February 14 roundup: COVID-19 continues to rock China and the world; political shocks in Europe

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In China, the death toll resulting from the new coronavirus has exceeded that of the SARS outbreak in 2003, even if the apparent death rate appears to be lower. Later, it was announced that the global death toll surpassed the total number of fatalities from the SARS outbreak. The ongoing outbreak has also caused the price of oil to fall sharply, prompting intergovernmental cartel the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, and Russia to discuss emergency cuts to global output.

Political shocks in Europe: In Germany, the conservatives of chancellor Angela Merkel are in crisis mode after regional parliamentarians in the small state of Thuringia voted in the same camp as the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) to block the re-election of a leftist state premier, marking the first time that centrists have cooperated with the AfD at any level of government. Thereafter, the chancellor’s anointed successor and defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – who became the leader of the conservative party just 14 months ago – quit as party leader and ruled out run for chancellor.

In Ireland, the parliamentary victory of Sinn Féin have shattered the country’s two-party system consisting of the establishment parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, both of which have refused to enter into any coalition with Sinn Féin. And elsewhere in the world, in India: Despite his party’s landslide victory in federal elections last year, prime minister Narendra Modi lost his third straight state election.

Natural and man-made disasters: In Turkey, two avalanches killed at least 38 people, including rescuers responding to the first avalanche. Then, in Istanbul, a passenger plane skidded off the runway and broke into three pieces, killing at least one person.

In Israel, the personal data of all 6.5 million eligible voters – including full names and identity card numbers – were leaked. And in Thailand, a Thai soldier on a shooting rampage at a military base and shopping mall in Bangkok killed at least 29 people. A manhunt for the solider soon followed, before he was shot dead by a commando unit. It was the country’s worst mass shooting in history.

Impeachment proceedings come to a close in the United States: The Republicans blocked a key witness vote, 49 to 51, in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. And a day after Mr. Trump delivered this third State of the Union address, the Senate acquitted him of obstruction of Congress and of abuse of power. Senator Mitt Romney was the only Republican to break ranks.

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