First coronavirus death outside China; Turkey fires on Syrian troops; Aboard USS Ford; Hacking Google Maps; And a bit more.
Philippines sees first coronavirus death outside China. A 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak, died Sunday, AP reports.
Coronavirus, by the numbers: 14,557 cases, all but 146 in China; and 361 deaths — all but one in China. Most of the deaths are among the elderly and infirm, a characteristic it shares with the flu, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people since last autumn. (It’s not too late to get your flu shot.)
China has quarantined some 50 million people. This “massive public health experiment” is being closely, and somewhat dubiously, watched by health experts, the Los Angeles Times reports. One WHO official said the lockdown came too late to keep the disease from spreading. Its more likely effects are shortages of food and medicine and an overabundance of mistrust in government health officials, said Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law. Read on, here.
Saudi Arabia is considering cutting oil output in anticipation of an economic hit that softens global demand, the Wall Street Journal reports.
U.S. tech and manufacturing firms are bracing for supply-chain disruptions caused by travel bans and closed factories in China, the Washington Post reports.
WHO: Travel bans are unnecessary. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who declared the outbreak a global health emergency last week, repeated on Monday that there is no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.” Instead, he said, “We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent.”
From Defense One
Sailors Work to Bring the USS Ford to Life — and Fix Its Remaining Glitches // Marcus Weisgerber: The $13 billion carrier hosted five types of aircraft — and about 100 very busy elevator technicians — on a key voyage off the Virginia coast.
Stop the ‘Blood Coal’ That Funds Russia’s Occupation of Ukraine // Viktor Mashtabei and Mia Willard: Moscow is selling Ukrainian coal to subsidize its military operations. Western sanctions must end that.
Trump’s Iran Strategy Isn’t Working as Well as He Thinks // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: The killing of Qassem Soleimani upended expectations in useful ways, but the U.S. isn’t in a position to capitalize on the turmoil.
ISIS Is No Reason to Stay in Iraq // Daniel DePetris: Don’t take the wrong conclusion from recent news about the group’s “resurgence.”
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1950, German-born UK physicist Klaus Fuchs was arrested for passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. His arrest would eventually ensnare others, including Harry Gold, David Greenglass, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Turkey killed more than a dozen Syrian troops after launching artillery and airstrikes into northern Syria’s Idlib province today, AP reports from Ankara. Turkey’s assault followed a regime attack on a Turkish convoy nine miles outside of Idlib city that was “sent to Idlib as reinforcements” and was attacked anyway — according to Turkish officials — “despite prior notification of their coordinates to the local authorities.”
Turkey just made it a bit easier to be attacked when “some 320 Turkish trucks and military vehicles entered Idlib at Kafr Lusin crossing on Sunday, much more than usual, and went south,” Reuters reports.
Context: “The escalation comes amid a Syrian government offensive into the country's last rebel stronghold, located in Idlib and parts of the nearby Aleppo region,” AP reports. “Turkish troops are deployed in some of those rebel-held areas of Syria to monitor an earlier cease-fire that was agreed to but that has since collapsed.”
FWIW: Russia’s defense ministry alleges Turkey’s movements were not coordinated with anyone. Regardless, “Four Turkish soldiers died at the scene while another soldier and a Turkish civilian member of the military personnel died later in hospital,” AP writes.
“Those who test Turkey's determination with such vile attacks will understand their mistake," Turkish President Recep Erdogan said. Erdogan also said Turkish F-16s were used in the response, which is a claim Russia says is not true.
Said Erdogan’s communications minister: “If Russia is unable to control the Assad regime from targeting us, we will not hesitate to take actions against any threat, just as we did today in Idlib." More at Reuters, here.
Spotted over Idlib on Sunday: An apparent U.S. surveillance drone. (h/t Charles Lister)
Other flashpoints in the Syria war:
- East Aleppo, south of al-Bab, where Turkish rebels were sent to attack regime troops;
- four Russian special operators were killed in fighting against rebels west of Aleppo this weekend;
- Iran lost a top Quds Force commander to fighting in Aleppo this weekend, too.
Iraq got a new prime minister late on Saturday, but protestors refer to him as “Iran’s choice” and say “he is little different from the predecessor they forced to step down,” the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday from Baghdad.
The new guy: Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, age 65, and he's a former communications minister. Already, he’s “pledged to fight corruption and hold those responsible for the violence against protesters to account. He also vowed to hold early elections, revamp the country’s economy and bring weapons under state control.”
One big open Q: How will he handle a possible U.S. departure from Iraq? It’s not a mild concern since the Journal reminds us “The Iraqi parliament in January voted in favor of evicting foreign forces, and rockets have repeatedly been fired at bases where American personnel are located in recent months.”
But the more immediate goal is “forming a cabinet, which Mr. Allawi must submit to parliament to be voted on within 30 days. President [Barham] Salih must designate a new prime minister should it fail to pass.” Read on, here.
Also blossoming around Iraq: Protest art. The New York Times has that story, here.
Iran is angry at Ukraine for leaking audio recordings that show Iran knew immediately that it had shot down Ukrainian International Airways flight 752 on January 8, Reuters reports today from Kyiv.
Britain is changing how it incarcerates convicted terrorists after “a 20-year-old who had served time in jail for distributing terrorism-related material… launched a knife attack while wearing a fake suicide vest” Sunday in South London, the Wall Street Journal and ABC News report today. The Islamic State group claimed the Sunday attacker as one of its own, even though no one but the assailant was killed in the attack.
The UK’s new plan involves “effectively stop[ping] the early release of convicted extremists, doubl[ing] terror sentences and overhaul[ing] the conditions under which they are released back into the community,” ABC New writes.
Said one extremism advisor to the BBC: “We may need to accept that there are certain people who are so dangerous they must be kept in prison indefinitely.”
These concerns do not appear to be going away, especially with thousands of detained ISIS foreign fighters held by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. More at ABC News, here.
Lastly today: Man with wagonload of smartphones turns routes red on Google Maps. Berlin-based artist Simon Weckert bought nearly a hundred used mobile phones, shared their locations with Google, and walked around town. Google Maps dutifully recorded gridlock-level traffic where Weckert strolled, no doubt influencing at least some drivers to take a different route. This has been your #likewar moment of the day.