Items filtered by date: Monday, 11 February 2019
Britain has approached the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other Gulf countries on a possible trade pact after Britain leaves the EU, the UAE economy minister said on Monday.
 
Speaking on a panel at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Sultan Saeed al-Mansouri said such agreements can take years to negotiate,
 
He gave no further details.
 
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but it has yet to find an agreement acceptable to both Brussels and UK lawmakers, raising the prospect of a disorderly exit that could damage the world’s fifth-largest economy.
 
The UK was “looking forward’’ to a free-trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),
 
Liam Fox, the UK state secretary for international trade, said during a visit to Dubai for the summit, according to state news agency WAM.
 
The GCC comprises the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.
 
In 2017, trade between the UAE and UK totalled 17.5 billion British pounds, up 12.3 per cent from 2016, according to official figures.
 
By 2020, the UK government wants that number to increase to about 25 billion pounds.
 
 
Source: News Express
Published in World
Asian shares barely moved on Monday as investors were unable to shake worries about global growth, U.S. politics and the Sino-U.S. trade war.
 
This worries kept the safe haven dollar near a six-week top against major currencies.
 
Chinese stock indexes played catch-up when reopening after a week-long break.
 
Gains came as the commerce ministry said retail earnings during the Lunar New Year holiday jumped 8.5 per cent from the period last year, even though growth in the world’s second-largest economy is slowing.
 
China’s blue-chip index surged 1.6 per cent while Shanghai’s SSE Composite climbed 1.2 per cent.
 
Australian stocks recouped some losses to end 0.2 per cent lower while South Korea’s KOSPI index was up 0.2 per cent.
 
Indonesian and Indian benchmarks were in the red.
 
That left MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were slightly firmer after it was toppled from a four-month top on Friday.
 
Trading volumes were generally light, with Japan on public holiday.
 
“Ranges have been on the tight side today, and nobody has been prepared to stamp down any authority,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne broker Pepperstone.
 
“I have no doubt that will change as we head through the week, with trade relations slap bang at the epicentre of concerns,” he said.
 
Tensions between the United States and China have cost both countries billions of dollars and roiled global financial markets.
 
A new round of trade talks began in Beijing on Monday, with higher-level talks involving U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday and Friday.
 
If the negotiations do not progress sufficiently by March 1, the U.S. has said it intends to raise tariffs on 200 billion dollars of imports from China to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.
 
“U.S.-led trade uncertainty along with increasing concerns over the extent of the current global growth slowdown has seen an increase in demand for core global bonds,” said Rodrigo Catril, senior forex strategist at National Australia Bank.
 
“Against a backdrop of uncertainty and despite a Fed that is comfortably on hold, the dollar continues to win the least ugly contest.”
 
The U.S. Federal Reserve has signalled patience on policy after delivering four hikes in 2018, citing growing economic risks from a slowdown in global growth.
 
The dollar index held near a six-week high around 96.695 against a basket of currencies, setting up for its sixth straight session of gains as traders piled into the greenback in a safe-haven move.
 
World markets are already under strain from a drumroll of gloomy news on the global economy.
 
Last week, the European Commission sharply downgraded eurozone growth for this year and next.
 
U.S. President Donald Trump added to the anxiety with a declaration that he had no plans to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March 1 deadline to achieve a trade deal.
 
Adding to worries, a collapse in talks between U.S. Democrat and Republican lawmakers over the weekend amid a clash over immigrant detention policy raised fears of another government shutdown.
 
The rising pressure on growth means the near term fortunes of the equity markets would partly depend on earnings from major U.S. companies.
 
These include Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc, Walmart Inc, Home Depot Inc, Macy’s Inc and Gap Inc for further clues about the health of the consumer sector.
 
Analysts now expect first-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies to decline 0.1 per cent from a year earlier, which would be the first such quarterly profit decline since 2016, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
 
Elsewhere, the euro was barely changed at 1.1322 dollar after five straight days of losses took it to more than 2 weeks lows. Sterling dithered at 1.2931 dollar.
 
The Australian dollar inched up from Friday’s one-month lows although sentiment was still cautious after the country’s central bank opened the door to a possible rate cut.
 
Oil prices slipped on concerns about slowing global demand amid a pick-up in U.S. drilling activity.
 
