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Analysis & Comment

Hedge Fund Angelo Gordon buys Northern Oil & Gas debt

(Reuters) – Hedge fund Angelo Gordon & Co on Tuesday bought $33 million worth of Northern Oil & Gas Inc’s (NOG.A) debt and said it was planning to push for deals that would increase the shale producer’s cash reserves.

Angelo, which is already the second-largest owner of Northern with a nearly 10% equity stake, said a potential transaction could include an exchange of equity or debt securities of the company.

Northern has been trying to cut its debt load of more than $1 billion for months by using a so-called “debt-for-equity” swap among other things. In January, Northern gave Angelo Gordon 387,695 preferred shares in exchange for around $35.8 million of its notes owned by the fund.

Lockdowns imposed to arrest the spread of the coronavirus have sent the oil and gas market into one of its worst downturns ever, with U.S. crude oil prices turning negative for the first time in history last month.

The downturn has pushed oil companies to revamp their strategies, including slashing spending and production to save cash and cutting shareholder returns.

Their debt is also trading for pennies on the dollar, giving hedge funds an opportunity to load up on their bonds.

Texas billionaire Robert Rowling, who owns the Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym businesses, has also been boosting his stake in Northern. He owned a 22.7% stake in the shale producer, according to a filing by his TRT Holdings funds in March.

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Analysis & Comment

COMMENTARY: Why do people cheat at social distancing?

As the world fights the novel coronavirus pandemic, our strongest weapon right now is physical distancing. Proven by studies and supported by history, staying home save lives.

In fact, bending this rule to meet even a few other people may undo our efforts.

While many have accepted the safety directions, some are still travelling. More people have died of COVID-19 in the United States than any other country, yet U.S. President Donald Trump has encouraged people to gather and Georgia’s governor supported the reopening of bowling alleys and nail salons. So why is it so hard for us to do what is right?

Subconscious biases affect our behaviour

As a doctor and a father, I get that we are all trying to keep a sense of normalcy for ourselves and our families. But the reasons we resist distancing are often beyond rationality: there are reflexive thoughts that drive our behaviour, often without our own awareness. And if we want to save as many lives as possible, our efforts have to take these subconscious biases into account.

For example, asking people to observe physical distancing may actually have the opposite effect for those who fear that compliance will lead to a restriction in their freedom. This is called reactance bias, and it is partly why in our society teenagers drink alcohol and some drivers resist seatbelts.

It is also why pandemic safety measures can be easily framed as a restrictive “lockdown” and why the U.S. president can incite people to unsafely meet up in order to “liberate” their state. Given how quickly and passionately protesters follow populist leaders, it is not surprising that many of the same bad actors seen in anti-science campaigns against vaccination and climate change are again preying on swift emotions like fear and disgust to manipulate us into acting before we think.

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Another way our minds mislead us is that we judge ourselves differently than we judge others. When we trip it is because the ground is uneven; others misstep due to clumsiness. Two-thirds of people say they are better than average drivers. We all need some esteem to allow us to feel capable in life, but the flip side of this self-centredness is that we downplay the risks of daily grocery trips or play dates because, well, it’s us.

The tales we tell

Stories, whether tales or in pictures, are also important in understanding our behaviour since we are wired to remember them much more than numbers. Dry statistics of deaths in Asia or Europe are difficult to comprehend because our brains cannot emotionally connect.

But stories are memorable and become compelling when they evoke basic emotions such as happiness, sadness and fear. The heartbreaking image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body lying on a Turkish beach is unforgettable, and elicited a much greater reaction than reports of Syria’s attacks on its citizens. Recently, Dr. Anna Carvalho’s decision to isolate from her family included a photograph of her children waving through their aunt’s window, making the plea to physically distance more real and immediate — factors that nudge us towards action.

Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein wrote, “Don’t appeal to man’s better nature — he may not have one.” More accurately, hundreds of cognitive biases such as those discussed here greatly affect the decisions we make, sometimes to our detriment. So if we are to change behaviour during this pandemic we must address both the rational and subconscious ways our minds work.

