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Doubts hound Baskerville

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Sister act

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Millions in China banish virus blues with online games, video apps

first_img“I only use my mobile phone for three hours a day at work, but at least eight hours every day during the Spring Festival, because it’s so boring,” Lu Zhang, a junior high school teacher in eastern Shandong province, said of the enforced holiday.Investors have seized on the trend, with shares of Chinese game publishers, such as Tencent, rising 2% in Hong Kong on Tuesday, outstripping a rise of 1% in the benchmark , while in New York, NetEase rose nearly 3%.US-listed shares in Chinese video platform Bilibili rose almost 7%, while shares of search engine Baidu and e-commerce giant Alibaba also rose.Five mobile game developers, including Ourpalm, surged by the maximum allowed 10% on Tuesday. Weekly downloads jumped 77% on ByteDance’s Xigua video app from Jan. 20 to Jan. 26, after it announced plans to stream the premiere of a movie, “Lost in Russia” for free, data from performance tracker App Annie showed.”My screen time yesterday exceeded 10 hours,” one Shanghai resident, identified only as Wang, said in a social media post, adding, “What do you all suggest I do other than look at my cellphone?”Also popular are health and fitness apps, such as Keep, which livestreams fitness classes. Its revenue surged 15% for the week, while healthcare app Pingan Good Doctor saw downloads jump 1,186%.”We believe that China internet and logistics companies are somewhat sheltered,” from the impact of the virus outbreak, analysts from Bernstein Research wrote in a Monday note, amid a growing trend for all products and services to move online.Tencent’s blockbuster mobile game, “Honor of Kings” made up to 2 billion yuan ($286 million) on the Jan. 24 eve of the holiday, estimated Pei Pei, an analyst with Sinolink Securities Co, exceeding all the Chinese mobile games on Apple’s app store during the entire week-long break in 2018.Tencent declined to comment.Strategy simulation app “Plague Inc.”, which jumped to the top of the charts in Apple’s app store, retained its popularity.The game, which allows users to create and evolve a pathogen to destroy the world, generated 78,000 downloads in January, up from 16,000 in December, according to Sensor Tower.”Many students play games during the Spring Festival,” said the junior high teacher, Lu, adding that she spent more than five hours each day playing poker, among other games. “Sometimes they invite me to join when they see me online.”US electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc, which started delivery in December of cars built at its $2-billion Shanghai plant, stepped up daily livestreamed sales events on video app Douyin to highlight features of its vehicles.Several sales dealers for Mercedes Benz also took to the WeChat app with a link to a 360-degree interior view of its GLB compact SUV, simulating the passenger experience and offering close-ups of the seats’ leather stitching details and dashboard.”Not leaving home, so use virtual reality to look at cars!” one of the representatives exhorted viewers.Topics : Online games and short video apps have been among the few beneficiaries of China’s virus outbreak, raking in millions of views and downloads as people stuck in self-quarantine at home seek entertainment and ways to beguile their time.The shift has even drawn companies more used to doing business in showrooms, such as carmakers Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, to promote products heavily online during the week.Chinese travel and gather with family and friends during the traditional Lunar New Year holiday, but many postponed or cancelled their plans over concerns sparked in mid-January about the spread of a new virus that has killed 420.last_img read more

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‘It’s necessary’: Greenpeace lauds government’s plan to tax plastics

first_imgEnvironmental watchdog Greenpeace Indonesia has applauded the government for planning to impose a levy on plastic products, describing it as an important measure to reduce the plastic waste that is damaging the environment.“Taxes are one way to constrain uncontrolled plastic consumption, as single-use and non-recyclable plastic has damaged the environment and threatens human and animal life,” Greenpeace spokesperson Muharram Atha Rasyadi said in a statement on Thursday.He added that the levy should be imposed on various kinds of plastic packages for food and beverages and other fast moving consumer goods. The government has set an ambitious target of 70 percent marine debris reduction by 2024; therefore, “real and quick efforts are necessary,” he went on to say.Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrayati has told House of Representatives Commission XI overseeing financial affairs that the government is planning to impose an excise on plastics, among other commodities.The plan would reduce plastic consumption by up to 50 percent, she said, adding that the government would receive revenue of Rp 1.6 trillion (US$116.6 million) each year. It would also force plastic producers to transform themselves into producers of environmentally friendly goods.The government has been planning to impose an excise on plastics since 2017 but has yet to receive approval from lawmakers.Indonesia has been listed as the world’s second-largest marine polluter as 15 percent of 1.3 million tons – 195,000 tons — of plastic waste ends up in rivers and oceans each year. (gis)Topics : “An excise on single-use plastic products, such as plastic bags and straws, should be prioritized,” Muharram went on to say.Such a plan would be an encouragement for industry to apply circular-economy mechanisms, which prioritize reusage and refilling activities, Greenpeace added. The circular economy is a sustainability concept that seeks to minimize waste by deploying resources optimally through reuse, recycling and remanufacturing.Read also: Indonesia revives excise plan on plastics, dirty vehicles and sweet drinks“We are at the peak of a plastic crisis, because our landfills can’t hold those kinds of waste anymore. Our rivers and seas have become trash bins for these plastic products,” said Muharram.last_img read more

