I WAS clearing up my hand phone gallery last night and came across photos from a humanitarian mission that I led inside Syria in the winter of 2018.© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
IS public sanitisation effective?© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
LETTERS: The importance of water to the sustainable livelihood of the community is evident. We abstract raw water from a river and treat it at the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) to become potable water which is then distributed for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. After it is transformed into wastewater, it is discharged into the river as effluent after treatment in a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP).© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
LETTERS: The Covid-19 pandemic has rattled global health systems. Despite the challenges faced, the World Health Organisation has praised Malaysia’s health system, which is a testament to the way we have managed this crisis.© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
ALL the world’s governments have fallen short on pledges made a decade ago to protect wildlife, though cases of conservation show that the destruction of nature can be slowed, and even reversed, according to a United Nations report — the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO5) — published on Tuesday.© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
COVID-19 has stemmed the flow of foreign direct investments (FDIs) worldwide. FDIs will decline by as much as 40 per cent in 2020.© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 ― The Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia welcomes the concept of drive-in cinema to be introduced especially when the country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin said such a concept could be used as an alternative platform to watch movies on the big screen in groups while adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs).
“This concept can provide new experiences for viewers to watch movies only from their vehicles,” he said in his speech at the opening ceremony of the CineDrive drive-in cinema here, tonight.
Zahidi also advised drive-in cinemas to always ensure all guidelines and SOPs are adhered to.
This includes health screening, cleaning and disinfectant of premises as well as maintaining physical distancing and other safety procedures, he said.
“In addition, all relevant approvals must be obtained from the authorities.
“With health checks and guidelines, I am confident that the introduction of this new concept such as drive-in cinema will definitely be an attraction to revive movie viewing activities,” he said. ― Bernama
MANCHESTER, Sept 18 ― Manchester City's first-choice striker Sergio Aguero and defender Aymeric Laporte will miss Monday's Premier League clash against Wolverhampton Wanderers, manager Pep Guardiola said today.
Aguero, City's record goalscorer, missed the end of last season after a knee surgery and has not yet returned to first-team training.
Guardiola confirmed winger Riyad Mahrez has returned to the fold after recovering from Covid-19, but the game at Molineux Stadium comes too soon for Laporte, who had also contracted the virus earlier this month.
“He (Aguero) still did not make one training session with us,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City's first league match of the season.
“Riyad came back three or four days ago and is training. Today is the first day Aymeric is back. Mahrez is available for Wolves, Laporte not yet.”
City, who finished second behind Liverpool in the league last season, signed centre back Nathan Ake and winger Ferran Torres in the close season from Bournemouth and Valencia respectively.
Guardiola said he was impressed with the versatility both players brought to the group but acknowledged the pair will need time to establish themselves in an already competitive City squad.
“We bought him as a centre back but sometimes he can help us as a full back,” he added. “Maybe if we get injuries, he (Ake) can play there.
“So far, it's really good. What you have to do, all the players and staff, all the people close to them, is help them settle as soon as possible.” ― Reuters
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 — US lawmakers will consider two bills next week on goods made with forced labour from China’s Xinjiang region, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today, with one that would restrict imports and another that would require disclosures from publicly-traded US companies on their supply chains.
“If we refused to speak out about human rights in China because of commercial interests, then we lose all moral authority to speak about human rights any place in the world,” Pelosi said. — Reuters
WARSAW, Sept 18 — Members of a junior partner in Poland’s ruling coalition warned today that removing their party leader as justice minister would mean an early election, further exacerbating strains in a government that is less than a year old.
Polish media reported today that Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, leader of the United Poland party, could lose his post next week. Ziobro is the architect of judicial reforms which critics say increase political control over the courts and which have put Poland into conflict with the European Union.
The biggest ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), was angered by the failure of Ziobro’s party, and a second coalition partner, Accord, to support an animal rights bill, though tensions between the parties have been simmering for some time as they jostle for position after a run of election victories.
“Any attempt to dismiss the minister of justice means elections,” said United Poland lawmaker Janusz Kowalski.
“Elections that are a gift for (the liberal, main opposition) Civic Platform...,” he added.
At stake is not only the stability of the government, but also the direction Poland will take in its relations with the European Union.
Ziobro’s ultra-conservative United Poland favours a more combative stance on issues such as judicial reforms and gay rights than more moderate figures in PiS centred around Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Proposed by PiS party leader and well-known cat lover Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the package of animal rights laws passed early today thanks to opposition support, while most United Poland lawmakers opposed it and Accord largely abstained.
The package is seen as an attempt by PiS to reach out to younger voters. But some in the coalition felt the measures, which ban fur farming and the ritual slaughter of animals for the export of halal and kosher meat, would alienate voters in PiS’s rural heartlands and hurt farmers.
