World News

Japan braces for return of torrential southern rains that killed 16

TOKYO (Reuters) – Torrential rains that hit Japan’s southern island of Kyushu killed 16 people, with 13 going missing and 17 showing no vital signs, public broadcaster NHK said on Sunday, as the weather agency expects heavy rain to resume by evening.

Saturday’s unprecedented rains in the Kumamoto prefecture of central Kyushu unleashed floods and landslides.

Television broadcast images of overturned cars, people shoveling mud from their homes and the military rescuing stranded residents in boats.

“We had no electricity and no running water,” one rescued woman told the broadcaster. “It was tough.”

The Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to stay vigilant, as more rains are predicted.

“From this evening on, extremely heavy rains with thunder are expected in southern as well as northern Kyushu,” an agency official told Reuters.

“The rainfall so far has already loosened the ground. There is a high chance of landslides occurring, even without much additional rain.”

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Coronavirus: ‘I didn’t know he wasn’t going to come back’ – widow of COVID-19 victim reveals heartbreak

The widow of a community pharmacist who died from COVID-19 has spoken of the heartbreak of not being able to see her husband before he passed away.

Kanan Patel fought back tears as she described how her husband Jayesh “walked towards the ambulance in his slippers” and said that was the last time she saw him.

“He looked just like a skeleton. He had lost so much weight. He said to me ‘get me a spoon because I can’t drink water with a glass’.”

Mrs Patel believes her husband caught the virus as he dispensed medicine in a local pharmacy.

As a key worker she was very worried about him contracting COVID-19 but she says he always took precautions to protect himself and his family as much as he could.

As her husband’s condition deteriorated, Mrs Patel felt “something was not right”. That is when she called the ambulance.

“He just went out in his slippers. I didn’t know he wasn’t going to come back.” It was the last time she saw her husband alive.

When they spoke on the telephone after Mr Patel was admitted to hospital, he asked his family to pray for him.

The last text Kanan received from Jayesh was after the doctors treating him confirmed he had COVID-19. He was then moved into intensive care and placed on a ventilator.

“I had a call from the consultant. He said ‘We can’t do anything for him. We are giving him 100% oxygen but nothing is going through’.”

Mrs Patel was certain her husband would recover. She urged the hospital not to take him off the ventilator.

But when Mr Patel’s condition deteriorated further, Kanan went to the hospital with some holy water and a small idol of the Hindu god Ganesh. She handed these over to a nurse in the hospital car park and asked that the holy water be placed on her dying husband’s lips in accordance with her faith.

At 11am the next morning the same nurse phoned Mrs Patel to tell her that Jayesh had passed away and she had carried out Mrs Patel’s wishes.

“That’s how my goodbye to him was.”

Jayesh Patel is one of the tens of thousands of COVID-19 victims who were remembered on Saturday in a special tribute at St Paul’s Cathedral and when landmark monuments across the capital were cast in blue light.

World famous buildings including Downing Street and Wembley Stadium turned blue on the eve of the 72nd birthday of the NHS.

To mark the occasion, Boris Johnson will meet NHS workers in the Number 10 garden on Sunday afternoon before a nationwide round of applause at 5pm.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Friday, the prime minister urged the public to clap for “those who have worked tirelessly and selflessly to help the nation get through this pandemic”.

The initiative follows the success of the weekly Clap for Carers, and it is hoped the applause will become an annual tradition.

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New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern launches election campaign with promises of jobs, financing

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) – With promises of extra financing for small businesses and more jobs as a severe economic downturn looms, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday (July 5) launched her party’s campaign ahead of September general election.

Ms Ardern’s rise to become New Zealand’s most popular prime minister in a century, buoyed by her response to the Covid-19 pandemic that has left the country largely unscathed, has boosted her prospects in the Sept 19 election.

Ms Ardern’s Labour Party, governing in a coalition with the Greens and the nationalist New Zealand First party, will face the National Party in what is expected to be a pandemic-dominated campaign.

If the prime minister’s high ratings are mirrored in the election results, Labour would govern on its own, without needing a coalition.

The government’s early and hard coronavirus curbs that paralysed economic activity have put the country in a technical recession for the first time in a decade.

“There wasn’t a playbook for Covid,” Ms Ardern said at the Labour Party congress. “There wasn’t a playbook for the recovery.”

