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Feb 25, 2020

Coronavirus: Italians on high alert as coronavirus spreads beyond the north of the country

Holly Ellyatt




Premium: Virus Screening Of Airline Passengers Arriving From Italy
A health worker screens the temperature of an airline passenger arriving from Italy at Debrecen International Airport in Debrecen, Hungary, on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.
Bloomberg

Italy is struggling to contain a rapid outbreak of the coronavirus, with new cases confirmed in the capitals of Tuscany and Sicily — the first case south of Rome.
As of Tuesday morning, 283 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, Italian media reported, including in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, and Palermo, in Sicily. Seven people have died from the virus in the country. As with many victims elsewhere, those who have died in Italy were elderly or had preexisting health conditions.
The number of cases is rising rapidly: On Friday morning, Italy only had 3 confirmed cases before a sharp spike over the weekend. The outbreak was previously contained to the wealthy northern regions of the country but has now spread, with cases recorded in Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Lazio.
The outbreak has prompted a blame game between the northern region of Lombardy and the government in Rome.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the outbreak in Italy — the largest outside of Asia — had been caused by a hospital that had not followed proper protocol. He did not name the hospital but it was presumed to be in the north.
“There was a hotspot and it spread from there in part due to the management of a hospital that was not done entirely according to the prudent protocols that are recommended in these cases,” Conte said Monday, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
But an official in the region of Lombardy, where most of the cases (for now, over 200) are concentrated, hit back by calling the government “incapable” and saying Conte’s remarks were “groundless and unacceptable,” ANSA said.
Meanwhile, opposition politician Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigration Lega party, said Monday on Facebook that “someone will have to answer to the Italian people about what it was supposed to do and was not done.” He said that on Jan. 30, his party had started to request obligatory controls on anyone coming from virus-hit countries but had not been listened to.

‘Knocking at the door’

The World Health Organization sent a mission to Italy, saying Monday it was deeply worried about the sudden increase in cases in Italy, as well as in Iran and South Korea. On Tuesday, the WHO warned countries they must be ready for the fast-spreading coronavirus to be “literally knocking at the door.”
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier, speaking at a news briefing in Geneva, said officials from the organization were meeting in Rome to discuss “pretty strong” measures taken in Italy, Reuters reported.
Italy is trying to contain the spread of the virus in its prosperous northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, which account for around 30% of the nation’s gross domestic product. Italy’s economy is already expected to grow only 0.5% in 2020, according to previous Bank of Italy forecasts, and the growth rate is now expected to take a hit.
Earlier Tuesday, the Italian government’s deputy economy minister said the European Union could give Italy some leeway on its budget commitments and borrowing given the crisis and its expected economic impact.
Almost a dozen towns in Lombardy and Veneto are under lockdown, public events have been canceled and schools, universities and bars closed; Venice’s annual carnival was also shut down early.
In Naples on Tuesday, religious authorities suggested that churchgoers refrain from exchanging the sign of peace, shaking hands or embracing during Mass.

Italian magistrates announced they were opening a probe into the costs of face masks and hand gel that had skyrocketed in the wake of the outbreak, Reuters reported.
With Venice and Milan popular destinations for tourists and business trips, countries around the world — from the Netherlands to Saudi Arabia — have warned against travel to the north or whole of Italy. The U.K. advised anyone returning from the affected areas to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The European Commission has advised its own staff not to travel to Lombardy, advocating the use of teleconferences instead.

US Politics: Sanders to be in focus at South Carolina debate as rivals aim to slow his surge

Trevor Hunnicutt


CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Surging front-runner Bernie Sanders will be in the hot seat at the Democratic debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, when his six presidential rivals try to derail his growing momentum before the next big round of nominating contests.
FILE PHOTO: Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Senator Bernie Sanders are seen on video screens in the media filing center during the ninth Democratic 2020 U.S. Presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., February 19, 2020. REUTERS/David Becker/File Photo
Free-spending billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who had a rough debut on the debate stage last week in Nevada, also will be back in the spotlight at the candidates’ final encounter before Saturday’s South Carolina primary and next week’s 14 vital Super Tuesday contests.
The pressure for a strong performance will be high for all of the contenders. Joe Biden, the national front-runner not so long ago, needs to win South Carolina to keep his campaign alive, while Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer are desperately battling for relevance.
It will be the third debate this month, and the 10th overall, for the Democrats vying for the right to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.
The encounters have grown more contentious as time runs out for the candidates to make their case.
“Sanders will probably be the focus of attacks this time, but I expect there are going to be several people in the line of fire from all directions,” said Kelly Dietrich, a Democratic strategist who trains candidates.
Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and a self-identified democratic socialist, has taken command of the race after strong showings in the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, alarming a Democratic establishment wary of his aggressive economic equality and social justice agenda.
But he stayed largely out of the spotlight at last week’s debate as the candidates turned a volley of scathing attacks on Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who had been rising in polls after an unprecedented spending spree on ads.
Bloomberg will need to rebound at Tuesday’s debate to keep his momentum alive. He entered the race in November and is skipping the four early voting states to focus on later contests starting with Super Tuesday, when 14 states vote.
Sanders will not be able to slide by as easily this time around, as candidates are already turning up their attacks on him on the campaign trail.