PiS deputy spokesman Radoslaw Fogiel said the problems in the ruling camp went deeper than current policy differences.
“A coalition can work when all the entities that make it up have a common goal, when they agree to act together and go in the same direction,” he said. — Reuters
BERLIN, Sept 18 — Germany plans to take on €96.2 billion (RM469 billion) in new debt in 2021, shattering its cherished no-deficit rule for a second year running to combat the pandemic’s economic fallout, finance ministry sources said today.
The figure will be formally announced on Wednesday when Finance Minister Olaf Scholz presents next year’s federal budget.
Berlin already intends to borrow around €218 billion this year to help pay for massive stimulus and rescue measures aimed at steering Europe’s top economy through the Covid-19 crisis
A finance ministry source told news agency DPA: “Doing nothing would be much more expensive.”
The unprecedented spending has forced Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to abandon its years-long habit of running a “black zero” balanced budget, and suspend a constitutionally enshrined “debt brake”.
Introduced at the height of the financial crisis in 2009, the “debt brake” bans Berlin from taking on more than 0.35 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in new debt in any one year.
Scholz’s 2021 budget would see total government debt as a percentage of GDP climb to 75.25 per cent, compared with just under 60 per cent in 2019.
Germany expects to return to the “debt brake” and its usual fiscal rigour in 2022, the ministry sources said.
The government is also bracing for a massive drop in tax revenues this year and next.
The country now expects to take in €264.4 billion in federal tax revenues in 2020, down from Scholz’s earlier prediction of €275 billion, and well below the €329 billion collected in 2019.
Tax revenues are not expected to reach their pre-crisis level until 2024, the sources said.
Merkel’s ruling coalition has pledged more than a trillion euros in aid to shield German companies and workers from the virus fallout, including through loans, grants and subsidised shorter-hours programmes.
The government has also rolled out a €130 billion stimulus programme to kickstart the economic recovery, including major investments in the health sector.
The German economy is predicted to contract by 5.8 per cent in 2020, the deepest slump in its post-war history, before rebounding by 4.4 per cent in 2021. — AFP
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 ― Serious consideration will be given to reinstating sepak takraw on the country’s list of core sports, said Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican.
He said the national sepak takraw team’s golden achievement at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia was among the factors that have strengthened its claim to be put back on the list.
“I don’t have details as to why the sport was taken off the list in 2017, together with weightlifting and taekwondo. The matter (consideration) will be jointly looked into by the ministry, Malaysian Sepak Takraw Association (PSM) and National Sports Council (NSC),” he told a press conference after officiating the 2020 Sepak Takraw League (STL) at the Titiwangsa Stadium here today.
Earlier, PSM president Datuk Seri Ahmad Ismail said in his speech that efforts to empower the sport at the grassroots levels could only be successfully implemented if sepak takraw was back on the list of the country’s core sports.
The NSC dropped sepak takraw, weightlifting and taekwondo from the country’s list of core sports in 2017 following their poor performances as well as their failure to show any improvement since 2007. ― Bernama
LONDON, Sept 18 ― Gareth Bale arrived at Luton Airport near London today ahead of completing his imminent return to Tottenham Hotspur.
Wales forward Bale, who left Premier league Spurs to join Real Madrid for a then world record €100 million (RM488 million) in 2013, is expected to be unveiled later today.
Sky Sports footage showed Bale stepping off a private jet owned by Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
Real Madrid left back Sergio Reguilon was also on the plane and is also set to join the London club.
Bale, 31, is expected to join initially on loan.
He originally joined Tottenham from Southampton in 2007 and, after initially struggling to make his mark, evolved into one of the club's greatest players, scoring 56 goals and providing 58 assists in more than 200 appearances.
After joining Real he won four Champions League and two Liga titles but has fallen out of favour with coach Zinedine Zidane. ― Reuters
LONDON, Sept 18 ― Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta conceded today that he was initially worried that the club would lose captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the transfer window and the striker's decision to extend his stay was a welcome boost.
The 31-year-old Aubameyang signed a new three-year deal with the London club this week, a month after Arteta said he wanted to build his squad around the club captain following their FA Cup triumph and Europa League qualification.
“To be fair at the start, when I joined (in December), I wasn't as positive as I was in the last few weeks,” Arteta told reporters ahead of tomorrow's Premier League game at home to West Ham United.
“Obviously, financially we were in a position that it was difficult to get where we wanted to get. I think Auba had his doubts as well at the time but things evolved in a natural way.
“It was a big boost because everyone was hoping for Auba to stay but it was creating some uncertainty around the place. Obviously it's great to finish that speculation, move on and find some more stability.”
