Spain’s health minister to resign as COVID-19 cases hit new daily high



FILE PHOTO: A medical staff member administers a PCR test to a nursing home worker during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Durango, Spain, January 14, 2021. REUTERS/Vincent West

January 21, 2021

MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa will resign next week to campaign in regional elections in Catalonia, an official from his party said on Thursday, while national authorities reported a record 44,357 new daily coronavirus cases.

“By Thursday of next week at 12 midnight, he will have given up his portfolio,” Miquel Iceta, the secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party, said in a news conference.

Illa, who has overseen Spain’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, had said he would step down when campaigning got underway for the election, which is set to take place on Feb. 14.

Spain has been routinely reporting record daily coronavirus infections since the end of December, but a top health official said the recent surge appeared to be stabilising.

“The increases we are seeing are getting smaller every day, which implies that we have reached an inflection point,” Fernando Simon, the country’s health emergency chief, said in a separate news conference to present the data.

Despite that optimism, the nationwide incidence of the virus as measured over the past 14 days climbed to a new high of 796 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday from 736 cases the previous day.

Simon warned that pressure on hospitals would likely continue into at least the next week.

The latest figures brought the cumulative total of coronavirus cases in Spain to 2,456,675, while the death toll increased by 404 to 55,041.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen and Joan Faus, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Paul Simao)



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Gold hits 2-week high as U.S. stimulus hopes pressure dollar


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Gold rose on Thursday to its highest in

nearly two weeks as the U.S. dollar eased on hopes of further

stimulus under President Joe Biden’s administration, although

some profit booking checked the metal’s gains.

Spot gold was up 0.1% at $1,873.36 per ounce by 0653

GMT, after hitting its highest since Jan. 8 at $1,874.50 earlier

in the session. Bullion had gained 1.7% on Wednesday.

U.S. gold futures climbed 0.3% to $1,871.70.

“Gold has some more upside in the slightly longer horizon,

given that global central banks are likely to stay dovish for an

extended period of time,” said DailyFX strategist Margaret Yang.

The Bank of Japan kept its monetary policy steady on

Thursday, and investors are now waiting for the European Central

Bank monetary policy decision due at 1245

GMT.

Market focus was also on Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan

as he gears up to jump-start his response to the COVID-19

pandemic, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives and upended

the world’s largest economy.

“The virus mutation is a big wild card and if vaccine

development, manufacturing and rollout can’t catch up to the

pace of the mutation, the pandemic could last much longer than

we’d previously thought,” Yang said.

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Keifer Sykes flies high as Phoenix score first win of season


The two sides played out a double-overtime thriller on Sunday, which Adelaide won after the Phoenix missed 14 free throws. This time they were better from the line and more effective defensively before Sykes took charge in the final term with 10 of his points, while fellow import Ben Moore also hit his straps to finish with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Adelaide big men Daniel Johnson (19 points and 10 rebounds) and Humphries (20 points) led their side.

NBA import Donald Sloan stepped up in the opening minutes, nailing a three and drawing a foul while Sykes looked to assert himself more, finding some early baskets and setting up Mitch Creek for a dunk.

The Phoenix took a slim lead into quarter-time but were reducing the impact of their strong defence by conceding too many offensive rebounds to the plucky Sixers, who continued to stay close despite the visitors threatening to break away several times.

Kyle Adnam had 12 points for the half for the Phoenix, who led 47-43 at half-time.

Keifer Sykes of the Phoenix takes on Adelaide’s Donald Sloan on Wednesday night.Credit:Getty Images

Johnson fired up in the second half, scoring 10 quick points but good responses from Moore and Adam Gibson kept the Phoenix firing, while Sykes threw down his astounding one-handed dunk over Humphries just before three-quarter time as his side led 71-61.

Sykes took over in the last term before his teammates held off the Sixers in the final minute.

Adelaide NBA draft prospect Josh Giddey hopes to be able to return to the court against New Zealand Breakers on Friday night after medical advice kept him out of Wednesday night’s game.

