Розділ: Фінанси

September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

Legislators said their final farewells to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Friday, September 25, as her coffin was taken from the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery where she will be buried. ––––––––– READ MORE: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, paid their respects to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she became the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. Biden and his wife were among the last of the attendees to approach Ginsburg’s casket to bid her farewell at a relatively brief and solemn ceremony in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the gathering she had the “high honor to welcome Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to lie in state in the Capitol of the United States,” Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt delivered the eulogy. “All of the days of her life she pursued justice. Even in illness, she changed the course of American law,” Holtzblatt said. “And even when her views did not prevail, she still fought.”  ––––––––– LINK: https://www.voanews.com/usa/ginsburg-first-woman-jewish-person-lie-state-us-capitol 

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September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

VOA Connect Episode 141 – We look at the role of nature, especially during Covid, and how it can play a positive role for your mental health.   (some of the pieces in this program have previously aired)

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September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

The governor of the eastern U.S. state of Virginia announced Friday that he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.
 
Governor Ralph Northam said they were notified Wednesday that a staff member who works in the living quarters of their official residence developed symptoms and subsequently tested positive, after which the couple had their own tests done.
 
He said his wife, Pamela, is experiencing mild symptoms, while he remains asymptomatic.
 
The couple is isolating for 10 days, during which the governor is continuing his work.
 
Crews are also cleaning the governor’s mansion, and the Northams are working with state health officials on contact-tracing efforts to make sure anyone they may have been in contact with is aware of their positive tests.
 
Northam said the best thing people can do is “take this seriously.” 

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September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol when her body was moved there Friday morning. After her casket arrived on the plaza outside the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, a private ceremony for her family and invited guests began at the hall, where her casket will rest on the same wooden platform built for the casket of President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his wife, Jill, and Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, are attending the tribute.  Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, center, and his wife Jill Biden stand as the flag-draped casket of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 25, 2020.The coronavirus outbreak restricted the number of people who were invited to the ceremony. Lawmakers who were not invited to the private ceremony are able to pay their respects before her body is removed later Friday.A statement by the U.S. Supreme Court said Ginsburg, who is also the first Jewish person to lie in state at the Capitol, will be buried next week in a private ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony. Ginsburg has lain in repose for two days at the Supreme Court.President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pay respects as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at the Supreme Court building, Sept. 24, 2020, in Washington.U.S. President Donald Trump was met with boos and chants of “vote him out” as he and his wife, Melania, appeared Thursday at the Supreme Court to pay their respects to Ginsburg. The president, wearing a face mask, made no remarks as he stood briefly a short distance from Ginsburg’s casket at the top of the court building’s steps. Vice President Mike Pence paid his respects to Ginsburg as she lay in state at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Ginsburg was honored Wednesday with a private ceremony in the Supreme Court’s Great Hall attended by her family and fellow justices. Her casket was then moved to the front steps for the public to file past and pay their respects until Thursday night. Rosa Parks
Civil rights icon Rosa Parks lay in honor in the Capitol’s historic Rotunda after her death in 2005, a distinction given to eminent private citizens. Ginsburg died last Friday at age 87 of metastatic pancreatic cancer, ending a 27-year tenure on the nation’s highest court. Her status as leader of the court’s liberal minority, along with her pre-jurist work seeking legal equality for women and girls in all spheres of American life, made her a cultural icon, earning her the nickname “The Notorious R.B.G.” Her death has sparked a political battle over her replacement. Trump and Senate Republicans vowed to name and confirm a new justice before the November 3 presidential election, which would give the court a solid 6-3 conservative majority. Trump announced Tuesday that he will name his nominee for the lifetime appointment on Saturday. 

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September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

The Cambodian government has allocated $1.2 billion to bolster an economy struggling with the withdrawal of some European trade perks and the COVID-19 pandemic.Under its Everything But Arms policy, the European Union grants tariff-free access for goods from developing countries that meet international standards on democracy.But a ban on the main opposition party from contesting the 2018 election upset the EU – Cambodia’s largest export market – prompting the withdrawal and an initial cost to business of about $130 million.Phen Kosal has worked at the Hung Wah garment factory for last six years. She said the EBA policy was having a dreadful impact on business amid layoffs, loss of overtime and reduced hours.She said she is now begging for government help. She is also in debt with the banks and finance institutions and added that this was why she was desperately seeking aid.Hardest hit is the $7 billion garment industry, where about 700,000 workers earn $190 a month producing for big brands such as Levi Strauss and Adidas.The Garment Manufacturers Association says the EU erred by withdrawing preferences on August 12 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and that 450 factories have suspended work. It says another 83 have closed, hurting about 150,000 workers.Athit Kong is president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union. He said the combination of EBA and the pandemic is costing jobs, and if the situation does not improve then big brands might look for other countries to produce their garments.“I think the parties need to work together to maintain and to keep this benefit for the country, and especially for the workers,” he said.But the plight of workers remains uncertain, and that is unlikely to change amid lost trade and the pandemic.

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September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

Vietnamese officials have lowered expectations for their country’s normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 as the global economic slowdown thins demand for exports and stalls international tourism.The $260 billion economy has expanded at 6% or more per year since 2012 because of a boom in manufactured exports will grow at just 2% this year, according to an official target released this month. That’s down from an earlier target of 2.5%. The Asian Development Bank estimates just 1.8% growth.Measures taken around the world to contain the spread of COVID-19 have reduced orders to the Vietnamese factories that crank out shoes, garments and furniture, analysts say.Stay-home rules in Western countries are keeping shoppers away from physical stores, while business closures in those countries have left people out of work and less likely to buy nonessential goods.“The rule is that those light industrial goods are weak, the exports orders are down and there’s reports of a lot of unemployment in the factory sector in the [Vietnamese] provinces,” said Frederick Burke, Ho Chi Minh City-based partner with the law firm Baker McKenzie.The headaches of 2020 challenge Vietnam to keep its reputation as a manufacturing go-to spot in Asia as rising costs complicate factory work in China and other Southeast Asian countries lack infrastructure.Many plants falteringFactories that make electronics, such as Samsung’s smartphones, still get orders from retailers that sell abroad to people working or studying at home. However, the vast number of plants that make less value-added goods are faltering, Burke said.A Vietnam factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which makes footwear for some of the world’s top brands, for example, laid off 150 workers earlier this year, the nonprofit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre says.Vietnam’s border closure, a measure to throttle the coronavirus spread, is stopping investors from making trips that would help them expand. They would normally travel to Vietnam from Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan to scope out new manufacturing sites. Their factories in turn create jobs, fostering a young middle class.Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel said Jack Nguyen, partner in the business advisory firm Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City. International tourism is “dead,” Nguyen said. Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements,” Nguyen said. “Who knows when that’s going to be.”A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result, Nguyen said.Recovery could take 4 yearsVietnam’s government is targeting GDP growth next year of 6% to 6.5%, figures that experts say would reflect a near-normal year compared to the low GDP base of 2020 rather than an explosion of new activity.The Ministry of Planning and Investment warned this month the global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as four years, according to a research note from the brokerage SSI in Hanoi. The ministry set a 2021 growth target of 6% to 6.5%, down from an earlier goal of 7%.Foreign investors in the country aren’t pulling out, however. They take a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive COVID-19, Burke said. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.Vietnam’s government “has proven to the world thus far that it can protect its borders from the invasion of a pandemic and create a desirable atmosphere for investment, something that most other Asian nations cannot boast,” said Ralf Matthaes, founder of the Infocus Mekong Research consultancy in Ho Chi Minh City.Everyone in Vietnam is watching for whether the rest of the world can control disease caseloads to the point that consumers start spending as they did before and international travel comes back, economist say.“It’s a case of the global economy, regional economy on stable footing post-pandemic, adjusting to the new normal, whatever that means,” said Song Seng Wun, economist in the private banking unit of CIMB, a Malaysian bank, in Singapore. 