Tying down Gabon international Aubameyang, who had less than a year left on his contract, was a major coup for Arsenal with other top European clubs such as Barcelona and AC Milan reported to have registered an interest in the 31-year-old.
“I had the feeling that the club wanted to move forward, I had the feeling that Auba wanted to stay here and we were just trying to apply those things together and that sometimes takes time,” Arteta added. “The size of our club is as big as those names. That is what I'm saying.
“The most important thing is the club, what we inspire, who we are as a club and what we can achieve in the future as well, and how we can explain what we are trying to do so the players believe in our project.”
Arsenal started their Premier League campaign with a 3-0 victory at newly-promoted Fulham. ― Reuters
GENEVA, Sept 18 — Belarus and several allies tried today to block a video message from opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the UN Human Rights Council, where she urged “the strongest” international response to Minsk’s abuses.
Tikhanovskaya demanded “immediate international attention” for her country as it reels from a brutal crackdown on protests over the disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.
But her short video message, in a rare urgent debate at the council, had barely begun before Belarus Ambassador Yuri Ambrazevich demanded it be switched off.
He repeatedly interrupted the screening, raising procedural objections and insisting her words had “no relevance on the substance... on the events that are taking place today.”
He was overruled by council president Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger.
The debate on the rights situation in Belarus, requested by the European Union, focused on violations and the crackdown on the unprecedented demonstrations which broke out after disputed August 9 elections.
Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, claimed to have defeated Tikhanovskaya with 80 per cent of the vote.
The leader, who on Thursday warned of a possible “war” with some neighbouring countries, has refused to step down and has turned to Russia for support.
His security forces have meanwhile detained thousands of protesters, many of whom have accused police of beatings and torture. Several people have died.
Tikhanovskaya, who has taken shelter in neighbouring Lithuania, insisted that the country’s violation of its international obligations to respect “human dignity and basic human rights... means the international community has a right to react in strongest terms.”
“The scope and the brutality of the extensive force used by the regime is in clear violation of all international norms,” she said.
A long line of countries also voiced alarm.
“We have witnessed a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests,” said German ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg on behalf of the EU.
He raised concerns at “reports of attacks on — and torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of — peaceful protesters as well as harassment, intimidation and detentions of opposition leaders.”
Minsk’s envoy Ambrazevich meanwhile slammed the “lopsided picture of reality presented by the losers in the election,” rejecting allegations of abuse by authorities.
He insisted that protesters had been violent and had injured numerous police officers.
Ambrazevich and his counterparts from Russia, Venezuela and China also voiced multiple objections to statements by the UN deputy rights chief Nada Al-Nashif and Anais Marin, the UN special rapporteur on the rights situation in Belarus, saying they had no place in the debate.
Marin told the council that more than 10,000 people had been “abusively arrested for taking part in peaceful protests”, and lamented that “over 500 cases of torture, committed by state agents, have been reported to us.”
“I have been informed of allegations of rape, electrocution, and other forms of physical and psychological torture,” she told the council via video link, adding that the perpetrators appeared to be acting with “impunity”.
Friday’s debate ended with a vote approving a resolution submitted by the EU insisting that the vast array of serious abuses urgently require “independent investigation.”
The voting process was slowed down by Russia, which proposed 17 amendments to the text, all of which were rejected, and in the end the resolution was adopted unchanged by the 47-member council, with 23 in favour, 22 abstentions and only Venezuela and Eritrea voting against.
The text calls on Belarusian authorities to “enable independent, transparent and impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations in the context of the election.”
It also calls on Minsk to “guarantee access to justice and redress for victims as well as full accountability of the perpetrators.”
And it calls on the office of UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to closely monitor the situation in the country and to present her conclusions in a report during the next council session in March 2021.
The discussions mark only the sixth time in the council’s 14-year history that it has agreed to hold an “urgent debate” — a special debate within a regular session of the council.
During its last session in June, the council held an urgent debate on racism and police brutality following unrest in the United States and beyond over George Floyd’s death. — AFP
LONDON, Sept 18 ― Southampton's Danny Ings is not interested in leaving the club, with manager Ralph Hasenhuettl describing speculation regarding the striker moving away from St Mary's as “absolute nonsense”.
Saints' top scorer with 25 goals in all competitions last season, Ings has been linked with Tottenham Hotspur by British media ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash between the sides.
“I don't know how often I spoke last season about Ings and how important he is,” Hasenhuettl told a news conference today. “All I want to say is that there is zero interest from Danny to go anywhere.
“He is 100 per cent happy to be here and, for us, it's 100 per cent not discussable that we (allow him to) leave. (He's) one of the best strikers in Europe. Any rumours are absolutely nonsense.”
