Luton’s last chance

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Chinese city lockdown approaches Shanghai

first_imgMore Chinese cities, including one just 175 kilometers (110 miles) from Shanghai, were put under lockdown on Tuesday, as the impact of a deadly new virus spread further from its epicenter.Around 12 million people are affected by the new restrictions, adding to the tens of millions of people already quarantined in and around Wuhan, ground zero for 2019-nCoV.The city of Taizhou, parts of Hangzhou — including the district that is home to the headquarters of Chinese tech giant Alibaba — and some of Ningbo will only allow one person per household to go outside every two days to buy necessities, city officials said. Taizhou — 850 kilometers from the epicenter in Hubei province — will also suspend 95 train services into the city from Tuesday.In addition, residential communities will only be allowed to use one entrance and residents must present ID each time they come or go, Taizhou’s government said on its official WeChat account.Landlords were also forbidden from renting property to people from “severely affected areas such as Hubei” if they have travelled to their hometowns recently, it added.In the Hangzhou districts, additional measures included mandatory mask wearing and compulsory ID and temperature checks. The latest restrictions follow similar measures announced Sunday in Wenzhou, which has a population of nine million people. The city has restricted the movement of residents, and closed roads.Zhejiang — the eastern province in which these cities sit — has confirmed 829 cases, the highest number outside central Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak and where more than 50 million people are under lockdown.Other provinces have restricted travel to try to stop the virus spreading, with several, including Guangdong and Sichuan, making it compulsory to wear masks in public.Nationwide, more than 20,000 people have been infected by the new virus, with 425 now known to have died.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Indonesia military to blame for 2014 Papua killings: Rights commission

first_imgRank-and-file soldiers and their superiors should shoulder the blame for the deaths of the students, aged 17 and 18, as well as “torturing” another 21 demonstrating Papuans, it said, without elaborating.The protests were sparked by the alleged beatings of other Papuan youths by the army. Security forces eventually opened fire on a crowd after demonstrators threw stones at a military office.The commission interviewed two dozen witnesses, analysed documents and visited the scene to determine whether the military was involved in the deaths.So far no-one has been charged.Topics : The military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Komnas HAM said it had forwarded its dossier on the unrest to the country’s attorney general for possible prosecution.The probe was hampered by long delays due to attempts by unnamed individuals to hide evidence, the human rights commission said.’Torture’ Indonesia’s military shot dead four students in the country’s restive Papua region during 2014 protests and carried out “gross human rights violations”, a commission investigating the uprising concluded Monday.Komnas HAM issued its findings five years after the high-school students were gunned down in Paniai, a central area of insurgency-wracked Papua province, which shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea.”This incident constitutes crimes against humanity,” the commission’s chief investigator Muhammad Choirul Anam told AFP in a statement Monday.last_img read more

SoftBank leads $265 million investments in two US-based start-ups

first_imgSoftBank on Monday led a new funding round of US$165 million in California-based Karius and invested $100 million in New York-headquartered AI company Behavox, as the technology giant builds a portfolio under its second Vision Fund.The two deals come at a time of intense investor scrutiny into SoftBank’s investments.The Japanese company earlier this month reported a second straight quarter of losses at its first Vision Fund, pushing Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son to scale back his second fund. Karius, which markets a test that can quickly detect hard-to-diagnose infections through a simple taking of blood, said the funding would expand its commercial outreach and clinical research.Although relatively small by the standards of Softbank, the funding marks the latest in a list of healthcare investments that include drugmaker Roivant Sciences and Vir Biotechnology Inc, an infectious-disease focused drug developer.Karius’ test, which is already being used in more than 100 US hospitals, turns liquid biopsy technology previously used chiefly to measure the progress of cancers to the detection of over 1,000 pathogens, including bacteria and fungi.The funding round values the company at over $700 million, according to a filing made by the company to the state of Delaware, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. Karius said it was not disclosing valuation details at this time. Dr. Bill Muller at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago said his hospital typically uses the test on patients who are at the most risk of infections that are difficult to diagnose using conventional methods. He estimates that his hospital typically averages five-10 orders of the test per month.The company said the list price for the test was $2,000 for hospitals.“Softbank’s healthcare team is very experienced and we actually learnt a lot through the diligence process through their questions,” Karius CEO Mickey Kertesz told Reuters.“I anticipate they (Softbank’s healthcare team) will add a lot of value beyond the financial resources we have secured.”Separately, Behavox said SoftBank first became a user of its platform before making the investment.Behavox’s platform uses AI (artificial intelligence) to analyze internal company data such as employee emails and behavior to flag compliance issues. Its clients include banks and private-equity firms.Behavox said CEO Erkin Adylov and other key employees would remain the biggest shareholders in the company.center_img Topics :last_img read more

