Netanyahu pledges ‘immediate’ annexation steps if re-elected

first_imgA day ahead of Israel’s third election in a year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Sunday that if re-elected he would annex swathes of the occupied West Bank within weeks.In an interview with Israeli public radio, Netanyahu said annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank was his top priority among “four major immediate missions”.”That will happen within weeks, two months at the most, I hope,” he said in the interview aired 24 hours before polls were scheduled to open.  “The joint US-Israeli mapping committee started work a week ago,” he added.US President Donald Trump’s widely-criticised Middle East peace plan, unveiled in late January, gave the Jewish state a green light to annex the area and proposed a committee to set out the exact borders of the territory to be annexed.Netanyahu listed his other priorities as signing an “historic” defence treaty with the United States, Israel’s key ally, and “eradicating the Iranian threat”, without elaborating on his plan for Tehran.He has repeatedly pledged to stop the Islamic republic from developing a nuclear weapon and has not ruled out the use of force. He has also acted to roll back Iranian and allied forces active in neighbouring Syria.Israel routinely fires missiles at what it says are Iranian targets in Syria, where elite Iranian forces and allied militia play a key role in the country’s conflict.Netanyahu on Sunday said that his fourth “immediate” goal if he wins another term — despite facing trial on multiple corruption charges — would be major economic reform to bring down Israel’s high cost of living.After inconclusive elections in April and September, latest opinion polls put the right-wing Netanyahu and his centrist rival Benny Gantz neck and neck in Monday’s vote.Topics :last_img read more

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Vacation nation: Indonesia adds four more days to 2020 public holidays

first_imgRead also: Tanah Lot Festival seeks to revive tourism in Bali The additional collective leave days are: May 28 and 29 (Thursday and Friday), for the celebration of Idul Fitri, which falls on May 24 and 25 (Sunday and Monday). The new arrangement will add to the three existing collective leave days of May 22, 26 and 27 (Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday).Aug. 21 (Friday), for the celebration of the Islamic New Year, year 1442 by the Hijri calendar, which falls on Aug. 20 (Thursday).Oct. 30 (Friday), for the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday, which falls on Oct. 29 (Thursday).“More days off can also encourage the public to get to know Indonesia better [by taking a holiday]. Everyone can make the best of this opportunity,” Muhadjir told the press at the Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister’s office in Jakarta on Monday, adding that the new arrangements for the 2020 holidays and collective leave days were in accordance with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s wish to evaluate the previous decision. Read also: Indonesia can afford the coronavirus battle, but…The decision was released in tandem by the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Manpower Ministry and the Coordinating Human Development and Culture Ministry.In response, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio said he was confident that the new arrangement for the 2020 public holidays would have a positive impact on domestic tourism.“The [tourism] industry will have enough room to create more attractive holiday packages, especially for domestic tourists,” said Wishnutama in a statement on Monday. (gis)Topics : Indonesia has decided to add four more days to the list of 2020 public holidays. In total, the country now has 24 days of national holiday or collective leave in the year. Previously, the government had set a total of 20 days of public holiday in 2020. Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said the decision to add more days was to boost the Indonesian domestic economy, especially in tourism.last_img read more

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12-year-old infected with coronavirus dies in Belgium

first_imgNo other details were given about her case, including whether she had any other underlying health problems.It was the first death of a child in the coronavirus crisis in Belgium, which has now recorded a total 705 deaths from the disease it causes, according to the latest official toll.Last week, France reported the death of a 16-year-old girl from coronavirus in the greater Paris region.Although serious COVID-19 infections are uncommon among the young, some exceptional cases have been taken to hospital intensive-care wards, as US health authorities have pointed out. Belgium’s toll on Tuesday represented a jump of nearly 200 fatalities from that given the previous day, which stood at 513.It comprised 98 deaths recorded in the preceding 24-hour period, plus another 94 deaths over previous days but which had not been counted in the national tally, Andre said.The small EU country, with a population of 11.4 million, now has 12,775 cases of persons tested positive for COVID-19, of whom 4,920 have been hospitalized, including 1,021 in intensive care.Hospitals in Brussels and in two provinces, in the north and the west, are now confronted with “a more complicated situation” as beds fill up, Andre said. Topics :center_img A 12-year-old girl confirmed infected with COVID-19 has died in Belgium, health officials said Tuesday.Fatality at such a young age “is a very rare occurrence,” said government spokesman Dr Emmanuel Andre, adding that her death “shook us”.The girl had had a fever for three days before her death, and tested positive for COVID-19, said another spokesman, Steven Van Gucht.last_img read more

