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Beijing Bans Smoking in Public Places



Beijing Bans Smoking in Public Places

Qi Xingming woke up on Monday morning and took his place on the frontline of China’s war on cigarettes. Wearing a red armband and a panama hat emblazoned with the name of a Brazilian footballer, the 60-year-old migrant worker made his way to one of Beijing’s top hospitals and began his hunt for illegal smokers.

“When I say stop, they stop,” said Qi, one of around 1,100 “anti-smoking inspectors” deployed on the streets of the Chinese capital by the Communist party as part of a renewed crackdown on tobacco in one of the world’s most cigarette-addicted nations.

Cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, schools, railway stations and hospitals – such as the one where Qi normally works as a cleaner – must now be entirely smoke-free, according to the regulations.

Smokers who flout those rules face fines of 200 yuan (£21) while business owners who allow them to do so could be forced to pay 10,000 yuan.

China’s state-run media urged its citizens to get behind the campaign. “This time we should mobilise everyone,” Gregory Tsang, an anti-tobacco campaigner, told CCTV’s lunchtime news, urging viewers to snitch on smokers by calling a special hotline or sending photographs of offenders to a recently launched social media account.

Campaigners say the new rules are some of the toughest in Asia but stubbing out smoking in a country with such a long-standing love affair with the cigarette will not be easy.

Chairman Mao, a chain smoker, once told his doctor that it was not an addiction but a “breathing exercise”. Deng Xiaoping – another heavy smoker – was seen fidgeting nervously during a 1986 lunch with the Queen, until he was told he could smoke.

“I’ve never seen a man light up more cheerfully than that,” Geoffrey Howe, the then foreign secretary, later recalled.

China’s masses also developed a taste for the cigarette. More than half of Chinese men are smokers, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) while seven of the world’s top 10 cigarette brands are Chinese.

Around 740 million people are forced to breath in secondhand smoke, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency, while the average age at which Chinese people start smoking is under 11.

China has repeatedly pledged to rein in smoking but cigarette production has surged with factories churning out 25 trillion cigarettes since 2003. If those were laid out tip-to-tip they would stretch 2.1bn km or 52,496 times around the world, state media claimed.

The consequences of so much smoking are dramatic. Every 30 seconds somebody dies in China as a result of tobacco use, according to the WHO.

While Beijing’s battle against industrial air pollution makes global headlines, studies suggest smoking is in some ways a far greater risk. Beijingers often wear smog-busting facemasks when levels of a tiny airborne particle called PM2.5 hit 200. But the PM2.5 level in a restaurant where just three people are smoking is three times that, Bernhard Schwartländer, the WHO’s representative in China, claimed this year. With five smokers in the restaurant, PM2.5 levels would climb to 1,200.

“We do need the ‘war on air pollution’. But we also need a ‘war on tobacco’,” the WHO said last week.

The latest phase of that war began on Monday morning as anti-smoking placards went up in bars, restaurants and once smoky basement clubs such as the Ding Junhui snooker hall.

Within hours of the ban starting, ashtrays had vanished from the club’s tables and staff had posted anti-smoking notices next to posters of snooker greats such as Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and John Higgins.

One English-language warning, next to a photograph of Ken Doherty, the Irish snooker champion, read: “Don’t smok” [sic].

Another, in Chinese, said: “We encourage our members to follow the [no-smoking] rules. We are sorry for any inconvenience it causes.”

Sun Jianlin, the club’s 22-year-old floor manager, said: “Before there would be lots of people smoking but it’s all changed now.”

Three soggy cigarette butts discarded in a dustbin in the men’s toilet suggested not everything had changed but otherwise the club appeared smoke-free.

Li Dongjing, a real estate developer who was playing on table 15, said he had anticipated the ban by swapping his smokes for a 1,200-yuan e-cigarette.

“I think smoking is bad. I wanted to change,” the 35-year-old said.

At Tongren hospital, Qi claimed he was winning his battle against errant smokers with nothing but politeness.

When he spotted someone smoking in an illegal area he told them: “Excuse me. The smoking ban kicks in today. You’d better not smoke here.

“They say: ‘OK’,” he said.

By Monday afternoon, Qi said he had persuaded 10 people to put out their cigarettes. But the hospital cleaner was losing his own battle against tobacco.

“I smoke the cheap ones, the ones that cost 7 to 10 yuan per pack,” he admitted, grinning to reveal nicotine-stained teeth. “It’s a habit. I can’t stop.”

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.


80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?



80 Million Stimulus Check Direct Deposits Have Been Processed. When Will They Arrive?

Americans will start to see their stimulus payments this week, a centerpiece of the $2.2 trillion rescue package meant to provide a buffer against the coronavirus pandemic that’s shuttered much of the U.S. economy.

The Internal Revenue Service has begun sending $1,200 payments to middle and lower income adults, plus $500 for their minor children, though it could take until September for every eligible person to get the money.
The first payments “should be deposited directly into individuals’ bank accounts; the precise date you will see payments in your account depends on how long individual banks typically take to process direct deposits,” according to a press release from House Ways and Means Committee Republicans.

The IRS will first send the money to individuals for whom the agency has direct deposit information. The remainder will be mailed as checks. That process is expected to begin April 20 but could take until the fall to complete.

