Palau

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Palau delegation to attend COP26 in Glasgow amid COVID- 19 hurdles

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:23

Palau is sending a delegation headed by President Surangel Whipps Jr. to  Glasgow, Scotland for the COP26 climate conference.

Palau will be one of the few countries in the Pacific attending the face-to-face summit amid the coronavirus pandemic that complicates the journey for most of the delegates from the region. 

Xavier Matsutaro, Climate Change Office coordinator said that in order to get to Glasgow, the Palau delegation will have to go through a long journey to get to the summit. 

The meeting will be held starting Oct 31 to Nov. 12. 

But Matsutaro said the issue of climate change has been a more pressing issue, which is to implement the  2015 Paris climate accord, limiting global warming to well below 2C compared with pre-industrial levels.

 “What underpins everything is the rate at which the globe is warming. So it’s, we’re trying to limit at 1.5 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution started to come to light. And the reason being is if you reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, there will be really catastrophic weather events, environmental events that would then occur because of that temperature rise,” Matsutaro said in an interview. 

He said strong climate action is urgent with Palau experiencing the impacts of climate change from high sea levels that resulted in the inundation of some communities.

Matsutaro also said Typhoon  Surigae which hit Palau in April bore the fingerprint of climate change bringing intensified speed that damages many homes and infrastructure.

 He said climate finance will be also a key issue for Palau and that securing financing will help the country build resilience against the impact of climate change.

“Climate finance is not only about getting financial support but  And not finance for the sake of, you know, getting financial support. That’s not it. I mean, finances is really the means to which we can build our resiliency,” Matsutaro said. 

He said that he is confident that the COP26 will fulfill the aims of the Paris Agreement with more world leaders pledging to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. 

“So seeing these efforts being made, both by large countries and at the same time the developing states, we’re seeing a window of hope this time around, how much we will able t to achieve is yet to be seen… but we are seeing positive indication,” he added.

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Categories: Palau

Colin Powell has died of COVID-19 complications, family says

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:22

WASHIINGTON (AP) — Colin Powell, former Joint Chiefs chairman and secretary of state, has died from COVID-19 complications, his family said Monday.

In an announcement on social media, the family said Powell had been fully vaccinated.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father and grandfather and a great American,” the family said.

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Categories: Palau

Council of Chiefs forbids online gambling again!

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:21

Rubekul Belau (Council of Chiefs) once again opposes the proposal to establish online gaming in Palau, reiterating in its 4th letter to Olbiil ra Kelulau (national congress).

“We firmly believe that gambling, whether online or onsite, is not consistent with our values as Palauans that is why we continue to reiterate the same position that we have expressed before to both the Senate and the House of Delegates.” stated letter from Council of Chiefs to Senator Secilil Eldebechel, Chairman of Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Matters this September 30, 2021.

The Office of the Council of Chiefs also attached with their letter to Senator Eldebechel similar letters it wrote to Senator Mason Whipps in 2013, Delegate Jonathan Isechal in 2014, and Senator Rukebai Inabo in 2020.

In all the letters of responses to the proposed gaming or gambling bills, the Council of Chiefs reiterated that gaming or gambling, whether online or onsite was “not consistent with Palauan values”.

In addition, the letters said that “gambling’s ill effects on our nation and its people far outweigh its potential benefits.”  Furthermore, it emphasized that the Palauan people have clearly expressed their thoughts on gambling through a nationwide referendum  where “they answered with an emphatic “NO”.”

Rubekul Belau urged lawmakers to look at other potential revenue sources to be developed rather than gaming or gambling.   “We understand that the subject bill is one way to attempt to find additional sources of revenue for our Republic.  However, this mounting sense of desperation to head off a looming financial crisis requires us to be even more diligent and vigilant in choosing the right type of investment and revenue source for our Republic in order to avoid any long term adverse impacts on our society and its people,” stated their response to Senator Inabo last administration.

Various proposals to establish and expand gambling and online gaming in Palau were submitted at different times.  In 2013 and 2014, the bill Palau Casino Gaming Control Act of 2013 was introduced in both houses of Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK).   In 2020, Palau Offshore Gaming Commission bill was also introduced.  It did not make it past the 11th Government and was recently re-introduced this year.

“Gambling also leads to destructive human behaviors such as financial ruins, addiction, and crimes such as money laundering, human trafficking, prostitution, to name a few, which costs are long-term and extensive.  Therefore, we cannot support the passage of House Bill No. 11-4-1, HD1.”

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Categories: Palau

Positive cases cleared, 2 more no-show for Day 5 testing

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:20

Ministry of Health reports that the 3 identified positive COVID-19 and the 33 close contacts have been cleared after their Day 10 test results came in negative yesterday.  They have been cleared of all quarantine, isolation, and testing requirements.

MHHS also reported that 42 out of the 44 inbound travelers who came on the October 12th flight from Philippines, tested negative on their Day 5 tests and were released but MHHS also reported that 2 of the travelers from this group failed to show for the Day 5 tests and said that they are subject to $500 fine and/or up-to a year imprisonment.

According to sources, the 2 have been rescheduled for their tests.  President Whipps at last week’s press conference urged travelers to “do their part, their responsibilities” and take the necessary tests to ensure that everyone is safe. (By: L.N. Reklai)

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Categories: Palau

Right communication critical to disaster preparedness

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:19

How to get the right and timely information to as many people as possible in plain and easy language to understand is key to communicating in the face of disaster, an important lesson conveyed to roomful of reporters this past week as members of the media learn how to better communicate in the face of disaster.

Extreme weather conditions that Palau had recently experienced, Typhoon Surigae in April and recent heavy monsoon rains in the past two weeks provided examples and starting points for both young and veterans reporters in the local media to learn how to communicate better in face of disaster.

To learn more about the weather, the terminologies, the reporting from key agencies, local media reporters met with Palau weather meteorologists and National Emergency director as well as attend zoom presentation with Guam’s Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service, WFO Guam.  They also shared experiences reporting disaster information amongst themselves, learning best practices.

Marcus Landon Aydlett, Warning Coordination Meteorologist from Guam explained, “when facing weather threat, people want to know what that threat is, what it means to them (impacts) and when.