Effective communication

In order to build trust, leaders must be humble and honest. Familiar and regular communications from leaders like Drs. Bonnie Henry and Theresa Tam and Prime Ministers Trudeau and Ardern can have positive effects. Pro-science messages from diverse influencers like Hayley Wickenheiser, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Hadfield and Michael Bublé have resonated. And we need stories, lots of them, of the front-line workers risking their safety.

In turn, we must attempt to slow down and process our emotions and consider that bending the rules endangers others and lengthens the time of distancing restrictions. For those whose opinions have become part of their own self-identity, no fact will likely change their behaviour. Some personal liberties may have to be restricted for the greater good in the same way we legislate sobriety for drivers and helmets for cyclists.

Containing the COVID-19 pandemic will require more than the heroic measures of our front-line workers: we must all make difficult sacrifices. Success will not be easy, but to save lives we must take into account the hidden ways our brains work. We must use strategies that represent more reasoned logic than we tend to rely on, left to our own devices.The Conversation

Eric Cadesky, Clinical Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Analysis & Comment

London, Ont., woman says housing co-op tenants threatened with homelessness

Jo Dee Phoenix received a letter under her doorway on May 14, but dated May 9, saying she had until noon on Fri., May 22 to provide necessary documents or she would lose her rent-geared-to-income subsidy, which allows her to afford her unit at Tolpuddle Housing Co-op.

The City of London says it’s communicated to housing providers that the deadline should be extended while the co-op in question said it’s heard no such thing.

“They’re threatening me with homelessness if I don’t do what they command and break federal and provincial directives to go out into the community to collect banking and income tax information,” Phoenix said.

“I will be homeless.”

The province announced March 16 that it is suspending all new eviction notices until further notice in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds across the country.

An email to Global News late Thursday evening from the province noted that while the annual review package deadlines have not been altered as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, some of the documentation requested by Tolpuddle is not required by law.

Phoenix also alleged that similar letters were sent to other Londoners receiving the RGI subsidy, which in most cases sets the rent at a subsidized unit at 30 per cent of a household’s total monthly income.

“It’s not just Tolpuddle Co-op we’re talking about. We’re talking about co-ops in London, and there’s many, that received that letter. So we’re talking about hundreds of people.”

Phoenix believed the deadline for the annual review package that she fills out to maintain the subsidy — which is administered and delivered municipally but governed provincially under the provincial Housing Services Act (HSA) — was extended as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, noting that among the required documents is her 2019 Notice of Assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency and that federal tax deadlines have been extended.

“Free tax clinics are not up and running. The library that has access to free computers and internet are, everybody knows, closed. So I’m unable to get the necessary information. So I can’t I physically can’t complete the annual review.”

Even the city seemed to be in a state of confusion over legislation, as an email from London’s Housing Access Centre to Phoenix on May 15 stated, “we are still checking to see what the legislation is regarding annual reviews.”

A spokesperson with the province confirmed to Global News late May 21 that there is no extension to the deadline due to the pandemic, but he also noted that not all of the documents the housing co-op is asking for are required by law.

“It is important to note that the HSA does not require that a Notice of Assessment… be provided as part of the annual review process and that the extension to the income tax filing deadline should not impact the annual review process,” said Conrad Spezowka.

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Earlier that afternoon, the City of London’s acting managing director of housing, Kevin Dickens, said “all providers have been asked to defer the annual review process until after the pandemic ends” and claimed that in this particular case, “subsequent communication allowing for a delay amid COVID-19 was never communicated to the tenants from the provider.”

However, Tolpuddle coordinator Stephanie Fizell told Global News “the traditional deadline is April 30 each year” and she has “received no additional direction in a change to the standard deadline.”

Tolpuddle has 132 units, 99 of which are occupied by renters who receive the RGI subsidy, according to Fizell.

It’s among 64 social housing providers the City of London works with, according to Dickens.

“We’ve been having bi-weekly meetings connecting through written correspondence as well with all the providers just to exercise patience, some flexibility,” Dickens said.

