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The Spill: 2019-nCoV

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Trump Impeachment Trial Underway

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is well underway. The trial is being conducted in the Senate, after the House of Representatives earlier investigated accusations against the president and voted to impeach him.

As the trial began, Democrat impeachment managers laid out their case during 24 hours over three days for why President Trump was guilty of abuse of power and of obstructing the House investigation into the allegations against him. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) argued that Trump used his office to force the Ukrainian president to open an investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Next came the defense team of lawyers, including Ken Starr, who is notorious in Washington, D.C. for his legal acumen. The main thrust of Trump’s defense argument is that House Democrats are attempting to influence the upcoming 2020 election by disparaging President Trump. They point to omissions in the arguments and documents that are being presented as evidence by the Democrats.

After 16 hours for questions, the 100 members of the Senate must vote on whether the arguments made by either side warrant the calling of witnesses or the inclusion of new documents outside the scope of the original House investigation. For this vote to pass, it requires just a simple majority, 51 votes.

The calling of witnesses could extend this trial for many weeks to come. Several senators, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar, are in the process of trying to win the Democratic Party nomination for the 2020 election, and time spent in the Senate would mean time away from the campaign trail for the presidential hopefuls.

When all arguments and pieces of evidence are given, the Senate must vote on Trump’s guilt or innocence. It will require a two-thirds majority to remove President Trump from office. Democrats may be able to convince enough senators that further evidence needs to be heard, but it is extremely unlikely that they will convince the majority that the president has acted outside of his authority.

Mysterious Coronavirus Crosses Borders

A new disease has been gaining attention around the world, particularly as it has been spreading to various countries from its point of origin in the city of Wuhan, China. It is being referred to as a “coronavirus.”

China has quarantined Wuhan and eleven other cities, as nearly 3,000 cases have been recorded, as well as over 100 deaths. Over ten additional countries have confirmed cases, including the United States. The first U.S. case was identified on January 22 in Washington state, while other instances have been observed since then.

A coronavirus is a family of virus that includes the flu and common cold, as well as more severe varieties like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The official name for this strain is 2019-nCoV, and it causes pneumonia-like symptoms. In 2003, SARS spread to 37 countries in just six months, infecting thousands with a fatality rate of 9.6%. The new 2019-nCoV has a lower fatality rate of less than 5% of those known to be infected.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the U.S. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters that risk to the American public is “low,” but added:

“We don’t have all the information at the level of detail that our scientists would prefer. You know CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] scientists, and we want to see every titbit of data ourselves, and that’s not the situation we’re in right now. We are in more of a waiting mode, waiting to see what our colleagues from China are releasing.”

Nobody is sure of the virus’s origin – the first sample supposedly came from Wuhan Seafood Market in December 2019, and some have speculated that eating various species of animal has transmitted the illness to humans.

The World Health Organization has so far decided against declaring the virus a public health emergency. President Trump has remained calm and stated that the U.S. has a plan to deal with the disease. He said, “We do have a plan and we think it is going to be handled very well. We’ve already handled it very well.”

World Celebrates Lunar New Year

Unfortunately, the coronavirus has hit China during the Spring Festival holiday – also known as Chinese New Year. Just like Thanksgiving or Christmas in the U.S., this is a time when people travel to visit their families, and, as it is a national holiday, most people have a week off work or school. All this travel around China may have aided the spread of the coronavirus, and the government has extended the holiday by two days in the hopes of slowing down the disease. The major port city of Shanghai has gone further, forbidding business from re-opening until February 10.

Despite all this, people around the world are still celebrating the new lunar year and the arrival of the Year of the Rat. The Lunar calendar is still observed across much of Asia. Unlike the Western Gregorian calendar which operates according to the sun, the Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. The new year’s cycle typically starts on the first new moon of the calendar and ends on the first full moon of the year, around two weeks later.

In the Chinese zodiac, which is based around 12 animals, 2020 is the Year of the Rat – the first creature in the system. In Chinese tradition, each year is associated with an animal, in a cycle that repeats every 12 years: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

The Chinese zodiac suggests that those born in the Year of the Rat are optimistic, creative, adaptable, energetic, and well-liked by their peers. However, they may be stubborn, and a thoughtless style of communication may be perceived as rudeness. According to, “Rats are clever, quick thinkers; successful, but content with living a quiet and peaceful life.”

Other recent years of the rat were 1996 and 2008, while 2019 was the Year of the Pig. What Chinese zodiac animal were you born under – and do you think it is an accurate reflection of your personality? This ancient system of horoscopes is still influential in modern Chinese thinking – do you think there is any place for astrology in our scientific age, or is it mere superstition?

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