Giddey hit the floor hard after losing his balance following a dunk in Sunday’s win over the Phoenix and he said a doctor would make the final call on whether he plays on Friday night.

“It will be a doctor’s decision on Friday morning, so we will see what he says,” Giddey told broadcasters on Wednesday night. Hopefully I’ll be good to go.”

The Phoenix play Perth Wildcats in Perth on Sunday at 5pm AEDT.

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Advice for parents part two: Transitioning your kids into high school | Goulburn Post


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With the new school year just around the corner, all students will need to go through change in some way. Getting back into the groove of being at school six hours a day won’t be easy, but spare a thought for those going to high school for the very first time. Not sure how you can help your child transition smoothly from primary school to high school? Well you’ve come to the right place. READ ALSO: Make the most of the sunny weather before the rain sets in Someone who knows the ins and outs of helping a child feel comfortable with the move is Timothy Matthews. Not only is he a teacher at Trinity Catholic College in Goulburn, but he also has a child in year 12. Mr Matthews understands children may feel anxious or scared about the change of schools, so he said parents would have to be patient. “You should be really patient because they will be anxious and a little bit upset about getting into a new place,” Mr Matthews said. READ ALSO: Advice for parents part one: Transitioning your kids into primary school “Some kids are moving from really little primary schools and even if they’re going to Goulburn High School, they’ll have a hundred other people in their year.” To all the children feeling uncomfortable about the transition to high school, Mr Matthews said there was nothing to worry about. “You’re gonna make a lot of new friends and you will have a lot more experiences,” he said. “It will be a very exciting time.” For parents of all the other high school students, Mr Matthews said said it was important for them to buy everything on the school list, but not to go overboard. READ ALSO: RFS urges precaution due to increased grass fire risk “Most schools will give families a list of the things they will need for their first day,” he said. “However, they shouldn’t go too overboard in terms of getting school supplies because it is pretty expensive. “A lot of high schools expect kids to bring a laptop nowadays, so the temptation is to rush into a really good one. “Kids don’t treat things like that with a great deal of respect sometimes, so they’re better off with an affordable one that can do many things.” For information on when each school term begins and ends, visit https://education.nsw.gov.au/public-schools/going-to-a-public-school/calendars Did you know the Goulburn Post is now offering breaking news alerts and a weekly email newsletter? Keep up-to-date with all the local news: sign up below.

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Coronavirus Australia news: COVID-19 deaths in the United States hit another one-day high as infections near 23 million



Coronavirus deaths in the US have hit another one-day high at more than 4,300.

The nation’s overall death toll has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II.

The US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday (local time), with Arizona and California among the hardest-hit states.

Deaths have been rising sharply in the past two-and-a-half months, and the country is in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is rolled out.

New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average. More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine.

AP

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High Cost To Wildlife From Shark Nets Protecting S.Africa Beaches


“They’re basically curtains of death,” said shark diver Walter Bernardis as he reached over the side of his zodiac inflatable boat to pull up a net bobbing in eastern South Africa’s subtropical waters.

The 200-metre (-yard) stretch of mesh is meant to protect swimmers basking on the eastern coast’s palm-lined beaches from shark attacks.

But conservationists say the nets trap any large animal that swims too close to shore, making no distinction between sharks, dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles and whales.





A black-tip shark is seen swimming during a baited shark dive in Umkomaas near Durban, South Africa
 AFP / Michele Spatari

“They’re a passive system that has been put in the water and everything that puts its head in that net dies,” said Bernardis, who quit a teaching job to bring tourists face-to-face with sharks and set the record straight about the fish.

The predators gained a bad name in the 1950s, when a string of deadly attacks prompted people to desert the popular white sand beaches in KwaZulu-Natal province, which now draws more than six million visitors each year.

Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller “Jaws” compounded fears by gripping the public imagination with incorrect representations of sharks as human flesh-eaters.

Alarmed, the provincial tourist industry set out to keep sharks away from skittish beachgoers.