— with a file from Global News’ David Lao

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Bain, Brookfield, InterGlobe & BGH among Virgin Australia bidders: sources

SYDNEY/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (VAH.AX) is expected to receive as many as eight non-binding indicative offers from potential buyers on Friday, including Brookfield, Bain Capital and BGH Capital, five sources said.

The offers for the country’s second-biggest airline, which entered voluntary administration last month owing creditors nearly A$7 billion ($4.5 billion), will be whittled down to a shortlist of about three in coming days, its administrators said.

The administrators at Deloitte aim to restructure what is the biggest Asia-Pacific casualty of the coronavirus crisis hitting the global aviation industry, and agree to deal with a buyer by the end of June.

Private equity groups BGH Capital, Bain Capital and Brookfield are leading contenders to buy the business, Australian media have reported.

A Bain spokesman confirmed the company intends to bid. Brookfield and BGH had already lodged their offers, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said. BGH is working with Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, one of the three sources added.

Temasek and Brookfield declined to comment and BGH did not respond to requests for comment.

India’s InterGlobe Enterprises, the biggest shareholder in that country’s largest airline IndiGo, has also lodged a bid, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

InterGlobe said in a statement on Friday it was participating in the Virgin sale process but declined to provide further details. Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest has also submitted an indicative proposal compatible with Interglobe’s bid, a separate source with direct knowledge said.

A spokesman for Forrest did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The high-level interest in Virgin Australia at a time when the world aviation market is largely grounded shows the long-time attractiveness of the Australian domestic market, a duopoly between Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX) and Virgin.

Administrator Vaughan Strawbridge said in a statement that eight of the nearly 20 parties that had accessed the company’s data room had been advanced enough in their interest to be given its forward-looking Virgin 2.0 business plan.

“Up to now, we’ve certainly seen a high level of interest from a significant number of high-quality parties, many of whom are capable of completing a transaction of this size and complexity,” Strawbridge said.

“From here, we will start working even more closely with the short-listed parties.”

This would involve access to more detailed business information and management presentations, he added.

Binding offers for Virgin are due on June 12, Strawbridge said, adding the sale timetable was aggressive but one he was confident of achieving.

Robert Martin, the CEO of BOC Aviation (2588.HK) which leases aircraft to Virgin Australia, said it looked like the airline would survive.

“Clearly if you are one of two players in a duopoly market which is going to stay as a duopoly market for the foreseeable future it is an attractive investment,” he told Reuters.

“So I think Virgin Australia will probably come through.”

Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Houlihan Lokey (HLI.N) are advising the administrators on the sales process.

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Cruise ship bookings jump 600% as Carnival reveals plans to resume trips in August

It seems there will be plenty of people ready to board once Carnival Cruise Lines hits the open sea in August.

The company announced last week that it would begin phasing back into action, with cruises starting Aug. 1. It plans to release eight ships leaving from Port Canaveral and Miami in Florida and Galveston, Texas.

“We are committed to supporting all public health efforts to manage the COVID-19 situation,” a news release from the cruise line said.

“We are taking a measured approach, focusing our return to service on a select number of home ports where we have more significant operations that are easily accessible by car for the majority of our guests.”

On the day of the announcement, bookings spiked 600 per cent compared to the same time last year, Cruise Planners told WESH-TV.

Those making bookings, a Cruise Planners representative told Fast Company, have generally been younger and healthy, and therefore “not a bit concerned about travelling at this time.”

Many are feeling the urge to travel because of the lockdowns, and simply can’t say no to booking a cruise for as little as $28 a night with Carnival Cruise Lines, the publication adds.

Cruise ship travel has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Since earlier this year, hundreds of people have been stuck on cruise ships around the world for extended periods of time as cases of COVID-19 spread like wildfire through the ships.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a no-sail order in mid-March and later extended it into April.

Per the CDC’s official website, the order is in effect until the pandemic is no longer considered a public health emergency, when the CDC modifies the order based on public health considerations or when 100 days have passed since it was enacted, which would be July 24.

“Any resumption of cruise operations, whenever that may be, is fully dependent on our continued efforts in co-operation with federal, state, local and international government officials,” the company said, according to WESH-TV.

“In our continued support of public health efforts, any return to service will also include whatever enhanced operational protocols and social gathering guidelines that are in place at the time of the resumption of cruise operations.”

