to fill and thus more profitable.

The first orders are already pouring in, notably from United Airlines, which ordered 50 of the new aircraft in December.

Boeing is banking on its own NMA (New Midsize Airplane), built to carry from 220 to 270 passengers on routes up to 5,400 miles (8,700 kilometers). But progress has been slow, and it is unclear, given the severe challenges over the MAX program, whether the NMA will be rolled out this year as planned. (Boeing has not decided to launch the NMA yet. It promised to make a decision this year.)

US Stocks End At Records As Iran Worries Ease

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on January 03, 2020 in New York City.  Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

 

Wall Street stocks jumped to fresh records on Thursday following a buoyant session for global equities as investors took heart that a US-Iran conflict is not escalating and a trade deal with China is likely to be signed.

All three major US indices finished at all-time highs, with the broad-based S&P 500 winning 0.7 percent as haven investments such as gold and the yen faltered.

The gains in New York marked a second straight session of advances on rising confidence about the US-Iran clash following statements Wednesday by US President Donald Trump and Iranian officials.

“Assuming Iran-US tensions continue to simmer rather than boil, markets are likely to refocus on the global growth outlook and on trade, with the interim US-China trade deal expected to be signed on 15 January,” said National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland.

Further boosting sentiment, China said that Vice Premier Liu He will travel to Washington next week to sign the “phase one” deal with the United States that has lowered trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

The advance in the United States was broad-based, with the technology, financial and energy sectors registering especially large gains.

“Markets have learned not to overreact to developments in the Middle East,” Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services told AFP.

“What animates investors is fear of missing out on a higher stock market. Nobody wants to be the first sell or take profits.”

Frankfurt led European gains as the DAX closed up 1.3 percent — Lufthansa flying high with a four percent gain — as London and Paris, which at one time brushed a 13-year high, limited gains to around a quarter of one percent.

Tokyo and Hong Kong had earlier added around two percent and Shanghai 0.9 percent.

But the rush to riskier investments saw gold, seen as a haven in times of unrest, pull back, having earlier broken $1,600 per ounce for the first time in seven years.

The lowering of tensions will allow traders to turn their attention to the release on Friday of US jobs data, which will provide the latest snapshot of the world’s number one economy, with recent figures indicating it remains robust.

Also in focus is the upcoming earnings season, which kicks off this month.

Pound falls

In London meanwhile, the pound slid after Bank of England governor Mark Carney said Britain’s economic recovery was “not assured” despite a drop in Brexit uncertainties.

“Although the risk of a semi-hard Brexit at the end of 2020 will continue to hang over the UK, the sweeping 12 December election win for (Prime Minister Boris) Johnson and his Conservative Party has brought much of the damaging uncertainty of recent years to an end,” said Kallum Pickering, senior economist with Berenberg.

He forecast a real growth pickup from 1.3 percent in 2019 to 1.8 this year and 2.1 in 2021.

Key figures at 2220 GMT

New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 28,956.90 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.7 percent at 3,274.70 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.8 percent at 9,203.43 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,598.12 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 1.3 percent at 13,495.06 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 6,042.55 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.6 percent at 3,795.88 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 2.3 percent at 23,739.87 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: 1.7 percent at 28,561.00 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 3,094.88 (close)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3064 from $1.3097 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 84.98 pence from 84.80 pence

Euro/dollar: FLAT at $1.1105

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.51 from 109.12 yen

Brent Crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $65.37 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: FLAT at $59.56 per barrel

Five Wounded In Stabbing At New York Rabbi’s House

Nigerian boy, Stabbed

 

An intruder stabbed and wounded five people at a rabbi’s house in upstate New York during a party to celebrate the Jewish festival of Hanukkah late Saturday, officials said.

The victims, all Hasidic members of the Jewish faith, were transported to local hospitals — two in a critical condition — the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) tweeted after receiving a call at 9.50 pm.

