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Anger Over Whistleblowers Mount in China as Coronavirus Deaths Pass 1,000

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  • The death toll for the coronavirus now sits at 1,018 as of Tuesday morning, but only one person outside of China has died. 
  • There are more than 43,000 cases worldwide but just under 400 outside of China and only 13 in the U.S.
  • A day after describing most of the cases in China as “mild,” the World Health Organization said a clinical trial is underway in the country.
  • In China, many citizens are displaying rare signs of public anger against the government after the whistleblower doctor who warned about the disease died and a journalist went missing. 

How Many Deaths and Cases Have Been Reported?

As of Tuesday morning, 1,018 people have died from the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and 43,101 cases have been confirmed worldwide.

Though China saw its deadliest day with 108 deaths and nearly 2,500 reported cases on Monday, the virus still lacks that same impact outside of the country. Currently, only about 400 cases outside of China have been confirmed since the beginning of the outbreak. Of the over 1,000 people who died, only one was reported outside China. That death occurred in the Philippines. 

In the U.S. alone, there are only thirteen confirmed cases — seven of which are in California. No one in the country has died of the virus, though it reportedly did kill one U.S. citizen in Wuhan.

What is the World Health Organization Saying?

On Monday, an advance team with the World Health Organization arrived in China. It is expected to lay the groundwork for a larger international team.

According to Tedros Adhanom, director-general of the WHO, there is still a good chance of stopping the outbreak of the coronavirus, which was officially named as COVID-19 at a press conference on Tuesday.

“If we invest now in rational and evidence-based interventions, we have a realistic chance of stopping the COVID19 outbreak,” he said at the conference.

According to Adhanom, one of the biggest concerns of the WHO remains the potential for the virus to “create havoc” if it reaches a country with a weak health system. 

Additionally, the WHO’s executive director Michael J. Ryan said a clinical trial is “already on the way” in China. Thursday, China also began enrolling patients in a clinical trial of the antiviral drug, remdesivir.

On Monday, Adhanom said most cases of the virus are still mild. 

Whistleblower Doctor’s Death 

In a rather surprising turn of events, many Chinese citizens have engaged in a rare criticism of their authoritarian government on social media. 

Much of the criticism stems from the death of 33-year-old doctor Li Wenliang. On Dec. 30, Li warned his medical school alumni group about the coronavirus, telling them that several people had been quarantined at Wuhan Central Hospital after coming down with a respiratory illness that seemed like SARS.

Li sent the message over the messaging app WeChat, and after someone screenshotted and shared that message publically, it went viral. The same day, the Wuhan Health Commission published a notice that several people had contracted pneumonia, possibly at a seafood market. 

Then, on Jan. 3, Li was reportedly approached by Wuhan authorities, who forced him to sign a letter admitting that he had made “false comments” online. 

Of course, a couple of weeks later, more cases of the coronavirus began popping up, with the virus becoming a very serious and real issue. 

In that time, Li had resumed his work at the hospital, but soon after, he ended up contracting the virus from an infected patient. On Jan. 12, he checked himself into the hospital. He also continued to speak out against misinformation on his Weibo account while a patient himself.

“I was wondering why [the government’s] official notices were still saying there was no human-to-human transmission, and there were no healthcare workers infected,” he said from his hospital bed on Jan. 31

On Feb. 7, however, Li died from the virus. 

Li’s Death Sparks Rare Criticism of Government in China

Because of Li’s censure and ultimate death by the virus, many are blaming Wuhan authorities for causing the virus to get out of hand. In fact, China’s Supreme People’s Court condemned those authorities, saying that listening to the rumor “…might have been a fortunate thing for containing the new coronavirus, if the public had listened to this ‘rumor’ at the time, and adopted measures such as wearing masks, strict disinfection and avoiding going to the wildlife market.”

However, many Chinese citizens have taken the criticism one step further by directly challenging the whole of the Chinese government. 

On Feb. 8, 10 Wuhan professors signed a letter to the government asking it to enforce its own freedom of speech articles laid out in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, apologize to and compensate several other whistleblowers, and recognize Dr. Li as a national martyr.

Also following Li’s death, many Chinese citizens flooded social media sites with negative messages against the government. Some even seemingly tried to invoke the idea of a revolution by posting clips of the Les Misérables song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” 

Source: Weibo

In response, the Chinese government dispatched a team to investigate “issues related to Dr. Li that were reported by the public,” though it failed to give specifics.

Journalist Goes Missing in Wuhan

That anger exacerbated after the disappearance of Chinese journalist and human rights activist Chen Qiushi, who has been missing since Feb. 6. 

Chen operated a YouTube page where he has been uploading content featuring him visiting hospitals to speak with patients and doctors. 

In a video shared to both Chen’s YouTube and Twitter, Chen’s mother asked people to help find her son, who has not been seen by family or friends since his disappearance. 

The incident was enough to lead to speculation that the Chinese government is attempting to stop another whistleblower. On social media, many criticized the government by saying it is trying to silence the true conditions in Wuhan. 

Many comments about Chen have since been wiped from Weibo. 

Chen, however, is no stranger to run-ins with the government. Reportedly, he had been detained in August for covering the Hong Kong extradition protests. 

In a second video posted on Feb. 7, a message from Chen’s mother revealed that Chen had been forcibly detained and quarantined. His mother then reportedly asked where and when Chen was taken, but police wouldn’t tell her. 

On Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists, which based in New York, said, “Chinese authorities must immediately account for the whereabouts of journalist Chen Qiushi, and ensure that the media can cover the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan without fear of retribution.”

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Reuters) (CNN)

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200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing 

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The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16. 


Children Missing From Hotels

There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.

When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.

In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.

Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.

Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”

Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing. 

However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.”  The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.” 

Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline. 

The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)

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100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History

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Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”


The NHS Grinds to a Halt

Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.

The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.

Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.

When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.

In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”

Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.

The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.

During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.

Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament

Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.

“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”

“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”

Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”

Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”

“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”

While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.

Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.

If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.

Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)

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Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”

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One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.


Epic Games Sued 

A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.

The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years. 

If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case. 

Epic Games Responds

“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.” 

Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.

The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children. 

“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.” 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Washington Post) (Deadline

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