Wasting too much ink on straw news

first_imgExcuse me, but could someone please calculate the millions of pounds of paper and ink used thus far for printing the so-called “news” about plastic straws, and hasten the time when something more important will replace the space used for reporting on that topic? The solution is simple:Let people who are concerned stop using them and keep big government out of it.Richard FelakNiskayunaMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?Puccioni’s two goals help Niskayuna boys’ soccer top Shaker, remain perfectEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsNiskayuna girls’ cross country wins over Bethlehem Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinionlast_img read more

Niche market

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Investment agents

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A new square for London

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Jet lag

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India sugar shippers target ‘golden opportunity’ in Indonesia

first_img“This is a golden opportunity for us to export sugar to Indonesia,” said Prakash Naiknavare, managing director of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories Ltd., a producers’ group. “Mills just need to shut white sugar production and start making raws in the next two months before the crushing season gets over.”Indonesia changed the color specification for raw sugar imports to allow shipments from India, Kasdi Subagyono, director general of estate crops at the Agriculture Ministry said Monday. The government halved the ICUMSA measure to 600, Subagyono said, adding Indonesia needs sugar to meet rising household consumption. While targeted at India, the lower level applies to all suppliers.The ICUMSA is the International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis. Most Indian mills make raw sugar with an ICUMSA of as much as 800 and could not ship to Indonesia, which had a level for imported sugar of 1,200.Increasing exports from India may curb the rise in global prices that have surged about 10 percent this year on concern about production in No. 2 exporter Thailand, hit with its worst drought in 40 years. Sugar exports from the country could drop about 40 percent to 6 million tons, according to one industry estimate. “Export contracts have to be signed quickly for mills in Maharashtra and Karnataka to produce raw sugar before crushing ends in about a month,” said Abinash Verma, director general of Indian Sugar Mills Association.The US Department of Agriculture estimates that Indonesia, the world’s biggest importer of the sweetener, will buy 4.4 million tons of raw sugar in 2019-20.Indonesian refiners are waiting for an official notification on the ICUMSA rule before entering import contracts with Indian suppliers, said Bernardi Dharmawan, chairman of the Indonesia Sugar Refiners Association, a group of 11 refiners that only process imported raw sugar for industrial users.Indonesia may buy 300,000 tons from India this year, considering poor supplies from Thailand, he said, adding actual purchases depend on prices. Indian sugar millers, saddled with record stockpiles, are eager to cash in on the prospect of resuming exports to Indonesia after being absent from the world’s top import market for years.The nation, which vies with Brazil as the top producer, may sell 250,000 tons of raw sugar to Indonesia by the end of the local crushing period in May after a change in quality rules by the Southeast Asian country, according to the median of six estimates in a Bloomberg survey of traders and officials.India is returning to Indonesia after a severe drought cut production in Thailand, normally the main supplier of raw sugar to the country. The new export market may help rein in India’s ballooning reserves, which surged to a record of more than 14 million tons on Oct. 1 after bumper harvests.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Global economy wavers as world comes to standstill amid epidemic

first_imgThe world is coming to a standstill as the new coronavirus spreads: schools have closed in Japan, rallies are banned in Switzerland and flights are canceled worldwide. That is putting the global economy at the greatest risk of recession since the 2008 financial crisis.”With the partial exception of the Black Death in 14th century Europe, every major pandemic has been followed by an economic recession,” said Professor Robert Dingwall, researcher at the University of Nottingham Trent in England.  Football matches are played without spectators and behind closed doors in Italy, while uncertainty hangs over the Olympic Games set to open in Tokyo in July.A total of 83,670 people have been infected with the virus worldwide, and 2,865 have died, according to data from official sources compiled by AFP. “I don’t think there is any good reason to think it would be different this time.”Long before the outbreak, the International Monetary Fund cautioned that the global economy was “fragile” and beset by risks, and even the expected slow growth could falter if one of the risks materialized.Economists warn the coronavirus could provide just such a shock, especially since despite the emergency measures to try to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, it has been expanding daily, moving outwards from central China where it erupted in December.As of January, production plants had been shut down in China and entire cities confined. Saudi Arabia has stopped pilgrims from traveling to Mecca, and on Friday, the iconic Baselworld watch fair was canceled, as was the Geneva auto show.  Topics :center_img Fear and loathing Faced with “an obvious economic hit to both production and consumption… we need clear, confident and unified professional and political leadership,” Dingwall said.However, that is “always difficult to achieve in a country where responsibility for public health is as decentralized as it is in the US.”And the British researcher cautions it is hard to manage public fear in the “raucous” US political atmosphere.Barry Glassner, a retired American sociologist and author of a book The Culture of Fear, stressed that “nations and individuals need to take precautions, and among those should be counteracting fear.”Fears about the epidemic are “spreading at least as fast as is the virus itself and is potentially more dangerous,” which could lead to less rational responses and behavior. Dingwall agreed, saying it is best to maintain “business as usual” as far as possible. Some measures like shutting schools could be counterproductive, since many parents would have to stay home with younger children, preventing them from working, while older kids might go to public places where they are more exposed to contamination. Fatal blow All eyes are now on the United States: though largely unscathed so far, health officials say an outbreak is inevitable. If excess caution takes hold in the world’s largest economy, especially among American consumers, it could be a fatal blow to growth.If there is an outbreak, “the reaction is likely to be extreme,” said Gregory Daco, chief economist of Oxford Economics. “It would have a very, very negative impact. The economy would fall into recession immediately,” he told AFP. And in this crisis, the financial markets “accelerate the feeling of panic.”Beyond shuttering production, closings schools or forcing employees to telework, consumption, which accounts for two-thirds of the US economy, would come to a screeching halt.While officials have confirmed only 15 cases in the United States — just three of which are not related to travel — anxiety about the illness is apparent: in Washington, people are reluctant to shake hands during conferences, subway users eye their coughing neighbors, and Americans are postponing their travel.If the US economy sneezes, the world will catch a cold.The IMF already lowered its global growth forecast for 2020, taking into account the impact on China, the world’s second-largest economy, but that was before the contagion spread to the rest of the world.”There’s a lot that we don’t know,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters this week. “It’s fast-moving. We are still learning.”The fund is still deciding what to do about the Spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the semi-annual gathering of officials. The meetings draw thousands of participants from all over the world, but it seems unlikely it will be held in its usual format in Washington.last_img read more