U.S. crude was 56 cents weaker at 52.16 dollars per barrel while Brent fell 36 cents to 61.74 dollars.
 
 
Source: PmNews
Published in Business
Police in Indonesia’s Papua province has apologised after interrogators used a snake during an attempt to extract a confession from a suspected mobile phone thief, a spokesman said on Monday.
 
A video circulating online showed police in Jayawijaya district wrapping a snake around the neck of the suspect as they questioned him.
 
A policeman could be heard asking the suspect: “How many times have you stolen a cellphone?”.
 
The man cowered and screamed in fear.
 
“Many people saw his action but he didn’t confess, and that made the officer angry,” Papuan Police spokesman, Suryadi Diaz, said.
 
“The method is wrong and we have apologised,” he said, adding that one officer had been disciplined.
 
Diaz said the snake was tame and had been kept as a pet at the Jayawijaya police station for some time to scare drunkards, who often caused trouble in the neighbourhood.
 
“They usually fled after they saw the snake,” he said.
 
A lawyer, who advocates for human rights in Papua, Veronica Koman, said police often used snakes while interrogating Papuans, including those arrested for suspected separatist activities.
 
“Inhumane treatment against Papuans is regularly reported,” Koman said.
 
“When this snake video surfaced, many Papuans, particularly activists, who have been in and out of jail for political reasons, said that they have long known that snakes are being used by police and military,” she said.
 
A low-level separatist conflict has been taking place in Papua, a predominantly-Melanesian region, since the 1960s.
 
Security forces have been accused of human rights abuses while conducting counter-insurgency operations.
 
 
 
Source: The Routers
Published in World
Justice Walter Onnoghen. His suspension by Buhari attracted flaks from Atiku who wrote a letter to US, EU and UK, and his supporters
 
The National Judicial Council has issued a fresh query to the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
 
The query was sequel to the petition sent to the council by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Punch reports.
 
The NJC, which took the decision after its meeting in Abuja on Monday, asked Onnoghen to respond to the query within seven working days.
 
However, the council according to a statement issued by its Director (Information), Soji Oye will reconvene on Wednesday.
 
 
Source: Vanguard
 
 
Published in World

An early 2019 meme called #10yearchallenge, that involved someone sharing an image from 2008 or 2009 next to one from 2018 or 2019, gained tremendous popular traction and within days spread like a virus across social media.

It’s unclear where it started, but was probably prompted by Facebook’s feature that brings back old memories (including pictures) on users’ walls. Initially it was called #HowHardDidAgingHitYou as it was supposed to show just that. It evolved to #GlowingUp to show how well many aged, before it became known as the #10yearchallenge. Soon it was also all over Twitter and Instagram. Celebrities dined out on it, ordinary people across the world followed suit and participated enthusiastically.

On the surface this phenomenon was simply superficial fun. In fact it’s provided an interesting window on society. There are two particular insights I’ve drawn from the explosion of interest in #10yearchallenge.

The first is how well people who posted images of themselves have aged. In some cases, there was hardly any change in the participants’ faces, hair, weight or bearing. Take global celebrities like Jessica Biel and Rihanna as examples.

The second is the issue of sharing images that could be used for nefarious reasons. A number of alert technology watchers have warned that the #10yearchallenge may be more than harmless fun. Viewed sceptically, participants in the challenge could be playing into the hands of surveillance agencies or companies precisely because all the images can easily be mined for data.

Longevity

It could be argued that the #10yearchallenge is providing people with the opportunity to show off their longevity. With mottoes such as “50 is the new 30”, not only is the ageing population, particularly in developed countries, growing in numbers, they are becoming younger looking judged by appearances.

This obsession with youthfulness, of the older generation looking younger in a distorted inversion of age and youth, reminded me of German director Damir Lukacevic’s science fiction film Transfer (2010). It took this future scenario to a potentially dystopian conclusion.

It shows how the rich elderly have the opportunity to become “immortal” by swapping bodies with youthful refugees and other marginalised youths. The one group has money and power but time is running out, while the other only have youthfulness on their side. Youthfulness becomes the transferable and highly sought-after commodity. And it highlights how the haves can buy anything, including longevity.

But there is a demographic twist to this narrative.