In one single simple email for example, should contain all the necessary information a person needs to know to be prepared.  “Text is plain language, easy to read/understand, tells reader what they want to know, when to expect new information and where to go for information.”

Local media members believe that the information being disseminated, especially coming from national offices responsible, are too full of jargons, too technical and do not provide necessary information a person need to make a decision.

The training continues this week to raise local reporting capacity, building right communication skills critical to disaster preparedness. (By: L.N. Reklai)

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Categories: Palau

46 candidates vie for 17 seats in Koror State Legislature

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:18

Forty-six (46) candidates have filed their petitions to run for the 17 seats in the Koror State Legislature in the upcoming 12th General Election of Koror State.  There are a total of 17 candidates vying for 5 seats At-Large and 30 vying for 12 hamlet seats.

Each of the 12 hamlets has at least 2 people vying for the one seat available for each hamlet.  Ngerchemai, Ngerbeched, and Meyuns are the only hamlets with more than 2 candidates each, with Ngerbeched having 5 candidates, Medalaii with 4, and Ngerchemai with 3. 

Out of 30 candidates for the legislature, 6 are women and 24 or 80% are men.  Men continue to dominate the race for public offices.

Koror State primary election for the Office of Governor held on September 28th, reduced the list of candidates from 5 to 2.  The first and only female candidate for the Office of Governor of Koror State lost the primary with 2 other male candidates.  The final two male candidates who make it to the General Election ballot, are Alan T. Marbou and Eyos Rudimch.

The 12th General Election of Koror State will take place next month, 2nd Tuesday of November.

Koror State Government, the second-largest public entity in Palau with a nearly $10 million annual budget is faced with challenges in the coming year as a result of the COVId-19 pandemic. (By: L.N. Reklai)

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Categories: Palau

PPUC explains multiple power outages

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:17

The Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC) explained multiple power outages this weekend starting with the island wide outage or blackout on Friday evening October 15, 2021.

According to PPUC, a problem on a transmission line (heavy fault on the 34.5 KV transmission line) caused all running generators at Malakal and Aimeliik power plants to shut down. The transmission line is the main line connecting these two power plants that supply power to Koror, Airai and entire Babeldaob. Linemen traced the line but found no evident line interference and the fault was deemed transient. A transient fault is a momentary line interference either from vegetation, animal, etc. Power was restored at 9:25pm. Normal restoration time after a blackout is 1.5 hours as manual operations is required to restart generators and restore power to affected areas, by feeder or distribution zone.

The other major unscheduled outage occurred on Saturday October 16, 2021 around 10:00am, affecting most of Koror and entire Babeldaob. A heavy fault was also detected on the 34.5 KV transmission line. Linemen were dispatched to conduct line tracing which included sectionalizing power or opening gas line switches along the transmission system in order to isolate affected distribution zone. Two teams conducted line tracing and one of them spotted a damaged bell insulator and a dead snake hanging on the Nekken line near the water pump in Aimeliik. The snake came into contact with the main transmission line, causing it to ground and damaging the bell insulator.

The other team went to open the Load Break Switch at Black Micro in order to power up Koror and Airai, while Babeldaob remained off. Additional crews were contacted for bucket truck and materials for repair. Snake was removed and repairs were completed, restoring power to all of Babeldaob at 6:30pm.

Intermittent power outages also occurred early Monday morning October 18, 2021 due to continuous tripping of the Airai-Koror feeder. Linemen were dispatched to investigate including sectionalizing power by opening all gas line switches connected on the feeder to identify and isolate affected area. It was later identified that the gas line switch by Franco was experiencing some issues. Linemen conducted repairs and power was restored to all affected areas around 8:30am.

CEO Kyota met with all appropriate managers and staff regarding the recent outages to discuss possible solutions and way forward. One of the more permanent solutions include repair of relay calibration at the Aimeliik Power Plant and bid documents for this project is being processed. Another solution is the installation

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Categories: Palau

MAFE implements measures promoting sustainable food production.

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:16

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Environment (MAFE)  is implementing several measures across the ministry to promote sustainable food production.

In a Ministerial directive last week, MAFE Minister Steven Victor directed that all orders or meals paid by the ministry shall request vendors to maximize locally grown food, use of pelagic and aquaculture fish.

The directive also urged any food orders to be plastic-free and meals “if possible;” labeled #KeledANgercheled and #RespectProducers hastags.

The directive also stated that quotation forms, requisition forms, and other forms shall be updated by December 31, 2021, to include the required measures and the hostages.

 In last month’s United Nations Food Systems Summit, Palau will take part in the implementation of The Alliance for Blue Foods to elevate the profile of aquatic foods — fish, shellfish, aquatic plants, and algae. 

 President Surengel Whipps, Jr. during his address to the 76th U.N. General Assembly. Said the country relies heavily on imported foods  

“The future is uncertain, no doubt. Amidst threat and degradation is opportunity; opportunity for us to join together to shift the power balance and define the terms on which we will protect and steward our resources for the benefit of our people,” Whipps said. ( B. Carreon) 

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Categories: Palau

Report cites room for improvement in Palau to reject tobacco industry interference in public health measures

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:15

Koror, Palau – October 18, 2021 – A civil society report finds there is room for improvement to prevent tobacco industry interference in health.  The report is a result of Palau’s first participation in an international survey reviewing tobacco industry interference in measures protecting public health.  It will be officially released on Wednesday, 20 October,

Palau obtained 40 out of 100 points in the Tobacco Industry Interference Index, that reviews a country’s response to protecting public health measures from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry. Palau is committed to protect public health policies as stated in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) ratified in 2004.  The report focuses on Article 5.3 of the Treaty that addresses tobacco industry interference.

In this survey, countries are ranked – a higher score reveals greater interference. For example, in 2020, out of 57 countries, Brunei Darussalam had the best score with 14 points while Zambia had a score of 78.  Other high scoring countries included China, Columbia, Georgia, Jordan and Romania all scoring 77.   The 2021 Global Index will be launched on November 2nd. 