President, ministers’ medical test results won’t be revealed to public: Health minister

first_imgThe Health Ministry announced Tuesday that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, along with his aides in the Cabinet, had been tested for COVID-19 following the positive case of Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi. The test results, however, will not be revealed to the public.”We won’t declare the results because it’s a general [medical] check up,” the ministry’s disease control and prevention director general, Achmad Yurianto, said, assuring that everyone was in “good condition”.Jokowi said separately on Monday that he and all members of his Cabinet had been tested for COVID-19 earlier that day, yet refused to disclose the results. “Please ask the health minister [Terawan Agus Putranto] for the results.”State Secretary Pratikno announced on March 14 evening that Budi had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been labeled as Case 76. Prior to testing positive, Budi had attended a Cabinet meeting led by Jokowi on March 11.The meeting’s other attendees included State Secretary Pratikno, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani, Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir, Home Minister Tito Karnavian, Attorney General ST Burhanuddin, Indonesian Military commander Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis, as well as North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi and acting Medan mayor Akhyar Nasution, among others.Topics :last_img read more

Virus deaths top 400,000 as Latin America infections rise

first_imgPope Francis, addressing Catholics in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday for the first time since the health emergency began, said the worst was over in Italy and expressed sympathy for those in hard-hit Latin American countries.”Your presence in the square is a sign that in Italy the acute phase of the epidemic is over,” Francis said as the Vatican confirmed it had no more cases of COVID-19.”Unfortunately in other countries — I am thinking of some of them — the virus continues to claim many victims.”Brazil has the world’s third-highest toll — almost 36,000 dead — but President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized stay-at-home measures imposed by local officials and has threatened to leave the World Health Organization. Europe restarting In Europe, countries are slowly working working towards a post-pandemic normal, and trying to revive key tourist sectors in time for the summer and return to business.The UK government said Sunday it would reopen places of worship for individual prayer on June 15 as it looks to speed up easing measures and save jobs.But British Airways and the low-cost carriers EasyJet and Ryanair launched legal action against government plans to force foreigners arriving in Britain to self-isolate for two weeks.The measures “will have a devastating effect on UK’s tourism industry and will destroy [even more] thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis,” they said in a joint statement.The European Union said it could reopen borders to travellers from outside the region in early July after some countries within the bloc dropped restrictions on other European visitors.France marked the anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings with a fraction of the big crowds seen in previous years, owing to strict social distancing restrictions.But in South Africa, where President Cyril Ramaphosa gave places of worship the greenlight to reopen from June 1, few were returning to services.”I am praying at home, God hears me just fine when I pray at home with my family,” 57-year-old vegetable seller Gloria Msibi told AFP.”I love church but it is so dangerous to be in a closed space with so many people.” Tolls are also rising sharply in Mexico, Peru and Ecuador, while in Chile, deaths have risen by more than 50 percent in the past week.As of 1900 GMT, a total of 400,581 deaths have now been recorded worldwide, according to an AFP tally using official figures — a figure that has doubled in the past month and a half.While almost half of the deaths have been recorded in Europe, the United States remains the hardest-hit nation with 110,037 deaths, followed by Britain with 40,542.The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia surpassed 100,000 on Sunday, the health ministry said, after a new surge in infections.The kingdom has seen infections spike as it eases lockdown measures, with the number of daily cases exceeding 3,000 for the second day in a row on Sunday. Topics :center_img The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 400,000 Sunday, with fatalities accelerating in Latin America even as Europe emerges from its virus lockdown with infections there increasingly under control.Almost seven million infections have been registered since COVID-19 emerged in China late last year, forcing much of the globe into lockdown and pushing the world economy towards its worst downturn since the Great Depression.However, fears of a second wave of the deadly disease have given way to grave worries over the economy, encouraging European countries to reopen borders and businesses, and countries throughout Asia and Africa to slowly return to normal life. Oil revival OPEC agreed on Saturday to extend an April deal to cut production through July, aiming to foster a recovery in oil prices after they were pummeled by slumps in demand.But gloomy data from Asia’s two powerhouse economies highlighted the long road to recovery.China reported a plunge in foreign trade on the back of subdued consumer demand and weakness in key overseas markets.Factories in India are also struggling to restart because of labor shortages, as the country slowly emerges from a strict lockdown that sent millions of migrant laborers back to their distant home villages.”Sixty percent of our laborers have gone back. How can we run a production unit with just one-third of our workforce,” asked Sanjeev Kharbanda, a senior executive with Aqualite Industries, which owns a footwear factory.last_img read more