Clearly, people are ageing better these days. If one had to compare images of our fairly recent ancestors over 10 years intervals, the ageing process might have been more obvious and dramatic in the past. It may just be that all the Bantings, Ketos, Botox and creams are working! And in some cases, social media filters and photoshopping as well.

The #10yearchallenge told the world about the improving age, welfare and health of a particular cohort of people: those who use social media. The number of internet users worldwide in 2018 was 3.196 billion. But a recent Pew research survey showed that for example, just one-in-five adults in India and Tanzania use social networks, and all five sub-Saharan African countries surveyed report social media is much lower.

Due to this massive digital divide we don’t know how the biggest part of the poorer global south aged. We can, however, safely assume that it’s nowhere as well as the north.

The #10yearchallenge went beyond showing off, fun, irony and wit. A few social media users posted images that illustrated the sharp contrast between the good-looking ageing human population and the deteriorating environment.

Images of rain forests in 2009 compared to 2019, places where rivers once flowed, or forward projections of extinct or near extinct animals in 2019 compared with 2029. Nature seems to be disappearing while we are thriving.

The sinister end of the spectrum

Technology author Kate O’Neil has explained that the #10yearchallenge provides the perfect raw material for setting up a facial recognition algorithm. The then-and-now photographs are ideal for such an exercise – they are clean, simple and helpfully labelled.

Facebook denied that the #10yearchallenge was a form of social engineering. But O'Neill reminded us of the mass data extraction of more than 70 million US Facebook users by data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. It harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters and used them to build a powerful software programme to predict and influence choices at the US ballot box.

O’Neil suggests three plausible scenarios for the use of facial recognition.

In the benign scenario it could help find missing kids, especially when they’ve been missing for a while.

On the mundane side, facial recognition could be useful for targeted advertising.

But there’s a more sinister side to facial recognition uses, raising major privacy concerns. As O'Neill cautions:

the police could use the technology not only to track people who are suspected of having committed crimes, but also people who are not committing crimes, such as protesters and others whom the police deem a nuisance.
She goes on to say:
The broader message, removed from the specifics of any one meme or even any one social platform, is that humans are the richest data sources for most of the technology emerging in the world. We should know this, and proceed with due diligence and sophistication.

For those who still consider memes as harmless and innocent information sharing perhaps it is time to reconsider. Memes like the #10yearchallenge have become ideological barometers that carry social meaning and context. Whether viewed as bait to put our faces and information online for algorithmic mining or interpreted as signifiers of human ageing - the #10yearchallenge meme says a lot about what it means to be human in a digital age.The Conversation

 

Amanda du Preez, Professor in Visual Culture Studies, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA is telling customers of its joint ventures to deposit oil sales proceeds in an account recently opened at Russia's Gazprombank AO, according to sources and an internal document seen by Reuters.

PDVSA's move comes after the United States imposed tough, new financial sanctions on Jan. 28 aimed at blocking Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's access to the country's oil revenue.

Supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido said recently that a fund would be established to accept proceeds from sales of Venezuelan oil.

The United States and dozens of other countries have recognized Guaido as the nation's legitimate head of state. Maduro has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet seeking to foment a coup.

PDVSA also has begun pressing its foreign partners holding stakes in joint ventures in its key Orinoco Belt producing area to formally decide whether they will continue with the projects, according to two sources with knowledge of the talks.

The joint venture partners include Norway's Equinor ASA, U.S.-based Chevron Corp and France's Total SA.

"We would like to make formal your knowledge of new banking instructions to make payments in U.S. dollars or euros," wrote PDVSA's finance vice president, Fernando De Quintal, in a letter dated Feb. 8 to the PDVSA unit that supervises its joint ventures.

Even after a first round of financial sanctions in 2017, PDVSA's joint ventures managed to maintain bank accounts in the United States and Europe to receive proceeds from oil sales. They also used correspondent banks in the United States and Europe to shift money to PDVSA's accounts in China.

State-run PDVSA several weeks ago informed customers of the new banking instructions and has begun moving the accounts of its joint ventures, which can export crude separately. The decision was made amid tension with some of its partners, which have withdrawn staff from Caracas since U.S. sanctions were imposed in January.

 

- Reuters

Published in World
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