The G7’s Build Back Better spending plan to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a glorified PR stunt that’s destined to fail

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At first glance, the West’s proposal for a global infrastructure investment programme similar to China’s looks impressive. But its intention to use private finance makes it impossible to take seriously.

As might have been expected, the weekend’s G7 summit saw a particularly strong focus on China. Among the pledges was an apparent bid to counter Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a massive transcontinental infrastructure and investment portfolio – with an ‘alternative’ proposed by the West.

Titled ‘Build Back Better’ the plan saw the G7 leaders pledge to help fulfil the infrastructure needs of the developing world under the auspices of containing China, and proposing to do with private sector money.

Beijing was quick to hit back at the meeting’s increasingly anti-China tone by making the point that a small bloc of nations does not dictate global policy.

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In reality, the G7’s so-called ‘alternative’ isn’t really an alternative at all – it’s better described as a glorified PR stunt that fails to appreciate the structural factors that have underscored the success and appeal of the BRI in the first place. What is being proposed ultimately comes nowhere near it.

First of all, it’s important to examine what the BRI is, and why it’s so important. Beijing’s project has been the subject of many misconceptions and misportrayals in the mainstream media, where it’s misleadingly been referred to as a “debt trap”. This is a flawed discourse that considers it purely on expansionist terms, claiming Beijing deliberately saddles poorer countries with debt with a view to gaining geopolitical leverage.

In reality, the BRI is a project that stems from China’s thinking since the Mao era of a ‘global south’, underscoring ties with such countries as a form of ‘solidarity’.

From the 1960s onwards, Mao’s ‘Three Worlds’ theory sought to navigate the conflict between the US and Soviet Union by pitching China as the leader of the non-aligned ‘post-colonial world’ – a set of nations across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America that had recently gained independence and sought to sustain their own sovereignty in the face of the Cold War.

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This laid the foundations of China’s relationships with these countries, and with it came a set of principles and norms, including territorial integrity, national sovereignty and non-intervention in internal affairs.

The BRI is consequently being marketed by China as a form of ‘development solidarity’ with the global south. Using its own vision of economic globalization, the initiative seeks to integrate countries across multiple continents through massive infrastructure investments in an attempt to develop a common development path, as well as serve China’s own strategic needs.

Its popularity stems from fact that China does not attach ‘political strings’ to the investments, allowing nations to get ahead without making concessions to Western governments and institutions who have used development finance in the past to enforce vast political and economic changes.

In doing so, it has been able to leverage the BRI as a hierarchical project, by coordinating multiple state companies and banks without bureaucratic frills. This has given it devastating efficacy with little liability for coordinating governments, even if the West argues this has been problematic in terms of ‘regulation’.

On that note, it should be self-explanatory why the West will be unable to offer a serious alternative to it. First, the G7 countries want to use private finance, but have not pledged a penny upfront themselves, because the key motivation behind private investments is the potential to make a profit. Who is going to invest billions in high-risk projects in poor countries – in the way the BRI has – such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Pakistan? Or even enemy states like Iran?

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This does not mean the West is capable of nothing. Japan, for one, has a credible private infrastructure portfolio that could be used to agree railway contracts. But can be it done in the same fast, effective and politically visionary way that China has demonstrated?

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, for example, is a grand scheme to radically revise Pakistan’s economy altogether, despite obvious risks. While the West might push to finance some ad hoc projects here and there, it simply lacks the will – and the capacity – to create a superproject on the scale of the BRI. Plus, would the West be so willing to compromise on ‘values’ and ‘standards’ to get things done?

One notable aspect of the White House briefing of the proposal is that it acknowledges there is not even a coordinated regional focus or organization between the involved powers. This cannot compete on any level with a single state utilizing its political system to readily coordinate all resources so easily towards specific goals.

And so, the conclusion, at this stage, is obvious: the Build Back Better Initiative is promising a lot but hasn’t presented any feasible way of delivering on its aims. The project is not taking seriously the implications and challenges of building infrastructure across the developing world, and seems simply to be another way to oppose China.

The BRI is not some malicious quest for global domination, but rather the extension of China’s longstanding relationships with the developing world. This, combined with the machinery of the Chinese state, means what is being proposed is never going to be an ‘alternative’ in any conventional understanding of the term.

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This G7 Summit will be a time for sensible proposals on Covid-19, and nonsensical, virtue signalling schemes for climate change

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Paul A. Nuttall is a historian, author and a former politician. He was a Member of the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019 and was a prominent campaigner for Brexit.

The political ‘great and good’ will convene in sunny Cornwall this weekend for the annual G7 summit to address their two ‘big issues’: the pandemic and the green agenda. The former is vital, the latter is riddled with flaws.

The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, will host the summit, and be joined by the prime ministers of Japan, Australia, Canada and Italy. Also in attendance will be the German chancellor, the French president, and most importantly, the new American President Joe Biden.

The nations of the G7, which was formed in 1975, are deemed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to have the most advanced economies in the world and account for 58% of global wealth. The two principal items at the top of the agenda for the G7 are dealing with the international Covid crisis and tackling climate change.

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The global Covid crisis will be top of the agenda because it is both here and now, and unlike climate change, it is not based on predictions about the future. Pressure is being applied on the leaders to support a waiver on intellectual property rights on vaccines and treatments for Covid, so they can be shared around the world. 

Indeed, fifteen of the UK’s Nobel Laureates have called on Boris Johnson not to block such a proposal. Moreover, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has described the situation as “a life and death matter”, and has urged the leaders to agree to “burden-share the financing of the whole medical effort”.

