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Politics

Singapore GE2020: Ong Ye Kung takes down video showing young boy as it violates election rules

SINGAPORE – Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has removed a three-minute video from his Facebook page, featuring a young boy living in Sembawang, after he was informed the video violates election rules.

“I had a nice conversation with a boy Jony who lives in Sembawang about how it is a good place to grow up. Jony is a great sport, we had a good chat, and we put up a short (video),” said Mr Ong in a Facebook post on Thursday (July 2).

“However, we have been informed by authorities that this is not in line with electoral rules. We have therefore taken down the video. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

The Parliamentary Elections Act prohibits primary and secondary school students from taking part in election activities between Nomination Day and Polling Day.

This means they are not allowed to appear in a video or take part in activities to promote a political party during this period.

“While this prohibition does not apply outside of this period, political parties should refrain from inappropriate use of young children who will not fully understand what they may be promoting or subjecting themselves to,” the Elections Department website says.

Mr Ong is running for re-election in Sembawang GRC, where he has been overseeing the Gambas ward.

The video shows Mr Ong in conversation with Jony, a boy in school uniform who lives in Sembawang Crescent.

“What are the places in Sembawang that you like?” Mr Ong asks him in the video.

He replies he likes Canberra Park, the beach and the hot springs park. And Mr Ong responds that “there was nothing” in that area before Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak decided to “make this into a nice park”.

The minister also explains the concept of Build-to-Order (BTO) Housing Board flats to Jony.

“Sembawang is growing, with more and more people moving into Sembawang, because it is a happening place, it is a fun place,” Mr Ong says.

“I’m explaining all this to you so that you know, if you support us, these are all the things we will deliver and make life better for you.”

Jony then asks Mr Ong: “But what if you guys don’t get elected?”

This prompts Mr Ong to reply: “Good point.”

The video ends with the phrase “Sayang Sembawang” and “Make Sembawang Special” before the People’s Action Party (PAP) logo is shown.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Business

European stocks surge as cyclicals rally, U.S. jobs data awaited

(Reuters) – European shares climbed on Thursday as encouraging economic data from across the globe and hopes of a COVID-19 vaccine lifted sentiment ahead of the crucial U.S. jobs data.

The pan-European STOXX 600 rose 1.2% to mark its fourth consecutive day of gains. Banks .SX7P, automakers .SXAP and travel & leisure .SXTP firms were the top gainers, jumping between 2.7% and 3.4%.

Financial markets entered the second half of the year on a cheerful note earlier this week, as business surveys showed a coronavirus-induced slump in global manufacturing eased in June.

Adding to optimism, a COVID-19 vaccine developed by German biotech firm BioNTech (BNTX.O) and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE.N) was found to be well-tolerated in early stage human trials.

All eyes are on the U.S. payrolls data, due at 1230 pm GMT. Economists have estimated that job numbers rose by 3 million in June, rebounding further after a historic 20.69 million plunge in April.

However, a spike in U.S. infections fuelled uncertainty.

New U.S. cases of COVID-19 jumped nearly 50,000 on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, marking the biggest one-day rise since the start of the pandemic.

“Given the ongoing threat from stubbornly rising infection numbers in key U.S. states, there seems to be little potential for the labour market report to produce a distinct upward push to the general market sentiment, as it did four weeks ago,” UniCredit analysts wrote in a note.

The end of the lockdown failed to bring a surge in employment in Spain as data showed that the 900,000 jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic had not been regained.

Among individual movers, Associated British Foods (ABF.L) jumped 7.3% after saying trading in its Primark fashion stores that reopened after the lockdown has been “reassuring and encouraging”.

German fashion house Hugo Boss (BOSSn.DE) rose 2.6% after it appointed Tommy Hilfiger executive Oliver Timm as its chief sales officer.

Scandal-hit Wirecard (WDIG.DE) slumped 27.1% after police and public prosecutors raided its headquarters in Munich and four properties in Germany and Austria.