CHALLENGE FOR BUTTIGIEG

Buttigieg, the moderate former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has led the charge against Sanders, labeling him a polarizing candidate who would repel new voters.
Buttigieg could also face one of his most challenging debates. South Carolina and its large bloc of black voters will be a test of whether he can improve on what polls show is his lack of appeal to African Americans.
He joined a march of McDonald’s workers in Charleston on Monday demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and was met by counter-protesters wearing shirts that read: “Black Voters Matter” and chanting: “Pete can’t be our president. Where was $15 in South Bend?”
Sanders is likely to be questioned about his praise for Cuba’s late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro during an interview on the “60 Minutes” television program on Sunday. He said it was unfair to say everything about Castro was bad.
“When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” Sanders asked.
That drew blowback from Democrats in Florida, a general election battleground and home to a large number of people who fled Cuba during Castro’s rule and their descendants.
The debate stakes will be high as well for Biden, the former vice president. He is counting on a win in South Carolina, given his popularity among black voters, who make up more than half of the Democratic electorate in the Southern state.
Biden has led opinion polls in the state, but Sanders has been chipping away at his support and showed signs in Nevada he was expanding his backing to a more diverse electorate. Sanders won most of the state’s sizable Latino voting bloc, entrance polls showed, and finished second to Biden among black voters.
Steyer, an activist billionaire who also has spent his own money heavily on his campaign, will return to the debate stage after failing to qualify in Nevada.
He could make a difference in South Carolina, where polls show he has his greatest strength. He registers third there in the Real Clear Politics average of state polls.
The debate might provide a make-or-break moment for Klobuchar and Warren, senators from Minnesota and Massachusetts respectively, whose lagging campaigns badly need a boost. In Nevada’s caucuses, Warren was a distant fourth behind Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg, with Klobuchar sixth, behind Steyer.
“Some of these candidates are likely to begin facing questions from the moderators about why they are staying in the race,” said Mitchell McKinney, a political scientist and debate expert at the University of Missouri.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and John Whitesides; Additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Peter Cooney

Market Insider | Biggest Moves Premarket: Stocks making the biggest moves in the premarket: Home Depot, Macy's, Mastercard, Intuit & more

Peter Schacknow



Take a look at some of the biggest movers in the premarket:

Home Depot (HD) – The home improvement retailer reported quarterly earnings of $2.28 per share, beating the consensus estimate of $2.10 a share. Revenue and same-store sales were also above Wall Street forecasts, and Home Depot also announced a 10% dividend increase.
Macy’s (M) – Macy’s reported quarterly earnings of $2.12 per share, 16 cents a share above estimates. Revenue also came in above forecasts. Same-store sales on an owned plus licensed basis fell 0.5%, a smaller drop than the 0.9% that analysts were expecting.
Mastercard (MA) – Mastercard announced a leadership transition, naming Chief Product Officer Michael Miebach as CEO effective Jan. 1, 2021. At that time, current CEO Ajay Banga will become executive chairman. Separately, Mastercard said its current-quarter revenue would drop by 2% to 3% if the coronavirus persists through the quarter.
United Airlines (UAL) – United withdrew its full-year 2020 forecast, pointing to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus on travel. The airline also said that near-term demand for travel to China amid the outbreak had virtually disappeared.
Tupperware (TUP) – The household products maker warned of a shortfall in its full-year 2019 earnings, which will not be out today as originally scheduled. Tupperware said it was probing its accounting for results in its Fuller Mexico unit. It also said participating banks have granted relief from a covenant in a $650 million credit agreement which might have resulted in potential acceleration of required payback.
Mallinckrodt (MNK) – The drugmaker is finalizing a plan that would put its U.S. generic drug business into bankruptcy, according to The Wall Street Journal. The move would help deal with liabilities stemming from the opioid crisis.
Intuit (INTU) – Intuit reported quarterly profit of $1.16 per share, 14 cents a share above estimates. The financial software maker also reported better-than-expected revenue and Intuit announced the acquisition of credit monitoring service Credit Karma for about $7.1 billion in cash and stock.
Palo Alto Networks (PANW) – Palo Alto reported quarterly earnings of $1.19 per share, 7 cents a share above estimates. The cybersecurity company’s revenue was well below Wall Street forecasts, however, and Palo Alto issued lower-than-expected guidance for the current quarter and the full year citing the impact of sales incentives.
Shake Shack (SHAK) – Shake Shack reported quarterly profit of 6 cents per share, compared to expectations of a 1 cent per share loss. The restaurant chain’s revenue missed forecasts, however, and same-restaurant sales fell by a larger-than-expected 3.6% during the quarter.
Hertz Global (HTZ) – Hertz lost 24 cents per share for its latest quarter, 3 cents a share less than analysts had been expecting. The car rental company’s revenue was essentially in line with forecasts.
HP Inc. (HPQ) – HP came in 11 cents a share ahead of estimates, with quarterly earnings of 65 cents per share. The computer and printer maker’s revenue was also slightly above Street projections. HP pledged to return $16 billion to shareholders in a bid to stave offer a hostile takeover bid from Xerox (XRX).
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) – The bank is expected to leave its financial targets unchanged at today’s annual investor day, according to analysts quoted by Reuters.
Expedia (EXPE) – Expedia will cut 3,000 jobs, or about 12% of its workforce, as the travel website operator streamlines its business.
General Electric (GE) – GE cut about 78,000 employees last year, according to its newly issued annual report, leaving it with about 205,000 workers at the end of 2019. That drops employee levels at GE to 1951 levels.
Moderna (MRNA) – Moderna announced it had shipped a coronavirus vaccine to U.S. government researchers for study, with the first clinical trial expected by the end of April.
Tenet Healthcare (THC) – Tenet earned an adjusted 99 cents per share for its fourth quarter, beating estimates by a penny a share. The hospital operator’s revenue also beat forecasts, with same-hospital admissions up 2.6%.
Tesla (TSLA) – The automaker’s stock was downgraded to “hold” from “buy” at Jefferies, although it did raise its price target on the automaker’s stock to $800 from the prior $600. Jefferies said it needs a clearer view of potential profitability, particularly in the battery business.

Businessweek: China’s Surveillance State Pushed to the Limits in Virus Fight

Shelly Banjo 


A poster featuring people wearing protective masks is displayed near surveillance cameras in Shanghai.
A poster featuring people wearing protective masks is displayed near surveillance cameras in Shanghai.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