For once, Brown is quite correct. With the borders of Europe and the US being routinely breached with ease at the moment, the pandemic will surely skip from state to state. To the Americans’ credit, they have already waived their rights to intellectual property on this issue and Japan has indicated that it is willing to follow suit. 

Only the British and the Germans are holding out against the proposal. If common sense prevails, the leaders will all agree to the waiver and share their technology – albeit with the agreement of companies involved – with nations that have the finance and the scientific capability to develop their own vaccines. It is for the good of humanity and the clue, after all, is in the name: it is a ‘Global Pandemic’. 

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The other issue at the top of the agenda we are told is climate change. The British are leading the way on this one and Johnson is calling for a new ‘Marshall Plan’ to fund green energy projects in middle and developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa. This issue, however, is not as straightforward as it might initially seem and there are a number of glaring problems with this scheme.

Firstly, how big is this green Marshall Plan going to be and who is going to pay for it? One would expect the hardworking taxpayers of the G7 countries to be billed for the scheme, which is going to be immensely unpopular with the domestic electorate, particularly in the US and the UK. Also, a proportion of Marshall Aid, which was provided by the Americans after the Second World War, had to be paid back with interest. I wonder if there are any plans to recoup the money spent on this green Marshall Plan; I expect not.

Secondly, do these middle and developing countries actually want or need investment in green initiatives? We all want to see a greener world, and it may make wealthy leaders glow with a sense of self-satisfaction to be doling out cash, but many green initiatives result in making poor people poorer and rich people richer. I would suggest that the poor of Asia and Africa would prefer regular food, clean water, and infrastructure than a truckload of wind turbines.

There is also little point in the G7 countries funding a green Marshall Plan if other leading economies are not fully signed up to cutting emissions. If China, for example, which is responsible for 27% of global greenhouse gas emissions, cannot be brought to the table, then putting a few wind turbines in Chad or Burkina Faso would be irrelevant. It would represent little more than self-indulgent virtue signalling and it would surely make more sense to tackle China on this issue first. I am sure many of the leaders know this already, but domestic political pressure will ensure that they agree to Johnson’s plan. 

Indeed, if you look at the leaders attending the summit, many of them are under political pressure, which is being applied by Greens in their own countries. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for example, is in coalition with the Social Democrat Party (SPD), which is under threat from the German Greens. Moreover, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, will need to secure the increasingly significant Green vote next year if he is to ward off Marine Le Pen’s presidential bid. And Joe Biden is clearly a prisoner of the fanatical left wing of his own Democrat party, which also has a radical Green agenda. This alone will ensure that he too would not dare oppose Johnson’s new green Marshall Plan.

It is worth noting, however, that none of the decisions taken at the G7 are binding. Leaders can, and often do, ‘pay lip service’, make empty pledges to waiting media, and then hop on their private aeroplanes back to their respective capital cities. But once the leaders have jetted off into the sunset, the people of Cornwall will be left to pick the pieces.

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Cornwall, which is one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations, has barely any infrastructure. The trainlines are antiquated and it does not have a single motorway, which no doubt contributed to Boris Johnson’s decision to fly all of 280 miles from London to Cornwall – a real commitment to cutting carbon emissions. It is also one of England’s poorest counties and is heavily reliant on tourist trade. 

As a result of this G7 summit, many holidays would have been cancelled, thus harming the local economy. And for those who are determined to take their vacations, ridiculously long car journeys and traffic jams await. Indeed, it was very selfish of the organisers of the G7 to choose such an unsuitable location for the summit. And with that, I am sure there is a metaphor in there somewhere.

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China’s Belt and Road is the way for Europe and Asia to cut colonial Western ties and prosper

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By Artur Leier, who works as a scientific employee, with a focus on foreign policy, in the German parliament. He is the executive director of German media platform Weltnetz.TV

The Belt and Road Initiative, China’s superproject to create a New Silk Road across the entire Eurasian continent, could become a bridge to the future for everyone along the road, bringing both economic and political liberation.

In October 2008 a special train arrived at the port of Hamburg – Germany’s biggest port in the country’s second largest city. It transported 50 containers with IT products from China, crossing about 10,000km in 17 days to reach its destination. On its way from China it used the rail network of several countries, including the Trans-Siberian railway in the endless expanses of Russia. In 2011 another train from China took 16 days to arrive in the German city of Duisburg – the world’s biggest inland port. In 2013 a new record was set: a train with 51 containers finished the route from China to Hamburg in 15 days. For comparison: a container ship needs twice the time for this.

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Eurasian bridge into the future

The operating company Transeurasia Logistics, also known as China Railway Express, was a joint venture between Germany, Russia and China. It was marketed as the ‘Trans-Eurasia-Express’. In 2017 Transeurasia Logistics became a subsidiary of Germany’s biggest railway corporation Deutsche Bahn and was renamed DB Cargo Eurasia. This indicates that the need for such infrastructure is growing and the future potential is being recognized in Germany.

A well-developed rail network between Asia and Europe offers an alternative which is faster than transport by ship and cheaper than plane. There are great development opportunities and for years, there have been suggestions in Russia to make transportation faster by using the latest technology. One of the ideas is using vacuum tubes to accelerate containers to speeds around 1,000km/h. This could shorten the transportation time to a few days, maybe even less than one day. Hard to imagine, but this would make it possible to deliver products from China all the way to Germany faster than a letter reaches its recipient within the country. However, there would be huge construction costs and it is uncertain whether the technology is advanced enough yet.