Southampton, who came 11th last season after a late surge, have started this campaign with two defeats ― losing to Crystal Palace in their league opener before being eliminated in the League Cup second round by second-tier Brentford on Wednesday.
“It was not the start we wanted to have but when you step out of pre-season you do not know what level you are,” said Hasenhuettl.
“When you compare us to the end of last season we are not where we hoped to be. There are some reasons for that but we have to use the games we have to get back to that level.”
Hasenhuettl will be without Nathan Redmond against Spurs after the winger suffered an ankle injury in the 2-0 home loss to Brentford.
Scotland midfielder Stuart Armstrong could return, however, having resumed training after recovering from a thigh injury. ― Reuters
NEW YORK, Sept 18 — Wall Street opened with little enthusiasm today as stock traders digest the implications of Washington’s continued failure to agree on a new stimulus package to bolster the battered US economy.
About 35 minutes after the open, the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.3 per cent to 27,822.74.
The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.1 per cent to 3,355.10, while the tech-rich Nasdaq was up 0.3 per cent to 10,938.38.
After a buoyant August, stocks have been under pressure for most of September given doubts about whether lofty valuations are justified.
Congress and the White House remain deadlocked over additional spending to aid businesses and households despite tens of millions of job losses caused by the world’s worst coronavirus pandemic.
Tech stocks in particular have had rough trading sessions in recently after the Nasdaq posted multiple records last month.
Apple was trading 0.8 per cent lower, Amazon was down 0.2 per cent, and Google-parent Alphabet slipped 0.1 per cent.
Before trading began, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the US would ban on downloads or updates of popular video sharing app TikTok starting Sunday night following Washington’s threat to crack down on the app over national security concerns unless it could find a buyer in the United States.
Oracle, which is in talks to become the app’s US partner, fell 0.8 per cent. — AFP
KUALA LUMPUR: Competitive squash is finally back after a long absence.© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
KUALA LUMPUR: Businessman Norizam Tukiman is Kelantan FC’s white knight as he galloped in to rescue them from debts.© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
KIEV (Ukraine), Sept 18 — More than 1,000 Jewish pilgrims who massed for several days along Ukraine’s border gave up hope of entering the country today after being turned back due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Orthodox-Jewish believers including hundreds of children camped out this week in no-man’s land between the Ukrainian and Belarusian border crossings ahead of Jewish New Year celebrations this weekend.
Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews travel to the central Ukrainian city of Uman every Jewish New Year to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nahman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
The standoff between pilgrims and armed Ukrainian security services sparked tensions at the Novi Yarylovychi border crossing and inflamed a diplomatic row between Minsk and Kiev.
Ukrainian border guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko told AFP today that most pilgrims had returned to Belarus and only “a few pilgrims” hoping to enter Ukraine remained at the crossing point.
Belarus, which earlier said the pilgrims should be allowed to visit holy sites in Ukraine, confirmed that fewer than a dozen people were attempting to cross.
Belarus’s Border Committee representative Anton Bychkovskiy said pilgrims were “leaving the border en masse” and travelling onwards to nearby cities by bus and taxi.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today wished Jews a happy New Year and acknowledged the country had been “forced to limit mass events” over safety concerns.
The believers — mainly Israeli, but also American and French — departed for Uman this year even though both the Ukrainian and Israeli governments last month urged them not to travel because of the pandemic.
An Israeli minister yesterday called on those camping out on the border to return home and uphold quarantine rules on arrival in Israel.
Kiev closed its borders for most of the month of September citing a growing number of coronavirus infections, but the pilgrims attempted to bypass the restrictions by travelling through Belarus.
Ukrainian border guards announced today they had arrested several pilgrims, including Israeli and US citizens, trying to enter the country illegally from Hungary, Poland and Romania.
Kiev has reported more than 169,000 cases of coronavirus and 3,468 fatalities. Yesterday, officials registered a record one-day increase in infections.
The standoff on the border aggravated strained ties between Kiev and Minsk, which have traded barbs over disputed presidential elections in Belarus last month.
Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko earlier instructed officials to negotiate a travel corridor with Ukraine and offered to provide buses to transport religious believers to holy sites in Ukraine.
Kiev in turn accused Belarusian authorities of giving false hope to the Hasidic pilgrims that they would be allowed to travel to Uman.
Both Ukraine and Israel are keen to avoid a spike in coronavirus infections.
Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown today to tackle one of the world’s highest coronavirus infection rates, despite public protests over the new blow to the economy.
The three-week shutdown starts just hours before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
Meanwhile, up to 3,000 Hasidic Jews have arrived in Uman for the celebrations entering Ukraine before the ban, police said.
Law enforcement has tightened security near Rabbi Nachman’s tomb where pilgrims have congregated. — AFP