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Huawei latest: Top Army general in warning on China ‘Authoritarian political warfare’

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But General Sir Nick Carter did warn that China, Russia, Iran and North Korea all operate in an era of “constant conflict”. His intervention came as Tory MPs yesterday ramped up pressure on Boris Johnson to ban Huawei from Britain’s 5G network. Beijing was yesterday accused of trying to influence top UK figures in politics, business and academia. A dossier, compiled by former spy Christopher Steele, also claimed China was using Huawei to “undermine the Five Eyes intelligence alliance” – with the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Sir Nick, Chief of the Defence Staff, told the Commons Defence Select Committee yesterday that our adversaries ramped up their cyber weapons, missile systems and submarine capabilities as we fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said: “At the moment it is premature to describe it as a threat, it is a challenge.

“We see a more assertive Russian threat and we see the challenge of China very vividly. Then there are others, such as Iran or North Korea, who cause us to challenge what is happening. The threat from radical extremism isn’t going anywhere.

“In fact, in some parts of the world, it is growing.

“Our opponents practise what I would call ‘authoritarian political warfare’. For them, the strategic landscape is characterised by continuous and neverending struggle that encompasses everything from what we would call peace to nuclear war. Hence, this era of constant competition, and perhaps arguably, constant conflict.”

Tory MP Alicia Kearns, of the China Research Group, said: “When I speak to my colleagues, none of us want to enter into an era of frozen relations with China.” But fellow Tory MP Neil O’Brien, also a member of the group, said: “I think we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the abilities of the Chinese government.

“It’s incredibly able to conduct industrial espionage and find out things it wants. It’s managed to steal industrial secrets, even in very sensitive areas like defence technology.”

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei called the claims against the company “unfounded” and said they were part of a “long-running US campaign”.

Comment by Conservative MP Bob Seely

The idea of a China at peace with the world is sadly fading.

In Britain, we are looking again at Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant that wants a role in our 5G network.

Huawei is a high-risk vendor. There are many reasons why we should not allow it. The Chinese ambassador threatens us if we do not comply.

We need a new and realistic policy towards China. Fortunately, this Government is determined to take the idea of Global Britain seriously and has committed to a review of our foreign policy. So, what should we do?

We need to respect China’s role as the world’s second superpower but that doesn’t mean betray our values or interests. We should welcome Chinese visitors and students but not the surveillance states that accompanythem. We need to build up trade in most areas but not all.

Britain must take a strong line to stop Chinese state takeovers of firms in sensitive areas: defence, super-computing, facial recognition. We need a tougher line on intellectual property theft and cyber-attacks.

It is also vital that we find common positions with our allies throughout the world so that we can stand together to push back against this new and aggressive Chinese stance.

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Donald Trump ‘abused’ as a child – creating narcissist bullying president, claims niece

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man is a new book claiming to reveal Mr Trump’s “family secrets”. Written by the President’s niece Mary Trump the tell-all book is the latest to reveal secrets about the controversial US President, with former national security advisor John Bolton releasing another exposé last month.

Mary Trump suggests that President Trump’s personality has been shaped by the parenting of the President’s dad Fred.

Ms Trump said: “Child abuse is, in some sense, the expectation of ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’.

“Donald directly experienced the ‘not enough’ in the loss of connection to his mother at a crucial development stage.”

The president’s mother, also called Mary, who suffered from health issues from an emergency hysterectomy.

The book, which was quickly rubbished by the White House, suggests this made Fred Trump the sole provider in the family, with Donald and his siblings dependent on him.

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Ms Trump added: “Having been abandoned by his mother for at least a year, and having his father fail not only to meet his needs but to make him feel safe or loved, valued or mirrored, Donald suffered deprivations that would scar him for life.

“The personality traits that resulted – displays of narcissism, bullying, grandiosity – finally made my grandfather take notice but not in a way that ameliorated any of the horror that had come before.”

Ms Trump also accuses Donald’s father of being a “high-functioning sociopath”, as well as racist and sexist.

The president has been accused of racism and sexism throughout his time in office, which Ms Trump suggests is a parallel.

Another major accusation levelled at Fred Sr is that his emotional abuse scarred all of his children.

Ms Trump’s father, Fred Jr., died from an alcoholism induced sickness in 1981.

She writes that her uncles character was formed by trauma from his brother’s treatment.

As a result, Ms Trump suggests Donald became ruthless and self-centred.