One thing is certain, in 2016 Russian Railways had talks with private company Hyperloop One from the US and set up its own Transport Ministry working group to develop the vacuum-tube tech on Russian soil. There is also a possibility for independent technological developments in Russia or further collaborations between China, Russia and Germany in the area of transportation technology. These existing and prospective major projects for infrastructure development between Europe and Asia are sometimes referred to as the New Eurasian Continental Bridge. They are tightly connected with an even larger project: the Belt and Road Initiative, in short BRI, also known as the New Silk Road.

Up to $8 trillion for Eurasia and Africa

The Belt and Road Initiative is the biggest infrastructure development project in history. It links the continental transport routes of Eurasia with maritime infrastructure in south and southeast Asia, Africa and beyond. The aim is to invest $4 trillion to $8 trillion. BRI puts a strong focus on developing economies and regions. So far around half of the investments went to states that Western rating agencies consider high risk and which have no prospect of receiving serious investments from the EU or the US. And if there is Western involvement, then it’s often based on a form of neocolonial exploitation or quick profit and depletion of resources. It is therefore understandable that these countries are very open for new parties with a different approach, especially in regions like eastern Africa.

It is also understandable that politicians and mass media in the Western imperialist centers are worried about this new alternative and possible way out of neocolonial dependency. But the people in Africa are presented with a choice. On the one hand, there are the EU’s empty promises and milk powder that ruins local dairy farmers and creates economic refugees – basically a depopulation program, with doctors and specialists that are already in short supply also leaving their home countries. On the other, real, long-term investments by China to create infrastructure, without cultural imperialism and interference in the social and political development of the state – usually a silent requirement for Western investments. In the long term, these countries are far better off by joining the Belt and Road Initiative.

China is not doing this out of charity. Such long-term infrastructure projects are risky but, in case of success, they pay off more than conservative investments. The recipient countries have little to lose from Chinese investments. It is not about dependency on another charity industry, nor about IMF loans that create even more poverty. BRI creates new roads, railways, ports and power plants along its way.

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Historic opportunity for Germany and Europe

But not only developing countries profit from these investments. For many states in Europe and especially for Germany this creates an opportunity to get away from the one-sided alignment with the West (Westbindung) and at least create a second pillar to the East. Germany in particular has the chance to secure its worsening energy supply with Russia and to create jobs and prosperity through stronger economic cooperation with China and Russia. Above all, it would create a perspective for long-term growth together with the emerging economies of the East. Entirely without imposed neoliberal ‘values’, without obligations to cut social welfare or to participate in imperialist wars.

There are already examples of success in Europe, one of which is Duisburg. After the collapse of the coal and steel industry, Duisburg, like many other cities in the region, struggled with high unemployment rates. The port, Duisport, is now the westernmost junction of the BRI. Every week up to 40 freight trains from China arrive at the port. Eighty percent of the trains arriving from China to Europe have Duisburg as their destination, making it a key distribution center for all of Europe. For the people living there, this meant 7,000 new jobs and future prospects. According to estimates by Deutsche Bahn, 100,000 containers would have arrived in 2020. In fact, already in 2017 around 100,000 containers were transported on the Eurasian rail network, with increasing numbers.

The full potential of the BRI in Europe is not yet realized and the development has a positive tendency: in 2019, the train connections had already reached 50 cities in 15 countries, including London and Spain. By now, some of the trains take only 12 days to arrive in Duisburg. For Germany, Russia and China this offers a historic opportunity to jointly create a Eurasian economic area with huge potential for growth and future developments, which would benefit all states from Europe to Asia not only economically but also politically. The Belt and Road Initiative is more than an economic project: it leads to a multipolar world based on peace, sovereignty and prosperity.

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Beijing district in ‘wartime emergency’ after virus cluster at major food market

June 13, 2020 / 3:03 AM / Updated 4 hours agoBeijing district in 'wartime emergency' after virus cluster at major food marketJudy Hua, Cate Cadell

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Beijing district put itself on a “wartime” footing and the capital banned tourism and sports events on Saturday after a cluster of novel coronavirus infections centred around a major wholesale market sparked fears of a new wave of COVID-19.

Forty-five people out of 517 tested with throat swabs at the Xinfadi market in the city’s southwestern Fengtai district had tested positive for the coronavirus, Chu Junwei, a district official, told a briefing.

None were showing symptoms of COVID-19, he said, but added that 11 neighbourhoods in the vicinity of the market, which claims to be the largest agricultural wholesale market in Asia, had been locked down with 24-hour guards put in place.

“In accordance with the principle of putting the safety of the masses and health first, we have adopted lockdown measures for the Xinfadi market and surrounding neighbourhoods,” Chu said.

The district is in a “wartime emergency mode,” he added.

The closure of the market and new restrictions come as concerns grow about a second wave of the pandemic, which has infected more than 7.66 million people worldwide and killed more than 420,000.

They also underline how even in countries which have had great success in curbing the spread of the virus, clusters can sometimes easily arise.

The entire Xinfadi market was shut down at 3 a.m. on Saturday (1900 GMT on Friday), after two men working at a meat research centre who had recently visited the market were reported to have the virus. It was not immediately clear how they had been infected.

On Saturday, market entrances were blocked and police stood guard. Beijing authorities had earlier halted beef and mutton trading at the market and had closed other wholesale markets around the city.