The suspect has been taken into custody, local Ramapo Police said in a statement on Facebook.

Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement that he was “horrified” by the “despicable and cowardly act”, and had directed the State Police hate crimes task force to investigate.

READ ALSO: Two Injured In Mysterious Texas Bombing

“We have a zero-tolerance for anti-Semitism in NY and we will hold the attacker accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he tweeted.

CBS New York reported that a man brandishing a machete went into the rabbi’s property in Monsey, New York State, an area with a large Jewish population, and knifed at least three people before fleeing.

“I was praying for my life,” witness Aron Kohn, 65, told the New York Times, describing the knife used by the attacker as “the size of a broomstick”.

Yossi Gestetner, a co-founder of the OJPAC for the Hudson Valley region, told the New York Times one of the victims was a son of the rabbi.

“The house had many dozens of people in there,” Gestetner said. “It was a Hanukkah celebration.”

In Israel, President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin expressed his “shock and outrage” regarding the attack.

“The rise of anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem, and certainly not just the State of Israel’s problem,” he said in a statement.

“We must work together to confront this evil, which is raising its head again and is a genuine threat around the world.”

Police in the US have been battling a rash of attacks against Jewish targets in recent years.

Six people, including two suspects, were killed in a Jersey City shooting at a kosher deli earlier this month, which authorities said was fueled in part by anti-Semitism.

After Saturday’s attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that he has spoken to longtime Jewish friends who are fearful of outwardly showing their faith.

“We will NOT allow this to become the new normal,” he wrote. “We’ll use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all.”

Rising Rap Artist Juice WRLD Dies At 21

In this file photo taken on September 21, 2019 Juice Wrld performs onstage during the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival and Daytime Stage at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds in Las Vegas, Nevada. BRYAN STEFFY / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

 

Chicago-born rapper Juice WRLD, one of a wave of young artists who made a name on streaming platforms before breaking out as chart-toppers and social media celebrities, died on Sunday at the age of 21, according to local authorities.

A spokeswoman from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in Illinois told AFP that it had been notified of the rapper born Jarad Higgins’ death. An autopsy had not yet been carried out.

Police confirmed to AFP that a 21-year-old man had suffered a medical emergency at Midway International Airport after getting off a private jet.

Celebrity news outlet TMZ reported that Higgins had suffered a seizure.

Juice WRLD’s breakout single “Lucid Dreams,” rose to Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2018, with his follow-up album “Death Race for Love” debuting in first place on the Billboard 200 the following year.

The rapper was of a generation known as the “SoundCloud rappers” — a subgenre that takes its name from the streaming platform where its artists find fame.

The crop of rappers in recent years has become a disruptive movement in hip hop, combining a lo-fi underground sound with raw, often emotionally laden lyrics leading some to dub them “emo rappers.”

These musicians whose careers are built on internet stardom often rap about popping drugs, notably Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication.

Along with prescription medication the subculture’s aesthetic includes face tattoos and neon-dyed hair.

‘I have a lot going for me’

The scene has launched careers and sales figures but the lives of its figures are often volatile: XXXTentacion was murdered in 2018, while Tekashi69, seeking leniency on serious racketeering and weapons charges, this year was a star government witness at the trial of alleged former gang associates.

And in 2017 the SoundCloud rapper Lil Peep died at age 21 of what was declared an accidental overdose of fentanyl and Xanax.

Speaking to The New York Times in 2018, Juice WRLD said that he used Xanax heavily as a teenager but was aiming to curb his drug use.

“I have a lot going for me, I recognize it’s a lot of big things, a lot of big looks. I want to be there, and you don’t have to overdose to not be there,” he told the Times.

Music and industry insiders took to social media to pay tribute to the rapper upon learning of his shock death.

“Wow, I can not believe this. Rip my brother juice world,” tweeted fellow rapper Lil Yachty.

“rip juice,” tweeted breakout star Lil Nas X.

“so sad how often this is happening lately to young talented rising artists.”

