Saudi Arabia detains two senior royals, including king’s brother: Sources

first_imgSaudi Arabia has detained two senior members of the Saudi royal family – Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, King Salman’s son and the de facto ruler of the world’s top oil exporter and key US ally, has moved to consolidate power since ousting his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne in a palace coup in 2017. He arrested several royals in an anti-corruption campaign later that year.One source said the detentions took place on Friday. Reuters could not immediately determine the reasons behind the detentions. Saudi insiders and Western diplomats say the family is unlikely to oppose the crown prince while the 84-year-old king remains alive, recognizing that the king is unlikely to turn against his favorite son. The monarch has delegated most responsibilities of rule to his son but still presides over weekly cabinet meetings and receives foreign dignitaries.Prince Ahmed has largely kept a low profile since returning to Riyadh in October 2018 after 2-1/2 months abroad. During the trip, he appeared to criticize the Saudi leadership while responding to protesters outside a London residence chanting for the downfall of the Al Saud dynasty.He was one of only three people on the Allegiance Council, made up of the ruling Al Saud family’s senior members, who opposed Mohammed bin Salman becoming crown prince in 2017, sources have earlier said.Mohammed bin Nayef’s movements have been restricted and monitored since then, sources have previously said.The latest detentions come at a time of heightened tension with regional rival Iran and as Crown Prince Mohammed implements ambitious social and economic reforms, including an initial public offering by oil giant Saudi Aramco on the domestic bourse last December. Saudi Arabia is also the current chair for the Group of 20 major economies.Prince Mohammed has been lauded at home for easing social restrictions in the Muslim kingdom and opening up the economy. But he has come under international criticism over a devastating war in Yemen, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate and the detention of women’s rights activists seen as part of a crackdown on dissent.  Topics :center_img The Wall Street Journal reported the detentions of the two royals earlier on Friday, and said they related to an alleged coup attempt.Saudi officials could not be immediately reached for comment early on Saturday. The Saudi government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.Prince Mohammed has fuelled resentment among some prominent branches of the ruling family by tightening his grip on power and some question his ability to lead following the 2018 murder of a prominent journalist by Saudi agents and the largest-ever attack on Saudi oil infrastructure last year, sources have said.They said royals seeking to change the line of succession view Prince Ahmed, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, as a possible choice who would have support of family members, the security apparatus, and some Western powers.last_img read more

World Bank suggests firms ‘hibernate’ during COVID-19 pandemic

first_imgSander went on to say that the government could also provide cash transfers to micro and small businesses with a small number of employees or no bank loans to help them cover daily expenses and keep them from selling their assets.Aside from hibernating, businesses could also convert their production lines to produce other products necessary in the fight against the pandemic so they could keep economic activities going, he said.Numerous textile companies have shifted to the production of hazmat suits and washable masks, while several state-owned firms like weapons manufacturer PT Pindad, electronics manufacturer PT LEN and aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) plan to produce ventilators for COVID-19 patients.For the longer term, Sander suggested the government create a comprehensive recovery plan and economic stimulus to help businesses repay their debts and help banks improve their balance sheets once the crisis ends.“The government should identify sectors that are badly hit by the pandemic and devise a robust revenue plan to help the economy recover from the crisis,” he said, adding that such a revenue plan included increasing state tax revenue by widening the tax base and tax-to-GDP ratio.As the pandemic has yet to show signs of abating, Sander also called on the government to protect sectors essential during the pandemic.“Sectors like food production, medical equipment production and health should be protected to ensure their accessibility to raw materials amid the mobility restrictions,” he said.The Health Ministry has approved requests from ten cities and regencies across Indonesia to enforce large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country.As of Tuesday afternoon, the disease has infected more than 4,800 people in Indonesia and killed at least 450, official data show.Topics : The World Bank recommends that the government let firms “hibernate” to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and allow workers to keep their jobs.Lead country economist for Indonesia Frederico Gil Sander said on Tuesday that the Indonesian government could help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and big corporations by temporarily relieving them of fix costs like utility bills, loan interest and rents.He also suggested allowing firms to cut employees’ wages while the government would cover the difference with cash transfers. “This hibernation could help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 economic crisis [avoid] closure and let workers keep their jobs,” said Sander during a webinar.Some 2.8 million people have lost their jobs as of Monday, according to data from the Manpower Ministry and the Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan). More than half were furloughed and placed on paid or unpaid leave.A recent survey by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and SurveySensum found that business players expected the situation to normalize within five months, or around August. The survey further stated that the COVID-19 pandemic hit business revenue, with 76 percent of the respondents saying the pandemic had “severely disturbed daily business activities.”Read also: Red tape stymies social aidlast_img read more

