Planet vs plastics: Transitioning to circular economy

WASTES pose a broad challenge that affects human health, livelihoods, the environment and prosperity. Waste pollution, especially from plastics, is pushing our planet further to the brink of irreversible loss and damage. The convenience associated with the use of plastics is a double-edged sword that has led the world to double its plastics production over the last 20 years. More than 400 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide every year, a third of which is used only once. If that is not concerning enough, the equivalent of over 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic is dumped into the world's oceans, rivers and lakes every day. This is primarily why our seas and oceans are choking with mismanaged plastic wastes, which end up infiltrating even the food we eat. Millions of Filipinos rely heavily on coastal and marine resources, which are affected by marine plastics today. Its emerging economy contributes to increased plastic generation. This is alongside the permeation of the "sachet economy" that most Filipinos are used to, partly driven by the small purchasing capacity of most of the population. The Philippines is considered one of the main contributors to marine plastic pollution in the world. Annually, the country generates 2.7 million tons of plastic waste, of which over 500,000 tons end up in seas and oceans every year The current linear economic model also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the chain. Material handling and use — from extraction, processing, manufacturing, delivery, use and disposal of goods — are accelerating climate change [...]

April 21st, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

More infra for development

As the country continues its growth momentum, government is committed to foster stronger partnership with the private sector This month, the Implementing Rules and Regulation of the Public-Private Partnership Code takes effect. With the PPP and its IRR in place, an enabling environment for the private sector to participate in government projects is strengthened. Hopefully, more from the private sector will be encouraged to collaborate with government especially in its infrastructure projects. Building on the gains of the previous administration’s Build, Build, Build program, President Marcos Jr. aims to boost the government’s infrastructure initiatives through the Build Better More (BBM), with 185 infrastructure flagship projects costing P9,143.16 billion. Of these, 45 will be financed through public-private partnerships while the others will be funded either through the General Appropriations Act, Official Development Assistance or through hybrid financial methods. Big-ticket infrastructure projects require investments that government cannot singly handle. The PPP Code says: “The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments. To this end, the State shall provide an enabling environment for the private sector to mobilize its resources to finance, design, construct, operate, and maintain infrastructure or development projects and services.” The infrastructure program, essential in the country’s economic and social transformation, will facilitate the movement of people and goods. Travelers are aware of air traffic congestion and the need for investments to develop, upgrade and improve the country’s airports. The awarding to San Miguel Corporation-SAP & Co, Consortium for the rehabilitation, operation and maintenance of [...]

April 21st, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Beyond mental health insurance

The Philippines has come a long way from its conservative mindset over mental health. Now, it’s not only openly discussed but has become part of the national conversation and agenda with policymakers recently considering the inclusion of mental health care under the coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth). Consultation and medical costs for mental illness can be prohibitive and Filipinos who are confronted with more urgent needs like putting food on the table are likely to ignore the problem than address it. This is why this proposal to include mental health care under PhilHealth’s medical insurance packages is a welcome move. Widespread awareness and understanding of mental health have encouraged more and more people to become proactive in seeking professional consultation. But this has also led to an increase in reported cases—a good development nonetheless because it means the public is now more open to seeking help for their mental health issues. Shortage issue The drawback is the severe lack of mental health professionals, i.e., psychiatrists and psychologists, a crucial aspect that government must look into immediately before it can put in place any PhilHealth coverage. This shortage issue, recently raised by former vice president Leni Robredo who chairs the nongovernmental organization Angat Buhay that offers medical “teleconsult” (E-Konsulta), is a huge barrier to making mental health services more accessible. Robredo noted that while there are many volunteer counselors for their online consultation service, they cannot extend further help to patients because they are not licensed to issue prescriptions. Unlike COVID-19 and other illnesses [...]

April 21st, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Solomon Islands Election:Sogavare’s Pragmatic Leadership Ignites Aspirations

Test Ahead for A Pragmatist Amidst the sultry embrace of the South Pacific Ocean's tropics, the Solomon Islands stand poised on the precipice of a decisive political crossroad as the nation braces for its watershed parliamentary ballot on April 17th. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, having commandeered the helm of national politics since his ascension in 2000, now vies for an unprecedented fifth tenure at the apex of governance. Recognized for his keen pragmatism and deep comprehension of the archipelago's developmental needs, Sogavare has garnered global praise for his economic stewardship. Since assuming his power, the Solomon Islands' economy has surged by over 8% annually, a milestone unmatched by any other Pacific Islands nation. Confronting the challenges posed by COVID-19, his swift enforcement of rigorous lockdown measures, initially contentious, proved pivotal in protecting public health and curbing the pandemic's economic fallout, thereby facilitating a rapid economic rebound. The hosting of the 17th Pacific Games by the Solomon Islands in last November, which was met with resounding success, has significantly bolstered Prime Minister Sogavare's domestic and international standing. This triumph is widely perceived as a compelling demonstration of his steadfast commitment to driving concrete progress within the nation's borders.   Realistic U-turn, big difference In a strategic move in 2019, the Solomon Islands severed its long-standing diplomatic relations with Taiwan, opting instead to forge a closer alliance with China. This pivotal shift in foreign policy has not only redefined the nation's geopolitical landscape but has also yielded substantial economic dividends. Presently, China occupies the premier position as the [...]

April 10th, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Insights from Seasoned Fund Manager on Chinese Stock Market

Mr. Lin, a veteran private equity fund manager with 30 years of experience, offers valuable insights into the current state of the Chinese stock market. Market Fluctuations: Despite ongoing internal and external challenges, Mr. Lin maintains confidence in the market, emphasizing that fluctuations are natural and not indicative of a standstill. Challenges: The Chinese stock market faces various hurdles, including a lack of investor confidence, an imbalance between the number of listed companies and market wealth, systemic risks, and a focus on financing over returns. Additionally, a recent 30% decline in housing prices has impacted public wealth. Long-Term Perspective: Mr. Lin highlights China's growing national power despite foreign pressures. He cites the successful navigation of projects restricted during the Trump era as evidence of China's innovation and adaptability. China faced obstacles in 35 projects during Trump's presidency. However, in just a few years, China has overcome nearly 30 of these challenges, showcasing the country's strong innovation and adaptability in its market. Future Outlook: While it may take two to three years for the market to stabilize, Mr. Lin anticipates a transition from a cautious "red light" state to a more optimistic "yellow light" phase. He notes China's globally acclaimed social security environment, contributing to an overall positive outlook.

April 7th, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why do Chinese EVs meet so much resistance?

There was a time when the world looked to China to reduce its emissions, China was, they quite rightly pointed out, one of the globe’s worst polluters but it’s never been the world’s worst offender. There are many arguments why, the obvious one is the per capita argument, China has more people, so it should have more pollution. Then the manufacturing argument, China manufactures more than any other country, then the export of dirty technology argument, until recent years the West exported their dirty industries to China because it was better over there, now they can blame others! All these are valid arguments. The one country producing almost 30% of all the world’s manufactured goods, 45% of the world’s chemicals and 54% of the world’s steel was indeed a big polluter. Something needed to be done and it was. China reforested more of its country than any other, 70 million hectares with a target of 70 billion trees, in fact, they haven’t just made one industry out of it they’ve made two, because it’s also a huge tourism draw with 1.5 billion visits to National Forests in an average year. China installed more solar power than the rest of the world combined, it has more wind power than the combined totals of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. The Country has the world’s first Thorium Reactor and is planning more. What more can one country do we might ask. We can take gas guzzling cars off the roads and so they did. We now [...]

April 1st, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Navigating the Tides of Collaboration based on Sovereignty

The Crossroads Ahead On March 19, Japan is slated to host a two-day dialogue in Tokyo with the defense ministers of 14 South Pacific Island Nations, with a strong focus anticipated on enhancing Japan's security cooperation with the island nations. This initiative is seen as instrumental in paving the way for the forthcoming leaders' meeting between Western allies and the island nations at the 10th Pacific Islands Leaders' Meeting (PALM10) scheduled for July this year. During World War II, Japan wrought extensive devastation upon the South Pacific Islands. After suffering a significant defeat at Midway Atoll, the Japanese military redirected its offensive efforts toward the South Pacific. Their objectives included capturing strategic locations such as Port Moresby and the Solomon Islands, alongside establishing Guadalcanal as an invulnerable aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, in which tragically resulted in profound suffering for the island inhabitants. For a considerable decades after its defeat in World War II, Japan primarily concentrated its efforts in the South Pacific on financial backing, infrastructure development, and humanitarian assistance. However, the upcoming meeting of hosting a two-day dialogue with Island Nation’s defense ministers signifies a shift from a relatively moderate stance to a more assertive approach in Japan's longstanding Pacific strategy. This transition introduces a level of uncertainty into an already intricate geopolitical landscape. Key Variables: China On March 8, following months of delay, the United States Congress finally ratified an agreement, allocating $7.1 billion in funding over 20 years to Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia under the Compact of Free Association (COFA). In return, the United States [...]

March 18th, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Invest in women: Accelerate progress

 UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES     The fight for women’s rights over the past 50 years is a story of progress. Women and girls have demolished barriers, dismantled stereotypes and driven progress toward a more just and equal world. Women’s rights were finally recognized as fundamental and universal human rights. Hundreds of millions more girls are in classrooms around the world. And pioneering leaders have smashed glass ceilings across the globe. But progress is under threat. And full equality remains light years away. Billions of women and girls face marginalization, injustice and discrimination, as millennia of male domination continue to shape societies. The persistent epidemic of gender-based violence disgraces humanity. Over four million girls are estimated to be at risk of female genital mutilation each year Discrimination against women and girls remains perfectly legal in much of the world. In some places, that makes it difficult for women to own property, in others, it allows men to rape their wives with impunity. Meanwhile, global crises are hitting women and girls hardest. Wherever there’s conflict, climate disaster, poverty or hunger, women and girls suffer most. In every region of the world, more women than men go hungry. In both developed and developing countries, a backlash against women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights, is stalling and even reversing progress. New technologies – which have such potential to dismantle inequalities – too often make matters worse. That can be because of unequal access, algorithms with baked-in bias, or misogynistic violence – from deep fakes to targeted harassment [...]

March 8th, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Closing the Digital Gender Gap in access to e-commerce and financial services

March 8 is International Women’s Day and it is being celebrated today with the theme “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.” According to the United Nations, the lack of financing — in the amount of US$360 billion per year — is one of the main challenges in achieving gender equality by 2030. Such is the sum needed annually to address poverty and hunger, and to support more equal participation of women in society. Even as we try to address these longstanding concerns — including closing the gender gap in power and leadership positions, as well as gender imbalances in jobs; ensuring access to and completion of education; protecting women from intimate partner violence and gender discrimination; promoting a gender-equitable division of unpaid care and domestic work—there is already a new challenge ahead: the digital gender divide. According to UN Women, the digital divide has become the new face of gender inequality. Global figures show that women are 18 percent less likely than men to own a smartphone, and far less likely to access or use the Internet. In 2022, 259 million more men than women were online. In the technology sector, women occupy fewer positions. Women hold less than 25 percent of science, engineering, and ICT jobs, and women are twice less likely than men to know how to write a computer program. Women also face a gender pay gap of 21 percent, and nearly half of all women working in technology have experienced workplace harassment. There is a need for urgent action to close the major [...]

March 8th, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The Spread Of HIV Among Filipino Youth Is ‘Fast And Furious’

The most up-to-date HIV data available revealed that in the month of May 2023, there were 1,256 reported new cases, with 1,186 (94 percent) being male. Around one third (32 percent) of these cases involve young people aged 15 to 24 years old Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay   The Philippines has become the country with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific. The prevalence and rate of transmission was described as “low and slow” from 1984 to 2004 and “hidden and growing” from 2005 to 2009; now it is characterized as “fast and furious.” From 2012 to 2023, there was a 411-percent increase in daily incidence based on “The State of the HIV Epidemic in the Philippines: Progress and Challenges in 2023.” In 2022, the Department of Health reported a 21-percent increase in the number of new HIV cases compared to the previous year. The most up-to-date HIV data available revealed that in the month of May 2023, there were 1,256 reported new cases, with 1,186 (94 percent) being male. Around one third (32 percent) of these cases involve young people aged 15 to 24 years old. Of the 396 reported youth cases, 394 (99 percent) acquired HIV through sexual contact. The main mode of transmission in this group is males who have sex with other males (MSM) accounting for 89 percent of the cases. Eighty (20 percent) of the youth cases were reported to have advanced HIV infection at the time of diagnosis. The HIV rate is growing at an [...]

February 6th, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Risking lives for vanity

Health authorities should clamp down on the alarming trend of taking medical procedures — driven by the need to conform to beauty standards of being slim and fair — that not only put patients’ lives at risk but also deprive those with chronic diseases of much-needed treatments. Such is the case for the diabetic drug Ozempic which has recently gained popularity because of its weight loss effects. It is so in demand among those who want to lose weight but do not have type 2 diabetes that there is a supply shortage in local pharmacies, depriving real patients of their weekly treatment needs. The drug’s popularity was boosted by testimonials from social media fitness influencers and has turned its Danish manufacturer Novo Nordisk into a multibillion company. Many local aesthetic clinics — not diabetes treatment centers — have been openly advertising the sale of Ozempic on social media and supposedly administering them to “qualified clients.” But doctors have warned that patients using Ozempic, which costs from P5,000 to P8,000 per box, must have a doctor’s prescription. A pack contains one pen with six needles delivering four weekly doses between 2-1.5 milligrams. “Ozempic is a prescription drug … It is for patients with type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin of the Philippine College of Physicians. She acknowledged that while it has weight loss benefits, it is not sold as a weight-reduction drug. Ozempic helps lower blood sugar due to its active ingredient called semaglutide which slows down the digestion of food, thus suppressing appetite, reducing hunger, [...]

January 28th, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Air pollution challenge

  Air pollution in the Philippines, the third highest risk factor driving death and disability due to non-communicable diseases, remains the leading environmental risk to health. Vehicle emissions, fuel oils and natural gas to heat homes, by-products of manufacturing and power generation, particularly coal-fueled power plants, and fumes from chemical production are the primary sources of human-made air pollution Environmental experts say the combined effects of ambient air pollution and household air pollution are associated with 6.7 million premature deaths annually. Household air pollution exposure leads to noncommunicable diseases including stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The two most common types of air pollution are smog and soot, caused by burning of fossil fuels like coal or natural gases. The small airborne particles present in soot or smog are extremely dangerous, as they enter lungs and blood and can lead to bronchitis and heart diseases which can be fatal. Pollutants with the strongest evidence for public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. People living in low- and middle-income countries disproportionately experience the burden of outdoor air pollution with 89 percent (of the 4.2 million premature deaths) occurring in these areas. The greatest burden is found in the WHO Southeast Asia and Western Pacific Regions. Around 2.4 billion people cook and heat their homes with polluting fuels and every year 3.2 million people die prematurely from household air pollution. Ambient and household air pollution can come from similar processes such as incomplete combustion [...]

January 13th, 2024|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: The truth under the rubble of Gaza City

Dig into the root           The protracted and intricate Palestinian-Israeli conflict, widely considered the world's most enduring regional dilemma, originated from the significant influx of  Jews to Jerusalem following the British occupation in 1917. This led to a complex, ongoing clash over land, religion, culture, and ethnicity between Jews and Palestinians. Despite lacking numerical superiority, Jews gradually gained control,  resulting in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.           Israel, despite its limited geographical expanse and vulnerability to prolonged conflicts, has consistently bolstered its strength in major wars, largely attributable to a pivotal external factor—the unwavering support of the United States. Since its inception, the U.S. has emerged as a crucial ally, providing steadfast backing across political, economic, military, and intelligence spheres. This sustained support has  effectively positioned Israel as a formidable instrument for the United States to strategically penetrate the heart of the Arab world.           Bolstered by steadfast backing from the United States, Israel assumes a pivotal geopolitical role in the Middle East. Whether in the post-Bretton Woods era, where it  safeguarded U.S. oil hegemony, during the Cold War when it aided the United States  in countering communist expansion by the Soviet Union, or following the collapse of  the Soviet Union, where it strategically balanced relations among Muslim nations,  unraveled Arab societies, and guarded against terrorism, Israel consistently functions  as a strategic counterbalance.           The United States has consistently offered diplomatic protection and support for Israel [...]

December 18th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

This early, preparing the ground for a Romualdez dynasty

IT is certainly tempting, indeed accurate, to say that the two House committees' ordering two of our contemporary heroes — bold anti-communist crusaders former Presidential Communications undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and ex-NPA officer Jose Celiz — to be detained for "contempt" is an assault on our free press. However, the speed at which these congressmen acted on such matters that do not really have any significance to the work of their committee on franchises makes me believe the reason may be more banal, something that our political elite have heard of by now. This is the widespread report that this early, or barely a year after his cousin Ferdinand Marcos Jr., by a quirk of fate (or by the power of the US) became president, House Speaker Martin Romualdez is assiduously and methodically preparing the ground to be the second of the Marcos-Romualdez progeny to rule the country, either as president or prime minister, or in a French-style system having one as head of state and the other of government. Their fight will determine the contours of our history in the coming years.     After all, by the next presidential elections in 2028, Romualdez would be at the height of his intellectual and political prowess at 65, with six years by his cousin's side learning the ropes of state. Of course, we cannot begrudge a Stanford guy from having such lofty ambitions. We just hope he has a vision and idea of how to make this country finally move forward, and, of course, we hope that [...]

December 13th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments


The US, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, vetoed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The war continues until the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) sweeps through every nook and cranny of this crowded territory. The human toll is piling. According to aid agencies, nine out of 10 of the population of Gaza are starving. Over 17,000 Palestinians have been killed and many thousands more injured since the IDF incursion began. The health system has all but collapsed. Over 80 percent of the population has been displaced. Already a humanitarian disaster of great proportion, the bloody toll will continue to rise. The IDF has shifted its offensive to Gaza’s second city of Khan Younis, said to be Hamas’ stronghold. Intense, close-quarter fighting has been reported by eyewitnesses. The IDF has the city encircled Last month, the IDF asked the population of Gaza to move to the southern half of the strip to avoid bombardment. Khan Younis is well south of the territory. There is now truly nowhere safe for the civilians caught in the fighting. Hamas earlier discouraged people from abandoning their homes. This was to conserve the human shields the terrorists were using them for. There were several incidents reported of Hamas fighters firing on civilian convoys moving south. With intense fighting in Khan Younis and missile strikes at the town of Rafah on the border with Egypt, Palestinians have nowhere to go to. International aid, already a trickle passing through the border post at Rafah, is now difficult to [...]

December 12th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How’s the economy? For whom?

The “money-men”—the professionals in finance—always see a rapidly growing gross national product (GNP) as healthy. Those in the government emphasize GNP since they will enjoy tax revenues from the growth in domestic production and international trade. They depend on the quarterly GNP statistics provided by the Philippine Statistical Authority. Those in private banks and stock trading will enjoy business from the growth in financial transactions among the producers and the consumers, regardless of which sectors grow the most or have the best outlooks. Their business is highly correlated to the GNP; thus, many banks do their own forecasts of GNP. For Filipinos in general, however, GNP hardly matters. Most of them—most of us, I should say—don’t know what the term means. The reason why GNP needs to grow is to keep up, at least, with population growth; on this, it usually succeeds. The main problem is the uneven sharing of the benefits from aggregate economic growth. In September 2023, only 28 percent of Filipinos said they got better off in the past 12 months, whereas 30 percent said they got worse off, and 42 percent said their quality of life did not change. Losers exceeded Gainers among all those who did not finish junior high school, among the poor, and among the hungry (“Throwback to loser-dominance,” 12/2/23). In 150 national surveys since 1983, Losers exceeded Gainers 126 times, whereas Gainers were dominant only 24 times. Although gross national income (GNI, a derivative of GNP) divided by the population at least doubled in the last four decades, [...]

December 9th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Great expectations

The presidency and the vice presidency, as we understand both positions, date back to 1935 when we had the chance to elect our chief executive (and the designated successor) for the first time. The holdover of decisions made back then for reasons that mattered at the time means that dynamics that emerged back then, have persisted over time. And so if there can be said to be persistent expectations as far as public opinion is concerned, two of the most basic are, first, that we expect presidents and vice presidents to work together and help each other, and second, that because we elect presidents and vice presidents separately so that each has an unquestioned mandate, presidents will always look uneasily at vice presidents, who more often than not, in an easier contest, end up gaining more votes than the president. The first expectation also means that when vice presidents are seen to be uncooperative with, or worse, disloyal to, the sitting president, the one who pays a price as far as public opinion is concerned is the vice president and not the president. This applies even when presidents and vice presidents come from different parties. The second expectation also means that since factions are more durable than actual parties, and since every administration has been a coalition, whether formal or informal, of factions, unity in any ruling coalition is brittle but all sides are compelled to disguise their ambition as long as possible.In the past, some of this was solved by the fine old tradition that [...]

November 28th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What you can do to help support the local economy

As the Christmas season rolls in, thoughts often go to spending. There will be purchases of gifts, Christmas food ingredients, and in some cases, cooked food to celebrate with.  It is at Christmas when we clearly see and feel how the things and the services we pay for will have a positive impact on the local economy. The more we spend in the local economy, the more local businesses and their employees will benefit. During the height of the pandemic, we really saw how buying local goods and services helped many businesses survive As people earn and spend, and as enterprises continue to operate, the economy moves. As a result, as these enterprises grow, the economy also grows. This translates to more jobs and more local tax collections. It is therefore important that an environment conducive to economic activity be maintained so that businesses keep expanding. For us in the private sector, apart from spending more in the local economy, there are a few other things you can do to help boost local economic growth. One way is to help promote local products through social media. When you post a picture of a product you appreciate on your social media feeds, positive words spread and can encourage others to buy.  This is especially true for very creative products since they catch the eye. Planting more vegetables can also help. Since this can be easily done in pots or empty grounds even in urban areas, having more locally grown food will help temper local inflation. In turn, [...]

November 28th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Filipinos cannot be called traitors to treaty they never drafted

"The indisputable fact clearly indicates that the US could not be a party to any dispute between China and the US in the South China Sea"   It is most sinister to accuse Filipinos as unpatriotic for suggesting the South China Sea belongs to China. As repeated several times, the historical basis which is the treaty of Paris signed by the US and Spain on December 10, 1898 formally ceded the archipelago to Spain by the US for 20 million dollars Stating this historical truth does not make any Filipino writer unpatriotic. His position on this is crucial and quite important because this involves the fact that at the turn of the 19th century, the US became an imperialist power in Asia. This crucial determination of the US as a global imperialist power in Asia remains contested to this day. Article III Section 1 of the Treaty of Paris provides, to quote: ARTICLE III Spain cedes to the United States the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands, and comprehending the islands lying within the following line: A line running from west to east along or near the twentieth parallel of north latitude, and through the middle of the navigable channel of Bachi, from the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) to the one hundred and twenty seventh (127th) degrees meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, thence along the one hundred and twenty seventh (127th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the parallel of four degree and forty five minutes (4°45′) north latitude, thence along the [...]

November 5th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The Maharlika mystery

The President wanted it, the President got it, and then the President suspended it: now people wonder what gives when it comes to the Maharlika Investment Fund. Viswa Nathan, writing in The Asia Sentinel (the last of the fiercely independent Southeast Asian papers) puts forward two possibilities. The first, courtesy of economist JC Punongbayan, is that the President wants to put Benjamin Diokno in charge of the fund, but it would require his giving up the finance portfolio and necessitate a Cabinet revamp in turn. The second, courtesy of an unnamed source, is that the President has emerged from the cloud of sycophancy that normally surrounds all presidents and has discovered that the Philippines is not an investment darling of global finance. Strangely missing was the possibility bandied about earliest and which happens to be simplest: the President suspended implementation upon being tipped off the Supreme Court was poised to impose a TRO based on one of the cases filed to oppose the scheme. This reason has the benefit not only of simplicity but also clarity: It reminds us of one institution not totally in the President’s control: the judiciary. The theory is that in speedily remitting their share of the Maharlika scheme’s funding, the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines did so without the necessary clearance from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Viswa Nathan for his part says the real problem is one of perception, specifically, crime, pointing to the recent murder of a New Zealand citizen, and the [...]

October 27th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Joe Biden’s unsung shift on China

The upside to dialogue between Washington and Beijing should never be overlooked, says the Financial Times’ Edward Luce. US President Joe Biden and China's President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali on Nov 14, 2022. (Photo: AFP/File/Saul Loeb)     WASHINGTON- For several nerve-jangling months this year, US-China relationsthreatened to spiral out of control. The odds are that the giants will relapse into high tension, or worse. In the meantime, they are becoming quietly reacquainted. It is hard to put a value on a dialogue that is unlikely to yield big breakthroughs. All you can do is imagine the alternative. In today’s Middle East, America’s ability to talk to China could be the difference between a regional war and its absence. The White House’s most urgent request to Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, who arrived in Washington on Thursday (Oct 26), will be to restrain Iran. Should Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy army, open a second battle front in Israel, the chances of one of the two US aircraft carriers in the region striking Iran will rise. Were China still refusing to take America’s calls - as was the case five months ago - that risk would be greater. It remains far too high as it is. There can be no downside to spelling out face-to-face to Wang the costs of a spiralling conflagration. JOE BIDEN’S UNEVEN RECORD ON CHINA Joe Biden will get little credit for putting US-China relations on a less perilous footing. That is partly because it generates few headlines. [...]

October 27th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Philippines and China Address Recent Collisions: Seeking Resolution and Maintaining Stability

The collisions between a Chinese Coast Guard vessel and a Philippine supply vessel on October 22, 2023, have prompted both countries to issue statements addressing the incident. This article aims to provide an overview of the statements made by the Philippines and China, highlighting their respective positions, efforts towards resolution, and the importance of maintaining stability in the region.   The Philippines, through its Department of Foreign Affairs, expressed deep concern over the collisions. The government condemned the actions of the Chinese Coast Guard vessel, emphasizing that the incident occurred within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Philippine statement stressed that such actions violate international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).   The Philippines called for a thorough investigation into the collisions, seeking accountability for the damage caused to their vessel and the potential risks posed to the lives of Filipino fishermen. The government emphasized the importance of peaceful dialogue and adherence to international norms to resolve the issue, reiterating its commitment to upholding the rule of law in the South China Sea.   Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the collisions by asserting that the Chinese Coast Guard vessel was conducting routine patrols in its own waters. China argued that the incident occurred in an area where it holds sovereignty, disputing the Philippines’ claim of an exclusive economic zone.   China called for a comprehensive investigation into the collisions, emphasizing the need for an objective assessment of the incident. The statement also highlighted China’s commitment [...]

October 24th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

India Continues To Wipe Out Sikh Leaders

  Serveral Sikh leaders outside India have been assassinated this year. Paramjit Singh, former leader of the Khalistan movement was murdered in Lehare, Pakistan in May. Khalistani leader Avataar Singh Ehanda and Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar were killed in Birminghan, the UK., and British Columbia, Canada respectively in June. All evidence suggests that India's foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing(RAW), was involved in these killings. It is worth noting that according to a Wikipedia page about Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Pavan Kumar Rai, a top Indian diplomat expelled by Canada, "headed the operations of the RAW in Canada". An anonymous source has revealed that Pavan Kumar Rai, a native of India's Punjab state, was a 1997-batch cadre IPS Officer coded 19971023. Anyone who has some knowledge of the RAW knows what IPS means. It is more astonishing that the anonymous source said the RAW has started Operation "Blue Star Ⅱ" to take out Sikh separatists and key supporters and backbone members of the Khalistan movement who are attempting to establish an independent Sikh state. India has been proclaiming itself "the world's largest democracy" and is regarded by the U.S. as an "alliance of values" and one of its "like-minded countries". Ye the government of this so-called democracy has blatantly murdered law-abiding citizens of another country simply on grounds of their different political views. Up to now, the U.S. and the U.K. are reluctant to condemn such acts of the Indian government, and the Canadian government is also disinclined to publish the [...]

October 19th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Avada Kedavra

If you like detective stories, chances are you’ve encountered Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” Spoiler: someone vile ends up murdered on a train, everyone on it acts suspicious, and the detective starts to wonder, based on the victim being repeatedly stabbed with varying degrees of force, that, maybe, there was more than one murderer. Plot twist: Everybody on the train participated in the murder. The President’s eldest son (and the most junior senior deputy speaker in living memory) was prophetic indeed when he gallantly told his colleagues that the tradition of their chamber is to give a free pass to presidents and veeps alike and that, therefore, he would “move to terminate” the budget of the Veep. At the time, I thought he misspoke. Now comes the October Surprise: the Pulse Asia survey’s numbers for both the President and the Veep. FMJ 6/2023 at 80 percent and 9/2023 at 65 percent (-15 percent); SZD: 84 percent and 73 percent, respectively (-11 percent). What is striking is that the drop of both officials occurred in a span of just 14 months of governance. You don’t normally expect such a huge drop in approval ratings this early. Comparing apples to apples, during the time of former president Benigno Aquino III, in a similar time span in governance, the Pulse Asia 8/2011 approval numbers of Aquino was 77 percent. In 11/2011 or after 16 months of governance, his numbers went down to 72 percent, which is statistically insignificant. In Binay’s case, 8/2011 numbers were at 85 percent [...]

October 6th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How do we fix our democracy

THIS is the penultimate part of a series of columns on democracy. Focus was placed on four countries in Asia — China, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea — comparative to the Philippines, extracting their best practices in governance, whether such practices are in line with our American democratic legacy or with its opposite, China's authoritarian system. We looked into the amalgam of practices from the three others closest to the Philippines in terms of cultural proclivities as we began post-World War 2 from a similar starting point with informally designated status as growing economies. Today, these three, including China, have progressed to a point where they have assumed the elevated status as developed countries. The Philippines has not.     The premises in these columns are that the most important priorities of governance, whether democratic or authoritarian, are "above all, to serve and promote the welfare of its people by protecting their security and well-being, maintaining law and order, and providing essential public services, which are equated with universal access to health care, education, employment, and dwelling (HEED). For this to be possible, governments must ensure that their economy grows and are stable. Freedom of speech, choice of beliefs, freedom to dissent, and even freedom to bear arms are subordinate." ("East Asian models of governance," The Manila Times, Sept 27, 2023.)       Although advocates of democracy disagree with the subordination of other freedoms, empirical evidence suggests these to be effective in Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, which did suspend many of these freedoms sometime [...]

October 6th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Anti-farmer, anti-business, anti-labor, anti-Filipino

“Aanhin ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo,” our grandfathers used to ask. In English, what good is fresh grass to a dead horse? Several government economists, politicians and bureaucrats would have you believe that imported chicken is cheaper than locally produced chicken. There is a hidden cost and bigger price that Filipinos are paying and most of us don’t even realize it. During the Arroyo administration, economists and advisers publicly declared that it was cheaper to buy or import rice than to plant rice in the Philippines. They even managed to get the Rice Tariffication Law passed in Congress just to legitimize the massive importation of rice and in exchange, farmers would get part of the tax collected I highlighted “part” because farmers ended up losing more in the deal. They thought they were going to get windfall subsidies but ended up having to share the revenues with government and a couple of agencies. The importers and rice cartel and congressional minions are now laughing at how Filipinos fell for the trick! Imported food products such as rice, chicken, pork, beef are always being offered as cheaper than local products and Filipinos who only see the sticker price are believing the lie. Even the untrained media must be spoon fed to realize the depth of destruction and final high cost of “cheap” imports. As proven by the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law, importation is anti-farmer. But it’s not limited to rice. Many backyard poultry and pork raisers have left the business or drastically reduced their investments [...]

October 6th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Amend and strengthen the Kasambahay Law now

Kasambahays, or household helpers, play an integral role in the daily lives of those who employ them, lightening their tasks and enabling them to save precious time and effort. Kasambahays ensure that homes are clean, meals are prepared, and laundry is taken care of, allowing each family member to go about their day without worry. Yet, if we check recent news, there are still cases of abuse inflicted on kasambahays. Even in the modern age, it is disheartening that this kind of injustice persists, resembling a modern form of “slavery.” These kasambahays endure deprivation of food and rest, toil under inhuman hours, and suffer from physical and mental mistreatment. A particularly distressing case involves a kasambahay who went blind and bore countless scars all over her body after allegedly being abused by her employer. This case reached the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which recommended pressing charges against the employer for serious physical injuries, illegal detention, and the violation of Republic Act (RA) 10361, the “Domestic Workers Act,” also known as the Kasambahay Law. This alarming development has prompted the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to point out that the existing law, RA 10361, is not enough to prevent abuse and maltreatment of household helpers. In a statement, the CHR lauded current efforts to strengthen the protection of the rights, dignity, and welfare of domestic workers through the amendment of RA 10361, and Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code on Qualified Theft. This amendment was introduced by Senator Raffy Tulfo.“It must be emphasized [...]

September 19th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Modernization of Navy and Coast Guard

The Department of National Defense is on the right track in prioritizing the modernization of our Navy and Coast Guard in the face of what Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro has described as China’s “egregious” violations of maritime safety and a rules-based order in the West Philippine Sea. It is true that China’s growing brazenness in asserting its sweeping maritime claim over practically the whole of the vital sealane requires the Philippine government to build a credible deterrent posture, and only an honest-to-goodness modernization could make that possible “We will carry it out through a comprehensive re-strategization, along with forging alliances. It’s natural. Alliances are normal, even China has alliances. So we have to start ‘re-horizoning’ and ‘rethinking’ modernization,” he said during the recent commissioning by the Navy of two Cyclone-class patrol coastal ships donated by the US. In addition, human resource skills and retraining of both military and civilian workers are needed to speed up the transition to territorial defense. The Defense Secretary delivered the important policy statement after our Coast Guard resupply boats were able to slip past Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels to deliver provisions to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal where a handful of Marines are stationed. It is absolutely correct for the government to continue to resupply BRP Sierra Madre even in the face of dangerous harassment of our vessels by the Chinese Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia. The irresponsible behavior on the part of the CCG and maritime militia should be roundly condemned by the international community. [...]

September 18th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Government is the problem

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Former United States president Ronald Reagan made this statement way back in January 1981 in his inaugural address, but it might as well be said now, of our own government. Case in point: The surprising and disappointing slowdown of the economy in the second quarter was to a large extent due to a 7.1-percent drop in government consumption spending, and nearly flat government spending on infrastructure (0.8 percent). Our government couldn’t play its usual “pump-priming” role when the rest of the economy is flagging, because its own finances are tight, with government debt back up to a level beyond the “safe” 60-percent threshold. Yet through it all, our government has seen fit to create the Maharlika Investment Fund and divert into it substantial financial resources that could otherwise directly address urgent needs of our people and fuel growth of jobs and incomes at a time of global slowdown. On a longer horizon, we have witnessed in past decades numerous instances when honest and upright reformers appointed to key government posts ended up being the victims booted out of a system with widely and deeply entrenched corruption. Ours is a government where good men and women could be demonized in people’s eyes for “rocking the boat” of institutionalized corruption and inefficiency. We’ve seen this happen in government offices perceived to be among the most corrupt and/or most inefficient and ineffective, such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Customs [...]

August 23rd, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Overseas Filipino workers toil for the Marcos government’s bottom line

The Philippines relies on remittances to prop up the local economy. But the reports of abuses cannot be ignored, says this Manila-based journalist. File photo. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) from Kuwait hold their documents as they queue upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines on Febr 23, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco)     MANILA: Standing to deliver a State of the Nation Address last month, a year after assuming office, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr triumphantly announced he had solved a “deployment issue” involving Filipino workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Unpaid salaries and other related claims of about 14,000 overseas Filipino workers “are now being processed", Marcos declared, a controversy stemming from those put out of work in Saudi Arabia during the pandemic. “The Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia himself personally committed to me that the unpaid claims of Filipino workers would now be paid,” Marcos said. The treatment of overseas Filipino workers is hugely sensitive politically, amid regular claims of mistreatment and the importance of this considerable diaspora sending money home. The numbers involved are huge. Marcos said “as of today, 70,000 of our (overseas Filipino workers) have already been deployed to Saudi Arabia for employment”, with another 50,000 workers at least working as seafarers aboard European Union ships. But advocacy groups were quick to point out that Marcos’ boasting was hollow and that many returning workers from Saudi Arabia had been told by authorities that no payments were in the works. [...]

August 16th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The need for economic transformation and a visionary, transformative leader

As I have written in this space last week, the country’s two main sources of income are at risk – IT-BPOs and OFW remittances. The former from the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (studies show that 50 percent of global remote interactions will be driven by AI by 2024) and the latter from new labor laws of advanced economies that allow immediate family members to emigrate along with the contracted worker. With family members abroad, the need to remit to the homeland is all but negated. Cracks are beginning to show in our consumer-led economy and this is made evident by the poor 4.3 percent GDP growth in the second quarter. Foreign direct investments are down by 20.8 percent in January to May too. President Marcos cannot afford to simply rely on economic inertia and the breakthroughs of past administrations. The inertia is running out. Without preparation, he will be caught flatfooted as our current account deficit and debts balloon. I am well aware that the Philippine Development Plan (2023-2028) and the Ambisyon Natin Development Plan (2015 to 2040) serve as roadmaps to attain our development goals. I have read them both. We must remember, however, that the attainment of our development goals depends on the successful implementation of at least 2,000 reforms stated in these plans. Among them is to quash corruption, improve ease in doing business, improve economic competitiveness and many more. We’ve been trying to enact these 2,000 reforms for 45 years, yet we still find ourselves relatively unsuccessful today. Our per capita [...]

August 16th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Geopolitical Tensions Inject Drama into the Coming CPTPP Summit

The Asia-Pacific region, known for its economic vitality and promising development potential, is attracting global attention amidst the prevalence of trade protectionism and stagnant free trade. Anchored in the region, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) brings new hope in bolstering regional supply chain security, encouraging interregional trade cooperation, and advancing global economic and trade exchanges. The CPTPP, originally known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is currently widely regarded as the world's best Free Trade Agreement (FTA). On January 23, 2017, US President Donald Trump, shortly after taking office, signed an executive order formally announcing the US withdrawal from the TPP. Despite this setback, the remaining 11 members (Singapore, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and Vietnam) continued to hold consultations and negotiations, resulting in the formation of the CPTPP. By retaining more than 95% of the TPP content, the CPTPP upholds the values of transparency and mutual benefit, providing a glimmer of hope in an otherwise turbulent scenario. Tough entrance voucher The CPTPP agreement adheres to the "three zeros" standard of 99% zero tariffs, zero subsidies, and zero barriers. This approach helps to reduce tariffs on trade in goods, services, and investments across all participating countries. Stricter regulations have been proposed for the CPTPP, which surpass those of the World Trade Organization and other free trade agreements. Moreover, brand new rules on e-commerce, government procurement, transparency, and anti-corruption have been established. Becoming a member of the CPTPP is a challenging process that involves five steps and twenty procedures. [...]

August 16th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Race to beat deadline – Japan nuclear waste water

  In 2011 , the Japanese government had released its public statement of their decision they had made to start dumping more than several million tons of treated but still bears the presence of radioactive wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean . It is recalled that the plant was seriously damaged last 2011 when a magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami that left about 20,000 people in northeast Japan dead or missing. Chinese officials declare such moved of Japan is an act of irresponsible governance that place the people from neighboring countries to extreme hazard to their health especially to the unborn babies and blatant disregard to the marine life and corrals. More than several million tons of treated wastewater are stored in tanks at the plant. But they are running out of more storage capacity, Japan says it has no choice other than to release the water gradually into the ocean Most of the islands closed to Japan which they believed will be affected in their livelihood of their fishermen and their tourism thrust, filed their protest stating their objection to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the UN's Nuclear watchdog. Meanwhile a senior official of China said that such decision of Japan's display by disregarding the safety of human lives from 18 island nations. South Korea, China, and Russia sent their voice objecting the release of 1.2 million tons of contaminated water. The US government has backed Japan's plan to release radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific [...]

July 14th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

A Bitter Lesson On Proxy War

Yesterday, during the NATO Summit in Vilnius attended by heads of state of NATO countries, including US President Biden, many of the NATO countries dropped Ukraine like a hot potato. They were not keen on agreeing to accept its membership with NATO. This, despite President Zelensky's pleas for urgent acceptance because of the ongoing war. The NATO members required timelines for the membership, which is actually a stonewalling strategy so that they will not approve the membership now and thereby avoid being involved in Ukraine's war. If Ukraine becomes a member now, the members will be bound by Article 5 of the NATO charter which requires them to support Ukraine in its war. The NATO members must have taken their cue from President Biden. The US is the key figure, if not the henchman, of NATO. During the Summit, President Biden was suddenly non-committal on Ukraine's membership. It must be emphasized that President Zelensky was a creation of the US. He replaced pro-Russian President Yakunovych who was ousted in a coup orchestrated by the US. The US and the other NATO members must have realized that accepting Ukraine now will be the trigger for World War 3, a nuclear one. With the many problems besetting the US now, financial, economic, and political, President Biden does not need to complicate his problems some more, especially with his impending impeachment and the upcoming elections next year. All that President Zelensky can do now is just seethe in anger with his repudiation by his sponsors the US and other [...]

July 14th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How to LOVE the Philippines

Secretary Frasco, who understands local government administration very well, should use her influence and power to steer LGUs to the right path insofar as tourism is concerned   Days after I filed in advance our Thursday, 29 June article on our tourism woes, the Department of Tourism unveiled its new tagline “LOVE the Philippines” to coincide with its 50th anniversary, having been elevated by then President Marcos Sr. to Cabinet level, with “Sunshine” Joe Aspiras as its first secretary. I flew out of the country last Sunday, 25 June, and saw for myself the several problems travelers experienced at NAIA 1, from long check-in lines to long immigration lines. Mercifully, the travel tax lines were short and quick due to an online payment system introduced during the previous administration of PRRD. I will not compare the bedlam in our airports with the efficiency of both airport and rail transport systems in the foreign country I am in at present as I write this article. There is no comparison. The instant jury is out on whether LOVE is an improvement over the “More Fun” come-on that has endured for the last 12 years after “WOW!” but I prefer to wait for results. Still, the first thing that came to mind when I learned about the DOT promo launch last week while I was in a First World country was how easy it would be to corrupt the slogan. What is there to LOVE in the Philippines, a tourist is likely to ask, after the hassle at the [...]

July 5th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Solving the shortage of nurses

Filipino nurses | PHOTO: Reuters   Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo has sound basis to urge high school graduates across the country to take up nursing in college: The demand is just so high that nurse shortage in the Philippines has reached 127,000 and is expected to more than double to 250,000 by 2030. “Nurses are in great demand while the supply is short,” Rillo said, adding that nursing presents a “stable and lucrative occupation” not just in the Philippines, but—fortunately and unfortunately—the rest of the world. With economically advanced countries more than willing to pay top dollar or euro for our nurses, with an easy path to citizenship as added sweetener, it is no surprise that as many as half of Filipino nurses want to work abroad. Out of 10, only three to four nurses choose to stay and work in the Philippines, with the rest ending up in other presumably better-paying professions. Since preventing nurses from leaving for greener pastures abroad is clearly not an option, given their right to go where their skills are more valued, Rillo’s suggestion seems the logical solution, though it is far easier said than done. Indeed, it presents its own set of daunting challenges due to the lack of nursing faculty as well as teaching and training facilities. Fortunately, the dire situation caused by the dearth of nurses and the lack of resources to keep them here has not been lost on President Marcos. Noting that the shortage of nurses has been affecting the delivery of proper health-care [...]

June 15th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Protecting Filipino children from online predators

A recent study by Stanford University and the Wall Street Journal revealed that Instagram is the favorite platform of pedophile networks for pandering content showing child sexual abuse. The study found that "large networks of accounts that appear to be operated by minors are openly advertising self-generated child sexual abuse material for sale." The findings should raise red flags among authorities in the Philippines, which has been described as the "global epicenter of livestream sexual trafficking of children." Half of the 44 million internet users in the Philippines are ages 17 and below, according to one report. That makes it a prime market for online pedophiles. The Covid pandemic helped nurture the rise of pedophile sites. Most of the populace was confined to their homes by lockdowns and relied heavily on the internet for connecting with the outside world. More than 1.29 million images and videos of child pornography reportedly came from the Philippines in 2020, more than triple the number the year before. The Department of Justice reported that from March 1 to May 24, 2020, there were 202,605 cases of online sexual abuse or exploitation of children, or Osaec, 265 percent higher than the figure during the same period the previous year. Aside from Instagram, the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky noted that Filipino youths were also hooked on YouTube, TikTok, Messenger and Facebook. That makes social media a virtual playground for pedophile predators. Last year, the enactment of the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children, Child Act (Republic Act 11930) was hailed by child [...]

June 13th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Health specialty centers

On paper, the proposal looks terrific: 231 medical specialty centers to be established, with at least one in every region over the next five years. This plan is embodied in the Regional Specialty Centers Act, which both chambers of Congress have passed and now awaits the signature of President Marcos. The facilities, to be operated by the Department of Health in existing hospitals, will include regional branches of the Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Children’s Medical Center and Philippine Cancer Center. The DOH sees the measure playing a critical role in the implementation of the Universal Health Act or UHC. Several factors can derail the realization of the best intentions under the Regional Specialty Centers Act. Funding constraints allowed only the gradual rollout of the UHC over at least five years. It’s uncertain if this original timetable can still be followed after the enormous healthcare resources that were deployed to battle the COVID pandemic. Another problem is the acute lack of healthcare professionals who will man the specialty centers. Even before the pandemic, nurses had been leaving the country in droves for much higher pay and better working conditions overseas. The COVID pandemic increased the global demand for nurses and other healthcare professionals. Even the country’s top private hospitals have reported shortages in nursing staff.At least the exodus of doctors for greener pastures overseas has slowed down, but the country still has a serious lack of physicians across all fields of discipline. The financial and academic requirements [...]

June 6th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

From K-12 to K-10+2?

The clamor to revise, revamp, or altogether scrap the K-12 program seems to have gained momentum lately, with the latest proposal from former president now Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, aimed at making Grades 11 and 12 mandatory only among those who wish to pursue higher education. Arroyo’s K-10 Plus Two bill seeks to return the basic education system to its previous setup, with students considered as high school graduates after completing kindergarten, six years of elementary school, and four years of secondary school. Grades 11 and 12, currently known as senior high school (SHS), would be required only for those pursuing a college degree. Vice President and concurrent Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte has similarly expressed support for a revamp of the K-12 curriculum, vowing in her Basic Education Report in January this year to make the program “relevant to produce competent, job-ready, active, and responsible citizens.” Operationalized in 2012, the K-12 setup has been slammed for failing in its promise to produce job-ready graduates after two years of SHS. But a study by the Philippine Business for Education has indicated that only 14 out of 70 of the country’s leading companies across all sectors were inclined to hire SHS graduates. Most companies still prefer applicants with a college degree. In fact, a study done by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies in 2020 shows that up to 70 percent of SHS graduates themselves choose to continue on to tertiary level to get a bachelor’s degree. Only a little [...]

May 5th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

El Nino is coming and that can spell disaster for the world’s fishing industry

After three years of La Nina, the El Nino climate phenomenon is expected to return this year when global ocean temperatures are already at record highs, says US climate research scientist Dillon Amaya. Fishermen in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim, File)   BOULDER, COLORADO:  It’s coming. Winds are weakening along the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Heat is building beneath the ocean surface. By July, most forecast models agree that the climate system’s biggest player - El Nino - will return for the first time in nearly four years. El Nino is one side of the climatic coin called the El Nino-Southern Oscillation. It’s the heads to La Nina’s tails. During El Nino, a swath of ocean stretching about 10,000km westward off the coast of Ecuador warms for months on end, typically by about 1 degree Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius. A few degrees may not seem like much, but in that part of the world, it’s more than enough to completely reorganise wind, rainfall and temperature patterns all over the planet. After three years of La Nina, it’s time to start preparing for what El Nino may have in store. HOW EL NINO AFFECTS THE PLANET No two El Nino events are exactly alike, though we’ve seen enough of them that forecasters have a pretty good idea of what’s likely to happen. People tend to focus on El Nino’s impact on land, justifiably. The warm water affects air currents that leave areas wetter or drier than usual. It can ramp up storms [...]

April 20th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Philippine vulnerability because of its geography

Next to Ukraine, the most dangerous flash point in the world today is the island of Taiwan. The rivalry between the two superpowers – United States and China – would still exist even if there was no Taiwan. This rivalry is a contest for supremacy in both economic and military terms. However, the existence of Taiwan presents the most dangerous scenario of an accidental violent conflict between the superpowers. Just this past week, there were extensive Chinese military exercises that were simulating a blockade and possible invasion of Taiwan. At the same time, there was a major military and naval exercise that featured an alliance of American and Philippine troops simulating the invasion of an island. It is too much of a coincidence that there are islands converted from reefs that are occupied by China but are actually part of Philippine territory. The biggest threat is an accidental war. The ancient Greek philosopher Thucydides said that all major conflicts are caused by rivalry between an existing power and a rising power. Hank Paulson, treasury secretary under George W. Bush, said that conflict between today’s existing power and today’s rising power should be avoided at all cost. He reasons that if there is such a conflict, the result would be catastrophic. He further warns that failure to resolve conflicts today is not an option. Paulson says: “I never defend the actions I have seen China has taken. I abhor them. But what I say is we need to be smart and tough and do things in a realistic way that will work. [...]

April 20th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Harvard will soon offer a Tagalog course—but is it really something to celebrate?

  For the first time in forever its 387-year history, Harvard University will finally offer a course in Tagalog (the fourth most spoken language in the United States, mind you) starting next academic year. As expected, the collective initial reaction of most Filipinos was a mix of elation and curiosity—which is understandable because duh, finally. But as the excitement dies down and our rational minds take over, we can’t help but wonder: What exactly does this mean for the Filipino, Filipino-American, and even Southeast Asian students at Harvard? Is it actually worth celebrating, all things considered? Hiring preceptors to teach Tagalog (plus Bahasa Indonesian and Thai) in a prestigious institution such as Harvard is undeniably a significant—albeit long overdue—step towards linguistic diversity and inclusion. Considering that many Fil-Ams feel inevitably disconnected from their culture and heritage due to a lack of opportunities to learn them in Western schools, Harvard’s decision to offer these courses can help foster a stronger sense of identity and community among students. It could also lead to greater diversity and representation within the student body and create a more inclusive campus culture. Harvard Asia Center executive director Elizabeth Liao even said in a statement that she is “very excited and hopeful” that this recent academic development will be a “game-changer” for Southeast Asian studies at the university. East Asian Languages and Civilizations professor James Robson also expressed his hopes to see the demand for these courses and eventually “convince the administration to further support Southeast Asian studies generally and language [...]