Dozens of South African beaches use shark nets, which activists say are ineffective and harm wildlife


Dozens of South African beaches use shark nets, which activists say are ineffective and harm wildlife
 AFP / Michele Spatari

Today 37 beaches are lined with nets and baited drum lines, spread over more than 300 kilometres (190 miles) north and south of the provincial capital Durban.



Sharks mostly eat smaller fish and other marine animals, rather than pursuing human swimmers


Sharks mostly eat smaller fish and other marine animals, rather than pursuing human swimmers
 AFP / Michele Spatari

The barriers have successfully reassured holidaymakers.

Throngs of people spend the southern hemisphere summer in KwaZulu-Natal, packing the beaches with tents and parasols — although access was limited this year due to coronavirus.

Not a single lethal shark encounter has been reported in protected areas in more than 67 years, according to the publically-funded KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) sharks board.

Yet figures suggest the predators rarely strike humans, regardless of whether they are separated by nets.



Dive organiser Gary Snodgrass (L) had to change the name of his tours from the 'tiger shark dive' because the species was becoming so rare


Dive organiser Gary Snodgrass (L) had to change the name of his tours from the ‘tiger shark dive’ because the species was becoming so rare
 AFP / Michele Spatari

Only around 100 shark attacks were reported globally in 2019, according to records compiled by the University of Florida.

Human flesh is not usually part of a shark’s diet, consisting mainly of smaller fish and other animals such as seals and squid.

Only five out of hundreds of shark species are considered threats to man, including the aggressive bull and tiger sharks.



A shark warning notice board at Umgababa Beach near Durban


A shark warning notice board at Umgababa Beach near Durban
 AFP / Michele Spatari

Keeping them away from people, however, has other costs.

At least 400 sharks suffocate each year after being trapped too long by nets and baited hooks, says the KZN sharks board.

“In 2019 we caught 690 animals,” said Matt Dickens, head of research at the KZN sharks board, which defends the barriers.

“Many of those were released alive,” he added, noting that commercial fishing in South Africa catches 10 times more.

Shark diver and guide Gary Snodgrass was forced to change the name of one of his tours a few years ago because sightings of certain species had become rare.

,

“We can’t call it a tiger shark dive any more because we’re seeing them so seldom… they have decreased in number dramatically.”

Global shark populations are threatened by habitat destruction, overfishing and the lucrative shark fin trade.

Humans kill an estimated 100 million sharks annually, according to scientific findings published in 2013, and eight species are now protected by CITES.

Still there is little public sympathy for creatures associated with vicious gaping jaws and razor-sharp teeth.

But scientists and conservationists stress the animals are important for the ecosystem and key to regulating marine populations.

They also note that shark barriers are barely effective, especially against large species.

In fact, divers have noticed that most animals can swim under the mesh, which is only six metres deep, and often get stuck on their way back from the shoreline, rather than on the way in.

Nets and drum lines give swimmers a “false” sense of security and signal “to people that sharks are dangerous”, said Jean Harris, head of South African conservation group Wild Oceans.

What needs to change, she added, is “people’s minds”.



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‘Great opportunities’ for first homebuyers amid high market confidence



There are “great opportunities” for first home buyers as confidence in the Australian housing market remains high, according to Insights Manager at Finder Graham Cooke.

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Australian shares fall, but still at a 10-month high on US stimulus bets



Australian shares have slipped in early trade, but are still trading optimistically around their pre-COVID highs.

Markets put aside concerns about more contagious strains of COVID-19 and political instability in the United States.

By 10:40am AEDT, the benchmark ASX 200 had fallen (-0.2pc) to 6,746, around its highest value since late-February.

The broader All Ordinaries index was also down by a similar margin to 7,011 points, also near its highest level in 10 months.

Investors are betting US president-elect Joe Biden will push for more stimulus (hundreds of billions of dollars) into the US economy, and prop up global share prices even further — given Democrats now control the House, Senate and presidency.

Oil and gas stocks were the best performers, including Woodside Petroleum (+2.7pc), Santos (+2.5pc), Oil Search (+2.1pc) and Origin Energy (+2pc).