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Medco Power kicks off drilling for 110MW geothermal plant

first_imgRead also: Medco cuts capex and production over oil price crashMedco Power president director Eka Satria said the company was committed to developing geothermal plants “following the previous project for the 330MW Sarulla geothermal plant in North Tapanuli.”The Sarulla plant is Indonesia’s second-largest geothermal power plant, after the 376MW Salak plant in West Java.Medco controls a 51 percent stake in the Blawan Ijen project while the remaining 49 percent are held by PT Ormat Geothermal Power, which acquired the stake late last year.Topics : Power producer PT Medco Power Indonesia (MPI) has started drilling geothermal wells for its plant in the Blawan Ijen volcano complex in East Java.Medco Power said on Wednesday that it would drill a total of four wells, two of which would be finished this year. The wells will power a 110 megawatt (MW) geothermal power plant – a mid-sized facility compared to other geothermal plants in Indonesia. Medco Power expects the plant to start operations between 2022 and 2023.The power producer, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s eighth-most productive oil company, publicly listed PT Medco Energi Internasional (MEDC), has already secured a 30-year power purchase agreement for the geothermal plant with state-owned electricity company PLN.last_img read more

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Home gardening blooms around the world during coronavirus lockdowns

first_imgJaime Calder all but gave up on gardening after moving from the fertile soils of Illinois to dusty Texas, but the coronavirus changed her mind.The magazine editor and her family of five planted collard greens, chard, onions, blackberries, watermelons and peppers this year, expanding their garden while buckling down at home during the pandemic.People around the world are turning to gardening as a soothing, family friendly hobby that also eases concerns over food security as lockdowns slow the harvesting and distribution of some crops. Fruit and vegetable seed sales are jumping worldwide. “It’s supplementary gardening,” said Calder. “There’s no way this would sustain a family of five. But we’re amping it up, so we can try and avoid the store a little more in the coming months.”Russians are isolating in out-of-town cottages with plots of land, a traditional source of vegetables during tough times since the Soviet era, and rooftop farms are planned in Singapore, which relies heavily on food imports.Furloughed workers and people working from home are also looking for activities to occupy their free time, after the cancellations of major sporting events and the closure of restaurants, bars and theaters. Parents too are turning to gardening as an outdoor activity to do with children stuck at home after schools shut.”Planting a few potatoes can be quite a revelation to a child,” said Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society, which has seen a five-fold rise in queries for advice on its website during the lockdown. Gardeners without yards are even planting potatoes in trash bags, he said. Gardening could trim retail demand for produce but trips to the grocery store will still be necessary. Bert Hambleton, retail consultant for Hambleton Resources, said supermarkets will continue to see an overall increase in produce demand as would-be restaurant-goers eat at home instead of dining out.Seed boom US seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co sold more seed than any time in its 144-year history in March as the contagious respiratory virus spread, Chairman George Ball said.When they cannot find seeds in stores, would-be gardeners in Britain are seeking advice on how to extract them from tomatoes and squash purchased in supermarkets, Barter said.In Russia, demand for seeds rose by 20%-30% year-on-year in March, according to online retailer Ozon.Seed demand typically goes up in tough economic times, said Tom Johns, owner of Territorial Seed Company in Cottage Grove, Oregon. The company temporarily stopped taking orders over the phone due to a surge in demand and reassigned some phone workers to physically fill online orders, he said.”It doesn’t take long for people to become very concerned about the food supply – either the cost of food or getting food,” Johns said.Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Fairfield, Maine, saw a 270% jump in orders the week of March 16, after US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus.Canada-based Stokes Seeds, which ships to the United States and Canada, received 1,000 online orders during the weekend of March 21, four times more than normal, President Wayne Gayle said.”We didn’t have the staff even just to enter them into the system, let alone fulfill them,” he said.The company temporarily halted all online orders and is prioritizing orders from commercial vegetable growers “to ensure our food security this summer,” according to its website.’I grow tomatoes, you grow carrots’With so many digging into gardening for the first time, there has also been a push to pool resources and collective knowledge on home food production.Nathan Kleinman, co-director of Philadelphia-based Experimental Farm Network, said more than 2,000 people signed up and attended weekly calls to discuss gardening best practices as they begin putting seeds in the ground.”The reaction was overwhelming,” Kleinman said. “It struck a nerve with a lot of people.”Melanie Pittman, an teacher who lives on 5 acres near Crete, Illinois, said while everyone was stocking up on toilet paper, her partner ran over to the local home improvement store to stock up on seeds and gardening tools.Pittman is more than doubling her garden, planting corn, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and growing mushrooms. She is also working with other growers in her community to expand her reliance on local food.“I try to reach out to other individuals who are growing food in the area, to avoid the overlap – ‘I grow tomatoes, you grow carrots,’” she said.Gardening may be a rare positive trend to emerge from the crippling pandemic, said Diane Blazek, executive director of the US industry group National Garden Bureau.”We’ll come out in the end and hopefully everyone will be eating better and gardening more and more self-reliant,” she said.center_img Topics :last_img read more