She said a loan scheme for small businesses, which allows for no interest loans if paid back within a year and which was to end this month, will be extended until the year-end, and more environmental and infrastructure jobs will be created under a previously announced plan.

Small and medium-sized enterprises generate about a third of New Zealand’s gross domestic product.

“I can’t think of a time in our recent history when we have been collectively challenged by such a cruel combination of events – a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption, a global pandemic and now its ensuing financial crisis,” Ms Ardern said.

Her leadership, widely seen as compassionate and steely, after last year’s killing of 51 Muslim worshippers in the country’s worst mass shooting, and after the December eruption of a volcano that killed 21, has brought Ms Ardern worldwide admiration.

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Trump in campaign mode at White House's Independence Day event

US president uses traditionally non-partisan July 4th event to launch attacks on ‘radical left’ ahead of November polls.

United States President Donald Trump has vowed to defeat the “radical left” in a July Fourth Independence Day speech at the White House, condemning recent efforts to remove or rethink monuments to historical figures as attempts to destroy the US.

Trump claimed without evidence that 99 percent of the coronavirus cases in the US were “totally harmless”. In fact, many US states marked a record number of new COVID-19 cases in recent days. In Texas alone, 7,890 patients were hospitalised after 238 new admissions over the past 24 hours.

According to reports on Saturday, the states of Texas and Florida alone accounted for almost 20,000 new cases of infections in one just one day.

While criticism mounted over the president’s handling of the pandemic, Trump said China must be “held accountable” for failing to contain the disease.

Peaceful protesters called for racial equality just steps from where Trump spoke in the capital, Washington, DC, marching down blocked-off streets around the White House, Black Lives Matter Plaza and the Lincoln Memorial.

Millions of Americans have been demonstrating against police brutality and racial inequality since the May killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In addition to achieving police reforms in some cities, some protesters have removed Confederate statues and other symbols of America’s legacy of slavery.

“There have always been those who seek to lie about the past in order to gain power in the present, those that are lying about our history, those who want us to be ashamed of who we are,” Trump said on Saturday. “Their goal is demolition.”

Biden: Trump ‘dismantling democracy’

Trump’s Fourth of July remarks doubled down on a Friday night speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota where he accused “angry mobs” of trying to erase history and used the speech to paint himself as a bulwark against left-wing extremism.

Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic rival in the November election, wrote a Fourth of July op-ed piece that struck a contrasting note with the Republican president and accused him of finding every day “new ways to tarnish and dismantle our democracy”.

In a separate letter to donors, Biden said: “We have a chance now to give the marginalised, the demonised, the isolated, the oppressed, a full share of the American dream.”

Biden also launched a new campaign commercial attacking Trump, posting on social media, “If you put the wrong person in office, you’ll see things that you would not have believed are possible.”

Trump, in his Saturday speech, also said the US would have a vaccine or therapeutic solution to the virus “long before” the end of 2020.

On Thursday, a top US health official said he was optimistic the Trump administration’s vaccine-acceleration programme “Operation Warp Speed” will generate a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 by year-end.

Air show, fireworks

Saturday’s speech at the White House was capped off by fighter jet air shows and a fireworks display over the National Mall.

Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser had tried to dissuade the Trump administration from holding the event because it went against health officials’ guidance during the pandemic.

Apart from fireworks spectators, activists of different stripes also appeared willing to disregard the health warnings.

Roar of the Deplorables, a bikers group, said via social media that they planned to gather in Washington on Saturday to stand in protest against what they call “the anti-Trump regime” and to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

Freedom Fighters DC, a new activist group that seeks to rally an ethnically diverse generation of supporters behind liberty for all people, especially the Black population of Washington, is one of the anti-racism groups ignoring the mayor’s heed to refrain from gathering.

“Black folks are not free from the chains of oppression, so we don’t get to truly celebrate Independence Day,” said Kerrigan Williams, 22, one of the founders of the group, which will host a march and an arts demonstration on Saturday afternoon.

“We’re marching today to showcase that Black folks are still fighting for the simple liberties that the constitution is said to provide.”