18 contests, 0 wins: Warren’s White House bid misfires

first_imgElizabeth Warren rose in the Democratic presidential nomination race on policy strengths but in recent months her campaign slipped into political quicksand, overshadowed by two rivals: one a radical populist, the other more moderate.On Tuesday, the 70-year-old Massachusetts senator, a combination of ebullient campaign trail charm and schoolmarmish determination, suffered her worst setback yet, a multi-state thrashing at the polls by fellow candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.With 18 of 50 statewide contests complete — 14 of them on Super Tuesday — Warren placed first or second in none of them, including her home state of Massachusetts, a clear embarrassment. Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics pointed to one of the clearer hypotheses: she was squeezed from both sides.”Warren got crowded out by Sanders to her left and more moderate candidates to her right, to the point where I don’t think she had much of a constituency beyond some high-end suburban voters,” Kondik said.Campaign manager Roger Lau said Wednesday that Warren was taking time to “assess the path forward.” But by most measures her candidacy is dead.Sanders revealed that he spoke with Warren on Wednesday but did not say whether he asked for her endorsement.The Washington Post reported the two camps were in early discussions about possibly joining forces in the event Warren drops out of the race.But in a sign Warren is awkwardly perched between her two rivals, her allies were also in talks with Biden’s team about a possible endorsement, the daily said. Ideology vs details Warren’s unusual silence Wednesday contrasted sharply with the enthusiastic chants of “Dream big! Fight hard!” that have echoed through her rallies.The former Harvard law professor cut her teeth on the 2008 financial crisis, guiding president Barack Obama towards creation of a consumer protection agency to help weather the recession.Her experience as a number-crunching people’s advocate helped project her early image as a can-do policy wonk.”I have a plan for that,” she said at rallies, where she pushed proposals for everything from tackling the climate crisis to investing in rural America, rather than focusing like a laser on making 2020 a referendum on Trump.”Bernie has these broad ideological brush strokes. Warren said she has specifics,” Tobe Berkovitz, associate professor of advertising at Boston University and a longtime Democratic media consultant, told AFP.”If you’re very specific, sooner or later you’re going to have to explain it.”A case in point is Medicare for All. While Sanders has been vague about what his plan for a government-run health system would cost, Warren announced her estimate: an eye-popping $20.5 trillion over 10 years. Cries of fiscal overload followed.She also faced a backlash when she and Sanders exchanged strong words this year. Warren criticized him for telling her privately that he believed a female nominee could not defeat Trump.”She couldn’t figure out a way to attack Bernie and really go after his voters, who were part of her potential base,” Berkovitz said.Pundits have theorized that Warren does not have the “electability” of a Biden or Sanders. But feminist writer Jessica Valenti, who has described the “misogynist condescension” she has received for supporting Warren, said gender bias is playing a role in the race.”Don’t tell me this isn’t about sexism,” Valenti wrote in an essay on Medium.There are also intangible qualities at play in politics, beyond a well-oiled campaign operation or relentless ground game, that can make or break a candidate.Voters “want someone they think is in their corner, is going to fight for them, and is authentic,” Berkovitz said.Trump and Sanders managed to convey that to voters, he added, but “Warren didn’t.”Topics : Onetime nomination rival Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur who quit the race last month, weighed in on Twitter: “Elizabeth Warren deserves to be doing better than this.”Her transparency about her campaign’s costly health care plan may have spooked voters. Perhaps her debate stage evisceration of Michael Bloomberg made her appear too strident, as critics claimed.Some may have rejected her about-face on accepting donations from deep-pocketed political groups. Or are Americans just not ready to elect a woman president?There are several possible reasons why Warren surged into the top tier of candidates last summer only to flounder at the voting booth for the past month.last_img read more