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September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack is the first presidential appointee to serve in a new position created by Congress to modernize U.S.-funded broadcasting efforts worldwide. Since taking charge in June, the U.S. international broadcasting CEO has drawn bi-partisan criticism for removing agency broadcasting chiefs and initiating a security review that resulted in some foreign Voice of America journalists losing their visas. VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports.
Camera: Adam Greenbaum, Independent support group @VOAJournalists 
Produced by: Katherine Gypson, Victoria Sneden and Tressie Rhodes

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

Last call came early Thursday at pubs and bars in England and Wales, as Britain tightened the rules to try to curb a coronavirus surge.The new restrictions, announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, mean that any establishment serving food or drink must close by 10 p.m. (2100 GMT).The new rules apply in Scotland from Friday, while Northern Ireland is still considering a curfew.British pubs traditionally close at 11 p.m. But some stay open later, depending on their location and the day.”I don’t think it’s gonna help, it’s too little too late, as usual,” Joyce, a skeptical drinker in her 50s at a pub in the East London neighborhood of Dalston, told AFP.”You’re just displacing the problem,” she said.Britain announced 6,634 new cases Thursday, the biggest daily number since the pandemic began. Britain is performing about 220,000 tests a day.Across the English Chanel, European Union health officials urged member states Thursday to “act decisively” to put in place and utilize measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus and a potential surge in cases like the one earlier this year that prompted widespread lockdowns.“We are at a decisive moment. All member states must be ready to roll out control measures, immediately and at the right time, at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks,” said Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety. She added, “This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”More than 3 million cases have been reported across the EU and Britain since the pandemic began, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.Kyriakides noted some EU countries are experiencing higher numbers of new infections than they had in March at the peak of the outbreak in the region, saying, “It is abundantly clear that this crisis is not behind us.”France’s health ministry reported Thursday the number of people hospitalized in intensive care units due to the coronavirus surpassed 1,000 for the first time since early June.In the Netherlands, health officials said Thursday the number of new infections rose to 2,544, a record high for a single day.Poland’s health ministry also reported a record daily rise in cases and attributed the trend to people making more contact with others after restrictions were lifted.Sweden, which opted not to put in place many of the stricter coronavirus lockdown measures seen elsewhere in Europe, is experiencing a situation Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called worrying.”The caution that existed in the spring has more and more been replaced by hugs, parties, bus trips in rush hour traffic, and an everyday life that, for many, seems to return to normal,” Lofven told reporters.He said people will be glad about the right steps they take now and suffer later for what is done wrong.Lofven urged people to follow social distancing guidelines and hygiene measures, and said, if necessary, the government would introduce new measures to stop the spread of the virus.A similar message about the need for continued vigilance and good practices came Thursday from Indonesia’s COVID-19 task force as that country saw another record increase in new cases. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.”Over time, we’ve seen that the people have lowered their guards,” task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito told reporters. “It’s almost like they don’t have empathy even when they see every day so many new victims.”The governor of the capital, Jakarta, extended coronavirus restrictions there until October 11 in order to help hospitals cope with demand.In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that the country is returning to a full lockdown, effective Friday, and lasting for two weeks as its infection rate spirals out of control.Schools, entertainment venues and most businesses will be closed, while restaurants will be limited to delivering food. Residents will be required to stay within 500 to 1,000 meters of their homes, except for work and shopping for food and medicine, while outdoor gatherings will be strictly limited to 20 people. 

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September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

Another COVID-19 problem the U.N. is trying to solve: How to help more than 300,000 merchant mariners who are trapped at sea because of coronavirus restrictions.Describing the mounting desperation of seafarers who have been afloat for a year or more, Captain Hedi Marzougui pleaded their case Thursday at a meeting with shipping executives and government officials on the sidelines of this week’s U.N. General Assembly.As the pandemic washed over the world and made shipping crews unwelcome in many ports, he said, “We received very limited information, and it became increasingly difficult to get vital supplies and technical support. Nations changed regulations on a daily, if not hourly, basis.”Several months later, many borders remain closed and flights are rare, complicating efforts to bring in replacement crews for those stuck at sea and forcing their employers to keep extending their contracts.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined shipping companies, trade unions and maritime organizations in urging governments to recognize merchant crews as essential workers and allow them to travel more freely. With more than 80% of global trade by volume transported by sea, the world’s 2 million merchant seafarers play a vital role.Merchant ship crews are used to long stretches away from home, but as virus infections and restrictions spread early this year, anxiety mounted along with the uncertainty, Marzougui said.”Not knowing when or if we would be returning home put severe mental strain on my crew and myself,” he said. “We felt like second-class citizens with no input or control over our lives.”The Tunisian-born captain spent an extra three months at sea and finally made it home to his family in Florida in late May. But more than 300,000 mariners are still stranded, waiting for replacement crews; about as many are waiting on shore, trying to get back to work.Maritime officials from Panama, the Philippines, Canada, France and Kenya defended steps they have taken individually to allow safe crew changes or otherwise ease the crisis.But officials lamented a lack of international coordination among nations and shipping companies, calling for new rules to protect countries from the virus while respecting the rights of stranded crews.No figures were released for how many merchant mariners have contracted the virus, but Guy Platten of the International Chamber of Shipping said the virus risk is “relatively low” because shipping companies have strict protection measures and “have no wish whatsoever to bring infections on our ships.”He blamed “red tape and bureaucracy” for crew change delays and said border guards and local port officials in some countries are being overzealous in blocking them from coming ashore. One way goods are still able to get ashore despite restrictions is by dock workers fetching them from the ships.France proposed compiling a global U.N. list of ports that can be secured to accommodate crew changes. Kenya called for sharing costs globally for a rapid testing plan for major ports.Crews often work 12-hour shifts with no weekends, and Marzougui warned that extending stints without a break risks physical and mental strain — potentially putting ships and oceans in danger.The captain compared it to telling a marathon runner at the end of the race that they had to “do it again, right away, with no rest.”

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September 25th, 2020 by Vbiz

U.S. lawmakers from both parties said Thursday that they feared the Voice of America and other U.S.-funded broadcasters were at risk of losing credibility with foreign audiences because of actions by new CEO Michael Pack.Pack, the first presidential appointee to serve in a new position that Congress created to streamline and modernize U.S.-funded broadcasting efforts, has faced bipartisan criticism for his actions since taking charge in June.Thursday’s hearing was the first time that lawmakers have had the opportunity to publicly examine Pack’s changes at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent agency of VOA, Radio Free Asia, and other U.S.-funded broadcasters.Pack said he had a scheduling conflict and could not attend, despite a subpoena from House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York.”He has shown tremendous disrespect for the committee, our committee, and its role overseeing USAGM. He’s the wrong person for the job. He should resign. And if he doesn’t, the president should fire him,” Engel said.Audience of 350 millionUSAGM’s annual budget of around $800 million funds news programming that each week reaches an estimated 350 million people in 62 languages.Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee, said Pack’s decision to not attend “ignored the will of Congress.”McCaul singled out USAGM’s decision to freeze $18 million in funding to the Open Technology Fund (OTF) as a particularly dangerous decision.“I believe his actions damaged support during the height of unrest in Hong Kong. And they are continuing to do so today in Belarus. Their tragic lack of support to freedom and democracy movements is also regrettable,” McCaul said Thursday.FILE – Michael Pack is seen at his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 19, 2019. Pack’s nomination to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media was confirmed June 4, 2020.Since arriving at the agency, Pack has fired the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network; attempted to replace the board of the Open Technology Fund, a group that uses federal grants to promote internet freedom technologies; and has not renewed J-1 visas for international journalists.Review of renewalsUSAGM announced a review of the J-1 renewal process in early July, resulting in work permits expiring for several foreign journalists working in VOA’s language divisions. At least five have left the United States.Witnesses at Thursday’s hearing included Grant Turner, the USAGM chief financial officer placed on administrative leave last month; Amanda Bennett, former VOA director, who resigned two days before Pack joined; Jamie Fly, former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president, who was dismissed by the incoming CEO; Karen Kornbluh, chair of the OTF’s board of directors; and Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador and board member of the OTF.They testified on how changes implemented since June affected the ability of the broadcasting networks to function and risked endangering the editorial firewall that shields the agency’s journalists from political interference in their reporting.FILE – Then-U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Dec. 10, 2011.“I am very worried that the cracks in the firewall are going to just destroy the whole image of USAGM,” said Crocker, who has served as the top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. “Our reputation for telling the truth has been a core element of our strength as a nation. Now, it is in danger, putting at risk not only our national values, but also our national security.”Witnesses said apparent firewall violations include the request to place editorials on the entities’ homepages; attempts by USAGM to attend editorial meetings on U.S. election coverage; the removal of Steven Springer, VOA’s standards editor; mass firings of agency heads; the nonrenewal of J-1 visas; and Pack’s statements in radio interviews that the agency would be “a great place to put a spy.”Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and witnesses said those comments could endanger agency journalists.’Incredibly dangerous’“It’s incredibly dangerous for the USAGM head to start basically writing a press release that the Kremlin can then turn around and use the next week about USAGM journalists,” Fly said.Turner also raised concerns about damage to the credibility of the network, telling the committee, “Nothing in my 17 years comes even close to the gross mismanagement, the abuse of authority, the violations of law that have occurred since Michael Pack assumed the role of CEO at USAGM.”Pack, a former independent film and television producer and head of a conservative foundation, has defended his actions in interviews and in communications with USAGM staff, saying he wants to protect the agency’s editorial independence and make it more effective in achieving its mission.Pack has also said that government audits revealed serious, yearslong security problems that were left unaddressed by the agency’s previous leaders.In his confirmation hearing last September, Pack pledged to uphold U.S. law mandating VOA’s editorial independence.“The whole agency rests on the belief reporters are independent, that no political influence is telling them how to report the news,” Pack told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.Pack’s two-year confirmation process in the Senate ended up in a partisan battle after Senate Democrats alleged he misused funds for his documentary production company. However, Senate Republicans praised his experience as a filmmaker and former media executive.FILE – Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa, speaks during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing Sept. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.’Poor vetting procedures’On Thursday, Republican Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania defended Pack’s actions, pointing to a recently released Office of Personnel Management (OPM) report that found 40% of the agency’s staff had been improperly vetted over the past 10 years.“The reforms undertaken by Mr. Pack have undergone a significant amount of public scrutiny, as they should,” Perry said. “But USAGM’s poor vetting procedures over those last decades continue to threaten U.S. national security, and it’s entirely the fault of those who mismanaged the process.”Perry also criticized practices by OTF, which he said presented security risks and a misuse of government funds.Kornbluh disputed Perry’s comments.“I believe that the congressman has been misinformed,” she said. “The security claims are just not true.”Kornbluh said the funding freeze had caused OTF to halt 49 of its 60 ongoing internet freedom programs.Several committee members questioned the witnesses about the impact of Pack’s comments about spies within the agency.“Mr. Pack, without evidence, has made libelous claims, really, that were these journalists to go get a job somewhere else in another country, could threaten not only their livelihoods, but their safety,” Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas said.Who will trust them?“When somebody from the United States government has labeled a journalist a spy, who is going to go trust them in another country? Who is going to go hire them somewhere else? This man has acted incredibly recklessly, and even for that alone, he should be dismissed from his job,” Castro said.Fly made recommendations for ways to rein in the CEO’s powers, suggesting Congress pass new international broadcasting legislation to clarify the roles of the networks and how best to explain U.S. foreign policy to audiences.Lawmakers pledged to continue oversight of U.S. international broadcasting even as Congress deals with a myriad of issues related to the upcoming election and the pandemic.VOA’s Jessica Jerreat contributed to this report.