US indicts North Koreans, accuses state-owned bank of evading sanctions

first_imgTopics : The indictment adds to mounting friction between Washington and Pyongyang after denuclearization talks launched by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stalled.The indictment is the largest of any North Korea sanctions violations case, a US law enforcement official said. The alleged crimes include money laundering and bank fraud.Washington “has signified its commitment to hampering North Korea’s ability to illegally access the US financial system and limit its ability to use proceeds from illicit actions to enhance its illegal WMD and ballistic missile programs,” Acting United States Attorney Michael Sherwin said in a statement.Some of the $2.5 billion was directed to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, a US official said. The US Justice Department accused North Korea’s state-owned bank of evading US sanctions laws and charged 28 North Korean and five Chinese citizens in its largest crackdown on North Korea sanctions violations.In a grand jury indictment made public on Thursday, US prosecutors accused North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank (FTB) of conspiring with the employees charged to cause other banks “to process at least $2.5 billion in illegal payments via over 250 front companies.”The United States blacklisted the FTB in 2013; the UN Security Council did so in 2017.center_img The transactions took place in China, Russia, Libya and Thailand, and many of those charged were bank employees, including two former presidents of the FTB and two former co-vice presidents.North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since 2006 that have been strengthened by the Security Council over the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.North Korea continued to enhance those programs last year in breach of UN sanctions, according to a report this year to the UN Security Council.last_img read more

UK PM urges global effort at vaccine summit

first_imgAll at riskThe coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 380,000 people since it emerged in China last December, according to an AFP tally of official sources.Stay-at-home orders were imposed across the world, causing huge economic disruption and the suspension of many routine immunization services.The WHO, UN children’s agency UNICEF and Gavi warned last month that vaccine services were disrupted in nearly 70 countries, affecting some 80 million children under the age of one.Polio eradication drives were suspended in dozens of countries, while measles vaccination campaigns were also put on hold in 27 countries, UNICEF said. Recent Gavi-supported modeling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that for every coronavirus death prevented by halting vaccination campaigns in Africa, up to 140 people could die from vaccine-preventable diseases. “More children in more countries are now protected against more diseases than at any point in history,” said Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi.”However, these historic advances in global health are now at risk of unraveling as COVID-19 causes unprecedented disruption to vaccine programs worldwide. “We face the very real prospect of a global resurgence of diseases like measles, polio and yellow fever, which would put us all at risk.” He said he hoped it would “inaugurate a new era of global health co-operation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavor of our lifetimes”.More than 50 countries are taking part in Thursday’s meeting, as well as individuals such as philanthropist Bill Gates, and will raise funds for Gavi, the vaccine alliance.Over the next five years, it wants to reboot halted programs in the countries it supports — allowing them to access vaccines at a much-reduced cost — with the goal of reaching some 300 million children.  Gavi and its partners will also launch a financing drive to purchase potential COVID-19 vaccines, scale-up their production and support delivery to developing nations. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a “new era of global health co-operation” as he prepared to host a vaccine fundraising summit on Thursday under the shadow of coronavirus.The virtual meeting aims to raise $7.4 billion for immunization programs stalled by the pandemic, and will see the launch of a new fundraising drive to support potential COVID-19 vaccines.”I hope this summit will be the moment when the world comes together to unite humanity in the fight against disease,” Johnson said in a statement. Topics : The pandemic has exposed new ruptures in international cooperation, notably with US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the World Health Organization (WHO).But Johnson warned that countries such as Britain — which has suffered the worst coronavirus death toll in Europe — would benefit from helping developing countries.”This support for routine immunizations will shore up poorer countries’ healthcare systems to deal with coronavirus — and so help to stop the global spread,” he told reporters on Wednesday.”This virus has shown how connected we are. We’re fighting an invisible enemy. And no one is safe frankly until we are all safe.”last_img read more