While key findings from Palau’s report show no evidence of recent incidents of interference by the tobacco industry, the Republic remains vulnerable to such interference.  Where Palau does fall short however, is with respect to preventive measures such as appropriate provisions in the government code of conduct, requirements for openness from the tobacco industry regarding information on tobacco production, manufacture, marketing expenditures, revenues and other activity. Another gap is lack of activity to consistently raise awareness within government departments on policies relating to WHO FCTC Article 5.3 and the Guidelines.

The report recommends several areas for action in order that the Palau government may show clear commitment to Guiding Principle 1 of the WHO FCTC Article 5.3 Guidelines: “There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health”. Now is an opportune moment for policy makers to step up tobacco control measures.

The report was produced by the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Palau. Technical assistance was provided by the Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC).  Palau’s Tobacco Industry Interference Index will form part of the Global Tobacco Index produced by the Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP) and supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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Categories: Palau

Japan Hands Over Hand-Wash Stations to MOE

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:14

On October 15, 2021, His Excellency KARASAWA Akira, Ambassador of Japan handed over 62 hand-wash stations to Ministry of Education. The handover ceremony for “The Project for Facilitating Hand-Wash Stations to Schools in Koror and Airai States” was held at Koror Elementary School and attended by the Honorable Dale Jenkins, Minister of Education, the MOE Management Team, Principals of schools, Students of Koror Elementary School, and many guests.

All students have been encouraged to wash their hands more frequently since the first cases of COVID-19 in Palau were confirmed in August this year. However, most of schools in Koror and Airai did not have enough facilities for students to wash their hands. Since many students are unvaccinated because of their age, many parents, families and teachers were concerned about their children’s safety at schools.

Considering this situation, the Embassy of Japan decided to install a total of 62 hand-wash stations at 14 schools including the private schools in Koror and Airai under the Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP). After the completion of the phase 1 of the project in Koror and Airai, the phase 2 will cover the schools in Babeldaob, Peleliu, Angaur and Kayangel and will be completed by the middle of November, 2021. The hand-wash stations are located in various places at each school so that students can easily access and keep their hands clean whenever they need to.

At the ceremony, Minister Jenkins stated, “This is the biggest project MOE ever had. We appreciate the Government of Japan and also all people who are involved to make this project possible.” Ambassador Karasawa mentioned that “Today, October 15th is Global Hand Wash Day and we set up the ceremony on the same day to encourage students to utilize the hand-wash stations for prevention of many diseases including COVID-19”. He also expressed his hope that the practice of handwashing would enhance good hygiene in Palau.”

The Government of Japan launched GGP in 1999, for the purpose of responding to various development needs engaged in grassroots activities in Palau. As of October 15, 2021, the Embassy has signed 87 grant contracts with schools and hospitals as well as state governments and non-profit organizations to contribute to sustainable development of Palau. For further information about GGP, please contact 488-6455 or visit the Embassy of Japan website at https://www.palau.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_en/about_ggp.html . Through our Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP)

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Categories: Palau

Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment donates to PCS

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:13

Koror, Palau – On October 15, 2021, Steven Victor, the new Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment (MAFE) made a generous donation to Palau Conservation Society (PCS).  Mr. Victor previously held the position of Micronesia Program Director for The Nature Conservancy prior to becoming the head of the ministry in June of this year.

In presenting the donation to PCS Executive Director Michelle Ngirutang, Minister Victor stated that he would like to challenge all government ministers, directors, and top officials in the Olbiil er a Kelulau (Palau National Congress) as well as all government employees to open their hearts and wallets to support PCS.  “Even in these difficult times, we all must continue our work in our conservation efforts to produce positive sustainable economic and environmental returns for the future generations of Palau.”

The PCS Board of Directors and staff would like to acknowledge and thank Minister Victor for his donation as well for his leadership in supporting environmental conservation. Any company or interested individuals wishing to make a donation is encouraged to contact Ms. Michelle Ngirutang at 488-3993, or via email at mngirutang@palauconservationsociety.org.

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Categories: Palau

Summit Realty donates to PCS

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:12

Palau’s Premier Real Estate Consultants

Koror, Palau – On October 14, 2021, Palau Conservation Society (PCS) received a generous donation of $500 from Mr. Jackson Henry who owns and operates Summit Realty in Palau. Pictured above is Mr. Henry presenting the check to PCS executive director Ms. Michelle Ngirutang.

Summit Realty first began its operations in Guam in 1994 and officially moved to Palau in 2000. Summit Realty specializes in property sales, leases and real estate valuation reports for banks and investors. For the past 21 years, the Summit Realty has spanned into one of the most successful realty company in Palau providing high quality services in combination with Mr. Henry’s extensive experience. This has put Summit Realty above the rest.

Mr. Henry hails from the state of Angaur and has always been actively involved in the community and currently serves as the President of Olbiil Era Ngeaur, Angaur State Legislature.  He also served as the non-resident Ambassador to Taiwan during President Johnson Toribiong’s administration.

The PCS Board of Directors and staff are extremely grateful for Mr. Henry’s donation and commitment in support of Palau Conservation Society’s continuous efforts to protecting our environment. Any company or interested individuals wishing to make a donation is encouraged to contact Ms. Michelle Ngirutang at 488-3993, or via email at mngirutang@palauconservationsociety.org.

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Categories: Palau

Adoption and Culture

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:11

Children are influenced by the specific culture they grow up in. The family cultural values are ingrained in their minds, which can have a positive or negative effect. Families have spoken and unspoken norms and children learn to conform to these teachings or risk  becoming an outcast.  Being adopted is hard on a child, especially when they find out through the grapevine or they see differences in how they and other kids in the household are raised.

An adopted child often has to be assured that they are no different from the rest of the kids in the household, otherwise their value in life is shaken and it affects them mentality, emotionally and physically. There are varying reasons children are adopted and at different ages.