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September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

As the Jerusalema dance challenge sweeps across Africa, in Zimbabwe the wildlife are joining in.  Staff at a Zimbabwe sanctuary for rescued wildlife have seen their online dance video with elephants, giraffes and other animals go viral. Columbus Mavhunga reports from Harare.Camera:  Blessing Chigwenhembe Produced by:  Jon Spier 

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September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

Thailand’s parliament voted Thursday to delay deciding on whether it will amend the country’s constitution, and anti-government protesters continued the daily demonstrations they have been staging for more than two months, calling for more democracy and reform of the monarchy.Rather than vote on the amendment, lawmakers dominated by government supporters opted to set up a committee that will study various plans to amend the charter written by a military-appointed panel after a 2014 coup. Critics of the current government say the constitution was drafted to ensure the country’s current prime minister remained in power after the election last year.The decision is expected to delay the process by another month, agitating the thousands of protesters who gathered outside the parliament to put pressure on lawmakers to implement constitutional change and remove Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, a former junta leader, from office.Parliament member Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn from the opposition party said in a tweet that as a result of the delay to form a committee, if the motion to amend the constitution is rejected in a month’s time, then members of parliament will not be able to propose another motion until next year.“It’s part of their tactics to delay the process because they want to hold on to their power,” said Punchada Sirivunnabood, an associate professor of politics at Mahidol University near Bangkok. “The protest movement will likely escalate from this point, with more people, including the opposition parties, joining the movement.”Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has not publicly commented on the protests that have demanded the monarchy’s power be reduced — a movement that challenges a decadeslong taboo of not criticizing the monarchy.Prayuth has called for patience on the amendment, saying the country must be peaceful in order for the government to be able to “continue our work, especially on the economy.”

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September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 870,000 workers filed for unemployment compensation last week, a slight increase from the week before and another sign that the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to impede the American economic recovery.Millions of workers remain unemployed in the United States, with the jobless rate at 8.6% in mid-September, and economists saying the figure could remain elevated for months. Only about half of the 22 million U.S. jobs lost in the coronavirus pandemic has been recovered, with the world’s biggest economy adding 1.4 million jobs in August.Weekly initial claims for jobless benefits seemed to have stabilized somewhat below 900,000 in recent weeks. Last week’s 870,000 figure was up 4,000 from the revised level of the week before.The recent weekly claims figures are well below the 6.9 million record number of claims filed in late March as the coronavirus swept into the United States but remain above the highest level before this year in records going back to the 1960s.U.S. employers have called back millions of workers who were laid off during mandatory business shutdowns earlier this year, yet some hard-hit businesses have been slow to ramp up their operations again or closed permanently, leaving workers idled or searching for new employment.During the worst of the pandemic, the U.S. unemployment rate topped out at 14.7% in April.With six weeks to go before the November 3 presidential and congressional elections, President Donald Trump and Republican and Democratic lawmakers in politically fractious Washington have been unable to reach an agreement on extending federal unemployment benefits and how much should be paid.Until the end of July, the national government sent an extra $600 a week to unemployed workers on top of less generous state jobless benefits. The Republican-controlled Senate two weeks ago tried to win approval of $300-a-week payments through the end of the year, but Democrats blocked the proposal as too small and continued to call for resumption of the $600 weekly payments.The rejected Republican coronavirus relief package would have cost between $500 billion and $700 billion, on top of the $3 trillion approved months ago at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.Trump has urged his Republican colleagues in Congress to approve more spending in another coronavirus aid deal. A week ago, he said on Twitter, “Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).”The top two congressional Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, praised Trump’s stance.“We look forward to hearing from the president’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation,” Pelosi and Schumer said.But no deal has been reached as the country’s world-leading coronavirus death toll topped 200,000 this week.Democrats have called for a $2.2 trillion relief package, but possibly could settle for less than that. Whatever figure, if any, is agreed on is likely to come soon. Lawmakers want to leave Washington to return to their home states for a month of campaigning for re-election ahead of the elections.As the first round of unemployment payments expired in July, Trump signed an executive order calling for $400 a week in extra payments for a few weeks. But not all states delivered the reduced payments to jobless workers, and now that money is running out.While the U.S. has been adding more jobs in recent months, the pace of the recovery has seemed to slow. The 1.4 million jobs added in August included the Census Bureau’s temporary hiring of about 240,000 workers to help conduct the once-a-decade count of the U.S. population. 

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September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

The U.N. World Food Program warns northern Mozambique’s volatile Cabo Delgado province is facing a hunger crisis as escalating conflict forces thousands to flee their homes and abandon farms.An armed insurgency in Mozambique’s oil-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado has displaced more than 300,000 people since 2017. As fighting has intensified in recent months, thousands have fled to neighboring Tanzania, raising fears of a regionalization of the conflict.Most of the displaced have no means to feed themselves, and WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says many are totally dependent on international food aid for survival.“We know that Cabo Delgado is a farming area,” said Phiri. “This is a region that produces both crops for commercial as well as for the subsistence of the farmers there. And, we know that when there is violence and if the farmer is not guaranteed to be there to harvest, they hardly put any seeds into the ground.”  The WFP plans to send food aid to reach 310,000 people in Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Niassa. But it notes insecurity, poor infrastructure and restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of money are threatening the operation.Phiri says the agency urgently requires $4.7 million a month to assist the internally displaced. He tells VOA the WFP will be forced to cut back on rations as early as December, if it doesn’t receive the needed funds. This, he adds will have serious consequences.“When you cut rations, the adults, particularly the mothers in the family—they start skipping meals,” said Phiri. “They start reducing the meal portions in order to stretch whatever resources are available for the children to have something…We are also concerned because Cabo Delgado has very high malnutrition rates.”Cabo Delgado has the second highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the country with more than half of children under age five chronically malnourished.  The U.N. agency has enough money in its coffers to feed the internally displaced over the next couple of months. The WFP, however, warns it may be forced to suspend its life-saving operation if the funding shortage persists beyond the end of the year.

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September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

Australian bank Westpac has agreed to pay a record fine for the nation’s biggest breach of anti-money laundering laws. The case was brought by the government’s Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, known as AUSTRAC. It said the penalty of more than $900 million sent a strong message to the financial industry to take compliance seriously. Westpac was accused by government investigators of 23 million breaches of money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws. Australia’s second-largest bank was found to have allowed transactions that were potentially linked to child exploitation in the Philippines and in other countries despite being specifically warned of the risks. If approved by the federal court, the $920 million fine will be easily the biggest in Australian corporate history.   The bank had set aside $630 million to pay the penalty, but that figure was rejected as insufficient by the financial crimes watchdog. AUSTRAC investigators said the bank’s noncompliance was “serious and systemic.” Australian Attorney General Christian Porter said he believes the agreed-to settlement, which he described using the Australian dollar amount, is fair. “My very strong view, and the government’s strident view was that the early appropriations that Westpac made, and the figures that were being put early in negotiations with AUSTRAC were totally inadequate, and that this 1.3 billion [Australian] dollar amount more properly reflects both the seriousness of the offending that Westpac had engaged in, but also an acceptance of the fact that these represent some of the greatest failures of a corporate entity in Australia’s history to abide by Australian law,” Porter said.Westpac has apologized for its “failings.” Chief executive Peter King said the bank was “committed to fixing the issues to ensure that these mistakes do not happen again.” The bank’s former chief executive and chairman left their positions last year over the scandal.   Opposition politicians are demanding the government push ahead with reforms to further strengthen Australia’s anti-money laundering legislation. Last year Australia’s banking industry was scrutinized by a royal commission – the highest form of public inquiry – that exposed widespread dishonesty in the sector. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has begun late-stage human trials of a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. Dr. Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer, told reporters Wednesday that 60,000 participants have begun receiving the vaccine across 215 locations in the United States, as well as internationally in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa. Dr. Stoffels said Johnson & Johnson moved into the late-stage trial after seeing positive results from its combined Phase 1 and 2 trials in the U.S. and Belgium.   The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the fourth potential coronavirus vaccine undergoing large-scale Phase 3 testing in the United States, joining Moderna, AstraZeneca and a joint effort by Pfizer and German-based BioNTech. All four efforts are being developed under the Trump administration’s President Donald Trump walks past a U.S. map of reported coronavirus cases as he departs following a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) news briefing at the White House in Washington, July 23, 2020.Speaking to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Dr. Stephen Hahn said those decisions will be made by career FDA scientists following the agency’s “rigorous expectations for safety and effectiveness.”  The FDA and other federal scientific and regulatory agencies have seen their credibility diminished by constant administration efforts to revise their reports and guidelines to maintain Trump’s views about the nature of the pandemic.  The United States is leading the world in both the number of total COVID-19 cases with over 6.9 million, and fatalities, at almost 202,000.  The United States and many other nations are experiencing a surge of new coronavirus cases, prompting many to reimpose a set of strict lockdowns first ordered at the outset of the pandemic.   Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday in a televised address that the nation’s four largest provinces have entered a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.   “We’re on the brink of a Fall that could be much worse than the Spring,” Prime Minister Trudeau warned.  Canada has seen an average of 1,123 new cases daily over the past week, compared with an average of 380 new cases a day in mid-August.   In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that the country is returning to a full lockdown effective Friday, and lasting for two weeks as its infection rate spirals out of control.  Schools, entertainment venues and most businesses will be closed, while restaurants will be limited to delivering food.  Residents will be required to stay within 500-1,000 meters of their homes, except for work and shopping for food and medicine, while outdoor gatherings will be strictly limited to 20 people.  