Doubts loom over Indonesia’s ‘travel bubble’ plan

first_imgThe term “travel bubble” or “travel corridor” refers to an agreement in which countries that are successfully containing the outbreak can open their borders to each other to allow free movement within the bubble.Earlier this month, Singapore said it would announce a “fast lane” arrangement with China, while Thailand was in talks to create travel bubbles for tourism that would allow the quarantine-free flow of people between Bangkok and a few cities in China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said Indonesia was paying close attention to such a trend, but officials were still discussing ways to have such a “travel corridor”.The Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister has been discussing the issue with the Foreign Ministry, as well as the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, with an official saying that they had specifically looked to China, South Korea, Japan and Australia to boost Indonesia’s tourism recovery. As Indonesia now leads the tally of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Southeast Asia, it appears to be showing an interest in following steps taken by its neighboring countries to ease cross-border travel restrictions.The government announced 1,031 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections nationwide to 41,431 with 2,276 deaths, both the highest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia’s daily infection rate has now increased by around 1,000 new cases on average in the past week, which the government attributed to improved testing and tracing capabilities.As the country continues to record among the lowest testing rates in the region at 1.2 tests per 1,000 population as of June 15 according to, it has now begun easing restrictions and is seemingly looking into creating a “travel bubble”. “The four countries were chosen because many tourists and foreign investors in Indonesia come from those countries,” the office’s undersecretary for tourism and creative economy, Odo Manuhutu, said on Friday.Indonesia saw its visitors from China declining by 72.33 percent, South Korea by 41.65 percent, Japan by 45,57 percent and Australia by 33,93 percent in the first quarter of 2020 from the same period last year according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data. In general, the country has recorded a 45.01 percent decline in foreign visitors over the same period.Despite the plan, Odo said businesspeople would probably be the first and only ones to travel to and from those countries in the near future, as he pinned hopes that tourists would gradually follow.Odo said the Foreign Ministry was still discussing the requirements for the establishment of travel bubbles before signing an agreement with the four countries.Epidemiologist Dicky Budiman said Indonesia was not up to par with China, Australia, South Korea and Japan in terms of its COVID-19 response, let alone creating travel corridors.”The idea of travel bubbles, or COVID-19 corridors, is actually opening borders or entrances between countries that are equal in terms of pandemic control while having strong economic and tourism relations. There’s a certain level of trust there,” he said on Tuesday.He added that the basis to negotiate a travel bubble was when countries had no new cases, and currently in the Asia Pacific region, only Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan meet the criteria. Meanwhile, in ASEAN, he said, only Vietnam and Thailand were so far fit for the plan to create travel bubbles.For Indonesia, the most realistic plan was to have strict COVID-19 control on selected islands such as Bali, but only after authorities expanded and improved testing, tracing and isolation within the next month, Dicky said.As the country enters the so-called new normal, the COVID-19 task force is continuously mapping regions into three categories: green zones, or cities and regencies not recording any confirmed COVID-19 cases; yellow zones, or low-risk regions with contained spread but with possible transmission; and red zones.However, Tri Yunis Miko, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, said the maps had only portrayed surveillance data of certain regions rather than a look into how far the virus had actually spread in its population.He said a further antibody study was important to discover the percentage of the population who had contracted and were still infected by the virus.Only then could the government start mapping regions it might open to tourists, but even then there would always be the possibility of transmission, Tri said.“If it’s because of the economy, then the protocols must be stricter […] If they want to take a risk, then each country should equally take the risk,” he said.Tri said the health protocols must be made equal between partnering countries, including PCR tests and a 14-day mandatory quarantine with health authorities also monitoring tourists’ health conditions daily while tracking their movements through their phones.For business purposes, quarantine might not be mandatory but foreigners must not stay longer than one week, which was also the incubation period of the virus, he said.COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said the government was still mulling over reopening tourism spots, including by assessing places into low-risk and high-risk areas. As for Bali, Doni said the local administration had requested not to reopen the resort island as it looked into improving testing capacity in its port.“We’re certain that with caution, we’ll rebuild the trust of domestic and foreign tourists in choosing their desired tourism spots,” he said.Indonesia Tourism Intellectuals Association (ICPI) chairman Azril Azahari said he doubted foreign tourists’ trust in visiting Indonesia could be rebuilt soon as long as the country did not come up to par with other countries in terms of health protocols and COVID-19 containment efforts.– Ardila Syakriah and Ghina Ghaliya contributed to the reportTopics :last_img read more

