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Months into the Democratic nomination marathon, after seven debates, countless rallies, bitter candidate clashes and an impeachment effort to remove the US president, Iowa on Monday holds the first-in-the-nation vote to see who challenges Donald Trump in November.More than two dozen White House hopefuls began the journey, some as early as a year ago. Eleven now remain, exactly nine months from Election Day.Despite the historically diverse field consisting of men and women of color and young candidates with little Washington exposure, the two frontrunners today are septuagenarian white men — Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden — with more than 80 years of political experience between them. The heartland state’s all-important vote will likely whittle the field further as it provides the first verifiable results in a contest deciding the party’s future direction, and its 2020 flagbearer.In a typical election year, Iowa absorbs the country’s full political attention. But this presidential cycle has been anything but normal.Looming over the process is Trump’s impeachment saga, which is coming to a climax on the same week Iowa votes.Three main senator candidates — progressives Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and moderate Amy Klobuchar — have faced the unprecedented scenario of spending much of the past two weeks tethered to Washington for the impeachment trial, essentially leaving them to campaign in Iowa with one hand tied behind their back. A final vote on Trump’s fate, with acquittal almost certain in the Republican-led Senate, occurs Wednesday.Add January’s military scare with Iran, a stubborn trade war with China, a deadly outbreak of novel coronavirus that has set parts of the world on edge — and US Democratic hopefuls find themselves competing for headlines. Sanders ahead Sanders, running as a democratic socialist, is leading in Iowa. An Emerson College poll of Democratic voters released on the eve of the caucus shows him with 28 percent support, seven points clear of centrist Biden, the former vice president who is the national frontrunner.South Bend, Indiana ex-mayor Pete Buttigieg and Warren are about four points behind Biden in poll averages.Second-tier hopefuls Klobuchar and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang look to outpace expectations and seize momentum heading into the next contest, in New Hampshire February 11.”This is the most consequential election, certainly in the modern history of this country… and it all begins tomorrow night,” Sanders told supporters Sunday in Iowa City.Similar scenes played out across the state this weekend as candidates made their final frantic push to convince undecided voters that they are best positioned to send the controversial incumbent packing.”I promise you: if you stand with me, we will end Trump’s reign of hatred and division,” Biden said as he rallied 1,100 supporters at a Des Moines middle school.Trump has not stood idly by. The pugnacious president has repeatedly attacked Democrats, and did so Sunday, branding Biden “Sleepy Joe” — his campaign events often lack the pizzazz of rivals — and hurling an epithet at Sanders.”I think he’s a communist,” Trump told Fox News, previewing a likely line of attack were Sanders to win the nomination. Surprises in store? Iowa’s stage is set. At 7:00 pm (0100 GMT Tuesday), nearly 1,700 schools, libraries, churches and other venues welcome the state’s registered Democrats to participate in a quirky, sometimes chaotic American ritual.Unlike secret ballot voting, caucus-goers publicly declare their presidential choice by standing together with other supporters of a candidate.Candidates who reach 15 percent support earn delegates for the nomination race. If a candidate does not meet this threshold after the first alignment of caucus-goers, their supporters can shift to other candidates, a process that potentially can reorder the rankings.Turnout is critical, and candidates and their representatives will seek to persuade voters on issues including health care, taxes and ending Washington corruption.They are also pushing their own electability, as Buttigieg did repeatedly Sunday on the stump and during TV talk shows.”I certainly think that I am better positioned to beat Donald Trump than any of my competitors,” Buttigieg told CNN.A former US Navy reservist who became a mayor at 29, Buttigieg portrays his youth and new ideas as reasons voters should prefer him over the gray-haired Biden, 77, and Sanders, 78.The caucuses could yield major surprises, as one in two Iowa voters claimed still to be undecided.Topics :
