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North Korea blames ‘alien things’ near border with South for COVID outbreak

North Korea claimed on Friday that the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak began with patients touching "alien things" near the border with South Korea,…

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North Korea blames ‘alien things’ near border with South for COVID outbreak

By Soo-Hyang Choi

SEOUL, July 1 (Reuters) – North Korea claimed on Friday that the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak began with patients touching “alien things” near the border with South Korea, apparently shifting blame to the neighbour for the wave of infections in the isolated country.

Announcing results of an investigation, the North ordered people to “vigilantly deal with alien things coming by wind and other climate phenomena and balloons in the areas along the demarcation line and borders,” the official KCNA news agency said.

Former North Korean defectors living in South Korea, release balloons containing one dollar banknotes, radios, CDs and leaflets denouncing the North Korean regime, towards the north near the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul January 15, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

The agency did not directly mention South Korea, but North Korean defectors and activists have for decades flown balloons from the South across the heavily fortified border, carrying leaflets and humanitarian aid.

South Korea’s unification ministry, handling inter-Korean affairs, said there was “no possibility” of the virus entering the North through leaflets sent across the border.

According to KCNA, an 18-year-old soldier and a five-year-old kindergartner who contacted the unidentified materials “in a hill around barracks and residential quarters” in the eastern county of Kumgang in early April showed symptoms and later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The KCNA said all other fever cases reported in the country until mid-April were due to other diseases, but it did not elaborate.

“It’s hard to believe North Korea’s claim, scientifically speaking, given that the possibility of the virus spreading through objects is quite low,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of people getting infected with COVID through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects is generally considered low, though it is possible.

The North also said the first two patients touched the unspecified objects in the eastern town in early April, but the first time a defectors’ group is known to have sent balloons across the border this year was in late April from the western Gimpo region. read more

The North’s first admission of a COVID outbreak came months after it eased border lockdowns enforced since early in 2020 to resume freight train operations with China.

But it would have been difficult for Pyongyang to point fingers at China, said Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University.

“If they concluded the virus was from China, they would have had to tighten quarantine measures on the border area in a further setback to North Korea-China trade,” Lim said.

The North has claimed the COVID wave has shown signs of subsiding, although experts suspect under-reporting in the figures released through government-controlled media.

North Korea reported 4,570 more people with fever symptoms on Friday, with the total number of fever patients recorded since late April at 4.74 million.

Pyongyang has been announcing the number of fever patients daily without specifying whether they had contracted COVID, apparently due to a lack of testing kits.

Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler, Richard Chang and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters

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International

Apple Reportedly Shifting Watch And MacBook Production To Vietnam

Apple Reportedly Shifting Watch And MacBook Production To Vietnam

Wary of soaring tensions surrounding out-of-favor countries like China,…

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Apple Reportedly Shifting Watch And MacBook Production To Vietnam

Wary of soaring tensions surrounding out-of-favor countries like China, multinational corporations such as Apple are diversifying production to places with less geopolitical risk.

Nikkei Asia spoke to three sources with direct knowledge of Apple's plans to shift Watch and MacBook production out of China to Vietnam for the first time. 

Apple suppliers Luxshare Precision Industry and Foxconn have already piloted a production run of the Watch in northern Vietnam. 

The move by Apple is a further win for the Southeast Asian country as it already produces iPads and AirPods. 

Two sources told Nikkei Asia that Apple had requested suppliers to set up a MacBook test production line in Vietnam. They said progress in constructing laptop production in the country has been "slow, partly due to pandemic-related disruptions but also because notebook computer production involves a larger supply chain."  

"AirPods, Apple Watch, HomePod and more ... Apple has big plans in Vietnam, apart from iPhone manufacturing," one of the people with direct knowledge of Apple's plans said. "The components for MacBooks have become more modularized than in the past, which makes it easier to produce the laptops outside of China. But how to make it cost-competitive is another challenge."

This trend is called "friendshoring." While it's a play on "offshoring," this isn't about companies moving operations back to the US and Europe, but rather seeking foreign alternatives that retain the benefit of low labor costs but with less international controversy. 

Apple's production diversification comes as the US and China already had an increasingly adversarial relationship before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan sparked anger with Beijing. The fact is, geopolitical and trade war tensions aren't going away anytime soon and will only push Apple further away from China. Though reshoring production to the US is unfeasible because of labor costs, maybe robotics can offset some of those costs or perhaps set up shop in Mexico, where there's abundant cheap labor and healthy demographics. 

A recent Rabobank analysis of friendshoring showed that chief beneficiaries would include countries like Vietnam, India, Brazil, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, and South Africa.

Apple's Tim Cook appears to have learned a valuable lesson this year that high exposure of supply chains to China during Beijing's zero-Covid policies and worsening geopolitical tensions with the West is a dangerous cocktail, and the need to diversify production in a trend dubbed friendshoring is essential for survival in a multi-polar world. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/17/2022 - 18:30

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International

Apple Reportedly Shifting Apple Watch And MacBook Production To Vietnam

Apple Reportedly Shifting Apple Watch And MacBook Production To Vietnam

Wary of soaring tensions surrounding out-of-favor countries like China,…

Published

on

Apple Reportedly Shifting Apple Watch And MacBook Production To Vietnam

Wary of soaring tensions surrounding out-of-favor countries like China, multinational corporations such as Apple are diversifying production to places with less geopolitical risk.