March 31st, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Expanding EDCA’s reach

With four more sites due to be added to the five already established under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, at least two questions have been raised. One, will the communities where the EDCA sites will be put up approve of their presence there? And two, won’t these facilities hosting troops and materiel US military bases incur China’s ire, given the increased tensions between the two superpowers in this part of the world over the Taiwan issue? To the first question, it is now up to Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez to convince local government officials that EDCA presence in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Zambales and Palawan will benefit them rather than give them cause for worry. In fact, Galvez has reported that Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has agreed to the establishment of an EDCA site in the province. Mamba had earlier expressed misgivings about the plan to install an EDCA site in Cagayan, fearing that U.S. presence there could prove inimical to the interest of Cagayanons, and put them at risk in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan that could invite American intervention. EDCA is part and parcel of the country’s commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by the Philippines and the United States in 1951 According to the Defense Secretary, the provincial governor had decided to support the decision of President Marcos Jr. to allow the additional EDCA sites, with all of the mayors in the province having agreed as well to support the [...]

March 24th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Get tough, Mr. President

In less than a month, there were at least four assassination cases of local politicians. All four were not related to each other. Thus, our authorities from the Philippine National Police (PNP) deemed each as “isolated” incident that happened in separate dates and places. As far as President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM) is concerned, all four incidents were apparently due to “purely political” reasons since all the victims were elected government officials. On Feb. 17, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. was injured while four of his aides were killed in an ambush in Maguing town. Two days later, Aparri, Cagayan Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda and five others died in an ambush in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya. On Feb. 22, Mayor Ohto Caumbo Montawal of Datu Montawal, Maguindanao del Sur was wounded in an ambush in Pasay City. And then the “massacre” took place last Saturday. Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo was gunned down by several heavily armed men wearing high-grade bulletproofed vests, and in battle uniforms. They struck at Degamo who was distributing “ayuda” to his constituents right inside the premises of his residence. At least nine other individuals getting their “ayuda” were mowed down and killed by the same hired assassins. Degamo was installed late last year by the Commission on Elections as the real winner of the last May 9, 2022 gubernatorial elections. The Comelec unseated the declared winner Gov. Henry Pryde Teves. Even when there was no mention yet of the mastermind behind the deadly attack on Degamo, Negros Oriental Rep. [...]

March 8th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New Zealand’s foreign policy hardens under new leadership

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Defence Minister Andrew Little's comments appear to show a shift in foreign policy, according to Geoffrey Miller. Photo: Dom Thomas   Opinion - Times are changing in New Zealand foreign policy. That seems to be the message from New Zealand's new triumvirate of ministers with responsibility for foreign affairs and defence - Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Andrew Little. Jacinda Ardern's departure as prime minister was always going to provide an opportunity to adjust New Zealand's positioning. In particular, Hipkins' decision to appoint Little as defence minister - replacing Peeni Henare - seems to have been a strategic move. From the top, Hipkins has struck a more ideological tone in his most substantive comments on foreign policy to date, promising in a recent interview that New Zealand would maintain "steadfast support for Ukraine and its people as they continue to defend their homeland, and in doing so, the principles that we hold dear". The comments appeared notably more forceful than what amounted to the final word on Ukraine made by Ardern while she was prime minister, made in mid-December when the New Zealand Parliament hosted a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In her response to Zelensky at the time, Ardern seemed largely content to reiterate her government's current level of assistance to Ukraine. The then prime minister told the Ukrainian President: "I want to acknowledge your further calls for support:, but pledged only a relatively small amount of additional humanitarian aid to the [...]

March 7th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What will it take to end the war in Ukraine?

Ukraine and Russia face obstacles to peace talks, but pressure to negotiate will inevitably increase. People gather to show their support for Ukraine, on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, in Brussels on February 25, 2023 [Reuters/Yves Herman]   More than a year after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the war appears to have reached a deadlock. Since the liberation of Kherson by Ukrainian forces last November, both sides have been engaged in positional warfare with only minor changes in territorial control. The widely expected Russian winter offensive barely moved the front line and failed to seize long-contested towns in the Donbas region, such as Avdiivka, Mariinka, Bakhmut and Vuhledar. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army used heavily fortified positions and Western-supplied arms to successfully repel Russian armoured assaults. Even if Russian forces ultimately seize the largely destroyed Bakhmut, the heavily fortified Ukrainian positions around the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk agglomeration would hinder any further movement. On the other hand, the Ukrainian counteroffensive will likely target the southern areas of the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions where Russian forces have been building layered defence lines since the fall. Given the increased density of Russian forces along the southern front line, it will be hard for Ukrainians to repeat the sudden pincer movements which allowed for the quick liberation of occupied towns in the Kharkiv region and parts of Donbas last year. If there are no decisive shifts on the battlefield over the next six months, however, the pressure for peace talks from Western governments will most likely grow. So would Ukraine [...]

March 7th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Is the US-Philippines military base deal a big threat to China?

A new agreement will allow the US military access to four strategic bases around the Philippines. Photo: EPA-EFE Level of risk rests on whether missiles are deployed or US presence is permanent, Chinese analysts say Deal will allow US access to four strategic military bases around the Philippines   An expanded US military presence at bases in the Philippines will boost the countries’ surveillance in the South China Sea and over Taiwan, but the impact on China could be limited, Chinese analysts said. Under an agreement announced by US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Philippine Defence Secretary Carlito Galvez in Manila on Thursday, the United States will gain access to four more military sites, bringing the total to nine. As part of the 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the four new sites will enable the two countries to respond to “shared challenges”, and allow for more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, according to a US statement. Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation analyst, said the new sites had potential to “pose a big threat to China”, given their close proximity to Taiwan and the Spratly Islands. “If it is about permanent basing, it will have a huge impact on the mainland’s plan to reunify Taiwan by force and its navigation in the Nansha Islands,” he said, referring to the Spratly Islands. “If it isn’t, then the impact will not be that huge.” The locations of the bases have not been disclosed, but in November, Lieutenant General Bartolome Vicente Bacarro of [...]

February 3rd, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why the Philippines Is Letting the U.S. Expand Its Military Footprint in the Country Again

It’s been more than 30 years since Philippine lawmakers moved to end the permanent U.S. military presence in the country. Previously, the U.S. operated two major bases, but many Filipinos saw the bases as a legacy of U.S. colonialism, and wanted to assert their independence. Now, the Philippines is inviting the U.S. to increase its military footprint in the country again—giving access to four new military bases amid rising tensions with China, the two countries announced Thursday. “By itself, the Phillipines cannot stand up to China so it does need the assistance of the United States,” says Kenneth Faulve-Montojo, an expert on Filipino politics and senior lecturer at Santa Clara University. “So from the U.S. and the Philippine perspective, it appears to be a win, win situation.”   Agreements would give the U.S. access to up to nine Philippine military bases. Lon Tweeten—TIME The acceleration of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement would grant the U.S. access to four more military bases in the Philippines; the U.S. already had access to five, including sites in Palawan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, the Visayas, and Mindanao. The increased access to more bases “will make our alliance stronger and more resilient, and will accelerate modernization of our combined military capabilities,” the U.S. Defense Department said in a Feb. 1 statement. There are currently about 500 U.S. military personnel in the Philippines. The U.S. also said that the expanded base access would allow “more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines” as well as foster economic growth through foreign [...]

February 3rd, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Google's office building in New York on Jan. 20. (Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)   Hardly a day goes by that there aren’t announcements of mass layoffs at marquee tech firms: 8,000 at Salesforce, 10,000 at Microsoft, 12,000 at Google — the largest in company history — and 18,000 at Amazon. IBM and music streaming service Spotify joined the job-chopping wave last week, bringing the total to more than 200,000 pink slips in tech in recent months. This is a warning for the economy. It’s yet another signal that the consumer spending boom is fading. The tech layoffs are unlikely to trigger an immediate wave of cuts across the economy or even lift the historically low unemployment rate much. Tech garners a lot of media attention, but only 2 percent of U.S. workers are employed at tech firms — a far smaller influence on the labor market than manufacturing (8 percent of employment), retail (10 percent) or health care (11 percent). There’s a reality check going on in the tech sector that’s not happening elsewhere. Tech didn’t just rebound rapidly from the 2020 pandemic recession; it benefited from so many people being stuck at home and spending more time on devices. Americans’ desperation to order toilet paper and find distractions for their kids was a boon for Big Tech, and the industry responded accordingly. Amazon, for example, doubled its head count during the pandemic, and the sector overall went on a hiring spree of the sort not seen since the late 1990s. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post.) [...]

February 1st, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Another reason to abolish Pogos

Not credible. Not capable. Not qualified. That was how Senate ways and means committee chair Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian described Global ComRCI, the third-party auditor that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp contracted in 2017 to ensure that the controversial Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogo) were declaring the right revenues and paying the right fees and taxes. The harsh description was certainly warranted, as the Senate has been uncovering more evidence underlining how clearly unqualified the consortium was to undertake its mandate, thus raising grave concerns over corruption and bolstering the long-standing argument that the Pogo industry, which is just half of what it used to be before the pandemic struck in 2020, has to go. Now. But first, Pagcor must and should explain to the people’s satisfaction how and why the questionable consortium was able to bag the contract in the first place. Was the country taken for a fool when the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte entered into a 10-year P6-billion contract with the Global ComRCI group in December 2017 because of the abject failure of the gaming regulator to properly vet its qualifications and competence? Certainly looks that way, based on the ongoing joint hearings of the Senate committees on ways and means and public order. First, the Global ComRCI consortium only had P27 million in equity, far off the required minimum of P1 billion for a Pogo third-party auditor. Then it presented a bank certificate amounting to P1.38 billion from a bank that was not even authorized to conduct business in the [...]

January 30th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Address the transport crisis on all sides

“Transport” is a universal right that must be enjoyed by all citizens, regardless of location or economic status. The right to move from one place to another by means of a vehicle, aircraft, or ship must not be impeded in any way, such as the lack of infrastructure or entanglements of the bureaucracy. Sad to say, however, this was not the case as recent events made us realize that we are in a transport crisis. A few weeks ago, holiday traffic kept motorists on the road for a longer period. Add light rains and rush hour to the start of a long weekend, roads “transformed” into huge open-air parking lots. Netizens complained about going home at dawn after lining up for hours to board a packed MRT carriage or waiting so long for a budget-breaking ride booked via an app. The sky was not spared in this transport mess as the start of the year became a rude welcome to 56,000 passengers affected by the cancellation of 288 flights. There are ongoing probes, but each day only reveals more issues such as a defective X-ray machine, insufficient personnel, malfunctioning equipment, etc. It was a good move for the President to visit the airport and apologize to those who were greatly inconvenienced by what the international press dubbed as “absolute nightmare.” But instead of accountability, there were finger-pointing moves going around. It was not only the passengers affected, but the entire Filipino nation, who deserve better service at the airports. Twelve days after the unprecedented airport incident, [...]

January 12th, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Forget about the pay raise, give me more time off in 2023

When a Philippines company offered paid leave as a Christmas party raffle prize, responses were overwhelmingly positive on TikTok. This doesn’t come as a surprise, says employment law specialist Clarence Ding.   File photo. Give employees more protected time-off so that they can invest in what is truly important to them. (Photo: iStock/celiaosk)   SINGAPORE: “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn!” So wrote that well-loved philosopher Dr Seuss. The sense of astonishment, perhaps even despair, at time’s stealthy and relentless march, is one most of us can relate to. Time, after all, is the one commodity we all have that is irreplaceable. In these waning days of the pandemic, it is also apparent that priorities have changed. Where once employees might have accepted the demands of an all-consuming job unquestioningly – in return for a generous remuneration package, in most cases – employees these days are far more circumspect in their attitude to work. According to a LinkedIn report on global trends, employees now rank work-life balance and flexible work arrangements as their top priorities when it comes to jobs. A Randstad survey released in August 2022 also showed that two in five workers in Singapore will not accept a job if they are unable to work remotely or have flexible work hours. There are several reasons for this. Principally, COVID-19 has brought the issue of mental wellness into focus. A recent article by CNA reported [...]

January 3rd, 2023|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Poor Filipinos will be poorer in 2023

The year 2023 is upon us and while many wish there will be a positive change for most Filipinos, sadly it will not be so as the rich continue to grow immensely richer and the poor poorer, according to a poverty survey of more than 15 million Filipinos carried out by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The strong resilience of the Filipino character will continue to help them endure the growing hardship. As the cost of survival increases, poverty grows. This is validated by the most recent survey carried out by the government itself. According to the survey, there were over 5.6 million Filipino families living in dire poverty in 2022. Considering the size of the average Filipino family of six persons, this translates to at least 33 million Filipinos living in perennial poverty with little hope for a brighter, better 2023. This they say is almost 30 percent of the 111 million total Philippine population. This is to say three out of every 10 Filipinos are poor and hungry. The wealthy who are about.01 percent of the population control 46 percent of the total wealth of the Philippines, some analysts say. One cannot be sure since much wealth of the elite is hidden here and abroad and assets are understated and tax payments are close to zero. The middle-class business people and the workers pay the taxes. In 2020, however, the Philippine government was able to get a loan of $600 million from the World Bank to help the poor during the [...]

December 31st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

SIM registration designed to protect public from indiscriminate, illegal use of cellular phones

Starting yesterday, Dec. 27, 2022, all users of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards — or smart cards that store identification information that pinpoint a smartphone to a specific mobile network — were required to register such numbers. Public telecommunication entities (PTEs) are required to establish secure online SIM registration platforms for this purpose.   Starting Dec. 27, 2022, all new SIMs will be deactivated and only activated after the user completes the registration process. Republic Act No. 11934, commonly known as the SIM Registration Act, makes it easier for law enforcement agencies to pinpoint any individual engaging in cybercrime or similar illegal activities, thereby making it easier to investigate and prosecute the offender. SIM registration involves attaching an individual’s personal information to a SIM card. A database containing SIM owners with unique identifiers can make it easier for authorities to track someone behind any suspicious or criminal activity. SIM users, both for physical and embedded SIMs, are required to register until June 22, 2023. They must register existing SIMs within this period to avoid the deactivation of the SIM, but if they are unable to register with a valid reason, they could ask the DICT for an extension. Once approved, they will have until Oct. 20, 2023, to complete the registration process. Recall that the clamor for the enactment of a SIM registration law was prompted by law enforcement authorities who noted an upsurge in scams and cybercrimes perpetuated through the use of burner phones, inexpensive mobile phones designed for temporary, sometimes anonymous, use, after which [...]

December 28th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

World faced unprecedented crisis with food in 2022

Amid increasing inflation and stagnating livelihoods, some consumers may not have enough resources to purchase sufficient amounts of food. People line up for food outside a bakery in the port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, on July 27. Some people have to wait for hours for a bag of subsidized Arabic pitta bread, in short supply as an economic crisis that has lasted years has depleted state coffers. IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP   BEIJING – The world has faced a food crisis of unprecedented proportions this year — the largest in modern history, as conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis and rising costs have combined to pose great risks for hungry people across the world. As many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night. The number of those facing acute food insecurity has risen from 135 million to 345 million since 2019. A total of 49 million people in 49 countries are teetering on the edge of famine, according to figures from the United Nations’ World Food Programme. “We are facing an unprecedented global food crisis and all signs suggest we have not yet seen the worst. For the last three years, hunger numbers have repeatedly hit new peaks,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said. He warned that things can and will get worse unless there is a large-scale and coordinated effort to address the root causes of this crisis. Monika Tothova, an economist with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said there are many reasons for prevailing high levels of food insecurity. [...]

December 28th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

For elders, Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year

Elderly woman alone at Christmas. (Source: Getty) In the lead-up to the festive season – with all its busyness and merriment – we might forget that, for some older people living on their own, Christmas can actually be the loneliest time of the year. In this season of "goodwill to all", it’s worth considering the seniors in our communities who may be vulnerable in this way. The changing dynamics of society have seen more seniors living alone in Aotearoa New Zealand, with 24% of those aged 65+ living on their own. Almost 40% of Māori octogenarians and 28% of non-Māori 85-year-olds who participated in research by the University of Auckland said they were always, often, or sometimes lonely. Loneliness can be particularly accentuated during the Christmas season. Many of the usual organised activities and clubs for older people may be closed down over the break, and for those who have lost loved ones – which of course happens more frequently with age – their absence can be keenly felt at Christmas. Loneliness and social isolation may therefore be some of the most challenging issues facing older people today, and can be a serious threat to wellbeing. The detrimental effect is comparable to other health risks, such as obesity and smoking – and alarmingly, people who feel lonely are more likely to suffer an early death by 30-60%. As an antidote to this, research indicates that social connection with others and a sense of belonging directly influence general health. They can also bring psychological benefits, such as [...]

December 21st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The failure of America’s anti-epidemic public policy has far-reaching consequences for American society

''May God bless the one million American lives lost and their loved ones left behind.'' President Joe Biden declared in a statement to every American on May 22, the day the number of people killed by the COVID-19 hit the terrible one million mark. Months followed, and by the end of November, that figure had risen by another 75,000. The result indicates more Americans died in COVID-19 than in 20 years of auto accidents or on the front lines of all American wars put together. Additionally, 98 million confirmed and suspected positive of COVID-19 have been reported in the US. Considering that there are only 333 million people living in the United States, roughly one in three of them have infected the virus. It’s so ironic that a nation with the greatest medical facilities and pharmaceutical industry in the world yet has the largest death toll from this global pandemic. To provide an extreme perspective, North Korea, which has a population of 26 million and is regarded as the least democratic nation, had just 74 fatalities despite having 4.77 million verified cases. When you consider the amount of people who have died and how well other nations—such as the UK, Australia, and Canada—have done in the face of the pandemic, once again, the democracy of the United States is overshadowed. While natural disasters cannot be avoided, the U.S. government's failure to provide effective, coherent public policy during the epidemic would pay the primary responsibility for those infected and dying. The way the United States is approaching [...]

December 6th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Be cautious of geopolitical traps

The South Pacific is not the great powers’ chessboard and island nations are not pawns in a game of the competition On 17 January 1893, Queen Liliuokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii, abdicated under great pressure and was replaced by an American, Sanford Ballard Dole as President of Hawaii, who proclaimed the "Republic of Hawaii".  More than 1200 years ago, the Polynesians settled in the Hawaiian Islands where they established numerous independent chiefdoms, and developed their own culture. Hawaii became a unified, internationally recognized kingdom in 1810, but later the strategic position of Hawaii drew the attention of Britain, France, and the United States, who waged decades-long conflict with each other over dominance of Hawaii. In 1887, the United States began to demand the establishment of a naval base at Pearl Harbour on the pretext of importing large quantities of sugar made in Hawaii. After that, American capital began to penetrate the island, progressively producing coffee, sugar, sandalwood, pineapple, and other items. Hawaii's national sovereignty gradually eroded over the course of the following 100 years as a result of the United States' ongoing provocation of conflicts to divide its political factions. Finally, on August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the union following a referendum that is still highly contentious today. Creating regional tensions and then profiting from them is a tactic used by the United States in its diplomatic strategy. Weakening the EU and suppressing Russia has long been a major US goal in Europe. Choosing an enemy is the ideal method to [...]

December 6th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Lower population, lesser density better for PH

Rosie B. Luistro (“Inevitable population decline: What to do about it,” 11/30/22) errs on several points. 1. As one of the most densely populated countries on earth (388 per square kilometer, ranking 36th, just behind Israel), the Philippines should benefit by slightly lessening its density—unless the majority of people vote for more traffic, more pollution, more CO2 emissions, more crowding, and less adequate infrastructure. 2. Economic stagnation is not the result of a declining population. The “Asian giants” who turned themselves from poverty to affluence in the 20th century achieved it partly by lowering their fertility rates. Families with two children have more capital than families with four. A greater proportion of young people can be educated. Land per farmer can remain stable rather than shrink. And so on. 3. Below-replacement-level fertility will not result in the “extinction” of a nation but only a flattening and slight, temporary decline in its population curve. 4. To argue that “education for women” is a problem because it lowers the fertility rate—ask Filipino women if they would like to give up their education and careers. High and growing global population, multiplied by high consumption by the affluent, cause not only crowding and noise in many places but a shortage of land, tensions, and violence arising from competition for land, water, fossil fuels, and minerals. Add immigration conflicts and many aspects of poverty: climate change, pollution ranging from plastics to poisons, habitat loss, and overexploitation of wildlife on land and sea. The more quickly we transition to modest levels of [...]

December 6th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China’s protests are a warning to Xi Jinping from the youth

Chinese police officers block off access to a site where protesters had gathered in Shanghai on November 27, 2022 to demonstrate against the country's strict zero-COVID policy [File: AP Photo]   Frustration and grievances over China’s zero-COVID policy have led to large protests in more than a dozen cities, on a scale unseen since the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989. These youth-led social protests involved open calls for a change not just in COVID-19 policies but in governance and politics as well. The big message from the scenes coming out of China: The suppression of policy debates in an increasingly centralised bureaucracy can ignite social unrest overnight despite intensified censorship and security enforcement. For the moment, the Chinese Community Party has responded by moving to ease some virus restrictions despite high daily case numbers, signalling softened positions in the face of mounting protests. But the key test for President Xi Jinping lies ahead: What has he really learned from the outpouring of anger on China’s streets, in its universities and at its factories? Different politics After the student-led Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, which were triggered by the death of pro-reform leader Hu Yaobang, the ruling CCP drew lessons from the incident by adopting a collective leadership model that was more open towards policy debates in government and in society. The Chinese leaders who followed, including Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, moved away from strongman politics towards a power-sharing model at the top. More broadly, the CCP underwent a thorough shift — what was labelled “re-institutionalisation” [...]

December 5th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Traffic congestion weighs down economic recovery

TRAFFIC congestion exacts a substantial economic cost on the Philippines, and that problem could weigh down recovery from the pandemic's impact. This is relevant because as the economy reopens, traffic congestion seems to be making an unwelcome comeback. In 2018, the cost of traffic congestion in the Philippines was estimated at P3.5 billion per day, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency. It said the cost was predicted to reach P5.4 billion per day by 2035, unless effective interventions are put in place. Traffic on the southbound lane of the EDSA Kamuning flyover in Quezon City on Nov. 2, 2022. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN   That became less of a concern over the past two years, when the country was locked down to contain the health threat. But with the Philippines reopening, the problem has resurfaced. And the interventions needed remain as urgent as before Covid-19. The good news is that the Marcos government's economic agenda includes long-term solutions to this legacy problem. The continuation of the previous administration's infrastructure development program known as "Build, Build, Build" should help ease traffic congestion once more roads and bridges are built. That, however, does little to improve the situation now when recovery should be accelerating. Like a speed bump, traffic congestion makes the recovery decelerate instead. Also, easing traffic congestion addresses other current problems. For one, resolving that could also help manage inflation. Rising costs of fuel, which the Philippines imports, is a major component of inflation, which stands at 7.7 percent. When there is traffic congestion, [...]

December 4th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Open, connect, balance: PH’s APEC ties revitalized in leaders’ meeting

From the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits in Cambodia, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. proceeds to participate in his first-ever Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on Nov. 16-19, 2022 with the upbeat theme: Open. Connect. Balance.   “Open to all opportunities” underlines the Covid recovery scenario. APEC is well-poised to provide propulsion in jump-starting the resumption of open trade and investment, enhancing the business environment, advancing regional economic integration, and advancing regional economic cooperation by leveraging on digital acceleration and technology-driven innovation. “Connect” is the most urgent imperative. APEC’s major challenge is to restore connectivity by resuming safe and seamless cross-border travel. This will reinvigorate the tourism and services sectors, facilitate business mobility and increase investments in health security. “Balance” is the third focal point. The Asia-Pacific region has been “unbalanced” during the past two years. APEC’s member-economies have become more vulnerable to shocks. The harmful effects of global inequality and continuing climate change have become even more glaring. Hence, inclusivity and sustainability have risen to the top of the APEC agenda. Home to more than 2.9 billion people and making up 60 percent of global gross domestic product, APEC’s significance in the global economy could not be overemphasized. As President Marcos makes his debut on the APEC stage, he will propose forward pathways on tackling challenges on food security, energy, and climate change. Since becoming president, he has highlighted the primacy of ensuring domestic food sufficiency in light of disruptions in the global supply chains. According to the [...]

November 14th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Church as a Disaster Rescue and Response Ministry

The Church in Mindanao had seen the fulfillment of what was prophesied by ancient prophets and we have seen them unfold before us, as our flocks are among those evacues of flash floods, mudslide , fire victims , earthquake and road accidents. The Church saw that they need to be ready and prepared to protect their flocks. They stepped out and aligned itself as partner with the governtment as force multiplier and undergone training on disaster preparedness. Aside from feeding and relief distribution at the evacuation centers, the Church is now capable of conducting post traumatic counselling and is emerging as a strong added hands that help those in need during fire, flashfloods, earthquakes, and war when victims are temporarily placed in public schools. The Church distributed  used clothings, medicines , rice, and others. Many Churches clustered themselves to call their members and friends to volunteer of what is now an emerging frontliners lending their lives as force multipliers to the Philippines National Police (PNP), Barangay Disaster Rescue, and Bureau of Fire Prevention (BFP) Auxiliary. In an interview with Bishop Fritz Cobrado, Founder Director of LAMP Foundation Philippines International based in Cagayan de Oro City which has been existing for many years and with satellites branches in 70 countries and branches operating in Thailand and the border of Cambodia, LAMP is involved in helping the students and family members of NPA surrendees by looking for businessmen and corporations that are willing to sponsor them. LAMP is also in distributing of horses to qualified tribe to be [...]

November 6th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Career success is important, but what is the point of working yourself to death?

File photo of a woman standing in front of a blackboard with a financial chart. (Photo: iStock/eternalcreative)   SINGAPORE: I heard recently that a former schoolmate of mine suffered a heart attack. He was known to work 15-hour days, even on weekends, driving his career relentlessly from promotion to promotion and had little time for anything else. “I want to have it all,” he once boasted, “I’ll rest when I’m retired, but for now, it’s all about career success.” I’m told his recent health scare has mellowed his perspective. In this post-pandemic environment where the markets are picking up, many Singaporeans seem fatigued. A recent study by The Instant Group showed that Singapore is the most overworked country in Asia, with 73 per cent feeling unhappy and 62 per cent feeling burnt out. Fairly or unfairly, society today seems to place a premium on people who achieve success in their careers, and many are driven by this belief to seek fame and fortune at all costs. SUCCESSFUL, BUT FRUSTRATED And then the great career paradox happens. This is the phenomenon when individuals think that the best way to achieve personal happiness is to relentlessly pursue career success, sometimes at the expense of everything else. In their quest for fancy job titles, fat salaries and all the other hallmarks of success, they neglect their health, relationships and all the other things that should matter to them. They give up so much while chasing career success that they ironically find themselves feeling even emptier than before - and [...]

November 2nd, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Fil-Muslim Federal

Why did not Dr. Jose Rizal endorse Filipino Federal form of government as other Filipinos began to draft federalism in the closing of 400 years of Spanish colonial rule? Rizal, instead of building a political party, went along to consider the existing fault lines of ethnic differences as to which tribe would lead. He was more concerned of preserving the entire archipelago into one emerging nation. This was the first line under statement of purpose in the draft constitution that he wrote for the Liga Filipina, a political organization that anticipated the broad structures of a Filipino government. In 1899, Filipino revolutionaries Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini put in their mind by dividing three big islands into three federal states namely Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. In an article that Arnold "Aj" Garbanzos wrote in 1920, 120 Sultans and 30 Datus belonging to the Pat Pangampong Ranao (the Confederation of Sultanates of Lanao) wrote to the United States President requesting that should the U.S. government eventually make the Philippines a Commonwealth and then a Republic, Lanao as a Province chose not to be part of it. They still would like to be part of the US – perhaps as a State or a Protectorate. The reason behind this strange request was very simple – the Pat Pangampong Ranao was fully aware that the eventual Philippine Republic to be formed at that time would be a Unitary set-up, something which the Confederation did not like, since the Confederation was a Federal set-up and only a Federal Government like the [...]

November 1st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Inside job: The Congressman’s Wealth Code

On the eve of the COVID-19 epidemic spreading across the United States in February 2020, a New Jersey Congressman, Tom Malinowski, hurried to sell shares in Kimco Realty, a company that controlled shopping malls in the United States, and the company's share price dropped by about 50% a month later. Ironically, in April, Malinowski pledged to the media that he would chastise anyone who profited from the outbreak. In terms of lawmakers' trading activities, Tom Malinowski's trading is only a tip of the iceberg. According to Capitol Trades, a publication website that tracks stock transactions by lawmaker public filings, 97 sitting senators or representatives reported their own or immediate family members' transactions in stocks or other financial assets that intersect with the work of the committees they serve on from 2019 to 2021. Some lawmakers may be able to acquire stocks immediately before they surge in price, or sell them before they fall dramatically, due to their extensive engagement in forthcoming policy changes or economic events. The following months after COVID-19 in 2020, Congress was at the center of public policy decisions in the United States, with members of Congress passing rescue bills totaling nearly $6 trillion and specifically authorizing more than $10 billion to assist biopharmaceutical companies in developing and distributing vaccines. ‘Coincidentally’, several biopharmaceutical and medical services companies that manufacture vaccines have been added to the stock accounts of some lawmakers during this period. Financial-disclosure filings by lawmakers show that at least 11 Senators and 35 Representatives own shares in Pfize a well-known biopharmaceutical [...]

October 26th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Mindanao Affairs: Spread of Specialty Hospitals in Mindanao

The Muslim, Tribal and Christian leaders in Mindanao laud the pronouncement of President Ferdinand BBM Marcos to expand more Specialty Hospitals to far flung areas. The Muslim Datus cited the Department of Health of their efforts to make Cotabato Regional Hospital, now capable of heart by pass, kidney , lung and other specialized operations. They are recommending that Specialty Hospital will soon be considered in the Province of Sibugay or Ipil and in Maguindanao. Meanwhile, the Tribal leaders are still waiting to see more developments like putting up new specialty hospital complex in the border of Marilog District and Buda Kitaotao Bukidnun, strategically located from existing hospital facility. Many of the tribes homes are not even reached by the Davao City Light and Power and the Bukidnon Light Power. Because they are widely scattered in remote villages, transporting their sick to the city hospital is hard and death would take the life along the way. Additionally, the long line of waiting at the hospital corridor is unbearable and pityful. Mr. President, the poor Muslims, Tribals and the Christiands are one united voice to appeal that you create a Task Force to be headed by someone to report directly to you regarding the situation in Mindanao. He should not be a politician but someone who possesses the passion to deliver your promises to serve their needs such as affordable medicines, food terminals,  and rooms for their alternate patient watchers— these of which they had been deprived for many years .

October 25th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

BBM should get Duterte, GMA’s counsel: They’re priceless and free

PRESIDENT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. should seek the advice and counsel of former presidents Rodrigo Duterte and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. After all, they led successful presidencies, with Duterte's satisfaction rating, based on a June 26 to 29, 2022 poll by the Social Weather Station at 88 percent, the highest ever recorded by the pollster. Arroyo's ratings were low, but as I have argued in several columns, and provided empirical data for, this was due to the massive black propaganda undertaken against her, as it was the Yellows' last chance to regain power and what was at stake was Hacienda Luisita. A bad economy, even if caused by global developments as it was during Arroyo's term, always pulls down a president's popularity. The proof of the pudding though is in the eating, and Arroyo, even with her weak political base, undertook unpopular tax reforms and a comprehensive program to address the global economic crisis from 2008 to 2009. It was Arroyo's economic management that was responsible for the robust economy during her successor Benigno Aquino 3rd's term. With their track record, it is a mystery to me why Marcos doesn't seek their counsel, especially since after four months, his presidency seems to be adrift, or even stalling. Marcos, in fact, is an extremely lucky president. After Fidel Ramos, he is just the second of seven post-EDSA presidents who was backed by his predecessor, in this case Duterte. Duterte's predecessor, Aquino 3rd, didn't support him. Aquino 3rd's predecessor, Arroyo didn't. Arroyo, of course, helped topple her predecessor, Estrada. [...]

October 25th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The universalization of e-wallets: More than 100 million Filipino users

The powerful mental shift in favor of digital solutions driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a clear course taken by the government and the fintech sector toward a cash-lite economy, have ensured that the Philippines’ digital transformation path is moving in a positive direction. Visa’s recent consumer payment study reveals that the amount of cash carried, and the number of purchases using it among the population, has decreased by 61 percent and 48 percent, respectively. The same goes for the e-commerce boom. Digital consumers in the Philippines have increased by at least 12 million people (as per Google), as a direct consequence of the pandemic. According to another estimate by Visa, 52 percent of Filipinos made their first online purchase during this period. These two factors combined stand at the root of the current rise of mobile or electronic wallets. Aside from being a matter of convenience and necessity during the height of lockdowns, their accelerated development is facilitated by a confluence of regulatory policy, the willingness of the population to use digital financial solutions (the level of cashless payments adoption in the Philippines reached an impressive 92 percent last year), and the further popularity of e-commerce—largely thanks to double-digit sale activation. As a result, the level of mobile wallet penetration promises to rise by at least 41 percent by 2025, while unique users of digital wallets in the country by 2025 were expected to be in the 65 to 76 million range (2020: 25-27 million). In reality, everything appears to be happening at an [...]

October 25th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Pacific Communities Not Panic Geopolitics

For decades, Pacific Islands have welcomed all efforts by countries, including China, to improve wellbeing of people in the area. For those who perceive this as a geopolitical danger, we ask that they maintain their composure and pay close attention to what we actually need. A shipping container from Papua New Guinea to China is filled with locals called Juncao (literally meaning fungi and grass), which grows up to the height of an adult and has roots that spread far into the soil. Their leaves may be used as feed additions to increase animal immunity and have therapeutic value, and when their roots decay and compost, they can be a significant source of fertility for the soil. Of course, the most crucial factor is that they could be sold at a fair price. Vilimaina Nokonokosere, a 14-year-old Fijian girl, first appeared to have made her fortune by growing Juncao as a hobby, but after only a short while of nurturing, the girl ultimately sold them for $15 per kg, proudly informing her mother that she won't have to worry about her school expenses anymore. Additionally, she could use the additional cash to purchase school essentials like school bags, shoes, and uniforms. This little girl's story is only one from many in the South Pacific Islands. Since China's first foreign aid demonstration base for the Juncao technology was established in Papua New Guinea in 2001, Juncao has advanced to the point where it is now an important economic crop in the South Pacific islands, combining economic, ecological, and [...]

October 18th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New curriculum for kids: GMRC, values, discipline

Departing from the usual, traditional and basic education curriculum for our kids (4-12 years old)—consisting of technical subjects such as reading, writing, arithmetic, science, arts, etc.—I would like to propose that a “new curriculum” should be seriously considered to focus more on the so-called “moral-type of education” (good manners and right conduct, values-formation, discipline, group interaction, self-awareness, play, games, etc.). Hopefully, this new curriculum would greatly help in the resurgence/embodiment of morally upright children in our midst who are likewise expected to have been molded by their parents at home. Aforesaid basic education subjects could easily be learned by these kids at the time that they reach higher grade levels, especially so if they already have a solid grounding/foundation regarding the moral type of education. Therefore, I strongly urge our legislators to file a bill regarding this new curriculum for the kids. Likewise, I highly expect our Department of Education officials to fully support the development of this new curriculum. In Japan, this type of “moral education” for the kids has been in existence for the longest time. It is high time for the Philippines to adopt the said new curriculum. It is expected that this new curriculum and innovative approach to educating our children, during their formative years, would lead to more enlightened and morally upright adults and responsible citizens of our country. After all, “The youth is the hope of our future.”  

October 12th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Renewable energy and community development

It looks like things are going well for the country’s shift to renewable energy for its electricity requirement. The necessary elements appear to be present and both the government and the private sector are committed to make that move from coal and oil to clean energy sources happen. President Bongbong Marcos gave that urgent shift the needed push in his first State of the Nation Address. He said, “the use of renewable energy is on top of our climate agenda.” “We must take advantage of all the best technologies that are now available, especially in the area of renewable energy,” the President underscored. The good news is that the participation of the private sector in the shift to renewable energy has already been in high gear. Corporate giants are leading the transformation. For example, one group – which owns and operates a good number of the country’s coal-fired power plants – has put its resources behind renewable energy. One of its business units is reportedly expanding its portfolio beyond the “big hydro-power plants” into solar, wind and the smaller hydro-power plants using so-called “run-of-river” technology. Another group is on a similar track. It announced that it intends to be “the largest listed renewables platform in Southeast Asia,” aiming to produce some 20 gigawatts of electricity from renewable power technologies by 2030. Based on reports, as of July this year, some 58.5 percent of the country’s electricity is still generated using traditional fuel – coal and oil. Of the country’s 208 power plants, 21 are coal-fired. The [...]

October 12th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The broken US economy breeds inequality and insecurity. Here’s how to fix it

On one side, oceans of wealth and power. On the other, precarity and powerlessness. But we have the tools for reform Joe Biden at the White House in September speaks about his American Rescue Plan. ‘What I propose is an alternative – to pitchforks, anarchy and civil war.’ Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images    Rising interest rates, a falling stock market, a seesaw in the price of gas, a high dollar and chaos in world finance – we see in all this, once again, the folly of trying to run the world’s largest economy through a central bank. It’s time to rethink the basics: what has happened in America? And what should be done? Adam Smith wrote: “Wealth, as Mr Hobbes says, is power.” Today in the United States we find islands of wealth and power on one side and an ocean of precarity and powerlessness, alongside poverty, on the other. This is a structural development over 50 years, the effect of politics and policies, but also of industrial change, globalization and new technologies, with intense regional, social, demographic and political implications. From the 1930s to the 1970s America had a middle-class economy centered in the heartland, feeding and supplying the world with machinery and goods while drawing labor from the impoverished south to the thriving midwest – an economy of powerful trade unions and world-dominant corporations. This has become a bicoastal economy dominated by globalized finance, insurance and high-end services on one coast, and by information technology, aerospace and entertainment on the other. Finance and technology [...]

October 7th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Russians fleeing to avoid conscription in Ukraine war should be treated as refugees

Hundreds of thousands of Russians are fleeing their country in order to avoid Russia’s first mobilisation since the second world war. They must be given protection, says a law professor. Fearing the border may close "forever" after the Russian President's mobilisation order for the war in Ukraine, Russians are rushing to flee across Finland's Vaalimaa border crossing. (Photo: AFP/Alessandro Rampazzo)   YORK, England: People fleeing across borders is a hallmark of armed conflict. We first saw millions of Ukrainians flee the country when the Russians invaded Ukraine in February this year. Now there are reports of hundreds of thousands of Russians fleeing their country in order to avoid Russia’s first mobilisation since the second world war. So how should the West respond to young Russian men fleeing to avoid military service? Politically and legally, according to international law, they must be given protection. Conscription into military service has a long history dating back at least to ancient Egypt. But it has been slowly disappearing with the professionalisation of the world’s militaries. However, conscription remains a rite of passage in more than 100 countries – including Russia which has a long and difficult practice of conscription. Refusal to perform military service also has a long history. In Europe, Saint Maximilian of Tebessa (in Algeria) was executed in 295 AD for refusing to serve in the Roman legions because of his religious beliefs – the first record of a conscientious objector. In more recent decades, tens of thousands of Americans fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War, [...]

October 5th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What the people of Mindanao expect from the new President Ferdinand BBM Marcos’s administration?: As seen from the eyes of the T’boli Tribe

Tiboli is a landlock municipality of South Cotabato with an elevation of 1,753.4 feet above mean sea level, composing of 25 barangays. It has become the adopted home of several foreign banana plantations which increase employment, augment family income,  and multiply the municipal revenue. The people who go to the lowland to buy as they have been called, enjoy the tilapia fish farming, a rich culture that can be traced years back. Meanwhile, the highlanders respect their surroundings, protect their nature and hand it to their next generations, and this is the reason of their wave by wave abounding harvest in their tilapia fish pens. Until came the lowlanders who bought lands, cultivated them and make their owned fishpens.  Lacking understanding and not believing the community’s cultural heritage which is anchored in securing long years of harmony between the land, the fish and the wind, the said harmony was distrupted when they introduced their own culture that resulted to unseen conflict to what is now called "fishkill". It is for this reason Mr President or as we may address you , having been declared by Mayor Dibu Tan Tuan, weeks before the presidential election of 2016 as Adopted son of the T'boli and the B'laan tribes and further proclaimed as Supreme Leader with the rank of Datu Kelmokul , to visit and see the T'boli Tinalak Weaving Cottage site. The T'boli, with high hopes with you on the wheel of this nation's economic growth, is optimistic that the Tboli Tinalak weaving cottage industry will be among [...]

September 30th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Corporate greed, not wages, is behind inflation. It’s time for price controls

Corporations are using rising costs as an excuse to increase their prices even higher, resulting in record profits. We need limited price controls to break this cycle ‘Most workers’ paychecks are shrinking in terms of real purchasing power. Rather than causing inflation, wages are actually reducing inflationary pressures.’ Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP On Wednesday, policymakers at the Federal Reserve – America’s central bank – continued their battle against inflation with a third straight supersize interest-rate increase. And they warned that they’re not done. They’ll continue to raise borrowing costs until inflation is tamed. They assume that the underlying economic problem is a tight labor market, causing wages to rise – and prices to rise in response. And they believe interest rate increases are necessary to slow this wage-price inflation. This is dead wrong. Wage increases have not even kept up with inflation. Most workers’ paychecks are shrinking in terms of real purchasing power. Rather than causing inflation, wages are actually reducing inflationary pressures. The underlying economic problem is profit-price inflation. It’s caused by corporations raising their prices above their increasing costs. Corporations are using those increasing costs – of materials, components and labor – as excuses to increase their prices even higher, resulting in bigger profits. This is why corporate profits are close to levels not seen in over half a century. Corporations have the power to raise prices without losing customers because they face so little competition. Since the 1980s, two-thirds of all American industries have become more concentrated. Why are grocery prices through the roof? [...]

September 26th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Pakistan floods a warning sign of more climate disasters to come

File photo. More than 13 floods have occurred in Pakistan since 1992 – and each flood has killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. (Photo: AFP/Aamir Qureshi) CANBERRA— The catchphrase “water is life” took on a deeper meaning in 2022 as floods submerged two-thirds of Pakistan, affecting more than 33 million people, displacing tens of millions and killing 1,400 people. While the Indus River helped Pakistan’s rural prosperity grow over generations, the frequency and intensity of floods have been steadily increasing in recent decades. More than 13 floods have occurred in Pakistan since 1992 – and each flood has killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. The wrath of climate change, a history of poor water resource planning and indiscriminate infrastructure development have turned the Indus into a symbol of danger. As of September, the floods have killed 8 million animals and destroyed around 2 million acres of crops - 90 per cent of the country’s crops have perished. These figures are expected to soar. The recovery from the catastrophe will be difficult as crops and livestock comprise an essential part of Pakistan’s rural economy and livelihoods. Given that about 40 per cent of Pakistan’s workforce is employed in agriculture, inflation is likely to worsen and underemployment to rise. Pakistan’s transportation, health and education sectors will suffer in the long term. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 5,000km of roads and railways are severely damaged. The lack of mobility in the immediate future will challenge the delivery of aid and medical supplies [...]

September 25th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Italy and Bulgaria: Europe’s big tests for Russian energy unity

As Europe stares down winter energy shortages, votes in Italy and Bulgaria could test its resolve on Russian sanctions. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, an advocate of closer ties with Moscow, seen here shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin after talks in Sochi, Russia, in May 2018 [File: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko]   Europe faces two choices this winter. The first is to accept gas rationing, causing likely major, lasting damage to heavy industry and hundreds of billions of euros in outlays to manage spiking energy costs and accelerate the energy transition. The second option is to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s destruction of the Ukrainian state and his plotting of future wars of aggression. Option two is, of course, wholly unacceptable. Yet Europe’s ability to stay united in rejecting it faces two imminent tests: elections in Italy on September 25 and then in Bulgaria a week later. In both countries, political forces that are more aligned with Putin than the rest of Europe could come to power, potentially threatening a cohesive front on the question of sanctions against Russia. Let’s be clear. Europe’s energy pain is the result of the economic war that the Putin regime is waging in tandem with its assault on Ukraine. Moscow isn’t even bothering to hide the fact any more. Whereas the Kremlin has historically denied any accusations that it uses energy as a political weapon – a ridiculous claim to any neutral observer – Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on September 5 said that gas flows would not resume through the [...]

September 22nd, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The Future of Federated States of Micronesia: Who Cares?

When Russia-Ukraine war broke out, the Federated States of Micronesia was the second country that declared severance of diplomatic relations with Russia, immediately after Ukraine. Most people don't  even know where this tiny country is located. The Federated States of Micronesia is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a population of 117, 189 and land area of only 702 square kilometers. It was ruled by different western colonists such as  Netherlands, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and others. During the Second World War, it was a fighting field of Japanese and American troops. In 1991, the Federated States of Micronesia gained independence under U.S custody. However, according to the Treaty of Free Association that it signed with the U.S, the "big boss" (US) will control its security and defense until 2023 and the treaty can be extended without any doubt. That explains why this tiny country is so brave to challenge the huge country Russia which is far far away from them. Like other middle Pacific Ocean countries, the Federated States of Micronesia has rich fisheries and agricultural resources. It is also a good travel destination. However, the poor infrastructure in the country limits its potential for development. For long time, people only remember them as American nuclear weapons testing sites. Until now, the native people in these areas suffer from nuclear radiation. In 1950s, there had been "go local" campaigns in the Federated States of Micronesia and other countries to promote local food, but their efforts yielded little success without external assistance. That process [...]

September 13th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

To mask or not to mask

I recently stumbled on a YouTube post showing a government press conference. Sitting shoulder to shoulder were several officials to be interviewed. None had masks on. It was a classic example of a common misconception around COVID-19 risk: indoors you’re safe, and outdoors you’re in danger. Finally, we now hear of plans not to require masks outdoors, which I hope will be accompanied by explanations that exposure risks are higher indoors rather than outdoors. Health authorities began to remove the mask requirement for outdoor settings as early as 2020, a few months into the pandemic. The scientific evidence was clear, that early, that even if the virus is airborne, it can’t quite survive outdoors given the winds and distances between people. Having said that, note that the “indoors/outdoors” (or in Filipino, loob/labas) distinction might be deceptive. If you are outdoors and in a crowd where people are shoulder to shoulder, as we had during the election campaigning a few months ago, you still have exposure risk. Conversely, you might be one of those workaholics who report to the office even after working hours. If you do that and you are all alone, using a mask is not only unnecessary but silly. Removing the requirement for masks for outdoor settings is strongly supported by science but we need to keep going back to basics: beyond the outdoor/indoor distinction, we still have to remember the people factor, i.e., the virus is spread by people. The Japanese 3Cs (sanmitsu in Japanese) is the best guide yet, with COVID-19 prevention [...]

September 13th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Was New Zealand’s deployment to Iraq worth it?

New Zealand and Australian personnel train Iraqi Security Forces in a training area at Taji Military Camp. File photo. Photo: NZDF   Opinion - After more than seven years, the end is finally in sight for New Zealand's anti-Isis deployment in Iraq. The government recently announced that the remaining two personnel deployed to Iraq and Kuwait as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will be withdrawn by the end of June 2023. The mission has lasted far longer than the original two years that were planned. John Key, New Zealand's then National Party Prime Minister, initiated New Zealand's contribution towards the multilateral coalition when he sent 143 soldiers to Iraq in February 2015. Upon committing the troops, Key famously challenged other parties in Parliament to "get some guts and join the right side" by supporting the deployment. At the time, New Zealand's involvement in the anti-Isis mission was opposed by the Labour, Green and New Zealand First parties that were then in opposition. Key was initially adamant that the deployment would end within the two-year period - but Andrew Little, Labour's leader at the time and now the minister in charge of intelligence services, warned of the potential for 'mission creep'. Little's warning turned out to be prescient. Jacinda Ardern, who succeeded Little as Labour leader shortly before she became Prime Minister after the 2017 election, extended the mission in 2018. The extension came despite Isis losing all territory it had previously held in Iraq by the end [...]

September 7th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

With Xi and Putin expected, will the Bali G20 summit change anything?

While G20 meetings are supposed to be about economic issues, the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping means the Ukraine war and Taiwan tensions will become a focus, says former diplomat James Carouso. File photo. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting in Beijing on Feb 4, 2022. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)   WASHINGTON DC— If everything goes according to plan, Indonesian President Joko Widodo might host one of the most anticipated geopolitical meetings this year. Jokowi, as he is popularly known, confirmed on Aug 18 that both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to attend the November Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Bali. It will be the first major multilateral meeting either leader will attend in person – and the first trip abroad besides a recent visit to Saudi Arabia for Xi – since the pandemic started in 2020. It will also be the first time Putin has left Russia or the Russian “near abroad” since the Ukraine invasion. Jokowi has made clear the importance he places on having all G20 leaders attend this summit as a capstone to Indonesia’s G20 presidency. His July visits to Ukraine and Russia were aimed in large part to raise Indonesia’s (and his personal) global profile and to encourage Putin to attend – all while convincing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also invited as a G20 guest, not to urge a boycott if Putin does attend. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy [...]

August 31st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

TikTok’s extraordinary rise signals a more multipolar Internet

File photo of TikTok logo. (Photo: AFP/File/Loic Venance)   LONDON— For anyone with shareable passions such as dance crazes, sea shanties, knitting patterns or Excel spreadsheets, TikTok is the place to be. The short-form, Chinese-owned video app has emerged as an accessible and playful global platform for 1 billion users to indulge their obsessions, find an audience of like-minded followers and sometimes make money, too. To those of a more conspiratorial mindset, however, the entertainment platform is an electronic Manchurian Candidate, creating the opportunity for the Chinese Communist party to manipulate public opinion, subvert democracies and peer into teenagers’ bedrooms. In June 2020, India banned TikTok following a border clash with China, cutting off 200 million local users from the service. The following month, then US president Donald Trump also threatened to ban TikTok over national security concerns - but lost the election before he could enforce the plan. This month, the UK parliament closed down its own TikTok account fearing data leakage. “The prospect of Xi Jinping’s government having access to personal data on our children’s phones ought to be a cause for major concern,” MPs warned. EXTRAORDINARY BUSINESS PHENOMENON While rows rage about whether TikTok is either too trivial or too threatening, there is no doubt that it has become an extraordinary cultural and business phenomenon in more than 150 countries. The latest report from Pew Research Center found that TikTok had rocketed in popularity among American teenagers. About 67 per cent of those surveyed said they used TikTok compared with just 32 per [...]