People are wearing face masks inside the Jingshen seafood market which has been closed for business after new coronavirus infections were detected, in Beijing, China, June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

They plan for more than 10,000 people at the Xinfadi market to take nucleic acid tests to detect coronavirus infections.

According to the Xinfadi website, more than 1,500 tonnes of seafood, 18,000 tonnes of vegetables and 20,000 tonnes of fruit are traded at the market daily.

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A city spokesman told the briefing that all six COVID-19 patients confirmed in Beijing on Friday had visited the Xinfadi market. The capital will suspend sports events and tourists from other parts of China, effective immediately, he said.

Beijing’s Yonghe temple and National Theatre also announced they would close from Saturday, and the city government said it had dropped plans to reopen schools on Monday for students in grades one through three because of the new cases.

One person at an agricultural market in the city’s northwestern Haidian district also tested positive for the coronavirus, Chu said.

Highlighting the new sense of alarm within the city, health authorities visited the home of a Reuters reporter in Beijing’s Dongcheng district on Saturday to ask whether she had visited the Xinfadi market, which is 15 km (9 miles) away. They said the visit was part of patrols Dongcheng was conducting.

And following reports in state-run newspapers that the coronavirus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon at the market, major supermarkets in Beijing removed salmon from their shelves overnight.

That concern also spread to other cities, with a major agricultural wholesale market in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, saying it would remove salmon products from its shelves from Saturday.

Slideshow (8 Images)

In Nanjing, capital of the eastern province of Jiangsu, a local association of restaurants said it would halt the serving of foods containing raw seafood or animal products.

Some Beijing residents, including a man shopping at a Carrefour supermarket in Fengtai district, said they were confident authorities had the situation under control.

“If I were worried, I wouldn’t come here to buy meat. I believe it has been quarantined,” said the man, who gave his surname as Zhang.

Thailand holds Zoom protest for Black Lives Matter movement

June 7, 2020 / 1:38 PM / Updated 6 hours agoThailand holds Zoom protest for Black Lives Matter movementArtorn Pookasook

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Some 300 Thais and foreigners in Thailand and elsewhere joined an online protest against racism on Sunday, adding their voices to global calls for justice for black American George Floyd who died in U.S. police custody in Minneapolis last month.

With coronavirus restrictions, protesters with ‘I Can’t Breathe’ messages on their arms and placards gathered on the video-meeting platform Zoom to emphasize the call in Thailand as they watched the video clip of Floyd’s last moments.

“I’ve lived in three continents now. I have best friends who are from the African community, who are also black Americans, and … you see a stark contrast in how they are treated,” said 28-year old Natalie Bin Narkprasert, one of the event organizers.

“Everyone has hopes, everyone has dreams, everyone bleeds red, you know,” she said. “It’s crazy that they still have this in 2020 when in 1963, that was when Martin Luther King did his freedom speech.”

The group also observed 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence – the period that Floyd was filmed pinned under a white officer’s knee – to know “how it feels”, Natalie added.

Some said racist bias existed in Asia, although it might be more subtle, and that they hoped for gradual changes.

The death of Floyd has set off the biggest anti-racism protests seen in the United States in decades and sparked demonstrations worldwide.

Singapore plans wearable virus contact tracing device for all

June 5, 2020 / 4:37 AM / Updated 2 hours agoSingapore plans wearable virus contact tracing device for allJohn Geddie, Aradhana Aravindan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore plans to give a wearable device that will identify people who had interacted with carriers of coronavirus to all of its 5.7 million residents, in what could become one of the most comprehensive contact tracing efforts globally.

FILE PHOTO: People cross a street during morning peak hour commute amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The small device, which can be worn on the end of a lanyard or carried in a handbag, follows glitches with an earlier smartphone-based bluetooth system which limited take up of the technology.

Singapore, a tiny city-state with one of the highest COVID-19 caseloads in Asia, is one of many countries trying to develop technology that will allow them to exit lockdowns and safely restart their economies.

“We are developing and will soon roll out a portable wearable device that will … not depend on possession of a smartphone,” said Vivian Balakrishnan, the minister in charge of the city-state’s smart nation initiative said on Friday.

“If this portable device works, we may then distribute it to everyone in Singapore.”

The government did not specify whether carrying the device would be mandatory.

The government’s earlier TraceTogether app was downloaded by around 1.5 million users, but has encountered problems especially on Apple (AAPL.O) devices where its operating system suspends Bluetooth scanning when the app runs in the background.

“We’ve had repeated discussions both at the technical and policy level with Apple, but we have not yet been able to find a satisfactory solution,” Balakrishnan said.

The pivot to wearables is a signal that Singapore has no immediate plans to adopt contact tracing technology from Apple and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google rolled out last month, which has several restrictions designed to protect users’ privacy.

Singapore has not provided details on the technology that will be used in the new wearable devices.

But analysts say the new technology could face similar adoption challenges to its predecessor.

“The government would likely have to mandate the use of such a device for the system to be effective, which is something that few countries have done so far,” said Frederic Giron, a Singapore-based analyst with market research firm Forrester.

Many experts have raised privacy concerns about contact tracing devices. Singapore has said data collected though its earlier app is encrypted and stored locally in the user’s phone, and will only be transferred to authorities if the individual is confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

China’s ‘nervous’ Xi risks new Cold War, last Hong Kong governor says

May 30, 2020 / 7:13 AM / Updated 2 hours agoChina's 'nervous' Xi risks new Cold War, last Hong Kong governor says

FILE PHOTO: Former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten in Hong Kong, China November 25, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping is so nervous about the position of the Communist Party that he is risking a new Cold War and imperiling Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s preeminent financial hub, the last British governor of the territory told Reuters.