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September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

Lawmakers in Washington will hold an oversight hearing Thursday examining the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent agency of Voice of America and other U.S.-funded media networks.House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, has issued a subpoena for Michael Pack, the USAGM CEO, to appear and answer lawmakers’ questions. Pack has indicated he has a scheduling conflict and cannot attend.FILE – Michael Pack, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, is seen at his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Sept. 19, 2019. Pack’s nomination was confirmed June 4, 2020.Besides Pack, other invited speakers include former executives who resigned or who were fired soon after Pack took charge of the agency in June. These executives include former VOA Director Amanda Bennett; Jamie Fly, former Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty president; and Karen Kornbluh, chair of the board of directors of the Open Technology Fund.Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns over the firings of the agency’s top media organization leaders, the agency’s denial of visa extensions for its foreign journalists, and other issues that critics say are eroding the editorial independence of the U.S.-funded news networks that broadcast to foreign audiences.Pack, a former independent film and television producer, and head of a conservative foundation, has defended his actions in interviews and in communications with USAGM staff, saying he wants to protect the agency’s editorial independence and make it more effective in achieving its mission.Pack has also said that government audits revealed serious, years-long security problems that were left unaddressed by the agency’s previous leaders.

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September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

A grand jury in the U.S. city of Louisville, Kentucky, Wednesday charged a former police officer with wanton endangerment for shooting into the apartment of the neighbors of a Black woman, Breonna Taylor, who was killed during a bungled drug raid in March. The grand jury decided that two other officers were justified in firing their weapons and cleared them of wrongdoing. No officers were charged directly with Taylor’s death. All three officers involved are white. Taylor family attorney Ben Crump said, “While not fully what we wanted, this brings us closer” to justice for Taylor. But in a second tweet, Crump said the fact that no one was charged directly with Taylor’s death was “outrageous and offensive.” Initially, thousands of people peacefully protested the decision in the city of 600,000. But the protests turned violent Wednesday night, with police and protesters clashing, and protesters setting fires in downtown Louisville, according to local media.  Late Wednesday, two Louisville police officers were shot and suffered non-life-threatening wounds, a Louisville Metro Police Department spokesman said. The spokesman added that police had “one suspect in custody.” Around 5 p.m. local time, Louisville police had declared the protest a riot and ordered protesters to “immediately disperse.” Officers employed flash bang devices to clear protesters from a downtown area later Wednesday.  Mayor Greg Fischer ordered a 72-hour curfew, beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Much of the city’s downtown area had been closed to traffic. The Louisville Courier Journal reported that nearly 30 protesters had been arrested late Wednesday. Brett Hankison, who is white, and the lone officer charged in the case, had already been fired from the city police department after an investigation showed he fired 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment through a sliding glass door covered with blinds, violating police rules that officers should have a clear line of sight before firing their weapons.Police survey an area after a police officer was shot, Sept. 23, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. A grand jury has indicted one officer on criminal charges six months after Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Kentucky.The grand jury charged Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment, concluding the shots he fired went through a wall into a neighboring apartment and endangered three people living there. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison on each count. According to Kentucky’s statute, “A person is guilty of wanton endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person.” Hankison was booked and released from the Shelby County Detention Center Wednesday afternoon after posting $15,000 bail, according to media reports. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is Black and oversaw the grand jury’s consideration of the case, said the other two officers involved in the raid — Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — “were justified in their use of force” after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at them first when they entered the apartment, thinking they were intruders. The officers had authorization for a “no-knock” raid, but Cameron said a resident in Taylor’s apartment building heard the police officers announce their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment, even though Walker told police he did not hear it. Cameron said Walker acknowledged firing the first shot, hitting Mattingly in the leg. Mattingly and Cosgrove fired numerous shots in return. Cameron said ballistics tests showed one of the shots fired by Cosgrove killed 26-year-old Taylor, a medical technician. 
 
“The decision before my office is not to decide if the loss of Breonna Taylor’s life was a tragedy — the answer to that question is unequivocally yes,” Cameron said during a news conference Wednesday in Frankfurt, the state capital. “I understand that as a Black man, how painful this is … which is why it was so incredibly important to make sure that we did everything we possibly could to uncover every fact.” He later added, “I know that not everyone will be satisfied. Our job is to present the facts to the grand jury, and the grand jury then applies the facts. If we simply act on outrage, there is no justice. Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.” Later, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear asked Cameron to post online all the evidence and facts that can be released without affecting the three felony counts brought against the fired Louisville police officer. “Everyone can and should be informed,” Beshear, a former attorney general, said during a press conference Wednesday. “And those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more. I trust Kentuckians. They deserve to see the facts for themselves. And I believe that the ability to process those facts helps everybody.” Taylor’s killing became part of this summer’s national reckoning on race relations in the United States and police use of disproportionate force in minority communities. Street demonstrations broke out in dozens of cities in May after George Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Taylor case became as prominent as Floyd’s, with celebrities and protesters alike calling for charges to be filed against all three police officers linked to her death. Protests over the charges in Taylor’s case took place around the country Wednesday night, including in Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. Protesters said the charges against a single officer were not sufficient. Pastor Tim Findley, a regular at the protests held in Louisville seeking justice for Taylor, told the Courier Journal Wednesday, “It’s a tragedy. This is an embarrassment, and it’s exactly why there have been protests for the last (119) days. This is a disappointing, hurtful, painful day in our city.”  Louisville recently agreed to pay $12 million to Taylor’s family to settle a lawsuit it brought against the city for the manner in which the raid was carried out.  

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

Fans disappointed once by the delayed release of superhero movie Black Widow are now disappointed twice after The Walt Disney Co. again pushed back the opening on Wednesday.Starring Scarlett Johansson, the spy thriller was scheduled to debut on November 6 and was among the last movies expected to open in 2020. But as movie theaters remain closed in many areas because of the pandemic, fans will now have to wait until May 7, 2021, according to Disney.Fans who were anticipating the latest annual Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster had mixed reactions to the Black Widow delay.’Money hungry’Some, like Twitter user @KpHeaney, applauded the move, tweeting that “this is the right decision” because “there are certain films which cry to out to be seen on big screen. This is one of them.”Others saw Disney making a money play. “You would think with all what’s happening they’d help the people out [and] let us stream the movies but they’re money hungry, they keep on delaying movies,” tweeted @RyanH1904.A number of highly anticipated movies have been delayed in part, according to FILE – Concessions workers stock bins with popcorn and other treats as an AMC theater opens for some of the first showings since it shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aug. 20, 2020, in West Homestead, Pa.Elsewhere in the U.S., AMC Entertainment and Cineworld Plc’s Regal Cinemas have reopened but “haven’t seen huge business,” according to Variety.Because the Marvel movie universe is interconnected, delaying Black Widow meant pushing back release dates for other Marvel offerings such as Eternals and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.Eternals is now scheduled to open on November 5, 2021, rather than February 12, 2021; Shang Chi is moving from May 7, 2021, to July 9, 2021.Accent on safetyEternals star Kumail Nanjiani tweeted, “There’s a pandemic. Nothing is more important than health & lives. I can’t tell [people] to go to a movie theater until I feel safe going to one.”Beyond the Marvel franchise, the pandemic is also delaying West Side Story, Steven Spielberg’s first foray into movie musicals. Originally scheduled to open on December 18, 2020, it will now be a holiday season release on December 10, 2021.In the meantime, film lovers can look forward to the animated Pixar movie Soul that Disney still plans to release in theaters on November 20. The Empty Man, a horror release from the former 20th Century Fox, is moving up from December to October 23.
 

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September 24th, 2020 by Vbiz

JUBA/GENEVA — While some South Sudanese experts recommend the government adopt a new economic system used by developing states to cut off black market currency exchange and stabilize skyrocketing prices, a new U.N. panel report says the real problem in South Sudan is deeply entrenched government corruption.
 