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Businesses must have adequate support to prevent layoffs: Experts

first_img“During the pandemic, what the government can do – and what furloughed or recently unemployed people need – is cash assistance. If this could be done by the government, that would be of great help,” he said.As the pandemic has hit employers and laborers alike, the government should issue a regulation that ensures the two sides meet if the companies reduce their workforce, University of Indonesia (UI) labor law professor Aloysius Uwiyono suggested.“There should be a legal basis as a reference for the employers and workers so they are on the same page. Without it, I think it will be difficult for them to discuss severance payment,” he said.About 375,165 formal workers have been laid off nationwide and 1.03 million formal workers have been furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, while 314,833 informal workers have lost their livelihoods, according to data from the Manpower Ministry. As COVID-19 arrests most industry activity and disrupts global supply chains, millions of Indonesian laborers face a greater risk of being furloughed or losing their jobs entirely.The government must now ensure that businesses have adequate support to prevent layoffs, and – where job reductions are inevitable – the government must ensure that workers’ rights are protected, labor experts have said.“The options [for laborers] are quite limited. If they are dismissed, it is important that they secure full compensation as stipulated by the Labor Law. If they are furloughed, they should get full wages and THR [holiday bonus],” said Hadi Subhan, a labor expert from Airlangga University. The government predicts that 2.9 million to 5.2 million workers could lose their jobs during the outbreak.If that becomes the case, the additional unemployment would erase last year’s gains of 2.5 million new jobs.Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data shows that 7.05 million people – 5.28 percent of the workforce of 133.56 million – were unemployed as of August 2019.Data from the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister shows that 15,747 factories remain in operation in regions where large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) have been applied – about a third of the approximately 40,000 manufacturers that operate under normal circumstances. The companies are currently employing about 4.7 million workers out of the 17 million people who usually work in the sector.Workers in manufacturing and other labor-intensive sectors have been among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 outbreak. The government’s stay-at-home order has effectively halted production in nonessential industries. “The work-from-home approach is applicable only to workers in certain workplaces, but those in manufacturing cannot do it because they do everything in the factories,” said Aloysius.Read also: On May Day, workers marches go online to avoid coronavirus riskThe Indonesian Labor Workers Assembly (MPBI), a coalition of three major labor groups, has demanded employment protections amid the pandemic, noting that airlines, hotels, travel agents, restaurants, logistics firms, online transportation services, digital economic firms, as well as micro, small and medium enterprises have seen the most layoffs. They estimated that layoffs in these sectors could account for 90 percent of the total number of people who lose their jobs during the outbreak.Said Iqbal, president of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI), which is a member of the MPBI, demanded the government require public audits on companies that claimed financial losses, as he believed not all sectors had been hit equally by the pandemic.“We want public audits for companies that claim losses. For those that survive, we demand they pay full THR and wages so that these workers can maintain their purchasing power and the economy can eventually grow positively,” he said on Friday.Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah said that the government had implemented tax incentives and planned to relax premium payments to the Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) to support companies so that they could continue employing workers during the outbreak.The ministry, Ida said, was pushing for dialogue between stakeholders “to discuss issues related to tackling COVID-19 and its impacts on business and employment sustainability”. The ministry was also communicating with the regional administrations to prevent and resolve industrial relations disputes.Read also: Indonesia delays deliberations over labor issues in omnibus bill amid backlashA recent deal between the government and lawmakers to delay deliberation on the contentious labor provisions in the omnibus bill on job creation – coupled with COVID-19 restrictions and fears – led workers to scale back May Day rallies across the country on Friday. Many of them used social media instead to reiterate their disapproval of the job creation bill and demand protection during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.According to Said Iqbal, the MPBI coalition will ask the government to withdraw the bill entirely and resume deliberation only if policymakers allow labor unions to join the drafting process.Topics :last_img read more