Chris Patten said Xi’s ‘thuggish’ crackdown in Hong Kong could trigger an outflow of capital and people from the city which funnels the bulk of foreign direct investment into mainland China.

“What does it mean? It means serious question marks not just about Hong Kong’s future as a free society but also about Hong Kong’s ability to continue as probably the premier international financial hub in Asia,” Patten said in an interview.

“A lot of people will try to leave Hong Kong,” Patten said, adding that he feared capital would also flow out of the territory which Britain handed back to China in 1997.

The West, he said, should stop being naive about Xi.

“We have long since passed the stage where, without wanting another Cold War, we have to react to the fact Xi seems to want one himself, seems to want to be able to bully his way to whatever he thinks China wants,” Patten said.

Patten, now 76, watched as the British flag was lowered over Hong Kong when the colony was handed back to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule – imposed after Britain defeated China in the First Opium War.

Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Singaporean gets four months jail for COVID-19 Facebook post

May 28, 2020 / 6:40 AM / Updated 3 hours agoSingaporean gets four months jail for COVID-19 Facebook postJohn Geddie

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective mask walks across a bridge beneath the skyline of Singapore’s business district amid the coronavirus outbreak, May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore jailed a taxi driver for four months on Wednesday over a Facebook post in which he falsely claimed food outlets would close and urged people to stock up due to impending COVID-19 restrictions.

Kenneth Lai Yong Hui, 40, deleted the message sent to a private Facebook group with around 7,500 members after 15 minutes, case records show, but the public prosecutor called for a sentence that would deter others.

Singapore, which has seen bouts of panic buying during a four-month battle with the virus, has imposed tough punishments on those who breach containment rules or spread misinformation as it tackles one of Asia’s highest COVID-19 rates.

“The psychological fight to allay fear and hysteria is just as important as the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19,” deputy public prosecutor Deborah Lee said in her sentencing submission, according to case records.

Lai, who represented himself and could not be reached for comment, was sentenced to four months’ jail on Wednesday, a spokesman for the State Courts said.

The offence of transmitting a false message in Singapore is punishable with a fine not exceeding S$10,000 ($7,000) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both.

Last month, a man who broke quarantine with 30 minutes remaining to buy a flatbread worth a few dollars was fined $1,000. Another man who breached an order to stay home to eat pork rib soup was jailed for six weeks.

According to case records, police received a complaint on April 20 about Lai’s post which said the government was closing food courts and coffee shops, and supermarkets would only open two days a week.

“Better go stock up your stuff for the next month or so,” the post said, on which people commented urging him not to spread such rumours.

Macau gambling king Stanley Ho’s family confirms his death at age 98

May 26, 2020 / 6:34 AM / Updated 2 hours agoMacau gambling king Stanley Ho's family confirms his death at age 98

FILE PHOTO: Macau tycoon Stanley Ho attends the ground-breaking ceremony of “City of Dreams”, a Melco-PBL Entertainment joint venture project in Macau April 10, 2006. REUTERS/Bobby Yip /File Photo

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Macau gambling king Stanley Ho, who built a business empire from scratch in the former Portuguese colony and became one of Asia’s richest men, died peacefully at the age of 98, his family confirmed on Tuesday.

The flamboyant tycoon, who loved to dance but advised his nearest and dearest to shun gambling, headed one of the world’s most lucrative gaming businesses through his flagship firm, SJM Holdings (0880.HK), valued at about $6 billion.

Coronavirus cases in Singapore surpass 30,000: Reuters tally

May 22, 2020 / 7:50 AM / Updated an hour agoCoronavirus cases in Singapore surpass 30,000: Reuters tallyJane Wardell

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask passes grocery shoppers amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

(Reuters) – Coronavirus cases in Singapore topped 30,000 on Friday as the city-state reports hundreds of new infections in cramped migrant worker dormitories every day.

The lowly paid workers represented the vast majority of the 612 new cases reported on Friday, a daily infection rate that is one of the highest in Asia, taking Singapore’s total cases to 30,426. The death toll remains 22.

Singapore closed schools and most workplaces in April as part of measures to curb infections. This week, the government published plans for some businesses to resume at the beginning of June, given the low rate of infections outside the worker dormitories.

Businesses with less transmission risk like manufacturing and finance will be allowed to reopen, along with schools. Retail shops and restaurants will remain closed.

The rapid spread of the disease among the migrant labour population appeared to catch Singapore health officials by surprise.

It took the country about three months from the end of January to report its first 10,000 cases, according to a Reuters tally based on official data. The next 20,000 cases were reported in just one month, as testing was boosted in the worker dormitories.

There are more than 300,000 workers from other Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India and China, living in tightly packed accommodation in Singapore.

The daily rate of new infections has slowed to about 600 over the past week, down from a high of 1,426 cases on April 20.

Coronavirus cases and deaths are still well below the Ministry of Health’s estimates that about 20% of the 5.7 million population is infected with seasonal flu each year, with an annual average of 600 deaths.

Indonesia team says it has created $1,000 ventilator for COVID-19 fight

May 7, 2020 / 8:09 AM / Updated an hour agoIndonesia team says it has created $1,000 ventilator for COVID-19 fightYuddy Cahya Budiman, Johan Purnomo

BANDUNG, Indonesia (Reuters) – A team of Indonesian engineers working around the clock says it has produced in two months a compact ventilator to sell at a fraction of the usual cost, hoping to accelerate the fight against east Asia’s second-deadliest COVID-19 outbreak.

