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Covid 19 Pandemic

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is offering “audacious” economic assistance to North Korea if it abandons its nuclear weapons program. In a speech celebrating the end of Japan's colonization of the Korean Peninsula, Yoon avoided harsh criticism of the North days after it threatened “deadly” retaliation over a COVID-19 outbreak it blames on the South. Yoon also Monday called for better ties with Japan, calling the two countries partners in navigating challenges to freedom and saying their shared values will help them overcome grievances linked to Japan’s colonial rule. South Korea’s relations with Japan have declined to post-war lows over the past several years as the countries allowed their grievances over history to affect areas including trade and military cooperation.

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Japan has reported its economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2% in the last quarter as consumer spending rebounded with an easing of pandemic precautions. The of a nation’s products and services, expanded 0.5% from January-March, during which the economy had stayed flat, according to preliminary government estimates released Monday. Economists had forecast 0.6% on-quarter growth. The annual numbers show how the economy would have grown if the quarterly rate were to continue for a year. Private consumption jumped at an annual rate of 4.6%.

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North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams has tested positive for COVID-19. The Democrats announced that she tested positive on Sunday and has mild symptoms. Adams says she has received four COVID-19 vaccine doses, placed herself in quarantine and is resting. Adams is a former Greensboro city council and General Assembly member who was first elected to Congress in 2014. The 12th District covers most of Mecklenburg County. Congress isn’t expected to reconvene for votes until September.

British authorities have quashed plans to prosecute protesters who attended a vigil for a murdered woman during the country's pandemic lockdown. The Crown Prosecution Service said Sunday that cases against six people over the March 2021 vigil in memory of Sarah Everard had been dropped because “our legal test for a prosecution was not met.”  Everard was abducted, raped and killed as she walked home from a friend’s house in London. Her killer, Wayne Couzens, was a serving Metropolitan Police officer. The killing and the police response ignited criticism of the police force and its attitude toward women’s safety. Allegations of misogyny and bungled investigations have undermined confidence in the police.

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has tested positive for COVID-19 and won't play in the team’s first preseason game. Coach Kevin O’Connell confirmed the diagnosis at practice. Cousins was absent for a second straight day after feeling ill and being sent home. Cousins has “very minimal” symptoms, according to O’Connell. Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond will split time in the exhibition Sunday at Las Vegas. Cousins was unlikely to play much if at all if he wasn’t sick. There are no other quarterbacks on the roster.

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Social media users shared a range of false claims this week. Here are the facts: An image purporting to show Ghislaine Maxwell with the judge who approved the FBI search warrant for Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was manipulated by combining two unrelated photos. Monkeypox hasn't been detected in Georgia drinking water. A video of a speech by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was translated incorrectly to English. The World Health Organization Director-General is vaccinated against COVID-19, and scientists say a recent finding that Earth is spinning slightly faster is no cause for concern.

Margaret Holt, a former editor at the Chicago Tribune, was named Friday the 2022 Lincoln League honoree during the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors Awards presentations at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Springfield. Holt finished her career at the Tribune in January as standards editor. She was also newspaper’s first female sports editor. The Lincoln League honors long-time Illinois journalists for their career contributions to the industry. IAPME winners were also announced for journalism excellence in news, sports, features, editorials, columns and photos from 2021.

The Nebraska Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by a handful of Creighton University students seeking to be exempt from the school's COVID-19 vaccine mandate last year, arguing that getting the shots would violate their religious beliefs against abortion. The state's high court on Friday said it didn't have jurisdiction, citing its 150-year stance that orders on temporary injunction motions are not appealable. Last September, a judge refused to block Creighton University’s requirement that all students get the COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend the school. The injunction was sought by 10 students who all had religious objections to the vaccines because “the vaccines were developed and/or tested using abortion derived fetal cell lines.”