August 21st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Trump and I can agree: The US is a ‘third-world country’

The imperial hubris on display in the use of such lingo towards poorer nations can’t hide America’s own failures.   A homeless man sits near the New York Stock Exchange, where many of the world's wealthiest companies are listed [Reuters]   When on August 8 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in search of classified documents, the ex-president of the United States decried the episode as “an assault [that] could only take place in broken, third-world countries”. He continued to lament that America had “now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before”. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, chimed in on Twitter with the assessment: “This is what you see happen in 3rd World Banana Republics!!!” Never mind that the FBI’s seizure of secret documents does not fit the “corruption” bill quite as well as some other characteristics of American democracy: say, the fact that non-taxpaying billionaires can be president or that the country is run as a crooked, oligarchic corporatocracy. This is not the first time Trump has likened the US to a “third-world country”, which was also his epithet of choice when he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden. But Trump & Co are not the only members of the US ruling elite to exercise this vocabulary. The January 2021 attack on the US Capitol prompted a surge in pejorative “third world” and “banana republic” comparisons from everyone from Biden to George W Bush, former US leader and civilised ravager of Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, it is impossible to [...]

August 21st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What if India and Pakistan actually got along?

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol along the fence carrying India's national flags as part of the celebrations ahead of the 75th anniversary of country's independence at the India-Pakistan border outpost in Panjgrain, about 60km from Amritsar on Aug 10, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Narinder Nanu)   AMRITSAR, PUNJAB: Every now and then - but not too often - it is worth floating an idea that hardly anyone agrees with, if only to keep the discourse fresh. In that spirit, consider my latest entry to this category: The status quo between India and Pakistan is temporary. The world should start thinking about a future in which the two nations have a fundamentally different relationship. Full reunification, of course, is difficult to imagine. But there are many possible options that fall short of that: A loose confederation, a NAFTA-like trade structure, a military alliance, even a broader regional reconfiguration under which each nation loses some territory but the remaining parts move closer together. I have discussed these and related ideas with many well-informed Indians and Pakistanis, and the response has been very … unenthusiastic. They offer numerous and valid rejoinders. There are rising religious tensions in India, they say. Many Indians, most of all in south India, do not feel any special historical connection with Pakistan. The two countries cannot even resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Pakistan is too close to China. India’s ruling party does too well under the status quo. Trade and travel between the two countries is getting more restricted, not less. The border is [...]

August 17th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New Zealand’s plan to prepare for inevitable climate change impacts: Five areas where the hard work starts now

Opinion - New Zealand's first climate adaptation plan, launched his week, provides a robust foundation for urgent nation-wide action. Huge waves have come across the road, sometimes damaging properties on Wellington's south coast several times in the last few years. Photo: Supplied / Grant Maiden Its goals are utterly compelling: reduce vulnerability, build adaptive capacity and and strengthen resilience. Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have underscored the need for effective and transformative efforts to cut emissions urgently while also adapting and preparing for inevitable impacts of climate change. But this national adaptation plan is just the beginning. The hard work is yet to come in its implementation. It is regrettable that proposed new law that would provide the institutional architecture for climate adaptation has been delayed until the end of next year. Based on my experience as an IPCC author and working with communities around Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas, there are five key areas that need sharper focus as we begin to translate the intentions of the plan into practical reality. Reducing risk for people on the 'frontline' of impacts First, climate change will affect every aspect of life. These impacts will often be the result of climate-compounded extreme events that are already becoming more frequent and intense. The people hardest hit are invariably those who are more vulnerable. We need to pay more focused attention to the root causes and drivers of vulnerability - and actions to reduce vulnerability and, ultimately, climate risk. This means addressing poverty, marginalisation, inequity [...]

August 7th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Biden’s Saudi trip may help NZ reset relationship with Middle East

Opinion - US President Joe Biden's controversial fist-bump with Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the Saudi crown prince, may help New Zealand to forge its own new direction in the Middle East. Biden's trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia showed that despite real concerns over human rights, the Middle East's strategic importance in the current global geopolitical jigsaw puzzle cannot be ignored. US President Joe Biden's fist-bump with Mohammed bin Salman has been heavily criticised. Photo: Royal Court of Saudi Arabia handout / Anadolu Agency via AFP Biden's meeting with MBS in the Saudi port city of Jeddah - four years after the horrific killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi - was a triumph of realism over idealism. In essence, Biden's trip was all about convincing Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to try to bring down the global fuel prices that have risen sharply since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Biden might have called Saudi Arabia a 'pariah' for the Khashoggi killing during the 2020 presidential election campaign - but Vladimir Putin is now Washington's main adversary. And in the Middle East itself, the threat of Iran - which the US claims is about to supply military drones to Russia for use against Ukraine - is also a higher priority for Biden. New Zealand policymakers will be watching Biden's moves in the Middle East. Photo: AFP   After all, New Zealand has also been trying to rekindle its own relationship with the Gulf. Foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta visited New Zealand's lavish, NZ$60 million pavilion at Expo 2020 [...]

July 18th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Covid-19: How are Australia and NZ managing the rising winter wave – is either getting it right?

New Zealand, Australia and many countries are experiencing a further Omicron wave driven by the latest BA.4/BA.5 subvariants. Our response to this threat is remarkably laissez-faire compared with past approaches, as society has pivoted more to "living with the virus". Photo: AFP But in both New Zealand and Australia, there's a real risk current policy settings will be insufficient to prevent health services being overwhelmed - and more will need to be done in coming weeks. We might squeak through under current policy settings if many more of us get vaccinated, wear masks, and isolate well when sick. So, how do New Zealand and Australia compare on key policy settings? Free masks? And what kind? New Zealand: Free masks for all in Aotearoa - available from testing centres, marae and community centres, and provided directly to schools. Some 16 million surgical masks have been distributed in the last two months, as well as 3 million N95 masks (the latter to high risk and vulnerable people). Australia: Free masks are occasionally distributed to certain groups (for example, some schools might have them). But access is extremely variable. (Also, one of us - Tony Blakely - has been in both Australia and New Zealand in last ten days, and can report mask wearing is much higher in New Zealand.) In both New Zealand and Australia, there's a real risk current policy settings will be insufficient to prevent health services being overwhelmed. Photo: Anadolu Agency via AFP Free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs)? New Zealand: Access is similar to masks. [...]

July 17th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

By embracing her roots, can Australia’s top diplomat woo Southeast Asia?

Australian foreign affairs minister Penny Wong speaks to media in Darwin, Australia. (Photo: George Fragopoulos/AAP Image via AP) HOBART— Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has travelled non-stop, more or less, since her appointment on May 23, having flown off to Tokyo for the Quad leaders’ summit one day after she was sworn in. Wong is clearly trying to “reset” ties with countries in the neighbourhood, that is, the Indo-Pacific region. Perhaps her most interesting travels, however, are to Southeast Asia. In a significant speech in Singapore last week, Wong said all the things the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) wanted to hear – about ASEAN centrality, how the region will be strategically central to Australia’s future, and how Australia must find its security in Asia, not from Asia. “And that means, above all, in Southeast Asia,” she said. That is the formal part. The informal part is even more interesting. PENNY WONG’S NARRATIVE RESONATES WITH SOUTHEAST ASIAN NETIZENS Everywhere Wong went, her message was the same. She is of Asian heritage, with a Malaysian Chinese father; she spent her childhood in Sabah, so she understands Southeast Asia; and Australia has changed, it is now part of Asia. As Wong said on a trip to Malaysia: “One in two Australians are either born overseas or have parents who were born overseas so this is a very Australian experience. It matters that Australia speaks to Southeast Asia in a way that recognises that we are part of this region and our futures are shared.” Australian Foreign Minister Penny [...]

July 15th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Shinzo Abe is gone, but his controversial vision for Japan lives on

Sunday’s elections delivered a landslide victory for Abe’s party. Years after he left office, the late former prime minister’s dream of amending Japan’s constitution is getting closer A memorial to Shinzo Abe at Zojoji temple, Toyko, Japan, 11 July 2022. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA   The assassination of Shinzo Abe still hasn’t really sunk in, but the tremors are rippling across Japan and the world. He was shot from behind in a nation where firearm-related homicides are rare: in 2021, there was just one, compared with more than 20,000 in the US. It was an assault on democracy and an act of barbarism. The Japanese media coverage has been wall-to-wall and generally fawning, reframing the legacy of a man who left office in 2020 under the shadow of scandals, with low public support. The reverential tone and self-censorship is reminiscent of declining press freedoms during Abe’s tenure in office, when critical news outlets such as the Asahi were subdued and the press corps was in thrall to power. It’s worth noting that much of the international media has also been overly respectful and restrained, veering towards hagiography. So what was Abe’s real legacy – and might the landslide victory of his party in Sunday’s elections allow his vision to be realised more fully in the years to come? Abe’s legacy is felt most keenly in foreign policy – and the contentious question of Japan’s status as an officially pacifist nation. The prime minister, Fumio Kishida, often consulted with his mentor, Abe, on international affairs. Abe was a [...]

July 12th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Can Jacinda Ardern save New Zealand’s free trade deal with the EU?

Opinion - Jacinda Ardern will need to deploy every aspect of her starpower if she is to have any hope of rescuing New Zealand's faltering free trade negotiations with the European Union (EU). The Prime Minister has branded each of her four foreign trips so far this year as 'trade missions' - and the labelling will certainly ring true on her visit to Brussels this week. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will hold direct talks with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission. Photo: 2022 Anadolu Agency   On Thursday, Ardern will hold direct talks with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission. The former German defence minister has become a familiar face on New Zealand television screens over the past few months, thanks to her repeated announcements on the EU's support for Ukraine. Unfortunately for Ardern, however, von der Leyen is more of a figurehead who can only serve as a go-between in the negotiations with the EU's 27 member states. And when it comes to New Zealand's key agricultural exports, the prospects for a favourable deal are bleak. Malcolm Bailey, the chairman of the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, says the EU is 'doubling-down on keeping its market almost entirely shut to New Zealand dairy exporters'. The EU's initial market offer to New Zealand, leaked in 2020, included an export quota of just 1500 tonnes of cheese annually - and just 600 tonnes of butter. The final agreement will no doubt bring some improvement on this low-ball offer, [...]

June 27th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Crypto needs to be eradicated

As its industry faces a crisis, business writer Michael Hiltzik says cryptocurrency has no legitimate value in the real world and needs to be eradicated.   What we call the “crypto party” should never have started. Because in this party, there’s nothing being sold or promoted that is fundamentally worth anything. They pitched cryptocurrencies as an alternative to government control – they said that these currencies can’t be manipulated. But these currencies can also not be protected or audited or tracked. Now, there is more enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies than ever before. They are becoming “mainstream”. Small, not so knowledgable, investors have been lured in. And they are the ones being taken to the woodshed in this meltdown. They bought at very high prices, and they are now dealing with very low prices. Some of them have lost their life savings. I am angry at our regulators for letting this happen. I am angry at promoters for knowingly sucking people in. But I’m also angry at people who have been sucked in, because they should have been more careful with their assets. Business columnist Michael Hiltzik explains why he thinks the cryptocurrency market is nothing but a rat hole for people to lose money in.  

June 27th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Tale of two summits: Why Jacinda Ardern said no to the Commonwealth, but yes to NATO

Opinion - Jacinda Ardern's decision to attend the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Spain - but to skip the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda - symbolises the changes she is making to New Zealand foreign policy. Jacinda Ardern. File photo Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone   CHOGM starts today in Kigali, while the NATO summit will be held in Madrid next week. However, Jacinda Ardern is only attending the NATO summit. She is sending her foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, to attend the Commonwealth meeting in her place. Ardern is hardly alone with her decision to stay away from CHOGM - so far, only 35 of 54 Commonwealth leaders have sent an RSVP. New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be among the absentees - deputy Prime Minister (and defence minister) Richard Marles will go instead. This is despite the fact that this year's CHOGM is being held during the Queen's Platinum Jubilee year and just over a month before the Commonwealth Games - the grouping's sporting flagship. The summit will also be the first CHOGM since 2018, the first CHOGM in Africa since 2007 and the first to be hosted by a 'new' Commonwealth member - Rwanda was never a British colony, but voluntarily joined the Commonwealth in 2009. Indeed, Rwanda's hosting of the summit this year is not without controversy. Freedom House, a US-based think tank, calls the country 'not free', with a ranking of just 22 points out of 100 - placing it firmly in the bottom third [...]

June 21st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Elections: a global ranking rates US weakest among liberal democracies

A disappointing slide for the US after an election blighted by disinformation. Aaron Burson/Unsplash Defending democracy has suddenly become one of the central challenges of our age. The land war in Ukraine is widely considered a front line between autocratic rule and democratic freedom. The United States continues to absorb the meaning of the riot that took place on January 6 2021 in an attempt to overthrow the result of the previous year’s election. Elsewhere, concerns have been raised that the pandemic could have provided cover for governments to postpone elections. Elections are an essential part of democracy. They enable citizens to hold their governments to account for their actions and bring peaceful transitions in power. Unfortunately, elections often fall short of these ideals. They can be marred by problems such as voter intimidation, low turnout, fake news and the under-representation of women and minority candidates. Our new research report provides a global assessment of the quality of national elections around the world from 2012-21, based on nearly 500 elections across 170 countries. The US is the lowest ranked liberal democracy in the list. It comes just 15th in the 29 states in the Americas, behind Costa Rica, Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago and others, and 75th overall. An election in Costa Rica, which ranked well in the list. Ingmar Zahorsky/FLickr, CC BY-NC-SA Why is the United States so low? There were claims made by former president Donald Trump of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Theses claims were baseless, but they still caused the [...]

June 11th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Johnson must show he is useful to his party, or he will quickly lose his fight for survival

No one really believes this confidence vote was a victory for the prime minister. His rivals are circling, and the rebels won’t give up ‘Boris Johnson may technically be safe for another 12 months but there are already whispers that the rules could be changed.’ Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images When Theresa May faced her confidence vote, her supporters hit the phones relentlessly to try to win round waverers. They positioned themselves in corridors to nobble the unsuspecting. They made sure no Tory could buy their lunch without having the case for May made to them. But there was an odd calm in the Commons on Monday. One loyal minister was patrolling the colonnade, but other than that there was little activity from leadership loyalists. The message Johnson’s team were trying to convey was that it was business as usual. There was no reason to panic. Only an hour before the vote, nerves began to set in among members of Johnson’s inner circle. A chunk of ministers still hadn’t come out publicly to support him. Meanwhile, members of the 2019 intake weren’t picking up their phones. When the result was announced, it was worse than they had imagined. With 148 rebels voting against, Johnson has fared worse than May did. “It’s shocking,” a former government colleague of Johnson’s says of the result. A Tory MP adds: “They became complacent.” Critics point the finger of blame at a reduced operation. Earlier this year, Johnson’s shadow whipping team – made up of longstanding allies such as Nigel Adams and [...]

June 9th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Only cultural change will free America from its gun problem

The movement to protect innocent lives from gun violence is a multi-generational struggle akin to that which won African Americans civil rights or gay Americans the right to marry ‘The pleasure derived from guns, the sense of participation in America’s deepest myths about itself which they might foster, come at the expense of tens of thousands of lives a year.’ Photograph: Nuri Vallbona/Reuters Some days it feels like guns are such a foundational part of American identity that the country would have to cease to be itself before it would give them up. When a gunman murdered dozens of elementary-age schoolchildren, leaving their bodies in such a state that parents had to give up DNA samples for them to be identified, it was one such day. What cultural value, what material interest, could be worth this? It must be something that its defenders consider supremely important. Guns – that’s what. Critics of the sickness which is America’s obsession with guns often focus their fire on the second amendment, or the perverse political influence of the National Rifle Association. But neither of these things really get to the root of the pathology. It’s true that gun-rights advocates rely on a surely mistaken reading of the constitution to justify arming themselves to the teeth. And it’s also true that the NRA is a malign force in American politics. But the constitution can be changed or reinterpreted, and special interest groups can be vanquished. What is at issue here is something more foundational, and more difficult to change: American [...]

June 7th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Export bans aren’t the solution to global food shortages

Fuels, fertilisers and foods are experiencing low inventories, curtailed production and disrupted supply chains. But the G20 summit in Bali in November, with Indonesia in the chair, is an opportunity for the world's leading economies to tackle the crisis, says this professor. Bare shelves in a Hong Kong supermarket. (Photo: AFP/Peter PARKS) BOSTON, Massachusetts—  In just over two months, the world food situation has gone from bad to worse. Calls not to panic fell on deaf ears, even as the Ukrainian military put up stiff opposition to the Russian onslaught. If Ukraine somehow wins the war, it will be decades before its economy and agricultural exports return to their previous levels. Many countries have panicked in the face of global shortages. China banned the export of agricultural chemicals, Indonesia banned the export of palm oiland India banned the export of wheat. The United States has expanded its commitment to maize-based ethanol, raising the mandated amount in gasoline supplies in order to lower the cost of driving. That maize could have been diverted to human consumption, to help substitute for wheat shortages. Malaysia seems ready to lift its mandate to blend palm oil into diesel fuel supplies. That palm oil supply can now re-enter the global food supply chain. Although many long-term, structural and policy problems have contributed to this crisis, the urgent need at the moment is to focus on improving the short-term situation. Just as with the rice crisis in 2008, some outside intervention will be necessary to break the cycle of panic and “beggar [...]

June 7th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New Zealand must get over its obsession with big cars and go smaller or electric to cut emissions

Opinion - If your next car is not electric, then it must be much smaller than your last one. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi Scientists have warned that the world needs to halve emissions every decade to keep global warming less than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The government of Aotearoa New Zealand aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Last year, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) laid out the path to net zero in its advice to the government. In recent weeks, the government has released its plan to achieve these climate targets. The goal is not insignificant, especially considering New Zealanders have been buying bigger vehicles for nearly two decades. To achieve net zero by 2050, New Zealand must reduce total CO2 emissions by a third before 2030, and another third by 2040. How to target a third of emissions How can we reduce New Zealand's emissions by a third every decade? Around 20 percent of New Zealand's emissions come from the transport sector. Both the government and commission see removing carbon from transport as the low-hanging fruit in the emissions reduction journey (in part because the government and farmers are still working on a plan to reduce the 50 percent of emissions that come from agriculture). As part of its plan, the government intends to help low-income households reduce their transport emissions and make 30 percent of the light vehicle fleet electric by 2035. But the government's road map to achieve this seems light on details. To reduce transport [...]

May 26th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

America howls with pain after Texas. Yet again we ask: ‘When are we going to do something?’

  Mourners outside the local civic centre after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Photograph: Brandon Bell/Getty Images   Texas.” It was said with incredulity, by one parent to another, outside my children’s school at pickup. On the east coast of the US on Tuesday night, where I live, the after-school clubs were letting out just as news of a mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, was unfolding. At that point, 14 children were confirmed dead, a number that has since risen to 21 children, and two teachers. Before the obscenity of it began to sink in, the shock: another massacre foretold, its sheer inevitability somehow deepening the horror. Other parents arrived, phones in hand, rattled and fighting off mental images. “This fucking country.” Over the next 24 hours, the same questions, with the same answers, would roll around again: “What has to happen?” In the 10 years since the Sandy Hook massacre, when 20 children and six educators were murdered in an elementary school in Connecticut – during which there have been, in the United States, hundreds of further school shootings, 27 this year alone – this question has attained a rhetorical force divorced from its actual utility. That the US is a country in which decisive political action to curb gun ownership will never follow a mass shooting requires, at this point, no further evidence. Nonetheless, the question remains necessary; a howl of pain that, on Tuesday night, was heard in various forms across the country. “What are [...]

May 26th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

ScoMo vs Albo: The two blokes taking on the anger of Australia

  OPINION: From a Kiwi perspective, Australian politics can often look like an episode of American sitcom Veep: dominated by gaffes, stunts and infighting. This six-week election has two main characters, called ScoMo (Scott Morrison, the leader of the Liberals) and Albo (Anthony Albanese, the Labor leader). And the delivery of such winning lines as, “I don’t hold a hose, mate”. Come Saturday night, the odds are on the Labor Party to win. It continues to trend upwards in the polls, and polling in marginal seats has it sneaking in. But the Aussie media has learnt its lesson on calling the result too early. In 2019, Labor beat Liberal in every two-party preferred poll. But ScoMo pulled off the miracle election, thanking the quiet Australians for their support. Except now, the quiet Australians appear to be a lot less quiet. Covid lockdowns, slow vaccine rollouts and the cost of living have meant there are a lot of angry Australians out there, and their anger is directed at both major parties. There has been unprecedented early voting. About 40% of people applied to cast their ballots early, but about a third of voters are still undecided just days out. And in Australia, voting is mandatory, so these people will vote. NINE Australian Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Scott Morrison had an up-close encounter with an angry Australian during a campaign visit to a Newcastle pub. The fragile nature of both major parties’ vote has led to the emergence of new power blocs inside and outside the [...]

May 19th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Inflation and Ukraine war make it challenging for our beloved value stores to survive

After the pandemic, businesses face global inflationary pressures and rising commodity prices due to war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. It’s a perfect storm for value stores serving budget-conscious consumers, say SMU’s Aurobindo Ghosh and DBS’ Taimur Baig. A sign showing the change in prices at the Daiso outlet at City Square Mall. (Photo: CNA/Jalelah Abu Baker) SINGAPORE— Japanese retail chain, Daiso, is known for its S$2 prices. News that it will move to a 15-tier pricing system from S$2.14 to S$25.47 from Sunday (May 1) was met with protests and promises by netizens that they would stop patronising the chain. Daiso attributed this move to a "steady rise in raw material costs and logistics". It’s reasonable to see this as a sign that global inflationary pressures have hit our beloved value stores. Both actual and expected inflation have picked up in Singapore. Inflation rose to a 10-year high of 5.4 per cent in March, according to the authorities. A survey run by DBS-SKBI to gauge inflation expectations finds that a cross section of Singaporean households expect inflation to remain elevated. Consumers will be more conscious of how inflation shrinks their dollar. To the particularly value conscious, as long as popular discount stores such as Daiso and Valu$ are available for everyday items, including food and household necessities, life may be just fine. The COVID-19 pandemic has already brought about massive changes: The global supply chain was disrupted with widespread movement restrictions and border closures. At the same time, governments instituted levels of monetary policy easing comparable [...]

May 6th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Zero-COVID spells trouble for Shanghai’s financial centre ambitions

China's COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines, after a wave of regulatory reforms and geopolitical brinkmanship, may be incompatible with Beijing's ambitions to turn Shanghai into an international financial centre, says the Financial Times' Tabby Kinder. China's largest city Shanghai has been almost entirely locked down for weeks over the country's worst coronavirus outbreak in two years (Photo: AFP/Hector RETAMAL) HONG KONG— Being a foreign banker for Chinese companies now requires an unusual level of resilience and improvisation. A senior Wall Street banker told me last week that he had completed eight hotel quarantines – each lasting two or three weeks – while travelling to see clients in China in the past two years. During his latest trip to Shanghai in March, as China’s financial centre confined its residents to their homes or offices because of a COVID-19 outbreak, he struggled to get transport and even food as he tried to get out of the city. “You go hungry, that really is happening,” he said. In Shanghai, traders at United States investment banks have been sleeping on camp beds in their offices for more than two weeks. And Goldman Sachs had to wrangle a special vehicle permit to make sure that its employees had access to food and baby formula. Such difficulties come after a year of navigating an unpredictable wave of regulatory reforms and geopolitical brinkmanship that has hammered Chinese companies and markets. All this is hard to square with Beijing’s ambitions to turn Shanghai into “an international financial centre wielding major global influence by 2035”. ZERO-COVID HURTS SHANGHAI'S [...]

April 28th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How important is New Zealand’s new military support for Ukraine?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's announcement of military support for Ukraine is highly symbolic. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing extra support for Ukraine on 21 March, 2022. Photo: Pool image / Robert Kitchin /Stuff The support package includes a donation of $5 million to NATO's trust fund - to spend on supplies such as fuel and food for soldiers - as well as 1066 body armour plates, 473 helmets and 571 camouflage vests. There is an understandable desire to deliver some form of tangible, material assistance to Ukrainian troops on the front lines. The new package is also a measure of the pressure New Zealand is feeling from Western partners that have been eager to offer support to Kyiv and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. New Zealand's total financial contribution so far - including $6m of previously-announced humanitarian aid, but not including the value of the surplus military equipment - now totals $11m. New Zealand is not supplying weapons to Ukraine - but Jacinda Ardern has not entirely ruled out supplying what Western leaders now euphemistically refer to as 'lethal aid' either. But debates over the type of military assistance being provided are probably misguided. Arguably, greater scrutiny should be paid to the actual impact New Zealand's modest pledges will have and whether New Zealand's offers of help could be more meaningful. New Zealand's total contribution of $6m in humanitarian assistance to date seems small when judged against the enormous level of need. This is especially true given that New Zealand is not offering general refugee places to [...]

March 23rd, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Afghanistan is on the brink of famine. How can Biden just forget about us?

People are fleeing in search of food, freedom and safety resulting from the economic and humanitarian catastrophe caused by 20 years of US occupation A bazaar destroyed in US air strikes in Sangin district of Helmand province, Afghanistan.Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock In my home country of Afghanistan, winter is harsh and children are hungry. Almost every parent faces the torture of not having enough food to feed their families. Across the country, 5 million children are on the brink of famine. Many young people are in despair; suicide is on the rise. The rapid escalation of war in Ukraine is set to make this crisis even worse. We fear now that soaring prices of wheat – reaching their highest level since 2008 as a result of the invasion – could multiply the impact of a famine in Afghanistan. The United Nations has seen the scale of our misery, launching its largest-ever appeal for funds for a country: $4.4bn. But rather than heed this appeal, Joe Biden has decided to claim our money at the moment of our greatest need. Last year I was forced into exile for my political activism and advocacy of women’s rights as the Taliban took control of the country. Looking on from afar, I could not believe how quickly our country faded from the news, how quickly our suffering ceased to concern even the critics of “endless war” in Afghanistan. After 20 years of US occupation, my country has been left in ruins. The US and its allies did nothing to develop Afghanistan. We [...]

March 9th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why war in Ukraine affects essential commodity supplies for rest of the world

Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuhuiv near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb 24, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Aris Messinis)   LIVERPOOL, England—  The war in Ukraine is threatening further disruptions to already-stretched supply chains. Ukraine and Russia may only account for a small proportion of the imports of major manufacturing nations like Germany and the United States, but they are essential suppliers of raw materials and energy for many crucial supply chains. Though the economic consequences of a war that threatens the lives and livelihoods of many Ukrainians will always be secondary to the looming humanitarian crisis, there are five areas likely to see trouble ahead. RISING GAS PRICES, LOW GLOBAL RESERVES First is energy. Many European countries are heavily dependent on Russian energy, particularly gas through several vital pipelines, and this may have coloured their approach to the crisis. Russian gas reliance has been suggested as the reason why Europe has been reluctant to remove Russia from the international payments system SWIFT, for example, though it’s worth pointing out that the Germans have indefinitely suspended the new Baltic gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. While a complete suspension of Russian gas flows is unlikely at the moment, even small disruptions will have a significant impact. Global gas reserves are low due to the pandemic and energy prices are already rising sharply, impacting consumers and industries. With gas being an essential input to many supply chains, disruptions to such a fundamental supply will have widespread economic consequences. When gas prices first surged in the autumn of 2021, for [...]

February 26th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why is Russia invading Ukraine and what does Putin want?

By air, land, and sea, Russia has launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, a European democracy of 44 million people, and its forces are on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv. For months, President Vladimir Putin denied he would invade his neighbour, but then he tore up a peace deal, sending forces across borders in Ukraine's north, east and south. As the number of dead climbs, he stands accused of shattering peace in Europe. What happens next could jeopardise the continent's entire security structure. Why have Russian troops attacked? Russian troops are advancing on Ukraine's capital from several directions after Russia's leader ordered the invasion. In a pre-dawn TV address on 24 February, he declared Russia could could not feel "safe, develop and exist" because of what he claimed was a constant threat from modern Ukraine. Airports and military headquarters were hit first, near cities across Ukraine, then tanks and troops rolled into Ukraine from the north, east and south - from Russia and its ally Belarus. Many of President Putin's arguments were false or irrational. He claimed his goal was to protect people subjected to bullying and genocide and aim for the "demilitarisation and de-Nazification" of Ukraine. There has been no genocide in Ukraine: it is a vibrant democracy, led by a president who is Jewish. "How could I be a Nazi?" said Volodymr Zelensky, who likened Russia's onslaught to Nazi Germany's invasion in World War Two. President Putin has frequently accused Ukraine of being taken over by extremists, ever since its pro-Russian president, Viktor [...]

February 25th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The Wellington protest is testing police independence and public tolerance – are there lessons from Canada’s crackdown?

Opinion - Today's action to cordon off the occupation of parliament grounds and prevent it growing might go some way to restoring public confidence in police, which has appeared to be eroding since the protests began a fortnight ago. Photo: RNZ So far, police have pursued a de-escalation strategy, but there have been calls for firmer action. The whole event has raised important questions about the relationship between police and government, and about police independence and accountability. With local businesses unable to trade, and the neighbouring university closing its campus for eight weeks, the political consequences are potentially serious. From the government's perspective, there is a direct relationship between its own public support and public confidence in police. The political and legal impasse between the rightful independence of police and public accountability is not a simple issue to resolve. Constabulary independence The relationship between the government and police has come a long way since government minister John Bryce - armed and on horseback - led the police invasion of Parihaka in 1881. Bryce decided who would be arrested and personally ordered the destruction of property. Supporting the political objectives of the government of the day was a function of the police. But New Zealand was not a developed liberal democracy 140 years ago. Police stand outside Parliament as protesters convened for a fifth day on 12 February, 2022. Photo: RNZ   By 2018, that relationship had evolved enough for the solicitor-general to advise the prime minister that "constabulary independence [had become] a core constitutional principle in [...]

February 21st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The pandemic exposes NZ’s supply chain vulnerability – be ready for more inflation in the year ahead

Opinion - You don't have to be an economist to know New Zealand faces its highest annual inflation rate in 30 years - 5.9 percent as of December 2021. Visit a supermarket or petrol station and the evidence is right before your eyes. Reduced airline capacity and rerouting of cargo, coupled with lockdowns and isolation requirements, have led to delays in unloading cargo at ports and slower turnaround times for ships. (File image) Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon   The average price of petrol per litre is now up by 31 percent compared to last year. In some places, it has already hit NZ$3 a litre. To take just one grocery example, tomatoes doubled in priceduring the same period, contributing to the highest annual food price inflation since 2011. These severe price hikes are a direct reflection of the impact of the global pandemic on tradable inflation - that is, goods and services we either import for our own consumption or as components in our own manufacturing and exporting processes. Since mid-2021, annual tradable inflation has been outpacing non-tradable inflation (the rising price of goods and services we produce and consume domestically) - 6.9 percent versus 5.3 percent at December 2021. While tradable inflation accounts for about 40 percent of New Zealand's overall inflation, the pace at which it is growing means external sources are increasingly fuelling inflationary pressure. A Flourish data visualization Pandemic pressures Much of this can be sourced back to the effects of the pandemic on global supply lines. Three key factors are [...]

February 21st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Parliament protests: Tragedy or farce?

Opinion - Over the past year as the J.D. Stout Research Fellow I've been working on a book about the counterculture: the loose amalgam of radical causes that rose in the 1960s and '70s to challenge many of society's long-held conventions. Protesters at Parliament on 14 February. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver   While the movement was global, my interest is in the particular shape it took in New Zealand, where its constituents ranged from political activists outraged by the Vietnam War and South African apartheid, to hedonists who wanted to take illegal drugs like marijuana and LSD or embrace such alternative concepts as communal living and herbal medicines, eastern spirituality and sexual diversity. If there was a single word that was used most often to sum up its ethos it was: Freedom. Watching the anti-mandate protests in Wellington over the past week, it has been impossible to ignore similarities to the counterculture in its heyday. But there are also some notable differences. No one can pinpoint when the counterculture first emerged in New Zealand, but a watershed event occurred in 1969 that became known as The Liberation of Albert Park. Political activists and other countercultural characters from around Auckland had been gathering each weekend in the one public space they were allowed: Myers Park, which runs from near the top of Queen St to what is now Mayoral Drive. There they would listen to speakers, dance to live musicians, and generally observe the countercultural dictum "While you're out there smashing the state, don't forget to [...]

February 15th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New Zealand sport in need of some affirmative action

Opinion: I don't care that our Super Rugby Pacific franchises have moved to Queenstown. After New Zealand's exit from the 2019 Rugby World Cup, senior All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and TJ Perenara (pictured) talked of the need for coaches, who better-reflected the squad itself. Photo: PHOTOSPORT   I won't care if, as has been mooted, they end up relocating to Australia either. In fact, I couldn't care less about the entire competition. What interests me this week, is events in America's National Football League (NFL) where a black head coach, Brian Flores, filed a class-action lawsuit against the governing body and three of its teams, alleging racial discrimination. The NFL has what's known as the Rooney Rule, which mandates that franchises must interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior management roles. Flores, who was fired by the Miami Dolphins during the current NFL season, accuses teams of conducting sham interviews with him, in order to meet the Rooney Rule, but with no intention of actually hiring him. As it stands, just one of the NFL's 32 teams has a black head coach. That is Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now I don't want to go too deep into the weeds on the topic of the NFL or Flores. His lawsuit is potentially seismic for that sport and its ripples could be felt for generations. What intrigues me here is the notion of affirmative action which, if applied correctly, can provide sports organisations with a greater diversity. I think it's time for some [...]

February 10th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

COVID-19 has increased protectionism and hypernationalism in global economy

A bruising trade war under President Donald Trump saw punitive tariffs lumped on a range of goods sold between the world's two biggest economies AFP/STR NEW YORK CITY— This year began amid widespread despondency about the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic and the struggling global economy, as well as premonitions of heightened political conflict in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and even the United States. True, there is now some hope that the Omicron variant may be the pandemic’s last hurrah. But troubling questions remain about the economic and political legacy of the crisis. The World Bank’s latest biannual Global Economic Prospects report, released last week, points to some possible answers. Produced by a team of talented economists, the report is one of the best summaries of the current outlook for the world economy. And while the report uses the diplomatic language of multilateral organisations, it nonetheless packs a powerful cautionary punch. SLOWING GROWTH AROUND THE WORLD For starters, the World Bank forecasts that global economic growth will slow to 4.1 per cent in 2022, from 5.5 per cent last year. With debt burdens rising, supply-chain bottlenecks impeding the flow of goods and services, and inflation picking up, governments are losing the capacity to provide further fiscal support. The report warns that the surge in debt caused by countries trying to soften the “pandemic-induced global recession” means that several economies are now “at high risk of debt distress”. Some may need relief. The report also predicts that energy prices, which surged in the second half of 2021, will [...]

February 1st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How should NZ respond to the Ukraine-Russia crisis?

Opinion - New Zealand's initial response to a potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia is becoming clearer. Photo: 123RF   Russia has positioned around 100,000 troops stationed close to Ukraine's borders and the US says that Russia now has the capability to invade if it chooses to do so. Russia denies it has any such plans. New Zealand's foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta issued a written statement to media last week that said "we call on Russia to act in a manner consistent with international law and to take immediate steps to reduce tensions and the risk of a severe miscalculation." The statement added that New Zealand "strongly supports international efforts to resolve the crisis diplomatically." For her part, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in response to a question at her post-Cabinet press conference last week that New Zealand was "deeply concerned" and recognised the need to "further reinforce the sovereignty of Ukraine." Why should the crisis matter to Wellington - some 17,000 km away from Kyiv and Moscow? One reason is that Russia is, like New Zealand, an APEC member. An Asian and Pacific power as much as a European one, Russia lies very much within New Zealand's orbit: Vladivostok is only a two-hour flight away from South Korea, one of New Zealand's closest trading partners. Indeed, Russia is increasingly looking eastwards - in part thanks to the impact of climate change. Melting Arctic ice means that the 'Northern Sea Route' along Russia's coast is slowly emerging as a new, lucrative shipping route for journeys from [...]

January 31st, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

A Failed Political Game

  On December 7, 2021, the U.S. government announced a “diplomatic boycott” of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing human rights abuses. Biden government explained that they will still send athletes, but not officials. However, on December 28, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian satirized U.S visa applications of 18 officials of the country to attend the Beijing Olympics which will start on February 4,2022. "On the one hand, the United States claims it will not send diplomatic or official representatives to the Olympics in February, but on the other hand, it has applied for visas for their government officials." According to Mr. Zhao, the U.S government’s move is puzzling and it's a slap in its own face. Photo from REUTERS/Thomas Peter The contradictory move reflects the American anxiety in the extreme competition with China. When American finds that they are in a disadvantage situation in pandemic control, economic recovery, international influence, etc., they will do everything possible to suppress China in order to maintain their world supremacy. Human right is just one of political weapons, and unfortunately, the Beijing Olympics Game becomes their political victim. Two years ago, the Covid-19 virus began spreading rapidly in China and caused severe damage to the country. Today, China’s economy is bouncing back well, and expanding even faster than it did before the pandemic. China’s economic growth will exceed its target above 6% in 2021. China is the only major economy in the world to expand fast as the pandemic ravaged businesses around the globe. China’s [...]

January 24th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Novak Djokovic: The politics behind Australia’s decision

GETTY IMAGES The world's number one male tennis player has now had his visa cancelled - again   The Australian government was never going to come out of this saga looking good. They've been on the back foot ever since Novak Djokovic announced he was coming to defend his Australian Open title. The decision to cancel Djokovic's visa - after a court previously ruled in his favour - is largely about saving face with Australian voters in an election year. To achieve this, the government is prepared to endure any diplomatic fallout, international embarrassment and the wrath of Djokovic's supporters. Throughout the past two weeks, the federal government has been adamant to make a point: no-one is above the rules. Not even the men's world number one. A simple, straightforward principle. But the way it's been handled has been anything but. On the afternoon before Djokovic arrived, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the player would "be on the next plane home" if his documents were not in order on arrival in Melbourne. "Rules are rules," Mr Morrison reiterated when Djokovic's visa was revoked the next day, on 6 January. When Djokovic challenged the decision, Mr Morrison said it was up to the court. But suddenly the government's position began to look very shaky as it asked for more time - denied by a judge - to compile its legal case amid questions over federal procedures. It also faced scrutiny over why Djokovic had been allowed to get on a plane in the first place. The whole [...]

January 15th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

We need knowledge to tackle unfairness in our tax system

SUPPLIED ‘Just a night on the town’ is how one multimillionaire described a potential $15,000 fine for failure to comply with requests for information by Inland Revenue.   OPINION—  When the government asks wealthy people to comply with the law, sometimes they just laugh. One multimillionaire claimed last year that $15,000, the likely fine for non-compliance with Inland Revenue requests, was “frankly just a night on the town”. This is one vignette from an incipient battle between tax officials, acting at the behest of Revenue Minister David Parker, and New Zealand’s richest citizens. It’s a battle in which the issues at stake include our ability to determine basic issues of fairness and ensure the rich follow the same rules as everyone else. It’s also a battle in which apparently arcane efforts to collect data have profound democratic implications. The latest skirmish will play out this month as Inland Revenue writes to roughly 400 New Zealanders, worth more than $20 million each, asking for initial details of their assets and liabilities, what they own and owe. Sounds intrusive? Not really, because it’s the kind of data thousands of ordinary Kiwis regularly provide. Every three years, some 5000 of us sit down with Statistics NZ interviewers to fill out the “net worth” section of the Household Economic Survey, explaining the value of our houses, investments, cars and other items, as well as our mortgages and credit card debts. Our responses, extrapolated to the whole population, help answer one of the most basic questions any society faces: is life fair? [...]

January 13th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Whatever Russia Does in Ukraine, China Will Be Watching

At the strategic level, the situation provides Xi Jinping with a priceless opportunity to observe how NATO responds to overt military aggression on its periphery. While the West ponders whether Vladimir Putin will invade eastern Ukraine, Xi Jinping watches. For China, Ukraine is a convenient proxy for Taiwan. How NATO responds to Russian aggression will serve as a barometer for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to calculate how the United States and its network of Asia-Pacific allies might react to unprovoked Chinese aggression against Taiwan. At the operational and tactical levels, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could gain invaluable insight from how the Russian Armed Forces move against Ukrainian territory. As the Biden administration and NATO engage in security talks over Ukraine with their Russian counterparts, the West should consider the message it intends to send to the Kremlin and Zhongnanhai. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Jonathan Hillman identified in 2018, the relationship between China and Russia is an awkward one. Despite an ostensible divergence of national interests, the two align on issues of territorial integrity against perceived Western threats. Xi and Putin openly exude a charismatic relationship and flaunt having met more than thirty times since 2013, including a December 2021 virtual chat seemingly held in response to President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy. During that videoconference, Xi stated, “We firmly support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and safeguarding the dignity of each country.” The former is a veiled reference to Taiwan, while the latter represents the shadow the EU and NATO cast over [...]

January 11th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

‘I’m more worried than excited about the future’: Japan’s Coming of Age Day tinged with anxiety

20-year-olds contemplate an uncertain future shaped by the coronavirus pandemic and Japan’s skewed demographics Young Japanese women dressed in colourful kimonos take selfies before a ceremony marking the Coming of Age Day at Yokohama Arena, Japan on 11 January 2021. Photograph: Jiji Press/EPA On the second Monday in January every year, Japan’s 20-year-olds put on their best kimono and suits, brave the winter chill and congregate at event halls across the country to celebrate their official passage into adulthood. In happier times, Coming of Age Day is a time to reunite with old school friends from the same neighbourhood and take endless commemorative photos, knowing that a party invariably involving the legal consumption of alcohol will be just reward for sitting through dreary speeches by local dignitaries. But for the latest cohort of Japanese men and women who have turned 20 in the past eight months – or will do so by 1 April – this year’s festivities will be tinged with anxiety, as they contemplate a future filled with uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Japan’s skewed demographics. Mao Kato.   Mao Kato, who celebrated her 20th birthday last month, will be among those marking the occasion the traditional way, in a colourful furisode kimono she will wear at the Tokyo metropolitan government’s official seijin shiki, or coming-of-age ceremony. Like many of her contemporaries, Kato has spent almost all of her two years at university living in the shadow of Covid-19. “It has definitely disrupted my studies,” says Kato, a social studies major at [...]

January 10th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Greater acceptance of cryptocurrency for payments likely in 2022

As governments start to show signs of willingness to recognise cryptocurrencies and more NFTs rise in value, Canadian business and corporate experts advise on what to look put for before making your investment. Central bankers around the world are tracking the rise of private cryptocurrencies like bitcoin AFP/Martin BUREAU KINGSTON, Canada— The year 2021 was marked by several major breakthroughs for cryptocurrencies. For one, new crypto applications like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) gained ground, with sales of these digital assets setting new records at major auction houses. Secondly, Bitcoin made strides towards mainstream acceptance with major websites like Expedia and Microsoft accepting the coin as a means of exchange. Third, in September, El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept bitcoin as legal tender. There are many more examples of how the market for cryptocurrencies has expanded just in the last year. With this uptick of activity, what’s ahead in 2022 for cryptocurrencies? We believe there are three main areas where cryptocurrencies will gain steam in the next year: Greater acceptance of Bitcoin as a means of payment, increased regulatory scrutiny and a rise in NFT activity. THE EMBRACE OF BITCOIN Understanding what motivates individuals to adopt Bitcoin has been a challenge for researchers. A recent study suggests five main factors contribute to someone’s likelihood of using Bitcoin: Trust in the system Online word of mouth Quality of the web platforms available for transaction Perceived riskiness of the investment Expectations about Bitcoin’s performance Other studies have added more nuances to this argument by considering [...]

January 7th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China transformed during President Xi Jinping’s decade in power

Last year, there was rarely a week when international attention wasn't on China. President Xi Jinping currently heads all branches of the Chinese Community Party, the government and the military. Photo: AFP   Disappearing celebrities, billionaire crackdowns, the Evergrande fiasco, hypersonic missile tests, Hong Kong activist arrests, trade wars, climate goals, Covid-19. This was hardly a coincidence. When President Xi Jinping came into power in 2012, he set out to make his agenda widely known - both domestically and internationally. Unlike his predecessor Hu Jintao - a man of mystery who carried the stereotype of being dull and wooden - Xi has fiercely asserted himself on the world stage. While at home, he has strategically consolidated power, and enforced sweeping structural reforms in Chinese economy and society that have transformed the country at warp speed. In the last few years, the high-profile leader has been ramping up his bold diplomatic rhetoric, stamping out opponents, and spreading the country's tentacles of influence across the Pacific, the South China Sea, Africa and beyond. And after abolishing presidential term limits in 2018, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November last year passed a "historic resolution" elevating Xi's authority to the same pedestal as era-defining leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. It seems unlikely the president will be shrinking away anytime soon. He currently heads all branches of the CCP, government and military, and the 68-year-old's sights are set to inevitably extend his rule into a third five-year term this year. Let's look back at some of his signature moves [...]

January 7th, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The risk of a coup in the next US election is greater now than it ever was under Trump

Republicans are busy undermining the next election. But giving up on democracy isn’t an option. We must fight back, and here’s how ‘The temptation to seize power will surely tantalize a political party that seems openly hostile to the very premises of democracy.’ Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters Only free and fair elections in which the loser abides by the result stand between each of us and life at the mercy of a despotic regime – one we had no voice in choosing and one that can freely violate all our rights. So everything is at stake in the peaceful transfer of power from a government that has lost its people’s confidence to its victorious successor. It was that peaceful transfer that Trump and his minions sought to obstruct and almost succeeded in overthrowing when Joe Biden was elected president. A year has passed since Trump’s attempted coup and his supporters’ violent storming of the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021, in a nearly successful effort to prevent Congress from certifying Trump’s decisive loss of the election to Biden. Watching the images that day of the seat of US democracy overtaken and defiled, it was impossible not to viscerally feel the grave danger that confronted the republic. In the tumultuous year since, the immediacy of that sensation has waned – and the magnitude of the stakes has receded from memory. In the rubble of the insurrection, the sheer shock of the moment jarred loose hints of long-lost bipartisanship and national unity and rekindled an appreciation of why [...]

January 3rd, 2022|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

More Countries Support Beijing Winter Olympics amid “Diplomatic Boycott”

As the Beijing Winter Olympics approaches, the United States has initiated a political show of "diplomatic boycott" followed by a few western countries. But the international community and international sports circle choose to make strong voice to defend the Olympic spirit, strengthen the human solidarity, supporting the Beijing Olympics, and opposing sports politicization. Winter Olympics, a time for solidarity The Olympic Games is the arena of athletes and a grand carnival of the world. The Beijing Winter Olympics is deemed to be the best opportunity for countries to narrow differences through dialogue, replace confrontation with cooperation and move forward together into the future. President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach said the Games aim to unite the world and meddling in politics would be the end of the Olympic movement. On December 11, 2021, the 10th Olympic Summit issued a declaration opposing the politicization of the Olympic Movement and sports, stressing the importance of political neutrality by the IOC, the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement as a whole. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Greek Culture and Sports Minister Menzoni and the Hellenic Olympic Committee Secretary General Kolympadis said that Greece firmly supports the Olympic spirit of peace and friendship and opposes the politicization of sports. The vice president of the Swiss Confederation and Foreign Minister Cassics expressed his opposition against the politicization of sports and believes the Beijing Winter Olympics will be a success. Spanish Foreign Minister Albares said that sports transcend politics and wished the Beijing Winter Olympics a complete success. Spanish Ambassador [...]

December 28th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Social media is a bad feelings machine. Why can’t we just turn it off for good?

I owe my career to Twitter, but two years reporting on the pandemic has made me realise disinformation costs lives Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen at a Senate committee on online safety in Washington DC, October 2021. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock I have a fantasy and it goes like this: a political party is formed, running on an anti-social-media platform. It campaigns on a pledge to ban social media. (“SWITCH IT OFF” is its straightforward, and elegant, slogan.) The party wins a general election and at midnight, on what comes to be known as Social Media Freedom Day, the prime minister pushes a giant button that blocks all access to social media. Crowds cheer. On the anniversary of Social Media Freedom Day – which becomes a bank holiday, of course – children burn effigies of Mark Zuckerberg and dress up as the Twitter bird. I write this as someone who owes her career and her partner to social media. I had no journalism qualifications, connections or experience when I began blogging in the mid-2010s, and through Twitter I was able to get a paid internship that gave me my start in journalism. My boyfriend and I connected through Instagram after years of liking each other’s posts. So much of my personal, and professional happiness has been made possible through social media. But as time has gone on I have become more and more certain that the solution to many of the most pressing issues of our time is simply to switch social media off. I have spent much of [...]

December 28th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Russia Alone Did Not Destabilize Ukraine

      Image: Reuters  It is not too late for the West to consider a more balanced diplomatic approach to restore a more stable situation.   Ukraine is in worse straits than ever—now facing the threat of massing Russian troops on its border. The accepted wisdom is that seven years ago Ukraine’s former president, Victor Yanukovych, sought to sell his country out in a trade deal with Russia instead of joining the European Union as an associate member. This led to the Maidan Square democracy movement, which forced Yanukovych out of power. In response, Russia invaded Crimea and instigated a civil war in eastern Ukraine. Today, Ukraine is trying to hold off Russian aggression, calling for Washington and NATO to step in and protect its fledgling democracy from Russian threats and bullying. This is not quite the whole story. The consensus view conveniently ignores how EU and U.S. diplomacy effectively set the stage for Ukraine’s destabilization and breakup. By overplaying their hand in EU negotiations with Ukraine, Brussels diplomats, supported by Washington, ended up handing Vladimir Putin the golden opportunity to claw back Crimea and to destabilize Ukraine’s evolution toward democracy. If not for excessive negotiating demands by Brussels, primarily on governance issues, the breakup of Ukraine could have been avoided, along with all the negative consequences that have since ensued. While Ukraine has acquired EU associate status, it has paid a high price for membership: the occupation of Crimea, stalemated civil war in Donbass, and 14,000 lives lost. How Ukraine got to this point [...]

December 22nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Filipinos are already awake

       Mr. Herbert Martinez (left) with The National Policy director, Mr. Michael Ho (right) at Team BBM 2022 headquarter. /TNP photo   "Filipinos are gising na (awake)”, Mr. Herbert Antonio S. Martinez, National Chairperson of Team BBM 2022 said on an exclusive interview with The National Policy. According to him, the Liberal Party, also called the “Yellow Party”, has been fooling the Filipinos for decades, but now people realize that “abused" democracy is not good for the Philippines because it brings us corruption and low efficiency in government services. In provinces, politicians form different political dynasties which monopolize the power and resources, then make ordinary people poor and poorer. As a "democracy showcase in Asia" chosen by the U.S, the Philippines is an example of failure, we are left behind while the others are making progress. That is so disappointing and we can really feel the hardships in our country. Why do thousands of people join Marcos and Sarah tandem caravans? Why do millions of volunteers support Marcos and Sarah campaign? Because Filipinos are awake already! They know what they need most is discipline and leaders who are really pro people! They miss the late president Ferdinand Marcos, the father of Bongbong Marcos.  Aside from that, they also want the continuity of Dutertes’s government policy. All surveys show that next year elections will be a landslide win for BBM and Inday Sara. Me and my team are in full support.