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UK lockdown drives fastest growth in grocery sales for over 25 years

first_imgOf Britain’s big four grocers, industry leader Tesco was the best performer with sales up 12.7 percent, closely followed by No. 2 player Sainsbury’s with a 12.5 percent increase. No. 4 Morrisons’ sales rose 9.8 percent, while Walmart owned Asda was the laggard with a 6.5 percent increase. The overall star performer was the Co-operative, the No. 6 player, with a sales increase of 30.8 percent. Kantar said that in the most recent four week period to May 17 grocery sales growth accelerated to 17.2 percent year-on-year as the government announced the first stage of easing lockdown restrictions. In the most recent four weeks, the trend towards fewer, larger shops evident in April continued. Kantar said shoppers visited a supermarket 3.5 times per week on average, meaning 100 million fewer trips overall than the same month last year, and increased their spend each trip to 27.41 pounds (US$33.7) – nearly 50 percent more than they did during pre-crisis times.Topics : United Kingdom grocery sales rose by 14.3 percent during the 12 weeks to May 17, the fastest rate since comparable records began in 1994, as Britons adapted to the national lockdown, data from market researcher Kantar showed on Wednesday. The period included both the pre-lockdown rush to the shops in March, and eight weeks of stay-at-home advice from the government. The UK has been in lockdown since March 23 though restrictions are being gradually eased. last_img read more

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In Brazil’s shadow, laid-back Uruguay curbs COVID-19

first_imgAs well as Brazil, neighbors like Chile, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia have far higher rates of infection than Uruguay.Paraguay has kept cases at a similar level but with much tougher measures, including using the military to enforce its lockdown.Adriana Garcia Da Rosa, 57, a pediatrician in Montevideo, said the success was down to good government planning, while flu inoculations had helped keep pressure off the health service from seasonal illness.”Uruguay’s population responded well and abided by government regulations, making it possible to control the pandemic effectively,” she said.Giovanni Escalante, Uruguay’s representative at the Pan American Health Organization, said the country’s success was down to a rapid response, robust measures, and the creation of a crisis committee led by health and epidemiological experts.Only a handful of the country’s approximately 650 intensive care unit beds available for COVID-19 patients are currently occupied, he said.But a shadow remains. Uruguay shares a northern border with Brazil, which now has the second highest number of recorded cases in the world.The border city of Rivera has seen cases tick up and Uruguayan officials fear the still open border remains a “weak point,” government adviser Radi said.The arrival of the southern hemisphere winter is another concern.Nonetheless, many Uruguayans cheered signs of a gradual return to normality after their businesses took a hit.Sebastian Barbat, who runs convenience stores in Montevideo, said his business had fallen to a trickle during the lockdown, but was now recovering.”We are seeing around half the amount of customers we had at the best times in the first half of March,” he said, adding the firm was now looking to hire people again after cutting staff.”We had to reduce our workforce to the minimum possible, with just two employees left who are the owners. Now we are coming back.” With no deaths since May 23, government adviser Rafael Radi described the situation last week as being under “relative control.”Now it is easing the economy open, including a staggered restarting of schools. Some are calling it the New Zealand of Latin America, given its similar population size and number of deaths.In May, customers started appearing in the bookstore who had not come for a long time, said Silveira.”People come not only to buy books but to see you and talk for a while. It’s a happy thing to see them – at a distance but together here in the shop,” he said. Topics :center_img Leonardo Silveira, a bookstore owner in Montevideo, is hopeful about the future as Uruguay begins a gradual reopening. The small country has kept rates of COVID-19 at one of the lowest levels in Latin America, even as the region becomes a coronavirus epicenter.The South American nation of 3.5 million people, known for its beef, laid-back lifestyle and legalized cannabis, has recorded 789 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 22 deaths. That’s around 23 cases per 100,000 people – versus nearly 200 cases per 100,000 in Brazil.Uruguay moved fast in March when the first cases were detected. It introduced a voluntary quarantine, widespread monitoring and tracking of infections, randomized tests, and use of models to predict how the disease would progress in different parts of the country.last_img read more

