Macau pulls the plug on staycation promotions – CalvinAyre.com

In an effort to promote local tourism and get its commercial activity rolling again, Macau announced a couple of weeks ago a series of initiatives designed to reward those who got out and about around town. Things like local tourism routes and even, in some cases, spending vouchers were introduced and, at first glance, appeared to be helping boost domestic spending. Some of these staycation incentives, though, might not be around for long, though, as the city most famous for its casinos is said to be backing off a plan that would have included stays at area casino resorts, according to GGRAsia.

Macau has reportedly earmarked just over $35 million to spend on various products related to staycation and domestic spending, with the Macao Government Tourist Office (MGTO) overseeing the programs. The initiative established a long list of included activities, one of which would have been staycations at area hotels through the use of vouchers or other incentives. The program officially kicked off last month and is set to run through the end of September, with August being the month chosen for the casino resort promotion.

According to the director of the MGTO, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, the decision to remove the staycation promos stems from the fact that they would have been redundant. She explained during a recent event, I think most large-scale hotels have already been selling some [staycation] packages, and even at very favourable rates. So, at this stage, the Macau government does not need to allocate public resources on a staycation programme.

Its also possible that there had been backlash received over the idea of the government given incentives for locals to hit the slot machines and gaming tables. While there wasnt any official statement to that effect, the idea of using what amounts to public money to allow people to gamble may not have been seen as a smart move. However, it had never been made clear whether or not public funds would have been used for the scheme.

The MGTOs local tourism initiatives are being sponsored by the Macao Foundation, a public entity that is partially funded through gaming taxes, and organized with the help of the Travel Industry Council of Macau, the Association of Macao Tourist Agents and the Macau Travel Agency Association. Since the Macau Foundation is also funded through means other than gaming taxes, the link between public money and gambling funding is tenuous at best.

The local tours will still include trips to the casino resorts, but primarily to visit non-gaming facilities. Among the stops on the tours are places like the backstage area of the House of Dancing Water show at City of Dreams Macau, the digital interactive art display at the Venetian Macao and more.

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54000 seniors to get cash injection on 21 August – Macau News

The Social Security Fund (FSS) said on Tuesday that about 54,000 senior citizens will have the money from the governments annual cash injection into their Central Provident Fund accounts transferred into their bank accounts on 21 August.

The 54,000 senior citizens are those who are eligible to receive this years cash injection and had registered for a new measure which was rolled out last year allowing them to automatically receive the annual payments in their bank accounts, starting from this year, without having to apply for the transfer every year.

Some 20,000 other residents are eligible to receive this years cash injection, comprising 1) senior citizens who did not register for the new measure last year, and 2) those who are not senior citizens but are eligible for this years cash injection due to various kinds of special reasons. They will have the money transferred into their bank accounts on 21 October, provided that they apply for the transfer between next month and September.

The Social Security Fund, which is headquartered on the 18thfloor of China Civil Plaza in Nape, made the announcement during a press conference in a pressroom on the 19thfloor of the building, where a number of service counters run by the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM) are located.

In 2010, the government started to deposit MOP 6,000 into the Central Provident Fund accounts of eligible permanent residents every year. The amount was raised to the current amount of MOP 7,000 in 2014.

The government opens a Central Provident Fund account for every local resident aged at least 18. The system of local residents Central Provident Fund accounts was initially regulated by a now-defunct law which came into force in 2012, which was replaced by the current law on the Non-mandatory Central Provident Fund system.

The citys Non-mandatory Central Provident Fund system was implemented on 1 January 2018.

According to the law, permanent local residents aged at least 22 who stay in Macao for at least 183 days a year are eligible to receive the annual amount injected by the government into their Central Provident Fund accounts. The annual cash injections are officially known as extraordinary budget surplus allotments.

The Social Security Fund announces in June every year a list of permanent residents who are eligible to receive the annual cash injection for the particular year i.e. those who reached the age of 22 by the end of the previous year and stayed in Macao for at least 183 days in the previous year.

Before the new measure, residents aged at least 65 who had been added to the annually updated list could apply to withdraw the annual cash injection for that year, and after the Social Security Fund approved the respective applications, the money was then deposited into their bank accounts.

(The Macau Post Daily/Macau NewsPHOTO Government Information Bureau (GCS)

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54000 seniors to get cash injection on 21 August - Macau News

TikTok says ‘we are not the enemy’ – Macau Business

TikTok pushed back Wednesday at what it called maligning attacks by Facebook as the fast-growing video-sharing app claimed it helps competition in the US market.