December 20th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The enemies of American democracy? Big lie, big anger and big money

Saving American democracy will require stopping these three powerful forces already on the way to destroying it ‘Acting on voting rights before the new year is essential.’ Photograph: John Minchillo/AP With the Senate adjourned for the holidays and Joe Biden’s Build Back Better social and climate package stalled, the president’s remaining agenda is at the mercy of the 2022 midterm election year. So the practical question is: what should be his, and the Democrats’, first priority when Congress returns in January? Biden obviously wants to get his spending package passed. But swift action on voting rights is essential. Republican state legislatures will soon begin drawing partisan congressional maps that federal legislation would outlaw. Several states have already changed election laws in ways making it harder for people in minority communities to vote and giving Republican legislatures greater power over election outcomes. To be sure, any new national voting rights legislation depends on altering the Senate filibuster so the 50 Democratic senators (plus the vice-president) can pass it. (Senate Republicans won’t go along.) Hence the urgency of Senate Democrats agreeing to carve out voting rights from the filibuster. It’s important to put this into a larger context. Saving American democracy requires stopping three powerful forces already on the way to destroying it. The first is Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen. That baseless claim is now believed by some 60% of registered Republicans. The lie fits with the Republican party’s understanding that demographic trends will work against it in future elections unless it shrinks [...]

December 20th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The world is ablaze. Xi, Putin and Biden must join the firefighters

Covid has aggravated a crisis in the global humanitarian system, and an ineffective UN is being sidelined People wait for UNHCR assistance in Khost province. Aid agencies say 8 million Afghans risk starvation this winter, including a million children. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images It’s hard to look beyond your own front door when a lethal disease threatens your family. Governments often exhibit similar introspection when facing emergencies beyond national borders. So what if the world is on fire? In the age of Covid the quest for protection and recovery is primarily, myopically, obsessively domestic. Charity, it’s said, begins at home. So look away now, if you wish, because much of the world beyond the inoculated shores of Europe and America presents a very disturbing picture. The pandemic has coincided with, and greatly exacerbated, a crisis in an already struggling international humanitarian system. Existing weaknesses and long-neglected problems are ruthlessly exposed. The resulting, worldwide crescendo of suffering, extreme need and sheer misery is now reaching its highest-ever pitch. And Covid is only part of this story. Unmediated conflicts, endless civil wars, climate-related disasters, state lawlessness, impunity and ineffective diplomacy are leading to hunger, disease and displacement on an unprecedented scale. It’s a universal scream of pain and fear the like of which even Edvard Munch never imagined. The latest emergency watchlist from the NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC), shows that a record 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2022 – a 63% rise over the past two years. A record 80 million people have been [...]

December 20th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The Duterte legacy

Conclusion There is no denying that President Duterte has succeeded in lifting the country from the sorry state he found it in at the beginning of his term. Now that his term is ending, the urgent question that he must be facing is how to sustain well into the next administration the enormous gains he has achieved for the country. The term limit imposed by the Constitution for president actually makes for one of acute maladies of the Philippine political system. Before the Cory Constitution of 1987, what was in place was the 1973 Constitution, which replaced the martial law rule, and before this, the 1935 Constitution under which the military regime of President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., beginning 1972, was established. This Constitution provides for a four-year term of office of the president with reelection but for a period not exceeding eight years; hence only one reelection. When the 1973 Constitution came into place, that term limit was fixed at six years without reelection. Such term limit was arrived at as a compromise thus: four years is too short for a good president whereas eight years is too long for a bad one. The fallacy in this criterion is that governments are not judged on whether a president is good or bad, but on what programs beneficial to the people he has crafted and dutifully implemented. If this were to be the guidepost for choosing a president, the elements of "goodness" or "badness" don't figure. Rather of paramount importance is that he is in the [...]

December 20th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Looking for balance in the changing world of work

After nearly two years of Covid-19, the world has seen transformational changes in workplaces. We’re spending more of our lives on screens, and less on commutes. Across the world, the pandemic has opened up opportunities for many, but also exacerbated existing inequalities, particularly for women. Increased mobility also means our workplaces can easily extend into our homes, with workers available to their bosses for longer periods. SUPPLIED Simon Draper is the executive director of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono. He says a survey carried out in March found nine out of ten employees in Southeast Asia want flexibility about where and when they work.   All this has led many to reassess their lives and priorities. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the “Great Resignation”, or perhaps a “Great Reshuffle”, mostly in relation to the US, where a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September. In Asia, businesses have also reported a loss of productivity due to labour shortages. A survey carried out by EY in March found more than half of employees globally would consider quitting their jobs if they weren’t provided post-pandemic flexibility. Among respondents in Southeast Asia, nine out of ten said they wanted flexibility about where and when they worked. The traditional stereotype of Asian workplaces has been one of great hierarchy – an environment where younger employers and those further down the corporate food chain don’t question their superiors, and accrue many hours of unpaid overtime, including through entertaining clients after-hours. We picture Confucian-style [...]

December 20th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why China will uphold its zero-COVID policy for a long time to come

Omicron may have created an initial feeling of vindication. There are also important political milestones in the next six months, says Hong Kong Baptist University’s Yew Wei Lit. A new COVID-19 outbreak in China has been linked to a group of tourists. (Photo: AFP) SINGAPORE— Amid the worldwide panic over the spread of Omicron, China is feeling vindicated for sticking to its zero-COVID-19 strategy. All it needs to do at the moment is stay the course. With expanding vaccination coverage and loosening social and travel restrictions, the world had thought that it was on track for a post-pandemic recovery. But the recent Omicron variant outbreak shows we are far from being out of the woods. Omicron, designated a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, has now circulated globally since it was first discovered in South Africa, appearing to be more contagious than previous variants of COVID-19. In response to the many unknowns of Omicron, most countries have slammed their borders shut for specific southern African nations, while a few others, such as Israel and Japan, opted to completely ban foreign arrivals. CHINA IS FEELING VINDICATED Indeed, Chinese media has seized the latest development to justify the country's zero-tolerance policy, claiming that the nation is an “impregnable fortress” against the virus To be sure, China was not the only country that pursued this zero-COVID policy. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, were once determined to stamp out the existence of the virus within their communities. Yet, they all fell like dominoes, as they abandoned this strategy in [...]

December 16th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The uninvited Christmas guest: is New Zealand prepared for Omicron’s inevitable arrival?

Opinion - As New Zealand gets ready for the festive season under the new traffic light system, the emergence of the Omicron variant is a reminder this pandemic is far from over. Photo: Rowan Simpson / Unsplash   The new variant of concern is already fuelling a new wave of infections in South Africa and there is some evidence hospitalisations are increasing. Omicron has already arrived in Australia and the question now is whether it will get to New Zealand during the summer holiday season and potentially affect plans for border openings. New Zealand is currently planning to start opening its borders and allowing quarantee-free entry from early 2022, first to fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens arriving from Australia after 16 January, and then for New Zealanders arriving from all other countries after mid-February. There's already some discussion about whether this plan may have to be reviewed. Omicron contains 32 mutations in the spike protein alone. These are mutations that may make the virus more transmissible and better at evading immunity. There is also some evidence to suggest it poses a higher risk of reinfection. Other anecdotal evidence suggests more children are being hospitalised with moderate to severe symptoms with Omicron. However, it is still too early to draw any firm conclusions. Data over the next few weeks will help determine the variant's full impact. Delta has taught us important lessons New Zealand's elimination strategy resulted in good economic performance, the lowest Covid-19 mortality in the OECD and increases in life expectancy. However, the emergence of [...]

December 10th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The National Policy Q&A: Democracy Summit

Salvatore Babones: I hope the Summit will strengthen democracy and unite the world instead of dividing it. President Biden will host the Democracy Summit on December 9-10,2021. According to him, “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.” But is it the real agenda of the said Summit? The National Policy had an exclusive interview with Professor Salvatore Babones of the University of Sydney. He is an American sociologist with expertise in the area of Chinese and American economy and society. His research is related to macro-level structure of the world economy, with a particular focus on China’s global economic integration. He is also an author of several books and numerous academic articles.   DEFINITION OF DEMOCRACY How do you define democracy? I don't define democracy. But President Joe Biden defines it based on US domestic politics and their relations to their allies. If they like their allies, the latter are democratic. If they don't like, then the allies are not democratic. Just like in the case of Hungary and Pakistan. These countries have their independent foreign policies and refuse to cooperate with the U.S, so Biden government doesn’t  think they are democratic countries. Biden government has its own views about democracy, they pursue more domestic benefits than the democracy itself. THREATS ON DEMOCRACIES It is said that the summit will tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies. What do you think is the greatest threat faced by them today? I think democracy is healthy. But we [...]

December 7th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Today’s supply-chain bottlenecks are creating shortages

With soaring supply chain costs driving inflation and relocation of manufacturers, the US government needs to take this opportunity to reassess its global economic strategy, says a MIT economics professor. Pandemic-fuelled global supply chain disruptions have driven up prices and led to a growing shortage of goods BOSTON, Massachusetts—  Global supply chains used to be the last thing policymakers worried about. The topic was largely the concern of academics, who studied the possible efficiency gains and potential risks associated with this aspect of globalisation. Although Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 had demonstrated how supply-chain disruptions could impact the global economy, few anticipated how central the problem could become. Not anymore. Today's supply-chain bottlenecks are creating shortages, propping up inflation, and preoccupying policymakers around the world. US President Joe Biden's administration deserves credit for recognising that supply chains are key to future economic security. In February 2021, Biden issued an executive order directing several federal agencies to secure and strengthen the American supply chain; and in June, the White House published a 100-day review on "Building Resilient Supply Chains, Revitalising American Manufacturing, and Fostering Broad-Based Growth." SUPPLY CHAINS HAVE IMPOSED SOCIAL COSTS This 250-page report contains many important proposals. Some are already part of the broader discussion on improving the US workforce's skills and the economy's capacity for innovation. Other ideas have been circulating for a while in international relations and security studies; for example, the document considers the national-security implications of defence and other critical industries' reliance on imported inputs. But the review's most important [...]

December 4th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Christopher Luxon is out of step with most New Zealanders – can he really challenge Ardern?

The new National leader is a millionaire, anti-abortion, ex-CEO who owns seven homes and is against increases to the minimum wage New Zealand National party leader Christopher Luxon. Photograph: National party/AFP/Getty Images   In the end, the party of business picked the businessman. Former National party leader Simon Bridges is out – again – and former Air New Zealand chief executive and MP for Botany, Christopher Luxon, is in. In hindsight it seems like it was always a done deal. Sir John Key, the former prime minister and National party leader, was a prominent supporter while outgoing leader Judith Collins was running an “anyone but Bridges” policy, effectively handing the leadership to Luxon (and making him a hostage to her and her faction’s demands in the process). Political commentators were picking Luxon as a future leader before entering parliament and, only one year later, here he is. That captures the new National party leader’s central problem: he was always a big fish in a small pond. The C-suite executive. The slick communicator. The anointed one whose rise looks less organic and more ordained. Jacinda Ardern was the perpetual deputy – standing aside for Grant Robertson and Andrew Little before events (crashing polls in 2017), a desperate caucus (an election was mere months away) and her own sense of duty (there was literally no other viable candidate) took her reluctantly to the party leadership. That humility meant the public came to her with a degree of goodwill. Yet Luxon came to the job with “future leader tags” [...]

December 4th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

A new Covid variant is no surprise when rich countries are hoarding vaccines

Western countries are destroying surplus doses of vaccine while the poorest nations go without. This must change. ‘While South Africa has achieved 27% vaccination rates, its rural areas are often in single figures.’ A woman receives a Covid jab in Katlehong, South Africa, October 2021. Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP   Despite the repeated warnings of health leaders, our failure to put vaccines into the arms of people in the developing world is now coming back to haunt us. We were forewarned – and yet here we are. In the absence of mass vaccination, Covid is not only spreading uninhibited among unprotected people but is mutating, with new variants emerging out of the poorest countries and now threatening to unleash themselves on even fully vaccinated people in the richest countries of the world. On Thursday, the UK’s Department of Health, which has placed a travel ban on southern Africa, warned that the B.1.1.529 “Omicron” variant was the most “complex” and “worrying” seen so far. And yet with 9.1bn vaccines already manufactured and 12bn expected by the year’s end – enough to vaccinate the whole world – this was the “arms race” that we could have won. No country should be facing yet another winter with the uncertainty of a new wave of Covid hanging over us. On Monday, the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, will meet in a special session. They will hear that vaccination rates in the six countries now subject to UK travel bans are still dangerously below the 40% [...]

November 27th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

We all need New Zealand to reopen to the world

Our biggest city reached a massive milestone recently with 90 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The arrivals area at Auckland Airport. (Source: Getty) Like an athlete during those last exhausting few kilometres of a marathon, Auckland dug deep to muster the mental strength and sheer grit needed to persevere through lockdown and get the job done. Eased border restrictions next month and the joy of a summer Christmas with family and friends outside the Auckland boundary are now in sight. As a nation though, the job is far from finished and the complacency in parts of the regions needs to be addressed. Those of us living outside of Tāmaki Makaurau have had it largely easy. Lockdown this time round was the short and sharp restrictions we were promised. "Don’t send those Aucklanders our way," quickly became a statement one would hear in the regions, if not guilty of uttering it aloud themselves. But with rising case numbers in our smaller towns, the pressure is now on the rest of us. Tairāwhiti DHB has the lowest double vaccination rate in the country at 74 per cent, while Northland is only slightly ahead at 75 per cent. After almost two years battling the pandemic and feeling as though we’re on a treadmill to nowhere, there is light at the end of the tunnel worth working towards. Having travelled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates last week to cover the World Expo 2020 – the stark reality of what it means to live [...]

November 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Are New Zealand’s universities doing enough to define the limits of academic freedom?

The news last week that University of Auckland public health researcher Simon Thornley was retracting a co-authored paper about supposed vaccination risks during pregnancy raised deeper questions about the limits of academic freedom. From the public's point of view, a university is malfunctioning if it harbours and protects misinformation, says Matheson Russell. Photo: Copyright: frannyanne / 123RF Stock Photo   Trornley's head of department had called for the paper to be retracted due to "the anxiety it is creating for expectant parents and those planning to have a child". Other experts in the field had strongly criticised the paper's methodology and conclusions. The university itself responded publicly by asserting, "As an academic staff member Dr Thornley has the right to exercise his academic freedom." The vice-chancellor later said, "While the University supports academic freedom, we do require research to be conducted with a high degree of integrity." The controversy follows an earlier one in July, when a group of academics published an open letter questioning the scientific status of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge). The Royal Society Te Apārangi issued a statement rejecting their views and affirming the value of mātauranga Māori as a knowledge system. The society is now reported to be investigating two of its fellowswho were co-authors of the letter. In response, a group calling itself the Free Speech Union has called the Royal Society's response an attack on free speech, saying it sends "a chilling message" to other academics. Freedom and integrity These are just two of several conflicts currently playing out in [...]

November 24th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why food shouldn’t be left to pile up in fridges and go to waste

Food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of global emissions and everyone needs to pay attention to it, says a researcher. A file photo of food waste in a recycling container. (File photo: AFP/Justin Sullivan, Getty Images North America) ABERYSTWYTH, Wales— When people think about ways to help the environment, encourage biodiversity and decrease greenhouse gases, they don’t usually think about the impact of food waste. And yet food waste is responsible for up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Producing food for a growing global population is a complex challenge with a lot of negative environmental consequences, so food waste creates unnecessary strain on our fragile environment. I was part of a recent research project with the UK Global Food Security programme, which explores ways to cut food waste. Our key findings and suggestions address waste throughout the food system – that includes all the processes, people and infrastructure involved in getting food from farm to fork. We found that cutting food waste needs cooperative action from all of us – businesses, policymakers and individuals. The most commonly wasted foods are fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and baked goods, and leftovers. Products with short shelf lives, such as meat and dairy, are also prone to be wasted. Domestic food waste declined in the UK dramatically during the early pandemic lockdowns, with 30 per cent using up more leftovers, but waste levels are increasing again as people go out more and have less time to cook. FIVE THINGS WE CAN DO Set your [...]

November 21st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Electrifying transport: why New Zealand can’t rely on battery-powered cars alone

Opinion - The transport sector accounts for 47 percent of New Zealand's carbon dioxide emissions. It will be a focus for decarbonisation to meet the country's new climate pledge to cut emissions by half by 2030. Photo: 123RF   Most (90 percent) transport emissions come from road transport, which is also the fastest-growing sector. Battery-driven electric vehicles have been highlighted as the sole pathway to a net-zero transport sector. But a life-cycle approach suggests we should consider more than one option. Advances in hydrogen fuel cell technologies suggest a multi-pronged strategy is a more sensible approach to decarbonisation. It also aligns well with the aim of building resilient transport systems. We argue a single solution will not be adequate to decarbonise road transport. Hydrogen fuel cells versus batteries Electric vehicles with hydrogen-powered fuel cells have the edge on battery-driven cars in three important ways: longer range, shorter refuelling time and greater payload. Hydrogen contains nearly three times the energy density of diesel and petrol. This makes it attractive for use in heavy commercial vehicles. Hydrogen's light but energy-dense properties allow heavy-duty and long-haul trucks to couple hefty payloads and long ranges while offering refuelling times comparable to conventional combustion-engine vehicles. But while hydrogen is lighter than batteries, efficiency losses are significant. Producing green hydrogen by splitting water using renewable electricity in a state-of-the-art electrolyser results in an energy loss of about 35 percent. Of the remaining 65 percent of the original energy, another 55 percent is lost during compression, distribution and conversion back to electricity in [...]

November 1st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

COP26: Time for New Zealand to show regional leadership on climate change

As the UN climate summit in Glasgow kicks off on Sunday, it marks the deadline for countries to make more ambitious pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cop26 signs are visible throughout the host city, Glasgow. Photo: AFP   The meeting is the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and is being heralded as the last best chance to avoid devastating temperature rise that would endanger billions of people and disrupt the planet's life-support systems. New Zealand will be represented by the climate minister and Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, along with a slimmed-down team of diplomats. Shaw, who described climate change as the "most significant threat that we face for decades to come", will take part in negotiations aimed at achieving global net zero, protecting communities and natural habitats and mobilising finance to adequately respond to the climate crisis. This is the time for New Zealand to commit to delivering on its fair share of what is necessary to avoid runaway global warming. To understand why COP26 is so important we need to look back to a previous summit, COP21 in 2015, which resulted in the Paris Agreement. Countries agreed to work together to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celcius and to aim for no more than 1.5C. A boy holds a sign outside the Beehive during a climate strike protest in 2019. Photo: © VNP / Phil Smith   They also agreed to publish plans to show how much they would reduce emissions and [...]

October 31st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Old wine in new bottles: The NZ-UK trade agreement fails to confront the challenges of a post-Covid world

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF A New Zealand-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement was announced last week.   OPINION: When the sales pitch for a free trade agreement is that “British consumers will enjoy more affordable Marlborough sauvignon blanc, mānuka honey and kiwifruit, while Kiwis enjoy the benefit from cheaper gin, chocolate, clothing and buses”, you know this is hardly the deal of the century. Indeed, the New Zealand-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA) announced last Thursday would cause barely a blip on the radar of either country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – in New Zealand’s case, using the most optimistic projections, less than 0.3 per cent of GDP in 15 years’ time. Of course, there is more to it than that. Notably, it will impose significant longer-term regulatory constraints on future governments. Yet these barely rate a mention in the Agreement in Principle that summarises agreed outcomes and provides neither the full text nor politically inconvenient details. These kinds of “trade agreements” have become Trojan horses for reaching ever further into countries’ domestic policy and regulatory processes and choices. What Britain really wants The most extensive to date is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which became the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in 2017, after the United States withdrew and some of the most controversial items the US had insisted on were suspended (but not removed). Britain now wants to join the CPTPP and needs New Zealand’s consent to do so. New Zealand’s price was a range of quotas and removal of tariffs on primary products, [...]

October 27th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

As ports strain under surge in orders, when will supply chains return to normal?

People are eager to spend the money they’ve saved during lockdowns, resulting in shipping problems worldwide. But there’s a silver lining, says an economist. Tugboats assists a container ship dock at a port in Manila, Philippines, Oct 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila) PLYMOUTH, England— Several months ago, I warned that the crisis in container ships could jeopardise Christmas by leaving retailers without enough goods on their shelves. Since then, there have been similar fears all over the media, not only due to shipping problems but also shortages of lorry drivers and unavailable products. As we approach November, the worst may be coming to the worst. It is a classic supply and demand mismatch. On the one hand, people around the world managed to save over US$5 trillion (£3.6 trillion) during the lockdowns, and have been wanting to spend some of it now that restrictions have been lifted. This is why the global economy has seen a strong recovery in 2021, with the IMF predicting that global growth will be 6 per cent for the year as a whole. According to an intelligence report shared by a shipping broker, that extra demand translated into over 119 million shipping containers between January and August, 6 per cent higher than the equivalent period in 2019. SUPPLY CHAINS STRUGGLING TO COPE Supply chains have not been coping with this surge in orders. Ports have been struggling to load and unload container ships quickly enough, with nearly 600 container ships stuck outside docking areas around the world – nearly double the number [...]

October 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The next global economic emergency? Deepening debt in the developing world

Poorer nations were more fragile before Covid-19, had less scope to stimulate economies, and are on the wrong side of the vaccine divide The World Bank and IMF used their annual meetings to warn of the pressure poorer countries were under and the need for urgent, collective action to help with debts. Photograph: Pieter Bauermeister/AFP via Getty Images Aglobal pandemic. Rising inflation. The threat posed by climate change. Global policymakers have enough to keep them occupied without a developing country debt crisis adding to their list of problems. That is a real possibility. Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund used their annual meetings to stress the pressure poorer countries were under and the need for urgent, collective action. They are right to be worried because debt is at record levels, defences against a crisis are inadequate and the clock is ticking. Problems have only gradually surfaced. In the first phase, developing countries borrowed money, some of it from multilateral institutions, some from individual countries and some of it from the private sector. At the time, this seemed relatively safe because the world economy was growing and demand for the commodities produced by low-income countries was strong. The assumption was that debt interest payments would be met by future export revenues. Then, commodity prices crashed in the mid-2010s and the Bank and the IMF started to voice concerns. The pandemic ushered in a second phase because, while no part of the world was left untouched by Covid-19, poor countries were hit harder than developed [...]

October 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Southeast Asia’s mixed success with adapting to fast-evolving COVID-19 war

Governments in Southeast Asia need a more agile and flexible mindset to stay ahead of the game, says the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute director.   People, mostly migrant workers who are planning to return to their hometowns, wait at a checkpoint to leave Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Oct 1, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)   SINGAPORE— Any defence planner worth his salt would be wary about preparing for the next war by studying the last. When war conditions change, what accounts for success in a past war could well be the cause of failure in the next. Military history is replete with examples of this, yet the strong human tendencies driving it are hard to guard against. While the war against COVID-19 is very different from a military campaign, it has shown the same human weaknesses with devastating results. It is more like a series of wars rather than a single one because the enemy, the “weapons”, and the context in which the disease operates have all changed rapidly over the course of months. The Delta variant is more transmissible and lethal than the original COVID-19 virus. Both are different from the Severe Acquired Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), H1N1 and Ebola viruses that were the basis for earlier plans against infectious diseases in Southeast Asia. Medical tools to deal with the disease in the form of diagnostic kits, treatment protocols, vaccines and anti-viral drugs have evolved rapidly. The state of knowledge about the disease and speed at which medical studies are conducted and shared have also advanced at such a rapid rate [...]

October 16th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Behind Squid Game is a real debt crisis shaking South Korea

Squid Game features characters mired in debt and misery and provides a sharp critique of the socioeconomic inequality that plagues the lives of many in South Korea, says a Korean studies lecturer. Netflix's top executive says there is "a very good chance" Squid Game will be the company's biggest show ever. (Photo: AFP) SHEFFIELD, United Kingdom: Squid Game is anything but your typical, saccharine, soft-glow Korean television drama. In this biting commentary on life in South Korea today, viewers are presented with a twisting, technicolour story of violence, betrayal and desperation. All of this is set around a series of macabre games in which players literally fight to the death. Despite its brutal content, the show has captivated audiences globally, becoming Netflix’s top show in at least 90 countries. The drama takes viewers on a high-suspense ride across nine episodes where a group of people mired in debt and personal misfortune enter a series of six survival games, modelled on familiar South Korean children’s games. The losers will die by a ruthless process of elimination, and the single winner will take away 46.5 billion South Korean won (US$39.4 million). Early episodes show the circumstances that have led central characters to place everything on the line. Audiences see a series of very different lives, but each is mired in debt and misery. A man who was made redundant and then indebted by failed business ventures and gambling is joined by an unsuccessful fund manager. An elderly man dying of cancer plays the game alongside a North Korean [...]

October 9th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New Māori housing strategy is a game changer

OPINION: Maihi Ka Ora – The National Māori Housing Strategy 2021-2051 was launched last week by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. It was written in partnership with Te Puni Kōkiri, with the support of the National Iwi Chairs Forum, some hapū and iwi, and Te Matapihi he tirohanga mō te Iwi Trust, and developed through Maihi Whare Wānanga. The strategy takes a systems thinking approach, acknowledging the complexity of our housing system, our system failures, and therefore the range of responses required. It’s long range, with a life span of 30 years intended to live well beyond any political changes. Critically, there are specific provisions for ongoing monitoring and evaluation, and formal review every three years. It’s impossible to entirely future proof long-range strategies given our electoral cycle, but the current government has made a serious attempt at embedding Maihi Ka Ora across government and the housing system more broadly. In my view, this strategy is a game changer. The strategy, whilst not being a statutory document, critically refers to the articles, rather than the principles, of Te Tiriti. The current government has demonstrated a commitment to funding Māori housing on parity with mainstream housing, says Jade Kake.   It explicitly refers to the Government using its levers under Article One, to enable Māori-led solutions under Article Two, and, if these are achieved, works towards providing oriteranga/equity under Article Three. There are six major components to the strategy: Māori-Crown partnerships, (Māori-led) local solutions, (Māori) housing supply, (Māori) housing support, (Māori) housing system, and (Māori) [...]

October 5th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The US must avoid war with China over Taiwan at all costs

‘There is no rational scenario in which the United States could end up in a better, more secure place after a war with China. ‘ Photograph: Taiwan Ministry Of National Defense/EPA Since last Friday, the People’s Republic of China has launched a total of 155 warplanes – the most ever over four consecutive days – into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone; Ned Price said the state department was “very concerned”. There have been more than 500 such flights through nine months this year, as opposed to 300 all of last year. Before war comes to the Indo-Pacific and Washington faces pressure to fight a potentially existential war, American policymakers must face the cold, hard reality that fighting China over Taiwan risks an almost-certain military defeat – and gambles we won’t stumble into a nuclear war. Bluntly put, America should refuse to be drawn into a no-win war with Beijing. It needs to be said up front: there would be no palatable choice for Washington if China finally makes good on its decades-long threat to take Taiwan by force. Either choose a bad, bitter-tasting outcome or a self-destructive one in which our existence is put at risk. The prevailing mood in Washington among officials and opinion leaders is to fight if China attempts to conquer Taiwan by force. In a speech at the Center for Strategic Studies last Friday, the deputy secretary of defense, Kathleen Hicks, said that if Beijing invades Taiwan, “we have a significant amount of capability forward in the region to tamp down any [...]

October 5th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Vaccination passport inequities: Freedom for many, but not for some

Opinion - Recent discussion around the possibility of introducing vaccination passports which would verify that holders have been double jabbed as a means of getting into venues and events has held out hope that there maybe a way back to an ordinary life for many New Zealanders. Yet, it must be remembered that there will be some Kiwis who could be discriminated against if such a system is not properly designed: there could be freedom for the many but not for some. Photo: 123rf   Think for a moment about the small minority of New Zealanders who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. I'm not talking here about those who voluntarily refuse the Pfizer vaccine but are still able to take it - rather I'm referring to the few thousand people who won't be able to receive any vaccination at all on the advice of health specialists. This could be, for example, as a result of conditions or treatments which make it difficult for them to be administered to a person in this category. I can only imagine how people within this small minority - and of whom a vast number would be keen, if not desperate tor receive it - would find this realisation. For people in this group, there would be real concern about the implications of a passport system which may effectively bar them from being able to access essential services such as supermarkets and retailers, let alone social and community venues where people interact with one another on a daily basis. Effectively, [...]

October 5th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Rugby Championship: What we learned

Opinion - Fair to say that didn't go according to the script. The All Blacks won the 2021 Rugby Championship and finished the campaign by playing easily the best test of the year, the only problem was they were on the wrong side of the result. Photo: Photosport   The pulsating 31-29 win by the Springboks breathed not only life but fire into rugby's greatest rivalry after last weekend's snorefest in Townsville. But this phase of the season is done, so here's what we learned from the last month and a half of test rugby: Springboks 'finally realise their attacking potential' How incredibly awesome it is when the Springboks want to actually play rugby. There is a pretty solid blueprint for trying to beat the All Blacks, which is simply that you have to keep attacking for the entire time and be the last team to score as close as you can to time running out. It was almost worth the Boks kicking more than an angry donkey for the last three months so that they could finally realise their attacking potential last night, and it's highly unlikely many New Zealanders are begrudging Siya Kolisi's side the win. Especially since the Bok captain took it upon himself to try and destroy as many All Black rucks as he could, while his team found the balance between tactical kicking and utilising their weapons out wide - who would have thought they would have scored the first try thanks to a behind the back, no-look pass?! ABs show [...]

October 2nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New Zealand is no ‘off-grid’ safe haven from the apocalypse

From 19th-century colonists to today’s super wealthy, New Zealand has been wrongly depicted as a ‘blank slate’ ‘New Zealand laws still cover the tracks of the wealthy. So it’s understandable that the super-rich identify the country as a prime destination to avoid attention.’ View over Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Photograph: Author’s Image Ltd/Alamy     New Zealand has become the prime destination for the world’s wealthy elite. Their relocation could be to do with the country’s famous scenery and quality of life but it could also be that the pandemic has renewed people’s interest in New Zealand as supposedly the best place in the world to survive global societal collapse. It’s true, as a recent study observes, that New Zealand is a set of isolated islands with renewable energy resources and a temperate climate. However, there is also a long history, intertwined with the country’s colonisation, of New Zealand being seen as a blank slate or empty land, open for the taking. That false image served to justify colonial settlement in the past. It’s now being used again to prepare the ground for further settlement by the super-wealthy. Prior to European colonisation, Māori had been living in the country for at least 800 years. In 1839, the colonial office instructed the first British governor of New Zealand, William Hobson, to establish a system to secure “unsettled lands”. The next year Hobson claimed sovereignty over the North Island on the basis of a treaty, the Treaty of Waitangi. But he claimed sovereignty over the South Island [...]

September 24th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Aukus pact could push New Zealand to deepen relations with Europe and Pacific

As country’s traditional allies take a more confrontational approach to China, it could offset Anglosphere divide with new partnerships New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and French president Emmanuel Macron. The Aukus pact has highlighted the growing divide between New Zealand and its traditional allies. Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images     During the announcement that America, the United Kingdom and Australia had formed a new Aukus defence pact – inaugurated with the sale of American nuclear-powered submarines to Australia – Australian prime minister Scott Morrison lauded it as a “forever partnership for a new time between the oldest and most trusted of friends”. That phrasing was notable given that the deal excluded New Zealand, which has historically been so close with Australia that the Australian constitution contemplates complete integration of the two countries. Remarkably, New Zealand’s government apparently only learned about the Aukus deal when it began to be reported in the media on Wednesday. It’s the latest indication that New Zealand is being left behind by its traditional Anglosphere partners. Ironically the widening gap between New Zealand and the Aukus powers is largely not of New Zealand’s choosing, despite its longstanding commitment to foreign policy “independence”. Faced with growing great power competition between China and America, New Zealand has made some moves towards alignment with the latter. Over the last few years it has bought American military equipment, explicitly named China as a threat to the international rules-based order and refused to allow China’s Huawei to upgrade 5G infrastructure due to security concerns. [...]

September 19th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Leaks just exposed how toxic Facebook and Instagram are to teen girls and, well, everyone

The company’s own research reveals that Instagram harms teens, that it can’t control anti-vax misinformation, and that there is a secret double standard for VIPs. In short, the problem with Facebook is Facebook ‘Working for Facebook these days must be a crushing moral and social experience.’ Photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA   For years, Facebook has faced torrents of criticism from human rights groups and academic researchers, who raised alarms about the ways that the most pervasive digital social platform in human history distorts our world and promotes destructive behavior ranging from eating disorders to genocide. In response, Mark Zuckerberg and his staff have frequently pronounced commitments to reform. While many of those pledges and predictions seemed to have been sincere, it turns out that not only have the architecture and incentives built into Facebook itself undermined the biggest efforts to fix the service, but that Facebook’s own research staff have informed top leadership of the company’s stunning failures. This week the Wall Street Journal has run an eye-opening series of articles, based on internal studies and documents leaked by Facebook researchers, revealing just how duplicitous and/or naive Zuckerberg is about his own company and its influence on the world. “An eye-opening series of articles this week reveal just how duplicitous and/or naive Zuckerberg is about his own company” In one piece, the Journal revealed that Facebook maintains a private registry of very important people, including celebrities and politicians, who are exempt from the strict content-posting rules that govern the rest of us. A second article was [...]

September 19th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

At an economic inflection point, Biden leans into expansive, populist agenda

After fighting for temporary stimulus earlier this year, the president is now trying to push through structural changes to the broader economy. President Biden delivers remarks on the economy from the East Room on Sept. 16. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)   Six months after signing a massive economic stimulus package into law, President Biden on Thursday embarked on a fresh push for trillions of dollars in additional spending, attempting to pivot from an emergency posture to advancing a long-term liberal vision of government. Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden heralded the return of jobs and other recent economic gains, which he attributed to a combination of federal relief efforts and the arrival of effective coronavirus vaccines. But he stressed the need for even deeper, lasting policy changes to ease the hardships that many Americans have faced since long before the coronavirus took hold. “This pandemic has been god-awful for so many reasons,” Biden said. “But it does present us with an opportunity. We can build an economy that gives working people a fair shot this time. We can restore some sanity and fairness to our tax code. We can make the investments that we know are long overdue in this nation.” Biden’s pitch marked an important political inflection point: Even as the pandemic simmers, the battered U.S. economy is still much healthier than it was at the start of his presidency, when millions more were out of work and businesses nationwide lay dormant. The improved tail winds have allowed Biden to pivot [...]

September 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Maori Language Week 2021: Meaningful learning in te ao Māori

Tai Tokerau tangata whenua discuss mythical demigod Māui and his significance to the iwi. Photo / Liam Ratana     COMMENT Recently I attended a hui discussing the mythical demigod Maui and his significance to Te Tai Tokerau (Northland). It was the second talk in a series being hosted by master carver Te Warihi Hetaraka (Ngātiwai) at the Hihiaua Cultural Centre in Whangārei. Hihiaua has recently been showcasing Ngā Pakiwaitara a Māui, a new way of sharing kōrero about Māui using augmented reality, bringing to life his connection to Ngātiwai. There were a number of ideas discussed throughout the talk that resonated with me. One common theme was the importance of passing on knowledge in Māori culture and the ways in which this was done. We spoke about Māui taking his grandmother's jawbone as a symbol of the knowledge that she bestowed upon him. There were discussions about how Māui was an example of the fact that it was not always the eldest child, or even the eldest grandchild, that was chosen to be the bearer of knowledge. At times, grandchildren were selected to be the bearers of knowledge for their whānau, instead of members of their parents' generation. They would be raised by their grandparents and made to sit at their feet, listening to the karakia, whakapapa, and stories that were being shared. The grandchild would follow their grandparents everywhere, constantly hearing the kōrero and often being made to repeat it. This style of learning is called rote learning. It is the process of memorising [...]

September 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why Kiwi travellers should celebrate Air NZ’s latest project

Air NZ's hydrogen-powered plane project is a step in the right direction. Photo / Douglas Bagg, Unsplash   COMMENT: Air New Zealand has partnered with Airbus to try and clean up air travel and I am stupendously excited. If you love travel, you should be too. This excitement doesn't stem from loyalty to Air NZ (although, as far as airlines go, they are excellent), a fondness for chemical engineering (the science is beyond me) or a passion for business innovation. Rather, it comes from the tension between both loving travel and being painfully aware of its environmental and social cost. A tension that has only grown more widespread and fraught since the pandemic hit. Sustainability has long been a point of focus within the travel and tourism industry. Arguably, the concept is just a contemporary take on ancient indigenous wisdom that has always acknowledged and valued the connection between people and the land. Nonetheless, as the impact of tourism's unrestrained growth became impossible to ignore, pressure mounted on governing bodies and individuals to create a tourism model that could go the distance. Then, Covid-19 happened and tourism, along with countless other industries, ground to a standstill. Economies, advanced and developing, were hit hard, especially those relying on tourists to stop by and spend up. As Cruise ships were docked, planes grounded and cars left in their garages, many were quick to describe the time as a much-needed break for mother earth. Now, more than ever we see the delicate balance our world hangs in. So, as [...]

September 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

North Korean missiles tests – Kim Jong Un won’t stop and options are shrinking

North Korea has made impressive strides in missile technology, which is bad news for the US, South Korea and the world, says Professor Robert E Kelly. North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, conducted a series of missile tests this week. (Photos: AFP, AP) SEOUL— With a slew of North Korean missile tests this week, the world has once again been reminded of our limits to constrain the hermit kingdom’s behaviour. For the most part, Pyongyang does what it wants, and the rest of the international community just has to live with it. In the last few days, North Korea tested cruise missiles and then ballistic missiles. The latter violates United Nations Security Council resolutions. And yet the response of South Korea, the US and Japan has been muted, in part because their options are so limited. IMPRESSIVE IMPROVEMENTS IN MISSILE TECH North Korea’s technical improvements are undeniably impressive. The difference between these missile types is the range and flightpath. A cruise missile, like the one launched on Monday (Sep 13) is basically a missile with a jet engine attached to it. Like a passenger plane, it flies in a straight line toward a target. The advantage of such a weapon to North Korea is its manoeuvrability, plus its ability to evade radar and penetrate defences. But cruise missiles usually have a short or medium range. People in Seoul watch a TV broadcasting file footage of a news report on North Korea firing a pair of ballistic missiles on Sep 15, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Hong-ji)   The [...]

September 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Boris Johnson’s bold reshuffle is a show of strength – and a sign of pressure

If the prime minister is rewarding competence over loyalty, that’s because he knows he must deliver on his agenda   Gavin Williamson, left, and Robert Jenrick are among those to have been shown the door by Boris Johnson.Photograph: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock   When Boris Johnson reshuffled his cabinet in February last year, it did not go as planned. Despite Johnson still riding high after his election victory, ministers complained about No 10’s abrasive approach, supporters said promises of jobs made to them during the leadership campaign hadn’t been delivered, and MPs from the older intakes smarted at the promotion of their younger colleagues ahead of them. The whole exercise proved so bad for party morale that for more than a year Johnson and his chief whip have been firmly put off carrying out another. Stories of imminent reshuffles have come and gone with nothing to show for them. Those who argued in favour of one were told by No 10 aides: “Good luck convincing the prime minister.” It’s why the first reshuffle since then is so significant. It’s not just that it has finally happened – it’s how bold it was. Despite long-held concerns about party management, Johnson did not shy away from difficult decisions. Instead, he opted for what one adviser describes as a “very punchy” reshuffle – sending old friends and government loyalists, as well as potential troublemakers, to the backbenches. The prime minister demoted his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, against his wishes, sacked Gavin Williamson despite warnings he could cause Johnson trouble out of [...]

September 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Could Afghanistan plunge into civil war?

The Taliban will be on uncertain ground as they declare legitimacy, but none of their pretenders is likely to offer a national alternative, says an international politics professor. A Taliban security member holding a rifle ensures order in front of Azizi Bank in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sep 4, 2021. (Photo: WANA via REUTERS) BIRMINGHAM: Unsurprisingly, the Taliban’s rapid takeover of power across Afghanistan has prompted headlines about a renewed civil war. This is misleading, however. Civil war implies a situation where an insurgent movement is taking on a ruling government. But in 2001, it was not just the United States-backed Northern Alliance that removed the Taliban from Kabul – other local commanders and political leaders were challenging their authority too. Now that the Taliban is trying to establish a government and ruling institutions, it is possible local groups may resist being coopted. They may bristle at a lack of autonomy or see political and economic benefit in opposition to the new system in Kabul. Yet none of these groups has the national reach of the Taliban. And unlike 2001, none has outside support to do more than to hold on to their patch of Afghanistan. So for the foreseeable future, Afghanistan continues in its limbo. The Taliban will be on uncertain ground as they declare legitimacy, but no pretender to Afghanistan’s troubled throne is likely to offer a national alternative. ISLAMIC STATE KHORASAN NOT YET A THREAT Paradoxically, as Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) garnered attention for its mass killings outside Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug 26, it has only exposed [...]

September 14th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Covid-19: The unequal costs of lockdown will come back to bite us

OPINION: The story of this lockdown is best told with two statistics. The first: in the month lockdown started house prices rose by 5.2 per cent. The second: 5550 people have gone on the unemployment benefit since the last pre-pandemic Jobseeker numbers were released. I guess by now we know there is nothing really stopping property prices from ever heading in the opposite direction, even during a global pandemic. DAVID WHITE/STUFF Auckland is under lockdown, but are its most vulnerable being cared for this time around? The Jobseeker numbers, though, were heading down right before the pandemic, and for months we’ve been hearing non-stop complaints about skills shortages. In this context the numbers puzzle Infometrics economist Brad Olsen because right before the pandemic everybody was complaining about how difficult it was to hire people, and now they have just let their employees go. “There are obviously, still, a bunch of precarious firms who are struggling.” Then again, there are a lot of questions not directly-related to the outbreak that are curious. Like the fact that this time there seems to have been no real push to give the homeless any form of housing. One guy is holed up in a cave, which seems to be a new low as far as the country’s housing crisis goes, but you don’t have to go all the way out to the Bay of Plenty to see the old philosophy of putting a roof over everybody’s head doesn’t seem to be the name of the game for the team of [...]

September 4th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Without help for oil-producing countries, net zero by 2050 is a distant dream

To meet climate targets and avoid economic collapse, countries such as Iraq need international support in the transition to clean energy Ali Allawi is deputy prime minister and finance minister of Iraq. Fatih Birol is executive director of the International Energy Agency Oil refineries along the Shatt al-Arab river in Basra, Iraq, 2020. Photograph: Essam Al-Sudani/Reuters In the Middle East and north Africa, global warming is not a distant threat, but an already painful reality. Rising temperatures are exacerbating water shortages. In Iraq, temperatures are estimated to be rising as much as seven times faster than the global average. Countries in this region are not only uniquely affected by global temperature rises: their centrality to global oil and gas markets makes their economies particularly vulnerable to the transition away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy sources. It’s essential the voices of Iraq and similar countries are heard at the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow this November. To stand a chance of limiting the worst effects of climate change, the world needs to fundamentally change the way it produces and consumes energy, burning less coal, oil and natural gas. The International Energy Agency’s recent global roadmap to net zero by 2050 shows the world’s demand for oil will need to decline from more than 90m barrels a day to less than 25m by 2050. This would result in a 75% plunge in net revenues for oil-producing economies, many of which are dominated by a public sector that relies on oil exports and the revenues they [...]

September 2nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Opinion: Where is the kindness during these uncertain times of Covid-19?

Opinion - If one thing is certain during these uncertain times of Covid-19, it is that a hurting community doesn't need more pain thrown its way. Over the weekend it emerged that members of the Pacific community in Tauranga were asked to provide their passportswhen they sought to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The district health board involved has apologised for asking for something that was not required, and the CEO has said an assumption was made that the group were seasonal workers without National Health Index numbers. It is disturbing that just weeks after the government issued an apology for the Dawn Raids, members of the Pacific community were unnecessarily and insensitively asked for their passports. This is the same DHB that issued inappropriate Māori imagery around their Covid vaccination campaign, only for the material to be pulled after a public outcry. More rigorous processes were promised then. We hope robust processes will not just be a promise. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo Photo: supplied   In general, common decency and consideration seem to have become casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week media coverage focussed on the fact a large proportion of people inflicted with the latest iteration of the coronavirus are members of the Samoan community. Most people would see this as just an observation or statistical fact, but unfortunately, rather than supporting the community in a difficult time, some saw it as appropriate to attack the community online. When the initial cases hit the headlines neither individuals nor [...]

August 31st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

If the Government is making the right decisions on Covid-19, it will withstand scruntiny

OPINION: And so lockdown drags on. Empty streets, shuttered businesses, and people physically avoiding each other are bleak reminders that our ‘normal’ way of living is now fragile. That, and the ‘us vs them’ group think mentality. Us being the ‘team of five million’ and ‘them’ anyone who dares criticise the Government’s approach. ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF ‘The 1pm briefings skew the discourse in favour of the Government, at the expense of Opposition voices, which are already weakened,’ writes Andrea Vance. Pictured: Prime minister Jacinda Ardern.   On the advice of experts, most of us accept that the policing of the population is the only way to stop the deadly Covid-19 virus spreading further, or to a level that our hospitals can handle. We are complying with restrictions on movement, gatherings, and even trading. But that does not mean we gave up on freedom of expression. Government supporters aggressively insist critics should shut up and trust the experts. That anyone questioning the prevailing approach is recklessly anti-science, undermining the response or indifferent to a higher death toll. This is too crude. It is perfectly logical to accept the need for current restrictions, while criticising the Government for how we got here and the failings that led to it, not least in the vaccination roll-out. Delta got in – there should be hard questions about why so that the gaps are plugged. People are being denied the right to come home – it’s only fair they get to question the managed isolation procedures keeping them out. It is right [...]

August 29th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Fall of Afghanistan: Taliban sits on $1 trillion of minerals, China may seek business

The dramatic fall of Afghanistan has left returning Taliban militants in charge of an estimated $1 trillion worth of rare earth mineral deposits, raising the prospect China may seek to work with the Taliban to boost its mining activity there. In 2010, US military officials and geologists revealed that the conflict-riven country was sitting on vast resources of iron, copper, gold, rare earths and, in particular, coveted supplies of lithium - a scarce but vital component of electric vehicle battery production. The nation had the potential to become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," a Pentagon memo at the time said. The Taliban takeover has now raised fresh questions about how this untapped wealth will be managed and presents a new dilemma of whether to trade with a regime known for human rights abuses in order to supply green technologies. But China is wasting no time. Just a day after the militants entered Kabul, Beijing said it was ready for "friendly and cooperative" relations with the Taliban. A Chinese consortium, including the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp, already has a 30-year contract to extract, smelt and process material at Mes Aynak, the world's second-largest copper mine. This week, state media said work might resume after being halted over security concerns. China is the world's largest lithium consumer - accounting for 39 per cent of global consumption by 2019 - because of soaring demand for electric vehicles as the country tightens its air quality regulations. Taliban fighters stand guard on their side while people wait to cross at [...]

August 22nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: How China will seek to profit from Taliban’s return

Although Chinese leaders are not enthusiastic about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, they will not allow principle to stand in the way of pragmatism, says Brookings Institute’s Richard Haass. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan's Taliban, in Tianjin, China, on Jul 28, 2021. (File photo: Reuters/Li Ran, Xinhua) WASHINGTON DC: In recent days, many analysts have stepped forward to provide predictions on how America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will impact China’s regional and global standing. Some argue the withdrawal will free up American resources to focus on China and the Indo-Pacific. For others, the withdrawal opens a vacuum for China to exploit. Still others assert that Taiwan is now more vulnerable because Beijing has taken the measure of America’s resolve and competence and found it lacking. AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CHINA IN AFGHANISTAN FOLLOWING AMERICA’S WITHDRAWAL? Most Chinese counterparts I know are unclouded by any optimism about their capacity to transform Afghanistan. They harbour no ambition to run Afghanistan or to turn Afghanistan into a model of their own form of governance. Beijing is master only of its own interests in Afghanistan, which are predominantly animated by security concerns. Chinese leaders worry about the spread of instability from Afghanistan into adjacent regions, including spillover into China. They also worry about the inspiration that Islamic militarism could provide to others with similar aspirations. Although Chinese leaders are not enthusiastic about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, they will not allow principle to stand in the way of pragmatism, [...]

August 21st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The west’s nation-building fantasy is to blame for the mess in Afghanistan

British MPs have turned on Boris Johnson – but what tidy end did they expect from this imperialist experiment? ‘Western rule has killed an estimated 240,000 in Afghanistan since 2001, more than the Taliban ever did. It has not left morality, just a mess.’ US forces in the Zabul province of Afghanistan, 2006. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images   Britain’s MPs this week uttered one long howl of anguish over Afghanistan. Their immediate targets were Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, politicians who just happened to be on the watch when Kabul’s pack of cards collapsed. But their real concern was that a collective 20-year experiment in “exporting western values” to Afghanistan had fallen into chaos. MPs wanted someone other than themselves to blame. A politician is never so angry as when proved wrong. Like their fellow representatives in Congress, MPs somehow hoped the end would be nice and tidy, with speeches and flags, much like Britain’s exit from Hong Kong. Instead, tens of thousands of Afghans who had lived in an effective colony under years of Nato occupation had come to believe the west would either never leave or somehow protect them from Talibanretribution. They were swiftly disabused. In 2006 I stood at dusk on a castle wall overlooking Kabul with a young UN official. He had just heard the Kandahar road was no longer safe. “Why,” he sighed, “can’t Afghanistan be more like Sweden?” I tried to see if he was smiling, but he was grimacing. For another 15 years, armies of western soldiers and civilians [...]

August 21st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Covid-19: What will the Government do if it can’t eliminate Delta?

OPINION: And now we wait. As with the last time New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown, it’s now a waiting game to see if the testers and contact tracers get on top of the spread of the Delta strain of coronavirus. Or at least we all hope that’s what will happen. There is one plan to deal with Covid-19 in New Zealand, and that plan is elimination. The working definition given is that it’s ”zero tolerance for new cases”. The strategy has evolved since the first lockdown last year. It is now: keep the virus out until the population has been vaccinated and then see what’s next. ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF The emergence of Delta in the community is a serious challenge to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government’s strategy of eliminating Covid-19, writes Luke Malpass.   Last week we all got a flavour of what might be next and how New Zealand might open up, but the fact that it is trying to combine both elimination and a staged reopening of the border really begged more questions than answers. The Delta variant will be a serious challenge to the Government’s strategy, and leaves a whole host of unanswered questions about what happens if Covid cannot, once again, be eliminated. The Government, to its credit, has responded as quickly as possible to give the best chance of nipping this outbreak in the bud. Hopefully it works. But one thing that all Australian states have learnt from the Delta strain is that it is very hard to [...]