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Staff from Trump’s administration have rubbished Mary’s book.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said President Trump has “no response, other than it’s a book of falsehoods … ridiculous, absurd allegations that have absolutely no bearing in truth”.

Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews went further in tearing into the book, and said: “The President describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him.

“He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child.”

The book also tackled Donald’s relationship with women, and refers to when Mary’s uncle once commented on her body in the 1990’s

When Donald saw his niece in a swimsuit in Mar-a-Lago, Ms Trump claimed he said: “Holy s***, Mary.

“You’re stacked.”

She continued: “I was 29 and not easily embarrassed, but my face reddened and I suddenly felt self-conscious.

“I pulled my towel around my shoulders.”

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Free hospital parking for NHS staff set to be scrapped once pandemic eases

Free hospital parking for NHS staff will end once the coronavirus pandemic begins to ease, the Government has confirmed.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on March 25 that the Government would cover the costs of car parking for NHS staff who he said were ‘going above and beyond every day’ at hospitals in England. That came after more than 400,000 people signed a petition calling for the charges to be scrapped during the crisis.

But the Department of Health has now said the scheme will continue only for ‘key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances’ as the pandemic eases, although no further timeline has been given.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has said to reintroduce charges while the virus is still being fought would be ‘a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe’.

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Last week, health minister Edward Argar said the support to make free parking available ‘cannot continue indefinitely’ and added that the Government was looking at how long it would ‘need’ to go on.

Responding on Friday to a written question from Labour’s Rachael Maskell, he said: ‘The provision of free parking for National Health Service staff by NHS Trusts has not ended and nothing has changed since the announcement on 25 March.

‘However, free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely.’

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Mr Argar said the Government wanted to be able to make good on its promise of free hospital parking for the disabled, frequent outpatient attendees, parents of sick children who are staying overnight and nightshift workers.

He said: ‘Implementation of this commitment has been on hold whilst the NHS has been managing the Covid-19 pandemic and devoting its hospital parking capacity to staff and other facilities necessary for managing the pandemic.’

In response to another question from Labour’s Zarah Sultana, also answered on Friday, Mr Argar said the Government was ‘considering how long free parking for National Health Service staff will need to continue, recognising that this has only been made possible by external support from local authorities and independent sector providers’.

He added: ‘The Government’s focus remains on ensuring the commitment of free parking for the groups identified in their announcement of 27 December 2019 is implemented once the pandemic abates.’

Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran said NHS workers must not be ‘saddled with extortionate parking charges’ and said removing charges for staff had been ‘the right move’.

She said: ‘Our healthcare workers deserved to have certainty that they could get to work without extra charges or hassle.

‘Now the Government must provide clarity and ensure our workers are not saddled with extortionate parking charges.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘The BMA has always believed that it is unacceptable for staff who serve in our health service to be required to pay significant amounts of money to park their car in hospital grounds. This is even more salient as the nation recognises the immeasurable contribution of healthcare workers in fighting this pandemic.

‘The Government’s decision to waive parking charges during Covid-19 was a welcome announcement, but to reinforce them, before we’ve even won the fight against this virus, is a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe.’

A spokeswoman for the department said: ‘We want to make sure NHS staff can travel safely to work during the pandemic, which is why we requested that the NHS make parking free for staff, and that local authorities do the same with their car parks.

‘When the pandemic begins to ease, the NHS will continue to provide free hospital car parking to key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances. We will provide further updates on this in due course.’

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Politics

Rishi Sunak unveils new measures to avoid youth unemployment disaster

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In a mini-budget at Westminster, the Chancellor is to announce a £2billion “Kickstart” scheme designed to save hundreds of thousands of youngsters from the scourge of unemployment. He is also expected to trigger an immediate stamp duty holiday for most property sales to rejuvenate the housing market as well as unleashing a “New Deal” surge in construction and green renovation projects. Ahead of today’s Commons statement, the Chancellor insisted that protecting younger workers from unemployment will be his top priority as the economy emerges from the coronavirus lockdown.

He said: “Young people bear the brunt of most economic crises, but they are at particular risk this time because they work in the sectors disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

“We also know that youth unemployment has a long-term impact on jobs and wages and we don’t want to see that happen to this generation.

“So we’ve got a bold plan to protect, support and create jobs – a Plan for Jobs.”

Mr Sunak will promise a “young jobs revolution” designed to save the country from the soaring levels of youth unemployment last seen during the 1980s.