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Germany’s health minister says European Union drug regulators may authorize the use of vaccines that are effective against two variants of the coronavirus. German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he expected the European Medicines Agency to meet Sept. 1 to consider a vaccine that would provide protection against the original virus and the omicron variant. He says the EU agency would likely meet again on Sept. 27 to review a combined vaccine against the original virus and omicron offshoot BA.5, which is responsible for the latest global surge in COVID-19 cases.Germany has procured sufficient amounts of both vaccines and would be able to start rolling them out a day after they received authorization, he said.

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New Zealand has welcomed the first cruise ship to return since the coronavirus pandemic began, signaling a long-sought return to normalcy for the nation’s tourism industry. New Zealand closed its borders in early 2020 as it sought at first to eliminate COVID-19 entirely and then later to control its spread. Although the country reopened its borders to most tourists arriving by plane in May, it wasn’t until two weeks ago that it lifted all remaining restrictions, including those on maritime arrivals. Many in the cruise industry question why it took so long.

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been sidelined by an unspecified illness. He was sent home after reporting he wasn’t feeling well and held out of practice on Thursday. Coach Kevin O’Connell confirmed the Vikings were evaluating Cousins for COVID-19. Minnesota’s first exhibition game is Sunday at Las Vegas. It’s possible Cousins would skip the trip considering established starters are not expected to play much, if at all. The coaches were still determining their playing time plan for the game.

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New U.S. recommendations call for three home tests for people exposed to COVID-19 to improve accuracy. Previously, the Food and Drug Administration had advised taking two rapid antigen tests over two or three days to rule out infection. But the agency says new studies suggest that protocol can miss too many infections. That could result in people spreading the coronavirus to others, especially if they don’t develop symptoms. The new guidance announced Thursday applies to people without symptoms who think they may have been exposed. People with symptoms can continue using two tests spaced 48 hours apart.

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Congressional panel leaders say an additional 135 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine from a troubled Baltimore factory will have to be destroyed due to quality problems. The announcement Thursday follows a report in May that detailed how more than 400 million vaccine doses made at the Emergent BioSolutions plant would have to be trashed.  The latest round of doses slated for destruction were made between August 2021 and February. Johnson & Johnson says that no doses produced at the site since the factory restarted have reached the market.

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The South Carolina Supreme Court delivered another loss Wednesday to restaurant owners seeking insurance payouts over COVID-19 losses. The justices say that just because the Carolina Ale House franchise lost the use of their locations due to indoor dining restrictions, they did not suffer physical loss or damage. In its ruling, the high court joins several other state courts in siding with insurance companies. Both the Iowa and Massachusetts Supreme Courts ruled in April that restaurants could not collect damages following pandemic dining restrictions. The window of opportunity for filing these insurance challenges is also closing as most policies have a two-year limitation period.

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The Indian capital has reintroduced public mask mandates as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country. The New Delhi government on Thursday reinstituted a fine of 500 rupees ($6) for anyone caught not wearing a mask or face covering in public. India’s Health Ministry said 16,299 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours nationwide, with a positivity rate of 4.58%. Nearly 2,150 infections were reported in New Delhi. On Wednesday, New Delhi reported eight deaths due to the coronavirus, the highest in nearly six months. New Delhi’s top elected official, Arvind Kejriwal, said that COVID-19 cases were on the rise but there was no need to panic because most of the new cases were mild.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister says he suffered a fever while guiding the country to victory over the coronavirus. In a striking speech before thousands of North Koreans, she blamed rival South Korea for the country's outbreak and vowed “deadly” retaliation. Kim Yo Jong, a powerful official in charge of inter-Korean relations, glorified her brother’s leadership during the outbreak, as he jubilantly described the country’s widely disputed success over the virus as an “amazing miracle” in global public health. Experts believe the victory announcement signals Kim Jong Un's intention to move to other priorities and are concerned his sister’s remarks portend a possible nuclear or missile provocation.