For decades, China has been building and refining the ability to track its citizens’ whereabouts and interactions to contain dissent and protest. The state’s effort to try to contain the rapid spread of the new coronavirus is now testing the limits of that surveillance system.
To slow down any virus, it’s important to interrupt person-to-person transmission. Officials in China have used a mix of high- and low-tech methods to find and monitor people who may have been exposed to the virus, which has infected more than 77,600 and killed upwards of 2,600 in the country as of Feb. 24. Authorities have sourced data from phone carriers and called on private tech companies to set up virtual health hotlines in order to trace everyone who’s been in or near Hubei province, home to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. They’ve also activated an extensive network of Communist Party members and community groups, encouraging citizens to monitor neighbors’ vital signs and whereabouts.
A 25-year-old who studies in Wuhan told Bloomberg News he was surprised when officials found him about 300 miles (482 kilometers) north in his hometown of Henan. The postgraduate student, who asked not to be named because he feared police retaliation, left Wuhan in early January. Two weeks later, a Henan police officer called, saying he suspected the student had visited the seafood market where the virus is thought to have originated and asked if the student was feeling all right. Soon, the student was overwhelmed by calls and visits from health officials, police officers, and other authorities; doctors came to take his temperature daily for two weeks. He hadn’t contracted the virus. Overwhelmed, the student turned off his phone.
tech_surveillance_02
The neighborhood committee visits residents in Beijing’s Xicheng district.
Photographer: Peter Martin/Bloomberg
Mobile phones—which, like social media accounts, are linked to Chinese citizens’ national identity numbers—are an integral part of China’s surveillance. Now they’re a key part of its virus-containment efforts. China’s big three state-owned phone carriers have responded to the call last month by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to contribute data to fight the outbreak. As of Feb. 12, China Mobile Ltd.’s 300-strong big-data team had fulfilled more than 400 government requests for data on people’s movement. China Telecom Corp. has helped 24 provinces install a system that lets officials and medical staff record and monitor people’s personal, health, and travel information. It’s also adding systems at office buildings that track people’s identities and health through facial recognition and automatic temperature gauges.
Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Alipay have helped the government develop a new, color-coded health-rating system to identify people as high-, medium-, or low-risk and monitor their movements.
The system, in use at offices, malls, and subways, scans people seeking to enter and allows or denies them access based on their ratings. Provinces including Hubei are requiring anyone selling cough or fever treatments to report the buyers’ identities to the government, and plan to use purchase data to find people who might be ill.
tech_surveillance_03
A pedestrian wearing a protective mask walks past shuttered stores in Shanghai.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Some of the new tools are intensifying the paranoia that’s setting in as some of China’s 1.4 billion people isolate themselves at home, with little to do but search the internet. Baidu Inc.’s map function now shows how crowded a neighborhood is so people can avoid congested areas, while WeChat has added functionality so users of its social network can see if they’re in the proximity of confirmed virus cases. WeChat and microblogging site Weibo have set up virtual hotlines on which people can report friends, family members, and neighbors who might be sick or who aren’t taking proper quarantine precautions.
Since late January, spreadsheets and lists identifying people living in or returning home from Wuhan have been circulating around social media, including Weibo. A Wuhan resident included in one of the lists says he recently received an influx of strange calls. The resident, who asks to remain anonymous to prevent further harassment, says he quarantined himself alone at home for 14 days because his parents both tested positive for the virus. His mother recovered after spending four days in the hospital, while his father remained at a local hospital.
tech_surveillance_04
A security guard looks at a monitor showing a thermographic image of passengers walking through a temperature screening point at an entrance to a subway station in Shanghai.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
In recent weeks, China has turned to low-tech tactics. Across the country, scores of neighborhood committee members have been deployed to take people’s temperatures each day and record their whereabouts. Earlier this month, a group of young women in red down jackets and flimsy surgical masks went door-to-door in Beijing’s Shichahai neighborhood with clipboards to record residents’ temperatures, ID numbers, and recent travel. One, a party member who said she oversees 500 households, told a Bloomberg reporter that as a disease prevention measure, the community would now restrict outsiders from entering—including grocery deliverymen—on orders “from above.”
The panic and fear that blanket surveillance creates could actually undermine efforts to contain the epidemic. China had come under criticism for silencing doctors in Wuhan who suspected the virus was serious early on, and the suspicion facing people thought to be potentially ill could discourage the transparency needed to engender trust and fight an epidemic, says Stuart Hargreaves, a law professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong who researches surveillance and privacy issues. “If you had an approach that encouraged the reporting of ‘negative’ information, rather than punishing it, then this outbreak might have been limited at a much earlier point,” he says.
tech_surveillance_05A
The Baidu Inc. map application displays the locations visited by patients who have been confirmed to have the coronavirus infection and crowded neighborhoods on a smartphone in an arranged photograph taken in Shanghai on Feb. 21.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
It’s also not clear that the use of mass surveillance will be effective. While it might seem useful to have full oversight of citizens’ movements and vital signs, making use of data of that scale requires manpower and training that China’s police force lacks, says Suzanne Scoggins, an assistant professor at Clark University. Scoggins, who researches policing and authoritarian control in China, says tracing the spread of a virus is different from tracking the movements of dissidents or criminals. “This is still relatively new technology that is likely being used in a way that is different from its original design,” Scoggins says. “It may help some, but we shouldn’t expect it to contain an outbreak.”
Blanket surveillance is different from so-called contact tracing, a practice that goes back centuries to map a disease’s spread, most famously when Dr. John Snow used it to find the source of the 1854 cholera outbreak in London—a water pump. The usefulness of high-tech surveillance tools will be limited until officials identify the incubation period of the new coronavirus and develop rapid diagnostic tests and effective treatment, says Jessica Justman, associate professor of medicine in epidemiology at Columbia University and senior technical director of its global public health center, ICAP. Without a better understanding, “it’s going to make it much harder to effectively use the kind of cellphone and other data people are imagining,” says Justman, who has gone door-to-door across Africa, testing people for HIV to map its spread and provide them with treatment options.
tech_surveillance_06
A sign that says registration is required for everyone is displayed as a volunteer takes the temperature of a resident at a checkpoint at the entrance to a neighborhood in Shanghai.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Person-to-person transmission of this coronavirus may be particularly difficult to stop because it may be highly infectious before symptoms are apparent, says Keiji Fukuda, the director of University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health and a former adviser to the World Health Organization on pandemic influenza. If patients don’t realize they’re sick, they’re less likely to stay home or take other precautions.
tech_surveillance_07
Residents pick up parcels from delivery workers at the entrance to a neighborhood in Shanghai.
Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
China’s surveillance system has long alarmed human rights advocates, who point to the detention of about 1 million Uighur and other Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, restrictions on the open web, and tightening social control. That’s led to concerns about how this new flood of tracking and data collection might be used by the government, even after the outbreak has passed. “We need to make it very clear what health authorities are doing and why they are doing it,” says Fukuda, who is advising Hong Kong's government on the coronavirus outbreak. “I think people are inherently suspicious and distrustful. So it’s really important—if you’re dealing with an outbreak—to explain there are good reasons to conduct disease surveillance.” —With Sharon Chen and Peter Martin
(Updates with number of infections and deaths from virus in China as of Feb. 24, in second paragraph)