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Russia says ‘years’ needed to clean up Arctic spill

first_img“The company considers this measure to be unjustifiably harsh,” Norilsk Nickel said in a statement to AFP, citing vice-president Nikolai Utkin.All three “are cooperating with law enforcement authorities and now they would be much more useful at the scene of the clean-up operation”, he added. Russian investigators on Wednesday detained three staff of a power plant over a huge fuel spill in the Arctic, as response teams warned a full clean-up would take years.The spill of over 21,000 tons of fuel took place after a fuel reservoir collapsed last month at a power plant operated by a subsidiary of metals giant Norilsk Nickel in the city of Norilsk.It is the largest ever to have hit the Arctic, say environmentalists. ‘Years’ to clean up At the scene at a remote area in the Norilsk industrial district, Bronnikov of Transneft Siberia said that the situation was stabilizing, but that the clean-up team had seen animals and birds apparently killed by the spill.”Today I myself saw dead muskrats,” he told AFP, adding that workers had seen ducks killed by the fuel.”If a bird lands on the diesel fuel or a muskrat swims through it, it is condemned to death,” he said.He added however that he had not seen “a huge number” of any animals dying there.Workers in waterproofs were using booms to contain the reddish-brown diesel on the surface of a river and pump it into tanks on the bank.”We will be removing diesel fuel from the Ambarnaya River for at least eight to 10 days,” Bronnikov said.”We will need years to completely clean up,” he added.The teams have set up tents on the river bank and are using helicopters to bring in equipment and survey the vast flat area of grass and sparse trees.After this “mechanical” stage, other methods will have to be used to absorb the rest of the diesel or cause it to break down, Bronnikov said. Topics :center_img Kara Sea threatened Norilsk Nickel head Vladimir Potanin said the company would pay for clean-up efforts estimated at $146 million after President Vladimir Putin backed a state of emergency in the Arctic city.The Investigative Committee said the power plant’s fuel tank had required major repairs from 2018 but the suspects “continued to use it in breach of safety rules.” “As a result, the accident occurred,” the investigators’ statement said.Norilsk Nickel said that the fuel reservoir was built in 1985 and underwent repairs in 2017 and 2018 after which it went through a safety audit.Regional officials have said that despite efforts to contain the fuel leak using booms on the river surface, it has now reached a freshwater lake that is a major source of water for the region.The pollution could now flow into the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia, which Greenpeace Russia expert Vladimir Chuprov told AFP would be a “disaster.”But in a conference call on Wednesday, Norilsk Nickel’s first vice president Sergei Dyachenko denied the spill had reached the lake, saying the company had not found contamination there. The metals giant has said the accident could have been caused by global warming thawing the permafrost under the fuel reservoir. It has acknowledged it did not specifically monitor the condition of permafrost at its sites in the past and said it would do a full audit shortly.The massive clean-up involves nearly 700 people, according to the emergencies ministry. Those working at the site have already seen the first effects of the spill on the local ecosystem, said Viktor Bronnikov, general director of Transneft Siberia oil and gas transportation company involved in the clean-up.They included dead muskrats and ducks, he said.The Investigative Committee looking into the accident said it had detained the director of the power station, Pavel Smirnov, and two engineers on suspicion of breaching environmental protection rules. If convicted, they would risk up to five years in prison.last_img read more

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Ministry offers scholarship program to address digital talent gap

first_imgBeside hard skill, the recipients of the scholarship will also receive training in soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and communication.The first DTS program in 2018 was awarded to 1,000 recipients, while the second one in 2019 had 25,000 participants.The focus on digital sector training also aligns with the Industry Ministry road map titled Industry 4.0, where it focuses on the use of digital technologies for industries, among other things.Since the pandemic broke out in Indonesia in March, the ministry has also run an online academy to train people in data analytics, digital marketing and programming, among other things.It aims to train 50,000 participants this year, while as many as 43,500 people have participated so far.“Both of these programs are necessary as we are adapting to the COVID-19 era. These programs ensure that we can maintain productivity during this time while also addressing the digital talent gap,” Johnny said. (eyc)Topics : The Communications and Information Ministry (Kominfo) launched on Monday its annual Digital Talent Scholarship (DTS) program for this year, as it aims to address the country’s digital talent gap.Recipients of the scholarship will get training on data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and cybersecurity, among other skills.“Indonesia is facing a digital skill gap, especially in tech industries. That is why we want to facilitate people in upskilling or reskilling their abilities with this program,” said Communications and Information Minister Johnny G. Plate in a press release on Monday. The country is estimated to require 600,000 talents in the digital sector each year to meet the demand for skilled workers.A 2018 study by the World Bank projects that Indonesia will see a shortage of 9 million skilled and semi-skilled workers in the digital sector between 2015 and 2030.To conduct the training, the ministry has partnered with more than 90 universities and polytechnics, local start-ups, as well global technology companies such as Cisco, Google and Microsoft, among others.The training is intended to cater to fresh graduates from universities and vocational schools, as well teachers and entrepreneurs.last_img read more

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