“It’s unlike normal days, when tourists stroll around the city of Labuan Bajo,” she said.Labuan Bajo — which is among the government’s top five destinations prioritized to boost tourism — is not the only tourist magnet being given a wide berth as a result of COVID-19.Indonesia’s popular tourist destination Bali has also been hit hard due to the outbreak, which on Wednesday was formally declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).Bali Immigration Office recorded 392,824 tourists arriving in February, a 33 percent drop from January after the government imposed travel bans to and from mainland China on Feb. 5 to curb the spread of the outbreak. Australia replaced China as the biggest source of foreign tourists last month, followed by India and Japan.Meanwhile, travel and hospitality-related industries also continue to suffer from low occupancy rates and cancellations. The Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) reported that the country’s overall occupancy rate had fallen below the regular low season average of 50 to 60 percent to 30 to 40 percent since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China in early January. Bali, Jakarta, Manado in North Sulawesi and Batam and Bintan in Riau Islands were currently the worst-hit areas.Moreover, state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I reported that as many as 12,703 flights with about 1.67 million passengers had been canceled from January to February at its 15 airports across Indonesia.Read also: COVID-19 impact far more complex than 2008 crisis: Sri Mulyani Of the flights, 11,680 are domestic and 1,023 are international flights departing from its airports, including I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airports in Denpasar, Bali, and Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java.Statistics Indonesia (BPS) revealed on Monday that tourist arrivals amounted to 1.27 million in January, around 5.85 percent higher than the 1.2 million recorded in the same month in 2019. However, the growth is much lower than the around 9.5 percent increase in arrivals during January 2019 compared with the same period in 2018Indonesia has set a target of welcoming 17 million tourists this year. Last year, a total of 16.1 million tourists visited the country, a far cry from the 2019 target of 18 million. (roi)Topics : The spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has continued to hit Indonesia’s tourism sector as more tourists with months-long travel plans canceled their trips to major destinations, including Komodo National Park in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara. To date, around 45,000 tourists have aborted their plans to visit the world-renowned destination from January to May, Indonesia Tour Guide Association (HPI) regional head for East Nusa Tenggara Agustinus Bataona said. The tourists, who had bought tourism packages last year in advance for vacations, had given cancellation notifications through travel agents across the province, he said. Head of the Indonesia Tour and Travel Agency Association’s (Asita) West Manggarai chapter Donatus Matur told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that trip cancellations had become the new norm since the impact of the coronavirus had started to be felt in Labuan Bajo.“Especially since global travel warnings have been put in place as the virus has spread globally. We do hope this coronavirus can be contained soon, so the tourism sector doesn’t remain sluggish,” said Donatus.Read also: Battered by virus: Businesses across Indonesia feel the pinchWest Manggarai’s tourism practitioner Maria Oktaviani Simonita Budjen echoed the same sentiment, saying that locations across Labuan Bajo had become quiet as tourist visits continued to drop.
Eltinus said that closing down the mine, located in Tembagapura district, was necessary to contain the spread of the disease because the work environment led to unavoidable crowding, even though Freeport Indonesia had enacted a social distancing policy.“In Freeport, [the employees] sit together; they go into the mess halls together; they take the bus together; they take the trams together,” he said.Read also: Limited health facilities leave Papua facing tough COVID-19 fightThe company reported on Tuesday that 52 of its employees had tested positive for COVID-19, one of whom had died.The Mimika regency had recorded 97 COVID-19 cases and three deaths as of Thursday – the highest in Papua – with 56 of the cases coming from the Tembagapura district alone. Papua as a whole had recorded 277 confirmed cases as of Saturday, according to the government count.Papua COVID-19 Task Force spokesperson Silwanus Sumule told Antara News Agency on Tuesday that Freeport Indonesia had prepared isolation chambers for its employees. The facility consisted of 600 beds.In 2018, Freeport Indonesia said it employed about 30,000 workers, with tens of thousands more working as contractors in the mines. (mfp)Topics : The regent of Mimika in Papua has urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to temporarily close a mine in the regency owned by gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia as the number of COVID-19 cases in the area continues to rise.“Human lives are at stake here, so we hope the President will close Freeport for a while because COVID-19 cases keep increasing there,” Mimika Regent Eltinus Omaleng said on Friday, as quoted by kompas.com.He said he would send a letter to the President regarding his appeal.