I was adopted at two months old. It was between my birth mother, her aunt and my mom. My mom at that time was married to my grand uncle from Peleliu, who is my birth mother’s uncle. My mother is my everything, but I often heard whispers from other Palauan women about my hazel eyes, red hair, fair skin and freckles and one thing is always mentioned “ngmeral diua kser tirkel bebir rar chad.” This caused me to develop a complex when people look at me a certain way or make some remarks related to my biological lineage. At age six, I found out from my birth mother that I’m adopted. I confronted my mom, which broke her heart. After that, I grew fearful that my mom wouldn’t love me anymore. I felt like I was walking on egg shells or thin ice around my mom and her family. It gave me a sense of insecurity. My mom had to constantly reassure me that she was my one and only mom, but as a child, I could not help, but wonder. I made sure I was doing good in school and even started working at age twelve at a convenience store to help my mom out. I wanted to do my best to please my mom in every way, fearing that she might someday return me to my birth mother, if I misbehave. My kids did not  know I was adopted, until I joined the military and they had to live with my uncle for a while. Often times they heard “kemeral di ua -naming my birth mother-” when they are being naughty or ornery.

They did not know who she was. I had to eventually explain everything to my kids. My kids felt the same detached feelings I felt growing up, like they did not belong. Luckily, with my mom’s strong love and affection, we weren’t too scarred.

I often distanced myself from my biological side, worried that my mom might get hurt, even though she told me to embrace them. When my mom passed away in 1992, I felt orphaned, due to tradition. I left Palau and have not been back.

When children are stigmatized, it scars them for life and they develop mental health illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and behavioral issues. The controversial term is known as adopted child syndrome. Children are precious and are heavenly gifts. Adopted children need nurturing, extra love and assurance in order to develop healthy relationships with their adopted families and become strong members of society. My kids used to ask, what family do we belong to? I tell them both families.

My kids and I are blessed to have a healthy relationship, but it took a lot of work, love and patience. My mom rocks and I miss her a lot…

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Categories: Palau

Human cost of the Pacific’s COVID-19 recession

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:10

By Dane Moores, Jonathon Gurry

SYDNEY  (DEVPOLICY.ORG) —The socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are devastating communities in the Pacific and Timor-Leste as much as the virus itself, and sometimes to an even greater extent.

World Vision surveyed 752 households (with an average of six people per household) in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu in late 2020 to better understand the secondary impacts of the pandemic at the community level. The sample size was relatively small (because the survey was done in an emergency context under government restrictions), but still the results provide a valuable insight into the deep and sometimes unexpected knock-on effects of COVID-19 in the region.

Unsurprisingly, loss of livelihoods was the number one concern for the households surveyed. Almost 60% of respondents had either lost their job, lost income, or resorted to alternative sources of income due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. The top five reasons cited by households for this loss of income were reduced demand for goods/services (29%), closed markets (20%), lack of access to livelihood inputs such as seeds and materials (18%), movement restrictions (15%), and transport limitations (10%).

These disruptions are crippling the same industries that are the traditional drivers of Pacific economies – tourism, agriculture, small- and medium-sized business and money sent home by seasonal workers. Street vendors and farmers have been the hardest hit, with 56% of vendors and 55% of agriculture and livestock workers saying their work was fully or severely affected by the pandemic in the two weeks before the survey.

This data is consistent with concerns raised by the Lowy Institute that the Pacific has been particularly battered by the economic fallout of COVID-19 and that it could face a potential ‘lost decade’ of economic progress as a result. On current projections, average income per person in the Pacific will not recover to 2019 levels until 2028 unless a multi-year recovery package is urgently adopted.

Loss of livelihoods isn’t just affecting consumer activity; it is having significant ripple effects across Pacific societies. The ‘Pacific Aftershocks’ survey revealed the cruel choices families are forced to make as their incomes collapse, with households resorting to selling assets and even skipping meals to cope:

•Only half of households surveyed were able to fully meet their food expenses, with one in four (24%) skipping meals or eating cheaper meals since COVID-19

•More than half (51.7%) of households have drawn down on savings to cope with loss of income

•5% of households had sold productive assets such as livestock or equipment

•14% of households have sent their children to work to help make up for lost income

•14% have engaged family members in begging or high-risk jobs

With tourism expected to be one of the last sectors to recover from the pandemic, there is a real risk that the Pacific could face its own version of ‘long COVID’ – a protracted, slow climb back to economic normality over the next decade, during which the socio-economic impacts above could become a type of ‘new normal.’ But this doesn’t have to be the case.

In the short-term (during the next six months), work is needed to urgently scale up social protection measures (such as cash and voucher assistance and, where this is not possible, food assistance) to help poor families with disrupted incomes meet their immediate needs. In many contexts across the Pacific region, assistance in the form of cash and vouchers minimises the distortion to markets while ensuring families do not resort to negative coping mechanisms such as eating less or forcing their children to work.

To build back better in the medium and longer-term (the next one to five years), a suite of initiatives should be deployed to stimulate the Pacific economy and rebuild livelihoods. This could include improving access to finance for small businesses, strengthening market systems so they work better for the poor, investing in women’s economic empowerment, and restoring environments through low-cost regenerative agriculture. As a mechanism to coordinate and drive this work, it is recommended all national and donor governments in the Pacific region, including Australia, work together to develop an Economic Recovery Compact – a roadmap to rebuild the regional economy in a way that leaves no one behind. By rebuilding livelihoods, starting at the bottom of the economic pyramid, donor and national governments can increase productive capacity, broaden the consumer base, and build resilience across the market system, all while supporting those who need it most.

Just as regional governments worked together to establish the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19, the region should again coalesce around the longer-term recovery effort – because a regional crisis like this requires a regional response…. PACNEWS

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Categories: Palau

‘Bewildering’: Australia plans to stop AstraZeneca production

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:09

MELBOURNE, 15 OCTOBER 2021 (ABC)—The federal opposition and aid groups are urging the government to extend its contract with biotech giant CSL to manufacture more AstraZeneca vaccines in Melbourne, saying Australia should ramp up production next year to help vanquish the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed this morning the government would not renew its contract with CSL beyond the 51 million doses the company had already promised to deliver.

The company was expected to wind up production of AstraZeneca in Australia early next year.

CSL’s Melbourne plant is now producing around a million doses a week, with up to 800,000 being sent overseas to bolster vaccine rollouts in the Pacific and South-East Asia.

But Hunt said the government would not extend its contract with CSL, suggesting the company had commitments to manufacture other medicines and vaccines.