Like many other countries, Indonesia faces a shortage of the vital mechanical breathing devices to treat people with the pandemic disease.

Using household materials such as plastic drinking tumblers to make parts, the 40 engineers from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) developed the Vent-I ventilator that is the size of a mini-oven, said team leader Syarif Hidayat.

The institute aims to sell the machines for less than 15 million rupiah ($1,000) each, one-twentieth or less than the typical $20,000 to $25,000, he said.

“The structure of this ventilator is much simpler compared to the ventilator that we see in the intensive care unit,” said Hidayat, a 57-year-old lecturer at the university.

Indonesia, where infections of the coronavirus now exceed 12,000, has 8,413 ventilators in 2,867 hospitals across the archipelago, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said last month.

That is far from enough for the 180,000 ICUs that Indonesia will need in the best case, according to a recent ITB-led study that forecasts infections rising to 1.6 million in the country of 260 million people.

   As of Wednesday, 895 people in Indonesia had died of COVID-19, the government said, behind only China in east Asia. Indonesia has a mortality rate of 7.2% from the disease.

A key feature of the Vent-I, Hidayat said as he displayed the machine in his lab 150 km (90 miles) southeast of the capital Jakarta, is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which is vital for a steady supply of air to the lungs of people with COVID-19.

   CPAP machines, commonly used to treat sleep apnoea, have been used in China and Italy to help coronavirus patients breathe without the need for a more invasive ventilator.

Innovations like the Vent-I may have long-term benefits for hospitals in low-income countries, but it may not greatly help COVID-19 patients, whose care depends more on manpower and technique than equipment, said Eyal Leshem, director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center in Israel.

“Simply having thousands of mechanical ventilation machines will only mean that we’ll be able to connect the patients that are in respiratory failure and then watch them deteriorate within a few days,” said Leshem, whose hospital has also done projects similar to Indonesia’s $1,000 device.

“For COVID, this is a cheap solution that may not have a substantial impact, unfortunately.”

Hidayat and his team plan to work with state-owned aircraft manufacturer Dirgantara Indonesia to make up to 500 ventilators a week. They are awaiting final clinical tests before getting a license to start mass production.

   “The first batch of production, around 600 to 700 units, are not for sale,” Hidayat said. “Those will be donated.”

($1 = 14,980.0000 rupiah)

President queries Tanzania coronavirus kits after goat test

May 3, 2020 / 1:47 PM / Updated 2 hours agoPresident queries Tanzania coronavirus kits after goat test

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Coronavirus test kits used in Tanzania were dismissed as faulty by President John Magufuli on Sunday, because he said they had returned positive results on samples taken from a goat and a pawpaw.

FILE PHOTO: Tanzania’s President-elect John Magufuli is escorted after inspecting a Tanzanian military guard of honour during his inauguration ceremony at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, November 5, 2015. REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman/File Photo

Magufuli, whose government has already drawn criticism for being secretive about the coronavirus outbreak and has previously asked Tanzanians to pray the coronavirus away, said the kits had “technical errors”.

The COVID-19 testing kits had been imported from abroad, Magufuli said during an event in Chato in the north west of Tanzania, although he did not give further details.

The president said he had instructed Tanzanian security forces to check the quality of the kits. They had randomly obtained several non-human samples, including from a pawpaw, a goat and a sheep, but had assigned them human names and ages.

These samples were then submitted to Tanzania’s laboratory to test for the coronavirus, with the lab technicians left deliberately unaware of their origins.

Samples from the pawpaw and the goat tested positive for COVID-19, the president said, adding this meant it was likely that some people were being tested positive when in fact they were not infected by the coronavirus.

“There is something happening. I said before we should not accept that every aid is meant to be good for this nation,” Magufuli said, adding the kits should be investigated.

As of Sunday, Tanzania had recorded 480 cases of COVID-19 and 17 deaths but unlike most other African countries, Dar es Salaam sometimes goes for days without offering updates, with the last bulletin on cases on Wednesday.

Magufuli also said that he was sending a plane to collect a cure being promoted by Madagascar’s president. The herbal mix has not yet undergone internationally recognised scientific testing.

“I’m communicating with Madagascar,” he said during a speech, adding: “They have got a medicine. We will send a flight there and the medicine will be brought in the country so that Tanzanians too can benefit.”

COVID-19 infections and fatalities reported across Africa have been relatively low compared with the United States, parts of Asia and Europe. But Africa also has extremely low levels of testing, with rates of only around 500 per million people.

France’s COVID-19 tracing app expected to enter testing in week of May 11

May 3, 2020 / 5:22 PM / Updated 3 hours agoFrance's COVID-19 tracing app expected to enter testing in week of May 11Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s state-supported “StopCOVID” contact-tracing app should enter its testing phase in the week of May 11 when the country starts to unwind its lockdown, a government minister said on Sunday.

A woman walks past a closed bar on which reads ”take care, see you soon”, during the lockdown imposed to slow down the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cambrai, France, May 3, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Minister for Digital Affairs Cedric O, a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s inner circle, presented the app as a key element of France’s strategy to stave off the coronavirus as authorities grapple with the prospect of mass testing.

“There’s nothing magical about this app, but it’s not technological coquetry either,” O wrote on online publishing platform Medium. “It’s only useful if it’s integrated into a global health system.”

Countries are rushing to develop apps to assess the risk of one person infecting another, helping to isolate those who could spread the disease.