Until then, Merkel had opposed a proposal by French President Emmanuel Macron for a Recovery Fund that would, for the first time, bind all 27 member states to raise debt jointly.”Initially they were on quite different positions,” said one senior diplomat. “They reviewed the risk of a split in the EU. But then the Constitutional Court decision came and Merkel … said: ‘It’s up to us, the governments’.”A series of video calls between Merkel and Macron led to a plan for the European Commission, the EU executive, to borrow 500 billion euros ($550 billion) as common debt and transfer it to the regions and industries hit hardest.It would be a top-up to the EU’s 2021-2027 budget, already close to 1 trillion euros. It took a courtroom of scarlet-robed judges to spur Angela Merkel to make one of her boldest moves in 15 years as German chancellor: propose huge cash handouts to the European Union’s weaker economies.Merkel was already worried about the future of the Union after the coronavirus pandemic struck Europe in February, triggering a wave of deaths and crippling lockdowns.But it was Germany’s own Constitutional Court that tipped her hand, sources said. Its bombshell ruling on May 5 challenged the EU’s reliance on European Central Bank (ECB) money-printing to keep its weaker members’ economies afloat – and the EU’s governance. Diplomats in Brussels, Paris and Berlin familiar with the discussions said Merkel had dropped Germany’s long-held opposition to mutualizing debt to fund other member states – when it became clear the EU itself was in peril.The court ruling in effect put the onus on EU governments themselves to fund any fiscal response.European leaders agree that, if they fail to rescue economies now in freefall, they risk something worse than the debt crisis 10 years ago – which exposed faultiness, fanned euroskepticism and almost blew up the eurozone.Union in name only?The pandemic has derailed the recovery of the EU’s most indebted countries. Italy’s debt is shooting towards 170% of national output, Greece is losing gains wrung from years of belt-tightening and, across the south, a collapse in tourism threatens millions of jobs.Surely the moment for the Union to live up to its name.But members’ initial slowness to share medical equipment, and readiness to close their borders, seemed to demonstrate Brussels’ irrelevance when national interests are at stake.Divisions erupted at an all-night videoconference of EU leaders on March 27 as fiscally conservative northern countries resisted pressure from a “Club Med” group to raise a splurge of mutual EU debt to tackle the effects of the pandemic.Finance ministers agreed on April 9 to an EU-wide rescue plan worth half a trillion euros, but it was too little to fund long-term recovery, and the feud festered on. Berlin insisted any recovery plan must consist of short-term, repayable loans.Then Merkel and Macron began talking.”Merkel became increasingly aware that it was making Europe look really bad,” said an EU official familiar with Macron and Merkel’s consultations with the Commission.Just when it seemed that this latest in a series of traumas, from sovereign debt crisis to a chaotic wave of migration to Brexit, could finally tear the bloc apart, the deal hints that the two founder members can still provide the EU’s steady core.It may also boost Macron’s standing and his vision of more integration as Merkel ends her long tenure.The Commission, which presents its own proposal on May 27, warmly welcomed the initiative, but the deal is not yet done.To pass, it needs backing from all 27 capitals, and Austria’s leader has already said that he, along with the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, will offer only loans, not grants. Topics :
Faced with the calamitous fallout from the coronavirus on airline customers and the broader economy, Boeing found itself in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position in March.The company, a longtime symbol of American industrial power, was unable to raise the funds to finance its business.Since that low point as the coronavirus health crisis was mushrooming into an economic crisis, private bond markets have improved considerably, enabling Boeing to fill its liquidity gap with US$25 billion in bonds issued last month. But that bitter reality at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic underscores how deeply the 103-year-old company has fallen, in no small part due to its own missteps.Boeing, which alone accounts for about one percent of US gross domestic product, has suffered numerous canceled orders for the 737 MAX, the jet that has been grounded for more than a year following two crashes that killed 346 people.Demand has also diminished the 787 “Dreamliner” amid the downturn in commercial air travel, adding to its woes.”Boeing has serious financial challenges,” said Stan Sorscher, a former Boeing engineer. “Air travel is down, aircraft are grounded, airline customers don’t need new airplanes, and capacity in the supplier