“The contract is being delivered in full, the doses are being shared, but it was only ever going to be one of the methods [for vaccine supply] and it was never contemplated that CSL would become a contract manufacturer,” he said.

Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong called the decision “bewildering”.

She said the government should ramp up domestic production of AstraZeneca beyond the end of the current contract, and send the doses to regional countries that still need to vaccinate millions of citizens.

Several countries in South-East Asia — including Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam — have been grappling with devastating COVID outbreaks, although all three nations have managed to radically reduce case numbers in recent weeks.

“We know what is happening in Indonesia, we know the severity of the Delta outbreak in Indonesia,” Senator Wong said.

“We know that Indonesia needs more vaccines, why we wouldn’t keep producing these and ensure that our region is more secure?

“It’s just short-sighted.”

Extending the contract or striking a new one would require the government to reach agreement with both CSL and AstraZeneca.

A spokesperson for CSL said the company was “fully focused on the manufacture of the 50 million contracted doses, which will continue into next year, and would assess any further requests following the completion of this”.

The company estimates it has now produced more than 20 million of the 51 million doses it has agreed to deliver.

Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy told a parliamentary committee this morning CSL was “only ever doing this as a one-off” and was “never going to be a long-term manufacturer of AstraZeneca”.

Around 12.5 million AstraZeneca doses have been administered to Australians, while more than 3.5 million doses have so far been sent to countries in the Pacific and South-East Asia.

Australia’s regional vaccine rollout is expected to ramp up in coming weeks.

Professor Murphy said the government had now committed a total of 40 million doses to overseas countries and a “significant portion” of that would be drawn from the 30 million or so doses that AstraZeneca was still planning to produce.

Still, aid and civil society groups say it makes no sense for the government to end production in Melbourne while COVID-19 continues to ravage the globe.

They are pressing the government to ramp up its ambition to help bring the pandemic under control.

Spokesman for the End COVID For All campaign, Reverend Tim Costello, said the government should “invest in production domestic capability to produce 50-100 million vaccines to sell at cost to South-East Asia”.

“We should not forego a capability that our region needs. Domestic production gives us the upper hand against an uncertain global market and fragmented supply chains,” he said in a statement.

“This decision forecloses the option to donate vaccines to COVAX or share more future doses with the region. The Pacific and South-East Asia will need more vaccines and for a number of reasons, including stability, ease of transport and price, AZ is a highly effective option for the region.

“Why sell ourselves short on building a healthier region and stronger partnerships?”

In addition to the 40 million doses already committed, the government has pledged to supply a further 20 million vaccines to the region through UNICEF.

It’s also committed $100 million (US$74 million) to an initiative from the “Quad” countries — the United States, Japan, India and Australia — to roll out around 1.2 billion vaccine doses in the Indo-Pacific.

The government remains confident it can achieve close to full vaccine coverage of the Pacific through its existing commitments, although widespread vaccine resistance and poor health infrastructure in some countries — particularly Papua New Guinea — present formidable challenges.

In contrast, Fiji has now vaccinated more than 80 per cent of its eligible population, largely using COVID-19 vaccines donated by Australia.

The vaccine rollout is also gathering pace in countries like Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, although there are still some significant obstacles.

Solomon Islands Health Minister Culwick Togamana told the ABC his country “should be able to cover the target eligible population” thanks to vaccines supplied by other countries, and that his country was grateful to Australia for its “generous” supply of doses.

Papua New Guinea Health Minister Jelta Wong said his country had not been “officially informed” about the government’s plans for the CSL contract, but said he was confident Australia would “continue to provide vaccines to PNG, whether manufactured in Australia or purchased internationally”.

“It’s a strong commitment and understanding we have with the Australian government,” he said……PACNEWS

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Categories: Palau

Rising sea levels threaten Marshall Islands’ status as a nation, World Bank report warns

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:08

MAJURO, 18 OCTOBER 2021 (THE GUARDIAN)—Projected sea level rise would mean 40 percent of the buildings in the Marshall Islands’ capital of Majuro would be permanently flooded and entire islands would disappear, potentially costing the Pacific country its status as a nation, according to a devastating new report from the World Bank.

The report, Mapping the Marshall Islands, containing grim visualisations of the impact of sea level rise on the Marshall Islands, has been two years in the making and was shared exclusively with the Guardian ahead of its release in coming weeks.

The Marshall Islands is a country in the north Pacific, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. It has a population of 59,000 and a land mass of just 180sq km, consisting of 1,156 individual islands. It is one of the countries considered most at risk of disappearing due to sea level rise.

Artessa Saldivar-Sali, the World Bank disaster risk management specialist who led the work on the report, said the modelling shows the Marshall Islands could lose significant and crucial parts of its land and infrastructure.

“With a one-metre sea level rise, we project that about 40 percent of buildings in the capital, Majuro, would be permanently inundated, permanently flooded. So that is a quite big impact,” she said.

In addition to every two in five buildings being permanently flooded, up to 96 percent of the city, with a population of 20,000, would face frequent flooding.

“It’s always been a dark future, but now that dark future is becoming more clear,” said Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, a poet and climate envoy from the Marshall Islands.

“I remember first reading the report and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s what it’s going to look like, that’s what it’s going to cause’, and none of it feels good. I can say definitively that it’s a really difficult report to get through.”

Jetñil-Kijiner said she was shocked to learn that her island would be so badly affected.

“One of the islands listed as being 100 percent underwater, completely covered, is Jaluit, which is actually the island where my family comes from,” she said. “It’s the land that my daughter is named after. So, when I saw that, I had to tell my family that this is about to happen, they needed to be aware of this. It really hit hard.”

The modelling done for the report is unique, in that it combines sea level rise and flood scenarios with the geography of exposure to the population, assets, buildings and other infrastructure to better determine the actual impacts. Its visualisation tool shows a building-by-building breakdown of what various sea level rises would mean for the atoll nation.

Saldivar-Sali said by being so specific with the modelling, they can better assess the broader impacts.

“It amounts to coastal erosion, more houses falling into the sea, significant land loss, and saltwater intruding on freshwater sources, which obviously has a really big impact on agriculture and on the availability of water supply,” she said.