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Singapore GE2020: WP's Dennis Tan, PAP's Tan See Leng step up to fill veterans' shoes

The Workers’ Party’s Mr Dennis Tan replaces retiring MP Png Eng Huat to stand in Hougang SMC, while Dr Tan See Leng succeeds Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in the People’s Action Party’s Marine Parade GRC line-up. The two men have one thing in common – both are stepping up to fill seats held by stalwarts in their respective parties. The Sunday Times catches up with them.

Singapore GE2020: WP candidate Dennis Tan’s priority is giving Hougang residents his time

If his schedule allowed it, Mr Dennis Tan, the Workers’ Party’s chosen candidate to defend Hougang, would spend the whole day chatting with residents.

As he walks around in the constituency, he is constantly approached by residents wanting a word.

A short 10m walk from the Hougang Block 322 coffee shop to some nearby benches takes nearly 10 minutes, thanks to numerous interruptions by passers-by.


Singapore GE2020: PAP’s Tan See Leng wants to reach out to those in need in Marine Parade

The People’s Action Party’s (PAP) oldest new face, Dr Tan See Leng, 55, wants to build a network to support caregivers of the elderly. He will launch such a network in Marine Parade right after the election, and he hopes to extend it islandwide.

One of the five PAP candidates for Marine Parade GRC, he wants the network to support families like Madam Lai Quan Tee’s.

The Marine Parade resident is 79 years old, diabetic and needs a wheelchair to move around.


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

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World News

BoE Governor warns lenders of challenges of negative interest rates – Sunday Times

(Reuters) – Bank of England (BoE) Governor Andrew Bailey has written a letter to lenders warning them of the challenges of negative interest rates, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.

The letter said that negative rates were “one of the potential tools under active review” if the monetary policy committee decided that “more stimulus” was needed to hit the BoE’s 2% inflation target, the newspaper reported It didn’t disclose how it gained knowledge of the letter’s content.

The report said Bailey held a meeting with heads of banks at the end of June and that negative rates were discussed in that meeting in which the governor said “every tool they have is on the table”.

On negative interest rates, Bailey has previously said that they were an option for the BoE, but that the issue was complex and taking borrowing costs below zero was not in any way imminent.

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Sorry, China! Boris set to unveil MAJOR plan to block Huawei in revenge for China threat

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GCHQ is understood to have revised its previous assurance that the risks posed by the Chinese technology giant can be safely managed. The Prime Minister will be handed a report this week which will contain new information on the US sanction on Huawei. These measures will force the company to use untrusted technology that could make the risk impossible to control.

It’s a report by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre and has concluded that sanctions, which bar Huawei from using technology relying on American intellectual property have had a “severe” impact on the firm that significantly changes their calculations.

This had led to officials drawing up new proposals on how to stop installing new Huawei equipment in the 5G network.

The course of which should be around six months.

And will also look to speed up the removal of technology that is already in place.

Whitehall figures are now also examining the “ramifications” for existing Huawei equipment in other infrastructure outside 5G.

This is being viewed as a fairly dramatic reversal by the Prime Minister.

Especially after in January when Boris Johnson allowed Huawei to build parts of the network.

READ MORE:China warning: Huge majority say Beijing is biggest threat to West 

Tory MP’s on the backbenches have already started rising up against Mr Johnson and threatening a parliamentary “insurgency” if he fails to take a tougher approach on Huawei and China.

Debate on the National Security and Investment Bill, which Tories had been preparing to amend to force Mr Johnson’s hand on Huawei, is now believed to have been postponed until after the summer.

This is due to fears of a major rebellion against such a bill.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who plays a leading role in the 59-strong Huawei Interest Group of Conservatives, said: “Unless the Government now really takes a firm lead they will find that Parliament leads dramatically.”


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According to Whitehall sources, the new report was supposed to mark a “fundamental shift” from its previous assurances that led to Mr Johnson allowing Huawei a market share in the 5G network.

A market share of up to 35 per cent.

Its assessment of the potential risks to the UK is now believed to be far closer to that of security agencies in the US.

Mr Trump’s administration has classified Huawei as a national security threat amid claims the company has “close ties to the Chinese government and military apparatus”.

Huawei has said the decision was based on “innuendo and mistaken assumptions”.

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, is expected to provide Mr Johnson with formal advice, including the NCSC’s fresh assessment, as soon as this week.