Bali to deport Syrian national for holding yoga gathering amid COVID-19 concerns

first_imgThe Denpasar Immigration Office in Bali is set to deport a Syrian national for holding a mass yoga gathering in Ubud amid public health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.The Syrian citizen, identified as Barakeh Wissam, was reportedly responsible for organizing an event at the House of Om Community Center on June 18 that was attended by more than 60 people, mostly foreigners.According to the immigration office, Wissam violated a 2020 Health Ministry regulation on large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) as well as a 2020 Bali gubernatorial decree on COVID-19 prevention and mitigation. The latter stipulates that public events are limited to a maximum of 25 participants. Wissam and House of Om gained notoriety when photos of the mass yoga gathering circulated on social media, triggering outcry among netizens who slammed the apparent lack of compliance with prevailing health procedures.Writer Jenny Jusuf shared on her Twitter page a series of images taken from the event, along with a remark criticizing the participants’ alleged disregard for public health in the region.“The number of people [contracting] COVID-19 in Bali continues to increase. Do they even care?” @jennyjusuf wrote in the caption on distancing? ❌masker? ❌kurang dari 20 orang? ❌lokasi? ubud.ada orang indonesia di sana? kalau dari foto2 sih kayaknya nggak.jumlah orang terinfeksi #COVID19 di bali makin meningkat.apakah mereka peduli? ❌cc @BaleBengong @ditjen_imigrasi @imngurahrai @Indounik— Jenny Jusuf (@JennyJusuf) June 20, 2020In an accompanying thread, Jenny posted a screenshot of a written statement published by the Instagram page @houseofom.bali, in which Wissam called the event a “big mistake”.However, the statement has since been taken down and replaced with an apology. According to House of Om’s official website, Wissam founded the community center in 2016. The community has since grown into an international movement with branches in Bali, Syria and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Topics : Wissam, the founder of House of Om, is in Indonesia under a temporary stay permit (KITAS) valid until Nov. 11, 2021. The immigration office has revoked his KITAS and he is currently being held at the Denpasar Immigration Detention Center.“The mass yoga event did not have permission from the local village,” Denpasar Immigration Office spokesperson Arvin Gumilang said in a statement on Wednesday.Read also: Government won’t open Bali yet: COVID-19 task force“The event violated [Bali’s] COVID-19 health protocol because [the participants] failed to apply physical distancing measures and wear face masks.”last_img read more

US Navy carriers conduct South China Sea drills as Chinese ships watch

first_imgChina has built island bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.Contacts with Chinese ships had been without incident, Kirk said.”We have the expectation that we will always have interactions that are professional and safe,” he said. “We are operating in some pretty congested waters, lots of maritime traffic of all sorts.” Two US Navy aircraft carriers are conducting exercises in the contested South China Sea within sight of Chinese naval vessels spotted near the flotilla, the commander of one of the carriers, the USS Nimitz, told Reuters on Monday.”They have seen us and we have seen them,” Rear Admiral James Kirk said in a telephone interview from the Nimitz, which has been conducting flight drills in the waterway with the Seventh Fleet carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, that began on the US Independence Day holiday of July 4.The US Navy has brought carriers together for such shows of force in the region in the past, but this year’s drill comes amid heightened tension as the United States criticizes China over its novel coronavirus response and accuses it of taking advantage of the pandemic to push territorial claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere. Topics :center_img China’s foreign ministry said the United States had deliberately sent its ships to the South China Sea to flex its muscles and accused it of trying to drive a wedge between countries in the region.The Pentagon, when it announced the dual carrier exercise, said it wanted to “stand up for the right of all nations to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows”, describing its 100,000-ton ships and the 90 or so aircraft they each carry as a “symbol of resolve”.About 12,000 sailors are on ships in the combined carrier strike groups.China’s claims nine tenths of in the resource-rich South China Sea, through which some $3 trillion of trade passes a year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims.last_img read more

South Korean COVID-19 patient recovering after double lung transplant

first_imgAfter a record 112 days on a specialized life-support system, a South Korean COVID-19 patient is recovering from double lung transplant surgery, doctors say, in only the ninth such procedure worldwide since the coronavirus outbreak began.The 50-year-old woman was diagnosed with the disease and hospitalized in late February and then spent 16 weeks on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support, which involves circulating a patient’s blood through a machine that adds oxygen to red blood cells.That’s the longest that any COVID-19 patient in the world has spent on ECMO support, her doctors said. Various drugs such as the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine, the HIV treatment Kaletra and steroids failed to stop her pulmonary fibrosis – scarring in the lungs – from worsening, said Dr Park Sung-hoon, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital.That left few options other than a lung transplant.”The probability of success in lung transplants on ECMO patients is 50%, and fortunately, our patient was well prepared before the surgery when we found the donor,” said Dr Kim Hyoung-soo, director of the hospital’s ECMO program, who was in charge of the surgery.The patient declined to be identified or interviewed. The doctors who conducted the eight-hour surgery described her destroyed lungs as hard like rock.She had an acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) when she came to hospital, Park said, and could not live without the ECMO machine’s help.ECMO is typically used on patients who need more help than ventilators can provide, and who are considered to have a 90% chance of dying. Half of patients recover in two to three weeks on ECMO, and a lung transplant is considered for those who don’t, Kim said.The surgery was the ninth after six similar surgeries in China, and one each in the United States and Australia, the hospital said.Lung transplants are less common that other transplants in South Korea, with 92 of them in 2018, compared with 2,108 kidney and 176 heart transplants, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Lee Sun-hee, a head nurse of the ECMO program who has cared for the patient since February, said the woman seemed to have a stronger-than-usual will to live, in part driven by being a mother of two.”She told us, ‘I’m grateful for the sunshine, for the moonlight. I’m so grateful that I am breathing’,” Lee said.Lee said the woman already knows the first thing she wants to do when released from the hospital:”To get a nice bath.”Doctors said she would be discharged when her chest muscles are strong enough to support her breathing. Topics :last_img read more