It helped that oil prices have jumped to $US56.06 per barrel, its highest value since February, last year.

On the flip side, gold miners suffered the heaviest losses, like Perseus Mining (-7.7pc), Westgold Resources (-7.1pc), Resolute Mining (-6pc) and Gold Road Resources (-5.7pc).

Spot gold dropped to $US1,850.76 an ounce, having plunged by about 4 per cent since Friday.

The Australian dollar was marginally weaker (-0.2pc) at 77.43 US cents.

More to come.

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Venture capital hits record high in U.S. in 2020 despite pandemic 



FILE PHOTO: Commuters walk through the Financial District during a snow storm in Lower Manhattan, New York, January 26, 2015. REUTERS/Elizabeth Shafiroff

January 8, 2021

By Jane Lanhee Lee

(Reuters) – Venture capital backed companies in the United States raised nearly $130 billion last year, setting a record despite the COVID-19 pandemic, figures from data firm CB Insight released on Friday show.

While the investment total is up 14% from 2019, the number of deals is down 9% to 6,022. And so-called mega-rounds, deals that are $100 million or higher also hit a record amount and number with $63 billion raised in 318 deals.

“What we’re seeing is a ‘rich get richer’ phenomenon where successful, high momentum technology companies are vacuuming up most of the financing,” CB Insights chief executive Anand Sanwal told Reuters by email.

He said that data showed a big drop in a very early stage investment called seed stage, and expected some of those companies that stand out to see “insatiable investor demand” with fewer competitors for the money.

The trend of big investments doesn’t look like it will slow in 2021 as there is a lot of capital chasing investments, say some venture capitalists.

Already on Thursday Quantum Metric, a startup that provides customer analytics and improvement tools for online businesses, said it raised $200 million in its latest financing round, which values the firm at more than $1 billion.

In 2020, many of the mega rounds were raised by tech companies that got a boost from COVID-19, which drove up remote work and e-commerce.

“Capital tends to follow categories that have a lot of legs. And I think right now you’re seeing a lot of conviction behind categories and companies that are riding un-doubtable trends,” said Arun Mathew a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel, an early investor in Facebook.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say 2021 is going to be a banner year for many tech companies,” Mathew said.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)



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Melbourne United are favourites, NBA talent is at all-time high as new season begins


If this were a regular campaign, United would be runaway favourites, but with a disrupted and possibly disjointed season ahead, who knows how much talent will be worth? United will hope it is what pushes them to the title.

Will Brian Goorjian drag the Hawks from the bottom to the top?

This is real. Goorjian was away for 11 years but he has come back to the Hawks and recruited a roster with size, athleticism, versatility and scoring prowess.

Golden State draftee Justinian Jessup looks an MVP candidate, Deng Adel could be a match-winner and the likes of Emmett Naar, Tyler Harvey and veteran Cameron Bairstow all seem primed.

Back with the Hawks: Brian Goorjian.Credit:Getty Images

But this is a Hawks side which has seen little success in recent years and faces the potential of starting the year on the road due to NSW’s COVID-19 issues, so it could be a difficult start.

People have noticed how Goorjian won’t let his young side find any excuses from being forced to leave Wollongong for a time. Goorjian has six NBL titles and has his eye on No.7 – it would be a fairytale.

Will Sydney fall off the pace without Andrew Bogut and Will Weaver?

The Kings took a massive leap last season under coach Will Weaver and with NBA-calibre stars Andrew Bogut, Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate pushing the side to the grand final.

Now Bogut has retired and Weaver and Tate are in the NBA, leaving Ware and new coach Adam Forde to keep the team moving forward.

It would be easy to write them off, especially with Melbourne, the Hawks, Cairns and the Breakers all making big signings, but I like the fight in this group.

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Ware looks likely to fire up his scoring while the core of Didi Louzada, Brad Newley, Daniel Kickert, Shaun Bruce, rookie shooter DJ Vasiljevic and NBA import Jarrell Martin bring talent and toughness.

Write off the Kings at your own peril but they can’t leave any wins on the floor as there will be some talented sides who miss the finals.