South Sudan should switch to a developmental state economic system under which the government could control prices, the black-market foreign exchange rate, and the flow of currency in and out of the country, according to Abraham Matoch, economics professor and vice chancellor at the Doctor John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology in Bor.
 
“There’s no rule in a new country wishing to reconstruct, rehabilitate, and reconstruct to move immediately into a free market economic level which is more or less a catalyst, and therefore, I encourage having a developmental state economic system because we cannot apply a capitalist economic system in a developing country,” Matoch told South Sudan in Focus.
 
The developmental state economic system embodies strong state intervention, as well as extensive regulation and planning.
 
In South Sudan, speculators are able to manipulate foreign exchange rates to their advantage, said Matoch.
 
“If the commercial banks or the forex [bureaus] go and abuse the exchange rate to keep the bulk of the money or dollars with them for black marketing, this will affect the economy. And this is exactly what has actually happened,” Matoch told South Sudan in Focus.FILE – Children play with hula hoops at the Children Friendly Space, run by UNICEF at the United Nations Missions in South Sudan (UNMISS) Protection of Civillians (PoC) site, in Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 15, 2016.A new report by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan blasts South Sudanese officials and their cronies, however, for destroying the nation’s economy, saying the country is mired in crooked schemes aimed at enriching the political elite at the expense of millions of impoverished people who have endured years of conflict and abuse.
 
Looting and pillaging are not just offshoots of war, they are the main drivers of the conflict, according to commission chair Yasmin Sooka.
 
“At one end of the spectrum, South Sudan’s political elites are fighting for control of the country’s oil and mineral resources, in the process stealing their people’s future. At the other, the soldiers in this conflict over resources are offered the chance to abduct and rape women in lieu of their salaries,” said Sooka.   
 
She said the commission has uncovered brazen embezzlement by senior politicians and other government representatives, adding that they have misappropriated a staggering $36 million since 2016. Sooka noted a number of international corporations and multinational banks have aided and abetted in these crimes.  
 
University of Juba economics lecturer Ahmed Morjan agreed that South Sudan’s problems are political, not economic.
 
“An economy that produces goods and services needs to have proper peace and security whereby people will begin to produce import substitution goods and will lessen dependents on imports. If this is done, we expect the country to have enough reserves from the oil money that comes in, the reserves of foreign currency, but this has never happened, and people are not able to produce either for themselves or surpluses for export,” Morjan told South Sudan in Focus.  
 
He said the new finance minister, Athian Diing Athian, and the administration must find a way to end rampant government corruption.
 
“If they can work to lessen corruption, there should be some improvement internally, especially now that the government sometimes is not able to pay its workers, wages and salaries of employees. What the new minister could do is to fight, reduce corruption,” Morjan told VOA. 

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September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

It will take some countries years to return to economic growth following the coronavirus crisis, which is lasting longer than expected, the No. 2 official at the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.
 
The Fund has provided some $90 billion in emergency financing to almost 80 countries, including 20 in Latin America.
 
It is continuing to work with member countries on how to contain the pandemic and mitigate its economic impact, First Deputy Managing Director Geoffrey Okamoto told an online event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
 
“We’re trying to preserve our financial firepower,” Okamoto said. “We’re talking about a … return to growth that’s going to take a few years, and many countries along the way that are probably going to need assistance.”
 
Latin American and Caribbean economies are among the hardest hit in the world by the pandemic, reporting around 8.4 million coronavirus cases, and more than 314,000 deaths.
 
Okamoto told the event that Fund officials were in talks with the Group of 20 major economies about extending a temporary halt in official bilateral debt service payments by low-income countries under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), and how to kickstart private sector participation.
 
The G20 initiative approved in April currently expires at the end of the year, but experts and government officials in many countries have backed extending it into 2021, with a decision expected in coming weeks and months.
 
The issue of debt sustainability was “top of mind” for Fund officials, Okamoto said, noting that a lot of countries in Latin America had been in debt distress before the coronavirus crisis, which exacerbated those pressures.
 
The DSSI is giving the IMF more time to assess the full debt picture for these countries, he said. “It’s lasting longer than we anticipated, and so that is going to change a bit the dynamics of what we think is sustainable in the long run.”
 
He said the Fund was continuing to ask rich countries to bankroll two specific Fund programs that lend to poor countries.
 
The United States, the largest shareholder in the IMF, has signaled it hopes to contribute, but no funds have been provided for those programs thus far.
 

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September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

The United States on Wednesday announced new sanctions against Cuba, aimed at further denying sources of revenue to the government in Havana. U.S. President Donald Trump said the sanctions prohibit Americans from residing at Cuban government-owned properties and importing Cuban cigars and liquor. Trump made the announcement at a White House event honoring Bay of Pigs veterans and observing the 40th anniversary of the Mariel boatlift that transported 120,000 Cubans to Miami. President Donald Trump speaks during an event to honor Bay of Pigs veterans, in the East Room of the White House, Sept. 23, 2020.Trump has tightened restrictions that were relaxed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump imposed stringent travel restrictions on Cuba in June 2019, maintaining they were designed to apply more pressure on the communist government because of its support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Treasury Department said then the U.S. banned people-to-people educational travel to Cuba, one of a dozen authorized categories of travel to the country, and one of the most popular exemptions to the broad ban on U.S. tourism to the island. The island’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, described the Trump administration as a “morally corrupt regime,” in recorded comments made this week before a session of the United Nations General Assembly.   The U.S. sanctions have further weakened Cuba’s economy, which was already contracting as a result of declining aid from Venezuela. The latest sanctions come as Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are in a tight race in Florida just weeks before the November 3 election. Trump won the southern state by 1.2 percentage points in 2016. Florida is a state where Trump’s advisers believe a tough stand against Cuba would be well received by its large Cuban-American population. 
 

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September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

Two Republican-led Senate committees issued a politically charged report Wednesday alleging that the work Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son did in Ukraine constituted a conflict of interest for the Obama administration at a time when Biden was engaged in Ukraine policy as vice president.
But the report said it was ultimately “unclear” what impact Hunter Biden’s position on the board of a Ukrainian gas company had on Obama administration policy with regard to Ukraine. And it offered no evidence to support one of President Donald Trump’s more incendiary allegations — that Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor as a way to protect his son.
Biden’s campaign immediately panned the report, released six weeks before the election, as an effort by an ally of Trump to damage his election opponent.
Trump has repeatedly drawn attention to Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine even as his own administration has warned of a concerted Russian effort to denigrate Joe Biden and asserted that a Ukrainian lawmaker who is involved in spreading anti-Biden claims is an “active Russian agent.”
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, whose Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is one of the two panels that released the 87-page report, had acknowledged in interviews his goal of making the document public before the election, telling The Associated Press last month that the “American people deserve the truth” about his probe.
The investigation produced stark political divisions, with Democrats accusing Johnson of a politically motivated initiative at a time when they said the Homeland Security Committee should be focused on the coronavirus pandemic response and other, less partisan issues. Even before the report was released, the Biden campaign issued a detailed statement aiming to rebut point-by-point allegations that it said had long been debunked by media organizations as well as by U.S. and Ukrainian officials.  
The Senate report examines Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine, where he held a paid seat on the board of gas company Burisma, and alleges that work posed a conflict of interest because Biden was vice president at the time and dealing with Ukraine policy.
It references a 2016 email from George Kent, the former acting deputy chief of mission at the Kyiv embassy, that described the presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board as “very awkward for all U.S. officials pushing an anticorruption agenda in Ukraine.” Kent testified about his concerns during the impeachment proceedings against Trump last year.  
Another State Department official, Amos Hochstein, is described in the report as having raised concerns directly to Biden because he was concerned that Russians were using his son’s role with the company to sow disinformation.
The report says that even though State Department officials regarded the head of the company, Mykola Zlokevsky, as corrupt, Biden did not confront him.
“What the Chairmen discovered during the course of this investigation is that the Obama administration knew that Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” the report says.  
“Moreover, this investigation has illustrated the extent to which officials within the Obama administration ignored the glaring warning signs when the vice president’s son joined the board of a company owned by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch,” it adds.
Even so, the Republican senators acknowledge that the extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on the board affected Ukraine policy is “unclear,” and the report does not describe how, if at all, specific policy decisions were influenced by Biden’s position.
Notably, the report makes limited mention of the claim by Trump and some supporters that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, as a way to stymie an investigation into Burisma’s owner. The allegations were central to the impeachment case against Trump after he asked Ukraine’s president in a telephone call last year to investigate the Bidens.  
The report includes only six references, including in footnotes, to Shokin and does not expose new information about any role Biden may have had in his ouster.
The Biden campaign pointed to news reports and public statements showing there was no active investigation into Burisma at the time of Shokin’s ouster in 2016, and that the firing of Shokin was broadly sought by U.S. and European officials and reflected the official Obama administration policy.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, and Hunter Biden has denied using his influence with his father to aid Burisma. But Republicans who came to Trump’s defense in this year’s impeachment trial asked for further investigations of his activities. Johnson, a close ally of Trump, took the lead.
“As the coronavirus death toll climbs and Wisconsinites struggle with joblessness, Ron Johnson has wasted months diverting the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee away from any oversight of the catastrophically botched federal response to the pandemic, a threat Sen. Johnson has dismissed by saying that ‘death is an unavoidable part of life,'” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