Jokowi plans to disband 18 state institutions, including Peat Restoration Agency

first_img“It will be reviewed if [the tasks] of the BRG could be handled by the BNPB [the National Disaster Mitigation Agency] for fire mitigation and the Agriculture Ministry for the optimization of peat for agriculture,” Moeldoko said.President Jokowi previously revealed his plan to dissolve 18 institutions in the near future, following his fiery address at a plenary Cabinet meeting earlier where he threatened to take extraordinary steps if his ministers failed to take the current health crisis seriously.“If we can divert the budgets to relevant ministries and directorates, why do we have to put those institutions and commissions into service any longer?” Jokowi said on Monday.A country’s global competitiveness, he noted, would no longer be about big countries defeating small countries but those faster beating those slower.Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said that since Jokowi’s first term in 2014, 24 institutions and commissions had been removed, leaving 96 currently in operation. The State Palace has reaffirmed President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s intention to disband 18 institutions in a bid to ease the burden on the state budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with a senior presidential aide revealing several names on the list.“In simplifying the bureaucracy, the President believes an organizational structure must be highly flexible, adaptive and simpler so that it can hopefully work faster,” Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko said on Tuesday.He said the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry was currently reviewing some institutions established under government and presidential regulations, whose tasks and responsibilities could be taken over by other ministries. He took the example of the National Elderly Commission — established under Presidential Decree (Keppres) No. 54/2004 — which would be reviewed to see if its tasks were duplicating those of the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry.The other one he mentioned was the National Sports Standardization and Accreditation Agency (BSANK), which currently has the authority to develop and monitor the national sports standards and was established under Presidential Regulation (Perpres) No. 11/2014.Read also: Jokowi uses reshuffle threat to spur Cabinet into actionMoeldoko also mentioned the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG). Despite its good performance, as he claimed, the institution formed under Perpres No.1/2016 would be reviewed since its functions might collide with those of other institutions.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Snap misses user growth estimates, shares fall

first_imgRevenue from ad sales jumped about 17 percent to US$454.2 million during the quarter, above estimates of $440.8 million.Snap’s revenue gains set the bar for Twitter, which reports earnings on Thursday, and Facebook’s results next week, said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at research firm eMarketer.Average revenue per user was $1.91, barely changed from the year-ago quarter. Outside North America and Europe, that measure dropped 25 percent to 89 cents as coronavirus-related factors inflicted more harm, Snap said.Snap’s net loss widened to about $326 million, or 23 cents per share, from $255.2 million, or 19 cents per share, a year earlier.Chief Financial Officer Derek Andersen said third-quarter revenue growth was 32 percent through July 19.But since the pandemic could weaken the economy further, Snap’s internal model is based on revenue growth of 20 percent for the third quarter, Andersen said.Topics : Snap has focused on helping advertisers increase sales directly from its ads, which boosted revenue growth even as many brands have been cutting marketing budgets due to the pandemic.Snap has positioned itself as a safe ad platform focused on friendly interactions, as more than 1,000 companies have paused ads on larger rival Facebook Inc due to concerns about hate speech.“The growing focus on brand safety and privacy across the entire industry places us in a unique position of strength as we have invested in these areas from the beginning of our business,” Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel said during an earnings call with analysts.Snap forecast 242 million to 244 million daily active users in the current quarter, below analysts’ target of 244.82 million according to Refinitiv data. Snap Inc said on Tuesday a bump in user growth at the start of coronavirus-led lockdowns petered out sooner than expected, and it forecast fewer current-quarter users than the Wall Street consensus.Shares of Snap fell 11 percent in after-hours trading before paring losses to around 6 percent.The Snapchat owner said daily active users (DAUs), a widely watched metric by investors and advertisers, rose 17 percent to 238 million in the second quarter ended June 30. Analysts had expected 238.44 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.last_img read more