Mr ‘immune’ Trump back on campaign trail with a roar

US President Donald Trump throws a face mask from the stage during a campaign rally, his first since being treated for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Orlando Sanford International Airport in Sanford, Florida, US, October 12, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 October 2020

Mr ‘immune’ Trump back on campaign trail with a roar

  • Trump wanted to show he can defy the pandemic
  • Trump talks of enjoying a "protective glow" after getting over COVID-19

SANFORD, United States: Immune to COVID! Stronger than Joe Biden! Superman? Not quite, but Donald Trump wants America to know he's back.
"Here we are!" he cried with a triumphant roar — made slightly hoarse by his bout with COVID-19 — at the opening of a rally in Sanford, Florida, on Monday.
Just a week after getting out of hospital with the coronavirus, Trump strode onto the stage, tossing out face masks, like a rock star handing out autographs.
But he wasn't wearing a mask himself.
And neither was anyone else, barring a small minority, in the crowd of several thousand, who were jammed cheek and jowl to witness the Republican's return to the campaign trail.
Which was the whole point.
Trump wanted to show he can defy the pandemic and his seemingly plummeting chances of beating Democratic candidate Biden alike.
Loud, coarse at times, diving into his well-worn jokes, and freely insulting opponents and journalists, Trump didn't sound like a clinically obese man of 74 who only a few days ago was being administered oxygen by doctors.
"They say I'm immune," he boasted. "I feel so powerful."
From ditching his mask to parking the iconic Air Force One jumbo right behind the podium, this was a rally stage-managed to push Trump's image as freak of nature unbound by the laws governing ordinary folks.
Maybe he wasn't wearing a Superman shirt under his suit, as The New York Times reported he considered doing on being discharged from hospital October 5, but the crowd wouldn't have been fazed had he done so.
"We love you, we love you," they cheered.
That defiance was on show even before Trump left Washington.
Waiting for Trump's motorcade to come snaking across the rain soaked concrete at Joint Base Andrews, staff could be seen mopping and wiping down surfaces in the press cabin of Air Force One.
Unlike on past trips — even throughout the COVID period — staff, Secret Service agents and Air Force personnel all wore masks.
There'd been real tension around the trip: the White House has become a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 10 days, becoming a living symbol of Trump's hands-off approach to a pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 Americans.
So the White House had assured the traveling pool of journalists that every person boarding the plane would first be tested for the coronavirus and anyone interacting with reporters would wear a mask.
But when the massive motorcade finally rolled up alongside Air Force One, it was jarring to see Trump step from his black armored SUV with no mask, the sole bare face in the entire cavalcade.
With a thumbs up to the press, he quickly boarded the plane, even jogging on one of the steps — an apparently deliberate show of vitality.
Trump talks of enjoying a "protective glow" after getting over COVID-19.
The way Trump tells it, his special powers make him invincible against Biden too. Since reemerging from heavy treatment for the coronavirus he has mocked the Democrat's travel schedule, his mask wearing and coughing.
"He's got no strength left, he's got no power left," Trump told Monday's crowd.
"He may be the worst presidential candidate in history and I got him," he scoffed.
The polls do not bear this out.
They consistently show Trump far behind Biden, potentially heading toward a defeat of landslide proportions.
They show an overwhelming majority of Americans angry at Trump's handling of the pandemic. They show women and the elderly — two key voting groups — abandoning Trump.
But Trump has spent a lifetime perfecting the art of creating a story about himself and on Monday night in Florida, at least, he was able to tell his story to an audience that hung on every word.
"These are the real polls," he said, gazing over the thick crowd of supporters in red "Make American Great Again" baseball caps.
They cheered.


Philippines evacuates nearly 1 million as Typhoon Goni nears

Updated 31 October 2020

Philippines evacuates nearly 1 million as Typhoon Goni nears

  • Typhoon Goni is expected to slam into Catanduanes Island Sunday morning with wind speeds of up to 205 kilometers per hour
  • Civil Defense chief Ricardo Jalad said “almost a million” people had left their homes in the Bicol region

LEGAZPI, Philippines: Nearly a million people in the Philippines were evacuated from their homes Saturday as the most powerful typhoon of the year so far barrelled toward the country, with authorities warning of “destructive” winds and flooding.
Typhoon Goni is expected to slam into Catanduanes Island Sunday morning with wind speeds of up to 205 kilometers per hour (127 miles per hour) before crossing the main island of Luzon, the state weather forecaster said.
It comes a week after Typhoon Molave hit the same region of the natural disaster-prone archipelago, killing 22 people and flooding low-lying villages and farmland, before crossing the South China Sea to Vietnam.
“It looks like we will have really strong winds, increasing the chances of widespread flooding and landslides,” Mark Timbal, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told local broadcaster ABS-CBN.
“Storm surges are imminent on our east coast. We are monitoring Mayon and Taal volcanoes for possible volcanic mud flows.”
Civil Defense chief Ricardo Jalad said “almost a million” people had left their homes in the Bicol region, which includes the southern part of Luzon and Catanduanes.
Authorities spent Saturday marshalling rescue vehicles, emergency response teams and relief goods ahead of the typhoon.
“Violent winds and intense rainfall” are expected that could trigger floods and landslides in an area of more than 20 million people, the weather service said.
There was a “high risk” of storm surges of more than three meters (10 feet) high along parts of the coast, it added.


Schools which have been empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic are being used as emergency shelters as well as government-run evacuation centers and gymnasiums.
“Evacuating people is more difficult at this time because of Covid-19,” Bicol regional civil defense spokesman Alexis Naz told AFP.
Mary Ann Echague, 23, and her family fled their home in the coastal city of Legazpi in Bicol to an inland primary school where they were sheltering in a classroom with several other families.
“We fear the wrath of the typhoon,” said Echague, who was with her two children, parents and siblings. They had carried with them a portable stove, tinned meat, instant noodles, coffee, bread, blankets and pillows.
“Each time we’re hit by a typhoon our house gets damaged, since it’s made of wood and galvanized iron roofing,” she said.
“We have always managed. We find a way to get by.”
Hundreds of people have been left stranded after the coast guard ordered ferries and fishing boats into port in expectation of rough seas throwing up 15-meter waves.
Goni is expected to “weaken considerably” as it crosses Luzon and enters the South China Sea Monday morning, the state forecaster said.
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure, keeping millions of people perennially poor.
Its deadliest on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which unleashed giant waves on the central city of Tacloban and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.