Cardboard maker DS Smith (SMDS.L) fell 7.3% after saying it was too early to resume dividends in the short-term due to market uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Dutch construction company BAM Groep (BAMN.AS) dropped 11.6% as it warned of a “significant” loss in the first half of the year.

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Economy

Ukraine dollar bonds fall after cbank chief resigns, bond sale cancelled

LONDON, July 2 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s dollar-denominated bonds fell as much as 2.5 cents on Thursday after the government cancelled its Eurobond sale and the central bank governor resigned.

The September 2026 issue was down 1.5 cents, paring earlier larger losses, to 104.3 cents in the dollar, its biggest daily loss since mid-May. The September 2032 issue shed 1.6 cents to 100.1 cents in the dollar, its lowest point in a month.

Ukraine’s Central Bank Governor Yakiv Smoliy unexpectedly resigned on Wednesday, citing “systematic political pressure” that was preventing him from fulfilling his duties as governor.

The Finance Ministry said on Thursday it would not proceed with a planned offering of dollar-denominated Eurobonds. (Reporting by Tom Arnold and Marc Jones; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe)

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World News

Film-maker Bong Joon-ho's interpreter gets award for improving South Korea's national image

Academy-award winning director Bong Joon-ho’s interpreter is getting her own share of accolades, Korea Herald reported.

Bong’s trusted interpreter, Choi Sung-jae, received an annual diplomacy award in Seoul on Wednesday (July 1) for her role in enhancing South Korea’s national image, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Choi won this year’s YoungSan Diplomat Award, given by the non-profit Seoul Forum for International Affairs to a civilian each year for their contribution to improving the country’s image and diplomatic interests.

One of Bong’s best known-quotes, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” was a particularly good translation by Choi.

In an interview with Jimmy Fallon on his Tonight Show, she translated Bong’s answer with an apt metaphor. When Fallon asked Bong to describe the film, Choi’s translation of Bong’s answer was “I’d like to say as little as possible here, because the film is best when you go into it cold.”

The 25-year-old Korean-American is also a film-maker with no professional experience in interpretation.

The YoungSan Diplomat Award was also given to Kang Hyung-sik, head of the Foreign Ministry’s international safety management bureau. He played an important role in helping South Korean citizens from severely virus-hit countries return home safely.

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World News

Indian city ravaged by coronavirus sees deaths due to other causes spike

AHMEDABAD, INDIA (REUTERS) – A large Indian city badly hit by the coronavirus has recorded a sharp rise in deaths not attributed to the outbreak, according to official data and burial records, highlighting how the pandemic has affected general healthcare.

The spike in deaths in Ahmedabad, the most populous city in western Gujarat state, is due to patients with serious illnesses either not being able to go to hospitals or being afraid to visit them because of the virus, doctors said.

The numbers contain “ominous signals” for the rest of the country, said Dr Rajib Dasgupta, a professor of community health at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

India has the world’s fourth-biggest outbreak of the Covid-19 disease caused by the virus, with over 600,000 confirmed cases and 17,800 deaths, and some of its largest cities are still reeling from rising infections.

Authorities say over 1,400 people have died because of the coronavirus so far in Ahmedabad, one of India’s worst-hit cities with more than 20,000 confirmed cases.

But the indirect death toll may be even higher.

Twenty-four Hindu crematoriums and four of the largest Muslim graveyards in the city have reported 3,558 deaths in April and 7,150 deaths in May – a spike compared to 2,784 and 2,706 deaths reported by them in April and May last year, respectively.

State government data for Ahmedabad district, which includes the city limits, shows 839 deaths because of Covid-19 during April and May this year.

Ms Jayanti Ravi, the health secretary of Gujarat state, however said she wasn’t aware of any significant rise in deaths in the city of more than 5.6 million people.

“We have collected the data related to actual births and deaths registered across the state and it is not showing such a big deviation,” she told Reuters when asked about the spike.

India’s federal health ministry and Ahmedabad’s municipal commissioner did not respond to questions from Reuters.