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September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

Officials in the U.S. city of Louisville, Kentucky are bracing for a possible announcement from the state’s attorney general on whether he will charge the police officers involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman, during a nighttime raid.Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer issued a state of emergency on Tuesday due to the potential for civil unrest. Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder told reporters that police were erecting barricades around downtown Louisville this week and limiting vehicle traffic in the area. He has also canceled all vacations and will not approve any vacation requests from officers until further notice.   The windows of several downtown buildings have been boarded up, and the federal courthouse and other federal government buildings have been closed for the week.Winfrey Demanding Justice for Breonna Taylor With Billboards The media mogul is using billboards to demand that the police officers involved in Taylor’s shooting death be arrested and chargedOn March 13, officers broke down the door of Taylor’s apartment to execute a so-called “no-knock” search warrant as part of an illicit drug investigation. When Taylor’s boyfriend shot and wounded one of the officers as they entered the residence, the officers fired several shots, hitting Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, several times.  An internal investigation found the warrant was connected to an ex-boyfriend of Taylor who did not live there, and that no drugs were found in the apartment. One of the officers has been fired for violating the police department’s policy on the use of deadly force, although he is appealing the decision.  Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron has declined to confirm news reports that he has opened a grand jury investigation. He issued a statement recently saying, “An investigation, if done properly, cannot follow a specific timeline.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also begun a probe into Taylor’s death. The city reached a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by her mother. As part of the settlement, city officials agreed to various police reforms in an effort to prevent a repeat of the circumstances that led to Taylor’s death, including more thorough reviews by high-level police commanders of raids before they are carried out. Black Woman to Lead Police force Reeling from Breonna Taylor Yvette Gentry will be the first woman and the third African American to serve as chief of the Louisville Metro PoliceThe city had already passed a law named for Taylor, banning use of no-knock warrants, which police often use in drug cases for fear that evidence could be destroyed if they announce their arrival. Protests erupted in May in Louisville over Taylor’s death, with demonstrators demanding the officers involved in her death face criminal charges. The demonstrations also coincided with those surrounding the case of George Floyd, a Black man whose death that same month while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota was captured on cellphone video. Both incidents led to nationwide protests over racial injustice and police treatment of minorities, and a social media campaign was launched using Taylor’s name and image to raise awareness of her case.

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September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

Rescuers are trying to save scores of whales beached in the Australian state of Tasmania. Earlier this week, a pod of 270 pilot whales were found washed ashore.  Two hundred more were discovered a short distance away Wednesday.  The stranding of about 470 pilot whales on the west coast of Tasmania is the largest ever recorded in the state’s history.   Two hundred seventy animals were found washed up on sandbars Monday, prompting a rescue operation involving wildlife experts, the police and volunteers. They have managed to return some of the whales into deeper water and coax them back out to sea. It is a challenging task. Pilot whales can grow up to seven meters long and weight three tons.  But dozens of the pod discovered Monday have died, and Australian wildlife experts believe that most of the 200 whales found beached 10 kilometers away Wednesday have not survived.    Yet rescue efforts continue. Wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon says they are focusing on those animals with a realistic chance of survival. “We are going to basically take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones that we (are) able to deal with.  So, some animals may be simply too big or in an unsuitable location to actually deal with,” Carlyon said.The coastline near Macquarie Harbor, near the town of Strahan, Tasmania, is a known whale-stranding hotspot. In 2011, about 20 sperm whales were beached there, and most died.    Experts have yet to understand why the mammals become marooned.  There are various scientific suppositions.  The whales use echo location to navigate, and one theory is that the whales may have been drawn in too close to the coast in search of food. Other theories have asserted that the Moon’s gravitational pull or perhaps military sonar could be responsible.   There is no definitive answer, and some marine experts believe that mass strandings of whales and dolphins in different countries could all have different causes.  The rescue mission in Tasmania could take days.  Experts say cool and wet weather will help keep the surviving whales alive, but they concede it is a race against time.  

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September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

Australia’s internal borders are to gradually reopen as COVID-19 infections continue to fall. South Australia and Queensland are easing restrictions with the neighboring state, New South Wales, for the first time in months. Australia has recorded about 27,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and more than 850 people have died.    South Australia has taken a very cautious approach to curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Most people are forbidden from entering the state from neighboring Victoria, which has had most of the nation’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. Those restrictions remain firmly in place, but starting Thursday, South Australia is reopening its border with New South Wales because that state has recorded no cases of community transmission of the virus for 14 days. Travelers will no longer have to go into quarantine. South Australian Premier Steven Marshall says the eased restrictions will be a relief to residents.A COVID-19 signage is seen at a vehicle checkpoint on the Pacific Highway on the Queensland – New South Wales border in Brisbane on April 15, 2020.“People from New South Wales wanting to come into South Australia from Thursday onwards will be able to do that without doing the 14-days of self-isolation.  So, this will be a massive, massive relief to people who have been dislocated from friends, from family, from business opportunities.  This will be a huge relief,” Marshall said.From October 1, border restrictions between some northern districts in New South Wales and Queensland will be relaxed.  The measures will allow more residents in border communities to travel freely between the two eastern states.  However, the majority of people in New South Wales are still not allowed to travel to Queensland because of fears they could spread the virus.  People in Victoria cannot visit other Australian states and territories unless they hold an exemption, are an essential worker or live along a state border.   The Victorian state government has said it was hopeful that falling infection rates will allow it to ease a strict lockdown measures in Melbourne.   Western Australia has no immediate plans to reopen to the rest of the country.  Arrivals from other Australian jurisdictions must go into quarantine for 14 days before they are allowed to move freely about the state.  The federal government has long agitated for all internal borders to be reopened to help revive an economy that is in recession for the first time since 1991.As parts of Australia begin to open up ahead of summer, the Northern Territory government is offering cash incentives to attract domestic tourists.  Australia is a country comprising six states, two principal mainland territories and a population of 25 million people. Its international borders, which were closed to foreign nationals in March, are not expected to reopen until next year. 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

In a sweeping bipartisan vote that takes a government shutdown off the table, the House passed a temporary governmentwide funding bill Tuesday night, shortly after President Donald Trump prevailed in a behind-the-scenes fight over his farm bailout. The stopgap measure will keep federal agencies fully up and running into December, giving lawmakers in the post-election congressional session time to digest the election and decide whether to pass the annual government funding bills by then or kick them to the next administration. The budget year ends Sept. 30. The 359-57 vote came after considerable behind-the-scenes battling over proposed add-ons. The final agreement gives the administration continued immediate authority to dole out Agriculture Department subsidies in the run-up to Election Day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., retreated from an initial draft that sparked a furor with Republicans and farm-state Democrats. FILE – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Sept. 18, 2020.Instead, in talks Tuesday, Pelosi restored a farm aid funding patch sought by the administration, which has sparked the ire of Democrats who said it plays political favorites as it gives out bailout money to farmers and ranchers. In return, Pelosi won coronavirus-related food aid for the poor, including a higher food benefit for families whose children are unable to receive free or reduced-price lunches because schools are closed over the coronavirus. Another add-on would permit states to remove hurdles to food stamps and nutrition aid to low-income mothers that are more difficult to clear during the pandemic. The deal permitted the measure to speed through the House after a swift debate that should ensure smooth sailing in the GOP-held Senate before next Wednesday’s deadline. There’s no appetite on either side for a government shutdown. On Monday, Democrats released a version of the stopgap measure that did not contain the farm bailout provision, enraging Republicans and putting passage of the measure in doubt. It became apparent that Pelosi did not have the votes to pass it — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., dismissed it as a “rough draft” — and negotiations continued. FILE – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 21, 2020.Democrats complain that the Trump administration has favored Southern states such as Georgia — a key swing state and home of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue — and larger producers in distributing bailout funds. Farmers are suffering from low commodity prices and the effects of higher tariffs imposed by Trump. Trump announced a new $13 billion allotment of bailout funding at a political rally in Wisconsin last week. The legislation — called a continuing resolution, or CR, in Washington-speak — would keep every federal agency running at current funding levels through Dec. 11, which will keep the government afloat past an election that could reshuffle Washington’s balance of power. The measure also extends many programs whose funding or authorizations lapse on Sept. 30, including the federal flood insurance program, highway and transit programs, and a long set of extensions of various health programs, such as a provision to prevent Medicaid cuts to hospitals that serve many poor people.   It also finances the possible transition to a new administration if Joe Biden wins the White House and would stave off an unwelcome COVID-19-caused increase in Medicare Part B premiums for outpatient doctor visits. 
 