August 21st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: In desperate bid to fend off COVID-19, the Philippines’ repeated lockdowns create a mental health crisis

The psychological stress over the past year and a half could make 2021 the year where the Philippines truly tackle stigma against suicide and speak openly about mental health issues, says Jeff Bansigan. Residents queue to receive cash assistance from the government following the imposition of two-week lockdown in Manila, Philippines, Aug 11, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Lisa Marie David) MANILA: In the Philippines, worries among Filipinos in Metro Manila are rising with the latest rounds of on-and-off hard lockdowns imposed by the central government to flatten the growing number of COVID-19 infections. A string of suicides over the past two weeks has sparked a conversation about stress, depression and when the Philippines can escape this endless hell of COVID-19 restrictions. A 22-year-old farmer in Roxas City in Capiz took his own life on Aug 2 after a long struggle with severe depression that began when his family income was displaced by the pandemic. The following day, a ten-year-old boy hanged himself his family’s home in Cebu, Philippines. A concerned neighbour called the police but by the time officers arrived at the scene, it was too late. On the same day, a caretaker of a farm in the southern town of Nasipit in Butuan city in the Southern Philippines, also ended his life. These three cases were among the latest alarming cases of suicide in the country blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic. There is little end in sight, with the Delta variant on the loose in the country. And so President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the imposition of more lockdown [...]

August 21st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

To get New Zealanders out of their cars we’ll need to start charging the true cost of driving

Opinion - In light of last week's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirming human activity is "unequivocally" driving global warming, here's a striking statistic: in Auckland, road transport modes are responsible for 35 percent of the city's climate-altering emissions. Photo: NZTA / Waka Kotahi   Overall, road transport accounts for nearly 43 percent of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, an increase of over 100 percent since 1990. Given the nation's streets are still clogged with conventionally powered vehicles, what can we collectively do about it - as citizens and in our cities? According to the hyperbolic mantra of the #bancars movement, it's time to get drastic. Of course, the slogan makes a catchier hashtag than the more rational policy objective: reduce the number of vehicles people own and the kilometres they are driven each year. It's also catchier than the policy prescription: invest in alternative modes and infrastructure that would charge drivers the full social cost of driving; and restrict the number of vehicles that can enter dense urban centres through congestion pricing schemes. But part of the problem with convincing people to get out of their cars is that we rarely examine the true costs of our dependence on them: the personal costs, the financial costs, the cost to health and the cost of investment in road infrastructure - and that's before we get to the cost to the planet. Driving is still too cheap You could walk into a friendly room and quickly have the mood turn hostile by arguing the so-called "ute [...]

August 19th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Helping those who helped us in Afghanistan is the least we can do

OPINION: There’s nothing like the end of a war to make you feel old. Was it really twenty years ago when lifelong leftie Jim Anderton publicly spoke about New Zealand’s responsibilities, not to ordinary working people, but to our American allies in their war against terror? Our initial commitment in Afghanistan was made soon after 9/11, while US troops were pursuing Osama bin Laden in caves on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. He was never flushed out of those caves, although Jim Anderton was soon flushed out of the Alliance for cosying up to Uncle Sam too enthusiastically. The Taliban government fell, and the Allies found themselves in a war in Afghanistan much like the unwinnable one that the Soviet Union had engaged in during the 1970s and 80s. Afghanistan, formerly described as the Soviet Union’s Vietnam, became Vietnam 2.0 for the US and its hapless allies. When George W. Bush was replaced by Barack Obama, hopes that the Afghanistan situation would be resolved were soon dashed. Though Obama was highly critical of Bush’s actions in Iraq, the US remained in Afghanistan and the Democrat’s drone strikes for democracy continued. But it’s hard to win hearts and minds of locals when your drones are dismembering bodies of innocent civilians. Obama’s golfing buddy John Key saw no reason to withdraw the troops that Helen Clark sent. In what was essentially a spin job by our Defence Force, we were told that what we were doing in Afghanistan was far more humanitarian than just fighting. “Provincial reconstruction” sounds good but [...]

August 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Afghanistan exit may signal America’s decline in the world

Not only has Biden shredded his credibility, the US increasingly appears to be a fading power globally, says an international affairs professor. A Taliban fighter walks on the road leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)   CANBERRA: In April 1961, just months after the young John F Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States, his reputation for expertise in foreign policy took a battering as a result of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a covert action against the Cuban government that collapsed within a matter of days. The collapse in Afghanistan that has flowed from current President Joe Biden’s decision to proceed with a complete US troop withdrawal is more than likely to be seen as his own Bay of Pigs moment. But it may be something worse, akin to the Suez crisis of 1956, which not only humiliated the British government of Sir Anthony Eden, but marked the end of the United Kingdom as a global power. When historians look back at the shambolic US exit from Afghanistan, it may increasingly appear a critical marker of America’s decline in the world, far eclipsing the flight from Saigon in 1975. How did this come to pass? Afghans, turning on themselves, are already pinning the blame on now-departed President Ashraf Ghani, and Biden’s defenders are sure to join the chorus. Yet this is an oversimplification of how things unravelled. Ghani’s domineering style, poor personnel choices, and reluctance to delegate power to others all played significant [...]

August 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Time to make NZ’s temporary drug checking law permanent

Opinion - With the summer music festival season approaching (Covid-19 willing), hopes are high that the current temporary recreational drug checking law will become permanent. If and when that happens, New Zealand will take another small step down the long drug reform road from criminalisation to harm prevention. Photo: 123rf Submissions to Parliament's health select committee on the Drug and Substance Checking Bill have now closed, with a report due in October. If the stop-gap law rushed in for the 2020-21 summer is made permanent it will allow buyers of otherwise illegal drugs to have them independently checked without either the user or testing agency risking prosecution. It's an important service, given the dangers inherent in the illicit drug market and the chances of substances being cut or compromised with other toxic stimulants, as happened with some MDMA circulating last year. Making testing legal, even if what is being tested isn't, is a tacit acknowledgement that New Zealand's "war on drugs" - which began 122 years ago with the Opium Prohibition Act - needs rethinking. Despite generations of effort, the supply, demand and diversity of illegal drugs have grown, not diminished. Profit, pleasure and addiction have proved exceptionally powerful forces both internationally and domestically. And while border seizures were way down due to Covid-19 restrictions, the black market in New Zealand for illegal drugs (not counting cannabis) is still worth an estimated $NZ77 million per quarter. Success and failure New Zealand first tried a different approach in 1987. The then Labour government introduced a national needle [...]

August 16th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Opinion: The only viable, realistic path to peace for Israel, Palestinians

Opinion - Sometimes it is easier to dwell in the past than deal with the present. It is understandable that the present would challenge some people as more Arab states normalise and thaw their relations with Israel, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel now form part of the Israeli coalition government, and those same citizens continue to outperform their fellow Arabs in neighbouring states on all sorts of indicia from human rights to education to life expectancy. A Palestinian woman and a Jewish man walk past each other at the Damascus Gate of the old city of Jerusalem, 31 May 2020. Photo: AFP / Ahmad Gharabli   Yet, the claim that Israel is akin to Apartheid South Africa is absurd. Two reports cited in a recent opinion piece by national chairperson of the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, John Minto, both distinguished Israel from South Africa's reprehensible regime, despite what the article implies. It is absurd to compare Israel to apartheid South Africa when the Arab population of Israel that constitutes 20 percent of its citizenship, as well as all other minorities, vote, have equal civil rights and are protected at law from discrimination. Israel's accusers focus on the Law of Return - the assurance given to Jews around the world that they will always find a home in Israel - as an example of Israel's "apartheid". This law was implemented when the modern state of Israel was founded in 1948 when one of its most pressing needs was to absorb hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees rendered [...]

August 13th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

PM’s roadmap: Phased border reopening, faster vaccine rollout, Delta readiness critical

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has released a "roadmap" for a phased process of border reopenings that could begin during the first quarter of next year - as long as New Zealand completes its vaccination rollout by the end of this year. Relaxing border measures before all New Zealanders have had a chance to be fully vaccinated would be unfair on some, including children, Michael Plank writes. Photo: 123RF   New Zealand's elimination strategy remains at the centre of the plan, but will shift from the "collective armour" of border restrictions to the "individual armour" of vaccination. The government is ramping up vaccination and officials are developing a system of travel for fully vaccinated people, based on a risk classification of countries similar to the UK's red, amber and green lists. A limited self-isolation pilot will start in October to set up and trial new testing and vaccine checking systems at the border. The announcement follows advice from a strategic Covid-19 advisory group chaired by epidemiologist Sir David Skegg, which recommended New Zealand shouldn't relax border restrictions until the vaccine rollout is complete. This is good advice. It will put New Zealand in the best possible position to control the virus before letting it in. There is also a strong equity argument - relaxing border measures before all New Zealanders have had a chance to be fully vaccinated would be unfair on people at the back of the queue, including children. Modelling work by Te Pūnaha Matatini and similar research overseas has shown vaccination alone will not [...]

August 13th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Rising seas and melting glaciers: changes now irreversible but we have to act to slow them down

After three years of writing and two weeks of virtual negotiations to approve the final wording, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that changes are happening in Earth's climate across every continent and every ocean. Photo: AFP My contribution was as one of 15 lead authors to a chapter about the oceans, the world's icescapes and sea level change - and this is where we are now observing changes that have become irreversible over centuries, and even millennia. Overall, the world is now 1.09C warmer than it was during the period between 1850 and 1900. The assessment shows the ocean surface has warmed slightly less, by about 0.9C as a global average, than the land surface since 1850, but about two-thirds of the ocean warming has taken place during the last 50 years. We concluded that it is virtually certain the heat content of the ocean will continue to increase for the rest of the current century, and will likely continue until at least 2300, even under low-emissions scenarios. We also concluded that carbon dioxide emissions are the main driver of acidification in the open ocean and that this has been increasing faster than any time in at least 26,000 years. We can also say with high confidence that oxygen levels have dropped in many ocean regions since the mid-20th century and that marine heatwaves have doubled in frequency since 1980, also becoming longer and more intense. Past greenhouse gas emissions, since 1750, mean we are now committed [...]

August 9th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

IPCC report: What it means for New Zealand’s climate response

The climate in changing, faster than we thought - and humans have caused it. Last night, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the most comprehensive report on climate change ever - with hundreds of scientists taking part. Photo: RNZ It says human activity is "unequivocally" driving the warming of atmosphere, ocean and land. The report projects that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions. Lead author on the paper, Amanda Maycock, told Morning Reportthe study gave governments a range of scenarios on what the world would look like with action and without it. "The new scenarios that we present in the report today span a range of different possible futures, so they they range all the way from making very rapid, immediate and large-scale cuts in greenhouse gas emissions all the way up to a very pessimistic scenario where we don't make any efforts to mitigate emissions at all. "So we provide the government with a range of possible outcomes. Now in those five scenarios that we assess in each one of them, it's expected that the 1.5 degree temperature threshold will either be reached or exceeded in the next 20-year period, however, importantly, the very low emission scenario that we assess - the one where we would reach net zero emissions by the middle of this century - it reaches 1.5 degrees, it may overshoot by a very small amount, possibly about .1 of a degree Celsius, but later on in the century the temperature would come back down [...]

August 9th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The world could hit 1.5C warming in a decade. That’s terrible news for the Pacific

A new IPCC report makes clear what island nations have long warned. Their survival depends on urgent collective action Tuvalu. ‘In the western Pacific, sea levels rose faster than anywhere else in the world between 1993 and 2015, and by 2050 they will continue to rise by an additional 0.10–0.25 metres.’ Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that the world may warm by 1.5°C by the early 2030s, much earlier than previously estimated. It’s terrible news for the Pacific. With temperatures rising above 1.5°C, Pacific communities are likely to experience increasingly devastating climate change impacts. The key takeaway from the IPCC report is that the more we know, the worse it looks. The planet is now already between 0.8°C and 1.3°C warmer than in pre-industrial times – moving frighteningly close to the 1.5°C threshold. This warming has already worsened temperature extremes, such as marine heatwaves that cause coral bleaching and heatwaves on land, with dangerous consequences for human health. Temperature and other climate extremes will become more intense, frequent and appear in more locations with every fraction of a degree that the planet warms. Some of the worst impacts will be in the Pacific. Particularly concerning for the region are some of the historical sea level rise analyses and projections in this new IPCC report. In the western Pacific, sea levels rose faster than anywhere else in the world between 1993 and 2015, and by 2050 they will continue to rise by an additional 0.10–0.25 metres, irrespective [...]

August 9th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Where do we begin on housing, migration, and almost everything else?

OPINION: Politicians are always fond of talking about their long-term aspirations for the country, because by the time we get there they will almost certainly be at an overseas embassy, on a corporate board, posted to the United Nations, or sitting on a local council. The trickier question to ask is what the starting point is for all this “building back better” talk. Is the starting point for discussions on the housing crisis a general assumption that house prices should rise steadily and the investments of homeowners should be guaranteed by the State? Or is that we need an oversupply of good quality housing along with prices and rents to drop? On migration, is the starting point that we need to scare these migrants out of the country and “reset”? Or is it that we need to carry through on the promises to the people we invited to apply for residency, and understand that mass deportations are a near-impossibility in the current climate as is the possibility of sending some back to their home countries? When it comes to infrastructure should it be we want to bring everybody along on issues like water, or should it be we actually want to just get this extra infrastructure built? Our starting point with the MIQ booking system should be about how we’re going to fix it.   I would pose the same question around housing densification too, where Wellington City Council seems to be dragging its heels on a report other tier 1 councils have met with little [...]

August 7th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How far should vaccination passports go – and what rights do NZers have?

With greater numbers of people being vaccinated and countries looking to reopen borders safely, the introduction of some form of vaccine passport seems increasingly likely. A Covid-19 vaccination centre. Photo: Facebook   For New Zealand, where the elimination strategy has been largely successful but which remains vulnerable to border breaches, proof of vaccination may well be a condition of entry. Health Minister Chris Hipkins has said this would be "almost an inevitability" within the next year. Air New Zealand is one of a number of airlines already trialling the IATA travel pass initiative. Some countries are also requiring "health passes", mandatory proof of vaccination or a negative test, including for indoor events (such as sports games and concerts) and hospitality - triggering anti-restriction protests in the process. In Britain, the Royal Society has warned of the potential of vaccine passports to restrict the freedoms of some individuals, or to create a distinction between individuals based on health status. Furthermore, vaccine passports use sensitive personal information, and recent cyber attacks on health sectors in New Zealand and overseas are a reminder that data security is not always guaranteed. Vaccine passports aren't new We should remember, however, that freedom of movement across borders has been routinely regulated throughout history. Modern passports for international travel have been in use for over 100 years. Proof of vaccination is nothing new, either. Some countries have required certificates for yellow fever vaccination for a number of decades, and the World Health Organization's "yellow card" vaccination document is familiar to many international travellers. [...]

August 6th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: The Chinese yuan’s incredible rise – can’t be ignored and will happen faster

Most importantly, the digital yuan will help China to internationalise its multi-trillion-dollar domestic debt, says Zhang Jun. Chinese Yuan banknotes are seen in this illustration taken Feb 10, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic) SHANGHAI: The great powers in history have tended to have one thing in common: Size matters. While a large market does not guarantee dominance in other realms, it certainly helps, perhaps more than any other single factor. This was true of the United States, and now it applies to China. Beyond being a leading economic and trading power, China is increasingly – and inexorably – becoming a global financial power. Somehow, too many economists in the West did not see this coming. Even a decade ago, few were bullish about the growth of China’s external financial strength, with sceptics highlighting the country’s vulnerabilities. IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE A rare exception is Brown University’s Arvind Subramanian. In his 2011 book Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance, Subramanian argued that China’s dominance was not only more imminent, but would also be broader than virtually anyone expected, involving huge financial influence among the domains that China would reshape. Given his prescience, the title of the Chinese translation of his book – The Big Forecast – might have been more apt. Why did Subramanian see so clearly what most economists didn’t? His model, unlike the standard analytical framework of economics, included the variable of size. A decade later, China’s financial influence is becoming impossible to ignore. In the 20 months beginning on Apr 1, 2019, 364 [...]

August 5th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Population issues in a pandemic world

Each year on July 11, the World Population Day is observed. The United Nations noted that this was the second time that this occasion took place during a health pandemic and this posed a lot of challenges when it comes to fertility, birth control, and reproduction rights. All these have their own issues to raise and the impact of COVID-19 only aggravated the situation of the vulnerable members of our society. This was noted by the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-Philippines in their joint statement. Both agencies recognized a study stating that millions of women continue to experience restrictions in accessing family planning services due to the imposition of local community lockdowns. The impending ECQ, for example in NCR and other virus hotspots, will not only have economic consequences but will also affect the dynamics inside a household, especially those from the marginalized sector. POPCOM added that reproductive health and family planning services were feared to be severely impaired in certain urban areas, which raised the red flag on their accompanying consequences. These include the possible rise in the incidences of unplanned pregnancies particularly among adolescents, increasing maternal mortalities, and gender-based violence. Despite these challenges, however, the agency is noticing that more Pinoy couples are now using family planning. This was disclosed by Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio A. Perez III, MD, MPH, who said that “8,085,000 women and men were able to obtain modern family planning services in 2020: an increase of almost four percent [...]

August 5th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Push for global corporate tax deal can make Singapore a more compelling investment hub

With BEPS 2.0 minimising tax competition, Singapore can focus investors on its enduring economic fundamentals and retune its tax system, says EY’s Chester Wee. The Singapore city skyline as seen from Jubilee Bridge. (File photo: Jeremy Long)   SINGAPORE: In a momentous milestone for the global economy, over 130 jurisdictions, including Singapore, agreed to the key elements of a two-pillar solution to address today’s international corporate tax challenges in July. It was a breakthrough the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates can generate up to US$240 billionannually in foregone government revenues arising from tax avoidance when fully implemented. Years in the making, such efforts under the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit-Sharing Project (BEPS 2.0) to tackle the tax challenges of the digitalisation of the economy are coming to fruition. But it’s too early to work out the exact impact on Singapore, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in early July. About 1,800 multinational enterprises (MNE)s in Singapore meet the global turnover criteria of €750 million (US$887 million) for the proposed global minimum tax rules under Pillar Two, with a majority with group effective tax rates below 15 per cent. With Pillar One, Singapore profits derived from foreign MNEs with global turnover exceeding €20 billion (US$24 billion) and profit margin above 10 per cent may be reallocated to larger jurisdictions where their customers reside, resulting in revenue loss for the country. With Pillar Two, the efficacy of Singapore’s tax incentives in attracting investments may be limited by the global minimum 15 per cent corporate tax proposal. [...]

August 3rd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Covid 19 coronavirus US: America’s vaccine dilemma – dealing with anti-vaxxers

Covid patient Scott Roe. Photo / CBS News OPINION: Scott Roe sat upright and alert in his hospital bed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, having mostly recovered from the life-threatening pneumonia caused by his Covid-19 infection. "Am I going to get a vaccine? No," he told CBS reporter David Begnaud. Nor did he regret avoiding the coronavirus vaccines before his hospitalisation. If he could go back in time, Roe said, he would make the same choice. "I'd have gone through this," he said, referring to the ordeal of his illness. "Don't shove it down my throat. That's what local, state, federal administrations are trying to do, is shove it down your throat. "That's their agenda. Their agenda is to get you vaccinated." That is indeed the government's agenda here in the United States, where the Covid vaccines are free and plentiful. Because if everyone gets vaccinated, fewer people will die. "We are either going to get vaccinated and end the pandemic, or we're going to accept death," said Dr Catherine O'Neal, chief medical officer of the hospital in which Roe was sitting. For millions of Americans, that isn't a good enough reason. About half the US adult population is fully vaccinated, and 66 per cent of people have received at least one dose. But the country's initially rapid vaccine rollout has hit a wall of hesitancy and, in some cases, outright hostility. With a third of Americans still vulnerable to Covid, case numbers and hospitalisations are rising again, this time driven by the more infectious Delta variant. [...]

July 24th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Markets fear inflation much more than the delta variant

If central banks don't lance the QE boil now they probably never will, risking soaring inflation that takes the world back to the 1970s Countries making up three quarters of global economic output have reached critical vaccination thresholds. Many others have largely covered the most vulnerable cohorts. The world economy is not going back into a collective lockdown whatever the delta variant may bring. Just as the vaccines have broken the link between cases and death, societies have broken the link between the virus and economic loss. Each wave has a diminishing impact. Fiscal and monetary largesse in the advanced states overwhelm the residual pockets of damage in the OECD bloc. Pent-up savings and a capex restocking cycle should pick up the baton as state support fades (the US fiscal impulse turns negative this quarter). The UK is the world’s laboratory for opening up. Unfortunately it has done so with breathtaking incompetence and given the process a bad name. The error is not the decision to lift curbs. It is a legitimate strategy to open up fully during the peak of summer when 70pc of adults have been fully vaccinated. In a sense it is the original (premature) Vallance strategy of letting the virus run in a controlled fashion to achieve herd immunity, but this time in plausible circumstances. The death rate has fallen to levels that resemble winter flu. But if you are going to do it, do it with conviction. Had the Government halted all isolation requirements for the vaccinated, the world would not [...]

July 24th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Southeast Asia is buckling under a second year of COVID-19

COVID-19 is a sustained test of state capacity, and Southeast Asian countries are faring poorly, says a doctor.   FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective mask queues to refill oxygen tanks as Indonesia experiences an oxygen supply shortage amid a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, Jakarta, Indonesia, July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan   KUALA LUMPUR: The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been kind to Southeast Asian countries. The region is experiencing accelerated national-level tragedies played out in accelerated speed. Few have any semblance of control. Brunei has had no community transmission since May 2020. Singapore has done comparatively more tests (2.2 tests per capita to Indonesia’s mere 0.04 per capita). And Vietnam has the region’s lowest mortality rate (0.71 per million – impressive given its population of 96 million). Thailand had only 6,884 cases in 2020 but has seen 220,000 so far this year. Malaysia recorded 113,000 cases in 2020 but has had 592,000 cases since the beginning of the year – a number that is likely higher due to under-testing. Runaway infections in Indonesia have caused approximately 33,000 deaths over the first half of 2021. This pandemic is a sustained test of state capacity, with many potential political or policy pitfalls. But there are many explanations for the diverging fates within Southeast Asia. FACTORS FOR SUCCESSFUL COVID-19 MANAGEMENT Countries that perform more tests (Singapore and Vietnam) appear to do better than those that do not (Indonesia or the Philippines). Countries with strong central governments (Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam) also appear [...]

July 24th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Ryan Bridge: If a police officer says they need a weapon to do their job, who am I to stand in their way?

OPINION: We should all be shocked at how violent criminals are becoming in this country. You've seen the video of the police officer being beaten in the street; bashed in the head as others stand around and film it. Last week, a man pulled a woman from her car and allegedly held a gun to her head before fleeing and doing the same thing again - by which time police were able to shoot him. Just think about that; a man so crazed, with so little respect for our laws he holds a gun to a stranger's head in broad daylight. Here - in New Zealand. Then there was the cop shot in Hamilton last weekend during a routine traffic stop. He pulls over a car, a man gets out, walks towards the cop and allegedly shoots him. There's no doubt criminals are feeling emboldened; they're more agitated with police, they're more increasingly likely to be violent towards them. The question: what do we do about it? Give the cops guns? Close to 70 percent of officers want to be routinely armed, according to a Police Association survey. But the top brass won't do it because the public doesn't feel comfortable. Should our police carry guns at all times? Yes.  74% No.   26% Voting is closed I don't feel comfortable with cops being armed - but I'm not the one out there on the streets every night putting my life on the line. What luxury and privilege we have - all of us - to be [...]

July 22nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Iran- Uprising in Ahvaz, Susangerd, Shush, and other cities of Khuzestan in protest to water shortage enters fourth day!

On Thursday evening July 16, people living in different cities and regions of Khuzestan Province (southwest Iran), including Ahvaz, Khorramshahr, Bostan, Hamidiyeh, Shadegan, Susangerd, and Mahshahr, took to the streets to protest the lack of water. In some cities, such as Khorramshahr and Susangerd, the State Security Force (SSF) opened fire to prevent protests from spreading. People in the Bostan town of Dasht-e Azadegan, west of Ahvaz, chanted, "We will not accept humiliation," protesting the lack of water. The uprisings in different cities of Khuzestan Province that started on Thursday night, also continued on Friday night. The protesters in Ahvaz and surrounding towns closed transit highways for hours. The suppressive forces opened fire on the protesters in many areas and fire teargas to disperse them. During Friday night’s protests, the IRGC shot to death one of the protesters, and wounded several others. The uprising continued for the third consecutive night. The regime's repressive forces opened fire, killing at least three young men, and wounding many more. On July 17 and 18, Mostafa Na’imavi, (26), Qassem Khozeiri (17) and Ali Mazraeh were killed in Shadegan (Fallahiyeh), Kut Abdullah, and Ahvaz's Zovieyeh region. Several others were wounded. Despite the dispatch of the anti-riot State Security Force (SSF) units, the uprising of the people of Khuzestan in protest to the lack of water continued on Sunday night, July 18, for the fourth consecutive night. On Sunday night, July 18, for the fourth consecutive night, In Susangerd, youths resisted the heavily armed SSF while chanting, "We [...]

July 20th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The Challenge of the Philippines’ President

  Conducted from June 7 to 16 this year, the Pulse Asia Research Inc. survey showed that 28% of Filipino adults said Davao city mayor Sarah was their first choice for president, while Manila city mayor Moreno followed with 14% preference. Sarah has the biggest chance to win 2022 presidential election, she will face plenty of challenges, among them, the first is the “corruption-causes-poverty”. Corruption erodes trust in government, also weakens the moral bonds of civil society on which democratic practices and processes rest. Her father, president Duterte tried to control the corruption since he was in power in 2016, but it seems that the Philippines has a long way to go. Corruption is a system cancer like problem, and has become a part of culture in the country. Like her father Duterte, Sarah also hates corruption, can she finally control it? Let's expect.

July 20th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: The coming resignation tsunami – why many may leave their jobs in a pandemic economy

COVID-19 has brought about changes in working styles and given employees food for thought in what they want in a job, says NUS’ Wu Pei Chuan. Young woman submit resume to employer to review job application. (Photo: iStock) SINGAPORE: Countries might have worried about rising unemployment in the wake of a pandemic bringing lockdowns and curbs on economic activity. But there’s a new and very different problem on the horizon: A potential “resignation tsunami”. Only last year, many workers around the world worried about losing their jobs. Perhaps because of that, many are proactively searching for a back-up plan. A survey conducted by the Achievers Workforce Institute in the US and Canada indicated that more than half intended to look for a new job in 2021. Here in Singapore, a Michael Page Talent Trends report similarly found that 56 per cent of employed respondents are expecting to find a new job in 2021. This figure is higher than the 31 per cent of employees in Singapore intending to find a new job between April and October 2020, based on a Randstad survey. This is despite the economy seeing a 2 per cent contraction in the second quarter as restrictions were tightened. WORK-LIFE BALANCE Why are people thinking of ditching their current jobs? Before the pandemic, the top factors typically driving employees away were compensation and benefits, job security and growth opportunities, according to a 2017 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management. Job satisfaction then was already low at less than 40 per cent. These [...]

July 18th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Answering emails outside of work hours frequently can affect psychological health more than you realise

Amending national laws to enforce the “right to disconnect” will protect workers from their managers outside of work hours but it won’t solve a wider organisational cultural issue, says psychologist Dr Amy Zadow. (Photo: Unsplash/rawpixel)       ADELAIDE: What could be so bad about answering a few emails in the evening?  Perhaps something urgent pops up, we are tidying up an issue from the day, or trying to get ahead for tomorrow. Always being online and available is one of the ways we demonstrate our work ethic and professionalism. But the creep of digital communications into our entire lives is not as harmless as we think. Our new research shows how prevalent out-of-hours communication is in the Australian university sector. And how damaging it is to our mental and physical health. Colleagues and I are studying how digital communication impacts work stress, work-life balance, health and sleep in the university sector. We surveyed more than 2,200 academic and professional employees across 40 universities from June to November 2020. We specifically looked at universities given the advancing technological changes in the sector and importance of universities to our economic, social and cultural prosperity. HIGHER LEVELS OF STRESS We found high levels of stress along with a significant amount of out-of-hours communication. This includes: - 21 per cent of respondents had supervisors who expected them to respond to work-related texts, calls and emails after work - 55 per cent sent digital communication about work in the evenings to colleagues - 30 per cent sent work-related digital communication [...]

July 13th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New Zealand is done thinking about Covid-19, finds government study

  We’re happy following the rules, but we don’t want to follow them. We like the border being closed, but we expect to travel. A government study on Covid-19 attitudes finds the country is over it, reports Justin Giovannetti from parliament. Yeah, nah. That’s pretty much the feeling New Zealanders have towards Covid-19, a new study has found, with about half the country responding to the global pandemic with a shrug and question about when the rugby is supposed to start. Part of the attitude is self-explanatory. The country has run one of the world’s most effective responses to Covid-19, beaten back a number of flare-ups and lived a restriction-free life for most of the pandemic. Despite that, there’s a sense of “Covid-19 fatigue” in New Zealand, according to a study of the country’s attitudes released yesterday by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The research underlines some of Jacinda Ardern’s choices around the virus and shows widespread public support for her decision-making. “New Zealanders have adapted to living in a restricted bubble for the most part and are feeling content,” concludes part of the research, which was collected in March and May from over 1,800 people. Fortress New Zealand has significant public backing. Asked what they thought of the worst pandemic in a century, 44% of the country didn’t really have an opinion on Covid-19. Even the report’s writers seems a bit amused by the country’s “quite passive” attitude. Any why’s that? Because we’re all pretty sure the fair ship New Zealand is steaming [...]

July 12th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Explainer: What New Zealand should win from its trade agreement with post-Brexit UK

Bruised by its divorce from the EU, the UK is busy getting out more, making new friends and renewing old acquaintances. Serenaded with promises of cheaper cars, whiskey and marmite, Australia was first to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the UK - but New Zealand is not far behind. The National Party opposition was quick to criticise the Labour Government for being too slow with a UK deal, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded pointedly by saying New Zealand wanted "quality over speed". The significance of the Australian deal has also been downplayed, with the credit rating agency Moody's saying, "the economic impact of the trade deal is negligible". Others have argued the deal is more about demonstrating post-Brexit sovereignty than economic gain. Yet there's no denying the UK needs to diversify its markets to offset the negative economic impacts of Brexit. New Zealand, too, is keen to grow trade after the pandemic disruptions and diversify its trade markets beyond China. With a deal expected this August, the big questions are: what's really in it for New Zealand, and what considerations will have guided negotiations? Much has changed since the UK joined the old European Common Market and cut the colonial apron strings. New Zealand is a different country now and can cut a deal on its own terms. Priority 1: Product Where once the UK was New Zealand's most important trading partner in the 19th century, today it ranks sixth. Well behind China, Australia and (ironically) the EU, trade with the UK was [...]

July 8th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Opinion: Cultural sensitivity or censorship? Lecturers are finding it difficult to talk about China in class

OPINION: Human Rights Watch released a report last week on the Chinese government’s surveillance of Chinese mainland and Hong Kong students in Australian universities. The report found students and academics critical of China’s Communist Party are being harassed and intimidated by supporters of Beijing. Interviews with 24 pro-democracy students from mainland China and Hong Kong, and 22 academics at Australian universities, showed these students and academics had been self-censoring “to avoid threats, harassment, and surveillance”. In our small closed-door discussion at the University of Sydney in June, arts and social sciences lecturers identified similar experiences. Where ideological issues such as Hong Kong and Taiwan are concerned, lecturers told of how a vocal minority of international Chinese students are attempting to police teaching materials and class discussions. These students are pushing their classmates into self-imposed silence. Lecturers are being challenged Several lecturers reported they had been challenged by some students about teaching certain content and reading materials around China. One lecturer talked of a discussion in an introductory liberal arts class. He had shown a breakdown of where the university’s students came from as part of a discussion about diversity. Later, the lecturer received an email from an international Chinese student. The student asserted Taiwan and Hong Kong were not individual state entities (as indicated on the demographic breakdown) but were part of China, and that the information needed to be corrected. Another lecturer in a business studies course was challenged in class by an international student after mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic originated from the Chinese city [...]

July 8th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

NZ ‘sleep-walked’ into conflict between China and Western allies – expert

New Zealand "sleep-walked" into a position where it is torn between its economic dependence on China and its traditional allies, a foreign policy expert says. Photo: RNZ/ Vinay Ranchhod   University of Waikato's Dr Reuben Steff said it was clear 10 to 15 years ago that if New Zealand continued to increase exports to China, it would soon end up having to tip-toe between the emerging global super power on the one hand and the US, UK, Australia and Canada on the other. "It was pretty clear that as China's power rose it would eventually start butting heads pretty heavily with the United States and yet we have still sleep-walked into this position," Dr Steff said. His comments come as an RNZ data analysis shows China now accounts for one third of New Zealand's merchandise export earnings, with more than $11 billion coming from food and beverage exports. In 2020, China was our top buyer of dairy produce, sheep meat, seafood, kiwifruit, honey, water and second biggest buyer of beef. A Flourish data visualization New Zealand's relationship with China has come under international scrutiny since it declined to join its Five Eyes intelligence alliance partners - the US, UK, Australia and Canada - in jointly condemning China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic minority group understood to be suffering human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Nor did New Zealand join the other Five Eyes countries in expressing concern over China's moves in the troubled regions of Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea. Foreign Minister Nanaia [...]

July 7th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What should New Zealand be doing to fight ransomware cyber-attacks?

As the impact of another ransomware attack is felt in New Zealand, Hadeel Salman explains how hackers are upping their game – and explores what could be done to dissuade them.  IT SECURITY SCIENTISTS BEING TRAINED IN RANSOMWARE AT THE ATHENE CYBER SECURITY CENTRE IN GERMANY (PHOTO: FRANK RUMPENHORST/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES)     When we think about hostage situations, holding someone captive against their will is usually what comes to mind. The hostage will be released only once the perpetrators’ demands are met. Ransomware cyber-attacks work the same way – a criminal organisation holds your data hostage until you pay to gain access to your files. Ransom hackers employ similar tactics, like ransom notes and countdown clocks, to coerce you into making payments out of fear. That is exactly what happened when Waikato DHB was hit by a ransomware attack last month. The attackers took control of the district health board’s files and network systems, demanding payment for their release. The attack impacted health services, stalled cancer treatments and halted elective surgeries. As these attacks become more frequent, it’s worth asking who is responsible, what motivates them, and what can be done about it? Who is targeted? Typically, ransomware hackers used to target individuals and demand small payments of roughly $100 to $200. In recent years, however, hackers have realised it is much more lucrative to hold businesses and public services hostage. Indeed, many companies, while reluctant, often pay millions of dollars to regain access to their systems. In the United States, Colonial Pipeline paid [...]

July 7th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Megan Woods: Yes, there is hope for young NZ generations on housing

GETTY IMAGES   In his When the Facts Change podcast and accompanying column last week, Bernard Hickey argued that hope was lost for most young New Zealanders who wished to buy a home and achieve the financial security that comes with it. We invited the housing minister, Megan Woods, to respond. Deeply embedded in the DNA of Labour politicians and policies is Norman Kirk’s articulation of the intertwining of homes and hope with the aspirations of New Zealanders. Bernard Hickey’s recent Spinoff column titled How hope for a generation was lost highlights the upward trajectory of house prices over the last two decades and paints a despairing picture for those on the outside of the housing market. It is why tackling the housing crisis we inherited when we came into government must remain a major focus for us. It is why we’re building upon the work we started in our first term to turn on every regulatory tap we can, and investing more funding than there has been since the 1970s, to get more housing built – and in particular more affordable housing for renters and first home buyers. We are under no illusions. Our current housing situation is decades in the making. It has its roots deeply planted in a belief that unfettered markets will deliver. We believe there is market failure and therefore government must intervene. We know that there is no simple and quick fix. Instead what is required is a commitment to an integrated programme of work that looks to both demand and [...]

July 6th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Charting New Zealand’s vaccine rollout

How many people have been vaccinated in New Zealand? How does that stack up with the rest of the world? Newsroom presents a weekly dashboard of everything you need to know about our country's vaccine rollout. In the past week, New Zealand administered an additional 130,244 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine - the highest level of any week so far. This is currently the only Covid-19 vaccine authorised for use here. Alongside 67,215 more people getting their first dose of the vaccine, an additional 63,029 New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated. That brings the total number of people with at least partial protection to 705,062 and the total number of fully vaccinated people to just under 445,000. The Pfizer vaccine is proven to provide a high level of immunity after just one dose and is up to 97 percent effective against symptomatic Covid-19 from two weeks after the second shot is administered. Ultimately, the Government hopes to vaccinate as many as four million New Zealanders. Last week, Medsafe approved the vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15. However, Cabinet still has to formally decide whether to use the vaccine in this group before they become eligible (with parental permission). So far, just over 16,000 doses have been administered to teenagers (all aged 16 and up) in New Zealand. Until recently, people aged 50 to 59 had received more vaccines than any other age group, but those in their 60s are now the leading category as Group 3 (which includes over 65s) vaccinations scale up, with those in their 70s [...]

July 1st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Geoffrey Miller: NZ’s chance to reset relationship with Israel

Opinion - Benjamin Netanyahu's ousting from power and the formation of a new coalition government in Jerusalem may be a chance for New Zealand to make a fresh start in its relationship with Israel. Former Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: AFP   The new Israeli government, in which the right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett will initially serve as prime minister, is a complicated one. The coalition deal involves eight parties that span the political spectrum and which have little in common ideologically. One coalition partner, the independent Arab party Ra'am, supports the creation of a Palestinian state. But two other right-wing parties - Yamina and New Hope - are strong supporters of Israel's policy of building settlements in the West Bank. The driving force behind the coalition, aside from the motivation to break a stalemate and avoid Israel holding its fifth election since 2019, was largely the opportunity to oust the polarising Benjamin Netanyahu - who had held office as prime minister since 2009. New Zealand's relations with Israel during Netanyahu's time in power were strained. They reached their lowest point in 2016, when Israel severed working ties with New Zealand for six months, after New Zealand co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2234 that condemned Israel's policy of settlement-building in the West Bank. At the time, Netanyahu was reportedly furious at New Zealand's involvement, telling then foreign minister Murray McCully that co-sponsoring the resolution would be tantamount to a "declaration of war". In diplomatic terms, Netanyahu's punishment of New Zealand was at the more severe end. [...]

June 27th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Workers appreciate employers extending mental health days off after a crazy pandemic year

Does your organisation have the necessary support in place if you are feeling burnt out or need time out from work? Mayank Parekh explains what needs to change in the new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a need for more mental health support. (Photo: Grace Yeoh)     SINGAPORE: You may have read about Naomi Osaka bowing out of the French Open saying she had to prioritise her mental health over her commercial obligations and professional advancement. This was a point reiterated by President Halimah who in a Facebook post said people have to walk away from toxic environments despite the stigma. Because most adults spend the bulk of their time working, the workplace is naturally one environment facing fresh challenges in a new normal. In a 2020 survey by EngageRocket, one in six workers said they felt stressed. In particular, 30 per cent of employees working in the education sector and 22 per cent from consumer industries indicated their stress levels were unacceptable. The 2021 survey results are expected at the end of June and it will come as no surprise if more employees feel this way. So what can employers do when they find themselves with requests from employees for time out? How can employers tell apart workers feeling isolated and exhausted trying to cope with work and family from those genuinely struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression? They are two distinct conditions although both could manifest with similar symptoms such as the lack of energy or cynicism towards work and colleagues. [...]

June 23rd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How pandemic changed our spending behaviors

ANYONE who has attended a webinar, or has hosted a party over zoom, or has ordered groceries or medicines to be delivered at home; or has watched a concert via live streaming for the first time will agree that the covid-19 crisis has profoundly changed our spending behaviors overnight. The lockdowns, quarantines, and health protocols forced us to change and adjust the way we are spending, what we are spending on and what we give value to. Allow me to share some of these changes which I have personally experienced and observed since the start of the pandemic. Guess what, they’re not bad at all. 1. Flight to the online platform With our movements restricted, social distancing, and work from home arrangements, we have no recourse but to maximize the accessibility that digital technology has to offer. Suddenly, we saw a surge in online shops and selling. Almost everything is now being sold and offered online, from food, clothing, medicines, plants, animals to seminars, podcasts, and consultations. In just one click, you can have them delivered right to your doorstep. Online shops like Shopee and Lazada are having a field day during this pandemic. Likewise, both government and private companies have also migrated most of their products and services into the digital space. While this shift to online selling affects almost everyone across the different generations, it is mainly driven by the Gen Ys and Zs. They lead online purchases specifically on food delivery, at-home entertainment, and fashions. Other generations still show a higher preference for face-to-face transactions. But analysts are saying that with more people experiencing the convenience [...]

June 22nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The problem isn’t remote working – it’s clinging to office-based practices

Do we need to go to offices? Work 9 to 5? At this unique moment in history, employers can rethink everything Commuters on London Bridge. Photograph: Laurie Noble/Getty Images here have been few moments in the history of work as pivotal as the one we find ourselves in now. It took a pandemic to normalise remote working, and, despite the fears of many CEOs, most organisations saw no demonstrable loss of productivity. Now, the global workforce is demanding its right to retain the autonomy it gained through increased flexibility as societies open up again. Pre-pandemic, it was not uncommon for an employer to ask staff to justify their need to work from home. Post-pandemic, employees may ask employers to justify the need to come into the office. Yet many organisations are still resisting this more flexible future. They argue that employees’ wellbeing is compromised by remote working, and that unless they are brought back into the office, many more will suffer from “Zoom fatigue”. But remote work itself is not the problem. The problem is that, though most office workers are currently working from home, the way we work is still inherently office-centric. For the past nine months, my team and I have been researching how maintaining this way of working in a remote environment is actually what is causing significant damage to employees. It’s never a good idea to force a square peg into a round hole. In today’s context, office-centric work is a square peg and the remote environment is a round hole. Pretty [...]

June 21st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Kiwi wars: the golden fruit fuelling a feud between New Zealand and China

One firm’s attempt to regain control of illegal cultivation shows Wellington’s lack of leverage over its largest trade partner Zespri’s golden kiwifruit, developed in New Zealand, have illustrated the difficulty of enforcing intellectual property rights in China. Photograph: Michael Williams/Alamy It is the story of a global superpower, a smuggling operation, pestilence and a small hairy fruit. Ubiquitous on supermarket shelves and in lunchboxes, the humble kiwi is New Zealand’s most valuable horticultural export. Recent battles for control of the fruit, however, have shone a light on tensions in New Zealand’s relationship with China. In the mid 2010s, a kiwi grower took the lucrative secret of a New Zealandgolden strain and smuggled it to China. Thousands of hectares of illicit orchards have since sprung up, and New Zealand has spent years scrambling to protect its intellectual property. Now the stark choices facing the country’s growers also reveal wider challenges for the country’s relationship with its largest trading partner. The holy grail of kiwis Kiwis are big business for New Zealand. Zespri, the country’s giant kiwi cooperative had operating revenues of NZ$3.9bn (£1.9bn) last year. Perhaps the most valuable of all is the Sungold, a new variety of golden kiwi that helped save the local industry from catastrophe. By 2010, the country’s kiwi orchards had been destroyed by a new disease called PSA. The vines oozed red fluid, flowers rotted and the fruit collapsed. It was a horticultural and economic nightmare that cost around NZ$900m, and the newly-popular golden varieties were among the worst hit.   New [...]

June 19th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Vaccine nationalism is killing us. We need an internationalist approach

We must develop a common plan to produce and distribute vaccines for all. That’s the only way to end this pandemic Relatives of patients infected with Covid-19 wait to get oxygen tanks refilled at a refilling centre in Vinto, Bolivia. Photograph: Fernando Cartagena/AFP/Getty Images We have the power to end this pandemic. We have the technology, materials and productive capacity to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 this year. We can save millions of lives, protect billions of livelihoods and reclaim trillions of dollars worth of economic activity along the way. But instead, our countries are now moving into the pandemic’s deadliest phase. Mutant strains are spreading into regions where the vaccines are not only scarce; they have barely arrived. At present rates of vaccination, the pandemic will continue to rage until at least 2024. This is not a coincidence. The system of pharmaceutical patents at the World Trade Organization was designed to prioritize corporate profit over human life. Even in the midst of a deadly pandemic, a coalition of pharmaceutical companies and global north governments refuses to re-order these priorities – blocking patent waivers, refusing to share vaccine technologies and underfunding multilateral responses.That is why government ministers and health officials from around the world are convening the Summit for Vaccine Internationalism. Hosted by the Progressive International, the Summit’s aim is simple: to develop a common plan to produce and distribute vaccines for all – with concrete commitments to pool technology, invoke patent waivers and invest in rapid production. The G7 has proven unwilling and incapable of [...]

June 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Covid-19 lab-leak hypothesis plausible as accidents happen – ‘I should know’

Opinion - At the conclusion of the G7 summit yesterday, leaders called for a fresh and transparent investigation to determine how the Covid-19 pandemic began. It is important to investigate the lab-leak hypothesis us states can tighten safety procedures to prevent future leaks. Photo: 123rf   I welcome the renewed interest in the potential "lab-leak" origins of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. It wouldn't be the first time an infectious pathogen was accidentally released from a research laboratory. I know from personal experience. Back in 1994, on my first day of a fellowship at Stanford University, I picked up a damp courier parcel at reception and took it back to the lab. My professor put on latex gloves immediately. The parcel contained a vial with an HIV-infected lymph node. The dry ice used to pack the sample had evaporated, soaking the cardboard. There I was, someone who had not worked with HIV before, with hands damp from handling a box containing live virus. I didn't get infected. But the experience left me acutely aware of how easily accidents happen. A 2018 review found 27 cases of laboratory-acquired infections between 1982 and 2016 in the Asia-Pacific region alone. The list of pathogens included everything from the virus that causes dengue fever to the Sars coronavirus. The American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) maintains a searchable database of reported laboratory-acquired infections. It documents "leakage from the plastic bag in the negative-pressure transport chamber" and exposure to "droplets when cleaning a spill", among many other examples. From a scientific [...]

June 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Reopening schools should be an urgent priority, as online learning is no substitute

While the relatively low risks of children being in school are easily managed, the consequences of keeping them out of their classrooms are grave and far-reaching, say Takeshi Kasai and Karin Hulshof.   (Photo: Unsplash/Annie Spratt)   Evidence since the start of the pandemic shows that COVID-19 does not pose a high risk to children, and that schools are not drivers of transmission within the surrounding community. We have also amassed a large body of knowledge about how to reduce the risks to children, teachers and their families. Using this knowledge, we all need to urgently work toward reopening schools safely to protect our children’s future. IMPACT OF PROLONGED SCHOOL CLOSURES Prolonged school closures have a significant impact not just on children’s skills attainment and earning prospects, but also on their physical and mental health. While online education can guarantee some continuity of learning for some children, these services are no substitute for in-person attendance. Moreover, access to online learning remains woefully uneven, with disadvantaged children – including those with disabilities, those affected by migration and excluded minorities – bearing the brunt of the shortcomings of digital education. The evidence shows increases in anxiety, depression and self-harm among school-aged children since the start of the pandemic. Children who are not in the classroom also experience increased loneliness, difficulty concentrating, and high levels of learning anxiety. These problems will only grow worse the longer schools remain closed. A child exploring learning modules on a tablet. (File photo) School closures have also led to reduced physical activity, poor [...]

June 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why Duterte is correct in questioning VFA

‘The Filipinos First Bath’ (US President) McKinley: 'Oh, you dirty boy!' (Judge 06-10-1899). MacArthur, Duterte ringing Balangiga Bells (after 117 years), Joseph Estrada, Apolinario Mabini and Jovito Salonga.   Philippine Independence Day version 4. We are still fighting for it and paying for it again. The virus of foreign domination is mutating, and we are still hoping for herd immunity instead of taking our vaccines. What is the nature of foreign domination, multiple military facilities of the United States inside our own bases? How does the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) affect this? The VFA is up for renewal. Among other things, it exempts US personnel from visa and criminal and other jurisdictions of Philippine law and allows unrestricted movement of US vessels and aircraft in the Philippines - very dangerous. This is the very reason why China considers its presence in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) a line of defense against the US. It is not because it wants to invade the Philippines or for the economic value, but because the US has continually shown itself as an aggressor in applying sanctions, invasions, assassinations to any nonaligned nation vis-a-vis its world view, even if that country is not a threat militarily to the US. This VFA is what will definitely put us in the crosshairs of a struggle between superpowers. It is why President Rodrigo Duterte is right about keeping an independent foreign policy, the most fundamental warning made by generations of arguably the most brilliant men in Philippine history -Apolinario Mabini, Claro M [...]

June 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The conflict in the Middle East is sustained by the silencing of Palestinians

Throughout history, our story has been narrated by others who treat our rights as less deserving of recognition Beit Hanoun, Gaza, 26 May 2021: ‘What else but anti-Palestinian racism explains western inaction in the face of the human rights abuses meted out daily to Palestinians?’ Photograph: Mahmoud Issa/Sopa/Rex/Shutterstock   The silencing of the Palestinian story is nothing new. In 1950s Britain, a few years after Israel was established, even the name Palestine went out of use. When asked as a child where I came from, people would think I’d said Pakistan. I remember how frustrating it was that no one wanted to hear our story, as if we had invented it. “It’s the land of the Jews,” I was repeatedly told. “The Arabs are only squatters on it.” Israel’s stunning victory in the 1967 war compounded these attitudes, and the Zionist narrative of Israel’s moral right to exist in the Jewish people’s “ancestral land” became supreme. Constantly made to understand we were second-class human beings with no valid right to “someone else’s country” was demoralising and intimidating. It took me years to understand these distortions of history as expressions of a deep, unspoken anti-Palestinian racism. Its underlying premise is that where Palestine is concerned, the rights of Palestinians are always inferior to those of Jewish people. Such racist views long predated the creation of Israel and were based on a denial of Palestinian existence in the country. As soon as the Zionists chose Palestine to be the Jewish state, at the end of the 19th century, [...]