Under his £2billion Kickstart Scheme, the Government will pay employers to provide hundreds of thousands of “high quality” six-month work placements for workers aged between 18 and 24.

Youngsters claiming Universal Credit who are currently at risk of long-term unemployment will be eligible for the scheme.

The Treasury will fund 100 percent of the National Minimum Wage for workers on the scheme for 25 hours a week. Employers will be able to top up the wages further.

Mr Sunak believes the six-month placements will give youngsters the chance to learn skills and gain vital experience to improve their chances of going on to find long-term jobs.

Treasury data suggests younger workers are far more likely to have been “furloughed” during the lockdown than their older counterparts.

At the same time, the number of people aged under 25 claiming jobless benefits has increased by a quarter since the lockdown began in March.

Ministers also fear that many youngsters leaving full-time education this summer will face an extremely difficult jobs market.

Mr Sunak will also announce a £111million investment to triple the number of traineeships in the current financial year and a further £17million to triple the number of work academy placements in 2020-21.

His three-point Plan for Jobs will include measures designed to protect existing jobs, support firms through the coming months and create new jobs for the future.

Other key measures to be announced tomorrow include a £5billion package of infrastructure spending on roads, hospitals and schools to trigger a construction boom.

And a further £3billion package designed to make Britain’s economy “greener” will also be unveiled. It will include grants of up to £5,000 to make hundreds of thousands of homes more environmentally friendly.

Homeowners will be able to spend the cash on loft, wall and floor insulation, eco-friendly boilers, heat pumps, double or triple-glazed windows, low-energy lighting and energy-efficient doors.

The Green Homes Grant scheme is designed to provide extra work for plumbers, builders and other tradesmen to get the economy motoring.

Treasury officials have also been studying at a temporary six-month increase in the stamp duty threshold from the current level of £125,000 to an amount between £300,000 and £500,000 to stimulate the housing market, seen as a key driver of economic growth.

At Treasury questions in the Commons yesterday, the Chancellor insisted he was “proud” of the measures the Government has taken to support the economy through the lockdown.

He said: “I am proud of what this Government have put in place and the speed at which we have done so.

“The jobs of nine million people have been protected through our furlough scheme; 2.7 million self-employed people have had their income supported; and millions of companies have received access to loans, grants, tax deferrals.

“In sum, this represents £130 billion of support—one of the most comprehensive and generous support packages available of any country anywhere in the world.”

He added: “The Government has taken unprecedented steps to keep as many people as possible in their existing jobs, support viable businesses to stay afloat and protect the incomes of the most vulnerable.

“We are now carefully and safely reopening our economy.”

The Federation of Small Businesses last night called for a “jobs first” mini-budget after a survey showed one in ten small firms are cutting jobs as the economy emerges from the lockdown.

Mike Cherry, chairman of the federation, said: “The Chancellor needs to take a jobs first approach. Bringing down employment costs and increasing opportunities will be central to recovering from this recession.

“After the financial crash, nine in ten people who left unemployment to re-join the workforce did so through a small business or self-employment, so it’s clear where support should be targeted.”

Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said: “Labour has repeatedly called on the Government to match the ambitions of Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, to rise to the youth unemployment challenge. To the extent that the ‘Kickstart’ programme is based on the Future Jobs Fund model, it should help many young people to access work.

“However, the Government is yet to rise to the scale of the unemployment crisis. The urgent priority right now is to prevent additional unnecessary unemployment in the first place by abandoning the Government’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the removal of the Job Retention and Self-Employed schemes. In addition, older people who become unemployed, and those living in particularly hard-hit areas, will also need tailored support.

“The Government also urgently needs to get test, track and isolate right, as ultimately the biggest drag on our economy has been the slow public health response, which threatens additional localised lockdowns and which has reduced consumer confidence.”

Claire Walker, of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The Kickstart Scheme will help firms create and support thousands of opportunities for young people, maintaining their access to the job market and driving the UK’s economic recovery.

“The Chancellor has responded to our calls to prioritise work experience and job opportunities for those entering the world of work at a particularly challenging time. The Chamber network stands ready to work with the Government on the detail of the scheme to ensure it is successfully delivered on the ground.

“This announcement must form part of a wider plan to boost business confidence and protect livelihoods as we restart, rebuild and renew the UK economy.”