Can the Phoenix step up into the top four?

I really like the group the Phoenix have for their second NBL season with Mitch Creek, Adam Gibson and Kyle Adnam joined by Cameron Gliddon and new imports Keifer Sykes and Ben Moore, who both appear to be NBA calibre guns.

But a month-long back injury to centre Dane Pineau sees them already under-strength, while the likes of rookie big man Yanni Wetzell is untested in this league and veteran forward Reuben Te Rangi has only played spotty minutes in recent seasons so may take time to adjust to a senior role.

If this group clicks, they will be very good. If they don’t win games early, they could be the unlucky side who falls short.

How many interruptions can we expect and how will it hit teams?

Your guess is as good as mine but it’s clear state governments will enact short lockdowns and border restrictions after just one or two cases.

We have already seen teams in Melbourne, Greater Sydney and Perth displaced during pre-season and the opening round looks likely to need some changes after the issues in Brisbane this past week.

It will hit teams hard should they have to spend long periods on the road while it could especially hurt some of the established sides like Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney who have veteran players with families.

The addition of the Melbourne Hub and NBL Cup in February will bring a new element to the season and a new trophy. It could save the season if more delays kick in.

Are Cairns under the radar as a title contender?

Normally we would be singing the praises of Mike Kelly and the Taipans who have retained star imports Cam Oliver and Scott Machado, along with young guns Mojave King, Kouat Noi and the core of last year’s impressive side.

But with so many distractions they have flown under the radar while a pre-season loss to Melbourne further put them down the list.

This group will only be better in their second year together, while both the two imports and King and Noi all have legitimate NBA dreams so would love to make this season the one where they make the leap to the title and then to the big time. They are good enough to do it.

Are there many future NBA prospects in the league?

COVID-19 has hurt this league in many ways but its spread around the world has seen a number of NBA fringe players look to play in safety here rather than overseas.

The likes of White and Vasiljevic would have likely played overseas, while Landale, Adel and Isaac Humphries would also likely still be either in the G-League or Europe.

On the import front, former Kings import Tate’s early NBA success will put more spotlight on the likes of Oliver, Machado, Moore, Sykes, Perth’s John Mooney plus NBA draftees Louzada and Jessup.

It also looks more likely Adelaide rookie Josh Giddey and King from Cairns will figure in the NBA draft, possibly in the first round. NBA scouts will be wearing out the NBL app and Zoom calls this season.

Could this be the year Perth falls off the pace?

The pandemic has worn down more venerable institutions than the Perth Wildcats and their three-decade finals streak but it still is hard to picture an NBL top four without them.

The big test for the reigning champions will be leadership within their squad as this will be the first time in over a decade they will be playing without Damian Martin, Greg Hire or Shawn Redhage, who set the standard on and off court. Coach Trevor Gleeson knows this group well and franchise player Bryce Cotton is in his prime, plus they have very promising young guns starting to push for court time.

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One horror scenario would be a prolonged border closure from the WA government, which has been lightning quick in locking down. The Wildcats are the NBL’s road warriors but if any season could take them down, it will be this one.

Can the Breakers do what the Warriors couldn’t and make finals while stuck on the road?

The Breakers have a celebrated history of title wins and resilience but this group has undergone a lot of change in recent years. Corey and Tai Webster are world-class guards, Thomas Abercrombie is still a quality veteran and leader while Lamar Patterson is a proven game-winner.

But the NRL’s Warriors showed a long period on the road will wear down resolve and lead to patchy form. If the Breakers can resume home games this season, they will be thereabouts but if they are stuck on the road it may be too much for them.

Who will win it all?

As long as COVID-19 doesn’t win and we complete the season I’ll be happy. But it would be incredible to finish the season with a Melbourne v Hawks or Melbourne v Cairns grand final given the talent those sides have brought into the league, and the connection between their coaches, who have all played or coached together previously. Just having live basketball back on court will be a win we can all enjoy. And then we have the Boomers’ medal chase at the Tokyo Olympics to follow.

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