Art Meets Artificial Intelligence: Computer-Generated Works On Display

 A picture taken on November 1, 2019 at Sotheby’s in New York shows two paintings, from left, “La Baronne de Belamy,” (est. $20,000 – $30,000) a portrait from the same Famille de Belamy series that Christie’s offered last year and “Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon,” (est. $8,000 – $12,000) a new work from the group’s second and more recent series (produced in 2019) of works called Electric Dreams of Ukiyo. PHOTO: Thomas URBAIN / AFP

 

Two paintings up for auction in New York highlight a growing interest in artificial intelligence-created works — a technique that could transform how art is made and viewed but is also stirring up passionate debate.

The art world was stunned last year when an AI painting sold for $432,500, and auctioneers are keen to further test demand for computer-generated works.

“Art is a true reflection of what our society, what our environment responds to,” said Max Moore of Sotheby’s.

“And so it’s just a natural continuation of the progression of art,” he added.

Sotheby’s will put two paintings by the French art collective Obvious up for sale on Thursday, including “Le Baron De Belamy.”

The European classic style portrait is part of the same series as “Portrait of Edmond Belamy”, which sold for more than 60 times the lowest estimate at Christie’s during the 2018 fall auctions.

The paintings were made using a technique called “generative adversarial network,” or GAN.

GAN involves feeding thousands of images of the same style into a computer until the machine concludes that it has created a new portrait that it thinks accurately reflects that style.

“Katsuwaka of the Dawn Lagoon” was created in a Japanese style using the same GAN algorithm.

Auctioneers have put modest prices on the two paintings. “Katsuwaka” has a pre-sale estimate between $8,000 and $12,000, while “Le Baron” has been priced between $20,000 and $30,000.

“We do not expect as big a result as last year,” said Pierre Fautrel, one of the three members of Obvious.

“We just want to see if there are people who are ready to buy around these prices and if the market will continue to build,” he added.

Moore said the sale of “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” showed that there is “a marketplace for this new body of work” but that it’s still “in the very early stages.”

“That will be a good indicator of where the market is,” he said.

In the fledgling artificial intelligence market, Obvious is not the most sought-after group of artists.

Not for everyone

Steven Sacks, owner of the bitforms gallery in New York says his client, the Canadian-Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has already made around $600,000 for an AI artwork.

Whereas Obvious’s paintings are fixed, most of Lozano-Hemmer’s works use software to change in real time according to data about each viewer’s perspective.

Other prominent AI artists who are exhibiting their work across the world include Germany’s Mario Klingemann and Turkish-born Refik Anadol.

Klingemann also makes portraits, sometimes tweaking the input data with voluntary glitches to avoid replication. Anadol uses mostly video to produce abstract data-based animations.

Klingemann’s “Memories of Passersby I”, a stream of portraits created by a machine, sold for $40,000 at Sotheby’s in London in March.

Sacks and several other artists AFP spoke to were critical of the “Bellamy” sale last year.

They feel that that painting is not representative of the potential of AI and argue that Obvious is imitating other works whereas they are creating something new.

“For me it was a problem because it wasn’t authentic,” said Sacks, who subscribes to a school of thought that works made by AI should constantly be changing, usually on screens.

Some also criticize Obvious for giving the impression that AI can create works of art without human interference.

“An artist chooses. He lightens, he reinforces. Can a computer do that?” asks French painter Ronan Barrot, who has collaborated with British AI artist Robbie Barrat.

The debate continues to rage. Fautrel of Obvious denies that his collective merely imitates other artworks and sees AI as a “tool” and not an end in itself.

Despite their differences, they all agree the market for AI paintings is growing and that the sale of “Bellamy” has drawn attention to the burgeoning technique.

“I don’t think this new style is for everyone but I think you’re going to start catching the attention of a lot of people that aren’t necessarily art collectors but are very interested in the technology behind AI,” said Sotheby’s Moore.

AFP