The comments by TikTok came hours ahead of a hotly anticipated antitrust hearing with the top executives of Facebook and three other Big Tech firms, and amid suggestions the app may be banned due to its connections to China.

TiKTok welcomes fair competition chief executive Kevin Mayer said in a blog post, while adding that without TikTok, American advertisers would again be left with few choices.

He added: Lets focus our energies on fair and open competition in service of our consumers, rather than maligning attacks by our competitor namely Facebook disguised as patriotism and designed to put an end to our very presence in the US.

The comments appeared to respond to claims by Facebook CEO last year that TikTok had censored information about protests in China, the home of TikTok parent firm ByteDance.

TikTok, which has grown its user base to an estimated one billion, is striving to show that we are responsible and committed members of the American community, according to Mayer, who pledged more transparency from the platform.

With our success comes responsibility and accountability, he said.

The entire industry has received scrutiny, and rightly so. Yet, we have received even more scrutiny due to the companys Chinese origins. We accept this and embrace the challenge of giving peace of mind through greater transparency and accountability.

Mayer said TikTok has established a policy on transparency and added that we believe all companies should disclose their algorithms, moderation policies, and data flows to regulators.

He repeated the companys claims that it has no ties to the Chinese government, after TikTok was banned in India and US officials said they were looking at potential actions against it.

We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy, he said.

TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy.

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Retired teacher loses over RM1mil in Macau scam – The Star Online

PETALING JAYA: A 71-year-old retired teacher lost about RM1.06mil to a Macau scam recently.

Petaling JAYA OCPD Asst Comm Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal said the woman received a call on May 25 supposedly from a Pos Laju company that a parcel under her name was sent from Kepong to Kota Kinabalu.

"The caller alleged that the package was filled with contraband items.

"The call was then transferred to another scammer posing as "Sjn Chong" from Kota Kinabalu.

"The scammer said the victim was being investigated and warned her not to tell anyone or risk prosecution for money laundering," he told a press conference on Monday (July 27).

The victim transferred RM1.06mil of her life savings into ten bank accounts, he added.

"The transactions were made from June 15 until July 23.

"After realising that she has been duped, the victim lodged a police report," ACP Nik Ezanee said.

The Petaling Jaya Commercial Crime Investigation Department has already detected a few accounts used in the scam.

"We will investigate further.

"We believe such scammers often target senior citizens and retirees," he added.

ACP Nik Ezanee advised the public not to release any banking details to anyone.

"Always double-check with police or family members before taking action by transferring funds to these scammers.

"Always stay vigilant and be careful not to be duped by them," he said.


Retired teacher loses over RM1mil in Macau scam - The Star Online

US to withdraw 11900 troops from Germany – Macau Business

The United States will slash its military presence in Germany by 11,900 troops in what the Pentagon on Wednesday called a strategic repositioning but President Donald Trump said was to punish Berlin for its weak defense spending.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the Pentagon will be sending home about 6,400 of its military personnel in Germany, and move nearly 5,600 to other NATO countries, including Italy and Belgium.

Some could also be relocated to Poland and the Baltic countries if Washington can reach agreements with them, he said.

The move, which will cost the US government several billion dollars, will cut the presence of US military personnel in Germany to around 24,000, Esper said.

He stressed that the action is part of his broader plan to reposition US military forces around the world to better address key threats and enhance flexibility, including with the NATO alliance, which is focused on deterring a possible Russian threat to Europe.

But at the White House Trump told reporters that Germany has not paid its fair share for the defense of Europe.

They are there to protect Europe, they are there to protect Germany, and Germany is supposed to pay for it, Trump said of the troops.

We dont want to be the suckers anymore. Were protecting Germany, so were reducing the force because theyre not paying the bills.

In moves that could begin within weeks, some US command operations currently in Germany will be moved to Belgium and Italy, where they will be located with their NATO counterparts, Esper said.

This will strengthen NATO and improve the operational efficiency and readiness of over 2,000 (US) service members, he said.

The planned relocation of 2,500 US air force personnel from Britain to Germany has been cancelled.

The Pentagon also will move an F-16 fighter squadron from Germany to Italy, closer to the Black Sea area where they can protect NATOs southeastern region, he said.

Another command unit and US troops could be rotated into Poland, Esper said, if Warsaw signs a defense cooperation and burden-sharing agreement crafted by Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda in June.

The repositioning of our forces in Europe constitutes a major strategic and positive shift, Esper said.

These changes will unquestionably achieve the core principles of enhancing US and NATO deterrence of Russia; strengthening NATO; reassuring allies; and, improving US strategic flexibility, he said.