The Prime Minister is likely to then call a meeting of the National Security Council to finalise a new strategy before announcing the measures in Parliament later this month.

A Huawei spokesman said: “Huawei is the most scrutinised vendor in the world and we firmly believe our unrivalled transparency in the UK means we can continue to be trusted to play a part in Britain’s gigabit upgrade.”

“It’s important to focus on facts and not to speculate at this time.”

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Coronavirus: Mexico becomes fifth-hardest hit country, surpassing France

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Mexico’s death toll from the new coronavirus rose to 30,366 Saturday (July 4), propelling it past France to become the country with the fifth-highest number of fatalities in the global pandemic, according to the health ministry.

“As of today, 30,366 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 in the laboratory have died,” Dr Jose Luis Alomia, national director of the Department of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health, told a press conference.

The US remains the hardest-hit country in the world, followed by Brazil, Britain and Italy, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Dr Alomia also reported 252,165 confirmed cases of the virus, with the number of infections rising by 6,914 since Friday – a record daily figure since Covid-19 reached Mexico.

The Latin American country, with 127 million inhabitants, had surpassed Spain in the number of deaths last Wednesday.

In the Americas, the epicentre of the pandemic, it is the third-most affected country after the US and Brazil.

At the end of May, Dr Hugo Lopez Gatell, the deputy health minister in charge of the fight against the pandemic, told AFP in an interview that if containment measures were not taken, the number of deaths could rise to about 30,000.

Mexico City, the capital, is the urban centre most affected by the disease – but that has not prevented municipal authorities from starting a partial economic reopening at the beginning of July.

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Malaysia confident of meeting July 31 deadline of JB-Singapore rail link agreement

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Malaysia is confident of meeting the July 31 deadline for the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project, said Senior Minister Azmin Ali.

He said there were 222 unresolved issues on the project.

“However, both countries have successfully solved 220 issues pertaining to the RTS project. We have only two more issues and a technical committee will meet on July 13 to discuss them,” he said when met after attending a roundtable discussion with local industry players in Johor on Saturday (July 4).

Datuk Seri Azmin, who is International Trade and Industry Minister, however, declined to elaborate on the two issues, which he would leave it to the technical committee to discuss which needed approval from both countries.

“I have spoken to the Transport Ministry and was given the assurance that both teams will be able to resolve the two remaining issues. This is important because we have until the end of this month to conclude the whole process of negotiation pertaining to the RTS, ” he added.

In May, Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said the bilateral agreement deadline for the much delayed project has been extended by three months to July 31. The extension was sought by Malaysia due to impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the Republic has agreed to further extend the suspension “for a third and final time”.

Mr Azmin stressed on Saturday that the RTS project was important, in particular for locals who travel daily into and from Singapore for work and to ease congestion at the Causeway.

Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad, who was present during the discussion, said the latest development was good news to the state.

“The RTS will finally become a reality and it would be a game changer for Johor, ” he said, adding that the project would help create a supply chain involving various sectors here.

The RTS will be the second rail link between Malaysia and Singapore after the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Tebrau Shuttle Service.

However, the KTM shuttle train service will have to cease operating within six months after the RTS becomes operational.

Malaysia and Singapore signed a deal in May last year to suspend the RTS project until Sept 30, with Malaysia reimbursing the Republic $600,000 for abortive costs.

Malaysia later requested an extension of another month until Oct 31 and Singapore agreed.

Malaysia then decided to proceed with the construction, with amendments to the scope and structure of the project proposed to cut costs by 36 per cent.

The legally binding agreement to build the RTS Link, which would connect Woodlands North station on Singapore’s Thomson-East Coast MRT line to Bukit Chagar, was signed in January 2018.

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City of Penticton urges floaters to use caution on channel due to fast flows

A popular summer cool-down spot is busier than ever right now.

Visitors and local residents were both busy cooling off at the Penticton River Channel despite a warning issued by the City of Penticton to use extreme caution.

“Not concerning, I’m a strong swimmer,” said Erin Harvilla, a visitor from Coquitlam.

The warning states that if people do decide to float in the channel, they should consider wearing a life jacket, to not tie their floats together and to avoid alcohol consumption.

Coyote Cruises — a company that rents inflatable tubes and runs a shuttle service for floaters — has decided to shut down operations for now due to the water conditions in the channel.

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