June 14th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

G7 reaffirmed goals but failed to provide funds needed to reach them, experts say

Climate finance for developing nations was supposed to reach $100bn a year by 2020, but has fallen far short From L to R, front: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, US president Joe Biden, UK PM Boris Johnson, French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel. From L to R, rear: European Council president Charles Michel, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga, Italian PM Mario Draghi and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock The G7 summit ended with rich nations reaffirming their goal to limit global heating to 1.5C, and agreeing to protect and restore 30% of the natural world by the end of this decade, but failing to provide the funds experts say will be needed to reach such goals. Boris Johnson badly needed a successful G7 deal on climate finance to pave the way for vital UN climate talks, called Cop26, to be held in Glasgow this November. Climate finance is provided by rich countries to developing nations, to help them cut greenhouse gas emissions and cope with the impacts of climate breakdown, and was supposed to reach $100bn a year by 2020, but has fallen far short. Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace, said: “The G7 have failed to set us up for a successful Cop26, as trust is sorely lacking between rich and developing countries.” Without stronger commitments on climate finance, Johnson will face an uphill struggle in getting support for any Cop26 deal from the developing world, who make up the majority of countries at the UN climate talks and who will [...]

June 14th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Will China save the U.S. from inflation fears?

CARTOONARTS INTERNATIONAL The fiscal expansion in the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing seen outside of wartime. Further large-scale public spending will be required to rebuild needed infrastructure, tackle climate change and create jobs. But some prominent economists are warning that government spending on such an extraordinary scale could fuel accelerating price growth and cause inflation expectations to become unanchored. For more than three decades, expectations of moderate price growth in the U.S. and other advanced economies have been sustained — not least by China’s integration into the global economy. Might China come to the rescue as the Biden administration seeks to open the fiscal floodgates? There are certainly reasons to be wary of price risks. At the core of Biden’s initiative are infrastructure investments, which require materials such as steel and copper. And, in 2021, commodity prices have soared, triggered by supply-side bottlenecks and the global economic recovery. These commodity price rises have stoked fear of inflation. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, for example, warned last month that the U.S. might be headed toward an inflationary episode on par with the years after World War II, when the release of pent-up demand fueled a 20% surge in prices. Enter China. Late last month, the country’s government announced that it would strengthen targeted efforts to bring down the prices of iron ore, copper, steel and other major commodities that had pushed China’s consumer prices to a 12-year high. The government’s initiative to halt the rise in commodity prices is bound [...]

June 12th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Confusion and falsehoods: How we can fix the COVID trust gap and get people vaccinated

On COVID vaccines, not now doesn't mean never. Skip the patronizing and paternalistic lectures. Fight hesitance with facts, empathy and listening The United States was No. 3 in the world early last month in getting at least one dose of  COVID vaccine into adult arms. Even though nearly two-thirds of American adults have now received a dose, as of this week we had slipped to No. 8. How can America surge again to the top? One key is addressing the nearly 1 in 3 people who are hesitant or unsure about getting vaccinated. We all have friends and family members who have expressed concerns. In doing the research for this article, the most common response we heard from colleagues was, “You’re wasting your time. Anti-vaxxers aren’t going to get vaccinated regardless of what you say." It’s true that some are set in their ways. But most of the unvaccinated are still open to the idea. Indeed, polls show steady declines in the numbers of people who said they won’t consider getting vaccinated. Being hesitant doesn't mean never. Many people have been hesitant but decided to get the vaccine. It’s time for all of us to redouble our efforts to reach the unvaccinated. Muddled facts, outright falsehoods Let’s be honest here, medical authorities and the news media haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory when it comes to providing accurate and well-calibrated information about the pandemic. We were told COVID-19 isn’t airborne. False. We were told masks don’t help. False. We were told asymptomatic people don’t transmit the virus. False. We were told it’s unsafe to go outside to parks and beaches. False. [...]

June 10th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Joe Biden’s mission at the G7 summit: to recruit allies for the next cold war

The US risks being superseded by China as the prime global power within decades. For Washington, the idea is appalling Joe Biden’s manners should not be mistaken for mildness of purpose; the modest style is deployed in service of a tough message.’ Biden with first lady, Jill Biden, at Dover air force base, Delaware. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP Joe Biden crosses the Atlantic this week on a tide of goodwill. After four years of Donald Trump, European leaders are grateful for the mere fact of a US president who believes in democracy and understands diplomacy. Trump had no concept of historical alliance, strategic partnership or mutual interest. He saw multilateral institutions as conspiracies against US power, which he could not distinguish from his own ego. He heard European talk of a rules-based international order as the contemptible bleating of weakling nations. Biden’s stated purpose is bolstering that order. In an article published in the Washington Post on the eve of his trip, the president talks about “renewed” and “unwavering” commitment to a transatlantic relationship based on “shared democratic values”. The itinerary starts in Cornwall with a gathering of G7 leaders. Then comes Brussels for a Nato summit, plus meetings with presidents of the European Council and Commission. Biden intends to orchestrate a surge of western solidarity as mood music ahead of a final stop in Geneva, where he sits down with Vladimir Putin. On that front, a stable chilling of relations will count as progress after the downright weirdness of Trump’s willing bamboozlement by the Kremlin strongman. [...]

June 9th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Opinion: Trends emerge in New Zealand’s relations with China

New Zealand's evolving foreign policy – especially with China – is put under the microscope by international analyst Geoffrey Miller, who says it's important to consider the wider trends and not just the latest twist in the story. This week's meeting between Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison in Queenstown was yet another opportunity to judge the state of New Zealand's relationship with China. It added to 2021's ever-growing list. The year began with January's Freudian slip by Damien O'Connor, who said that Australia needed to "follow us and show respect" to China. In March, New Zealand foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta issued joint statements with her Australian counterpart, Marise Payne on both Xinjiang – acknowledging "credible reports of severe human rights abuses" – and Hong Kong. But April brought Mahuta's "Dragon and the Taniwha" speech to the NZ China Council, after which she openly stated her unwillingness to sign up to further Five Eyes statements criticising China. Jacinda Ardern subsequently backed Mahuta, saying "New Zealand also has an independent foreign policy". May saw recalibration in the other direction at the China Business Summit – with Ardern's carefully crafted line that differences between Beijing and Wellington were "becoming harder to reconcile". However, later that month, Labour vetoed an Act Party attempt to bring a Parliamentary motion that would have declared genocide in Xinjiang. Instead, Labour took the heat out of the motion by substituting genocide with the "severe human rights abuses" phrasing that Mahuta had already used in March. With anything China-related coming under tight scrutiny, there is [...]

June 8th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China’s three-child policy won’t help

CARTOONARTS INTERNATIONAL IRVINE, CALIFORNIA – In an effort to address rapid population aging, China has just announced that it will allow all families to have up to three children. The decision comes on the heels of widely publicized new data showing that the Chinese fertility rate in 2020 was only 1.3 per woman, which is similar to that of Japan, at 1.36 in 2019, and notably lower than that of the United States at 1.7. But a below-replacement fertility rate is only one part of China’s demographic problem. A second issue is the sheer size of its older population. Before 1971, Chinese family-planning policies were pro-natal, restricting access to contraceptives and family-planning education. As a result, the country’s current or soon-to-be elderly population has grown particularly large: the size of the population aged 15 to 24 is only around 72% that of those aged 45 to 54, compared to 79% in Japan and 100% in the U.S. This top-heavy demographic structure makes the problem of declining fertility even more acute because new, younger workers are needed to replace those who will retire and require support. A third issue is urban-rural inequality. China’s rural population is generally prohibited from moving to urban areas by the country’s hukou system of residency permits. Rural residents thus have had fewer opportunities to access education and health care. In 2010-12, the urban enrollment rate was 100% for middle school, 63% for high school and 54% for university; in rural areas, it was 70%, 3% and 2%, respectively. Likewise, urban areas had [...]

June 8th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Cryptocurrency is powering the underground economy of vice and crime

Recent ransomware attacks, and cryptocurrencies’ central role in enabling them, highlight longstanding concerns, says an economist. (Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration)   CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts: Ransomware – a type of malicious software that restricts access to a computer system until a ransom is paid – is not a good look for cryptocurrencies. Proponents of these digital coins would rather point to celebrity investors such as Tesla founder Elon Musk, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, star football quarterback Tom Brady, or actress Maisie Williams (Arya in Game of Thrones). Advertisement But recent ransomware attacks, and cryptocurrencies’ central role in enabling them, are a public relations disaster. The attacks include last month’s shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which drove up gasoline prices on the US East Coast until the company paid the hackers US$5 million in Bitcoin, and, even more recently, an attack on JBS, the world’s largest meat producer. READ: Commentary: Robocalls expose weakest link in a new ‘scamdemic’ Such episodes highlight what for some of us has been a longstanding concern: Difficult-to-trace anonymous cryptocurrencies offer possibilities for tax evasion, crime, and terrorism that make large-denomination bank notes seem innocuous by comparison. Advertisement Although prominent cryptocurrency advocates are politically connected and have democratised their base, regulators cannot sit on their hands forever. READ: Commentary: Don’t trust the hype – Bitcoin will never be a wise investment NAIVE VIEWS The view that cryptocurrencies are just an innocent store of value is stupefyingly naive. Sure, their transaction costs can be significant enough to deter most ordinary retail trade. But for anyone trying to avoid [...]

June 7th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

By banning Tiananmen vigils in Hong Kong, China is trying to rewrite history

The Communist party is widening its attack on the legacy of 1989 – and criminalising a new generation of activists ‘Last year, tens of thousands of Hongkongers defied a Covid-inspired ban to flock to the vigil.’ Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on 4 June 2020. Photograph: Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock   Over the weekend, a diminutive, white-haired woman carrying a yellow umbrella and a homemade cardboard sign saying “32, June 4, Tiananmen’s lament” was arrested on suspicion of taking part in an unlawful assembly. She had been marching along the pavement alone. This Kafkaesque scene happened not in China, but in Hong Kong. The fate of “Granny Wong”, a 65-year-old protest veteran called Alexandra Wong Fung-yiu, underlines the rapidity of Beijing’s clampdown in the city where, just two years ago, 180,000 people attended the annual vigil remembering the 1989 killings in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing. This year the Hong Kong vigil has been banned. Anyone gathering at the vigil site in Victoria Park on Friday could face five years in prison. Even publicising the event could lead to one year in jail under Hong Kong’s draconian National Security law, imposed sight unseen at the end of last June following a year of massive pro-democracy demonstrations. Public commemoration has become so risky that one Hong Kong newspaper even suggested writing the digits “64”, to commemorate the date of the protest, on light switches, so that flipping the switch became an act of remembrance. These moves underline the dangerous power of public memory, and how [...]

June 4th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Review: Australian 60 Minutes’ hit job on Jacinda Ardern Government ‘cosying up to’ China

OPINION: It was a smooth transition last night on Australian TV as the latest episode of Celebrity Apprentice flicked over into 60 Minutes' supposed expose on New Zealand "cosying up to Beijing" for their billions of trade dollars. The last scene of Celebrity Apprentice was billionaire British business magnate Lord Alan Sugar handing down a pompous sermon to a petulant little bloke who'd once finished second in Australian Idol who then quickly stormed out. A minute later at 8.30pm, we had 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort staring down the barrel delivering the opening monologue of his segment entitled Kiwis Might Fly - the promo for which had caused mild hype and much sniggering among Kiwis last week. From reality TV into current affairs programming there was little change in objectivity of narrative tone, moral nuance or the comically manipulative background music. In front of a video screen plastered with Chinese and Kiwi flags and shipping crates, Steinfort hands down some alarming truths on the divergent paths which Australia and New Zealand have apparently taken on their foreign policy and trade dealings with China. Essentially it was a case of "dollars versus decency". The New Zealand Government had, by not signing a Five Eyes intelligence statement last year condemning China's human rights abuses - and allegedly remaining "silent" on their military expansionism, sacrificed morals to maintain a lucrative trade partnership. As a reward, New Zealand's economy was apparently "flying high" at the moment, Steinfort says - somehow ignoring the fact the NZ Treasury is expecting the Government [...]

May 31st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

After COVID: 3 things that states can do now to fix health care

To improve health care, there are a number of steps that states should be taking, including tax reforms and getting rid of CON laws. Policymakers talk about comprehensive health care reform. They see a broken system and want to fix everything at once. Emergency room workers can relate, but they take a more strategic approach when patients arrive with multiple injuries. Through triage, they prioritize problems and apply isolated but related interventions to save lives. Fixing the health care system can work the same way. COVID-19 has exposed a range of regulatory weaknesses, and lawmakers can do three things to provide immediate relief. The first step is full repeal of certificate of need (CON) laws and similar measures that persist in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Unlike other types of oversight, these laws do not purport to protect public health and safety. Instead, states set up CON boards to protect industry insiders from competition. Doctors and other providers cannot open facilities, expand services or purchase major medical equipment without first obtaining a CON, which works like a government permission slip. How CON laws are not helpful Many jurisdictions let established providers, who already have a CON, contest new applications. When a rival business tries to enter their turf, they can file a complaint based on potential loss of revenue. The result is something close to veto power to stop outside threats. The protectionism has continued during the pandemic. Alabama blocked an addiction recovery clinic from offering residential services in November. Rhode Island voted in June to stop new hospice care services. [...]

May 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Video: Genocide Is the Truth of U.S. Bloody History

The U.S. and the west keep saying they have witnessed in Xinjiang, China the "crimes" of genocide, forced labor camps and other crimes. Any evidence? This video tells the story how United States is the most notorious country in the history of "genocide". Any evidence? Yes, tons of it. We all know that the Nazis are the most notorious genocide group in modern history, but few people know that Nazis' racial cultivation policies and sterilization schemes, and even organized slaughters, are all learned from the Americans. As early as 1924, Hitler, in his infamous publication 《Mein Kampf》,already quoted a huge number of genocidal policies introduced by the United States in the 20th century. Although it was in the 18th and 19th centuries that the Indians were slaughtered, for non-Nordic peoples, America's systematic and regulatory racial cleaning culminated at the beginning of the 20th century. American even included systematic genocide as an independent teaching subject in its tertiary education. In 1937, the United States passed the Sterilization Act, setting up a number of "quarantine zones" and put all colored people and eastern and southern Europeans together in the quarantine zones. Then there came the genocide: sterilization.

May 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Video: The Truth of Xinjiang Cotton

The USA and Canada announced earlier to impose sanctions on several Chinese officials for allegedly abuse and enslavement of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The move was based on BCI's report about re-education camps, detaining of one million people and other ethnic minorities, and even genocide accuse. The Chinese discovered that BCI, claiming an independent agency actually received funds from the USAID, which was disclosed in BCI's annual reports. BCI obeys the foreign policy of the US Secretary of State. This video tells the story about two reviews of Oasis Footwear industry indicating there was no forced labor in Xinjiang, either for Uyghur people or other ethnic or religious groups. The USA, in its history, once carried out genocide against Indians and enslaved blacks for forced labor, and even today, racial discrimination in the US is going worse. It is said that there is no evidence of forced labor. Viewers of this video will have their own judgement.

May 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Video: Forced Labor Still Happens in the USA

Human trafficking and forced prostitution. Forced labor still happens in the United States. The United States prides itself of being a free and democratic country. But you wouldn't imagine that even today forced labor still exists in the United States. On the official website of the Department of Homeland Security, the released information clearly indicates that forced labor still exists in the United States today. Since the 19th century, the global demand for cotton has expanded as a result of the British industrial revolution. In order to solve the problem of cotton planting and picking southern plantation owners in the United States were desperate for labor. Blacks in slavery became "in demand". they were forced to work endured the torture of the white people and was sold as a commodity. Even now, forced labor is still a problem in America. Prisons in the United States are a very lucrative business.

May 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Video: YouTubers Tell the Truth in Xinjiang

What is your impression about Xinjang, China? According to some media reports, China has arbitrarily detained as many as one million people in Xinjiang. China is suppressing Uyghurs in terms of a "global war on terror". The Uyghurs in Xinjiang are undergoing torture and forced labor. China's genocide program to persecute Uyghurs in Xinjiang has implemented. This video will give you some facts. A couple of western YouTubers filmed some footage explaining how Xinjiang is developing and how some western media fabricated the Xinjiang story based on distorted satellite imagery. The argument on facts in Xinjiang is undergoing between the camps of truth diggers and allegation boosters. It is the ideological disputes between the East and the West. What we suggest is taking a close look at the facts without any pre-set stance.

May 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Video: Xinjiang Forced Labor, A Reality or A Political Ploy?

There have been numerous reports from mainstream media that forced labor popular in Xinjiang and the re-education camps export forced-labor products to the USA, and the recent news release stated that the US customs retained shipment of UNIQLO delivered to the retail outlets in the country early this year claiming that the production was made in Xinjiang. This video shows unsupervised workers working on a large cotton stockpile and sophisticated cotton picking automation is becoming popular in Xinjiang. Evidence about "one million people in Xinjiang were sent to concentration camps", "forced labor" and issues of human rights and relevant accusation seems dimming. While more islam countries from Asia and Middle East are sending their delegates to Xinjiang for ad hoc visit to the claimed venues of forced labor, observers from western countries are still reluctant to receive the invitation of the Chinese government for a close watch to the region they have kept criticizing. Politicians in the west urge China to allow meaningful access to Xinjiang for the indefinite observers. But China rejects the fabricated stories made by BBC and other hostile media, and fires back the allegations of the politicians from the west. As a matter of fact, solid evidence of forced labor and concentration camps is unseen. China says the door is open for any fact check and fair and justified investigation.

May 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

I’m a Palestinian living in Gaza. No matter when it is or where I am, I know I’m not safe.

My friends have lost their homes and families. I know that, in a split second, that could be me. Maybe it will be me next time bombs rain down. GAZA CITY –When my grandfather drove over Thursday to bring my mom something from my grandma, I suddenly felt an enormous urge to go down to meet him, which is something I don’t always do when he just comes to drop something and leaves. Since the bombing started last week, I’ve been grasping at any chance I have to meet my loved ones; because that chance might be my last. Everyone in Gaza these days talks to their family members, friends and even followers on social media as if this might be their last time speaking to them. The traumatizing reality we are living here, and the constant fear of losing one’s family, friends, house, memories and everything that makes one human, has turned us into people who live to survive the day; every day is our last day, every breath is our last breath, every word, hug, or kiss is our last. Israel and Hamas agreed Thursday to a cease fire. But I can't forget, even when there weren't any bombings in the area, the nerve-racking sound of Israeli drones buzzing above your head. It is enough to give you a perpetual sense of danger. Reminding you that no matter when or where you are in Gaza, you’re not safe. Trying to sleep with that sound over your head is a different nightmare altogether. Lives ruined, families [...]

May 23rd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Israel’s master plan for Palestine has failed

The hope that the Palestinian issue was safely sidelined has proved to be a delusion, says the Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman. Israeli air strikes hammered the Gaza Strip before dawn, causing widespread power cuts and damaging hundreds of buildings. (Photo: AFP/Mahmud Hams)     LONDON: Until about a week ago, it looked like Benjamin Netanyahu had a good chance of disproving the adage that “all political careers end in failure”. His grip on power in Israel was weakening. But even if he lost office, Netanyahu would still leave politics as Israel’s longest serving prime minister ever – and one of its most consequential. Last year, Netanyahu secured a historic breakthrough in the Jewish state’s relations with the Arab world. The Abraham Accords normalised relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Israel under Netanyahu was at peace, prosperous and breaking out of its international isolation. The long and often bloody struggle with the Palestinians was out of the headlines. A world-beating COVID-19 vaccination programme had further burnished the country’s image. There was just the small matter of avoiding conviction in a corruption trial and a possible jail sentence – and his legacy would be secure.   But over the past week, Netanyahu’s plan for securing Israel’s future has collapsed. The Israeli prime minister’s hope that the Palestinian issue was safely sidelined has proved to be a delusion. A dispute which started with clashes between Israeli police and Muslim protesters in Jerusalem has escalated – with rockets being fired at Israeli cities, Israel bombing Gaza [...]

May 19th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: COVID-19 unlikely to become a thing of the past anytime soon

More mutations of the virus can be expected if large outbreaks continue and much depends on vaccination rates and whether more effective treatments can be developed, say Duke-NUS Medical School researchers. Pedestrians wearing protective face masks along Singapore's Central Business District. (File Photo: Calvin Oh)   SINGAPORE: The first known case of COVID-19 occurred well over a year ago. Countries around the world, including Singapore, then rolled out a suite of measures aimed at controlling the spread of the virus. There have been extraordinary efforts to bring safe and effective vaccines to market in record time. Countries, including Singapore, are making concrete progress with their vaccination plans. To date more than 850,000 individuals in Singapore and 235 million worldwide are now fully vaccinated. Despite these big strides in fighting the pandemic, new SARS-CoV-2 infections worldwide have remained at an all-time high for the past week, at highs surpassing last year’s record. The pendulum may now be swinging to the other side. In Singapore, less than one month after the latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions on returning to workplaces and the resumption of larger activities, we saw new COVID-19 clusters emerge, which prompted the Government to tighten its safety measures rapidly. There is some relief here when just two community caseswere detected on Thursday (May 6). Still, these developments raise several uncomfortable but real questions we will be forced to address, not the least of which is: Will life ever get back to the pre-COVID-19 normal or will we have to settle for a “new normal” for a much longer [...]

May 6th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The Pacific went a year without Covid-19, now it’s all under threat

Opinion - For most of the last year, the Pacific Islands have been remarkably isolated from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 crisis. By walling themselves off early from the outside world, most Pacific nations remain completely Covid-19 free.   The Gaston-Bourret Hospital Center dispenses Covid-19 vaccine injections in Noumea, New Caledonia. Photo: AFP   Historians will look back on this as a remarkable achievement by Pacific nations, and a great credit to the swift actions taken by their leaders. While isolation has proven itself to be an effective preventative strategy, it is not a perfect one. Border closures have taken an severe toll on these nations' fledgling economies. And even the most robust border and quarantine control systems can break down. In the Pacific, the cracks are now starting to show. Localised outbreaks and lockdowns The most obvious case is in Papua New Guinea, where caseloads started surging exponentially two months ago. With a porous land border with Indonesia and weak quarantine controls, it's remarkable the virus did not get out of control sooner. However, it is now running unchecked in the capital, Port Moresby, and has spread to every province in the country. The health system came very close to complete breakdown in March, and despite hopeful signs of case numbers stabilising in the capital (now at a much higher level), the country remains in dire need of further assistance. Fiji was the most successful nation in the region in containing community transmission a year ago. It, too, is now showing cracks in the [...]

May 4th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Rich countries close their eyes to the global Covid surge at their own peril

The pandemic’s death toll is now being felt most gravely in developing nations. This virus is not done yet   ‘Without oxygen it’s impossible to treat a severely ill Covid patient, but there’s a global shortage.’ People queue to refill oxygen cylinders in New Delhi, India, 23 April. Photograph: AP Is there one pandemic, or two? That was a question being asked a year ago, when wealthy countries accounting for only 15% of the global population had 80% of the Covid deaths. Could it be that the rich world was more vulnerable, somehow, because its populations were older, or more individualistic, or had forgotten to be scared of infectious disease? Even then, some were warning that the worst was yet to come, once the disease took hold in poorer countries. World Bank analysts Philip Schellekens and Diego Sourrouille, for example, predicted a “massive shift” in disease burden to the developing world. Just in terms of demography, they said, you’d expect those countries to account for around 70% of deaths. As things stand they account for a little over half of it, which is probably an underestimate due to variations in data quality – and the pandemic is far from over. Last week saw more than 5.8 million new cases of Covid globally, the highest number yet. More than 3 million people have now died from Covid, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which also reports that infections and hospitalisations in those aged 25 to 59 are increasing at an alarming rate. “It took nine months [...]

April 27th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

To defend Democracy, we must protect truth online

© Getty Images   In his inaugural address, President Biden called on the country to “reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” We have every reason to believe the troubling trend of disinformation to deceive will continue with regard to online content. Visual deception and disinformation are powerful. The use of even rudimentary image and video manipulation, known as “cheapfakes,” has been proven to increase perceived truth and is a common tool for fueling online visual disinformation. The advent of synthetic media that is manipulated or wholly generated by artificial intelligence (AI), commonly referred to as “deepfakes,” makes the dangers of such distortions more significant. Deepfake videos are getting better and becoming virtually undetectable by forensic mechanisms. Though the most popularly shared deepfakes have been benign, there have been several real-world examples of malicious use. The use of deepfakes in creating non-consensual pornography underscores how easily they can be weaponized. Last month the FBI warned of deepfakes as a growing threat to private industry and in terms of "emulation of existing employees." This week, it was alleged that deepfakes were used to emulate Russian opposition members to deceive various European Members of Parliament. ADVERTISEMENTLegislators across the country have acted with speed to pass new laws to address this threat. At least five states have adopted laws to ban deepfakes in some contexts. At the federal level, the U.S. Congress passed several laws in quick succession on deepfakes, including the Deepfake Report Act, sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). These are important [...]

April 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Zoe Strimpel: Covid restrictions mean Australasians have never looked so imprisoned

The antipodes may be sunny and lovely, but their coronavirus control freakery means their inhabitants are locked down in perpetuity, writes UK columnist Zoe Strimpel The other evening, a normally robust, stiff-upper-lipped friend came round for a nocturnal picnic in a nearby communal garden. Suddenly, almost in tears, she let rip about the terrible toll of being stuck in a tiny flat with her husband and (now) 2-year-old for a year, all bar a week in Scotland in the summer. I'll never forget the moment when, glassy-eyed, she stared ahead and said: "I need a holiday. I need to get out." And by out, she meant out of the UK. No staycation gives you the resuscitation my friend needed. She needs – we all need – to leave from time to time, and immerse ourselves in a different culture, different food. And no, Yorkshire and Norfolk don't cut it. Six60 wows a 50,000 strong crowd in at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday. Photo / Supplied by Eden Park / Maria Robinson - PR Mushroom Group   Thankfully, my friend will be able to take just such a trip soon. This is more than can be said for the residents of Australia and New Zealand, countries that chose the path – much lauded by the everyone-must-suffer-to-the-max control freaks of the Left – of total imprisonment in perpetuity. Countries which, as the rest of the world looks for ways to return to normal in the Covid era, have chosen to remain prisons, with nobody out and very [...]

April 26th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Opinion: Real climate leadership rests with hardest hit indigenous communities

Opinion - This week US President Joe Biden invited 40 leaders to his inaugural climate summit. As part of the Pacific Voices project, the Pacific Cooperation Foundation asked 22-year-old indigenous climate activist Brianna Fruean to share her perspective and she concludes that inaction speaks louder than words.   Small Pacific nations such as the Tokelau islands have lived in harmony with nature for centuries, Brianna Fruean writes. Photo: kunilanskap/123RF The world is buzzing as President Biden hosts his big climate change summit. With this buzz there is a lot of big talk on how the attending climate leaders are leading the way towards climate action. This summit should make me feel hopeful, yet I cannot help but feel a sense of déjà vu. These big talks happen all the time, and when the leaders sign out, they go back home to little or no action. New Zealand did not take the opportunity to announce new nationally determined contributions which fellow Pacific nations and developed world leaders - the US, Canada, Japan - already have. Year after year we see low targets, dirty lobbying, tokenistic speeches, and broken promises. It is not that I am pessimistic about change, it is that I am tired of mainstream media painting these big nations like they are the "climate leaders" who will save us when it is the young people, activists, movement organisers and indigenous communities that are showing true climate leadership. There is so much that Biden's summit can learn from frontline villages, organisers and activists, and there are [...]

April 25th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Pacific plan on how to decarbonise global shipping by 2050

Opinion - An effective way to achieve US Climate Envoy John Kerry's stated goal of decarbonising the global shipping industry is to make it cheaper to go green by the International Maritime Organisation introducing a greenhouse gas levy.   Photo: 123RF   Climate Envoy John Kerry announced yesterday that the US is committed to getting the global shipping industry to net zero emissions by 2050. This is a crucial step, but an uphill battle: shipping is one of the world's most polluting sectors. If it were a country, it would be the sixth largest greenhouse gas polluter in the world. To solve this problem, Kerry should look to those that have the most at stake. Here in the Pacific Islands, shipping is our most important link with the world, providing us with imported food, medicines, and more. Our micro-economies, at the centre of the world's greatest ocean have the longest, thinnest, most expensive, and most vulnerable transport lines. And these lifelines are almost exclusively run on fossil fuels. The shipping industry that our people and economies rely on is also driving the climate crisis - the greatest existential threat we face. We cannot survive without the shipping industry, and yet we also cannot survive with the contributions it makes to climate change. John Kerry is right that we need to take real action and we need to take it now. To do that, we must put a price on shipping emissions. The Marshall Islands has joined with the Solomon Islands to put forward a solution at [...]

April 25th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Government must get tough on gangs

Gang violence is getting out of control in Auckland with another week of gang shootings and violence including a shooting at the Sofitel Hotel in downtown Auckland. This increase in gang violence is making our city less safe and is causing Aucklanders to become more worried about their safety. It is only a matter of time before an innocent member of the public is shot in the crossfire. Whilst gangs are not new, since Labour came to office in 2017, gang membership has ballooned, growing 48 per cent. More gang members means more meth being sold in our streets and more gang violence being perpetrated. The Government must get tough on gangs – and give the police the tools they need to address this growing problem. One of the tools the police need is the ability to put in place firearm prohibition orders (FPO) on dangerous gang members. This law change which I am progressing through Parliament as a Member’s Bill would mean a gang member subject to a FPO will not be allowed to possess a firearm, get a firearms license or be on a property where firearms are present. It would also be a serious offence to supply firearms to someone subject to a FPO. Additional search powers would also be given to the police to ensure they can crack down on gang members with illegal firearms. I am calling on the Government to support this legislation to give the police new tools they need and to send a powerful message to gangs that [...]

April 21st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What did 20 years of western intervention in Afghanistan achieve? Ruination

Britain’s justifications for invading were having influence and deterring terror. They are just neo-imperialist platitudes ‘Tony Blair sent Clare Short to eliminate the poppy crop. Whatever she did, it increased production from six provinces to 28.’ Poppy growing in Helmand, 22 March 2021. Photograph: Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA   The longest, most pointless and unsuccessful war that Britain has fought in the past 70 years – its intervention in Afghanistan – is to end in September. I doubt anyone will notice. Nations celebrate victories, not defeats. Twenty years ago the United States decided to relieve its 9/11 agony not just by blasting Osama bin Laden’s base in the Afghan mountains, but by toppling the entire Afghan regime. This was despite young Taliban moderates declaring Bin Laden an “unwelcome guest” and the regime demanding he leave. The US then decided not just to blast Kabul but invited Nato to launder its action as a matter of global security. Britain had no dog in this fight and only joined because Tony Blair liked George W Bush. American and British troops roamed the country, signing up warlords or setting up new governors. Visiting Kabul at the time, I was told of Nato’s ambition to wipe out terror, build a new democracy, liberate women and create a “friend in the region”. I had an eerie sense of Britain in 1839 embarking on the First Afghan War. Most Americans at the time wanted to get out, and concentrate on nation-building in Iraq. It was the British who were eager to stay. Blair even [...]

April 19th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Covid 19 coronavirus: Why billionaires are snapping up second homes in New Zealand

New Zealand has announced it will form a corridor with Australia from April 18, allowing free travel between the two countries. While the rest of the world may have to wait until 2022 to be allowed into New Zealand, when the majority of the country has been vaccinated and its success rate has had a chance to prove itself, it remains a firm favourite among billionaires the world over, who have long seen it as the ultimate escape. It's been a few years since we first began reading about Silicon Valley executives becoming "Doomsday preppers" by buying vast tracts of land in New Zealand and installing underground bunkers on them, to escape to should Armageddon strike. But that's been going on ever since. Billionaire German-American PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel made headlines when it was discovered he had bought at least two estates, one in Queenstown with a house and panic room, the other, a 193ha estate on the shores of Lake Wanaka and been granted citizenship in New Zealand. Then there's Canadian director James Cameron, who fell in love with the place filming the first Avatar movie, owns multiple estates and is now a resident. "It's not difficult to see the appeal of New Zealand for the super-rich," says Auckland-born Susie Marquis, founder of UK-based The Luxury Travel Book. "It's absolutely beautiful, the lifestyle is relaxed, the food and wine is excellent, the standard of living is very high and there is lots of space and privacy due to the small population." Understandably fed up with [...]

April 13th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Continued US trade war with China could stoke inflation

The only real inflationary danger comes from those fanning the flames of war with China, says Professor James K Galbraith. China US Tech Sanctions   AUSTIN, Texas: The scale of US President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) – US$1 trillion in spending for this year, another US$900 billion after that, plus a US$3 trillion infrastructure and energy program that has been promised – has spooked many macroeconomists. Are their fears justified? The bank and bond-market economists, having cried wolf before, can be disregarded. A year ago, many of them warned that the US$2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act would incite hyperinflation by massively increasing the money supply. It didn’t happen. More notable among the critics are neo-Keynesians like Lawrence H Summers of Harvard University and his numerous acolytes. Summers has a different analysis. It was his uncle, Paul Samuelson, who with fellow future-Nobel laureate Robert Solow launched the Phillips curve in 1960. This simple model offered some of the most successful empirical predictions in economic history during its first decade, and has been an economic rule of thumb ever since. Drawing on data from late 19th century Britain and the post-war United States, the Phillips curve postulated an inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment: As one fell, the other would rise. This is what seems to be bothering Summers today. IS THE PHILLIPS CURVE ACCURATE? The various rescue and federal support packages are indeed enormous, with the ARP alone accounting for about 6 per cent of GDP. The full scale of [...]

April 13th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Government Needs To Come Clean On Foreign Buy-ups Of NZ

  The current government needs to instigate far stricter controls on foreigners buying up New Zealand’s countryside says the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations as well as keeping the New Zealand public informed of the extent of outsiders buying up country-side. “Frustratingly figures are few and far between to make an accurate assessment but the public should be given regular and accurate statistics on an issue which most New Zealanders feel strongly about,” said CORANZ chairman Andi Cockroft. Most Kiwis Opposed Past opinion polls indicated as many as 90 percent of New Zealanders were opposed or concerned he said. In late 2019 it was revealed by Radio NZ that the four largest private landowners in New Zealand are all foreign-owned forestry companies. The investigation found, despite a clampdown on some overseas investment, including a ban on residential sales to offshore buyers, the Labour-led government has actively encouraged further foreign purchases of land for forestrythrough a streamlined "special forestry test". Fewer Jobs Since the 2017-20 coalition, Labour-led government was formed, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved more than $2.3 billion of forestry-related land sales - about 31,000 hectares of it previously in New Zealand hands and often sheep and beef farms. A 2019 analysis of Wairoa, where 8,486 hectares of sheep and beef farmland was converted to forestry, showed forestry provides fewer jobs in rural communities than sheep and beef farms. Andi Cockroft said the environmental effects of turning the New Zealand hill country into monocultures of pines were detrimental. Silt Deposits The clear felling practices [...]

April 13th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why Biden Needs to Counter North Korea’s Cyber Crimes

Joe Biden has several tools by which he can respond to North Korea hacks that gain hard cash for the sanctioned regime. Former President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un may have shared a “deep and special friendship,” but it’s become abundantly clear in the last few months that the North Korean government feels no similar warm fuzzies toward Joe Biden. Between supposedly “ghosting” the new administration’s calls, launching ballistic missiles and warning the United States “not to cause a stink,” North Korea is doing its best to play hardball with the new administration, choosing to a strike a tone of bravado and intimidation as opposed to one of collaboration. This will undoubtedly hinder U.S. efforts to check North Korea’s nuclear program through diplomatic methods. But summits and talks aren’t the only way to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Biden can still achieve a foreign policy win by cracking down on the country’s state-sponsored cybercrime—crime that directly supports the nuclear program. It’s often tempting to dismiss North Korea as a small, impoverished nation who likes to rant and rave. But this problematic caricature blinds us to the legitimate threats posed by North Korean hackers. Based out of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korean hackers have reportedly been busy with everything from attacking banks to attempting to steal information about coronavirus vaccines. Despite its poverty and relatively small size, North Korea likes the idea of punching above its weight. And thanks to its state hackers, when it comes to cyber, Pyongyang finally can. Although experts [...]

April 11th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The GOP Needs Its Very Own ‘Infrastructure’ Plan

The Republican Party must do more than merely denounce the “American Jobs Plan,” or it risks falling further out of touch with its constituents. It must offer its own constructive vision for infrastructure to rebuild America. President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure bill, the so-called “American Jobs Plan,” received a hostile reception from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week. “This is not going to be, apparently, an infrastructure package,” McConnell told reporters after Biden briefed him on the bill. “It’s like a Trojan horse,” he warned. “So, it’s called infrastructure, but inside the Trojan horse is going to be more borrowed money and massive tax increases.” Biden’s wooden pony comes saddled with the Made in America corporate tax plan, which, his administration claims, would fully fund his infrastructure program within the next fifteen years and reduce future deficits. The corporate tax rate would rise from 21 percent to 28 percent as a result. Ben Mathis-Lilley, a senior writer at left-leaning Slate magazine, more or less agrees with McConnell’s woes. Biden’s plan, he writes, is “ostensibly related to infrastructure,” but it’s “really just a plan for trying to fix everything.” Like McConnell, he takes umbrage with the fact Biden “wants it financed by tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations.” But what’s actually in the bill? McConnell is right that the attractively named “American Jobs Plan” contains a litany of items unrelated to what most Americans consider infrastructure. Funding for roads, bridges, waterways, airports, and ports constitutes an estimated $115 billion of the $2.25 trillion total price tag. “Infrastructure,” in this [...]

April 11th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How Japan should deal with China’s new coast guard law

A new law governing the actions of the China Coast Guard is said to stem from Chinese leader Xi Jinping's wish to respond to the needs of national defense and military development. | ANTARA FOTO / M RISYAL HIDAYAT / VIA REUTERS The China coast guard law, which makes clear the missions and authority of the China Coast Guard, has been criticized as being in violation of international law, with parts that are deliberately left ambiguous, leading many to have doubts over the legislation. I would like to discuss the impact that the law, which was put into force on Feb. 1, could have on Japan in maintaining maritime order, in comparison with China’s activities in the South China Sea. Political scientist Shigeo Hiramatsu points out that there exist two types of national borders in China — geographical borders and strategic boundaries. While geographical borders are internationally recognized limits of land territory, territorial waters and airspace, strategic boundaries have geographical and spatial scope related to China’s national interests and are actually controlled by the country’s military forces. Such strategic boundaries can be expanded when China is equipped with military forces backed by comprehensive national power. A typical example of China expanding its strategic boundaries is its effective occupation of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China had been making claims to islands in the South China Sea ever since the nation’s founding in 1949, but it had never effectively controlled any of the land features, although it had been pressing the legitimacy of its [...]

April 10th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Japan’s slow-mo vaccination programme has a lot riding on it

With few mandatory restrictions, and national leaders focused on holding the Tokyo Olympics, vaccination should be a top priority and even that has been very slow, says Yuka Hasegawa.          Screengrab of COVID-19 cases in Japan. (Source: Google)   OSAKA: For all the talk about how orderly, societally conscious and efficient Japan is, the country should be a shining example of how to get the coronavirus under control but remains a cautionary tale in the pandemic a year on. Just look at the endless waves of coronavirus plaguing it, including record-breaking new infection numbers reached just this past week, with 878 new cases in Osaka on Wednesday (Apr 7) and a positive test rate of 8.6 per cent, causing the prefecture to declare a state of medical emergency on the same day. Even Tokyo with its shocking 555 looks better off. Hospital resources are coming under strain with 90.8 per cent of Osaka’s ICU in use, and constraints on medical staff numbers limiting opening up more beds.   SOFT MEASURES Osaka city officials have been described as prescient when “quasi-emergency measures” went into effect just two days ago on Apr 5 in Osaka. Restaurants and bars had to close earlier by 8pm, with fines for non-compliance. Authorities too urged residents to stay home and refrain from heading out on Wednesday. But the problem is these bear striking resemblance to conditions imposed during the State of Emergency, which have been widely acknowledged to be toothless in the face of a raging pandemic. Here, you [...]

April 9th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: The Quad has a plan and it’s not all about China

Countries of the Quad are moving forward in concrete cooperation that benefits the Indo-Pacific region as a whole. That is a positive direction it should continue with capacity building at its core, says Shruti Pandalai.   President Joe Biden just wrapped up the first summit speaking with his counterparts in Japan, Australia, and India. (Photo: AP) NEW DEHLI: It was war — a war of words in Alaska, as United States and China sat down to talk for the first time in March under the Joe Biden administration. For those tracking US-China relations outside the states, any expectations of a reset in ties have been buried, while the shock is yet to wear off. It was quite the show—negotiations cheekily dubbed “Anchor-rage” by media and twitter commentators alike. The strategic messaging for the global audience was clear - the Biden administration was intent on calling China out for its unrestricted unilateralism, while an unapologetic Beijing confident of its stride to the global centre stage was very derisive in its assessment of Washington’s “decline”. The plummeting Sino-US ties impact all geographies and for those watching closely this did not come as a surprise though it may have made strategic options clearer. THE QUAD IS MOVING FORWARDJuxtapose this with the contrasting images that came out from the much talked about Quad Summit held virtually just before the Alaska meeting. Indian Prime Minister Modi, called the summit “a coming of age of the Quad". A joint statement from leaders of United States, India, Japan and Australia — speaking of [...]

April 6th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why China’s space program could overtake NASA

(CNN) China has a good chance of becoming the dominant space power in the 21st century, and it's not just looking to copy NASA on the way to the top. Instead, the country is paying close attention to what innovative US companies like SpaceX are doing as well. To get ahead in space, communism is learning from capitalism. In the summer of 2019, a small Chinese rocket launched from an inland spaceport in the southern part of the country. Close-up photos, posted afterward on Chinese social media accounts, showed small grid fins affixed to the upper part of this Long March 2C rocket for the first time. They were virtually identical in design to the grid fins SpaceX uses to steer its Falcon 9 rocket through the atmosphere for landings on its ocean-based drone ships. A year after this test, China's main space contractor revealed plans to develop the ability to reuse its Long March 8 booster, which is powered by kerosene fuel, the same type of power that fuels SpaceX rockets. By 2025, Chinese officials said, this rocket would be capable of landing on a sea platform like SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster. And it is not just the Chinese government contractors that are emulating SpaceX. A growing number of semi-private Chinese companies have also announced plans to develop reusable rockets. Chinese firms such as LinkSpace and Galactic Energyhave released schematics that seem to mimic SpaceX technology. None of this should be particularly surprising. Government-launched enterprises in both Russia and Europe also recently revealed plans to develop [...]

April 2nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

A global pandemic treaty won’t work until leaders realise the benefits of solidarity

After a year of nationalist approaches to Covid, securing world cooperation on disease control is unlikely to be easy   A sign at the Port of Dover after France closed its borders over concerns about a new coronavirus variant, December 2020. Photograph: Vickie Flores/EPA     Boris Johnson, alongside 24 other world leaders, has announced a pandemic treaty, a legally binding mechanism to protect against future pandemics and their impact on economies and societies. While the content of the treaty is not yet agreed, the aim is to bring political commitment to health security compliance between governments, using the language of global collaboration, cooperation and solidarity for mitigating future pandemics. This appears to be a much-needed tonic for multilateralism after a year of nationalist approaches to pandemic control. However, for meaningful pandemic preparedness we need to address the elephant in the room: why did governments not abide by international law and the norms for pandemic management that were already in place? The International Health Regulations (IHR) provide the legal architecture outlining what governments must do to prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks of infectious disease: this includes sharing information about emerging pathogens with the WHO; implementing public health interventions to prevent disease transmission; and in the longer term developing capacity within health systems to be able to identify and respond to emerging disease threats. Alongside this, political norms of global health security have emerged through groups such as the Global Health Security Agenda, the G7 and multiple regional efforts such as the Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance [...]

April 1st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How Black and Asian American women are working together to overcome racism

Black and Asian women know what it means to be “othered.” We have each had harmful stereotypes cast upon us that continue to affect our lives today.   Women of color have suffered greatly during the pandemic. Whether it is being among the most highly infected with COVID-19, being forced out of jobs at an alarming rate due to lack of childcare and support, or making up a large portion of the essential workers who put themselves at risk to keep the country going, women of color continue to bear the brunt of inequality and our nation’s broken systems. So it was another substantial blow when six Asian and Asian-American women were murdered in a mass shooting on March 16 in Atlanta at their places of work. In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, police officers described the white male assailant as having a “bad day” and naming his sex addiction as a potential motive. This initial assessment from law enforcement was massively disappointing if not surprising, least of all to Black women. After all, days before the shooting, thousands mobilized to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Breonna Taylor, who senselessly died at the hands of police officers. Yet, despite this shared understanding and mutual experience of what if feels like to be targeted for who you are, a dangerous media narrative has re-emerged. In the wake of a recent spike of anti-Asian violence and with little evidence, many have begun to point to a divide between Black and Asian Americans as the real issue [...]

April 1st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Suez Canal incident reveals why global trade depends heavily on shipping with few alternatives

While the ship in the narrow Suez Canal may be cleared soon, the financial repercussions and serious discussions of alternatives are just beginning, says NUS’ Associate Professor Goh Puay Guan.   A view shows Ever Given container ship in Suez Canal in this Maxar Technologies satellite image taken on March 28, 2021. Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS   SINGAPORE: The Egyptian authorities revealed on Monday (Mar 29) that the traffic through the Suez Canal had resumed after the tanker called Ever Given, which had been grounded for almost a week, was refloated. Although there was general relief about this development, the incident has overall sparked a rethinking about what could have been done to avoid this ugly mess. Much as businesses hope the episode is an exception, corporate boardrooms all over the world will be tearing apart how things can be done better.   IMPLICATIONS FOR GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS For one, the repercussions on shipments, oil and commodity prices, and availability of goods have been huge. Those in Europe have heard the news that they may face a shortage in instant coffee, as the ingredients could not be shipped over. Container shipping costs have soared by four times year-on-year, continuing a years-long trend accelerated by COVID-19. While the ship has been freed and the jam will eventually be alleviated – no matter how long that may take - what are the potential ramifications for global supply chains? At stake are liabilities for missed deliveries, lost sales, manufacturing down time, expired products, and insurance claims. This is not only for the Ever [...]

March 30th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What we’re getting wrong in the conversation about mental health

Increased use of psychiatric language means ordinary distress is being medicalised, while the seriously ill are not being heard   “Don’t feel you have to take on a psychiatric diagnosis, or consider there’s something medically wrong with you, unless you really do find that framing helpful.” Photograph: Getty Images     Many years ago, in the fading hours of a house party, I sat outside in the garden with an old friend. From inside came the distant thud of music and pockets of laughter – a thousand miles from the conversation we were having. My friend’s relationship had ended a few weeks previously, and that night his heartbreak was palpable and raw. He told me how disconnected he felt from the people inside the house, from his life, and then he said something that made my heart sink. “When I look into the future,” he said, avoiding eye contact, “I can’t see anything ahead of me.” At that moment – I thought – something became clear: he was clinically depressed. Over the following days and weeks, I told my friend what I knew about the disorder, and the benefits of therapy and antidepressants, and encouraged him to go to the doctor. Even though he was reluctant, I was sure of how much he would benefit, so I persisted. But then, after about a month of checking in with him, something strange happened: he started to feel better, without any professional help at all. I distinctly remember the moment, a disintegration of what I thought I understood [...]

March 30th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

ECQ 2021: Been there, done that but commuters still suffer

MANILA, Philippines—One year should have been sufficient to prepare public transport rules in another chapter of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) but what greeted commuters on the first day of ECQ 2021 was confusion, according to a transport economist on Monday (March 29). In an interview with Inquirer, Jedd Ugay, chief mobility officer of advocacy group AltMobility, said a disconnect among the Department of Transportation (DOTr), transport operators and commuters caused confusion on the first day of ECQ 2021 in the National Capital Region (NCR) and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Rizal. “Operators and commuters who have no access to social media and news may have thought that public transportation would be banned in ECQ, which resulted in the fewer number of public utility vehicles (PUVs) plying the roads,” Ugay said. On Monday (March 29), the first day of ECQ in the “NCR Plus bubble”, commuters on their way to work found fewer rides and blamed the DOTr for announcing public transport guidelines too late. The government announced that NCR Plus would be on a week-long ECQ, the most stringent lockdown level, on Saturday (March 27) and the DOTr released the guidelines in the afternoon of Sunday (March 28). ECQ in 2020 in Metro Manila included a ban on public transportation to discourage people, except essential workers, from leaving their homes. Carl Lamiel, who works for a retail company as its digital head, recalled that he had to wait one and a half hours in San Mateo, Rizal, for a bus to Quezon City, where [...]

March 29th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

On Why China’s Pact With Iran Is A Big Deal, And Why A Vaccination Target Isn’t

  One of the most significant developments in global politics in a generation has flown in almost entirely beneath the radar of the Western media. On Saturday, Iran and China officially signed a 25 year, $400 billion co-operation pact. As one expert regional analyst has said, this deal will give East Asia its biggest presence in the Middle East since the Mongol invasion seven hundred years ago. It marks another major diplomatic setback for the United States, which is still reeling from the harm done by the Trump administration. Instead of opening up Iran to trade with the West – as US President Barack Obama had hoped to do with the 2015 nuclear deal – the reverse has happened. By tearing up the nuclear deal, and joining forces with Saudi Arabia in demonising Iran, Donald Trump succeeded only in pushing Iran straight into the arms of China, which has seized the opportunity with both hands. As Middle East expert Juan Cole says: China’s entry into Iran in such a big way is the most consequential change in the geopolitics of the Middle East since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which made the US the sole Middle East superpower (this was visible in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 unilateral US war on Iraq). Moscow’s return as a patron for the Baath regime in Syria is small potatoes in comparison. So far, the Biden administration has been unable to decide how to re-configure its Iran policy, in order [...]

March 29th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

From ‘taking out the trash’ to ‘abdicating responsibilities’: Does Australia care about its relationship with NZ?

Watch: Australia deports teenage boy alone to New Zealand. Credits: Video - Newshub; Image - File     New Zealand's long-standing alliance with Australia is considered one of the closest in the world, but recent events have resulted in a war of words - and an apparent hindering of the relationship. National leader Judith Collins last week said she feared the relationship between the two countries was at its lowest point in decades. So, does Australia even care about its relationship with New Zealand? While recent rhetoric suggests they don't, leading international relations experts believe they do. Stephen Hoadley, an associate professor in politics at the University of Auckland, agrees the relationship is at a low point - but not its lowest. He believes there's still plenty of common ground. "We just need to keep calm and carry on," he told Newshub. "Good relations will continue despite the rhetoric and minor irritants." University of Otago politics professor Robert Patman thinks Australia does care about its relationship with New Zealand but notes its Government has a "hierarchical" view of the world. "Their major concerns, at the moment, are both the United States and China - Australia's always seen itself as closer to the United States than New Zealand has," Prof Patman says. "I think it's not so much they don't care - I think we just don't appear on their radar screen as much as they appear on ours."   A brief history of the trans-Tasman relationship We're arch-rivals on the rugby field and cricket pitch, but [...]