network is questionable.” Boeing chief executive David Calhoun has insisted Boeing will weather the crisis though he acknowledged the company lost ground through its own actions.”There is no question that the MAX problems, the accidents, set us back and set us back for roughly two years,” Calhoun said earlier this month on Fox Business Network.Avoiding a bailoutEven throughout this rocky period, Boeing has continued to enjoy success in its defense business.But the company will need to show evidence of a genuine turnaround in its civil aviation division following the MAX crisis, which revealed problems with corporate culture that critics say showed the Boeing cut corners on safety to meet profit goals.Credit ratings agencies have punished the company, downgrading its debt to just above junk status.But Boeing’s clout in Washington has cushioned it from being seen as a likely candidate for bankruptcy, even during the current slump.The company’s supply chain consists of some 17,000 companies in the United States employing 2.5 million workers.Early in the crisis, Boeing had sought $60 billion in federal support and won strong backing from key players in Washington, including US President Donald Trump, who said in April, “We can’t let anything happen to Boeing.”But Calhoun expressed misgivings about how support from the US Treasury would be structured and the conditions imposed. In addition to barring the company from paying dividends, the government could have demanded a stake in the company.Instead, Boeing benefited from a series of emergency steps by the Federal Reserve that boosted liquidity in the corporate debt market and opened the door to its $25 billion bond offering, the sixth largest in history.But issuing debt means Boeing will have to pay higher interest if its credit rating is downgraded further.MAX outlook hazyWith the latest infusion of funds, Boeing is “pretty sound financially,” according to a banking source who has advised Boeing. “Investors believe in this story longer term and are willing to lend to this company in the short term,” the source said. “There is some expectation that it might take time.”But Calhoun has cautioned it could take up to five years for the aviation industry to recover to its pre-coronavirus growth levels.Boeing plans to trim its production of the widebody 787 to 10 per month this year from 14 at the start of 2020, and cut down to seven a month in 2022.Meanwhile, archrival Airbus stands as well positioned for the post-pandemic period because of its advantage in the narrow-body planes.As the airline market recovers, there likely will be stronger demand for smaller jets like the Airbus A320neo, which require less fuel and have fewer seats to fill.”Long-term, Boeing’s product line, in total, is inferior to Airbus. The 787 is strong, but demand is weak,” said Scott Hamilton, managing editor of Leeham News, which covers aviation.”The Boeing 777X is a good airplane but the market has passed it by,” he said adding that “The MAX family line is inferior to the A320neo family. Boeing doesn’t have a viable competitor to the A220.”The timeframe for the MAX’ return to service remains hazy. Airlines canceled 258 orders for the plane in March and April.Boeing has said it aims to win government approval for the MAX to return in mid-2020, but regulatory sources told AFP that there will be no test flight before June.Boeing plans to cut 10 percent of its staff, or about 16,000 jobs, to save money. It also could cut one of the 787 assembly plants, or move other engineering staff to cut costs, aviation sources said.Boeing is “cutting new program development spending and retreating from any signs of a new product launch,” said Richard Aboulafia, aviation expert at Teal Group, a research firm specializing in aviation and defense. “They just went an entire decade without launching a single all-new product, only the second decade that’s happened in company history. And there are no signs of anything happening in the decade ahead.”Topics :
Lion Air Group will temporarily suspend all domestic flight operations for five days amid passenger confusion over the government’s mandated pre-flight documents.The group said on Wednesday that operations would be suspended between May 27 and 31 so the company could disseminate information about the new boarding requirements via its website and branch offices.