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World News

Demonstrators storm Serbian parliament over coronavirus lockdown

Demonstrators demand President Aleksandar Vucic resign after he issued lockdown order due to surge in COVID-19 cases.

A group of opposition supporters stormed the Serbian parliament building in Belgrade on Tuesday night in a protest against a lockdown planned for the capital this weekend to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday evening that stricter measures including the lockdown of Belgrade over the weekend would be introduced because of the rising number of coronavirus infections.

Opponents blame the increase on the government and say people should not have to pay the price for another lockdown.

After Vucic’s statement, several thousand people began gathering in front of the parliament in Belgrade’s central square.

About two hours before midnight local time, a small group of protesters pushed past a police cordon, broke through a door and entered the parliament building. But police later pushed them back.

The crowd demanded Vucic’s resignation and shouted: “Serbia has risen.”

Protesters also clashed with police in front of the state TV building. The broadcaster is accused by the opposition of being biased towards the government.

A number of police vehicles were set on fire.

Overwhelmed hospitals

Serbian police director Vladimir Rebic told state television that a number of demonstrators had been detained and police officers injured, but did not specify how many. He said smaller protests were also held in other Serbian cities.

“I appeal to the citizens … to help ease the tensions,” Rebic said. “I’m certain police will respond adequately and prevent any form of hooligan behaviour.”

A Reuters cameraman said the police threw tear gas, pushing the crowd away from the parliament building. Police reinforcements later arrived.

“People gathered spontaneously. Discontent can be felt in the air,” Radomir Lazovic of the Do Not Let Belgrade Drown opposition group told N1 television.

Serbia, a country of seven million people, has reported 16,168 coronavirus infections and 330 deaths. But the numbers are spiking and 299 cases and 13 deaths were reported on Tuesday alone.

Epidemiologists and doctors warned that hospitals were running at full capacity and that medical workers were tired.

In early March, Serbia introduced a lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

But in late May, the Balkan country was among the first to open up and set elections for June 21. During the campaign, Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) organised rallies at which people did not wear masks.

Top party officials, including the president’s adviser, were infected after celebrating their election victory in a small room while not wearing face masks.

Opposition parties, many of which boycotted the election, criticise Vucic for using the lockdowns to strengthen what they call his autocratic rule.

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World News

Gay rights: the taboo subject in Singapore's election

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Among a record eleven parties set to contest Singapore’s election on Friday, there has been virtual silence on one of the conservative city-state’s most controversial issues, gay rights.

Advocacy groups have stepped up awareness campaigns with scorecards for politicians and online rallies in recent weeks over what they see as everyday discrimination that stems from a rarely-used, colonial-era law banning sex between men.

But for some gay Singaporeans, casting their vote in the mandatory July 10 ballot will serve as a reminder that they have few political allies on one of the issues that matters most to them.

“It’s a non-topic with the parties, the choices we have,” said Victor Ong, a 44-year-old Singaporean who lives with his British husband Harry, whom he married four years ago in London, and their amber-coloured cat Whisky.

“As much as I want to make my decision based on their stance on that, there isn’t any material to work with.”

Ong’s marriage is not recognised in Singapore, meaning the couple are not eligible for some benefits like housing and tax. They also say they avoid public displays of affection due to worries about social norms shaped by the 377A law which effectively criminalises them.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has previously called the law an “uneasy compromise” as society “is not that liberal on these matters”.

There is no mention of gay rights or 377A in the manifesto of his People’s Action Party, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965 and is widely-expected to be returned to power, or that of any other party in the election.

Of the four main parties contesting, only the new Progress Singapore Party responded to a request for comment. A spokesman said it did not object to removing criminal punishment for homosexuals but the debate over 377A was a “proxy combat zone” for other issues like family structures and marriage.

Political analyst Loke Hoe Yeong said the issue was considered “political suicide” for parties who feel they will be punished by either conservative or liberal voters.

Yet advocacy groups do sense a growing awareness around the issue, especially after India repealed a similar law in 2018.

“That tacit acceptance of the status quo is giving way to a sense of frustration amongst the younger voters,” said Clement Tan of Pink Dot SG, which hosted an online rally last month for Singapore’s LGBT community.

An ally has also emerged in Lee Hsien Yang, the prime minister’s estranged brother and son of the city-state’s modern day founder Lee Kuan Yew, who has become an increasingly vocal critic of the government in the run up to the vote.