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: The Justice Department is giving up on an encryption truce with Big Tech


By Joseph Marks


PowerPost Analysis
Analysis Interpretation of the news based on evidence, including data, as well as anticipating how events might unfold based on past events


U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John Demers in 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

THE KEY
SAN FRANCISCO – The Justice Department has essentially given up hope that tech companies will voluntarily build into their products a special way for law enforcement to access encrypted communications to help track terrorists and criminals, a top official says.
Instead, the department is focusing on getting legislation that forces companies to cooperate –  and is hoping encryption-limiting laws in Australia and the United Kingdom will ease the path for a similar law in the United States, said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.
“If there were a proposal from tech companies or a desire to talk about this issue that wasn't just everybody rehashing their own positionsthen we'd be happy to hear it,” he said. “But we really haven't gotten anywhere in however many years we've been open to talk.”
The shift illustrates how law enforcement believes it now has a political advantage in the debate over warrant-proof encryption – especially in Congress where lawmakers harangued officials from Apple and Facebook over the systems during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in December. As committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned the companies then: “You’re going to find a way to do this or we’re going to do it for you.”
“I've never seen such a bipartisan appetite for legislation," Demers said of that hearing. "It seems to me that in Congress something has shifted and it's shifted in favor of trying to find some solution to this problem.”
Demers was speaking with reporters ahead of the RSA Conference in San Francisco – one of the top annual gatherings of tech and cybersecurity executives. But there’s no organized plan to lobby any of those leaders on warrant-proof encryption, he said, describing their positions as “dug in.”
That's a sea change from 2016, when the FBI and Justice Department sought to appeal to Big Tech to find a compromise, as prospects for encryption-limiting legislation seemed all but dead. Back then, the momentum seemed to be security experts who argued there’s no way to give police special access to encrypted systems without raising the risk that criminal hackers could also break into those systems.
The FBI stepped back that year from a legal standoff with Apple in which it tried to force the company to help it crack into an encrypted iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. And two years later the bureau was rocked by internal watchdog reports that found it had rushed to litigation against Apple without exploring other ways to crack into the phone and repeatedly overstated how many cases were foiled by encryption.
Demers pointed to two big changes since then that have given the government’s encryption arguments juice.
First, Congress and the broader public are feeling a lot less sympathetic to big tech companies in the wake of myriad privacy scandals and after Russian operatives co-opted social media to spread disinformation during the 2016 election.
“If you look at what the feeling is about social media companies in Congress today versus what it wasin 2015, it's very different,” he said. “There’s a sense that social media companies ought to have more responsibility for what's happening on their platforms.”
Second, Australia passed a first-of-its-kind law allowing police to force companies to give them access to encrypted communications in 2018 and the United Kingdom passed a more limited law in 2016.
Demers hopes those laws will create a model for how lawmakers in the United States might limit encryption, he said. But he’s also hoping if encryption-limiting laws spread that will knock back one big argument made by U.S. tech companies – that backdoors for law enforcement will mean lost business to companies in countries that aren’t bound by similar laws.
“If their competitors are in these other countries [with encryption-limiting laws]then there's not going to be a competitive disadvantage for American companies,” he said.
Justice officials have also shifted their messaging on encryption, talking less about the danger of terrorists recruiting and planning operations outside law enforcement's view and more about the threat of a surge in child predators sharing illicit images or luring children on social media. There are signs it might be working: the tough-on-tech hearing in December came after Attorney General William P. Barr offered a public plea for Facebook to back off plans to expand encryption on its messaging platforms for these reasons.
Facebook refused to change its plans, saying limiting encryption would damage cybersecurity for all its users.