“Many potential passengers were unable to continue their journey or fly and had to bear all the expenses, just because they were unaware or misinformed about requirements,” said Lion Air spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantoro in a statement.The airline also maintained that customers with flights slated for such dates may either request a refund or a reschedule. Lion Air Group had resumed operations on May 10 after the government relaxed a ban on all passenger flights. The relaxation was meant to allow certain people, such as officials, medical staff, businessmen, the critically ill and bereaved family members, to fly between cities.However, passengers need to provide certain documents prior to boarding a plane, in compliance with the circular letter No. 4/2020 issued by the COVID-19 task force.Generally, they are required to show their flight ticket, identity card, medical letter stating that they are coronavirus-free, as well as official letters of duty, among other documents.Danang said the air carrier would also use the five-day break to inspect the health of employees involved in previous flights.Last week, the Transportation Ministry suspended a flight operated by Lion Air Group full service subsidiary Batik Air on the Jakarta-Denpasar, Bali route as the airline was found to have violated the physical distancing policy in its operation.The flight in question was filled by more than half the aircraft capacity, which exceeded the maximum capacity allowed by the government regulation.Topics :
Russia on Thursday rolled out a drug approved to treat patients suffering from the novel coronavirus, its state financial backer said, as the number of infections there surpassed half a million.The first deliveries of the new antiviral drug, registered under the name Avifavir, were made to some hospitals and clinics across the country, Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said in a press release. RDIF has a 50% share in a joint venture with the drug’s manufacturer ChemRar that runs the trials.The health ministry gave its approval for the drug’s use under a special accelerated process while clinical trials, held over a shorter period and with fewer people than many other countries, were still underway. Topics : With 502,436 cases, Russia has the third highest number of infections in the world after Brazil and the United States, but has a relatively low official death toll of 6,532 – something that has been the focus of debate.The Moscow health department on Wednesday raised its death toll for the month of May, citing changes in the way it determines the cause of death for patients suffering from other health problems.Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday denied there was anything untoward with Russia’s official coronavirus death data after the World Health Organization said this week that Russia’s low death rate was “difficult to understand”. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and human trials of several existing antiviral drugs have yet to show efficacy.RDIF chief Kirill Dmitriev last week told Reuters the plan was for ChemRar to manufacture enough of the drug to treat around 60,000 people a month.Dmitriev on Thursday said more than 10 countries had made requests for Avifavir supplies.Negotiations were underway to supply the drug to almost all of Russia’s regions, with seven of its more than 80 regions receiving Thursday’s initial deliveries, Dmitriev added.
“We are proud to be able to offer our fans an innovative, interactive and technologically advanced product,” he said.The closing stages of the Coppa Italia are acting as a prelude to the remainder of the Serie A season, which restarts after a three-month hiatus on Saturday.Topics : The winners of Wednesday’s Coppa Italia final between Napoli and Juventus will have to help themselves to the trophy and medals because of coronavirus hygiene regulations.”Let’s call it self-service,” Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo said in a video news conference on Tuesday. “The athletes will help themselves to the cup and medals, so as to avoid outside contact with the squad which is subject to strict controls.”With the game to be played without spectators, De Siervo said that the stands at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will feature “digital choreographies” which would be produced with “virtual graphics integrated with sophisticated software.”
Britain said its exports could increase by a billion pounds as a result of the trade deals it is seeking from Australia and New Zealand, setting out its negotiating objectives on Wednesday ahead of the start of formal talks.Australia and New Zealand are among Britain’s top priorities for trade talks, alongside the United States, the European Union and Japan, as it looks to define an independent trade policy after leaving the EU in January.”Ambitious, wide-ranging free trade agreements with old friends like Australia and New Zealand are a powerful way for us … to make good on the promise of Brexit,” trade minister Liz Truss said in a statement. Topics : The government’s aims for each deal were largely similar and broadly focused on increasing goods and services trade and cross-border investment. They included chapters on digital trade and ways to help small businesses export more.The aims for an Australian deal included a focus on technology, innovation and research and development, while the objectives for the New Zealand talks made reference to the need to protect both countries’ climate change commitments.The first round of talks is expected to take place by videoconference in the coming weeks.