March 28th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

“Vaccine Nationalism” Is the West’s Infringement on Mankind

The largest scale vaccination in human history is in progress, but the most unfair vaccination is happening meanwhile. Rich countries with smaller number of Covid-19 infections are hoarding most vaccines, while poor countries with large number of infections have weak fiscal capacity to purchase the vaccines.     The White House openly declared on March 10 that "We will first make sure that Americans are taken care of."  The President of the European Council, Charles Michel censured of this “totally banning the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on its soil." The selfish and parochial approach of the U.S.A hurt the international cooperation in the battle against the coronavirus and impeded the containment of the pandemic in the rest of the world, thus it has received strong condemnation from the international community. A report released at the end of last year by "People's Vaccine Alliance", an international vaccine monitoring agency composed of a number of international organizations, stated that the population of developed countries is about 14% of the world’s total population, but they are possessing more than half of the vaccines in the world. In 67 poor countries, only 10% is expected to receive a dose of vaccine by the end of 2021. The developed countries are being blamed for violating their declared human rights commitments. An article of NBC quoted Philip Clark, an expert on health economics from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, saying that inspite of the poor countries who are eagerly expecting the vaccines, the developed countries including [...]

March 28th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Mutually destructive sanctions will help no one

The diplomatic fireworks in Anchorage turned out to be a prelude to a new round of sanctions war between China and the Western alliance. Just as the Americans’ profession of defending universal values and a rules-based international system was met with a fierce response from the Chinese side in Alaska, so an extraordinarily coordinated effort by the United States, Britain, Canada and the European Union to impose sanctions on China was met with a tit-for-tat retaliation from Beijing. Ostensibly, the Western sanctions are over China’s alleged ill-treatment of Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang. But the unmistakably intended message, to China and the world, is that the Western alliance is back, and the allies don’t mind if it is led by the US – against China. After four years of Donald Trump and his brand of unilateralism, China has been told not to bother trying to divide and conquer by playing one bloc or country against another. But what is equally significant is that Beijing has been ready to fight back immediately with formal sanctions, something it had avoided until recently. Traditionally, China has been reluctant to use sanctions as a formal tool against foreign entities or countries, for both ideological and practical reasons. A key principle of Chinese diplomacy has been respect for the sovereignty of nations, and Beijing has long considered sanctions to be a tool of Western countries, especially the US, to interfere with the internal affairs of other, usually weaker, nations. Practically, until recently, China did not have the clout to weaponise economic or [...]

March 24th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Barry Soper: Jacinda Ardern seems to have a ‘la la la’ moment when it comes to Trevor Mallard

Speaker Trevor Mallard. Photo / Mark Mitchell     OPINION: It seems the Prime Minister's had a "la la la" moment when it comes to Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard. It seems Jacinda Ardern simply wants to drown out the noise surrounding her mate. If she stopped and listened, she may start to see the wood for the trees. The shabby episode involving Mallard and the grossly incorrect claim that a Parliamentary worker sent packing was a rapist is a classic example of having power over the powerless. Ardern is a nice woman, probably seeing the best in most people. But she seems to be unable to acknowledge there can be another side to some people. In the Mallard case, he knew within 24 hours the man he called a rapist wasn't one, but he continued with the claim, right through to his own defence of a defamation action brought by the man. In a statement of claim, the man's lawyers received a letter from Mallard's much more expensive legal team saying he wouldn't apologise, wouldn't pay damages, didn't accept the man had been defamed and claimed his statement was either the truth or honest opinion. The man was threatened that, if he persevered with his defamation case, "the question of his reputation and his conduct will be very much the centrepiece of any public proceeding". Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Mark Mitchell It makes you wonder who would have been on trial. In the end Mallard and his lawyers obviously saw it was a lost [...]

March 24th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

America Should Have Walked Away From Its Meeting With China

Both in the past and now recently, American officials held fruitless summits—meetings without a clear cut agenda in which they would have been wiser to walk away from.       If you weren’t thinking “Kennedy and Khrushchev at Vienna” while following the just-concluded Alaska meeting between top diplomats from the United States and China, you need a quick tutorial in Cold War history. For at a time of burgeoning Sino-American tensions over any number of genuinely crucial stakes (like the fate of Taiwan, which for the foreseeable future will be the manufacturer of the world’s most advanced semiconductors), the parallels are chilling. After all, both the June 1961 summit between John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev, and the sessions between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and their two senior Chinese counterparts, came near the start of U.S. administrations. Both meetings were also arranged in haste. In 1961, Kennedy was desperate to convey some credibility to Moscow following the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Today, President Joe Biden himself has said that his administration is still in the middle of conducting comprehensive reviews of China policy both on the trade and national security fronts. Also neither meetings had any set agenda or goals. And at both, relatively green American leaders were verbally mugged—or at least ambushed—by their much more experienced interlocutors. Most troubling of all: At the end of the Khrushchev meeting that Kennedy himself bemoaned as a disaster, the Soviet leader demanded an allied withdrawal from Berlin that resulted [...]

March 24th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Targeting New Zealand’s property speculators is popular, but won’t fix the housing crisis

Jacinda Ardern’s announcement will hit investors hard, but more needs to be done A house for sale in Christchurch in February. The New Zealand government has targeted property speculators in its latest attempt to cool the housing market. Photograph: Mark Baker/AP     Property speculators have become public enemy number one in New Zealand’s rampant housing affordability crisis. Those buying, selling and renting out multiple properties have become wealthy at the expense of those in the middle and at the bottom of the market, who are paying high rents and struggling to afford to buy decent housing. It is no surprise therefore that the housing announcement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her colleagues on Tuesday was firmly focused on reigning in those investors driving up the prices – with the most significant elements of the package designed to hit investors with increased tax responsibilities. The economic goal is to cool down rising house prices. And the political goal is to lay the blame for the housing crisis firmly at the feet of investors. The first weapon in this assault on investors is a de facto capital gains tax – those selling investment properties now need to pay tax on their house sale profits if their investment is sold within 10 years instead of just five. This has already got the most publicity. It has been especially controversial because the party ruled it out on the campaign trail in last year’s general election. Labour’s second tax weapon against property speculators is much more surprising and significant: [...]

March 23rd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

A public inquiry is the only way Britain can prevent another crisis like coronavirus

People have a right to know the government mistakes that led to the highest mortality rate in Europe   Ambulances outside the Royal London hospital, 13 February 2021. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA When coronavirus first entered the UK, the country was on the back foot and ill-prepared. The NHS was already facing record waiting times for operations, cancer treatments and GP appointments. Successive cuts to mental and social care, and severe workforce shortages, had left health services exposed and unable to properly function in normal times, let alone during a pandemic. As a result, the NHS was forced to cease routine services to treat the overwhelming surge of Covid-19 patients. Wards were repurposed for critical care and NHS staff were rapidly redeployed. There were around 2.5m fewer first outpatient appointments and 280,000 fewer urgent cancer referrals between April and June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Fewer than half the expected number of operations were completed, creating a backlog of care and a current record-high waiting list of 4.6 million, with more than 220,000 patients now waiting more than a year for non-Covid treatments. While daily government press briefings have focused on the alarming mortality numbers from Covid-19, we shouldn’t overlook the wider toll on our population. An estimated 12,000 excess deathsoccurred as a result of non-Covid conditions during the first wave. Understanding the wider effects of Covid-19 on the population is exactly why we need a public inquiry into the management of the pandemic. This would help us to understand what went wrong during [...]

March 18th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Myanmar learnt the wrong lessons from Indonesia’s political transition

The Myanmar generals may have been inspired by Suharto’s coup to oust powerful political foes in the 1960s but should look instead at Indonesia’s democratic transition, says Dr Nehginpao Kipgen. Composite photos of Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and former Indonesian President Suharto. (Photos: Reuters, AFP)     NEW DELHI: Before Myanmar transitioned to a quasi-civilian government in 2011, the military leadership closely studied the model of Indonesia’s democratic transition. Indonesia had been a fellow ASEAN member state and both sides shared very similar historical experiences. Forged in the crucible of a struggle for independence, the militaries of both countries had played a decisive role in the creation of their nation-states. They expanded their roles into state administration, civilian life and business conglomerates that provided some semblance of national stability. Such an exercise could have bright spots. After all, Indonesia’s emergence as a modern democracy, with a flourishing civil society and a well-respected armed forces that enjoys higher levels of trust from the public than even its own president, makes it a model worthy of emulation. The gradual reduction of its military’s role in politics and transfer of power to a civilian government, despite burgeoning racial tensions and separatist concerns, could be instructive for Myanmar. But it seems Myanmar left out lessons from this second chapter of Indonesia’s history. SUHARTO AS THE INSPIRATION? Indeed, Myanmar’s coup to restore order and national unity in the country might have taken heed of Indonesia’s example. General Suharto’s coup in the 1960s came on the back of a power struggle [...]

March 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Ally or no, New Zealand must stand up to callous Australia over 501 deportees

Aotearoa has a proud history of protesting human rights abuses on the world stage. Now that means pushing back against our traditional trade partner   Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern Composite: Getty Images/AFP via Getty Images     Today a 15-year-old waits alone in a New Zealand quarantine facility, facing an uncertain future. Deported from Australia, he is not ordinarily resident here, and government agencies normally engaged for child protection are making plans for his care. Although Australia was his home, he was not Australian enough to be simply sanctioned in that nation for whatever infraction he is deemed to have committed. This dehumanising treatment is what passes for necessary hard-line immigration policy in Australia. In its very high human cost, failure of binding child rights standards, and international criticism, it is very much in line with Australia’s longstanding approach to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Australia has been thought of as outside human rights norms and any moral standard of fairness for some time. In fact, our neighbour has been repeatedly found to be enforcing policy that amounts to literal torture on its offshore prison islands. So when will New Zealand, and the rest of our so called “like-minded nations” in the international community, begin to treat Australia the way we would any rogue nation – to shame and sanction them into compliance with the international rules-based order? The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is one of the most widely ratified international treaties. Australia and [...]

March 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: The US’ greatest asset in East Asia may be Japan

The US and Japan will need to shore up their economic heft and pursue a shared commitment towards setting the rules on trade, says Titli Basu.   Composite pictures of Jo Biden and Yoshihide Suga. (Photos: AFP)     NEW DELHI: For US President Joe Biden, restoring normalcy amid polarisation in American democracy, and rebuilding the economy during a pandemic, is as pressing as repairing liberal internationalism. As pillars of the US-led liberal order eroded under Trump’s America First legacy, what will it take to repair American alliances? Regaining trust as a credible security guarantor is important. Biden, in his first key foreign policy speech, has set the right tone analysing alliances as America’s “greatest asset”. Regaining trust as a credible security guarantor is important. Biden, in his first key foreign policy speech, has set the right tone analysing alliances as America’s “greatest asset”. Revitalising contested multilateralism, global governance, imbalances in globalisation is a tall order of expectations from Biden. Team Biden rightly assess that America cannot solve common global challenges alone and revitalising alliances are important. The East Asian theatre will be key in Washington’s grand strategy. STRATEGIC BARGAIN HOLDS America established its primacy in the global balance of power underpinned by security alliances, open markets, and multilateral institutions. Alliances in East Asia are a product of US’s post-war imperative to engineer a favourable strategic order, and project power without overstretching itself. Japan has over the years positioned itself as a stabiliser of the US-led system. But, Beijing has viewed American alliance architecture as geared towards containing [...]

March 10th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The U.S. Immigration System Is a Dehumanizing Mess

  Out of incompetence, corruption, and expediency, both parties have failed to establish the kind of long-term, structural changes needed to protect the dignity and safety of foreign nationals and American citizens alike. Thus far, President Joe Biden seems intent on exacerbating the problem. The awful sound of crashing metal and screeching tires shattered the morning calm on a two-lane highway near the U.S.-Mexico border. As the dust settled, bodies littered the road beneath the sun. Some passengers tried to crawl out from a ruined 1997 Ford Expedition, crushed against a tractor-trailer, while others wandered through nearby fields. This was the scene in Holtville, California, on March 2, when an SUV carrying twenty-five Mexican nationals collided with a semi-truck. The crash left thirteen dead. They ranged in age from fifteen to fifty-three, male and female. Customs and Border Protection sources told reporters that the incident happened after someone cut an opening in the border fence near Calexico. Authorities suspect human trafficking played a part in the fatal wreck. Now and then, an incident like this highlights that there is something fundamentally wrong with our immigration system. Out of incompetence, corruption, and expediency, both parties have failed to establish the kind of long-term, structural changes needed to protect the dignity and safety of foreign nationals and American citizens alike. Thus far, President Joe Biden seems intent on exacerbating the problem. Former President Donald Trump attempted to effect change in the system Biden now oversees. But his agenda suffered setbacks due to poor personnel choices and a lack [...]

March 7th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Israel’s military courts for Palestinians are a stain on international justice

I’ve defended people in this profoundly discriminatory judicial system. It needs dismantling – and the UK can help 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi in the Ofer military court in the West Bank village of Betunia, January 2018.Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images The overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the West Bank were born into, and have spent their entire lives under, an Israeli military occupation that violates their right to self-determination. A new report by the UK charity War on Wantexposes how a core part of what sustains that occupation is a military judicial system characterised by violations of international law. The report – Judge, Jury and Occupier – is a deep dive into the diverse ways in which Palestinians’ rights are being violated – from arrest, through interrogation, conviction and jail time. It reflects the experiences of Palestinian lawyers and human rights groups. The prisoners’ rights organisation I lead, Addameer, was proud to contribute evidence. One of the report’s important contributions is to make clear that, despite the Oslo accords and establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for Palestinians in the West Bank, there has been, and remains, no escape from Israel’s military judicial system. Regardless of the existence of the PA penal code and judiciary, which operate with limited autonomy in parts of the occupied territory, all Palestinians, wherever they reside in the West Bank, remain subject to the jurisdiction of Israel’s military courts if they fall foul of certain laws. The impact of this military judicial system is far-reaching, and profoundly discriminatory. Since 1967, for example, Israel [...]

March 7th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China’s military presence in Indo-Pacific region could be Australia’s next big threat

Aggressive behaviour by China is being pushed back by Canberra but worrying developments in the Indo-Pacific could give them the ability to coerce Australia, warn experts. Distant. Insignificant. Safe. But Australia’s place in the world has changed. And trouble’s reaching into our backyard. On the global stage, Australia’s sticking its neck out. “It is heartening to see that Australia as a leading middle power is once more playing an important role in upholding the global rules-based order in the region,” says Professor Sascha-Dominik (Dov) Bachmann, with the Morrison government displaying “awareness of Beijing as a source and originator of current threats to regional (and global) rule of law, security, and stability”.   Prime Minister Scott Morrison may feel threatened by China’s growing cyber and influence operations. Picture: Peter Lorimer/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia But Canberra’s also feeling threatened. “China’s influence eroding the sovereignty of (Australia and New Zealand) has been known for years, and the Morrison government has been at the forefront of countering Beijing’s such grey zone or hybrid activities,” he writes. But Beijing’s ability to act beyond cyber and influence operations is growing. “Historically, the region has not been a leading source of ‘traditional’ military threats,” argues Pacific Forum analyst Tom Corben, “but America and Australia can no longer afford to overlook the (Pacific) as a locus of Chinese security activity”. China has already hinted at its desire to establish a permanent military presence in the region. This could give Beijing the ability to coerce island nations, including Australia, and sever critical supply lines with [...]

March 6th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China’s Military is Massive: Can Taiwan Count On America If They Invade?

Despite a recent spike in tensions, China-Taiwan relations are still massively improved, exchanging university students and business investments rather than artillery shells and aerial bombs. However, the capabilities of the PLA have drastically increased in the interval as well. Here's What You Need To Remember: In the event of military conflict, most believe China would use the modern equivalent of the tactics used at Yijiangshan: a massive bombardment by long-range missile batteries and airpower well before any PLA troops hit the shore. In 1955, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army embarked on a bloody amphibious landing to capture a fortified Nationalist island, only about twice the size of a typical golf course. Not only did the battle exhibit China’s growing naval capabilities, it was a pivotal moment in a chain of events that led Eisenhower to threaten a nuclear attack on China—and led Congress to pledge itself to the defense of Taiwan. In 1949, Mao’s People’s Liberation Army succeeded in sweeping the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government out of mainland China. However, the Nationalist navy allowed the KMT to maintain its hold on large islands such as Hainan and Formosa, as well as smaller islands only miles away from major mainland cities such as Kinmen and Matsu. These soon were heavily fortified with Nationalist troops and guns, and engaged in protracted artillery duels with PLA guns on the mainland. In 1950, the PLA launched a series of amphibious operations, most notably resulting in the capture of Hainan island in the South China Sea. However, a landing in Kinmen was bloodily repulsed by Nationalist tanks in the Battle of Guningtou, barring the way for a final assault on Taiwan itself. Then events intervened, as the [...]

February 27th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

How to Vaccinate A Rogue State Like North Korea Against Coronavirus

Increased South Korean and American contributions to COVAX will help many countries like North Korea accept aid and also help prevent the emergence of worse mutant coronavirus strains. Despite the confrontation between the international community and Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program, ensuring that North Korea is vaccinated needs to be a global priority. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is in the interest of the global community to ensure that a new variant of the coronavirus does not develop in North Korea. Such a development would lessen the effectiveness of the world’s current vaccination efforts. South Korea is leading discussions on how to vaccinate North Korea. Proposals from Seoul have ranged from providing North Korea with excess vaccines produced for South Korea to buying Russian vaccines produced at a South Korean facility. But there is a better way to vaccinate North Korea. One which could benefit not just North Koreans, but the populations of other low and middle income countries. While North Korea’s claim that there had not been a single case of the coronavirus remains unverified, at a minimum the lockdowns imposed by Pyongyang appear to have prevented a significant outbreak domestically. But rather than accept assistance extended by South Korea, Pyongyang has so far indicated a preference for international assistance and perhaps hacking its way to a solution. With Pyongyang reluctant to accepting bilateral assistance from South Korea, the United States, or others, an international solution is the best path to vaccinating North Korea. Many wealthy nations have [...]

February 27th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

From Syria to China, dictators are still getting away with murder

Faced with evidence of crimes against humanity, we can’t rely on the glacial pace of international law to provide justice A video screengrab shows bound and blindfolded Uighur men at a railway station in south-east Xinjiang, China, in August 2018. Photograph: War on Fear It’s a scene that’s been played out both in high drama and a blockbuster thriller, in Death and the Maiden and in Marathon Man – a victim chancing many years later upon their tormentor – but in Berlin in 2014 it happened for real. Anwar al-Bunni was in a grocery shop when he ran into a fellow Syrian émigré whose face was familiar. It took him a while to realise that the man was a former intelligence officer who, al-Bunni was sure, once interrogated and jailed him. That encounter led to a trial in a Koblenz court of both that officer and an underling, and this week the more junior of the pair, Eyad al-Gharib, was found guilty of aiding and abetting a crime against humanity inside one of Bashar al-Assad’s jails, a crime that included torture. The verdict was hailed as a first encouraging crack in the impunity of the Assad regime, which has not yet faced justice for the hundreds of thousands of Syrians it killed as it suppressed an uprising that began a decade ago. Optimists detect a pattern. In Washington on Friday, Joe Biden decided to release a CIA report, long blocked by Donald Trump, implicating Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, [...]

February 27th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The “Wuhan Bat T-shirt” Incident: A Diplomatic Scandal

In mid February, Canada took the initiative in a joint efforts with the United Kingdom, the U.S.A, Australia and the European Union to launch the "Declaration Against  Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations". Soon, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs retorted that it was the best evidence of arbitrary detention of foreign citizens that Canada performed on the illegal detaining of Meng Wanzhou, making the Declaration appear more like Canada's "written confession". Diplomatic conflicts between Canada and China have been bubbling up recently. The latest one was ignited by the "Wuhan Bat T-shirt" incident, a diplomatic row occurred in February that led to the recurrence of tense relations of the two nations since "Meng Wanzhou Incident" and the "Canadian Spy Incident". An online store manager in China revealed that Chad Hensler, a staff member of the Canadian Embassy in China, had successively ordered ten T-shirts with his design expressing Wuhan and a bat logo from the store in July last year. The design was deemed to insinuate the Covid-19 as the "Wuhan virus."  The design was said to imitate the logo of the American hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, drawing fierce condemnation from the Chinese on social media. The spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized Canada for linking the virus to a specific country, an act of stigmatization and labeling.     The act of the Canadian diplomat provoked outrage among the Chinese people, and Chinese foreign affairs officials regarded the incident as a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and meanwhile a formal complaint was logged over the incident. A spokesperson for Canada's foreign service made an explanation next day, saying it was a misunderstanding, the design was not meant to represent a bat, just the stylized "W" in the logo of Wu-Tang Clan. According to the spokesperson, the T-shirts were created for the team of embassy staff who were working to repatriate Canadians from Wuhan in early 2020. However, Chinese netizens [...]

February 25th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Australia’s move to tame Facebook and Google is just the start of a global battle

Governments around the world should now act together to dismantle the monopolies that threaten journalism Google Australia managing director, Mel Silva, appears via video link before the Australian senate inquiry.Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP     Facebook and Google have become accustomed to an open world of information on which to build their closed ecosystems. Not any more. Australia is proceeding with a new media code that will force platforms to pay for news and bargain with news publishers. While Google has complied, Facebook called the regulators’ bluff by banning Australian news from its platform, before reaching a deal with the Australian government that allows it to avoid the new code, but only if it signs agreements with key publishers. The new law is a bold move that shows that countries are realising they have more to gain by regulating the digital titans rather than bowing to their might. But it will be ineffective unless regulators around the world address the source of the problem: the dominance of Facebook and Google, and the concentration of power of the old media empires, which together undermine international, national and local journalism. As a regulatory experiment, Australia’s new law was a success before it even came into force. Facebook’s temporary news ban was poorly implemented. “News” was interpreted broadly, with the Australian weather agency, public health services, domestic violence charities and trade unions all blocked from the platform. These pages are now due to be reinstated, but the action has exposed Facebook’s power as a news source and its willingness to [...]

February 25th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Commentary: Has Myanmar coup sparked rethinking on non-interference among ASEAN countries?

Stronger words from Indonesia, Singapore and other ASEAN countries may seem new but do not supplant the important and consistent behind-the-scenes diplomatic work, says Dr Nehginpao Kipgen, Myanmar Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing salutes as he attends an event marking the anniversary of Martyrs' Day at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon on July 19, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun) NEW DELHI: It’s no surprise Myanmar’s coup is testing the patience of the international community. Protesters have called for external intervention, following three deaths. After being sprayed by water cannons, rubber bullets and more, they expect an imminent use of more lethal force by the military. But the international community has – unsurprisingly – been unable to launch a coordinated approach, apart from the expected strongly worded statements from the UN Security Council on Feb 4 and the UN Human Rights Council on Feb 12. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other world leaders may have condemned the military’s brutality over this past week. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the media during a joint news conference in Berlin, Germany, Dec 17, 2020. (File photo: Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS) But that only went as far as to elicit a response from the Myanmar foreign ministry on Feb 22 that authorities were “exercising utmost restraint” in refuting the condemnations and calling them a “flagrant interference” in Myanmar’s internal affairs as a sovereign country. STRONGER WORDS FROM ASEAN What has raised some eyebrows, however, is the stern, finger-wagging words of Myanmar’s closer Southeast Asian compatriots. Malaysia views the [...]

February 25th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Tackling child poverty a mountain that keeps getting steeper

Opinion - Tackling child poverty is like climbing a mountain that gets steeper with every step: easy at first, far harder as you enter the final push. So although the government should be cheered by yesterday's child poverty statistics, it must realise the scale of the task ahead. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's foundational change policies need to be coherent and significant to tackle problems ahead. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas       In the two years since Jacinda Ardern's policies began to take effect - that is, from mid-2018 to just before last year's lockdown - child poverty fell on every single one of the nine measures the prime minister has set for herself. Take, for instance, the proportion of children living in households with less than half the typical (median) income - households, in other words, who cannot afford the things necessary to participate in mainstream society and live with dignity. That proportion has fallen from 16.5 percent in 2017-18 to 14.6 percent in 2019-20. Looking at the same measure but after housing costs have been included, the fall has been from 22.8 percent to 18.2 percent. That's 45,000 fewer children in poverty. Consider, too, material hardship - the proportion of children in families who report they struggle to afford basic items like heating and decent clothes. That has fallen from 13.3 percent to 11 percent. These are real achievements, and the government should be congratulated for them. Fewer children in poverty means less misery, less stifling of talent, less of a long-term burden [...]

February 25th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Embarrassing no-shows at China’s summit are a sign Europe is charting a new course

Something went badly awry when China’s President Xi Jinping called together the leaders of 17 nations of central and eastern Europe this month. The event was the annual 17 + 1 summit – that’s 17 Europeans and one China. The one easily outweighs the 17 in its sheer economic bulk. Not only is its economy seven times the size of all the European members put together, it also brings a sack of cash and promises of huge economic benefits each year. It’s Xi’s primary pathway for driving his colossal Belt and Road infrastructure juggernaut, also known as the “new silk road”, across Europe’s poor periphery and into its wealthy core. Six European leaders snubbed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent summit.CREDIT:AP     The initiative “demonstrates that China has already become a fully fledged European power” said Emilian Kavalski, a professor of silk road studies at the University of Nottingham campus in Ningbo, China, in 2019. And the Chinese Communist Party’s media has hailed the 17 + 1 as a “pioneering feat of great power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics”. So what would you call the 17 + 1 minus six? An embarrassment, at the very least, when six of the European leaders stayed away from the latest summit. It “looked decidedly like the 11 + 1,” said Politico’s Stuart Lau, “when half of the 12 EU national leaders invited to the club failed to show up to pay homage to Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s a stinging diplomatic setback for Xi.” Even the lure of access to [...]

February 23rd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What is driving the frostiness between Australia and New Zealand?

Jacinta Arden fields questions after accusing Australia of abdicating its responsibilities by cancelling the citizenship of a dual national linked to Islamic State. Cricket and rugby union are traditional grounds of discontent between Australia and New Zealand. Things are no different in the weekly phone calls between prime ministers Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern where the two will jokingly spar about the performance of their respective sporting teams before getting down to business. It’s a dynamic the pair also share in public: while both leaders will periodically criticise the actions of the other, they enjoy a warm, friendly and good working relationship. But the historical closeness of the two countries and their leaders is being tested like never before. Ardern last week sensationally accused Australia of abdicating its responsibilities by cancelling the citizenship of a dual national linked to Islamic State. Melbourne woman Suhayra Aden , who has not lived in New Zealand since she was six, was detained trying to cross the border from Syria to Turkey with her two young children. It was only the latest incident that demonstrates how strained trans-Tasman relations have become. ADVERTISEMENT Advertise with Stuff Just hours after the New Zealand Prime Minister’s comments, she was on the phone with her Australian counterpart. JAMES D MORGAN/GETTY IMAGES Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has clashed with his NZ counterpart Jacinda Ardern over visa cancellations and the public comments of some of her ministers. While Morrison agreed to keep working on the issue with Ardern, he made no concessions publicly. At a [...]

February 22nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What does the Facebook news ban in Australia mean for NZ?

A battle across the Tasman between the Australian government and Facebook has come to a head with Australian Facebook users now restricted from viewing news content. The restrictions are in response to the Australian government's proposed media laws. RNZ Mediawatch's Hayden Donnell joined Afternoons to talk about what's going on and the implications for New Zealand. Photo: 123RF He tells Jesse Mulligan it’s a big moment not just for Australia, but countries around the world who are watching with interest Australia’s efforts to make Facebook and Google pay for the content shared on its platform. “There was probably at least plans underway to implement similar legislation in other countries, so now they’re seeing the ramifications of that kind of legislation.” The Australian government planned to institute a ‘media bargaining code’ – a new law that would force Facebook and Google to negotiate with news companies for the right to link to their content. “They’d be asked to negotiate these fees in good faith and if they didn’t come to an agreement, it’d be sent to an arbitrator and that arbitrator would listen to the cases of the news company and Google and Facebook and decide what the appropriate amount is to pay per year. “Facebook and Google, unsurprisingly, hated the idea of having to pay news publishers anything and they’ve been threatening to just walk away and remove news links entirely.” However, in the past few days Google has caved into the legislation and worked out deals for annual payments to many of the major media companies [...]

February 19th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Great Power Rivalry in the Arctic Circle is Heating Up

Great power rivalry has come to the Arctic and there’s telling where it will lead. The signs of intensified rivalry are obvious. According to a recently updated Congressional Research Service report, Russia has dramatically expanded its military footprint in recent years, establishing “new Arctic commands, new Arctic brigades, refurbished airfields and other infrastructure, deep water ports, new military bases along its Arctic coastline, an effort to establish air defense and coastal missile systems, early warning radars, and a variety of other things along the Arctic coastline.” China has also entered the arena, deploying an icebreaker to the region, establishing research stations in Iceland and Norway, and is reportedly considering deploying submarines to the Arctic as a deterrent against nuclear attack. And the United States has also beefed up its Arctic military presence, reestablishing the 2nd Fleet for North Atlantic and Arctic operations, initiating freedom of navigation operations in Arctic waters, deploying B1-B bombers to Norway, and mobilizing NATO countries to enhance their own military deployments to the region. The growing intensity of this jockeying for wealth, power, and security is attributable to two factors. At one level, it is the product of increased access to the region’s vast natural resources. The accelerating rate of melting sea ice has opened up new sea lanes through the region and increased accessibility to the vast resources it contains. And these resources are indeed vast. Various studies show that the Arctic contains an estimated 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered fossil fuel resources, with perhaps 90 billion barrels of oil [...]

February 17th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Myanmar coup – a response from diaspora in New Zealand

Myanmar community members gather in Auckland Photo: Han Htet The UK, EU and Australia are among those to have condemned the military takeover, while New Zealand has suspended political and military ties with Myanmar except for humanitarian aid to people on the ground. New Zealand's suspension of ties was one of the first major international responses to the army's takeover in Myanmar. The coup was staged as a new session of parliament was set to open and Aung San Suu Kyi is currently under house arrest. Since the army’s seizure of power, tens of thousands of people have joined street protests. Early 14 February saw armoured tanks moved into cities - a full show of the military's power, while homes of government workers who joined the civil disobedience campaign have been surrounded by security forces as well. Myanmar community members gather in Auckland Photo: Han Htet   In New Zealand, the Burmese community has been organizing solidarity marches and protests in Auckland and Wellington demanding an end to military rule, a return to democracy and the release of their elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Ei Mon Thinn Kyu arrived in Auckland two years ago. She comes from a family that's all too familiar with uprisings - her father, who lives in Myanmar was a political prisoner for 16 years following the uprising of 1988 in Yangon. "People need to know that we're not just fighting for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi but for true democracy." Ei Mon at the solidarity gathering Photo: Han Hte     Ei Mon has been at the front [...]

February 16th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Trump Senate impeachment trial forces hard choices on Republicans and Democrats alike

I was one of the lawyers defending President Clinton in his 1999 Senate impeachment trial. Collegiality then was in short supply. Can it continue now?   When it came to drafting the rules for conducting former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, an outbreak of collegiality apparently occurred in the Senate. All the parties, including the House managers and Trump’s legal team, came to easy agreement on the procedural rules for the trial. They got to this result by deciding not to decide until a later vote one of the most important issues of the entire process — whether witnesses will be called to testify. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell nevertheless deserve credit for reaching an agreement, and with 24 hours to spare. I was one of the lawyers defending President Bill Clinton in his Senate impeachment trial 22 years ago, and collegiality then was in short supply. But can it continue now? What will Trump's trial look like? The Senate schedule envisions a quick trial. That the sides could agree to such an abbreviated timetable suggests that neither sees benefit in a drawn-out proceeding. Trump, believing he already has the votes for acquittal, wants to get it over with. The Democrats might well conclude that rather than reliving the assault on the U.S. Capitol, precious floor time is better spent doing the country's business, such as passing President Joe Biden’s "American Rescue Plan" on COVID-19.   Two days to convince Senate jurors The first day, Tuesday, was spent arguing and resolving the question of whether a former president can be tried in the Senate “notwithstanding the expiration of his term in that [...]

February 12th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The stock market is on a ‘highway to the danger zone,’ Jim Cramer says

KEY POINTS "You wouldn't know it from the sedate action in the averages" but Wall Street is on "a highway to the danger zone," CNBC's Jim Cramer said. "In a frothy market, stocks will have enormous rallies that are totally disconnected from the underlying fundamentals," the "Mad Money" host said. "I am not saying sell everything. I am simply begging you to exercise some discipline and sell something because nobody ever got hurt taking a profit," he said. CNBC's Jim Cramer sounded the alarm Wednesday saying that the stock market is inching closer to a frothy environment, where investors pay up for stocks while ignoring fundamentals. "You wouldn't know it from the sedate action in the averages ... but this is starting to feel a little bit like a Kenny Loggins market," he said after the close on "Mad Money," "We're on — I'm going to say it — a highway to the danger zone." The comments come after a mixed session of trading with the S&P 500closing lower for a second straight trading day and the Nasdaq Composite taking a breather for the first in four. Despite the 0.03% dip to 3,909.88 in the S&P 500, the benchmark remains within six points of Monday's record close. The tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped 0.25% to close at 13,972.53 after making a habit of setting new highs over the past week. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 62 points higher at 31,437.80, a new record, resuming its uptrend after breaking a six-day winning streak in Tuesday's session. The [...]

February 12th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Forget 5G, the US and China are already fighting for 6G dominance

The first to develop and patent 6G will be the biggest winners in what some call the next industrial revolution.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI     WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Most of the world is yet to experience the benefits of a 5G network, but the geopolitical race for the next big thing in telecommunications technology is already heating up. For companies and governments, the stakes could not be higher. The first to develop and patent 6G will be the biggest winners in what some call the next industrial revolution. Though still at least a decade away from becoming reality, 6G - which could be up to 100 times faster than the peak speed of 5G - could deliver the kind of technology that has long been the stuff of science fiction, from real-time holograms to flying taxis and Internet-connected human bodies and brains. The scrum for 6G is already intensifying even as it remains a theoretical proposition, and underscores how geopolitics is fuelling technological rivalries, particularly between the United States and China. "This endeavour is so important that it's become an arms race to some extent," said Mr Peter Vetter, head of access and devices at Nokia's research arm Bell Labs. "It will require an army of researchers on it to remain competitive." Years of acrimony under the Donald Trump administration have hit Chinese technology companies hard, but that has not stopped the country from emerging as the leader in 5G. It has the world's largest 5G footprint, and - despite multiple attempts by the US to [...]

February 9th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

WHO says COVID-19 unlikely to have leaked from China lab

A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of COVID-19 determined Tuesday that it’s “extremely unlikely” the virus leaked from a Chinese lab. The team that visited the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak first emerged at a seafood market in late 2019, said more work is needed to identify the source of the novel virus that has killed 2.3 million people worldwide. “Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research,” WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said. “However, the findings suggest that the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” he added.   Embarek said that the possibility that the virus was manufactured in a lab, such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology, would not be encouraged as an avenue for further study. This aerial view shows the P4 laboratory on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.AFP via Getty Images Bats were a probable source of transmission, but it’s unlikely they were in Wuhan, Embarek said. He said investigators are also looking at the possibility that the virus was transmitted through the sale of frozen animal products. “So there is the potential to continue to follow this lead and further look at the supply chain and animals that were supplied to the market,” he said. “We know the virus can survive in conditions that are found in [...]

February 9th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Before you compare the Covid vaccines, here are five things to know

Trial data can’t tell us everything about how effective vaccines are: we need to wait to see the real world impact   Vaccinations against Covid-19 at Cwmbran Stadium, Wales. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images   The delivery of Covid-19 vaccines continues apace in Britain and around the world, and soon we will have a lot of data on their initial effectiveness. Vaccines are vital tools that will help to rescue us from the pandemic, and most people accept them as part of everyday life. But many people have differing opinions about how they should best be used, and there is concern that vaccines won’t be as effective against new variants. Indeed, one study (which has not yet been peer reviewed) suggests that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine provides only minimal protection against illness caused by the South African strain of Covid-19, meaning people may need a third jab later in the year to protect them from other variants. In any case, we need to understand what vaccines are, how we measure how well they work, and what they can and cannot do. 1. Vaccines and the diseases they prevent are all different Although there are many general principles we use to understand infections, each one is unique. They even change over time and vary from place to place. This creates a lot of uncertainty and means we constantly have to monitor what is going on. This work is called surveillance and without it, you can’t deploy vaccines effectively or adjust what you are doing to maximise their effects. This [...]

February 8th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Our Truth, Tā Mātou Pono: How the Treaty of Waitangi relates to Covid-19

OPINION: At the heart of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a foundational relationship between the authority granted to the Crown and the authority retained by Māori. Under Te Tiriti, the Crown was granted ‘kāwanatanga’, meaning ‘governmental authority’. Māori were guaranteed ‘tino rangatiratanga’, that is, ‘absolute chieftainship’. Those two concepts were central to the treaty relationship created in 1840, and they remain central to that relationship today, even as we grapple with responding to a global pandemic. The centrality of that relationship has sometimes been obscured. Over the past 40 years or so, much of the discussion about Te Tiriti o Waitangi has focused on the meaning of the English text as compared to the Māori text. For example, when Māori leaders agreed to grant to the Crown the powers of ‘kāwanatanga’ (governmental authority), was this the same as ‘sovereignty’? But these language issues don’t need to confuse that central relationship. The Waitangi Tribunal has been clear in its finding rangatira who signed Te Tiriti did not give up the sovereign authority of their own communities. Instead, by allowing the Crown to exercise kāwanatanga , the rangatira were agreeing to the Crown exercising governmental authority over the Crown’s subjects, British settlers making a home here in Aotearoa. SUPPLIED Dr Carwyn Jones, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Te Herenga Waka–Victoria University of Wellington. So, to get to grips with the meaning of Te Tiriti, and particularly what it means for us today and in the future, we should focus not on how the concept of sovereignty relates to [...]

February 6th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

New Zealand’s Māori women have more to contend with than ordinary sexism

Colonisation has had a particular effect on Indigenous wahine that disadvantages them to this day   New Zealand is often praised as a forerunner of women’s rights but Māori women suffered more political oppression after colonisation Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images   The Mana Wahine Kaupapa Inquiry hearings will begin this week, investigating claims regarding the specific tiriti violations of the crown that have led to injustice against wahine Māori across social, physical, spiritual, economic, political and cultural dimensions. It has been a long time coming, having first been filed in 1993 and led out by the Māori Women’s Welfare League, and then initiated as an inquiry in 2018. While it can be said that all Waitangi inquiry hearings are traumatic, frustrating and difficult, it’s expected that this one in particular will reveal a history that is as foundational, on a national scale, as it is disturbing. The hearings are taking place against a backdrop of social extremes for wahine Māori, who are at once recognised globally for their leadership in Indigenous academia, business, justice, environmental advocacy and education, but who are also significantly underpaid for their work, experience numerous barriers to adequate healthcare and social assistance, and suffer one of the highest incarceration rates for women in the world. In order to understand the role of the crown in the injustices faced by wahine Māori, we must first understand the roles they held prior to European contact. Aotearoa New Zealand is often lauded as a global forerunner in women’s rights, praise which is usually rooted in [...]

February 5th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

After Trump disgrace, Biden reopens door to refugees and Americans who want to help them

President Joe Biden just threw a lifeline to victims of one of the modern world’s greatest tragedies: He announced his administration's intention to raise the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program's annual cap to 125,000 people. That's up from the 15,000 set by the Trump administration, and it restores America's commitment to welcoming the world's most vulnerable for resettlement. U.S. policy on this issue under former President Donald Trump limited resettlement to an all-time low of 11,814 people in the year that ended last Sept. 30, and gutted a 40-year bipartisan tradition. But the actions that abruptly shut America’s doors triggered an outpouring of support. Individual citizens inundated resettlement agencies with offers of assistance. Groups of friends, organizations and businesses hosted dinners for refugees to hear their stories, connect and help. “In response to Trump’s harmful policies, there was an unprecedented surge of support for refugees,” said Danielle Grigsby, Director of Policy and Practice at Refugee Council USA, a coalition supporting refugees and asylum seekers. Rolling the dice with harm and death Protecting lives in present danger is the heart of America’s resettlement program. There are, for example, thousands of interpreters who served U.S. military forces abroad and are consequently under constant threat; unaccompanied children kidnapped by traffickers facing torture and death or enslavement; parents in the United States frantic to reunite with children in dangerous circumstances. For those waiting, each day means rolling the dice with harm and death. Immediate action in such cases is urgent. Doing nothing is a stain on our national conscience. Under President Biden’s leadership, we have a unique opportunity to reimagine the resettlement system and realign federal policy with grassroots will. The Biden administration [...]

February 5th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

What I Saw During Myanmar’s Coup

It felt like being transported back to the old, isolated country. In Yangon, Myanmar, a soldier stands guard outside a Hindu temple.Credit...Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket, via Getty Images YANGON, Myanmar — At 6 a.m. on Monday, my phone rang mercilessly. I ignored the first call, assuming that a Taiwanese friend had forgotten about the time difference. I was still struggling to sleep, and then I saw my mother’s name flash on the screen. My mother, who lives in Mandalay, in the middle of Myanmar, about 400 miles from Yangon, never calls that early in the morning. A few hours later, Myanmar’s recently elected parliament was expected to convene its first session. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had won more than 80 percent of the vote in the November elections and was about to start its second term in government. The military, which is led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, had been contesting the validity of the elections. Throughout the weekend, most of the conversations I had were with friends and family debating the probability of a coup. When I saw my mother calling, I knew: There has been a coup. “Go stay with your aunt,” my mother told me. Gather with your family and trust no one else. My paternal grandparents, who were from a vulnerable minority, hid in the home of various family members during the 1962 coup, when the military, led by Gen. Ne Win, replaced the civilian government of Prime Minister U Nu in a coup. During the [...]

February 3rd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Aleksei Navalny Is Resisting Putin, and Winning

The opposition leader was sentenced to prison, but he has mobilized a vast movement that’s not done growing.   Aleksei Navalny was in the prisoner’s dock, but it was Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his corrupt cohort who were really on trial.Credit...Simonovsky District Court, via Reuters A Russian court on Tuesday opened a new and fateful stage in the gripping power struggle between Aleksei Navalny, Russia’s tough-talking and internet-savvy opposition leader, and President Vladimir Putin, by sentencing Mr. Navalny to his first serious stint in prison. On the face of it, this would appear to be a clear victory for Mr. Putin, who has effectively proclaimed himself president for life. With his total control of the courts, the police, the official media and all sorts of sophisticated tools — including lethal chemical agents — Mr. Putin can keep Mr. Navalny in prison forever or arrange a fatal “accident” if he chooses to. But in this David v. Goliath saga, the 44-year-old Mr. Navalny has succeeded through raw courage and perseverance in putting Mr. Putin on the defensive. The imprisonment was Mr. Navalny’s move. Mr. Putin had tried for years to give him only brief sentences to avoid making him a martyr. But by voluntarily returning from convalescence in Germany, and then releasing a devastating YouTube video showing the obscenely opulent palace Mr. Putin was building himself on the Black Sea, Mr. Navalny left the president little choice but to dispatch him to a labor camp, and thus transform him into a powerful symbol of resistance. The [...]

February 3rd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Five Early Unforced Joe Biden Foreign Policy Errors

  President Joe Biden was scheduled to deliver his first major speech on foreign policy today. Instead, it was postponed “due to inclement weather.” Apparently, the two inches of snow that fell on the capital this weekend made travel too risky. It’s just as well that the speech was rescheduled. President Joe Biden was scheduled to deliver his first major speech on foreign policy today. Instead, it was postponed “due to inclement weather.” Apparently, the two inches of snow that fell on the capital this weekend made travel too risky. It’s just as well that the speech was rescheduled. After all, Biden doesn’t have much to brag about on the foreign relations front. Indeed, in his first week in the Oval Office, the president seemed determined to elevate partisan politics over good policy. Here are five frustrating moves he has made that delight the radical left but bode ill for American prosperity and security. #1. Cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline. This energy project would have more than doubled the nation’s pipeline capacity to import Canadian crude oil efficiently, economically and safely via pipeline. Biden blocked it on day one. That’s bad climate policy. The oil will now be transported via alternative means that will create more greenhouse gasses. It’s bad economics. The cancellation will kill thousands of jobs and raise energy costs in the U.S. and Canada. It’s bad strategy, undermining U.S. energy security. And it is, above all, bad foreign policy—a financial body blow to America’s closest ally. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the move [...]

February 3rd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Covid-19 has illustrated New Zealand’s hypocritical attitude to Māori health

Prioritising Māori for the vaccine would be a concrete sign the government is committed to improving our health Waka Ama crew members welcome each other with a hongi (nose press) on the beach as they celebrate Waitangi Day. Many Māori have the co-morbidities which make Covid-19 more serious. Photograph: Jason Oxenham/Getty Images   AMāori doctor on the government’s immunisation implementation advisory group, Dr Rawiri Jansen, said recently that Māori would be prioritised in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out. A predictable outcry ensued, with familiar protestations about “race-based policy” and convenient ignorance displayed about the other priority groups being discussed – the elderly, those with known risk factors, front-line workers. New Zealand’s first Covid-19 community case in months was confirmed two weeks out from Waitangi Day. The new case is awkwardly located in Northland This was compounded for Māori living in rural areas with the urban/rural healthcare provision inequity heaping on more risk. The community checkpoints have been a source of contention since they were first mooted – Māori are called vigilantes for using our limited resources to protect our communities, but those opposed offered little in the way of solutions about how we might effectively protect those communities instead. This is a conundrum. On the one hand, people are unhappy that the government might consider acting in a way that is consistent with what was agreed to under Te Tiriti o Waitangi; exchange of governorship of the land in return for equal treatment of Māori. A vaccine implementation strategy that is compliant with the treaty would be [...]

February 1st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Joe Biden talks tough on putting the world to rights. But can he deliver?

The new US president faces a series of intractable foreign policy problems that won’t be solved by signing executive orders President Joe Biden at work in the Oval Office. The difficulty with his ‘blizzard of executive orders is that they are postures, not policies’. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP Those who remember Joe Biden as a senator who preferred compromise to confrontation may have been surprised by his first hectic days as president. Biden offered a stiff finger to the leaders of China and Russia, kicked the stool from under cosy Trump-era relationships in the Gulf, fired a shot across Israel’s bows, and propelled the international climate crisis to centre stage. This is fighting talk. The difficulty with Biden’s blizzard of executive orders is that they are postures, not policies, mainly intended to overturn or freeze the most damaging aspects of Donald Trump’s legacy. There is no sign yet of long-term answers to the complex global questions Biden identifies. This is less Truman Doctrine, more feelgood attitudinising. Declaring the “US is back” is easy. New ideas are harder. The risk is that in seeking to reassert American influence and restore positions abandoned by his predecessor, Biden may make existing problems worse. Last week’s exchange with Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, was instructive. Biden made a point of stressing “unwavering commitment to the defence of Japan … which includes the Senkaku islands”. The islands in the East China Sea are claimed by Beijing, which calls them the Diaoyu. Trump bequeathed multiple China flashpoints, over trade, the pandemic, Taiwan, and [...]

January 31st, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Biden inauguration: A rich tapestry of marvels and the mundane

Opinion: In a ceremony that was at once ordinary and extraordinary, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr was inaugurated as the 46th American president on 20 January just before noon Eastern Standard Time. Joe Biden is sworn in watched by his wife, Jill, who is holding their family Bible. Photo: AFP       As Ronald Reagan had noted in his own inaugural address 40 years earlier, "in the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle." Given that the US Capitol Building had been physically invaded by right-wing insurrectionists two weeks prior to Biden taking his oath of office, the fact of a public inauguration on those very steps was perhaps miraculous enough. But the day was abundant with history: a rich amalgam of uplifting marvels, sombre remembrances, and the last gasp of a norm-busting predecessor. Most notable was the elevation of the first woman and the first person of colour to the office of the vice presidency. Resplendent in purple to honour Shirley Chisholm - the first Black woman to run for president - Senator Kamala Harris was administered the oath of office by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina on the nation's highest court. The riot of Harris' hue and the joyousness of her moment in history stood in sharp contrast to the empty National Mall, normally a heaving mass of a million or more souls. On Wednesday it was instead filled with 200,000 flags. Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice-president [...]

January 22nd, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Russia is part of the U.S. response to China’s European campaign

© Getty Images The European Union (EU) recently announced an investment dealwith China, concluding seven years of negotiations, and coinciding with the end of Germany’s term as president of the Council of the EU. The agreement was not met with universal acclaim, with many critics noting that China’s minor concessions, such as vague commitments to improve labor rights, did not include agreeing to open public tenders, signing the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement, or accepting an investment court system for handling investor disputes. Even the EU-friendly Financial Times recognized the deal as China’s “strategic victory.” It’s not a done deal yet, as the approval process may take to 2022. The agreement has to pass legal muster, be translated into the different languages, and be officially approved by EU governments, the European Parliament, and national parliaments. The U.S. has time to make clear to Europe the consequences of lashing itself to China. The U.S. should explain the futility of trying to hold China to the agreement, while China demands technology transfer, steals the technology that isn’t given to it, and violates the labor standards that it kinda-sorta pledged to uphold. The Americans know from experience what a fool’s errand it is. Failing that, the U.S. should remind Europe that its China-linked (or China-infiltrated) technology firms will receive special attention in their dealings in the U.S. or if they try to list on U.S. stock exchanges. A hint of the EU’s attitude to the U.S. is in its efforts to regulate U.S. technology companies in order to [...]

January 10th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Opinion: Trump loses control of his own deluded narrative

Opinion - 'I can't believe this is happening.' 'I knew this was going to happen.' These two conflicting thoughts are being repeated thousands of times around the world today, as Washington DC collapses into violence and anarchy. Donald Trump. Photo: AFP The scenes unfolding in America's capital today are like something from a bad action movie, with bearded, shambling blokes in camouflage gear as the stars. At least one person has died as I write this. There's one man responsible for this chaos and anarchy, and regrettably, for the next 14 days, he's the President of the United States, who has pushed and pushed his false narrative until he's utterly lost control of it. This feels like the natural endgame for a president who has systematically woven his own reality for the past four years, culminating in the increasingly deranged insistence that he won an election he lost by 7 million votes. President-elect Joe Biden's margin of victory in the Electoral College is identical to Donald Trump's in 2016; his popular vote gap is larger than Barack Obama's definitive win against Mitt Romney in 2012. It's really not that close. Dozens of lawsuits alleging fraud have been thrown out, but sycophants and enablers have fostered the notion that Trump somehow was cheated out of re-election rather than the reality - he was voted out by a firm majority of people utterly sick of him and the chaos he creates. As the designated "American explainer" guy among my New Zealand friends, I keep saying the same words [...]