SoftBank forecasts record losses as start-up bets backfire

first_imgRead also: Son’s $2b guarantee at risk as virus hits SoftBank Indian star“This is looking more and more like the perfect storm for SoftBank,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian Research at United First Partners. “The question is whether there is more to come.”The Vision Fund probably wrote down about 1 trillion yen in assets in the March quarter, based on its earlier earnings reports. SoftBank didn’t detail all the startups that took hits.Investors have become increasingly spooked about the stability of Son’s empire and its $100 billion Vision Fund amid the virus outbreak. Shares tumbled at one point more than 50 percent from their peak this year, and SoftBank’s credit default swaps – the cost of insuring debt against default – spiked to their highest levels in about decade. Son has also drawn unusual pressure from some investors. The US activist investor Elliott Management Corp. took a substantial stake in the company, advocating for changes in governance and investing practices.The billionaire responded with a strategy to part with some of his precious holdings, unloading about $41 billion in assets to buy back shares and pay off debts. SoftBank plans to sell about $14 billion of shares in Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as part of an effort, Bloomberg News has reported.“This will only make asset sales even more urgent for SoftBank,” said Koji Hirai, the head of M&A at advisory firm Kachitas Corp. in Tokyo.Read also: SoftBank-backed Nuro gets OK for driverless delivery car testsIt’s a dramatic turnaround for the 62-year-old Son. Just two months ago, he declared on stage in Tokyo that SoftBank’s fortunes were turning around after the WeWork meltdown.“After a difficult winter always comes spring,” Son said at the time.He highlighted a big surge in the shares of Uber Technologies Inc., one of SoftBank’s bigger holdings, explaining that his company would likely be able to book a profit on the stake. He also declared WeWork poised for a comeback.But the coronavirus outbreak wreaked havoc on those plans. With fear of contagion, people stopped sharing offices from Beijing to New York. Ride-hailing companies – SoftBank has stakes in four of the biggest worldwide – saw business evaporate. Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber, publicly declared “I wouldn’t put my kids in an Uber.”Another sign of the troubles is OYO, a hotel-booking service into which SoftBank invested about $1.5 billion. Its business model has been slammed as global travel screeched to a halt. This month, Ritesh Agarwal, founder and chief executive officer, said the company would furlough employees in countries outside India as it struggles to survive the virus.Complicating the situation is that Agarwal, 26, borrowed about $2 billion to buy more shares in his own company. Son personally guaranteed the loans, Bloomberg News has reported.Read also: Budget cuts, furloughs inevitable for start-ups to survive pandemic: InvestorsSoftBank’s controversial accounting practices have aggravated the volatility of its earnings. The Vision Fund booked profits on startups as their valuations rose, even if the gains were only on paper and no shares were sold. WeWork and Oyo both contributed to profits early on in the fund’s lifetime.Now the Vision Fund, which Son has declared is the future of his company, is piling up losses as valuations are written down again. The fund has lost a cumulative 240 billion yen since SoftBank began breaking out its results, including the most recent quarter forecast, according to Bloomberg calculations.SoftBank’s operating loss for the current fiscal year is the most ever for the company, which Son took public in 1994. Its projected net loss of 750 billion yen would also be a record and compares with a 1.41 trillion yen profit the year earlier.Sales for the fiscal year are expected to fall about 36 percent to 6.15 trillion yen after SoftBank removed US unit Sprint Corp. from its balance sheet to account for its merger with T-Mobile US Inc.“The coronavirus was the final blow, but bad investments and misjudgments were the start,” said Hirai of Kachitas.Topics : SoftBank Group Corp. forecast a record 1.35 trillion yen (US$12.5 billion) operating loss for the fiscal year ended in March, a sign of how badly Masayoshi Son’s bets on technology startups have been battered in recent months.The Japanese company expects to record a 1.8 trillion yen loss from its Vision Fund and another 800 billion yen in losses from SoftBank’s own investments. It has written down the value of investments in companies, including office-rental startup WeWork and satellite operator OneWeb, which filed for bankruptcy last month. SoftBank’s shares fell as much as 4.2 percent to 4,025 yen in Tokyo on Tuesday.Son’s conglomerate has taken one blow after another since the implosion of WeWork’s initial public offering last year and SoftBank’s subsequent bailout. It bet heavily on sharing-economy startups, which allow people to split the use of offices or cars, but those investments have been particularly hard hit as the coronavirus pandemic curbs unnecessary human interaction.last_img read more