“The tidal wave against discrimination on sexual orientation has swept across the world,” Lee, whose son is gay and married overseas, told Reuters.

“The British, from whom we ‘inherited’ 377A, have repealed it decades ago. A repeal merely decriminalises and ends this discrimination.”

Nearly 70 countries around the world criminalise gay sex, mainly in Africa and the Middle East.

Another rights group Sayoni changed tack ahead of this election. With parties mum on the issue, they decided to score individual politicians on their LGBT stance by reviewing public comments they had made and ranking them from A to F.

Ong says he will vote on Friday based on “basic needs” but he hopes that the future will bring change from a younger generation more supportive of gay rights.

“We are sons and daughters of Singapore, whether we are gay or straight, and to vote, I think it should be accounted for.”

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Future of AirAsia in 'significant doubt', auditor Ernst & Young warns

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) – AirAsia Group’s ability to continue as a going concern may be in “significant doubt” because of the impact the coronavirus is having on the indebted carrier, auditor Ernst & Young said.

The airline’s current liabilities already exceeded its current assets by RM1.84 billion (S$600 million) at the end of 2019, a year when it posted a RM283 million net loss, Ernst & Young said in a statement to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange on Wednesday (July 8). The financial performance and cash flow have now been further hit by virus-related travel restrictions.

The slump in air travel and the carrier’s financial performance “indicate existence of material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt on the Group’s and the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern”, Ernst & Young said in its unqualified audit opinion statement.

Covid-19 plunged the aviation industry globally into crisis as border controls and health concerns vaporised demand for air travel. AirAsia on Monday reported a record quarterly loss of RM803.8 million. It wasn’t until late March and the end of the quarter that the budget airline suspended flights.

“This is by far the biggest challenge we have faced since we began in 2001,” AirAsia’s chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said in a statement on Monday.

He said the carrier is in talks for joint ventures and collaborations that may result in additional investment, and it has also applied for bank loans and is weighing proposals to raise capital.

Last month, South Korean conglomerate SK Group said it was reviewing a proposal to buy a small stake in the airline. In May, AirAsia sent a memo to Malaysian banks seeking to borrow RM1 billion, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

AirAsia needs at least RM2 billion this year to stay afloat, according to K. Ajith, an aviation analyst at UOB Kay Hian in Singapore.

“There’s not a lot of options, and the best one could be the government stepping in but seeking a rights offering by the company in exchange,” he said.

An AirAsia representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Trading in the company’s shares was halted in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Despite the warnings, there are signs of improvement with the gradual lifting of restrictions on interstate travel and domestic tourism activities in the countries where AirAsia and its units operate, Ernst & Young said.

The airline’s recovery depends on government policies on travel, discussions with financial institutions and investors and its ability to address concerns of its liabilities, the auditor said.

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Newly-discovered seaweed species threatens protected coral reef in Hawaii

A newly-discovered species of seaweed is spreading rapidly and killing large patches of coral in one of the most protected ocean environments in the world, researchers have said.

A study from the University of Hawaii and others says the seaweed, which is part of the algae family, is spreading faster than anything they have seen in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, part of a nature reserve that stretches more than 1,300 miles north of the main Hawaiian Islands.

The algae easily breaks off and rolls across the floor like tumbleweed, scientists have said.

It then covers once-pristine reefs in thick vegetation that out-competes coral for space, sunlight and nutrients.

Co-author of the study Heather Spalding, a biologist and longtime Hawaii algae researcher, said: “This is a highly destructive seaweed with the potential to overgrow entire reefs.

“We need to figure out where it’s currently found, and what we can do to manage it.”

Government researchers were on a routine survey of the Pearl and Hermes Atoll in 2016 when they found small clumps of seaweed they’d never seen before.

They returned last summer to find algae had taken over huge areas of the reef.

Ms Spalding, who was among the divers there, said in some areas it was covering “everything, as far as the eye could see” with seaweed nearly 20cm thick.

She added: “Everything underneath of it was dead.”

The area was mostly devoid of large schools of tropical fish and other marine life that usually cruise the vibrant reef.

Researchers said fish that typically eat algae were not grazing on the new seaweed.

Dives along the outer reef of the 15-mile (24km) atoll revealed the seaweed in varying densities and depths.

Scientists say the actual coverage area is likely much larger than documented because they couldn’t survey many sites during their brief visit.

The Pearl and Hermes Atoll is about 2,000 miles (3,200km) from Asia and North America.