January 7th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Russia hack requires new cybersecurity paradigm

© Thinkstock As the full extent of the damage of Russia’s hack into private sector and government computer systems continues to be investigated – with the recent revelations that Russian cyber operators may have stolen the source code for pervasive Microsoft products – there has been little effort to bring various stakeholders together to determine what long-term and strategic technical and policy solutions are needed. There are various options to pursue, including decoupling the leadership and organizational structures of the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Cyber Command (USCC), which we have already advocated as a prudent, albeit contentious step. We recognize that there are valid concerns about the timing of such a move, including from congressional leaders who have highlighted the dangers of doing so during an unprecedented cybersecurity crisis. We do not disagree that the rash implementation of such a split could cause significant harm to ongoing national security efforts. But we believe that this moment presents an opportunity for a deliberate path to splitting the two agencies’ leadership that will enhance not only each organization’s abilities to conduct their missions but also cybersecurity and cyber operations efforts writ large. Such a path requires concerted efforts across both executive agencies and congressional overseers over the next few months to develop, execute and manage processes in three distinct areas: internal decoupling, interagency coordination and rigorous oversight. Clearly defining the necessary outcomes and the processes that will lead to them will minimize mission disruption, enhance national security outcomes and avoid the can-kicking on an NSA-USCC split [...]

January 5th, 2021|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why Joe Biden Must Engage China

      If the Biden administration were to attempt a complete reboot of American strategy towards China, it could chart a new path while picking up concrete benefits for the American economy and chipping away at Trump’s political base. JOE BIDEN’S hands are tied. Even if he wants to shift course and adopt a more moderate or nuanced policy towards China, he won’t be able to do it. A massive bipartisan consensus against China has developed in the American body politic. With Donald Trump receiving over 70 million votes, and Republican gains in the House, the Republicans don’t feel chastened. They feel energized. They will pounce on Biden if he appears soft on China. Biden must therefore keep up his sharp rhetoric on China. His speeches must continue with a tough line. Yet, underneath that negative public rhetoric, he must explore for opportunities to meet some of his key goals, to jumpstart the American economy after Covid-19 and to chip away at the solid Republican base that Trump has accumulated. If he is careful, shrewd and calculating, he will find that an economically vibrant China offers a wealth of opportunities that no other country can offer. Trump was dead wrong about the trade war with China, especially when he said “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.” The U.S. trade deficit with China barely went down, from $375 billion in 2017 to $345 billion in 2019. There is evidence that China exporters gamed the system by shifting exports to the United States from other [...]

December 26th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Full assault on European democracy, freedom, and human rights by Iranian terrorist diplomats

These days, the world is witnessing one of the most important cases of terrorism in the 21st century, which is now being examined and evaluated in Europe in the small town of Antwerp, Belgium. The reason for this most important court case is nothing but the attack on freedom, democracy, and human rights in Europe by Iranian regime’s terrorist under diplomatic cover. According to Iranian regime ‘s logic and reasoning, assassination is just a political tool thatIranian regime can decide to use when faced with an obstacle to defend its interests. In June 2018, Belgian police defused a bomb that Assadollah Asadi, a senior diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Austria, handed over to two of his accomplices at a pizzeria to take with them to a gathering of the Iranian Resistance in Paris. This mullahs’ state terrorist attack was carried out under the command of President Rouhani with approval of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and plotted by Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. The step by step details of the attack was directed and managed by Assadi through the Iranian Embassy in Austria. The Tehran regime had taken a huge risk to carry out this assault, but why?! What were the facts that made mullahs’ regime to take such a risky decision? In Dec 2017, a large-scale uprising took place in Iran. After this uprising, Khamenei and other regime officials concluded that they should take revenge and attack the main source of this uprising. Plan ”A” for revenge included a large explosion in Albania during the Iranian [...]

December 10th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Australia-China spat a tricky one for NZ

  Opinion - Staying out of the unfolding Australian-China diplomatic clash is not going to be an easy political option for the New Zealand government. The Jacinda-Ardern led government should express its willingness to back Australia's right to go to the WTO to dispute recent Chinese tariffs, Robert Patman writes. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone       New Zealand's policy of hedging between the world's two superpowers - the US and China - is now directly challenged by escalating tensions between Australia and China and the prospect of a more demanding Biden administration. In the years since signing a landmark Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China in 2008, New Zealand governments have significantly improved their relations with both Washington and Beijing without aligning too closely with either. To the US, New Zealand has signalled it shares a commitment to democratic values and human rights, and is willing to raise these issues when dealing with the leaders of China's one-party system. To China, New Zealand has emphasised mutually beneficial trade ties, and that it is a friendly but independent democratic country that is unwilling to be an extension of the US. During the last decade, New Zealand has maintained its strong support for the Five Eyes alliance - a US-led intelligence sharing arrangement involving Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand - and signed agreements such as the 2010 Wellington Declaration and the 2012 Washington Declaration that restored military cooperation between New Zealand and America. Meanwhile, China became an increasingly important trade partner of New Zealand. In [...]

December 9th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Mosque attacks: The Christchurch commission’s call to improve social cohesion is its hardest — and most important — recommendation

Thousands of mourners attended the national remembrance service in Hagley Park, Christchurch. Photo / Dean Purcell         COMMENT Perhaps most surprising in the Christchurch report is the suggestion that the likeliest thing to have prevented the attack would have been to do with social cohesion, writes Alexander Gillespie for The Conversation. The most fundamental obligation of any state is the safety of its citizens. On March 15, 2019, New Zealand completely failed in this obligation. The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques was designed to tell us why and how this happened — why 51 people were murdered, and what steps need to be taken to prevent such acts recurring. In a nutshell, the commission concluded no one was solely to blame. It was a collective failure, divided between the security agencies, the police and a population lacking social cohesion and with a fear of speaking out. The failure of the security agencies was unremarkable in the commission's analysis. They were alienated, under-resourced and overly focusing counter-terrorism resources on the threat of Islamist extremism. While the agencies were aware of right-wing extremism, their intelligence was underdeveloped — but even if it had been better, the outcome may not have been different. The primary reason the terrorist was not detected, the commission concludes, was due more to "the operational security that the individual maintained, the legislative authorising environment in which counter-terrorism operates, and the limited capability and capacity of the counter-terrorism agencies." Intelligence and police failures So, there was [...]

December 9th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Opinion: China ‘playing cat-and-mouse game’ with Australia

Opinion - In the moment, Scott Morrison's angry denunciation of the offensive Chinese tweet about alleged Australian war crimesseemed a reasonable response. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (file) Photo: AFP In retrospect, it was probably ill-judged. This is so even though the response had bipartisan support. The Chinese immediately knew they'd touched a raw nerve, and kept pressing it, through their hyperbolic mouthpiece The Global Times, and their embassy in Canberra. They grabbed an opportunity to get their own back at a country inclined to focus on their bad human rights record. In trying to show strength, the Australian government had exposed its sensitivity. Morrison probably realised this. Twenty-four hours after calling his "virtual" news conference (he was still in quarantine at The Lodge following his Japanese trip) he told the coalition party room (remotely) that the government's response to the tweet did not need amplification. On Thursday he wouldn't even be drawn about the Chinese social media platform WeChat taking down a message of reassurance to the Australian Chinese community he had posted. The digitally-contrived image of a soldier with a knife to a child's throat tweeted by China's foreign affairs spokesman was the equivalent of a highly objectionable cartoon. With hindsight, Morrison might have been better to send out a minister to respond to the tweet, or simply to dismiss it with a brief condemnatory line and minimum elaboration. The tweet was part of the cat-and-mouse game the Chinese are playing with Australia. This might hurt their international image - it certainly should. But [...]

December 5th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Covid 19: 32,000 ‘life years’ saved in NZ compared to OECD, new research finds

Professor Michael Baker,department of public health, University of Otago, was part of the study group. Photo / Supplied     Some 2000 New Zealanders could have been killed by Covid-19 if the Government had taken the same approach as some of New Zealand's closest allies, according to Otago University health experts. The group of health academics from Otago University – including Nick Wilson and Michael Baker – calculate that 2000 lives were saved in New Zealand, compared to the OECD average. That, according to those experts, is the equivalent of 32,000 "life years" saved. But despite New Zealand's health success story when it comes to handling the virus, the Government could have done better when it comes to the economic impacts of Covid-19, the experts said. In their highly regarded public health blog post, they say New Zealand has the best health outcomes when compared to the 36-country OECD average. New Zealand has had 25 Covid-19 deaths compared with a population of five million – that's five deaths per million. The OECD average, according to the health experts, is 406 per million. If New Zealand has the same average, more than 2000 people would have died from Covid-19. "Assuming an average of 16 lost life-years per death from Covid-19 in high-income countries, this represents the prevention of around 2000 deaths and a saving of 32,000 life-years in New Zealand compared to the OECD average." Although New Zealand had the lowest Covid-19 death rate in the OECD, the Otago University research shows one country fared better in [...]

December 5th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why New Zealand is perfectly placed to broker a truce between China and the Five Eyes alliance

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in April 2019. Photo / AP     OPINION: With tension escalating between China and members of the Five Eyes security alliance, most recently over a Chinese tweet that used a doctored image to attack Australia, New Zealand is arguably in a prime position to broker a kind of truce. Someone needs to take the initiative. Right now, things are deteriorating, as the  trade stand-off with Australia demonstrates. With China having already reacted to Five Eyes criticism of its Hong Kong policies by threatening that "their eyes will be plucked out", the situation is combustible: a large, tinder-dry pile of disputes, with both sides flicking matches of angry rhetoric at each other. On one side we have the Five Eyes allies - America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In the minds of many in the West, this is a family of nations in which peoples, culture and values are tightly interwoven. On the other side is China, with which New Zealand has had an official relationship since the turn of the 20th century. While the two countries fought on the same side in World War II, once China became communist their paths diverged. They were on opposite sides in the Korean and Vietnam wars. These days, of course, New Zealand and China are friends and important trading partners. Deepening cultural, scientific, environmental and social exchanges support their economic relationship. New Zealand in the middle When it comes to its security interests, New Zealand is [...]

December 3rd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Has the pandemic made Bitcoin mainstream?

Is the pandemic transforming Bitcoin into a conventional investment option and potentially a mainstream medium of exchange? The jury is still out on both those questions, but it is apparent that the cryptocurrency is gaining wider acceptance on both fronts, moving from a speculative plaything for millennials to a financial asset of interest to conventional investors. The impact of the pandemic on all things digital, but particularly payments, during the widespread lockdowns and the boom in online commerce and communications has generated increased interest in digital currencies. At the same time, the explosion in debt has caused investors to consider whether Bitcoins represent a safe haven for stored value. Bitcoin is gaining wider acceptance, moving from a speculative plaything for millennials to a financial asset of interest to some conventional investors.CREDIT:BLOOMBERG     Some of the world’s largest investment managers and hedge funds are now advocating Bitcoin as an investment, even those once sceptical of cryptocurrencies, while online payments giant PayPal now allows users of its platform to buy, sell, hold or use Bitcoin as a medium of exchange. Bitcoin’s value has always been volatile – in 2017 its value soared from less than $US1000 to nearly $US20,000 before collapsing to less than $US4000 a year later – but, whereas in the past that caused it to be dismissed as a quite risky vehicle for speculation, this year all forms of investment have been volatile. This week, Bitcoin’s price hit a record $US19,850 before easing back to around $US18,950. It started this year at about $US7180 [...]

December 3rd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud

FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2020, file photo Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable discussion on Operation Legend, a federal program to help cities combat violent crime in St. Louis. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday, Dec. 1, that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud and has seen nothing that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) WASHINGTON (AP) — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared Tuesday the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election. Barr’s comments, in an interview with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month’s voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House. Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail. More to Trump’s liking, Barr revealed [...]

December 2nd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Trump: FBI and DOJ ‘Missing in Action’ During Investigation of Alleged Voter Fraud

President Donald Trump is accusing the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ of failing to act during his campaign’s investigation into widespread voter fraud allegations. During his first television interview since Election Day with Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo, she asked Trump whether the FBI and DOJ have been investigating his claims. “Missing in action, can’t tell you where they are. I ask are they looking at it, everyone says, ‘Yes they’re looking at it.’ Look where are they with Comey, McCabe and all these other people?” Trump said. He added, “I said I’ll stay out of it. I wish I didn’t make that statement. There’s no reason really why I have to.” Trump accused Comey, McCabe, and Brennan of lying to Congress and spying on his campaign. “Missing in action. Can’t tell you where they are.”@realDonaldTrumpsays the FBI and DOJ are MIA, and asks “where are they with Comey, with McCabe, with Brennan?… They lied, they leaked, they spied on our campaign… where’s Durham?” pic.twitter.com/Yyh3iDE4px — Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) November 29, 2020 Trump said career employees the FBI and DOJ “keep moving along and they go on to the next president.”

December 2nd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Only 3% of Trump Voters Believe Joe Biden Legitimately Won the Election, 72% Say They Would Leave GOP For a ‘Trump Party’

Only 3% of President Donald Trump voters believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election. Additionally, 72% said they would leave the GOP if Trump started his own party. It’s clear that the fraud, anomalies, and shady practices during the election have irreparably harmed the public’s trust in the U.S. electoral system. It is also clear that the president should keep fighting. According to a new CNBC/Change Research poll, a staggering 73% of respondents consider Trump the legitimate winner. Just 3% believe that Trump should concede and begin to transfer power. Two-thirds, or 66%, think Trump should never concede. “The vast majority of Trump voters — 81% — said they would not give Biden a chance as president. Only 19% said they would,” the pollsters found. “Loyalty to Trump runs deep among the respondents. Asked with whom they would identify if the president left the GOP, 72% responded Trump’s party, while 28% answered the Republican Party.”

November 27th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Feature of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine ‘puzzling’ scientists

Scientists worldwide are “scratching their heads” about one particular effect of a much-hyped COVID-19 vaccine that just doesn't make sense. Early trials of one of the key vaccines that could bring the coronavirus pandemic under control have proved promising, but an aspect of the results is “puzzling” experts. The vaccine produced by British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University, 30 million doses of which will be produced in Australia, appears to be more effective the less of it is administered to recipients. It is one of the three leading COVID-19 vaccines under development alongside others by Moderna of the US and a joint US-German vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech On Monday, AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced its vaccine had an average efficacy of 70 per cent. That is lower than those by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna which have come in above 90 per cent. The Oxford vaccine was only 62 per cent effective if administered in two equal doses. However, its efficacy grew if those on the trial were given an initial half dose followed by a full dose. UK science journal Nature said that the vaccine should offer more protection if it was given in a lower quantity was both “puzzling scientists” and “head scratching”. Multiple theories have now sprung up as to why this might be. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is so far said to be 70 per cent effective. Picture: JOEL SAGET / AFP.Source:AFP     One theory is that simply more testing needs to be done. The early results are based on so-called phase III trials, [...]

November 24th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Bill Gates Says Half of Business Travel to Disappear Even After Pandemic

“My prediction would be that over 50 percent of business travel and over 30 percent of days in the office will go away.” Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates believes that even when the coronaviruspandemic eventually subsides, it will still fundamentally change how people travel and conduct business in the future. “My prediction would be that over 50 percent of business travel and over 30 percent of days in the office will go away,” the Microsoft co-founder said during the livestreamed New York Times Dealbook conference this week. Gates added that from now on, businesses will have a “very high threshold” for traveling to conduct in-person meetings. Like Facebook, Twitter, and other large tech companies, Microsoft has already announced a permanent work-from-home policy for eligible employees. The workers also have the option to choose from a hybrid model in which they can commute to the office on some days. Gates, who has been warning about the threat of a global pandemic since 2015, noted that he has already held five virtual roundtables this year with pharma executives—meetings that are usually done face-to-face in New York City. “We will go to the office somewhat, we’ll do some business travel, but dramatically less,” he said. Airlines in the United States have taken a huge financial hit for much of the year as the ongoing pandemic has caused travelers to cancel or postpone flights. Compared to last year, domestic air travel is down 62 percent and international air travel 79 percent, according to the industry group Airlines for America. In a [...]

November 24th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Rockets are latest reminder that we need to leave Iraq

U.S. troops' presence in Iraq is not making relations with Iran any better. It's actually spurring Iran to more violence, showing its time to withdraw. After the Trump administration’s consideration of military strikes on Iran for its nuclear program, the rocket attacks in Iraq’s Green Zone, where the U.S. embassy is located, on Tuesday have the potential to draw the United States closer to a conflict with Iran. But President Trump should keep military retaliation off the table. Military action has incentivized — not deterred — Iran and its proxies in the past, endangering U.S. personnel. Military force hasn’t made American personnel safe. In the last bout of hostilities with Iran, Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-aligned militia group in Iraq, conducted arocket attack in December 2019 which killed a U.S. contractor. In response, the U.S. hit Kata’ib Hezbollah hard, striking five of the group’s facilities. If military action could deter further attacks, that should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t. Escalating tit-for-tat attacks Instead, a cycle of escalation ensued, with Kata’ib Hezbollah supporters attacking the U.S. embassy that same month. The U.S. then pursued the most aggressive option on the table, killing Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January. Rather than prevent further attacks, the move prompted Iran’s direct retaliation, with Iran’s ballistic missile attack injuring over 100 U.S. personnel. What happened in the aftermath of this standoff also underscores the failure of a military response to solve the problem. Attacks continued throughout the year, only stopping [...]

November 23rd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Survey: New Zealanders want parliamentary term increased

New Zealanders want the parliamentary term increased from three to four years and 90 percent of them have full trust and confidence in the democratic process. New Zealand parliament. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson That is according to the latest survey from Research New Zealand which looked at the length of New Zealand's parliamentary term, the desirability of compulsory voting and the trust in democracy. Research NZ Partner Emanuel Kalafatelis said it was after the US election that they decided to seek the opinion of New Zealanders on how our democratic processes line up with those around the world. He said the vast majority of New Zealanders do have confidence in the country's democratic system. "We got 90 percent and that is significantly higher than the level of opinion with regard to the democratic processes of Australia, 66 [percent], the United Kingdom at 55, the US at 23 and Hong Kong - less than 10, specifically 8 percent." Kalafatelis said 61 percent of people wanted the parliamentary term to be increased from three years to four. "I think we should not discount that result, I think we should keep an eye on that because obviously a significant proportion of New Zealanders are in support of that for one reason or another." Younger respondents were less in favour of changing the parliamentary term than older respondents, he said. "Older respondents obviously have had more experience of the electoral process you could say and, therefore, they could have an opinion that three years isn't enough for a government [...]

November 22nd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China’s taste for more trade a plus for NZ – specialist

A New Zealand trade specialist is welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping statements about his desire to open trade doors with the world. Chinese President Xi Jinping also says he doesn't want a trade war with the US. Photo: AFP Addressing Apec leaders yesterday Xi promised he will cut tariffs and indicated he wants to forge new partnerships. Xi said he has even reached out to the United States - declaring China doesn't want to get caught up in a trade war with America. Pat English, formerly New Zealand's trade commissioner in China and also a former executive director of the New Zealand China Council, said while there have been "ripples" in this country's trade with China, the announcement was positive. Asked on Morning Report if Xi's comments were credible, he said if the policy was being outlined in the Apec forum there was no doubt it was true, even if it would be interpreted and implemented in a Chinese way. New Zealand has 0.2 percent of global trade and .6 percent of China's total imports, so any positive statement from China on trade could be welcomed, English said. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has threatened to "pluck the eyes out" of the Five Eyes group - which includes New Zealand - for objecting to new rules allowing elected representatives to be sacked from the Hong Kong legislature. In a statement issued overnight, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman warned countries to stay out of China's affairs saying: "They should be careful or their eyes will be plucked out. [...]

November 20th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China’s Love-Hate Relationship with the United States

Yet alongside triumphalism, anger, and disappointment there remains admiration for America. Amid an ongoing trade war, an escalating struggle for technological supremacy, and intensifying strategic competition Americans and Chinese at least agree that 2020 has been a bad year for the United States. This summer a Wall Street Journal poll of Americans found that 80 percent feel their country is “spiraling out of control.” Gathering public opinion data in China is a difficult business, but the available evidence suggests that the average U.S. favorability rating in China has declined significantly this year. But that general Chinese perception masks a characteristically huge diversity of views among 1.3 billion people. It is easy for politically and epidemiologically exhausted Americans to imagine that China is laughing all the way to the bank at America’s travails, but in reality, they are confused about America too. America’s political and social unrest and failure to control the coronavirus pandemic have certainly given added force to pre-existing perceptions of American decline, especially against the backdrop of China’s successful pandemic response. The Trump administration in general and its chaotic pandemic response, in particular, are broadly seen as having damaged American prestige to China’s benefit. Hence the tongue-in-cheek nickname bestowed on President Donald Trump by Chinese social media: “Trump who builds China.” Hu Xijin, the hard-line nationalist editor of the Global Times state newspaper, urged Americans to reelect Trump because the hawks around him strengthen China’s “solidarity and cohesion.” On the other hand, accelerating decline is seen as bolstering American determination to contain or encircle [...]

November 16th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

70% of Republicans say election wasn’t ‘free and fair’ despite no evidence of fraud – study

78% of Republicans who alleged unfairness said mail-in ballots spurred fraud, while 72% believed ballot tampering occurred A supporter of Donald Trump holds a sign during a rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters According to a new survey, 70% of Republicans do not believe the presidential election was “free and fair”, even though multiple news outlets have called it for Joe Biden. There has been a dramatic decline in Republican voters’ faith in the system. Before the election, in the same Politico/Morning Consult poll, 35% of Republicans thought the vote would not be free and fair. More Democrats voiced trust in the election, 90% saying they thought the results were “free and fair”, up 52% from the pre-election poll. Among Republicans who thought the election wasn’t fair, 78% thought mail-in ballots spurred extensive voter fraud, while 72% believed ballot tampering occurred. Donald Trump and his supporters continue to allege such problems, without offering any substantiating evidence whatsoever. On Monday the attorney general, William Barr, authorized federal prosecutors to investigate “substantial allegations” of voter irregularities, a decision which marked a sharp turn from Department of Justice policy and was made without citing any evidence of voter fraud. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, reiterated Trump’s refusal to concede and repeated accusations of voter fraud. Fox News, which has historically treated Trump more charitably, cut away from her press conference. Among Republican voters surveyed by Politico and Morning Consult, 84% said the election helped Biden. Before election day, 18% of Republicans said they thought results would [...]

November 11th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Why did so many people vote for Trump? Like it or not, he is a ‘safe space’ for millions

The only surprise was that we were shocked. Donald Trump had long signalled his intention to both pre-emptively claim victory, and to denounce the election as a fraudulent, corrupted process, just as soon as it looked like he would lose it. Illustration: Reg LynchCREDIT: Yet still, it was shocking to see the leader of the free world make baseless claims that undermined the democracy he claims to champion. It was shocking to see his supporters marching on polling venues with a chant, not just of “Stop the count”, but in some cases, “Stop the vote”. The situation was so changeable that much of what I read this week contained the caveat “at the time of writing”. Now I need to deploy it myself - at the time of writing, Trump had resoundingly lost the popular vote and it was virtually impossible for him to win the electoral college vote. Which turns the transfer of power into a game of chicken. The other theory cleaves close to Harris’ - that Trumpism is an identity marker, a protest against the social forces of liberalism. It is about identity and feeling, having little to do with rational economic forces. Joe Biden has character – he has devoted his life to public service and it is generally agreed he is a man of decency and integrity. But Trump has something better, in the eyes of his supporters – he has style. It is a style they enjoy watching – bombastic, iconoclastic, a f--k you to the morals and niceties of [...]

November 10th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Donald Trump or Joe Biden, whoever wins the election, China loses

Both have promised to take tough measures on the communist country. There will be at least one good outcome of Election Day: Whoever wins, communist China will lose. Whether it’s Joe Biden or Donald Trump, the next president of the United States will likely take a hard line on China. Both candidates have staked out claims to have the tougher policy. This competition is good for American interests — China is the greatest threat to America’s security, economy and values — and while it should have happened years ago, it’s better late than never. How did this bipartisan unity come about? Much of the credit goes to the American people. While the political class has spent the better part of four decades cozying up to China and expanding diplomatic, economic and cultural ties, Americans have maintained a steady hostility toward the world’s communist standard-bearer. With rare exceptions, public opinion has been unfavorable toward Beijing for 30 years straight. Following the coronavirus pandemic and the Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong, that opposition has reached a record, with two-thirds of Americans now holding an unfavorable view of China. Trump's dealings with China Donald Trump was the first to follow the American people’s lead. He made China a centerpiece of his campaign in 2016. As president, his record has been a mixed bag, both in words and deeds, but on the whole, he has shifted America’s China policy in a much more aggressive and assertive direction. The bad must come first. Trump has rhetorically put his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping above America’s interests — even though his verbal [...]

November 2nd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Election 2020: A vote for Trump is a vote for economic progress for African Americans

Before the pandemic, African Americans were thriving economically. Looking ahead, Trump's promises are ambitious, but his track record is impressive. With just days until the election, some Black voters may still be grappling with whether to cast their vote for former Vice President Joe Biden or President Donald Trump. Biden said, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you 'ain’t Black,” because apparently, he owns the Black vote. But Blacks are not a monolith, and they are not indebted to Joe Biden nor to the Democratic Party. If their final decision comes down to which candidate will continue the economic progress that lifted median Black household incomes to their highest levels on record and pushed Black unemployment rates and poverty rates down to their lowest levels, then there is really just one choice: President Trump. A president’s words are powerful, and people often view him in light of his rhetoric. Insensitive and offensive language is off-putting. Yet that does not diminish what he accomplishes for the people he serves. Numbers don't lie Consider that the man who championed the 1957 Civil Rights Act, then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, referred to it as "the (N-word) bill.” As president, he signed into law pivotal legislation that dismantled segregation and disenfranchisement of Blacks: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet, according to biographers and personal accounts, he still referred to Blacks of every stature — from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to his own chauffeur — as the N-word. [...]

November 2nd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

US Election 2020: Why Donald Trump will win again on November 3

Forget the polls, ignore the experts and buckle up your seatbelts because Donald Trump is going to shock the world in just a few days.   OPINION The year before Donald Trump was first elected, I was lucky enough to take a meandering trip through the United States over several months. My wife and I had rented a car, which we put through its paces as we traversed a nation we thought we’d learned so much about through films, books and popular music. While the timeless landscape of its great mountains, canyons and deserts were forever etched into my brain, one moment altered my perception of the States and it plays increasingly heavily on my mind at this critical juncture in history, five years later. It took place while I was sitting in a dive bar in Philadelphia where, unlike Aussie pubs where we sit with the mob we came in with, everyone was perched along the bar — fuelling drunken conversation between strangers. I pulled a tall stool up, ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon and – as seemed obligatory in the States – sparked up a conversation with the fella sitting next to me. We talked about my trip, where I was from and a bit about what there was to see and do in Philly aside from eating cheesesteaks. We left the bar shortly after someone threw up on the table.Source:news.com.au I cracked loudly with laughter as he shared a few anecdotes about his life and the city he called home, which he claimed [...]

October 28th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China loses trust internationally over coronavirus handling

YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project shows most people believe China was not transparent A man works in a laboratory of Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech, which is developing a potential coronavirus vaccine. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters China appears to have comprehensively lost the international battle for hearts and minds over its handling of coronavirus with most people believing it was responsible for the start of the outbreak and was not transparent about the problem at the outset. The findings come from the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project, a survey of 26,000 people in 25 countries, designed with the Guardian. It is the widest survey of global public opinion on China’s handling of the pandemic, and the overwhelmingly negative attitude will disappoint Chinese diplomats, who have expended huge energy to deflect blame and paint the country as altruistically helping others to recover. Overall, the poll suggests there is a receptive global audience for the next US president, if he chooses, to construct an international alliance to challenge China’s growing political dominance, and to question the moral values of its leadership. There is no sense in the findings, however, that the US would be able to exploit its handling of the crisis to take on that leadership role. The survey shows that in every country surveyed, apart from China, the public overwhelmingly believe that coronavirus was first detected in China. Nigeria had the highest rate (98%), closely followed by Greece and South Africa (97%) and Spain (96%). The countries with the lowest rates, apart from China, were Saudi Arabia, where 83% thought China was [...]

October 28th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Donald Trump has 87% chance of winning the election, stock market researcher says

President Donald Trump has a very good chance of winning the 2020 presidential election against Joe Biden, if a more than 200-year overview of the stock market is to be believed. That's according to research from the Socionomic Institute, a group that has long used the stock market to predict electionsand economic and cultural trends. The research, going back to George Washington, found 16 times in U.S. history when an incumbent president ran for reelection and the stock market was up more than 20% in the preceding three years. In 14 of those 16 times, the incumbent won reelection, giving a success rate of 87%. If the trend holds, Mr. Trump could be No. 15. The two times it didn't work out, for reference, were George H.W. Bush, who lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 even though the stock market was up 38% in the preceding three years, and John Adams, who didn't win his reelection bid in 1800, despite the fact that the value of capital in U.S. chartered banks had risen by 30% in the previous 5 years. (At the time, federally chartered banks were the only publicly traded stocks in the young republic.) "The stock market is an indicator of social mood," said Matthew Lampert, who is the director of research of the group. "Historically, a more positive trend in the market and social mood is associated with a win for the incumbent." That gives Mr. Trump a pretty clear historical edge. But there are some huge caveats to consider before concluding that [...]

October 28th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China’s investment in Western elites really paid off

                               © Getty Images     Threat deflation is a rare thing in international politics. Many governments have a tendency to overestimate threats, not underestimate them. The rise of the People’s Republic of China is the poster child of how threat deflation — or underestimating threats — can be done expertly. It explains how China was able to prevent effective balancing against its aggression for decades. As Sino-American security competition increases and the bilateral relationship worsens, this issue likely will receive greater interest. China has successfully deflated its threat in the West through two discrete and effective tactics.  The first is an ancient one: rewarding the avarice of political leaders and opinion-makers is as old as recorded history. China’s investment in Western political, business, intellectual and opinion elites is complicated but is, fundamentally, an investment in the personal financial success of these elites, including their families, friends and partners. In turn, this results in a personal investment in China’s success — of the growth of its economy, closer economic ties, and ever-expanding political power and influence. Lamentably, this can cause a lack of a serious examination of the deleterious consequences of China’s rise on the West’s national security interests. This investment — in essence, a stake in China’s growth — results in the implicit message from the elites to the leadership and rank-and-file members of the national security bureaucracies, as well as to other institutions, that the negative implications of China’s rise [...]

October 28th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Biden leads Trump by 7 in Michigan: poll

© Getty Images   Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has a 7-point lead over President Trump in the crucial swing state of Michigan just days before the Nov. 3 election, according to a new poll. The former vice president has 51 percent support among likely voters in the Great Lake State, compared to Trump’s 44 percent in the ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Wednesday. Biden also leads Trump among women, 60 to 36 percent, among moderates, 67 to 25 percent, and among independents, 52 to 37 percent. The only demographic in which Trump enjoys a slim lead is among suburban voters, 49 to 46 percent. Trump flipped Michigan four years ago, narrowly winning it over then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by less than a percentage point. However, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be his largest hurdle toward reelection in the rustbelt states. In Michigan, 56 percent of registered voters said they are very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their immediate family may catch COVID-19 and 55 percent said they disapprove of how the president has handled the health crisis.Approximately 53 percent said they trust Biden to handle it, compared to Trump’s 39 percent. There have been 164,274 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michiganand 7,239 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the state's health department. The new survey also showed Biden ahead in Wisconsin, leading 57 percent to Trump’s 40 percent. It mirrors other polls released this week that show the Democrat leading in former “blue wall states.” One released on Tuesday found Biden leads by 10 points, 52 to [...]

October 28th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Russia never stopped trying to sway elections and sow mistrust. Best thing to do is vote.

Federal agencies say votes were not changed in previous Russian hacks, but just the perception advances Trump's false claim that 2020 is rigged against him. Last week, 12 days before the presidential election, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency alerted the public that Russia had targeted dozens of government and aviation networks, including some housing voter information, and had successfully stolen data from at least two servers. This breach should certainly raise alarm bells, but it comes as no surprise to the disinformation community. Both the Mueller report and federal indictments detail how Russia has been systematically targeting voter information for years, including in 2016 when it attacked voter equipment manufacturers and hacked into county-level government computer systems in Florida and Illinois. While political parties argue over whether or not Russian interference occurred in 2016, Russian influence operations have proceeded unchecked: Russia has used botnets to propagate false information, launched coordinated disinformation operations, and developed a network of fake journalists for hire to write articles critical of former Vice President Joe Biden. And those are just the things we know about publicly. Russia is a relentless adversary By sowing seeds of doubt in the American populace, nation-state actors like Russia further magnify political divides, targeting our nation’s vulnerabilities and undermining our national security. While there is still much more that needs to be done to stop foreign interference in our elections, the United States has taken some steps to prevent a repeat of 2016. During the 2018 midterm elections, U.S. Cyber Command ran a [...]

October 26th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The week in polls: Trump gains in 9 of 12 swing states, but Biden still leads in 10 of them

With just eight days to go before the election, both national poll and swing state surveys make it clear the race is tightening. President Donald Trump gained on his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in national polling averages, and in nine of 12 contested states. But Biden still holds a sizable lead in the national polls and is still ahead of Trump in 10 of the 12 states that could decide the election. Biden's average lead is only 3 percentage points or more in five of the swing states, but those include the crucial states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that Trump flipped in 2016. And while Trump grew his modest lead in Ohio and cut Biden's leads in Arizona, Florida and Georgia further down to size, he also lost ground in Texas and Iowa. The USA TODAY average of averages is based on the polling averages calculated by RealClearPolitics (RCP) and FiveThirtyEight. Last week:Trump roars back in Florida, Biden gains in Georgia National average USA TODAY average of averages: Biden 51.4%, Trump 42.9% (Biden +8.6) Last week: Biden 51.9%, Trump 42.1% (Biden +9.8) Net change: Trump +1.2 RCP: Biden 50.8%, Trump 42.8% FiveThirtyEight: Biden 52.0%, Trump 42.9% At this point in 2016: Clinton +5.6 Swing state averages Arizona: Biden +2.7 USA TODAY average of averages: Biden 48.8%, Trump 46.1% Last week:  Biden 49.3%, Trump 45.5% (Biden +3.8) Net change: Trump +1.1 Florida: Biden +1.9 USA TODAY average of averages: Biden 48.9%, Trump 47.0% Last week: Biden 48.7%, Trump 46.0% (Biden +2.7) Net change: Trump +0.8 Georgia: Biden +0.5 USA [...]

October 26th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The intrigue behind Pope Francis’ “bombshell” comments on same-sex civil unions

The remarks were a bombshell. In "Francesco," a new documentary that premiered in Rome on Wednesday, Pope Francis departed from Catholic teaching and endorsed same-sex civil unions. Seated on a gold chair in his residence, the documentary showed Francis saying gay people were "children of God." "You can't kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this," he said. "What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered." Predictably, this deviation from church doctrine thrilled liberal Catholics and LGBT activists, and infuriated Catholic conservatives. But this issue wasn't entirely new to Francis. He had already expressed support for gay civil unions when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, but only as an alternative to gay marriage.  This was the first time a pope had spoken publicly in support of such a controversial issue. The 20-second clip in question, however, didn't just raise eyebrows. It also raised suspicions. The setting, framing and lighting — even the slightly-askew position of the pope's pectoral cross — appeared identical to those in an interview by veteran Vatican reporter Valentina Alazraki for Mexican broadcaster Televisa a year and a half earlier. That broadcast, however, had not contained the explosive comments, nor had an official Vatican transcript of the interview. But the Vatican transcript did contain a clue. Although no trace could  be found of the call for civil unions, the pope had indeed said the other phrases. But there was an important distinction: He had not uttered them consecutively, and [...]

October 25th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

The Fight Over the World Trade Organization Has Begun

Will China be able to increasingly dominate the international system? Even repentant “panda huggers” and liberal internationalists have acknowledged that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is no longer up to the task of dealing effectively with the full range of challenges Beijing presents today’s global trading regime. There’s no point in debating whether Beijing should have been admitted to the WTO in the first place. It’s in. And the United States shouldn’t just pull out and leave the field there free to China. So, what now? China has used its economic power to bully, bribe, corrupt, and steal its way up the global economic supply chain, with only limited resistance from the WTO. It is past time to plug the loopholes that allow this. International organizations have become battlegrounds for today’s great power competition. The United States must act to protect its interests and foster equitable global norms—just as it did in the 1990s. After the Soviet Union collapsed, America was guiding international organizations to establish responsible rules for international relations. But that effort has been short cut by the rise of great power competition, in which we see nations like China trying to exploit organizations to their advantage. Beijing’s strategy of attempting to infiltrate and control key international organizations is well documented. There are two prominent and very different views on how to deal with this challenge. One is to just cut and run, decoupling from China and disengaging from international organizations. But a “take your ball and go home” approach makes no sense. It [...]

October 24th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Delisting Sudan From Terrorism List Will Drive Democratic And Economic Reforms

A democratic and economically robust Sudan is an incredible asset for Western democracies in Northern Africa. Ever since the first terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in 1993, the United States has designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. However, since then, particularly over the past year and a half, Sudan has undergone significant democratic reforms, including a recent victory and step towards internal peace and stability in Juba, South Sudan. Even former Obama Administration officials agree with the move. Cameron Hudson remarked that “[Sudan] needs to have this label removed… Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism is a ‘vestige’ of its past.” And, the 9/11 Commission, an independent and bipartisan body, concluded that Sudan was not responsible, expropriating all of Osama bin Ladin’s assets when he left in 1996. In a historic move, President Donald Trump announced on Monday that the State Department would remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, in addition to unleashing new, sweeping economic and humanitarian assistance to continue their economic development plans. In response, Sudan is also formalizing plans to normalize their relations with Israel. The move comes at an especially important time. Although Sudan has undergone major democratic reforms and worked hard to expel terrorist links, the sanctions that had been in place since 1993 were crippling its economic and investment activities. According to Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, “there was no guarantee the transition to democracy would stay on course until elections scheduled for 2022.” Hamdok’s detractors have been attacking him at [...]

October 24th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Trump vs. Biden: USA TODAY Opinion contributors assess the final presidential debate

The USA TODAY Opinion section asked new members of our Board of Contributors to share their impressions of how President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden performed in Thursday night's presidential debate. Here are their answers: The setting and rules reflected Trump's failures: Christian Schneider Before the candidates walked out to take part in the debate, Biden had already won it. As with any debate, the actual words spoken by the candidates are ephemeral — but the visual for this debate will be permanent: Each candidate limited by a mute button because the incumbent president cannot control his emotions. And each candidate standing a half mile away from the other because of the president's failure to address a deadly viral disease that hit America nearly nine months ago. As for the actual debate, the candidates largely drew even on style, but that usually signals a win for the guy leading in the polls. Trump was in an impossible situation — go full-on aggressive, and you risk a replay of the first debate. Sit back and behave, and you miss the chance to provoke Biden into a campaign-altering gaffe. Trump finally acted like an adult, but in doing so, failed to change the race in any way. Christian Schneider is a senior reporter at The College Fix and author of “1916: The Blog.” Follow him on Twitter: @Schneider_CM If you brag about being 'least racist,' you might be the most: Erroll G. Southers Anytime someone tells you they are the least racist person in the room, they might be the most racist person in the room. Those [...]

October 24th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Trump or Biden: which does big business want to be the next US president?

This administration is full of plutocrats, CEOs and lobbyists. Yet the 1% see the modern Republican party as a threat   Joe Biden (left) and Donald Trump: the chamber of commerce has endorsed a cluster of Democrats in tight House races Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images  What has kept Donald Trump in the presidential race is his electoral base. It consists of white men, rural and small-town voters and small-business owners. The big bucks for the campaign come from a coterie of wealthy loyalists. This bloc will stick with Trump whatever he says or does. But the attitude of other groups that one might expect to be Trump’s natural supporters, such as big business, financial markets, a lobby like the chamber of commerce – “capital”, in other words – is far less clear cut. If anything, as Joe Biden’s lead has stabilised, so too has their optimism. With an eye to an impending shift of power, the Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a cluster of Democrats in tight House races, provoking outrage from the president. These unexpected alignments point to the scrambling of assumptions that is characteristic of the Trump era. The GOP is normally the party of business. The president himself is a businessman. His administration has been stacked with plutocrats, CEOs and lobbyists. It has delivered tax cuts and deregulation. The tax-collecting IRS is a shell of its former self; the Environmental Protection Agency has been gutted, and financial regulations slashed. Trump has packed the courts with judges who will deliver judgments against labour rights, [...]

October 22nd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

China to make ‘necessary response’ after US approves $1.8bn arms sale to Taiwan

Female soldiers of an artillery unit take part in the live fire Han Kuang military exercise, which simulates China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) invading the island, in Pingtung, Taiwan, May 30, 2019. © Reuters / Tyrone Siu Beijing has warned that the US State Department's approval of a potential $1.8 billion arms sale to Taiwan would have "a major impact' on China-US relations, while Taipei says it's not seeking an arms race with the Chinese. China will issue a necessary response as the situation develops, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Thursday. Taiwanese Defense Minister Yen De-fa said earlier in the day that Taipei will not seek an arms race with China, and only needs a defensive combat capability. Yen thanked the US for the new weaponry that potentially includes sensors, missiles and artillery. The arms could help Taiwan deal with the "enemy threat and new situation," the minister said, but reiterated that it is not looking for confrontation with Beijing. We will not engage in an arms race with the Chinese communists. We will put forward requirements and build fully in accordance with the strategic concept of heavy deterrence, defending our position and defensive needs. The modernization of its armed forces, which centers on the development of asymmetrical warfare, remains a priority for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The 'asymmetrical' missile program focuses on the use of non-traditional weapons against a more powerful potential adversary in case of a cross-strait conflict. The Pentagon said on Wednesday that the US State Department has approved the [...]

October 22nd, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Mike Pence: Reelect President Donald Trump to renew America’s promise

Opposing View: For the last four years, I have stood with President Trump as he kept his promises to the American people. When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, he launched a movement to restore the promise of America. Since taking office, President Trump has delivered record-breaking results for all Americans. For decades, president after president, Republican and Democrat alike, failed to execute the agenda that they promised voters. For the last four years, I have stood with President Trump as he kept his promises to the American people, even when facing unprecedented attacks from the permanent Washington political class and their allies in the mainstream media. President Trump delivered historic tax cuts and tax reform, majorly rolled back burdensome federal regulations, unleashed America’s energy sector, and fought for free and fair trade. Throughout our first three years, businesses large and small created nearly 7 million jobs, including 500,000 manufacturing jobs. Unemployment rates for African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans hit their lowest levels ever, and we achieved the lowest unemployment rate for women in 65 years. President Trump delivered America-First trade reform. He replaced NAFTA with the USMCA — the most significant and balanced trade agreement in history. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina. CHRIS CARLSON/AP     President Trump oversaw the world’s greatest economy before the coronavirus struck our shores. Because of the strong foundation established through his economic policies before the global pandemic, America is on track to bounce back bigger [...]

October 21st, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Biden leads Trump by 9 points nationally: poll

    Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads President Trump by 9 points nationally, according to a new poll. The latest New York Times-Siena College survey finds Biden at 50 percent and Trump at 41. Biden led the same poll from September by 8 points. The Democratic nominee is benefitting from a massive gender gap. Biden leads by 23 points among women, while Trump leads by 6 points among men. The economy, which has long been a strength for Trump, is now a split issue, with 48 percent saying the president is the better leader and 47 percent saying Biden. Biden leads by 19 points on who would better unify the country, by 12 points on who would better manage the coronavirus, and by 6 points on law and order. Biden has a 28 point advantage among the youngest group of voters and a 10 point advantage among the oldest. He also leads by 8 points among voters aged 30 to 44 and by 3 points among voters aged 45 to 64. The president has a 6 point advantage among white people, while Biden leads by 44 points among nonwhites. The president holds a 23 point lead among white people without a college degree, which is less than his margin of 37 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016. The New York Times-Siena College poll of 987 likely voters was conducted between Oct. 15 and Oct. 18 and has a 3.4 percentage point margin of error.

October 20th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Trump calls Biden family a ‘criminal enterprise’ as crowd chants ‘lock him up’

At a Nevada rally, the president doubles down on his claim the Democratic nominee is a 'corrupt politician' President Trump told a raucous Nevada rally on Sunday that he believes Joe Biden's family is a "criminal enterprise" as the crowd chanted "lock him up." "They're corrupt people. But Joe Biden is from a failed and corrupt political class," Trump said as he referenced recent stories alleging emails show Hunter Biden traded on his father's name to earn millions overseas when Joe Biden was vice president. "Joe Biden is and always has been a corrupt politician," the president added. "He always has been. And as far as I'm concerned, the Biden family is a criminal enterprise. It really is." President Trump told a raucous Nevada rally on Sunday that he believes Joe Biden's family is a "criminal enterprise" as the crowd chanted "lock him up." "They're corrupt people. But Joe Biden is from a failed and corrupt political class," Trump said as he referenced recent stories alleging emails show Hunter Biden traded on his father's name to earn millions overseas when Joe Biden was vice president. "Joe Biden is and always has been a corrupt politician," the president added. "He always has been. And as far as I'm concerned, the Biden family is a criminal enterprise. It really is." The New York Post published several stories last week citing alleged emails discovered on a laptop at a Delaware repair shop, including one that stated Joe Biden had met with an official from a corrupt Ukrainian gas copany that paid Hunter Biden to be a board member. Twitter and Facebook have [...]

October 20th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

VIDEO: Trump Isn’t EFFING Around Anymore: Responds ‘Lock up the Bidens, Lock up Hillary,’ After Crowd Chants ‘Lock Them Up!’

    OPINION – President Trump knows what is on Hunter’s infamous hard drive and from the sounds of it, there are some major bombshells yet to come. His speech at his rally in Georgia likely has Joey B and his boy sweating bullets. If there is one thing that the many Democrats and Republicans agree on, it is that Trump has worked hard to keep his campaign promises. He got us out of the TPP, he renegotiated NAFTA, he has been pulling troops out of endless wars for corporate profit. However, there are some things, major things he is yet to deliver on, although not for lack of trying.  It appears that it took President Trump about 3 years to realize that he is a man on an island in Washington.  The swamp is murkier and deeper than he could have ever imagined.  Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and tossed Sessions out on his ass after he failed to go after the DS, rather stepping aside to allow coup plotters to try and further undermine him. Trump then appointed Attorney General Barr, who appointed Durham and Bash, all of which have proven to be horrific failures thus far. Hillary Clinton is still above the law and there is little hope that anything will be done to seriously investigate her foundation or email scandals. The other big promise that we are waiting to be fulfilled is ‘the wall.’  While Trump can point to the fact that 321 miles of wall have been constructed during his Presidency, according to Wikipedia, that is no where near what was promised.  It has not been [...]

October 20th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Hungarian Trade Minister BLASTS Crooked Joe Biden After He Calls Poland and Hungary Totalitarian Regimes

Last week during his patty-cake town hall on ABC Joe Biden smeared US allies Poland and Hungary as totalitarian regimes like Belarus. This was an ignorant and disgusting attack on our NATO allies to score cheap political points. On Saturday Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade DESTROYED Joe Biden in his official response. Péter Szijjártó called on Joe Biden to explain his corrupt family business stealing from the Ukrainian people. Hunter Biden wheeling and dealing for big money from Ukraine. Via the Hungarian Government Website: We may still remember the kind of Central European policy the democrats pursued for 8 years; we may still recall the continuous lecturing, accusations and attacks,” FM Szijjártó began his video statement, reminding viewers that, during his term as Vice President, Joe Biden was “particularly busy” with foreign policy. “We, Hungarians, have experienced this firsthand,” Szijjártó said, referring to occasions when members of the U.S. diplomatic corps in Budapest openly took part in opposition protests and published “extraordinarily biased” statements with the aim of supporting left-liberal parties and attacking the Hungarian government. There was a period during his term as VP, the Hungarian FM continued, when, and I exaggerate a bit, Biden spent more of his time outside D.C. in Ukraine than in rural America. “This was the time when his son happened to be a chief executive at a key Ukrainian energy company; this was also the time when there were deals in the Ukrainian energy sector that were suspected of being corrupt,” FM Szijjártó said in the video [...]

October 20th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

Comment: Total power, total responsibility – Jacinda holds both in her hands after 2020 election

Opinion - With total power comes total responsibility, and Jacinda Ardern holds both in her hands. Jacinda Ardern's first words on Saturday night were: "We will be a party that governs for every New Zealander". Photo: Getty Images Her government can do whatever it wants for the next three years. No need for deals with support parties because Labour has the numbers to pass legislation on its own. The prime minister has 64 Labour seats to command in the 120-member Parliament. With the Greens holding 10, the centre-left has an unprecedented 74 seats. While there is no one to get in the way of what the government decides to do, there isn't anyone to blame either. This is Ardern's show, and she will be held accountable for anything that goes wrong. The prime minister and her senior Cabinet ministers will be acutely aware of that. National was hammered in this election, but not as badly as it was in 2002 when it came away with just 27 seats compared with the 35 it holds now. Three years later, it very nearly won the next election. Voters have thanked Ardern for keeping the country safe from Covid-19. They won't do it again. The next three years will be about economic recovery and the way the government deals with it, a very different challenge and arguably a more difficult one. They have also punished National for its own mismanagement. The slide began with the coup against Simon Bridges and the Todd Muller debacle made it worse. Judith Collins [...]

October 18th, 2020|Categories: Opinion|0 Comments

NEWS Text messages show raw and intimate exchange between Joe and Hunter Biden

Hunter and Joe Biden   A raw series of text messages show Joe Biden offering fatherly comfort as his son, Hunter, lamented from a rehab facility about being a “f–ked up addict who can’t be trusted” and had damaged his dad’s political career. The intimate family exchange took place on February 24, 2019, two months before Joe launched his campaign for the White House. “Good morning my beautiful son. I miss you and love you. Dad,” the elder Biden wrote at 6:57 a.m. Hunter responded with a lengthy diatribe about his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, and his father’s political advisers, and he also complained bitterly about a conversation with his sister-in-law-turned-lover, Hallie Biden. “For f–ks sake hallie for the first time [in] 17 days talks to me to say im an embarrassment. To MY family,” Hunter wrote. He then admitted, “Well dad, the truth is as you and hallie point out — I am a f–ked up addict that cant be…Trusted relied upon nor defended.” View Gallery “If you don’t run ill never have a chance at redemption,” he added. About three hours later, Joe sent Hunter an encouraging burst of short texts. “I’ll run but I need you. H is wrong. Only focus is recovery. Nothing else,” he wrote. Joe also praised Hunter for raising his three