“With this level of inundation, for daily life to continue, some serious adaptation measures would be necessary, such as raising floor levels, raising land levels or relocating buildings inland. All these options come with a cost, however. With the detail provided in the study, schools, businesses and housing developers could see where low-cost options (such as moving a building site a few feet) will have longer-term benefits in adapting to and dealing with sea level rise.”

On top of the effects on individual livelihoods and the environment, the loss of land also presents a legal issue for the Marshall Islands.

“A key issue is the way that international law draws the difference between an island and just a rock, is whether this piece of territory is capable of sustaining human and economic life of its own,” said Duygu Çiçek, the author of the Legal Dimensions of Sea Level Rise, who advised the World Bank on the report.

“Under international law, statehood is established on the presumption that they will continue to be a state, with stability, a defined territory and population. So, the question remains of whether the Marshall Islands’ territorial elements being challenged by sea level rise would lead to any impairment of statehood,” she said.

Another legal concern for the Marshall Islands brought on by sea level rise is that of losing its vast exclusive maritime zone and therefore access to crucial fisheries that provide much of the country’s food and contributes significantly to its GDP.

This is something Pacific island nations, including the Marshall Islands, are well aware of and have begun taking action on.

In a declaration published by the Pacific Islands Forum in August, Pacific leaders committed to fixing the baselines of maritime zones, so that in the event of islands shrinking or disappearing, nations retained the same amount of ocean territory.

Saldivar-Sali said the new report, while highlighting a bleak future, should empower decision-makers and communities to understand their options.

“This could include things like raising land, reclaiming land, or even consolidating population within an island. For the people of the Marshall Islands, international migration is the option of last resort,” she said….PACNEWS

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Categories: Palau

Deaths rising in PNG, Australia deploys emergency medical team

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:07

PORT MORESBY, 18 OCTOBER 2021 (THE NATIONAL)—The Covid-19 death toll continues to rise around Papua New Guinea,with the biggest hospital recording 35 in three weeks, officials say.

Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) chief executive officer Dr Paki Molumi said the deaths at the hospital were from Sept 27 in the Covid-19 wards and in the emergency department.

At the Mt Hagen Hospital, the 30 people who had died since 17 September were not vaccinated, says Western Highlands health authority chief executive officer Jane Holden.

In Eastern Highlands, provincial health authority chief executive officer Dr Joseph Apa said people were “dying here and there like flies”.

The PMGH is planning to open up services after scaling them down two weeks ago.

Dr Molumi said of the 35 deaths, 99 percent were not vaccinated.

Since Sept 27 when the surge began, the positivity rate rose from 35 per cent to 89 percent.

“This means there is an increasing number of cases coming to our emergency department that reflects more community transmission,” he said.

“We are experiencing a huge surge in Covid-19 which is worse than the last two surges.

“The Austmat tent outside the car park, emergency department, 19- bed isolation ward are all full.”

The hospital has opened another 52-bed Covid-19 ward which currently has 49 patients.

“Every day the numbers are increasing and is filling up the wards.

“So we are trying to improve the capacity at the Taurama Aquatic Centre (Nightingale Covid-19 centre) so that we can offload some patients there.

“TAC has 30 beds but now has 35 patients already. The Tairama centre can accommodate 150 to 200 patients.

“So next week, the capacity should increase so that it can hold 60 or 90 patients,” Molumi said.

“We are struggling to get the capacity at TAC up and running so we can offload some of these patients so that PMGH will return to normal.” Dr Molumi added that the hospital was experiencing a strain on its workforce after 89 staff members tested positive for the Covid-19 and were on sick leave to allow home isolation.

Meanwhile, an emergency management team from Australia arrived in Port Moresby on Saturday to help Papua New Guinea respond to the surge in Covid-19 cases.

The Australian High Commission in a statement said the Australian team would work with PNG authorities.

National Pandemic Controller David Manning and Australia High Commissioner Jon Philp welcomed the team which included three Australian medical assistance team health specialists, two logisticians plus staff from Emergency Management Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“They will support the PNG National Control Centre to coordinate its Covid-19 response, support the management in severe cases and help distribute equipment and supplies across the country,” the statement said.

Australia is also providing 40 oxygen concentrators for patients in hospitals.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the Australian government continued to assist PNG respond to the new surge in Covid-19 cases.

“Health Minister Jelta Wong and I discussed further targeted assistance that Australia can provide.

“I confirmed with Minister Wong that Australia will also deploy another Ausmat team to PNG to assess how we can support the PNG health system respond to this outbreak.

“I also reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to meeting PNG’s vaccine supply needs, as vaccination is a crucial part of the road to recovery,” she said.

In another development, the Glanrowan Funeral homes in Goroka and Lae have stopped receiving bodies of those who die from the Coronavirus (Covid-19), the funeral director says.

John Simon Glanville has instructed staff that any deaths requiring mortuary and embalming services must first be taken to the general hospital to be declared, issued a death certificate and swabbed to be confirmed negative for the Covid-19.

“I sincerely apologise to my Papua New Guineans for this inconvenience – it is not a harassment or meant to be discriminatory, rather it is a measure to protect us, including you, from the Covid-19,” he said.

The Morobe Covid-19 Emergency Operations Centre said both the stadium and hospital morgues were full to capacity and the authority would do mass burial for bodies that had been there for more than two months.

Glanville’s decision to stop bodies coming in came after one of his staff in Lae was tested positive for the Covid-19 and isolated.

According to him, the homes received their first two Covid-19 deaths last year and then an increase in number his year.

He said the pandemic had put a lot of pressure on the service which also catered for Madang and Wewak.

“An issue we faced was that some families did not remove their deceased out quickly for fear of the Covid-19 and in turn that was affecting our business,” he said.

“Prior to the Covid-19, we would receive a maximum of 35 bodies per week but this quickly increased with the third wave.

“So, initially, we put a limit for Covid-19 bodies at six and they were kept separately; but after my staff fell ill, I had to put a complete stop.

“In Lae alone, we handled about 40 Covid-19 bodies before my decision to stop it.”

Glanville sees the need to liaise with the Morobe Covid-19 hospital to bring another container to serve as a second Covid-19 morgue.