Other cruise lines appear to be following a similar timeline, with Disney Cruise Lines showing no cancellations past July 2 and Norwegian Cruise Lines showing cancellations through June 30.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Analysis & Comment

Shale pioneer Chesapeake considers bankruptcy filing after oil rout

(Reuters) – Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N) said on Monday it is no longer able to access financing and is considering a bankruptcy court restructuring of its over $9 billion debt if oil prices don’t recover from their sharp fall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reuters reported last month that the pioneering shale gas producer was in talks to line up bankruptcy financing and was discussing a possible loan to help maintain operations through the court proceedings.

Debt maturities and interest expenses combined total more than $1 billion, according to company filings. About $250 million of its senior notes are due this year.

The Oklahoma City-based company re-issued bit.ly/2Li4YGr a going concern warning on Monday, its second since November, and said this quarter’s review of the value of its untapped oil and gas reserves is likely to show a decline due to its distressed financial position, reducing its ability to borrow against those assets.

Chesapeake last week said it would prepay $25 million in incentives to top executives. Peers Whiting Petroleum Corp (WLL.N) and Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc DOFSQ.PK also gave out cash awards to senior management just days before filing for Chapter 11 last month.

A bankruptcy filing would cap a long reversal of fortunes for Chesapeake, a company that helped revolutionize the energy industry through the relentless extraction of untapped oil and natural gas from shale rock formations, an environmentally controversial method that became known as fracking.

The company was trying to pivot from natural gas to a greater emphasis on oil when a Saudi-Russian energy price war earlier this year upended its plans and the wider crude market. It was dealt another blow by the coronavirus outbreak, which caused energy demand to dwindle by shutting large swaths of the global economy.

U.S. oil prices have tumbled around 60% so far this year and in April turned negative for the first time in history.

Chesapeake, which had about 2,300 employees at the end of 2019, has also laid off workers, according to Monday’s filing. Last quarter, it terminated contracts of majority of the employees who joined through its $4 billion acquisition of Texas oil producer WildHorse in 2018.

Chesapeake also enacted an anti-takeover plan last month to prevent a hostile buyer from acquiring the company to grab its tax-losses that can be used to deduct from future profits.

The company’s shares fell over 4.5% to $14.01.

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Latin America's second-biggest airline, Avianca, driven to bankruptcy by coronavirus

SAO PAULO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Avianca Holdings (AVT_p.CN), Latin America’s No. 2 airline, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, as a bond payment deadline loomed and after pleas for aid from Colombia’s government to weather the coronavirus crisis have so far been unsuccessful.

If it fails to come out of bankruptcy, Avianca would be one of the first major carriers worldwide to go under as a result of the pandemic, which has resulted in a 90% decline in global air travel.

Avianca has not flown a regularly scheduled passenger flight since late March and most of its 20,000 employees have gone without pay through the crisis.

“Avianca is facing the most challenging crisis in our 100-year history,” Avianca CEO Anko van der Werff said in a press release.

While Avianca was already weak before the coronavirus outbreak, its bankruptcy filing highlights the challenges for airlines that cannot count on state rescues to avoid bankruptcy restructuring. An Avianca representative told Reuters it is still trying to secure government loans.

“Help from governments to the airline industry is vital,” Silvia Mosquera, Avianca’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement to Reuters before the bankruptcy.

Avianca, one of the oldest airlines in the world, estimated liabilities between $1 billion to $10 billion in a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

It already went through bankruptcy in the early 2000s, from which it was rescued by a Bolivian-born oil entrepreneur, German Efromovich.

Efromovich grew the airline aggressively but also saddled the carrier with significant debt. Efromovich was ousted from the airline last year in a board-room coup led by United Airlines Holdings Inc (UAL.O), but he still owns a majority stake in the carrier.

United stands to lose up to $700 million in loans related to Avianca.

Efromovich told Reuters on Sunday that he disagreed with the decision to file for bankruptcy and that he was not involved in making it.

Avianca’s leadership will host a press conference later on Sunday.