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September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

As local authorities in northeastern Syria announce the discovery of new mass graves belonging to the victims of Islamic State in Raqqa, families whose loved ones disappeared during the group’s control over the region hope they might finally get some answers.  The First Responders, a rescue and recovery team in northeastern Syria, earlier this month announced finding a mass grave in the western outskirt of Raqqa’s Farusiya, raising the number of discovered sites to five this year. Raqqa SyriaFollowing the announcement and the recovery of 16 bodies from the grave, the families of the victims are calling on authorities to prioritize a speedy identification process of the remains.   “The coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) must support The First Responders team with technical support so they would be able to verify the identities of the bodies found in mass graves and under the rubble of buildings that were destroyed during the battle to defeat IS in the city of Raqqa,” said Ensaf Nasser who has been looking for her husband since IS kidnapped him in 2014.  Nasser’s husband, Foad Ahmed el-Mohamed, was a local journalist taking pictures of wounded civilians at Aisha Hospital in Deir el-Zour city when IS militants broke in and took him away. She has since relentlessly perused threads leading to the whereabouts of her husband, without much luck.Foad Ahmed el-Mohamed, was a local journalist in Deir el-Zour. Here holding a twin born in the hospital he used to work at in 2014. (Photo courtesy Ensaf Nasser)Nasser told VOA she has learned that the extremist group accused her husband of infidelity because he advocated for a secular and democratic state instead of a caliphate. He was also accused of breaking their strict Sunni codes by marrying Nasser, who was a follower of Syria’s Druze sect, and naming his son after the Argentinian Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.  “I have knocked at every door and followed every lead through official channels or personal connections, but I still have no evidence of what happened to him,” Nasser said. While still hoping to find him alive, she added that if he is found dead, she can at least find closure and honor his memory.  Islamic State kidnapped thousands of civilians, mainly activists, to hush any opposing voice as it prepared to impose its control in 2013, Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this year. The watchdog said that many victims have vanished during IS expansion in 2014.   The Syrian Network for Human Rights has registered 8,648 cases of kidnapped people, including 319 children and 225 women. Local authorities suspect that many of the missing have likely been killed by IS and buried in graves across the mostly desert terrain of eastern Syria.   Raqqa Civil Council said it has found 28 mass graves since defeating IS’s physical caliphate in 2019. The sites allegedly contain about 6,300 bodies and belong mostly to people executed by IS. A member of The First Responders team in Raqqa seals a bag containing a body recovered from a mass graves. The exhuming operation use primitive means, as the team lacks technology to analyze the remains. (Photo: Osama al-Khalaf)Location and recoveryThe First Responders told VOA they have found some of the graves after receiving information from local residents about human remains. The team will begin exhuming the remains following an investigation and verification process.The First Responders was established in September 2018 by Raqqa Civil Council to exhume the mass graves and as an emergency response team. In 2020 alone, the team found five mass graves and exhumed about 300 bodies.   “Once a body is found, the team will record the basic information on the date and location of the recovery, sex, apparent cause of death and any personal belongings. The recovered human body will be assigned an ID number and preserved in another location,” said Osama al-Khalaf, a spokesperson for Raqqa Civil Council.  Al-Khalaf said that if a body is identified, it will be handed over to its family for a proper burial. For those not identified, local authorities have dedicated two graveyards outside Raqqa, he added.    “The work to exhume and identify the human remains is done by primitive tools like shovels, and they lack equipment to analyze the bodies’ DNA,” he said.  Local authorities say they need international support and technical assistance to properly identify victims and preserve the bodies as evidence of IS crimes. Families’ pleasActivists supporting relatives of the victims say the families are growing weary over officials’ reluctance to share with them any information on the fate of the discovered graves. They say families deserve to know if IS prisoners have been interrogated about the fate of the disappeared, especially as some of the detained foreign jihadists are repatriated to their countries while others flee northeast Syria.  Laila Kiki, executive director of the Syria Campaign and an advocate of the families, told VOA that local authorities are yet to establish a formal system to communicate with the victims’ families. She said the authorities needed to make information-sharing a priority.  “One of the main demands of our campaign is to create a mechanism of communication between the families and the authorities on the ground. Currently, there is no two-way communication between the families and local authorities in northeastern Syria,” said Kiki, adding that the international community also needed to step in to help in the process.    “It is important for the families to get the answers they need. And it is important for the international community and the U.S.-led coalition to take the demands of the families seriously and to interrogate IS fighters. IS has impacted every Syrian family, and we need answers from those involved,” she said.

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

As the U.N. General Assembly annual debate got under way Tuesday, combating and eliminating the coronavirus pandemic was the foremost preoccupation of the world’s major powers.  Global leaders are meeting virtually this year due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide have surpassed 31 million, with more than 960,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which tracks the data.   A reporter with the Xinhua Press Agency watches as President Xi Jinping is seen on a video screen remotely addressing the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 22, 2020, at U.N. headquarters.From China, the country where the virus is believed to have originated, President Xi Jinping promised it would be defeated. He announced that Beijing would provide an additional $50 million to the U.N.’s COVID-19 global humanitarian response plan and said his country is making progress on a vaccine.   “At the moment, several COVID-19 vaccines developed by China are in active Phase 3 clinical trials,” Xi said in his video message to the virtual gathering. “When their development is completed and they are ready for use, these vaccines will be made a global public good and will be provided to other developing countries on a priority basis.”  He also denounced efforts to politicize or stigmatize the virus.  Touting progress on vaccine In his UNGA address, U.S. President Donald Trump slammed China, referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” and saying Beijing must be held accountable for having “unleashed” it on the world. He said the United States is also making strides on a potential vaccine.  U.S. President Donald Trump is seen on a video screen remotely addressing the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 22, 2020.”We will distribute a vaccine. We will defeat the virus. We will end the pandemic, and we will enter a new era of unprecedented prosperity, cooperation and peace,” Trump pledged Tuesday in a brief video message.   Russia’s president also touted his nation’s progress on a vaccine.   “We are ready to share our experience and continue cooperating with all states and international entities, including supplying the Russian vaccine — which has proved reliable, safe and effective — to other countries,” Vladimir Putin said in his video address.   Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is seen during his video address to the United Nation’s General Assembly in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 22, 2020.In August, Russia became the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, called Sputnik V. But international scientists have been skeptical of its safety and effectiveness, as it had not started Phase 3 trials when it was approved.   Putin also said Moscow is ready to provide its vaccine free to the United Nations so it could inoculate its staff.  Humanitarian pause  Since March, the U.N. secretary-general has been calling for a global humanitarian truce to help facilitate an effective coronavirus response. The initiative has received an outpouring of verbal support from nations and even some armed groups, but there has been little real implementation on the ground.    Speaking from the General Assembly podium to a limited audience of mostly U.N. ambassadors, Antonio Guterres urged conflict actors and those with influence to implement the pause by the end of this year.  United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly, which is being held mostly virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, Sept. 22, 2020.”The world needs a global cease-fire to stop all ‘hot’ conflicts,” Guterres said Tuesday. Acknowledging escalating tensions between the U.S. and China, he added, “At the same time, we must do everything to avoid a new Cold War.” French President Emmanuel Macron expressed frustration that getting the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution supporting the COVID-19 cease-fire was so difficult.  “Imagine that, to have so much trouble in agreeing on so little,” Macron said in his UNGA address. “But our permanent members were not able to — even with the exceptional circumstances — come together as we would have liked to have seen them do, because several have chosen to showcase their rivalry over the importance of collective effectiveness.”  This U.N. handout photo shows French President Emmanuel Macron as he virtually addresses the general debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 22, 2020.The council finally adopted a resolution on July 1 — 100 days after the U.N. chief’s appeal — primarily because of the deterioration of relations between Washington and Beijing over the origin and spread of the virus.”This crisis no doubt, more than any other, demands that we cooperate. Demands that we invent new international solutions first,” Macron added.   Iran sanctions  Another issue that has sparked strong reactions in recent weeks from the world’s major powers has been Washington’s move to reimpose U.N. sanctions on Iran for its lack of compliance under the 2015 nuclear deal.  In May 2018, Trump announced his administration’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known. The other members of the agreement — Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany and Iran — say the U.S. gave up its right to initiate what is known as a “snapback” of international sanctions when it pulled out of the deal. Washington disagreed, saying the U.N. Security Council resolution enshrining the 2015 nuclear agreement in international law still names the U.S. as a participant.   After notifying the U.N. in August that it planned to snap back sanctions, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Sept. 19 that snapback had occurred. The U.N Security Council has said it will take no action on reinstating the sanctions regime. President of Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani speaks virtually during the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, Sept. 22, 2020. (United Nations/Handout)U.S. presidential elections are just over one month away, and Rouhani linked Washington’s effort to snap back sanctions to its domestic politics.  “We are not a bargaining chip in U.S. elections and domestic policy,” he said. “Any U.S. administration after the upcoming elections will have no choice but to surrender to the resilience of the Iranian nation.”  In his Tuesday address, Trump noted that his administration withdrew from “the terrible Iran” deal and “imposed crippling sanctions on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”  
 

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 23rd, 2020 by Vbiz

Local officials say so far, they have exhumed 16 bodies of women and men executed by Islamic State during the terror group’s rule of large swaths of Syria and Iraq between 2014 and 2019

Posted in Бізнес, Нерухомість, Новини, Фінанси

September 22nd, 2020 by Vbiz

A massive wave of trash has washed up on the beaches of Omoa in northern Honduras, leaving pristine tropical beaches blighted by piles of garbage. The trash, bobbing in the ocean and piled up on the beach, is mostly plastic refuse. Honduran authorities said Saturday, September 19, that the garbage is coming from the mouth of the Motagua River in nearby Guatemala and in addition to ecological damage, the eyesore is hitting the tourist-dependent beaches economically. Local media report the Honduran government has sent an official complaint to Guatemala asking the neighbor nation to take immediate steps to halt the trash washing out to sea. (Reuters)  