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US plans to turn back all asylum seekers at Mexican border, cites coronavirus

first_imgThe United States plans to turn back all asylum seekers and most other foreigners attempting to enter the United States from Mexico illegally, arguing the step is necessary to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, according to US media reports on Tuesday.The new rule, which is expected to be announced in the next 48 hours, would allow border patrol agents to immediately return to Mexico anyone who tries to cross the southwestern border between legal ports of entry without detainment or due process, the New York Times reported.Ports of entry will remain open to commercial traffic and to U.S. citizens as well as people with green cards and other foreigners with proper documentation, the Times reported, citing administration officials. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.President Donald Trump has made a reduction of immigration a central focus of his administration. His administration’s policies intended to diminish asylum applications have done more to slow immigration than his efforts to build a wall along the southern border.Immigration advocates and public health experts have voiced concern about the potential for virus spread among detained people, even before the coronavirus outbreak.More than 2,000 immigration detainees were quarantined after mumps and other diseases infected nearly 900 people between September 2018 and August 2019; most were infected within government facilities.Mexico has reported 82 coronavirus cases so far, compared with nearly 6,000 in the United States.Topics :last_img read more

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No ‘ogoh-ogoh’ parades, large crowds during Nyepi this year

first_imgThe isolation during Nyepi in a way resembles social distancing, unlike the rituals prior to and following Nyepi, which usually involve large crowds.Amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak, Bali Governor Wayan Koster has banned all ogoh-ogoh (menacing-looking giant effigies) parades across the province, not even a short march around small neighborhoods, during this year’s ngerupuk ritual on the eve of Nyepi, is allowed.“No ogoh-ogoh parade in any form [is allowed],” Koster said last week while announcing his policy.Ngerupuk is the island’s biggest street parade, in which the local youths compete with each other to create the most magnificent ogoh-ogoh. The COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia has undeniably impacted how religious communities observe their traditions.On Wednesday, Balinese Hindus will observe Nyepi (Day of Silence), which marks the Balinese New Year and is reserved for self-reflection.In Bali, Nyepi is synonymous with deserted beaches, empty streets and lights switched off at night. Nyepi is the only day of the year when Bali’s airport and seaports close. Everyone, regardless of their religion, must remain in their house or hotel during Nyepi.  Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information about religious observations in Bali during the COVID-19 pandemic.Topics :center_img Ogoh-ogoh were first introduced in the 1980s and have since become a permanent fixture at Nyepi spectacles across Bali, the only Hindu-majority province in Indonesia which relies much on tourism.“Actually, the ogoh-ogoh parade is not part of the original Nyepi rituals. So, we are not obliged to hold the parade,” the head of the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council’s (PHDI) Bali chapter, I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, said, urging all Balinese Hindu communities to obey the call.The PHDI, Bali Customary Village Council, and Bali governor also urged Balinese Hindus to host the melasti — a procession that features pilgrimages to the sea to purify temples — and tawur agung rituals with a smaller number of participants.“Because the virus is highly contagious, we urge people to adjust the rituals to make our island safer for all of us,” Sudiana said.Bali, a province with more than 4 million people, has six confirmed COVID-19 cases with two fatal cases as of Monday, all of which authorities said originated outside the island. The province has yet to confirm any local transmission.One day after Nyepi, Balinese Hindus perform the ngembak geni ritual, in which they travel to their hometowns or visit relatives to exchange forgiveness.But on Monday, less than three days before the ngembak geni ritual, Koster issued another notice advising people to stay at home on Thursday.Yet there have been reports of people defying authorities.Young people carried ogoh-ogoh in processions through the streets of Denpasar on Tuesday.”The Satpol PP [Public Order Agency], backed by the pecalang [Balinese traditional guard] immediately dispersed the groups,” Denpasar city spokesperson Dewa Gede Rai said.Another large crowd reportedly headed to a beach in Gianyar for the Hindu melasti ceremony a few days before Nyepi.In Jakarta, the country’s epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, Nyepi’s series of ceremonies were held with similar adjustments to the number of participants.Less than 30 Hindus — all wearing masks — gathered at Aditya Jaya Hindu temple in Rawamangun, East Jakarta on Tuesday to observe the tawur agung ceremony, held a day before Nyepi.Jakarta’s Nyepi organizing committee chairman Ida Bagus Nyoman Banjar said smaller celebrations did not reduce the meaning of Nyepi.“We will follow the government’s call to limit congregational [rituals] and keep a distance. But the meaning of the rituals is not diminished at all,” he said after the event on Tuesday.The committee has also canceled the ogoh-ogoh parade to prevent large crowds.“We already have the ogoh-ogoh here, but we will keep them for next year’s event,” said Banjar, who is also a doctor.As a doctor, Banjar said he understood well the importance of following the government’s call to maintain social distance.“Social distancing is our collective effort to fight COVID-19,” he added.Jakarta’s Hindu community performed a melasti purification ritual in Segara Cilincing Hindu Temple in North Jakarta on Sunday. It was also attended by less than 30 participants.I Gede Ngurah Utama, a Hindu who lives in Cempaka Putih, Central Jakarta, said that Tuesday was the first time he went to the temple after the PHDI had urged Hindus to pray at home, in line with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s instruction to self-isolate.”It was quite empty. Usually more people come,” he said.Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, after a meeting with religious leaders in the capital, announced on Thursday that the city would limit Nyepi ceremonies and other religious practices for the next two weeks.“During Nyepi, Hindus are required to stay at home and reflect on themselves and this is in accordance with the social distancing measure called for by the government,” said I Nengah Dharma of the PHDI’s Jakarta chapter.The policy has been put in place to stem the transmission of the coronavirus disease, as Jakarta continues to see a rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, which stood at 377 as of Tuesday. Jakarta also recorded 32 deaths.Several other regions also canceled ogoh-ogoh processions and limited rituals ahead of Nyepi, including Yogyakarta and East Java’s Surabaya.Many Catholic, Christian and Muslim communities have also adjusted their religious traditions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.last_img read more