The goal is to enhance deterrence and reassure allies along NATOs southeastern flank, Esper said.

The move could have a significant economic and strategic impact in Germany, where tens of thousands of US troops have been stationed since the end of World War II.

Earlier this month, the leaders of four German states urged the US Congress to block the troop reduction, warning it could weaken the Atlantic alliances front against Moscow.

Esper said the move was long-discussed and was not the result of President Donald Trumps unhappiness with the relationship between Washington and Berlin.

Trump abruptly announced plans for the cut in June amid rising political and trade tensions between the two countries.

That came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected Trumps plan to convene the Group of Seven leaders in Washington, citing the ongoing coronavirus threat. At the time, Trump maintained the virus spread was in decline.

Angered, Trump postponed the summit and then said he would expand the group to include Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia was expelled from the elite group after its seizure of Ukraines Crimea region on the Black Sea in 2014.



US to withdraw 11900 troops from Germany - Macau Business

HR association calls on unemployed to improve their career skills – Macau Daily Times

Unemployed and underemployed residents should take this time to improve their professional skills while they wait for the job market to recover, Choi Chin Man, director-general of the Macau Human Resources Association, has said.Currently, the government is offering subsidized training programs through the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL). It caters to unemployed Macau residents or those in specific industries, including taxi drivers, tour guides, tour bus drivers and workers from the conferencing and exhibitions sector.Participants will get a maximum subsidy of MOP6,656 during the training and will be referred to employers by the DSAL upon completing the training. The training scheme is part of the governments economic revival effort in response to the global hit caused by Covid-19.In addition, the government is offering a salary subsidy of MOP15,000 in cash to each eligible Macau resident. The cash handout for this year has been brought forward, as well as two rounds of the consumer e-voucher which provides MOP8,000 in total to all registered Macau ID holders.With many residents wanting additional cash handouts and an increase in the spending value of the consumption card, Choi stated that his association considers expanding the subsidized training program for unemployed and underemployed residents to be a more suitable and preferable policy.The training policy, in Chois opinion, can equip people with new or upgraded knowledge, making them more versatile and adaptive.The subsidized training program is a very good [policy] direction, the director-general said. Receiving training means that they will have polished skills. In future difficult times, they have the skills to choose to change profession or career path.However, he stressed the group of underemployed residents should not be forgotten. Underemployment refers to the proportion of the labor force which is being underutilized in the job market because of their skills, experience or education, or because they are working part- time roles when they could be in full-time roles.According to the director-general, many underemployed residents are earning half or even one-third of their original salaries.They still need to pay their bills house mortgage, car loan, raise their children, Choi stressed.The DSAL has also initiated a scheme with the Higher Education Bureau to arrange internship opportunities for graduating or soon-to-graduate university students. The authorities are working with entities in both Macau and mainland China to offer these students internships for six to eight weeks. When they conclude their internships, the DSAL will pair them with hiring employers. AL

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HR association calls on unemployed to improve their career skills - Macau Daily Times

HSBC aims to double number of black staff in top jobs – Macau Business

London-based HSBC bank aims to double the number of black staff in senior leadership positions and improve hiring strategies for minority candidates following the George Floyd protests, according to a company memo seen by AFP on Wednesday.

Black employees told chief executive Noel Quinn they felt overlooked for career opportunities and uninspired by the lack of senior role models, through to being on the receiving end of everyday slights which left them unable to be their true selves at work.

Quinn said in the memo: Our black colleagues feel that HSBC has not been strong or vocal enough as an organisation on matters that concern them.

The banking giant will improve reporting of its ethnicity data and set specific goals to broaden the diversity of senior leadership, according to the memo.

Its initial plan is to at least double the number of black employees in top jobs by 2025, and to work with an external executive search firm to engage black and ethnically diverse talent for leadership roles, the memo said.

The bank also aims to increase the representation of ethnic minority people on shortlists for mid-career roles and enhance their hiring strategies for graduate programmes.

The Black Lives Matter movement has rightly created more urgent demand for action. These are the initial steps that we as a Group will take in response, said Quinn.

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Tech titans in the spotlight at US antitrust hearing – Macau Business

US lawmakers will grill the chiefs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google Wednesday about how they wield marketplace power in what promises to be a rare political spectacle.

The House of Representatives hearing comes amid rising concerns over Big Tech dominance, which has become even more pronounced during the coronavirus pandemic.

The unprecedented joint appearance before the House Judiciary Committee features Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google and its parent firm Alphabet.

The CEOs of four of the worlds most powerful companies will testify remotely, less than 100 days before the US election.