PINGED, PATCHED, PWNED


President Trump steps off Air Force One after arriving in Charlotte in early February. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
PINGED: The drama over intelligence agency reports about Russia supporting President Trump and Democratic front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) continues. Trump slammed House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) saying that he "set up" the intelligence community with “lies and leaks.” 
Set up by Schiff’s lies & leaks. Same with the Mueller Witch Hunt 3 years ago! https://t.co/uSzupeHXoq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2020
Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) also wrote to the Treasury and State Departments urging new sanctions on Russia in light of the reports, per Emma Loop at BuzzFeed.
NEW: Three senior Democratic senators have written to Treasury Sec. Mnuchin & Sec. of State Pompeo urging them "to immediately and forcefully" hit Russia with sanctions in response to reports that the intel community told Congress that Russia is interfering in the 2020 elections. pic.twitter.com/LQ1xy1AQe4
— Emma Loop (@LoopEmma) February 24, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a dinner Monday in Charleston, S.C. (Matt Rourke/AP)
PATCHED: Facebook, meanwhile, came up empty-handed in a probe of whether suspicious content boosting Sanders's presidential bid was linked to Trump supporters or Russia, the Wall Street Journal's Emily Glazer and Dustin Volz report
The company investigated the content after an outside researcher flagged it as suspicious, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told Emily and Dustin. He also said that the company has not been notified by the intelligence community that Russian actors are boosting Sanders on social media. 
“Had we found a campaign of coordinated inauthentic behavior, we would’ve removed it and announced it publicly, just as we did more than 50 times last year, Stone told Emily and Dustin.
U.S. intelligence officials have briefed Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primary, my colleagues reported last week. But it wasn't immediately clear what form that assistance took and if it involved social media manipulation. U.S. prosecutors previously uncovered a Russian effort in 2016 using social media to boost Sanders's candidacy. 

Richard Grenell. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images)
PWNED: Trump’s pick for acting director of the intelligence community, who is under fire from Democrats who say he’s underqualified and overly-partisan, will also drawn into the efforts to extradite Julian Assange from London, Natasha Bertrand at Politico reports
Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder plan to argue that Richard Grenell, as U.S. ambassador to Germany, was part of a highly political process to ensure Assange’s extradition and was working under direct orders from Trump, Natasha reports. That included guaranteeing to Ecuadoran officials that Assange would not face the death penalty in the United States if they expelled him from the embassy where he had taken refuge for the past eight years. 
The argument is based on secondhand conversations with Grenell's associate Arthur Schwartz, who texted journalist Cassandra Fairbanks that Grenell took orders from the president. Schwartz has denied implicating Grenell. 
Here’s more on opening arguments in the Assange extradition case from my colleagues William Booth and Karla Adam.

PUBLIC KEY

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants answers from ShiftState, the cybersecurity firm that audited the Voatz mobile voting app that's come under fire for security flaws, Tim Starks at Politico reports. Wyden wants to know how and why ShiftState gave the system a clean bill of health.
— More cybersecurity news from the public sector:

The legislation does not go far enough to strengthen protections for targets of intelligence wiretaps, privacy advocates say
Ellen Nakashima

“The one area that China has been keen to exploit is at the state level because state governments largely are not aware of the threat it poses to them,” Sen. Marco Rubio said at the report’s release.
Nextgov

Lawmakers scored another win in their fight against TikTok after the Transportation Security Administration barred its employees from using the megapopular video app.
The Hill

PRIVATE KEY

Cybersecurity news from the private sector:

All signs point to an attack exploiting PayPal's Google Pay integration.
ZDNet

A new report warns that the iOS copy/paste function has this risky "exploit" built-in.
Forbes

THE NEW WILD WEST

Cybersecurity news from abroad:

The Prime Minister's office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Intelligence Service (EYP) and the Hellenic Police (ELAS) were the targets of an international cyber espionage campaign in April 2019 code-named “Sea Turtle.”
Kathimerini

Mexico's economy ministry detected a cyber attack on some of its servers on...
Reuters

Australia is under an "unprecedented" threat of foreign espionage and ...
Reuters



The Market: Stock market sell-off continues as companies count cost of coronavirus crisis – business live