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US outlook highly uncertain, businesses ‘pessimistic’: Fed

first_imgAmong the nearly US$3 trillion in rescue measures approved by Congress since the pandemic hit, the government provided an additional $600 in weekly jobless payments temporarily, on top of any state benefits, and extended the time period for receiving payments. Topics : “Although many contacts expressed hope that overall activity would pick-up as businesses reopened, the outlook remained highly uncertain and most contacts were pessimistic about the potential pace of recovery,” the survey said.The disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused activity to decline in all of the Fed’s 12 districts, with most reporting sharp slowdowns along with steep declines in employment, the survey showed.Government data shows job losses since mid-March are approaching 40 million, although some of the Fed’s regional banks report that most of the layoffs are considered temporary.Businesses also cited a list of “challenges in bringing employees back to work, including workers’ health concerns, limited access to childcare, and generous unemployment insurance benefits,” the report said. Retailers strugglingThe government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) offered low-cost loans that businesses will not have to repay if they keep employees on their payrolls and off state unemployment rolls.The Fed survey reported strong demand for PPP which helped firms “limit or avoid” layoffs.However, some companies reported offering temporary wage increases for essential workers “to compete with unemployment insurance,” which was expanded amid the pandemic.In Boston, many firms reported pay increases of as much as 25 to 30 percent “because of work-related risks,” but they expect the increases to be temporary, the report said.In New York, the state hardest hit by the virus, the economic downturn continued, but there were rays of hope amid “scattered signs of a pickup in early May,” as the region began to tentatively reopen.Businesses resorted to curbside pickup and online sales to partially compensate for lost sales when they were forced to close their doors, but auto sales and construction “ground to a halt.”And “there continued to be fairly widespread pessimism” among businesses in the New York region.The survey also showed signs of potential financial challenges ahead once the economy restarts.Retailers are struggling to pay rent, according to the survey, and while residential landlords say fewer households than expected delayed payment, in St. Louis, “Banks indicated a sharp increase in delinquencies, primarily in mortgages, credit cards and auto loans.”The nationwide survey collected information through May 18 in preparation for the next meeting of the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee on June 9-10. After weeks of economic shutdowns, the outlook for a US rebound remains “highly uncertain” and businesses nationwide are gloomy about how quickly things can return to normal, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.At the same time firms worry that generous unemployment benefits make it difficult to retain workers or to bring them back to their posts once they are able to reopen, according to the Fed’s beige book survey of economic conditions.The survey showed activity in the world’s largest economy continued to fall sharply in recent weeks in all regions, with auto sales falling sharply and tenants unable to pay rent.last_img read more