It will be the first time Bezos has testified before a congressional committee.

The worlds richest man will paint online giant Amazon as an example of US entrepreneurship.

I believe Amazon should be scrutinized, Bezos said in prepared remarks posted online, defiantly adding that when you look in the mirror, assess the criticism, and still believe youre doing the right thing, no force in the world should be able to move you.

Zuckerberg called social media colossus Facebook a proudly American company in prepared marks ahead of the hearing.

Our story would not have been possible without US laws that encourage competition and innovation, he said.

But, he is to say, the rules of the internet need updating.

Pichai will highlight how Alphabet is helping America remain a technology leader in the face of growing competition.

Cook will say scrutiny is reasonable and appropriate but that Apple will make no concession on the facts.

Apple does not have a dominant position in any market, and the iPhone faces fierce competition, according to Cooks prepared remarks.

The hearing is part of a congressional probe into online platforms and market power and takes place against a backdrop of antitrust investigations in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

The Street will be laser focused on this next step in the Big Tech vs. Beltway UFC battle, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a recent note to investors.

Will this be a grandstanding event with minimal substance or a potential Fort Sumter moment for the anti-trust momentum against tech stalwarts? he wrote, referring to the opening salvo of the US Civil War.

Avery Gardiner, an antitrust expert at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said the hearing will offer a timely focus on key issues around competition and concentration of economic power.

People are feeling frustrated with the way our society is organized, and antitrust is one tool to go after powerful companies, she said.

Current US antitrust laws make it difficult for enforcers to target companies simply for being large or dominant without also showing harm to consumers or abuse of market power.

Because of that, the real purpose of the hearing is theatrical, and tied to the politicians electoral interests, said Christopher Sagers, a law professor specializing in antitrust at Cleveland State University.

The tech company chiefs will stress how they benefit consumers, particularly during the pandemic, and face competition particularly from China.

The antitrust debate is being muddied by rising techlash over a range of issues from privacy to economic inequality to political bias.

Social media giants face attacks for allegedly using their dominance to stifle conservative views a claim made by President Donald Trump.

Facebook has also been accused of failing to curb hateful content promoting violence, including posts from Trump.

Any effort to use antitrust laws to enforce free speech would run into constitutional concerns, raising the specter of a government censor, according to Sagers.

My fear is that members of Congress will have a hard time sticking to antitrust, and well hear a lot of questions about privacy, content moderation, worker conditions, said Gardiner.

Facebook could come under scrutiny for its acquisition of nascent rivals, which critics say squelches competition and increases its dominance of social media.

Smaller rivals have long complained about competing against the giants: Yelp argues that Google favors its own sites while Spotify says Apple Music has an unfair advantage.

Experts say there are limited remedies under existing law and precedent to deal with tech platform dominance.

Antitrust enforcers face a delicate task because it is not illegal to be big, said Gardiner.

Investigators must identify abuse of market power, which is difficult to define, she said.

Even then, it may be hard to craft a remedy in the public interest because of the benefits offered by the tech platforms massive scale.

You dont want to have to check 11 different social media sites for pictures of your kids on Halloween, Gardiner said.

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Tech titans in the spotlight at US antitrust hearing - Macau Business

No indication new coronavirus is seasonal: WHO – Macau Business

The spread of the novel coronavirus does not appear to be impacted by seasonality, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, warning against false beliefs that summer is safer.

Season does not seem to be affecting the transmission of this virus, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters in a virtual briefing.

She pointed out that some of the hardest-hit countries are currently in the midst of different season.

While it is summer in the United States, which with nearly 148,000 deaths and close to 4.3 million cases is the hardest-hit country, the second most affected country Brazil, which counts more than 87,000 deaths, is in winter.

And yet, she said, there seems to be this fixed idea about this virus being seasonal, and that COVID-19 will come in waves.

This is because people are mistakenly viewing the pandemic through a flu lense, because that is the way the flu behaves.

What we all need to get our heads around is this is a new virus and even though it is a respiratory virus and even though respiratory viruses in the past did tend to do these different seasonal waves, this one is behaving differently, Harris said.

Instead of expecting the virus to behave like other viruses that are more familiar, she said people should look at what is actually known about how to stop transmission of COVID-19.

What works, she said, is physical distancing, hand washing, wearing a mask where appropriate, always covering up sneezes and coughs, staying home when experiencing symptoms, the isolation of cases and quarantining of contacts.

But at the moment, we arent doing that, because people seem to have it fixed in their heads that there is this seasonal thing and there seems to be this persistent belief that summer is not a problem, Harris said.