It is close to the Midway Atoll which is the site of a pivotal World War II air and sea battle.

The uninhabited atoll is in the 600,000 sq/mile (1.6million sq/km) Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, one of the world’s largest protected marine environments.

Noting that individual mats of seaweed were as big as several soccer fields, researchers say the algae could dramatically alter Pearl and Hermes reef and threaten the entire Hawaiian archipelago if it spreads.

Hawaii’s main islands have several established invasive seaweeds, but cases in the remote northwest are rare.

University of Hawaii Professor Alison Sherwood, the chief scientist on the study, said: “We have, not until now, seen a major issue like this where we have a nuisance species that’s come in and made such profound changes over a short period of time to the reefs.”

Researchers studied the seaweed’s DNA to try to determine its origin but concluded it is a new species of red algae they named Chondria tumulosa.

Professor Sherwood said the algae can spread in various ways.

It produces tumbleweed-like clumps that move around the immediate area, but it also generates spores that could be travelling much greater distances.

It is still unclear to the scientists why the algae is growing so fast and how it reached such a remote place.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE on Tuesday.

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World News

At The Movies: Swallow, 365 Days, Nobody Knows I'm Here

SINGAPORE – The psychological horror work Swallow (2019, M18, 95 minutes, streaming on kinolounge.shaw.sg, $12.99 for a 48-hour rental period, 3 stars) follows in the tradition of European movies that are quietly but persistently unsettling.

Hunter (Haley Bennett in a wonderfully controlled performance) has a problem. She has everything a woman of her class should want: A handsome, wealthy husband (Austin Stowell) and a home that is a modernist dream come true. All the stay-home wife has to do, as everyone keeps telling her, is to look good and keep the home tidy.

Emotionally and physically isolated, Hunter develops a compulsionfor swallowing small household objects. It is self-harm born of depression, but not a cry for help, as she is aware of how bizarrely she is acting and is desperate to keep it a secret.

Writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis, in this beautifully-shot feature debut, is aware that he is sitting on a powder keg of luridness. He compensates for the story’s implicit sensationalism by keeping the visuals pretty, but also cool and slightly clinical.

It is a smart move as the sight of Hunter’s acts of gustatory defiance will generate plenty of revulsion on their own. But as her secret widens to include other members of the family, the storytelling gets looser and increasingly soapier.

Pica, as the eating disorder is named, is a clever way of introducing new visceral chills into an old story of the alienated suburban housewife.

Unfortunately, it might be – pardon the pun – too tasteful for its own good. I wish Mirabella-Davis had further developed the idea of Hunter’s intestinal discomfort as a representation of her psychological turmoil. Instead, in the last act, there is a sudden lurch into the realm of the female-emancipation thriller that feels like an add-on from another movie.

As for the erotic drama 365 Days (2020, R21, 114 minutes, Netflix, 2.5 stars), let’s call it what it is: kitsch. It is, however, very popular kitsch. It has stayed in the top 10 most-watched lists of many countries, including Singapore, for weeks.

In story format, it is a bodice-ripper, a style favoured by some publishers of books for adults. Laura (Polish actress Anna-Maria Sieklucka), a beautiful and naive young woman, is kidnapped by an equally beautiful man, Massimo (Italian actor Michele Morrone). She is defiant; he is a domineering mafia boss who must possess her. Despite his immense power and wealth, he has principles and gives her 365 days to fall in love with him.

As others have said, this is a story that serves to justify the belief that if the abductee relents in the end, or begins to appreciate her “better life”, no crime has occurred. It is a revolting idea, made worse by news reports about how in parts of the world, the belief drives the practice of child brides and sex trafficking.

So be forewarned, though it must be said that no such judgement has been visited upon the thousands of novels about lusty pirates and highwaymen taking high-born ladies by force.


365 Days has stayed in the top 10 most-watched lists of many countries, including Singapore, for weeks. PHOTO: NETFLIX

This movie, based on a 2018 Polish novel, is as ridiculous as can be expected of a poker-faced rendering of pulp writing. Laura and Massimo live in a glamorous world of money and power, it’s too bad that it is filled with the most off-puttingly self-centred leading characters in recent memory.

Similarly, the Chilean drama Nobody Knows I’m Here (2020, NC16, 91 minutes, Netflix, 2.5 stars) is built around a fantasy.