Donations comprising oxygen cylinders and consumable items have started pouring in for Goroka Hospital last week.

The donations for frontline health workers in the hospital’s Covid-19 isolation centre, were contributed by the China/PNG Friendship Association in Goroka, Eastern Highlands.

Association chairman and Seng DA Business Group chief executive officer Bobby Chan said he had decided to play a more active role to help the hospital.

“We have raised K100,000(US$28,600) to buy oxygen concentrators and food stuff to support Covid-19 patients and the tireless frontline health workers,” he said.

“The Goroka Chamber of Commerce also brought in a container-full of medical supplies.”

Eastern Highlands health authority chief executive officer Dr Joseph Apa said he was grateful that the business communities, church groups and individuals were helping to raise funds for the province to fight Covid-19.

“We are running out of resources and the donations can make a big difference as the fight against the virus is far from over ,” he said…..PACNEWS

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Categories: Palau

Washington Hears Echoes of the ’50s and Worries: Is This a Cold War With China?

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:06

By: David E. Sanger

@ 2021 The New York Times Company

(New Analysis)

When Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister and longtime China expert, told a German newsmagazine recently that a Cold War between Beijing and Washington was “probable and not just possible,” his remarks rocketed around the White House, where officials have gone to some lengths to squelch such comparisons.

It is true, they concede, that China is emerging as a far broader strategic adversary than the Soviet Union ever was — a technological threat, a military threat, an economic rival. And while President Joe Biden insisted at the United Nations last month that “we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs,” his repeated references this year to a generational struggle between “autocracy and democracy” conjured for some the ideological edge of the 1950s and ’60s.

Yet the question of whether the United States is entering a new Cold War is about more than just finding the right metaphor for this odd turn in superpower politics. Governments that plunge into a Cold War mindset can exaggerate every conflict, convinced that they are part of a larger struggle. They can miss opportunities for cooperation, as the United States and China did in battling COVID-19, and may yet on the climate.

And the issue of whether this is a Cold War, or something quite different, lurks just beneath the escalating tensions over economic strategy, technological competition and military maneuvers — undersea, in space and in cyberspace.

Without a doubt, the past few weeks have resounded with echoes of old-style Cold War behavior: the Chinese air force running sorties inside Taiwan’s air identification zone; Beijing expanding its space program, launching three more astronauts to its space station and accelerating its tests of hypersonic missiles meant to defeat American missile defenses; and the release of a top Huawei executive for two Canadians and two Americans in what looked like a prisoner swap. At the same time, the U.S. announced it would provide nuclear submarine technology to Australia, with the prospect that its subs could pop up, undetected, along the Chinese coast. It didn’t escape Chinese commentators that the last time the United States shared that kind of technology was in 1958, when Britain adopted naval reactors as part of the effort to counter Russia’s expanding nuclear arsenals.

And just before the announcement of the Australia deal, satellite photographs revealed new Chinese nuclear missile fields, whose existence Beijing has not explained. American analysts are uncertain about the Chinese government’s intentions, but some inside U.S. intelligence agencies and the Pentagon are wondering whether President Xi Jinping has decided to abandon six decades of a Chinese “minimum deterrent” strategy, even at the risk of setting off a new arms race.

The constant background din of cyberconflict and technology theft was one factor behind the CIA’s announcement this month that it had created a new China mission center to position the United States, in the words of its director, William Burns, to confront “the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government.”

For all this, Biden’s top aides say that the old Cold War is the wrong way to frame what is happening — and that the use of the term can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, they argue that it should be possible for the two superpowers to compartmentalize, cooperating on the climate and containing North Korea’s arsenal, even while competing on technology and trade, or jousting for advantage in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

The White House is loath to put a label on this multilayered approach, which may explain why Biden has yet to give a speech laying it out in any detail. But his actions so far look increasingly like those in a world of competitive coexistence, a bit edgier than the “peaceful coexistence” that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev used to characterize the old Cold War. (Interestingly, after meeting this month in Switzerland with Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, China’s top diplomat said he objected to any description of the U.S.-China relationship as “competitive.”)

But if the administration is still struggling with the terminology, it says it knows what this isn’t.

“This is nothing like the Cold War, which was primarily a military competition,” one of Biden’s senior administration advisers said in an interview, speaking on the condition of anonymity because, in the Biden White House, there is no area where words are measured more carefully than in talking about relations with Beijing.

In July, Biden’s top Asia adviser, Kurt M. Campbell, told the Asia Society that the Cold War comparison “obscures more that it illuminates” and is “in no way helpful, fundamentally, to some of the challenges presented by China.”

The deep links between the two economies — the mutual dependencies on technology, trade and data that leaps the Pacific in milliseconds on American and Chinese-dominated networks — never existed in the more familiar Cold War. The Berlin Wall not only delineated a sharp line between spheres of influence, freedom and authoritarian control, it stopped most communications and trade. The year it fell, 1989, the United States exported $4.3 billion in goods to the Soviets and imported $709 million, an inconsequential blip for both economies. (In current dollars, those numbers would be a bit more than doubled.)

In this superpower standoff, all those lines are blurred, with Huawei and China Telecom equipment running data through NATO nations, the Chinese-owned TikTok app active on tens of millions of American phones, and Beijing worried that the West’s crackdown on selling advanced semiconductors to China could cripple some of its national champions, Huawei included. And yet, even through a pandemic and threats of “decoupling,” the United States exported $124 billion in goods to China last year and imported $434 billion. That made China the largest supplier of goods to the United States, and the third largest consumer of its exports, after Canada and Mexico.

“The size and complexity of the trade relationship is underappreciated,” Campbell said in July, as part of his argument of why this moment in time differs dramatically from the Cold War of 40 years ago.

But, another of Biden’s advisers noted the other day, psychology counts for as much in superpower politics as statistics. And whether or not the two countries want to call this a Cold War, they are often behaving, the official noted, as if “we are already immersed in one.”

That is the central argument of those who contend that a new Cold War — one very different from the last — is quickly coming to dominate Washington’s dealings with its central rival. “People think that the only definition of a Cold War is the U.S.-Soviet model,” said Paul Heer, a longtime CIA analyst who spent years focused on Asia, “which it need not be.”