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Amid unrest at home, US presses China on Tiananmen

first_imgThe United States on Wednesday saluted the protesters of Tiananmen Square and pressed China for a full account of the dead from its 1989 crackdown, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting survivors.The United States issues a similar statement for each anniversary but the timing this year was awkward as President Donald Trump has threatened military force against nationwide protests over racial injustice.Pompeo released a photo of himself meeting four figures from Tiananmen Square including Wang Dan, perhaps the most prominent of the student leaders behind the massive demonstrations for democratic reforms. Topics : The historic St. John’s Episcopal Church had suffered fire damage as nationwide protests gave way to riots over the killing by Minneapolis police of an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd.While the non-lethal force in Washington’s Lafayette Park was a far cry from Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader has accused the United States of double standards in criticizing the city’s own clampdown on protesters demanding preservation of autonomy.Pompeo earlier denounced China for preventing an annual Tiananmen commemoration in Hong Kong on the grounds that mass gatherings went against guidelines in fighting the coronavirus.Trump in 1990 said that China’s leaders “almost blew it” in Tiananmen Square but ultimately showed “the power of strength,” comments on which the real-estate tycoon faced criticism as he ran for president.center_img “We reiterate our call for a full, public accounting of those killed or missing,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.”We mourn the victims of June 4, 1989, and we stand with the people of China who continue to aspire to a government that protects human rights, fundamental freedoms and basic human dignity,” she said.China’s leadership has never provided a death toll from the crackdown, in which hundreds if not thousands are believed to have been killed, and has sought to suppress all public mention of the episode.The anniversary comes several days after US federal police fired smoke bombs and pepper balls, a projectile that releases a chemical irritant, to break up a peaceful protest outside the White House so Trump could walk through to take a picture outside a nearby church.last_img read more

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Millions of freelancers, entrepreneurs hit by pandemic with no safety net, government aid

first_imgTopics : Research by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in collaboration with the University of Indonesia (UI) and the Manpower Ministry involving 2,160 participants with different jobs, found that 55 percent of freelancers respondents reported that they had lost their jobs, while 58 percent had no income due to the health crisis. Meanwhile, 38 percent of the freelancer respondents had fewer jobs, while 28 percent reported a declining income. The survey also revealed how the outbreak had battered entrepreneurs, as 52 percent of self-employed respondents reported a decline in production activity and income. Meanwhile, 40 percent of them had halted business activity altogether.Read also: Freelance workers sell belongings to survive amid COVID-19 outbreakZainul Hidayat, a researcher at UI’s demography center at the School of Economics and Business, said on May 20 that if the survey results were simulated to the national figure, an estimated 10 million self-employed people had stopped working and 15 million freelancers had become jobless due to the pandemic. Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show that more than 56 percent of employed Indonesians or around 74.03 million people worked in informal sectors, which included freelancers and entrepreneurs, in February.“If the pandemic continues for the next two months, these self-employed workers will find it harder to run their businesses, while many more freelancers will also be without an income,” he said.He said self-employed workers and freelancers might survive on their own until June but he said the government should provide social aid and other incentives to help them survive.Previously, media and creative workers union Sindikasi stated that freelancers, in general, were extremely vulnerable during economic downturns, as they had no social security from their clients and clients could cut off their contracts without any compensation, while the government’s aid did not target them.The government has allocated Rp 677.20 trillion (US$48.58 billion) to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, with Rp 203.90 trillion allocated for social aid through the Family Hope Program, staple food assistance, preemployment card and electricity discounts, among other things, for low-income people.As much as Rp 123.46 trillion has been allocated for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) incentives and Rp 120.61 trillion in tax incentives for businesses.The research also found that only 41 percent of employers surveyed said they could survive for the next three months under current conditions, while 24 percent said they could survive for up to six months, 11 percent for six to 12 months and 24 percent more than 12 months.During the pandemic, 13.9 percent of the employers had laid off workers, while 49.6 respondents had furloughed employees.  Read also: Indonesia unveils bigger stimulus worth $47.6 billion to fight coronavirus impactsAs many as 2.8 million people have already lost their jobs or were sent on paid or unpaid leave as of April 13, according to data from the Manpower Ministry and the Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan).Amanda Anindita, a Surabaya-based wedding and couples photographer, has seen declining work opportunities and revenue during the outbreak but she continues to look for work.  “The pandemic has had a big impact on the wedding and event-related business. Many clients have decided to postpone their wedding events following the imposition of PSBB [large-scale social restrictions],” said Amanda, who has built a photography business with her colleagues, on May 27. She feels the pressure to be creative in finding new opportunities as she cannot rely on her main business anymore.“Commercial opportunities still come to me and I can learn new skills during this time,” she said. “Recently I tried to hold a virtual photo shoot and surprisingly there are people who want to use my skills commercially for such a photo shoot.”  Freelancers and entrepreneurs are among those who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, many of whom are reporting income losses and declining activity, with no safety net or government aid in place to soften the fall. David Rahman, 27, a freelance music teacher, is generating no income after all learning activities were moved online in March. “It is impossible to teach music online because students do not have their own musical instruments at home. Many music competitions for students were canceled, so the schools stopped music courses just like that,” David told The Jakarta Post on May 27. center_img Before the pandemic, David earned an income by teaching music once a week at eight schools, ranging from elementary to junior high schools in Jakarta.Read also: What about the others? ‘Ojol’ relief sparks concerns over aid inequality“Since I’m not teaching anymore, I’m not getting paid either,” he added. Today, he is temporarily jobless and relying only on his savings to survive as finding other freelance jobs in music is also difficult at the time.The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted business activity, forcing offices and factories, as well as schools and entertainment centers to shut their doors as people stay home to contain the coronavirus spread. As a result, millions of people have lost their jobs.last_img read more