Graeme Wearden



Today’s flurry of corporate warnings highlights the damage that a Covid-19 pandemic would have on the global economy -- both on supply chains and on customer demand.
Olivier Blanchard, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, fears that governments will struggle to cushion this blow:
Olivier Blanchard (@ojblanchard1)
1. The next few days will likely see an avalanche of analyses of the economic effects of the corona virus. Here are a few points, building on a previous thread. Basic point: Anti virus measures aim at the core of economic organization, the division of labor.
February 24, 2020
Olivier Blanchard (@ojblanchard1)
2. We have to assume that we shall see repeated and localized pockets of infection around the world for some time to come (maybe until vaccines come on line). These in turn will lead to quarantines, border closures, and disruption of economic relations.
February 24, 2020
Olivier Blanchard (@ojblanchard1)
3. Because the remedies are extreme, even small risks of infection and of death can have a drastic effect on economic activity.
From a macro viewpoint, it is an unusual supply shock. What can policy do?
February 24, 2020
Olivier Blanchard (@ojblanchard1)
4. Fiscal policy cannot increase production where the source is firm closures or supply chain disruptions. But it can help fund the means to fight the epidemic, be it health measures, hiring health personnel, helping suppliers of medical equipment.
February 24, 2020
Olivier Blanchard (@ojblanchard1)
5. If panic leads to a large decrease in demand, a fiscal expansion may be able, if not to get output back to its previous level, at least to maintain higher output.
February 24, 2020
Olivier Blanchard (@ojblanchard1)
6. In the same way, monetary policy can help sustain demand. But it can help the financial sector help firms in trouble, either because of low sales or supply disruptions.
Bottom line: Even if the death cost is limited, the economic cost may be large.
February 24, 2020
The Spanish stock exchange in Madrid, Spain. Photograph: Fernando Alvarado/EPA
European stocks are under pressure again, because Italian authorities have just announced the first positive coronavirus case in the South of Italy.
A woman from Bergamo, who was on holiday with her friends in Sicily, has tested positive for Covid-19. The patient, who is not in serious conditions, has been transferred to the Hospital Cervello in Palermo, our Coronavirus liveblog reports....
Three more people have died from the virus in Iran (taking the total to 15), and there are almost 1,000 cases in South Korea.
This bad news is weighing on the markets, with cruise operator Carnival and holiday operator TUI both down 2%, among the big fallers in London. The UK, Italian and Spanish markets are all in the red again.
Josh Mahony, senior market analyst at IG, explains:

What was largely a Chinese issue to resolve has soon become an international problem, with European eyes transfixed on Italian efforts to curb the spread of the virus. With European borders open and the Italian ‘patient zero’ still unknown, things could easily turn from bad to worse in the efforts to keep the coronavirus at bay.
With tourism to and from China plummeting, there is little reason to expect any different in Europe if this virus spreads throughout the continent. The declines seen for largely European-focused airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair highlight the increasing fear that we will see travel locked down closer to home, with obvious knock-on implications for consumer activity should that occur

The rally has fizzled out!
Britain’s FTSE 100 has dropped back to yesterday’s two-month closing low of 7163 points, and the Stoxx 600 index is slightly negative.
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Another specialist UK manufacturer, Morgan Advanced Materials, also expects to lose millions of pounds due to Covid-19.
Morgan makes heat-resistant products such as thermal ceramics, crucibles and high-tech seals for use in extreme temperatures and corrosive environments.
It has has been forced to suspend work at a Chinese factory since the coronavirus outbreak began. It also expects to keep a plant in northern Italy closed for the next two weeks.
This will dent Morgan’s output - and thus revenues and profits -- as Reuters explains:

Industrial materials maker Morgan Advanced Materials has closed its manufacturing facilities in China because of the coronavirus outbreak and expects a hit to 2020 revenue and headline operating profit as a result, the company said on Tuesday.
The British company, which generates around 10% of its revenue from China, said the outbreak will take around £3.5m ($4.5m) off its headline operating profit and about £7m pounds off its revenue in 2020.
Morgan made operating profits of £134m last year, so this is a small but noticeable hit.

Engineering firm Ricardo's coronavirus profits warning

UK engineering and consulting firm Ricardo has issued a profit warning, due to the coronavirus.
Ricardo, which focuses on the transport, energy and scarce resources sectors, has told investors that full-year earnings will suffer a ‘material’ hit because of the Coronavirus’ disruptive impact on its China auto and rail operations.
Ricardo, which has nine offices and technical centres in China, says business development, project delivery and client engagement have all suffered from the crisis.
It says:
As we start the second half of the year, we have seen increased headwinds in the automotive sector which we anticipate will lead to suppressed order intake in our US, EMEA and China Automotive businesses.
The Coronavirus outbreak...has already had an operationally disruptive impact on our Automotive and Rail operations in China and we anticipate continuing disruption to client engagement, project delivery and business development in the coming months in mainland China and surrounding countries. Based on the issues highlighted above we are anticipating material impact to our forecast second half profits and thus full year

European stock markets have opened a little higher after Monday’s rout, but it looks very fragile.
The EU-wide Stoxx 600 index is up 0.5% this morning, having tumbled 3% yesterday. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC are up around 0.6%.
However the Italian FTSE MIB is continuing to fall, down another 0.5%, after it reported 7 coronavirus deaths and over 200 infections.