He agrees with the White House officials who say that the new dynamic is not defined largely by a nuclear standoff, or by an ideological struggle in which only one side can prevail. And, he notes in a recent article in The National Interest, the world will not “divide itself into American and Chinese camps.”

But the core element of the old Cold War — “a state of hostility short of armed conflict” in Heer’s telling — is already clear, as both countries seek power and influence, and to obstruct or contain each other. “There are good reasons that neither government wants to call it a Cold War,” Heer noted in an interview last week. “But they are both approaching it that way, and the politics on both sides are making it hard to imagine how we will keep it from evolving into that.”

In Washington, one of the few issues that overrides partisan divides in Congress is the specter of Chinese competition, in such crucial areas as semiconductors, artificial intelligence and quantum computing: That is how the “China bill” passed the Senate in a solidly bipartisan vote. (It has yet to come up in the House.)

While few on Capitol Hill want to utter the words, the bill amounts to industrial policy, a once contentious concept in Washington that is now barely debated, thanks to the specter of Chinese competition. For example, the Senate bill, as passed, offers $52 billion to expand domestic chip manufacturing, far beyond anything the United States considered when battling Japan’s technological dominance in the same industry more than 30 years ago. But today Japan’s share of the global chip sales has declined to about 10%, and it no longer looms large in American industrial fears.

There are reasons to worry that whatever this era is called, the chance for conflict is now higher than it has ever been. Joseph S. Nye, known best for his writings on the use of “soft power” in geopolitical competition, rejects the Cold War analogy, noting that while many in Washington “talk about a general ‘decoupling’” of the world’s two largest economies, “it is mistaken to think we can decouple our economy completely from China without enormous economic costs.”

But Nye, who once ran the National Intelligence Council, a group that provides long-term assessments of threats to the United States, warns against the risk of what he calls “sleepwalker syndrome,” which is how the world spiraled into conflict in 1914.

“The fact that the Cold War metaphor is counterproductive as a strategy does not rule out a new Cold War,” he said. “We may get there by accident.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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Categories: Palau

Airlines in Japan and South Korea Get Creative to Revive Pandemic-Dampened Demand

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:05

By: John Yoon

@ 2021 The New York Times Company

Border restrictions that are part of the pandemic response in Japan have deterred most tourists from visiting the country. So one airline is taking an unusual approach to generate revenue by offering extreme discounts on domestic flights.

Peach Aviation said it would sell 150 unlimited passes to passengers 12 and older with valid photo identification giving a month of access to the budget carrier’s 33 domestic flights. It said it was catering especially to digital nomads in Japan who are working remotely and looking for “workcations” in places they haven’t been after months of coronavirus restrictions on travel.

On Tuesday, the first 30 buyers would be able to buy a pass for as little as $173. (In comparison, a 21-day Japan Rail Pass costs $583.) For $87 more, they would get to reserve their seats and bring along a checked bag. Fares for the remaining 120 passes would cost $87 more.

The airline is hoping to tap into a demand for domestic flights after the restrictions grounded most airplanes.

“There have been signs of recovery in passenger demand, a trend that is expected to increase going forward as vaccinations progress,” the airline said in a statement in August.

Budget airlines in South Korea, which are also trying to drum up demand for domestic flights, have offered similarly steep discounted tickets. At least one airline there is selling something other than a seat on a plane.

T’way Air, a South Korean budget carrier, has sought new streams of revenue by selling its bacon tomato spaghetti, hamburger steak over rice and other in-flight meals to customers on the ground.

Its microwaveable meals are designed to “remind customers of the happiness and excitement they felt when traveling by plane,” said the listings on Coupang, the country’s largest online-shopping site, where the meals are offered.

The travel industry in both countries is still far from returning to its pre-pandemic levels of business. Subsidiaries of ANA Holdings, including Peach Aviation and other airlines, said they flew 1.35 million passengers on domestic flights in July, about one-third of the number of passengers from the same month in 2019.

In South Korea, Incheon Airport reported serving 5.4 million passengers for domestic travel in September, just 40% of the number of domestic passengers who flew in September 2019.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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Categories: Palau

Boeing pilot indicted for allegedly deceiving U.S regulators over 737 Max

Island Times - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 02:04

CHICAGO, 15 OCTOBER 2021 (THE GUARDIAN)—-A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes.

The indictment accuses Mark A Forkner of giving the Federal Aviation Administration false and incomplete information about an automated flight-control system that played a role in the crashes, which killed 346 people.

Prosecutors said that because of Forkner’s “alleged deception”, the system was not mentioned in key FAA documents, pilot manuals or pilot-training material supplied to airlines.

The flight-control system automatically pushed down the noses of Max jets that crashed in 2018 in Indonesia, and 2019 in Ethiopia. The pilots tried unsuccessfully to regain control, but both planes went into nosedives minutes after taking off.

Most pilots were unaware of the system, called the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system, until after the first crash.

Forkner, 49, was charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors said he was expected to make his first appearance in court on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas. If convicted on all counts, he could face a sentence of up to 100 years in prison.

Boeing designed the Max to be a more fuel-efficient version of the venerable 737 that could compete with a plane developed by the company’s European rival Airbus. The flight-control system was meant to make the Max fly like previous 737s despite a tendency for the nose to tilt upward under some circumstances.

Congressional investigators have suggested that Forkner and Boeing downplayed the power of the system to avoid a requirement that pilots undergo extensive and expensive retraining, which would increase airlines’ costs to operate the plane.

Chad Meacham, acting US attorney for the northern district of Texas, said Forkner had tried to save Boeing money by withholding “critical information” from regulators.

“His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 Max flight controls,” Meacham said in a statement.

Chicago-based Boeing agreed to a US$2.5bn settlement to end a justice department criminal investigation into the company’s actions. Boeing said in the settlement last year that employees had misled regulators about the safety of the Max. The settlement included a fine, money for airlines that bought the plane and compensation for families of the passengers who died in the crashes.

Dozens of families of passengers are suing Boeing in federal court in Chicago….PACNEWS

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Categories: Palau