Dr Mona Desai, president of the Ahmedabad Medical Association that represents over 9,000 doctors, said some of those who died may have been Covid-19 positive.

But more fatalities were likely to have occurred because patients did not seek timely treatment, fearing they might become infected by the virus, she said.

“Many patients went to hospital only when their condition deteriorated, but then it was too late to do anything,” Dr Desai said.

LOCKDOWN CLOSES PRIVATE CLINICS

Doctors also said that a closure of some private health facilities during a weeks-long lockdown that began in late March made it difficult for many patients to seek treatment.

Dr Dasgupta, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: “Excess deaths during the Covid surge phase has been in evidence in other countries too on account of the inability to access medical care for other time-sensitive emergencies.”

There was growing evidence that routine healthcare had been disrupted in India also, he said, adding that mortality data from high-incidence areas would provide more details.

Data from the Hindu crematoriums in Ahmedabad shows that the number of bodies cremated rose by 19 per cent in April and 145 per cent in May compared to the same months last year, with the first half of June also registering a marked increase.

The data was provided by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation under a right to information application.

Ahmedabad’s Muslim graveyards have seen an even sharper rise – data from four of the largest graveyards shows that the number of bodies buried increased by 131 per cent in April and 396 per cent in May, compared to the same months last year.

“People are scared of getting hospitalised because of the coronavirus outbreak,” said Mr Rizwan Kadri, chairman of Ahmedabad Sunni Muslim Wakf Committee, which oversees five burial grounds.

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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World News

Wembley sister killings: Man charged with park murders

An 18-year-old has been charged with murdering two sisters who were stabbed to death in a park in Wembley, north London.

Danyal Hussein is accused of killing Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, in the early hours of 6 June.

The women were in Fryent Country Park with others on 5 June to celebrate Bibaa’s birthday.

Their bodies were discovered in the park two days later.

A post-mortem revealed the siblings both died from stab wounds.

The Metropolitan Police said Hussein, from Blackheath in southeast London, had been charged with two counts of murder, and a further count of possession of an offensive weapon.

He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Commander Roy Smith said: “I would like to thank the local community for their support, both with the investigation and the police activity at and around the scene.

“I know that colleagues from across the Met have been working tirelessly on this investigation.

“My officers will remain on patrol in the local area, providing continued reassurance – please do stop and speak with them if you have any questions or concerns.”

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World News

Eurozone crisis: EU alarm bells as ‘hardest still to come’ for teetering currency

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The European Central Bank President said eurozone leaders had not yet witnessed the “hardest” impacts from shutting down their economies to curb the spread of the deadly disease. Speaking at a United Nations event, she said: “The worst is behind us and the hardest is yet to come.” Ms Lagarde added the recovery is going to be “as uncertain and as uneven as the shock was decisive across the board”.

Europe faces its deepest recession since the end of the Second World War, according to the ECB’s forecasts.

The Frankfurt-based central bank has already boosted its stimulus three times this year, offering unprecedented levels of support for an economy that could shrink by close to a tenth in 2020 and take another two years to reach pre-crisis levels.

The ECB extended its emergency bond purchases until June 2021, and could possibly could expand the programme again in the future.

Its chief economist Philip Lane said: “We’ve done a lot. We have essentially this one-year horizon.

“That one-year horizon reflects that, before we really know how able the European economy will be to recover from this shock.”

He added that the ECB’s intervention, including €1 trillion euros worth of loans to banks, had somewhat stabilised the markets.

Meanwhile German Chancellor Angela Merkel has placed added empthasis on the need for the EU’s economic survival.

She has previously warned the entire bloc could collapse without financial stability.

The veteran leader, who yesterday took over the EU’s rotating presidency, has thrown her diplomatic weight behind plans for a €750 billion bailout fund.

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The recovery fund, which will create a joint EU debt in order to distribute €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans to pandemic-stricken regions and industries, is highly controversial amongst member states.