Activists slam ‘sluggish’ investigation into murder of two farmers in South Sumatra

first_imgHe said UB had turned himself in to police and urged the police to develop the case further, saying there were suspicions that the violence had been planned.He also claimed the police had been negligent during the incident, as officers on the scene had only fired warning shots after victims had fallen, adding that one of the three police officers had even pointed his gun at one of the local residents.“We want to send a letter to the National Police chief, not only to ask for this case to be thoroughly investigated, but also to question the institutional responsibility of the National Police,” Mualimin said, urging the National Human Rights Commission to probe the case.https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/04/04/tensions-high-after-two-farmers-killed-in-south-sumatra-land-conflict.htmlIndonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) advocacy division deputy head Era Purnama Sari, who also attended the press conference, urged the government to stop “commercializing” the police as a security service in agrarian conflicts.Lahat Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Irwansyah told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the investigation was ongoing and would be developed, adding that the police had sent the case file to the Lahat Prosecutor’s Office.He also defended the presence of police officers during the incident.”Our presence actually caused the company’s security guards to withdraw from confrontation three times,” he said.Aside from watching over the investigation, Mulaimin said the advocacy team would protect witnesses and provide medical and psychological rehabilitation for them and other victims, as two were left injured after the incident.“The injured victims are still being treated and still cannot provide for their families. One of the killed farmers also has a wife and small children that need certainty regarding their livelihood moving forward,” he said.Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the names of the killed farmers.Topics : The company and the residents have been in conflict for nearly three decades, starting in 1993, when the residents gave up their land in exchange for what they consider paltry compensation.Pagar Batu residents advocacy team member Mualimin Pardi Dahlan said the local police should have identified all the perpetrators and the mastermind behind the murders by now.So far, the Lahat Police have only arrested one suspect, a 38-year-old security guard identified by the initials UB.“The local police are sluggish in investigating the case,” Mualimin said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.  Activists have accused police of dragging their feet in an investigation into the murder of two farmers linked to a land dispute in Pagar Batu village, Lahat regency, South Sumatra.The two farmers, 32-year-old Putra Bakti and 38-year old Aman Suryadi, were stabbed to death, allegedly by security guards employed by oil palm plantation company PT Artha Prigel on March 21. The incident occurred when the company tried to evict villagers from the area, with company security guards and armed police officers arriving to enforce the eviction. The villagers resisted and violence broke out, resulting in the death of the two farmers.last_img read more

Virus halts Anfield redevelopment

first_imgLiverpool need just two more wins to claim their first English championship in 30 years.But the pandemic has seen the season suspended since March 13 with no certainty over whether it can resume and if all the remaining 92 games can be played if the campaign gets underway again. Liverpool have halted their planned redevelopment of a stand at Anfield for a year in response to the coronavirus crisis.The Premier League leaders said Monday the pandemic had seen them call a halt to work on the Anfield Road stand that will increase the capacity of the ground to 61,000.Liverpool had hoped to have the work finished in 2022 but the project won’t now be completed until 2023 at the earliest. “We have experienced a number of delays to the planned project as a direct result of the COVID-19 lockdown,” Liverpool chief operating officer Andy Hughes told the club’s website.”Given the challenges that many sectors are facing right now, including the construction, procurement and public sectors, we are taking a responsible approach to pause the project for at least 12 months.”The complex build program for Anfield Road is an 18-month process and needs two clear summer closed season windows in order for it to be successful.”This is why we are pausing on the project for at least 12 months so the earliest we could complete the program is summer 2023 rather than summer 2022 as originally planned.”center_img Topics :last_img read more