LEAD-UP TO BANKRUPTCY

The management that took over after Efromovich’s ousting was already focused on a cost-cutting reorganization dubbed “Avianca 2021.”

Warnings about its fragile finances abounded. Roberto Kriete, president of Avianca’s board, said last year in a meeting with employees that the airline was “broke.”

Last month, Avianca’s accounting firm, KPMG, said it had “substantial doubts” about the carrier’s ability to exist a year from now.

Avianca’s shares closed at 88 cents on Friday in New York, from a high of more than $18 in 2014.

Most pressingly, Avianca was facing a $65 million bond payment due on Sunday that analysts did not think the airline was in a position to meet. S&P downgraded the airline to CCC- status in the days leading up to that payment.

Van der Werff had in recent weeks gone on a public relations campaign to secure emergency aid from Colombia’s government, but as of Sunday none had materialized.

Avianca has no certain date to resume operations, as its main hubs – Colombia, El Salvador and Peru – have all shut down air traffic to fight the coronavirus. The carrier faced backlash this week after it sold plane tickets for late May only to have to cancel them when Colombia extended its coronavirus lockdown.

In parallel to its Chapter 11 filing in the United States, Avianca said it intends to begin winding down operations in Peru.

Avianca is the third of Efromovich’s airlines to go through bankruptcy or out of business in recent years. Airlines Avianca Brasil and Avianca Argentina ceased to exist last year due to economic troubles in their markets.

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70th birthday train went ahead for Calgary man who didn’t live to see big milestone

Birthday trains have become a popular way of celebrating for Calgarians during this time of social distancing.

There was a particularly unique one Tuesday to mark Rick McWilliam’s 70th birthday. His friend Jen Brown planned the event some time ago.

Even though he died last month, the train went on as planned, in honour of his memory.

“Rick was diagnosed with lung cancer last year and we lost him the day before Easter,” Brown said.

“Today would have been his 70th birthday we are doing this birthday parade for him.”

She wanted to proceed with it, to support his grieving wife of 36 years, Brenda and his only son, Josh.

“He’s my hero. That was very hard to have to learn how to be the strong one,” Josh said.

Watching the parade of cars go by their Bowness home was overwhelming.

“It’s weird because it’s a happy day but its a memorial day it was really touching,” Josh said.

“I know he’s around here, he’s here,” Brenda said.

“I have his ring on my necklace and I feel like we are holding hands right now.”

Josh said he loved watching his Mom experience a little bit of joy throughout this heartbreaking journey of grief.

“It’s the hardest part, she’s special and important to me and I want to do everything I can because that’s what he would have wanted me to do,” Josh said.

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Commentary: Despite Brexit, I’m proud to be a Brit

This is a fine time to be British. Indeed, to be proud to be British. You would not, to be sure, think so from this past week in London – as the House of Commons humiliated Prime Minister Theresa May by throwing out her plan for Brexit in Tuesday by 432 votes to 202 – an unprecedented rejection. On Wednesday, the Labour Party moved that her government had lost the confidence of the House – a maneuver defeated only narrowly, by 325 votes to 306.

The British, and foreign, news media would guide you to seeing the events as pure, destructive chaos. In an article for CNN, Stephen Collinson writes of the United States and the UK that it’s “hard to believe that two such robust democracies, long seen by the rest of the world as beacons of stability, have dissolved into such bitter civic dysfunction.” Hard to believe only if you see democracy as the smooth management of affairs by an elite. This is what democracy looks like when a citizenry is grappling with fundamental issues – or should.

A nationwide debate is under way on the nature of British – and by extension European – governance, which has rumbled and grumbled under the surface for decades. The decision by then Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, to hold a referendum on European Union membership in 2016 – a decision he now says he does not regret – was one for which he believed he could win easy assent.

This was in part a question of internal party management, but it had support from influential voices in Labour too, and addressed a threat of widespread desertion from both major parties to the quickly growing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The politicians, especially those from the bulk of England outside of the rich, cosmopolitan south-east, heard the growing clamor of men and women whose living standards had stagnated, as well as from those who called for more democratic control from a political center they could understand and influence – the Westminster parliament.