The IRS processed more than 80 million payments on Friday that should be available in bank accounts early this week, Sunita Lough, the IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, said in a video conference Monday.

Payments will be made first to those earning the least.

The IRS has launched a tool for non-tax filers, such as those who had income under $12,200 last year and weren’t required to file a federal return, to enter direct deposit information to get their payments.

The agency plans to have a second website up by April 17 that will show people the status of their payments, including the date the money is scheduled to be deposited or mailed. That tool will also let people who’ve typically gotten their tax refund in the mail to provide their bank account details to get their stimulus payment more quickly.

The IRS is using information from 2018 and 2019 tax returns to process the payments. It says taxpayers who’ve yet to file a return this year should do so as soon as possible, and elect to receive the refund via a direct deposit. The information can then be used to distribute the stimulus payments. Social Security and disability recipients will receive their payments automatically.

The tax deadline was extended to July 15 from April 15 to give people more time to file and pay during the pandemic.

Taxpayers who don’t need extra time and who expect to get a stimulus payment should file as soon as possible so the agency has their most up-to-date details on file, said Christina Taylor, head of operations for Credit Karma Tax.

“The quicker, the better,” she said.

Americans earning $75,000 or less, or $150,000 and below as a couple, are eligible for the full $1,200 payout per adult, plus $500 for each child under 17. Those amounts are reduced for people with higher incomes, and people who make $99,000 or more in earnings (or $198,000 for a couple) get nothing, even if they have children. Individuals must have a Social Security number to receive a payment.

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A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry.

A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming…



A Case of Hantavirus Has Been Reported in China. Here's Why You Shouldn't Worry.

A man who died in China Monday reportedly tested positive for a hantavirus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should worry another pandemic is coming.

Hantaviruses are a family of virus that spread through rodents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Yunnan Province, a man died on his way back to Shandong Province, according to Global Times, an English-language Chinese news outlet.

“He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested,” the news outlet tweeted.

The tweet, sent amid a pandemic caused by a new coronavirus, has been shared more than 15,000 times.

Though countries across the globe are on high alert due to uncertainty around the coronavirus, there is no indication that the hantavirus poses a global public health threat.

According to the CDC, hantavirus cases are rare, and they spread as a result of close contact with rodent urine, droppings or saliva.

Certain kinds of rats and mice in the United States can carry the virus, which is transmitted when someone breathes in contaminated air.

“The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another,” the CDC says on its website. Rare cases in Chile and Argentina have seen person-to-person transmission when a person is in close contact with someone sickened by a type of hantavirus called Andes virus, the CDC says.

In the U.S., the virus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory disease that can be fatal. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems. Coughing and shortness of breath can occur later in the disease as the lungs fill with liquid, the CDC says,

Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, found mostly in Europe and Asia, can also occur, which causes pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision, the CDC says. More serious symptoms include acute kidney failure.

Cases in the United States have typically been concentrated in the western and southwestern states.

From 1993 to 2017, there were only 728 confirmed hantavirus cases in the United States, with most being non-fatal, according to CDC data. In comparison, since late January, when the first known coronavirus case was identified in the U.S., there have been 46,805 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

In May 1993, a hantavirus outbreak occurred in an area between Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. A 2012 outbreak in Yosemite sickened 10 people. In seven states, 17 people were infected in a 2017 outbreak.

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Syria al-Qaeda Leader Attacked, Unsure of His Survival

An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.



An air strike struck Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in the Syrian province of Idlib on Sunday, based on unconfirmed reports.

The Egyptian is second-in-command to overall al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to BBC News.

Syrian opposition forces, the Local Co-ordination Committees, posted a photo of the car which was targeted for the attack, as stated by them.

Car with roof shattered is shown in photo taken from Syrian opposition activists

The car, in the town of al-Mastuma, was targeted by “international coalition aircraft”, the group said.

Additionally, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an al-Qaeda official was killed in a strike, but did not confirm it was Abu al-Khayr al-Masri.

The Egyptian, whose real name is Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, was reportedly released from custody by Iran in 2015 as part of a prisoner swap.

Last year, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri was reported to have given his blessing to a decision by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, to cut formal ties with the global jihadist network.

The Syrian jihadist with ties broken with al-Qaeda had renamed its name to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, as reported by CNN.

According to Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Masri, al-Qaeda has embraced the split. The man Masri would replace as an upranking to No. 2 of the leadership position in the terror group, is al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri expressed his opinion on the split in a supportive manner and called for infighting between jihadist groups to end.

Although Jabhat Fateh al-Sham was no longer linked to an external entity, the U.S. still kept it on its list of foreign terrorist groups and continued to target air strikes.

Therefore, in January, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham dissolved itself and formed an alliance with four smaller Syrian jihadist groups called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The move seemed to deem an attempt by the group to distance itself from al-Qaeda.

Tahrir al-Sham as since then fought rebel groups for control of the Idlib province in Syria, implying that it was them who had instigated suicide bombs on Saturday against the military in the government-controlled city of Homs.

Although the death of Abu al-Khayr al-Masri is uncertain, the Guardian has stated that he has been killed based off of what jihadists are stating.

The immediate circumstances of Masri’s death were unclear. Video online showed a tan four-door Kia sedan destroyed at a roadside with a large hole in its canopy but its windscreen mostly intact. The location of the attack was unusually far west for a US drone strike.

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