Like others in Europe, France has chosen the short-range Bluetooth “handshakes” between devices as the best approach, dismissing the alternative of using location data pursued by some countries in Asia as intrusive.

But debate has raged about whether to log such contacts on individual devices or on a central server – which would be more directly useful to existing contact tracing teams that work phones and knock on doors to warn those who may be at risk.

France has so far opted for a “centralised” approach, which would need Apple in particular to change the settings on its iPhones. The smartphone maker has refused to budge, although discussions with the U.S. company were ongoing, O said.

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“French health and technological sovereignty … is the freedom for our country to be able to have the choice and not be constrained by the choices of a large company, however innovative and efficient it may be,” O wrote.

France’s most important European partner, Germany, changed course last week over which type of smartphone technology it wanted to use, backing an approach supported by Google and Apple along with a growing number of other European countries.

(This story has been refiled to correct headline and first paragraph to make clearer that testing will start in the week beginning May 11)

Singapore to ease some coronavirus curbs over next few weeks

May 2, 2020 / 4:28 AM / in 5 hoursSingapore to ease some coronavirus curbs over next few weeksAradhana Aravindan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore will start easing coronavirus restrictions over the next few weeks, authorities said on Saturday, as the city-state takes the first tentative steps towards reopening its economy.

FILE PHOTO: People leave a tent used as a thermal scanning station, while buying groceries, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Singapore April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Businesses such as home-based enterprises, laundry services and barbershops will be allowed to reopen from May 12. A week later, some students will be allowed to go back to schools in small groups.

Officials say workplaces will be allowed to reopen gradually, taking into account their importance to the economy and supply chains, as well as their ability to minimise the risk of infection.

Singapore is facing the deepest recession in its 55-year history, compounded by so-called “circuit breaker” restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus that are due to last until June 1.

“We are preparing for the safe and gradual resumption of economic and community activities after the end of the circuit breaker period on 1 June 2020,” the ministry of health said in a statement.

Singapore has among the highest number of coronavirus infections in Asia, mainly due to outbreaks in cramped migrant-worker dormitories. It has managed to curb the spread of the disease among locals outside the dormitories.

On Saturday, officials confirmed 447 new infections, the smallest daily rise in two weeks, taking the total to 17,548. It also reported the death of a 76-year-old man, taking the total death toll to 17.

Of the new confirmed cases, 431 involve migrant workers living in dormitories and four are Singaporeans or permanent residents, the health ministry said.

The average daily number of new cases outside the migrant worker dormitories has dropped by more than half to 12 in the past week, from 25 the week before, the ministry said on Friday.

Authorities said SafeEntry, a digital check-in system to log details of visitors and employees, will be deployed extensively across the country to help with contact tracing.

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The government said the measures could still be adjusted depending on the situation, and that people should continue to stay at home and not meet in groups.

“Even as we ease and adjust some of these measures, the bottom line is this – this is not the time to slacken and let our guard down,” Singapore minister Lawrence Wong, who co-heads the country’s virus fighting taskforce, told a media briefing.

“We’re not out of the woods,” he said.

Singapore confirms 799 new coronavirus cases

April 27, 2020 / 7:30 AM / Updated 2 hours agoSingapore confirms 799 new coronavirus cases

A woman has her hands sanitised while buying groceries amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Singapore April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore has confirmed 799 more coronavirus infections, its health ministry said on Monday, taking the city-state’s tally of cases to 14,423.

Most of the new cases are among migrant workers living in dormitories in the city-state, which has among the highest number of coronavirus infections in Asia.

P Money – Kings & Aces Lyrics

[Verse 1: P Money]
My mind is on fire ’cause when I write bars down
I swear to God, I burn the paper
P money merks like a new shape A-Class
So powerful, no hero could save ya
My mind is so creative
It’s like having the thoughts of a scientist and a painter
Out on the roads from day to day still
Make dough like a ba-ba-baker
I keep doing the flows and running the roads
Until my fans spread out across Asia
P Money’s gone, I’m the south side saviour
Can’t catch me, I’m a quick gear changer
Not normal, I’m special like the guy that was born in a manger
Slow down, do yourself a favour
Don’t get due of cheesy like a Quaver
‘Cause I’m hot like your girl’s hair straightner
I know why man wants to be a hater
‘Cause my mixtape’s dope like an action film
And this sick bar is [?]
These bars, they will blaze ya
I will make you wanna change sides like a traitor
You could be fast like a Formula car
I’ll bring the car to a halt like an engine failure

[Hook]
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces

[Verse 2: Castro]
Okay, yeah, let me explain something to you fam, yeah, yeah I’m exceptional
So expect nothing but excellence out of this intellectual
C4, he’s controversial
Still underground, not commercial
On the Underground, shotting commercial
More white powder than a box of Percil
When I step in the club, more bums get slapped than a Asda commercial
Hoes jump in the whip and we zoom, zoom, zoom like the Mazda commercial
Straight to the telly, no spitting bars
Straight to the belly, whipping off bras
Gal tried come drink off my Henny and not give me any, she better strip fast

[Hook]
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces

[Verse 3: Blacks]
You’re not a bad boy man, I know bad boys
Calm down, why you acting like that?
[?] you don’t act like that
Fake but I won’t say back any fact
It’s me, it’s Blacks, it’s me, it’s Blacks
I’m normal but they think that I’m bad
I’m like “Rah, how fucked is that?”
They just hear me and they reload me back
Don’t even come show with no strap
Make sure [?] are holding
Don’t run out ’cause you’ll be holding
[?]
Lick it down, with your boys all pile up
Blacks is so sick, I bet I get signed up
You’re jack in a box, man don’t get wind up
Are you dumb?