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Virus fallout takes heavy toll on young workers

first_img‘Pretty scary’ The Kantar study indicated that a majority of young people expect to suffer the consequences of the crisis in the future — more than any other generation. Young women are particularly vulnerable. British group the Young Women’s Trust said more than a third (36 percent) worked in sectors hardest hit by lockdown measures, such as catering, retail, leisure and entertainment.For men, the figure is 25 percent.The sectors are also major providers of part-time jobs favored by students.In Spain — another European country hard-hit by the disease — unemployment has soared for young people aged 25 and under, reaching 33 percent in the first quarter of this year.”Almost half of the job losses that have occurred since the start of the crisis are concentrated on people aged under 35,” said social security minister Jose Luis Escriva.One of them is David, 35, who was a lifeguard at a swimming club in Madrid until he was laid off on March 13, robbing him of financial security — and peace of mind.”You find yourself without savings, without money. It’s pretty scary,” he said.”My parents are giving me money until I get unemployment benefits, because otherwise I can’t pay the bills, the food, the rent for my garage space.” Pierre is far from being an isolated case in Britain, which is gradually easing out of stay-at-home restrictions, after an outbreak that has left more than 40,000 dead.The Resolution Foundation, which aims to improve living standards for low- and middle-income families, estimated up to 640,000 18-24-year-olds could lose their jobs this year.That will take the number of unemployed in that age group to over one million, the think-tank said. Its projection is backed up by the Institute of Student Employers, which said more than a quarter of companies are cutting back on graduate recruitment. Topics : Internships are also being reduced by almost a third, it added, after questioning 124 companies.The pattern looks set to be repeated elsewhere, with concerns that job losses, purchasing power and confidence could hit young people, just as did in the 2008 financial crisis.Half of the world’s so-called “Millennials” — those aged 25-34 — and the “Generation Z” of 18-24 year olds were already feeling the effects of the global economic meltdown, according to a study by consultancy firm Kantar in May.Other studies, including those from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Labor Organization, indicate the pandemic is worsening inequality.Young and less qualified people are often on the frontline in the fight against the virus, the OECD noted.The ILO said one in six under-29s had stopped working since the outbreak began and those who have kept their jobs have seen their working hours reduced by 23 percent. When Britain went into coronavirus lockdown on March 23, the management at Pierre’s employer, a recruitment start-up in London, told staff not to worry about their jobs.But just hours later, the 26-year-old received an email from his boss asking him to call. “I understood right away. It was fairly brutal,” he told AFP.He was then laid off with about 15 percent of his colleagues.last_img read more

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