Australia marks 250th anniversary of Cook landing in muted fashion

first_imgThe 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s contentious landing in Australia went largely unmarked Wednesday as the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of long-planned commemorative events.On April 29, 1770, Captain Cook sailed the Endeavour into Botany Bay — called Kamay in the local indigenous language — an event that is increasingly being seen through the eyes of the Aboriginal Australians who were on the shore.Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the anniversary represented “a merging of histories”, calling Cook an “extraordinary individual”. “The day Cook and the local indigenous community at Kamay first made contact 250 years ago changed the course of our land forever,” he said.”It’s a point in time from which we embarked on a shared journey which is realized in the way we live today.”Australia’s government was forced to cancel events marking 250 years since Cook’s landing due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the planned Aus$6.5 million ($4.3 million) circumnavigation of Australia by a replica of the Endeavour.The first contact between the British navigator and Aboriginals foreshadowed the colonization of the continent and centuries of dispossession for indigenous Australians. During his voyage, Cook declared Australia “Terra Nullius” — or legally unoccupied land — and claimed it as British territory despite Aboriginal history stretching back more than 60,000 years.The British later established a penal colony in New South Wales in 1788.Gujaga Foundation chair Ray Ingrey said the indigenous Dharawal people had been working with Australia’s National Museum for 18 months to showcase their ancestors’ recollections of encountering Cook.”Australian society has matured quite a lot over last 50 years since the last anniversary came around, the 200th anniversary,” he told AFP.”A lot of the messages being received by the National Museum was the broader community saying ‘We’ve heard about Cook’s side of story, or the story from the ship, and we want to hear more about the story from the shore’.” Missing stories An online exhibition features the “largely missing” stories passed down through generations of indigenous Australians of those encounters with Cook and his crew.”As the longboats started to row towards the shore, my ancestors realized that they weren’t Aboriginal people at all, they were in fact alien people because they looked so different to ourselves. We actually thought they was ghosts,” elder Shayne Williams said in a video released by the museum.The warriors on the shore started yelling and gesturing for them to leave, before beginning to throw rocks and then throwing spears, which landed at the crew’s feet.”If our people wanted to spear one of those sailors they could have easily done that. But it was just warning shots,” Williams said.”So what Cook and his crew did, they returned fire with their muskets. Actually hit one of the warriors in the legs.”Ingrey said the anniversary was a “significant event for all Australians” but the indigenous side of the story had long been overlooked or misrepresented.”It was the first act of violence towards our people by the British, however it is our shared history and we have shared present, so it’s only common sense that we have a shared future,” he told AFP.”Both stories need to be respected and that’s all that we would hope for, that we have the opportunity to tell our story the way that we want to tell it and be respected to do that. “We can only then move forward as a nation when both histories are acknowledged and accepted.” Topics :last_img read more

UEFA’s Ceferin losing sleep over COVID-19 cost

first_imgUEFA President Aleksander Ceferin says he is having sleepless nights due to the COVID-19 pandemic with European soccer’s governing body set to lose “millions and millions” of dollars after the season came to a halt.European leagues and UEFA competitions have either been suspended since March or had their seasons cut short due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.While the German Bundesliga resumed over the weekend, it is unclear when, or if, other major top flight leagues will restart, with the season set to spill over into August when the 2020-21 campaign is set to kick off. “There is so much information (to take in) and so many calendar issues. So many millions and millions, dozens of millions of dollars, that we will lose,” Ceferin told the Guardian.”It’s then hard to fall asleep at night. You would be quite irresponsible if you could fall asleep immediately.”The situation for UEFA is not that alarming, we’re not in a dangerous situation, but we still care about the clubs and the leagues and the stakeholders so it is a lot of work.”Ceferin said he did not expect football to change once the situation returns to normal but added that Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations could be adapted to the “new times”.”If they don’t follow the rules they will always be sanctioned, but of course we’re thinking about how we can improve our regulations,” he said.”This will not happen very soon but we’re thinking of improving (FFP), modernising it and doing something more about the competitive balance. We’re also considering some sort of ‘luxury tax’, if it’s possible.”Topics :last_img read more