Mrs Merkel said: “The recovery fund cannot solve all of Europe’s problems. But not having it would make all our problems worse.

“Europe’s economic health can influence so many things. Very high unemployment in a country can become politically explosive and thereby increase the threat to democracy.

“For Europe to survive, its economy needs to survive.”

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EU leaders will hold their first face-to-face summit, since the pandemic exploded onto the Continent, in Brussels later this month.

European Council President Charles Michel yesterday met with senior diplomats from the EU27 to discuss his plans for the showdown.

He tabled a so-called “negotiating box” that he hopes leaders will be able to work from in order to broker a compromise.

But critics have claimed his blueprints lack proper solutions, saying the chief eurocrat is waiting for Mrs Merkel to come to the rescue.

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World News

What are they planning? China practices STORMING ISLAND in worrying military drill

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Maritime officers from China’s Hainan province confirmed the wargames were taking place around the disputed Paracel Islands and banned all other shipping in the area until July 5. Security analysts said the drills were designed to send a clear message that Beijing has the capability to stamp out any threats to its sovereignty over the vast, strategically important trade route.

It looks like what they’re going to do is practice some island seizure or island security exercises

Bryan Clark

Bryan Clark, a senior fellow and naval expert at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, said: “It looks like what they’re going to do is practice some island seizure or island security exercises, which could be a way of demonstrating to other Southeast Asian nations that China can come in and kick them off their islands.”

Mr Clark, who has reviewed real-time satellite imagery of China’s main military base at Woody Island, said the exercises were not about simulating an attack on another military force but using the military to suppress potential civilian unrest.

He told Radio Free Asia: “The way it appears they’re setting up their forces for the exercise, it seems like it’s more of a civilian action than it is a military force-on-force engagement.”

Woody Island is China’s largest occupied feature and main administrative centre in the Paracels, an archipelago of rocks and reefs claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan and China.

Satellite imagery showed a Type 071 landing helicopter dock in Woody Island’s harbour last Saturday alongside three smaller ships.

The Type 071 is meant for amphibious warfare operations and the three smaller vesels are thought to be minesweepers.

Armed China Coast Guard vessels are also taking part in the drills, according to vessel tracking data and satellite imagery.

China has recently passed new laws upgrading the the coast guard to a branch of the armed forces alongside the navy.

Mr Clarke said: “Tying the coastguard to the People’s Armed Police makes them an extension of the part of the Chinese security apparatus that’s focused on tamping down on internal unrest.

“One part of this exercise might be to demonstrate to put forces onto an island where the local population is getting restless.

“It’s clearly to demonstrate a capability that would be exported elsewhere, and I think the use of a combination of civilian and military forces is also intended to convey a message, that, ‘We’re looking at this as more than just a military operation, and it’s intended to deal with civilian populations that may be partly Chinese and partly expatriate’.

“And then it’s a way to demonstrate to people outside the immediate area that this is the kind of thing that we can do in your area. Whether it’s Taiwan, the Senkakus, or in the Spratlys.”

China, Taiwan and four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei – all have territorial claims in the Spratly chain.

Earlier this week, defence experts have warned the US Congress the constant presence of China Coast Guard and civilian vessels in the South China Sea helps Beijing assert its expansive maritime claims to the region.

Greg Poling, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee: “China wants the South China Sea to be a Chinese lake.

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“Xi Jinping has put this issue, among a few others, at the heart of his China Dream.

“It underpins his claim to legitimacy. So certainly we are going to continue to see China push and push and push the envelope here because Xi has linked his political future to it.”

Washington has beefed up its military presence in the South China Sea in recent years and carries out regular freedom of navigation exercises in the disputed waters.

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World News

BBC backlash: Heseltine accused of ‘kowtowing’ to China after dodging Hong Kong criticism

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Lord Michael Heseltine refused to condemn China after Beijing imposed a new national security law that many claim violates Hong Kong’s freedoms. The former senior Tory politician sparked a furious backlash for his remarks on the BBC Today Programme, as he urged Britain to “wait and see” and said there is “nothing we can do about it”. Boris Johnson took a strong line against China during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, offering up to three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.