Sharp learning curve for bosses as WFH goes global

first_imgTwitter was among the first to declare that working from home would be a permanent option, while the head of Barclays bank suggested that “putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past”.”This is a revolution here and we don’t know what the end-result will be,” said Jon Messenger, an ILO expert on working conditions who has traced the history of telework since it first emerged in the mid-1970s with the label “telecommuting”.”Managers in the past have been very unwilling to do this because of the loss of direct control over subordinates … it requires a totally different approach to management.”Trust the workerMessenger argues the new approach implies above all a shift towards greater results-based performance appraisal while allowing employees more scope to organize their work time.But while various studies link so-called “time sovereignty” to productivity benefits, some companies find that hard to take on board. Developers of employee tracking software – which for example send managers screenshots of their staff’s computer screens – are currently reporting a surge in sales.Companies where tasks are hard to quantify argue that some form of monitoring is essential. But workplace experts warn that excessive surveillance can be counterproductive.”Employers risk damaging the relationship if they are treating staff like children,” Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD body of human resources professionals.The rise over the past decade of collaborative software has made teamwork from separate locations easier, weakening the argument made in 2013 by former Yahoo! boss Marissa Mayer that teleworkers were seen as a “drag” on office-based colleagues.But such tools still leave many employees with a sense of disconnect and lack of structure in their working lives. Just as Deutsche Telekom’s Holmeckis did by using his cat as an ice-breaker, managers will have to learn how to bridge the distance.”There is a risk of people disengaging. A lot of the conversations are operational, about tasks: low on empathy, low on personal support,” said Octavius Black, whose company Mind Gym offers workshops on remote management skills.For now, the world is not far enough into the mass telework experiment to know how it will change work patterns or even what the real impact has already been on productivity.It is also unlikely to be representative of how companies and employees will use telework when the health crisis abates.Assuming that lockdowns do not have to be reimposed to prevent a second wave of the virus, ILO’s Messenger suggests that telework will become more widespread but in a watered-down form – optional and not for the entire working week.”The sweet spot is about two or three days a week,” he said. “Then you won’t have so many of the downsides.” Two weeks into the coronavirus lockdown and Sergei Holmeckis, a boss at Deutsche Telekom’s Czech operations in the city of Brno, was frustrated with staff video calls. His team didn’t like turning on their cameras and the discussion was stilted.”I started to show them my cat,” Holmeckis said. “It showed the human side of me more and really changed the perception. It got people to switch on their cameras and be more engaged.”Such tactics obviously won’t appeal to everyone. But they do show how the world’s biggest experiment in working from home is forcing managers to reassess their methods – especially as surveys predict higher levels of remote working post-pandemic. Before the new coronavirus began spreading, just 2.9% of the world’s employees were working exclusively or mainly from home, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), a Geneva-based UN agency.Within weeks, that figure exploded as social distancing forced companies to launch telework schemes. An Argentinian study found that 93% of large firms had turned to telework; in Britain, half of all employers said that by late-April the bulk of their staff were working from home.The exercise was often chaotic, with scant regard for what tasks could be performed at home. Many workers faced cramped living spaces or had to juggle the job with children grounded by school closures. Others felt isolated.Yet overall reactions have been broadly positive. Surveys in the United States and Britain have shown over three-quarters of companies expect to offer more homeworking after the pandemic, with staff citing benefits such as greater work-life balance and claiming they felt just as productive as in the office.center_img Topics :last_img read more