Nikkei Asia spoke to three sources with direct knowledge of Apple's plans to shift Watch and MacBook production out of China to Vietnam for the first time. 

Apple suppliers Luxshare Precision Industry and Foxconn have already piloted a production run of the Watch in northern Vietnam. 

The move by Apple is a further win for the Southeast Asian country as it already produces iPads and AirPods. 

Two sources told Nikkei Asia that Apple had requested suppliers to set up a MacBook test production line in Vietnam. They said progress in constructing laptop production in the country has been "slow, partly due to pandemic-related disruptions but also because notebook computer production involves a larger supply chain."  

"AirPods, Apple Watch, HomePod and more ... Apple has big plans in Vietnam, apart from iPhone manufacturing," one of the people with direct knowledge of Apple's plans said. "The components for MacBooks have become more modularized than in the past, which makes it easier to produce the laptops outside of China. But how to make it cost-competitive is another challenge."

This trend is called "friendshoring." While it's a play on "offshoring," this isn't about companies moving operations back to the US and Europe, but rather seeking foreign alternatives that retain the benefit of low labor costs but with less international controversy. 

Apple's production diversification comes as the US and China already had an increasingly adversarial relationship before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan sparked anger with Beijing. The fact is, geopolitical and trade war tensions aren't going away anytime soon and will only push Apple further away from China. Though reshoring production to the US is unfeasible because of labor costs, maybe robotics can offset some of those costs or perhaps set up shop in Mexico, where there's abundant cheap labor and healthy demographics. 

A recent Rabobank analysis of friendshoring showed that chief beneficiaries would include countries like Vietnam, India, Brazil, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, and South Africa.

Apple's Tim Cook appears to have learned a valuable lesson this year that high exposure of supply chains to China during Beijing's zero-Covid policies and worsening geopolitical tensions with the West is a dangerous cocktail, and the need to diversify production in a trend dubbed friendshoring is essential for survival in a multi-polar world. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/17/2022 - 18:30

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Economics

Reduced myocardial blood flow is new clue in how COVID-19 is impacting the heart

Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to…

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Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to newly published research from Houston Methodist. This finding offers a new clue in understanding covid-19’s impact on cardiovascular health.

Credit: Houston Methodist

Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to newly published research from Houston Methodist. This finding offers a new clue in understanding covid-19’s impact on cardiovascular health.

In a new study published today in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, Houston Methodist researchers examined the coronary microvasculature health of 393 patients with prior covid-19 infection who had lingering symptoms. This is the first published study linking reduced blood flow in the body and COVID-19.

Using a widely available imaging tool, called positron emission tomography (PET), researchers found a 20% decrease in the ability of coronary arteries to dilate, a condition known as microvascular dysfunction. They also found that patients with prior COVID-19 infection were more likely to have reduced myocardial flow reserve – and changes in the resting and stress blood flow – which is a marker for poor prognosis and is associated with a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events.

“We were surprised with the consistency of reduced blood flow in post covid patients within the study,” said corresponding author Mouaz Al-Mallah, M.D., director of cardiovascular PET at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center, and president elect of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology. “The findings bring new questions, but also help guide us toward further studying blood flow in COVID-19 patients with persistent symptoms.”

Dysfunction and inflammation of endothelial cells is a well-known sign of acute Covid-19 infection, but little is known about the long-term effects on the heart and vascular system. Earlier in the pandemic, research indicated that COVID-19 could commonly cause myocarditis but that now appears to be a rare effect of this viral infection.

A recent study from the Netherlands found that 1 in 8 people had lingering symptoms post-covid. As clinicians continue to see patients with symptoms like shortness of breath, palpations and fatigue after their recovery, the cause of long covid is mostly unknown.

Further studies are needed to document the magnitude of microvascular dysfunction and to identify strategies for appropriate early diagnosis and management. For instance, reduced myocardial flow reserve can be used to determine a patient’s risk when presenting with symptoms of coronary artery disease over and above the established risk factors, which can become quite relevant in dealing with long Covid.

Next steps will require clinical studies to discover what is likely to happen in the future to patients whose microvascular health has been affected by COVID-19, particularly those patients who continue to have lingering symptoms, or long COVID.

This work was supported, in part, by grants from the National Institutes of Health under contract numbers R01 HL133254, R01 HL148338 and R01 HL157790.

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For more information: Coronary microvascular health in patients with prior COVID-19 infection. JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. (online Aug. 16, 2022) Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed, Jean Michel Saad, Yushui Han, Fares Alahdab, Maan Malahfji, Faisal Nabi, John J Mahmarian, John P. Cook, William A Zoghbi and Mouaz H Al-Mallah. DOI: www.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcmg.2022.07.006

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