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New Zealand house prices have fallen year-on-year for the first time in more than a decade as rising interest rates finally halted a dizzying boom that had only gained momentum after the coronavirus pandemic first hit. The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand on Thursday reported median prices fell 1.8% in July when compared with the same month last year. The decline was more pronounced in the biggest city of Auckland, where prices fell 5.6%, and in the capital, Wellington, down by 5.9%. Sales also declined by more than one-third. Up until its peak last November, the New Zealand property market had been among the frothiest in the world.

The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that Gov. Kate Brown was within her authority to grant clemency during the coronavirus pandemic to nearly 1,000 people convicted of crimes. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the governor’s use of her powers to shorten prison sentences drew condemnation from Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny and Lane County District Attorney Patricia Perlow. The attorneys and family members of crime victims sued the governor and other state officials to stop the clemency actions. The majority of the people receiving clemency were either medically at risk during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic or had helped with wildfire fighting efforts during the historic Labor Day fires in 2020.

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China’s 11 million university graduates are struggling in a bleak job market as repeated shutdowns under China’s “zero-COVID policy” force companies to retrench and drive many restaurants and other small employers out of business. When Liu Qian entered the job market, she said she felt as if her future had been smashed and didn’t know if she could piece it together. The 26-year-old graduate sent out more than 100 job applications and saw two openings she interviewed for eliminated before landing a job. Countless others are still looking. China’s job drought echoes the difficulties of young people worldwide in finding work in depressed economies.

Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has COVID-19. Abrams campaign spokesperson Alex Floyd says Abrams tested positive for the respiratory illness Wednesday morning after giving a public speech on the economy Tuesday night in Atlanta. Floyd says Abrams tests daily for COVID-19 and had tested negative on Monday and Tuesday. The Abrams campaign requires visitors to its campaign headquarters to wear masks and take a rapid test for COVID-19. Floyd says Abrams is fully vaccinated and boosted and has mild symptoms. He says Abrams is isolating at home and looks forward to resuming her travel schedule as soon as possible.

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Eviction filings around the country are returning to pre-pandemic levels in many cities and states. The numbers have spiked from Connecticut to Utah, driven in part by rising rental prices and dwindling federal rental assistance. Legal advocates say some landlords are choosing not to take rental assistance, in favor or finding new tenants who will pay higher rents. Advocates are calling for states and cities to enact greater legal protections for tenants and support a federal bill that would make rental assistance permanent. Evictions dropped significantly during the pandemic and started rising after a federal eviction moratorium went away about a year ago.

Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways says losses in the first half of the year narrowed as a relaxation in quarantine rules boosted passenger numbers. But it cautioned that quarantine restrictions on its crew were limiting the airline’s ability to increase flight capacity. The company reported losses of about $637 million in the first six months, down from $964.5 million in the same period last year. Hong Kong relaxed strict quarantine rules from 14 to seven days in mandatory hotel quarantine earlier this year, and to just three days from Friday. It still remains one of the few places in the world, together with mainland China, to require mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers. The city’s airline is lagging behind competitors like Singapore Airlines.

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Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Republican challenger Scott Jensen scored easy victories Tuesday in their primaries to set the stage for their fall matchup in Minnesota’s top race this fall.  Meanwhile, business lawyer Jim Schultz won the GOP primary to take on Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison. Walz is seeking his second term under the same “One Minnesota” slogan he used four years ago, but in a more polarized environment. Jensen and the GOP are seeking to turn his management of the COVID-19 pandemic against him. Both men easily overcame little-known or perennial candidates to formalize a race that’s been underway for months. In the Republican attorney general primary, Schultz beat Doug Wardlow, who narrowly lost to Ellison in 2018.

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A jury has been selected in the second trial of two men charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over their disgust with restrictions early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The judge and lawyers on Tuesday settled on 18 people, including six alternates, to hear the case against Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. A jury in April couldn’t reach a verdict on the two men. Two co-defendants were acquitted and two more pleaded guilty. Dozens of prospective jurors from western and northern Michigan reported to the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids. The government says the plot to kidnap the Democratic governor followed training in Wisconsin and Michigan and two trips to scout her second home in northern Michigan. Defense attorneys say Fox and Croft were entrapped.

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