[Hook]
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces

[Verse 4: [?]]
Yo, slow down, yeah
Look, I heard your tunes on Logan’s show and all you’re talking about is clapping a tool
Then I done research on your pricks, I find out you ain’t got backs like a stool
I’m on this music ting, I’m gonna take these emcees back into school
Imagine these guys all back into sports, all back in their shorts, all catching a ball
They think I’m slipping, [?] ain’t slipping, [?] ain’t lacking at all
New Year’s Eve, I was in my yard
On my ones, writing bars
You man were having a ball
Spending money and acting a fool
Think I’m talking shit, blud you’re a walking prick, why you acting a fool?

[Hook]
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces

[Verse 5: Vortex]
Don’t think I’m not about it, I’ve got [?]
Suck your mum sideways, I’m gonna shout it
I’m about it, about it
How’s this get [?]
I’m a better person [?]
But watch if I flip though
Jump in the skip bro
If you wanna skip bro
Watch how it flips though
[?]
Hammer this big
Justice bit
Blud just spit
[?] (Come outside if you’re bad enough)
Watch me get [?]
[?] will have it, I’ll slap him like magic
Go back to business
‘Cause [?]

[Hook]
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces
You emcees are wasted
Your flow’s weak and basic
You’ve got us confused
We’re all kings and aces

Big Sean – Inspire Me Lyrics

[Hook]
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me
Can’t go wrong (this one’s for you, you, you)
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me (you, you, you)

[Verse 1]
You tried to keep me away from temptation
Introduced me to The Temptations
Marvin Gaye and Isley Brothers
Dancing so hard the living room shaking
Yeah we dance in the house
My mama’s the man of the house
Mama you too good for them men
Even dad, you too good for him
Mama you know you inspire me
You deserve early retirement
You text me, tell me to take my vitamins
When I got a new love you invite ’em in
When we break up, you don’t like ’em then (no)
Loyal, loyal, swear you super loyal
Worth more to me than striking oil
You deserve the life I’m tryna show ya
I remember all of the sacrifices
Growing up in debt, but never hungry
Rich in everything except money
That’s that faith that you can’t buy
But I buy that new crib, you look right in it
I buy that new car in the color that you like it in
And play my song every single time you drive in it
That’s ’cause you inspired it (yeah)

[Hook]
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me
Can’t go wrong, wrong, wrong
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me

[Verse 2]
I know it’s hard to get me on the line
I’m busy like every other time
Since I got a house in that other town
You wonder when I’ma come around
I know you worry about me
I give you attitude like, “Don’t worry ’bout it”
Don’t hit ya up like I don’t care about you
But I hold you down, I swear I got you
I know I got problems communicating
I probably should’ve went to school
And got that degree in communications
I should be with you on vacation
I should take you where you should be taken
Asia, Africa, Dubai, anything you want, I do buy
Just want you to know I do try
To take care of ya, mama you the one, you the one
You the moon, you the stars, you the sun
I’m so happy I’m your son
I’m so happy I’m your son
You love me since day one
Since before day one
So before the day’s done
I gotta, gotta let you know

[Hook]
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me
Can’t go wrong, wrong, wrong
You do the right thing, you know you inspire me

[Outro]
Look, mama, you know you inspire me
If I ever made you not feel like it, then this is my apology
So sorry, look, dear mama you know your son shine for ya
I’m Sean for ya, my lady
Don’t you ever let ’em talk to you crazy
Anything for the fam, how you raise me
I’m yo baby but you still my baby
Ayy

Russ – The Best Party

[Verse]
Honolulu views sippin on some fresh guava
Bumping always knew and thinkin’ ’bout my next comma
I put my thoughts into the world until they come true
You chase women I’m the one that they run to
"Russ moves smart this is something you could learn from"
Rappers pay attention maybe you can finally earn something
Low overhead, I don’t need other people
Cause everybody on my team is two other people
Multi-faceted
I remember imagining livin’ how I’m livin’
Now everything is extravagant
Jets rolexs, new women, new deals
Can’t let the fake game try to tell you who’s real
Cause they gon’ try to but you gotta see through shit
You don’t have to sell your soul, I’m the proof
This is millionaire weed, kush like Regis
I sound like an angel and I look like Jesus
That’s what the women tell me
Fuck it imma run with it
You ain’t gonna get the throne back until I’m done with it
Money flow like water, yea I’m getting Fiji checks
I’m huge in Honolulu, no wonder why Kiki (Waikiki) left
I’m detached from anything y’all attached too
I’m in n out with my groupies like fast food
Who’s the greatest say Russ when they ask you
I sell out shows quick enough to always add two
I laugh too cause some promoters are slackin
But shoutout Cara Lewis always gets me a backend
Meaning you can sleep but we got that covered
You blew up in the spring and you were gone that summer
Money at my feet life’s a cake walk
They love me out in Asia you would think I made K Pop
Too many j kwons, not enough Raekwon’s
Rappers use the same beat and flow and make the same song
I swear the last few months have been the best few months
I can’t wait to see what happens in the next few months
And I can tell you only come around when success does
You only check for me when a check does
Ten blunts couldn’t get you higher than me
Cause I’m high off becoming what I aspired to be
You outdated like shirts by Ed Hardy
You know they always show up late to the best party