The number of cases of Covid-19 worldwide has now hit 80,000 - our main liveblog on the crisis has all the details:

Chemicals firm Croda: Covid-19 could disrupt operations

A pile of test tubes
A pile of test tubes Photograph: Juan Moyano/Alamy Stock Photo
UK specialist chemicals firm Croda has also told the City that the coronavirus crisis could hurt its business.
FTSE 100-listed Croda has five offices in China, in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei, so has suffered some disruption from the restrictions enforced by Beijing.
It told shareholders this morning:At this time, to the best of our knowledge, no Croda employees have been infected by the virus. Our sales offices have reopened, as have our two production units, albeit with more limited operations than usual. China represents 6% of Croda’s Core Business sales, 2% of Group production and a limited component of our raw material supply chain.
However, there is potential for some disruption to customer and consumer demand. We will continue to monitor the impact.
Shares in Croda are down 1.5%, after it also cautioned that demand in industrial markets is expected to remain weak but stable.

Meggitt: Coronavirus will hurt profit growth

Shares in UK engineering firm Meggitt have fallen by 4.5% at the start of trading, after it warned that the coronavirus crisis will hit its growth.
Meggitt, which makes components for the aerospace, defence and energy markets, told shareholders that its key markets will suffer from the spread of Covid-19.
It told the City that organic revenue growth will slow this year, explaining:
Sector specific factors including the production halt of the 737 MAX and supply chain disruption, as well as the wider macroeconomic impact of COVID-19 are expected to hold back margin progression in the short-term.
Meggitt added that air travel grow is likely to be curtailed by the virus (as industry body IATA warned last week), and that global supply chains will probably suffer from a production backlog due to Chinese factories being closed.
This has pushed the company’s shares to the bottom of the FTSE 100 leaderboard, down 27p at 567p.
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European markets struggle back after Dow's plunge

A display showing Tokyo’s stock benchmark Nikkei Stock Average today
A display showing Tokyo’s stock benchmark Nikkei Stock Average today Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
Investors around the globe are reeling from the worst day in two years, as anxiety over the coronavirus crisis hit fever pitch.
Stocks tumbled across the globe on Monday, with America’s Dow Jones shedding more than 1,000 points by the close. That’s its third biggest points decline ever, as technology companies, energy providers and mining firms bore the brunt.
Nightline (@Nightline)
Dow Jones closes down 1,000 points amid growing coronavirus fears. https://t.co/Vo1OFAdWUO pic.twitter.com/V6YwJnO2RW
February 25, 2020
The corporate cost of the crisis is mounting too. Overnight, Mastercard cut its financial outlook due to the outbreak and United Airlines withdrew its full-year 2020 guidance.
Japan’s stock markets has suffered heavy losses overnight, as traders catch up with events after a holiday on Monday. The Nikkei index has fallen by 3.34%, or 781 points, to 22,605 in a spate of nervy selling.
Australia’s S&P/ASX index has fallen again today, losing another 1.6%.
European stocks also shed over 3% yesterday, with the Italian FTSE MIB sliding by over 5% after a spate of coronavirus deaths in Italy.
Fears of a pandemic, with massive implications on global supply chains and world economic growth, are rife.
But after very heavy losses across the board yesterday, we may see a small recovery in European stock markets today. Britain’s FTSE 100 has just opened 30 points higher, at 7,186.
That’s only a teensy recovery, mind, as it plunged by 247 points during Monday’s rout.
European stock market futures, 25 February 2020
European stock market futures, 25 February 2020 Photograph: Bloomberg TV
Investors are glued to the latest reports of infection levels, with the global death toll now over 2,600.
So there’s little chance of the markets calming down soon, argues Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.
There is no question financial markets are coming round to the realisation that this particular crisis is likely to have a slightly longer shelf life than many thought was the case a couple of weeks ago, however flu outbreaks are hardly anything new. They happen every year and according to the World Health Organisation flu kills up to 650,000 a year, yet markets are reacting to an outbreak that has so far only affected a fraction of that number.
That is not to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak, given how little we know about it, but it could be argued that the reaction of governments to the outbreak in closing borders and restricting movement is actually making things worse, as well as sowing confusion and fear amongst their populations.
For now, there appears little prospect that financial markets look likely to settle down in the short term, which means investors will have to get used to an extended period of uncertainty and volatility.

The agenda

  • 11am GMT: CBI’s index of UK retail sales: expected to rise to 4, from 0 in January
  • 2pm GMT: The S&P/Case-Shiller index of US house prices
  • 3pm GMT: US consumer confidence survey for February: expected to rise to 132, from 131.6

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