The Prime Minister said Hong Kong’s freedoms were being violated by the new security law and those affected would be offered a “route” out of the former UK colony.

Under this scheme, about 350,000 UK passport holders, and 2.6 million others eligible, will be able to come to the UK for five years.

He condemned Tuesday’s passing of the law as a “clear and serious breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration.

This was a legally binding agreement which guaranteed that freedoms would be protected for the 50 years after China assumed sovereignty in 1997.

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In response to Mr Johnson’s offer, China has scolded the UK for “interfering” in Hong Kong’s affairs.

During the interview on the BBC this morning, Today host Justin Webb said: “You have wanted closer business links.

“Do you accept now that this is a repressive state that we can’t properly do business with?”

Lord Heseltine responded: “China is the emerging world power, there is nothing you can do to stop it.

“You have to find ways of living with it, while not supporting policies of which you disapprove.

“I’m deeply disappointed by what is happening in Hong Kong.

“I was a member of the cabinet committee in 1984 that negotiated the handover arrangements.”

Webb followed up: “Has the handover pact been breached now?

“I feel like the introduction of the law is intended to introduce domestic controls that would be unacceptable in the spirit and legality of the original agreement.

“But, let us wait and see. They are taking steps that may break it but on the other hand, China is not going away.”

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Listeners reacted furiously to the remarks, with many criticising that Mr Heseltine for “too much kowtowing” to China.

One person tweeted: “Lord Heseltine flailing and in discomfort on the BBC when asked whether China has breached the 1984 Hong Kong handover agreement which he played a role in. He can’t quite bring himself to say ‘yes’.”

Another added: “Heseltine wouldn’t even come out and condemn the Chinese over the new HK laws. Hedging to not offend them. It’s because of people like him China feel able to do this stuff.”

A human rights activist from Anti-Slavery International responded: “Lord Heseltine says China is the emerging world power and ‘there’s nothing we can do about it’. But of course, there is. The question is whether we and the global community are willing to weather the consequences.”

Lord Heseltine also drew ire on social media for blaming Brexit when he was questioned about how the coronavirus lockdown had led to an employment crisis in the UK.

One listener said: “Lord Heseltine made a lot of sense, talking about regenerating the economy; then destroyed his credibility by saying Brexit was equally to blame, with coronavirus.”

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World News

Indian policemen arrested over custody deaths of father and son

CHENNAI (REUTERS) – India has arrested five policemen over the deaths of a father and son in custody, a senior investigating official said on Thursday (July 2), following outrage that drew comparisons to the death of Mr George Floyd in the United States.

Last week the men, Mr J Jayaraj, 59, and Mr Bennicks Immanuel, 31, were allegedly subjected to a brutal thrashing that resulted in rectal bleeding and eventual death, according to a letter to government officials written by Mr Jayaraj’s wife J Selvarani.

“All important police personnel involved in the incident have been arrested,” Mr K Shankar, Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch Central Investigation Department in the southern state of Tamil Nadu told Reuters.

“The investigation continues,” Mr Shankar said, adding that a murder case has been filed on the arrested policemen, who include two sub-inspectors, two constables and the police station’s inspector.

Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix, that was among the top Twitter topics trending in India last Friday and among the top 30 trending globally, with many comparing the deaths to that of Mr George Floyd.

Mr Bennicks died on Monday after complaining of breathlessness and Mr Jayaraj died Tuesday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who oversees the police in the state, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Police in Sathankulam, a town located 50km south of the port city of Thoothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu state, said the duo were picked up for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules.

Nearly 15 cases of custodial violence and torture were reported daily on average, according to India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NHRC said in its report that some custodial deaths were reported after considerable delay or not reported at all, adding violence in custody was so rampant “that it has become almost routine”.

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