Nobody Knows I’m Here stars Jorge Garcia. PHOTO: NETFLIX

Here, the fantasy lives in the head of a lonely outcast Memo, played by Jorge Garcia, an American actor best known for playing Hurley on the thriller series Lost (2004 to 2010). The surly man works with his uncle in a tiny Chilean town, but in his head, he goes to his happy place: On a stage singing, surrounded by adoring fans. One day, his secret, one that explains his social isolation, is revealed.

As character studies go, this film has its moments, but director Gaspar Antillo spends too much time on poetic musings about Memo’s secret pain and too little on supporting characters, while also wasting time on toothless warnings about our obsessions with pop entertainment and social media.

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Business

Credit Suisse aims for 100% of securities venture in China growth plan

ZURICH/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) wants to raise its China securities joint venture stake to 100% and increase its market share after getting the regulatory green light to take a majority holding, the head of its Asia business said.

Switzerland’s second-largest bank is also looking to hire more staff and invest in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, as its most significant business opportunity in the world, its APAC boss Helman Sitohang told Reuters.

China has gained in relevance for Credit Suisse and other international banks after Beijing fast-tracked the opening of its financial markets to foreigner investors.

After gaining 51% control of its securities joint venture in June and appointing Janice Hu as chairwoman, Credit Suisse aims to take on full ownership from Founder Securities as it seeks to build out its private and investment banking businesses.

Credit Suisse has placed great faith in Hu, a “veteran investment banker” who has been with it for almost two decades, to grow its business in China, where the timing of it gaining full ownership of the venture is in the hands of regulators.

The bank did not disclose the value of the joint venture.

While it does not break down its business by individual markets, Asia-Pacific accounted for roughly one-fifth of its overall pre-tax income in 2019, with Greater China its most important market in the region.

The bank ranks second in M&A advisory fees in Asia, excluding Japan, with a 9.3% market share, and second in investment banking fees, with a 4.6% share, Dealogic says.

In Asia-Pacific Credit Suisse not only competes with larger Zurich rival UBS (UBSG.S), but also with other Swiss private banks including Geneva-based Pictet and listed lender Julius Baer (BAER.S) for wealth management business. Meanwhile in investment banking, Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and JPMorgan (JPM.N) are both major competitors, while Chinese investment bank CITIC Securities counts as a key rival in Asia.

China is producing the most new billionaires and Credit Suisse last month hired a new head of wealth management for onshore China, Jing Wang, from China Merchants Bank.

This followed two senior appointments this year for prime sales, and Credit Suisse is now looking to fill other key positions for its Chinese business over the next few months. “We will continue to invest across our platforms in China and closely integrate our onshore operations with our businesses in Hong Kong and across the region. There will be more hires, some of which we will announce shortly,” Sitohang said.

“It is clearly about tactical hiring: We want to capture opportunities. We know exactly where these are, where we see the potential to improve, and that is what we are focused on,” the Singaporean native said from his office in Singapore.

HONG KONG HUB

Hong Kong’s future as a global financial centre has been under scrutiny after the mainland Chinese government last month introduced tough new national security laws for the city.

Some analysts suggest investors could shift money to other offshore hubs, like Singapore, to cushion the impact of the growing political and economic uncertainty.

Sitohang reiterated Credit Suisse’s commitment to Hong Kong and said it had not registered any outflows.

“Hong Kong has been an important hub for Credit Suisse for decades … (and) there will be no changes to our presence,” Sitohang said, adding that it was an “integral part of our footprint for China overall”.

As well as its role in the largest equity capital markets deal in Hong Kong last year with Alibaba’s (BABA.N) secondary listing, Sitohang said Credit Suisse did another recently for Netease, (NTES.O) which was about $2.8 billion, as well as “a couple of large bond deals”.

Credit Suisse has increased the money it manages in the Asia-Pacific region by around a quarter over the last three years to 220 billion Swiss francs ($233 billion) at the end of 2019 before a drop to 197 billion francs in the first quarter due to the coronavirus crisis.

Although ties to Luckin Coffee — from whose chairman Credit Suisse is seeking to recoup a more than half-billion dollar loan along with five other banks — increased the Swiss bank’s first quarter provisioning for loan losses, Sitohang is not put off. Credit Suisse would stick by its strategy of acting as a “bank for entrepreneurs”, managing both the private wealth of rising business people as well as benefiting from their corporate activities through its investment bank, he said.

($1 = 0.9434 Swiss francs)

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