Like any such wide and deep civic disruption, the vote for Brexit exacts the price of economic instability and likely future reduction in national GDP. Fear of this prompted me – and others – to vote to remain in the EU. That fear has spread: a poll this week showed that Remainers could outvote Brexiteers by as much as ten percent: a poll last month showed the gap at 18 percent. Indications like these encourage Remainers to call for a second referendum, a proposal which could cleave British politics into two warring camps, but may also be the only way out of a parliamentary logjam, where no single strategy commands a majority. Uncertainty attends every move: such is the nature of a popular surge seeking – peacefully – a different relationship with political power.

Democratic turmoil has also come to Europe – but not to the European Union. The two national leaders most committed to reviving a movement to greater EU integration – French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – have themselves been drawn into democratic maelstroms, which have meant they are both much weakened at home.

The Brussels leadership of the EU – Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk – have not had the same popular drubbing. They seem not to have grasped that Brexit, and the surge of France’s “gilets jaunes” protesters, are hugely consequential movements not just for Britain and France, but for the Union as a whole. The EU presently faces its own, increasing strains and the strengthening possibility of recession – prompted by Italy’s rising debt and its reluctance to be bound by EU financial restraints, the end of a long period of quantitative easing which kept interest rates rock bottom – and Brexit itself.

Herein lies the central problem of the EU now. It has chosen to present itself as an adamantine front of 27 states wholly united against the renegade 28th, the UK. They have entrusted the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, to set out the hard facts of a deal which lays down a two-year withdrawal period in which most EU rules would continue to apply, with a severance payment of £39bn ($50 billion). It’s a divorce agreement which may not rival that of Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos, since that could come out at $66bn. But it would take a sizable morsel out of the UK’s GDP (at $2.6 trillion in 2017.)

Yet the hard front is an illusion. The Central European states – Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – want continued EU subsidies but recoil from its policies, especially taking a share of the immigrants within Europe. Italy now has a populist government which defies the EU on its spending limits. The country’s rising debt and falling industrial output, together with that of the other main members, now helps to pull the Union towards recession. The “Hanseatic League” of small northern states, under Dutch leadership, explicitly defies any efforts to bring the Union “ever closer” – the strategy to which Juncker and Tusk, as well as Macron, are bound.

This is not a band of brotherly states marching towards a Federal Europe. It is a group of countries of differing political traditions and cultures, with enough in common to have a single market and a growing tradition of cooperation – but with only selective, and minority, appetite to create more than that.

The challenge which confronts the EU, which would include the UK, is that of recognizing the truth of its present condition and of working out how best to decouple the Union from its now counterproductive mission to federalize. Instead of that, there should arise a Union of differing speeds, where neither a desire to form a federal state, nor one to retain sovereignty within existing nations, should be penalized, but accommodated. An EU straitjacket now aggravates rather than solves problems, defeating its initial vision of the creation of a new world power dedicated to freedom.

The continent’s rulers need to grasp what the British establishment has been forced to understand: that politics, and economic decisions, can no longer be located at a distance in institutions citizens do not understand, commanded by figures they do not know. Britain can take real pride that a messy, fraught, passionate struggle over a fundamental principle of democratic and civic life is taking place within it. It should spread across the continent.

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Thai babies given tiny face shields to wear for protection against coronavirus

Newborn babies in Thailand are being given miniature face shields to wear for protection against the novel coronavirus.

Babies born at a hospital in Thailand are being fitted with special masks to keep them safe from catching COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The masks are designed to stop droplets from sneezes or coughs from getting on the babies’ faces.

Turns out that on top of being useful, they’re pretty cute, too.

Bangkok’s Praram 9 Hospital shared a statement on its official Facebook page with a photo showing a nurse holding a baby while another worker slips a shield over its face.

“Safety is what we care about most,” the hospital writes in the statement.

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The visors, BBC Thailand reports, provide new parents “peace of mind,” according to a translation by Buzzfeed.

The masks will not be worn all the time by the newborns. They’re mainly for transporting babies home from the hospital, BBC Thailand says.

As of Thursday, Thailand had more than 2,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 46 deaths.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

[email protected]

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