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September 22nd, 2020 by Vbiz

A U.N. official documenting the human rights situation in Myanmar warned that the country’s national election on November 8 will be neither free nor fair, and will not accurately reflect the will of the people. The report, presented at the U.N. Human Rights Council, set off protests from Myanmar and its supporters. Myanmar would not grant a U.N. special rapporteur entry into the country, but he was able to conduct his investigation remotely. Thomas Andrews said testimony from human rights defenders, members of Myanmar’s civil society, and graphic material indicate that even before a single vote is cast, the election will not be credible. “The results of an election cannot accurately reflect the will of the people, when the right to vote is denied because of a person’s race, ethnicity or religion,” he said. “And, I have seen no evidence that the government is willing or prepared to facilitate the right to vote for hundreds of thousands of voting age Rohingya located in Rakhine State or in refugee camps in Bangladesh.” FILE – Shelters line a hillside at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Imran Akbar)Andrews said holding an election during a raging armed conflict, while combating the coronavirus, is immensely challenging. Besides restrictions on movement imposed by the pandemic, he said the government’s shutdown of the internet and social media has made it difficult for citizens to get their messages across. “On the other end of this spectrum is the danger that candidates and political parties will choose to use bigotry and hate speech as political weapons,” he said. “The people of Myanmar know that this poison not only can impact an election but can ignite violence. There should be no place in elections for these incendiary messages, be they on campaign posters or on the internet.” The U.N. investigator showed graphic images of what he called poisonous campaign material. That set off dissenting rumbles from Myanmar, Venezuela, China, Belarus and Cuba. They argued the visual material was manipulative, had not been approved by the council beforehand and should not be shown. But Council President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger said all legal requirements had been met. “We received this visual material two or three days ago,” she said. “It was shared with the bureau who agreed that it could be shown under condition that the face of the person we have just seen was made unrecognizable, which we did. So, the bureau agreed that this material could be shown.” Australia, Japan and members of the European Union voiced their support for a motion to allow visual, satellite and other images to be shown. After a roll call vote in favor of the motion passed, the U.N. investigator was allowed to proceed with his presentation. 
 

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September 22nd, 2020 by Vbiz

Schools across Africa are slowly reopening after months of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic. But Zimbabwe’s teachers union is resisting going back to the classroom and has rejected a call by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for governments to reopen schools.On Tuesday, Mohamed Malick Fall, regional director for UNICEF in Eastern and Southern Africa, urged governments in the region to open schools closed earlier this year following an outbreak of coronavirus.Fall said the pandemic has caused “an unprecedented education crisis” over the last seven months as radio and online learning methods are not reaching all the students. Some also lost the daily meals they were receiving at school.And that’s not all, said Fall.“Lost learning hurts children and community, teenage pregnancy and violence against children increase. Now we acknowledge the safe reopening of schools will not be easy. While evidence show that children are not the main driver of the pandemic, there will be cases of COVID-19 in school(s). It will not be a practice in perfection. But it can be done with community commitment, government leadership and investment,” he said.South Africa, despite its large COVID-19 caseloads, reopened schools for all grades at the end of August.Students go through the regular morning checks on their arrival at the Melpark Primary School in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 3, 2020.UNICEF says most countries in eastern and southern Africa have seen a phased return to schools, starting with exam classes.In Zimbabwe exam classes are scheduled to start next week. But that now hangs in balance after the country’s biggest teachers’ union called for a strike unless their concerns are addressed.The teachers earn about $100 a month, including a $75 “COVID-19 allowance” introduced two months ago. They want an additional $500 to be above the poverty line.Sifiso Ndlovu, the head of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, said he is “worried” that UNICEF has not looked at his country’s lack of preparedness to reopen schools.“The safety issues that we have been concerned about in the schools have not been met thoroughly as to guarantee safe and healthy reopening of schools without high incidents of COVID-19. Secondly, UNICEF seem to be oblivious that the learning conditions for students is also dependent on the working conditions of the teachers and above all it should be supported by budgetary support even from UNICEF,” he said.Amon Murwira is Zimbabwe’s minister of higher and tertiary education. He said the government allocated about $60,000 to ensure that when schools reopen they are observing World Health Organization guidelines for COVID-19.Neighboring Zambia opened schools Monday. Via WhatsApp, Christopher Yalukanda, from the Zambia National Union of Teachers said his organization is checking on the preparedness of schools after the over half-a-year-long closures.“What we observed is that most of children came back equipped with masks, the schools have already acquired some face masks, sanitizers and they have set up some washing points within the school. In order to take care of social distancing schools have divided or staggering timetable, which means not all the learners will report to school the same day,” said Yalukanda.He said it was too early to conclude that Zambia has successfully reopened schools and is following WHO guidelines to contain the coronavirus. He said the teachers union will go around the country to assess the situation. 

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September 22nd, 2020 by Vbiz

Doctors and public health experts are telling people in the Northern Hemisphere to prepare for the worst in the coming months, when both the coronavirus and the flu virus will be circulating at the same time. It’s a one-two punch that could cause even more deaths and has the potential to overwhelm health care systems. More from VOA’s Carol Pearson.PRODUCER: Jon Spier 

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September 22nd, 2020 by Vbiz

A Chinese city on the border with Myanmar last week began testing thousands of residents for the coronavirus after two Myanmar migrants tested positive. In Ruili, a Yunnan province transit point on the porous 2,200-kilometer border, officials issued a lockdown order. Authorities rounded up many illegal migrant workers and sent them back to Myanmar. Medical worker in protective suit collects a swab sample from a woman for nucleic acid testing in the border city of Ruili, Sep. 16, 2020.Home quarantine for residents was scheduled to be lifted on Monday at 10 p.m. but cinemas, bars and internet cafes will remain shut, Reuters reported from the statement. That partial reopening will come a day after the Myanmar Health Ministry announced a stay-at-home order for the Yangon region effective Monday amid a record daily increase in new cases of COVID-19.  There are 44 townships in the Yangon region with a total population of more than 5 million people. On Monday, the health ministry said it had recorded 264 new coronavirus cases, with most of the recent new infections in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city and commercial center. Myanmar has reported a total of 6,151 COVID-19 cases and 98 deaths as of Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. The Ruili episode began on September 3, when a 32-year-old woman from Myanmar took her three children and two nurses across the border from Muse to Ruili and stayed at her sister’s home, according to one of China’s official news outlets, The Global Times.  Everyone in the sister’s residential area was tested, and all 1,185 results were negative. Authorities tracked down 190 close contacts and quarantined them, according to the report. 
 
While the virus appears to be under control in much of China, Myanmar has seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and the scare in Ruili resulted in the shutdown of all business operations and public transit with everyone required to wear masks in public places.  The lockdown made life difficult for many.  “Even though the border gate is not completely closed, there are very few trucks crossing the border,” Win Aung Khant, chairman of Muse Highway Truckers Association said. “Myanmar trucks are not allowed to enter or unload goods in … Ruili.  There are almost no Myanmar workers in Chinese side.”   Nang Aye Sein, spokesperson for the Lashio Chamber of Commerce, said agricultural and fishery export businesses were the most affected by the lockdown.  In a press conference on September 14, Yang Bianqiang, deputy director of the police department in Dehong Prefecture, where Ruili is located, said securing the border was difficult.  “There is no natural border between Ruili and Myanmar,” he said. “Citizens in Ruili and Myanmar speak the same language and visit each other very often. It is difficult to monitor their travels.”  The Myanmar and Yunnan border is infamous for its illicit activities in commodities such as jade, the number of illegal migrant workers who cross into China and the Chinese who cross into Myanmar to gamble in border town casinos.  In February, authorities on each side of the border in Ruili and Muse cooperated after five people believed to be infected with the coronavirus crossed from China into Myanmar.Wuhan Man, a Fugitive in Myanmar, Turns Himself in to Chinese PoliceUnidentified man who surrendered belonged to a group of five Wuhan residents who slipped across the border into Myanmar last week, according to authorities

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September 22nd, 2020 by Vbiz

A retired Chinese real estate tycoon who criticized President Xi Jinping over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges.   An announcement Tuesday by Beijing No.2 Intermediate Court said 69-year-old Ren Zhiqiang was found guilty of embezzling as much as $16 million from the state-owned company he once headed, along with bribery and abuse of power that cost the company about $17 million in losses.   The court said Ren had confessed to all the charges and would not appeal his sentence.  In addition to his sentence, he was also fined over $600,000.Chinese flag flutters near the Chinese national emblem on Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court, Sep. 22, 2020.Ren was detained in March after publishing an essay slamming President Xi over a speech he delivered to 170,000 officials the month before about government efforts to respond to the outbreak, which was first detected in December 2019 in the central city of Wuhan. The ex-businessman said he “saw not an emperor exhibiting his new clothes, but a clown who stripped off his clothes and insisted on being an emperor,” although he did not mention Xi by name. He also criticized the conference for withholding information about the pandemic and failing to hold anyone responsible.   Ren was expelled by the Communist Party in July, and eventually accused by authorities in Beijing of misusing official funds on personal expenses. Ren has run afoul of the ruling party in the past after openly criticizing the party over a suppression of free speech and demands for complete party loyalty.   

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