Despite US President George W. Bush's stern warnings to Iran and Syria against "meddling" in Iraq, Washington has shown no sign of readying new sanctions and appears to have little leverage with either state. \nBush raised eyebrows last week when he issued the threat to the two countries accused by the US-installed Baghdad government of orchestrating attacks in Iraq ahead of next month's crucial elections. \n"We will continue to make it clear to both Syria and Iran that ... meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interest," the president said after talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. \nHe repeated the warning on Monday and said Washington had a variety of diplomatic and economic measures it could take against Syria, accused of helping funnel money and manpower across the border to Iraqi insurgents. But US officials said there was nothing currently in the pipeline beyond the sanctions imposed in May, including a near-blanket ban on US exports to Syria and a green light to freeze Syrian assets in the US. \nState Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the administration was constantly reviewing the Syrian Accountability Act enacted a year ago to halt Damascus' alleged support of terrorism. \n"But I don't have anything new at this point," he said. \nOfficials said the Syrians have shown some signs of cooperating, helping to crack down on funding for anti-American insurgents and tightening their border patrols. Some 1,000-2,000 people reportedly have been arrested trying to cross over into Iraq. \nWashington still has some options available to it under the Accountability Act, including downgrading bilateral diplomatic ties and imposing travel restrictions on Syrian envoys in the US. \nBut the Bush administration is displaying little inclination for such heavy measures, which officials said could cut off lines of communication with Damascus and jeopardize the current level of help they are getting from the Syrians. \n"The screws are on pretty good right now, but there is no talk at this point of doing anything more," said one US official, who asked not to be named. \nStill, the US continues to ratchet up its rhetoric. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage kept up the pressure Wednesday, warning Damascus its ties with the US depended on whether it refrained from interfering in Iraq and Lebanon. \nAsked in an interview with Arab journalists whether he expected relations to remain frosty, the State Department No. 2 said: "I would hope for a much better day with Syria, but it's all up to [President Bashar] al-Assad and his colleagues."
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500