Summer is a problem. This virus likes all weathers, but what it particularly likes is jumping from one person to another when we come in close contact, Harris said.

Lets not give it that opportunity.

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No indication new coronavirus is seasonal: WHO - Macau Business

Romanian watermills face renovation or ruin – Macau Business

In a small Romanian village, Alois Nemecek is not ready to give up grinding grain yet, but he might be one of the last to run a watermill.

The young ones left for work in the Czech Republic, and some people have already started buying their bread, says the resident of the village of Garnic.

The tiny community, inhabited by a Czech minority, is located in Banat, a region along the Danube river in western Romania that is home to some 250 watermills, about 150 of which are still functional, according to the NGO Acasa in Banat (At home in Banat).

In Garnic, about 15 families owned each of the 10 watermills, and took turns using them.

As in many other parts of Romania, emigration has decimated the population of a village founded nearly 200 years ago by settlers from Bohemia, and only around 230 inhabitants remain, surrounded by forests and fields.

At least four million Romanians are estimated to be living abroad, with many having left the EUs poorest member of almost 20 million people in search of better jobs.

Nemecek counts the days hell still be able to carry grain bags between the mill and his home, where his wife bakes bread for them to eat and occasionally trade.

I cant work like before, says the 65-year-old, a man of imposing stature with smiles to spare.

A few hundred metres (yards) downstream, Iosif Kapic, 57, continues to grind corn for his calves and pigs at another mill once or twice a week.

Im the last one; everyone else left, he said.

Pointing to the oak structure that straddles a stream and is surrounded by vegetation, he adds: This mill is 150 years old. I just replaced the tiles, but the wood and grindstone are the original ones.

Owing to a lack of use however, several Garnic mills have already become soulless buildings, with blocked water channels and crippled wheels.

Striving to keep the ancestral occupation alive, Acasa in Banat has launched a project to renovate them in hope of attracting tourists.

In mid-July, around 60 volunteers cleaned up the Camenita river that runs through Garnic, replaced tiles, reinforced foundations and treated the wood with flax oil from four mills.

Our goal is to keep the mills alive, the organisations vice-president, Nicoleta Trifan, tells AFP.

Her group hopes the project will be beneficial for the villagers who will be able to earn a little more money, for example by selling organic flour to tourists.

This is a fantastic heritage, we hope that other communities will follow our example to showcase it Tourists are now more than ever in search of authentic experiences, she adds.

The presence of holidaymakers could indeed encourage Vencl Srameks family to bake bread again, as they did until a few years ago, the 72-year-old says.

Nothing compares to the taste of homemade pita, the villager recalls wistfully.

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110000 residents top up their consumption smartcards on 1st day – Macau News

About 110,000 residents went to top up their consumption subsidy smartcard on Monday, the first day of the procedure, according to a statement from Economic Services Bureau (DSE), as the governments second phase subsidy scheme giving each resident MOP 5,000 to spend locally begins on Saturday.

In the first phase of the scheme, the government gave each resident MOP 3,000 to spend from 1 May to 31 July with a maximum daily spending set at MOP 300. The scheme is part of the governments effort to boost local consumption and stabilise the job market amid the ongoing adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Macaos economy.

The MOP 3,000 in the first phase will not be carried forward into the second phase. If a resident does not spend it all by Friday, the money will revert to the public coffers, and then residents can top their cards up on Saturday.

For those who have spent all their MOP 3,000, they can top their cards up now, but can only start spending the cash on Saturday.

To receive the MOP 5,000, residents just need to place their cards over a Macau Pass reader installed at 190 service points which can be found on public administration premises, community association venues and bank branches. To top-up, residents do not need to present their ID cards.

Holders will have to spend the MOP 5,000 from Saturday to 31 December, and the same as the first phase, they can only spend up to MOP 300 per day during the second phase.

A resident who topped up his card at an Areia Preta service point told the Macau Post Daily on Monday that the process of topping-up merely took one second, adding that it was very convenient.

No need to rush to top-up

Pong Kai Fu, who heads DSEs Research Department, told reporters during a media briefing at the Government Services Centre in Areia Preta on Monday that nearly 10,000 smartcards had been topped by 9:45 am on Monday, adding that every top-up point was running smoothly.

Pong also said that a few residents whose cards still had some money on them couldnt top up their cards. He advised residents to check the balance online, or check at the reader at any top-up point.

Pong called on residents not to rush to top-up their cards as they could do it any time in the months up to December.

People can wait until their card balance is zero and then go to top it up at the service points on Saturday, Pong said.

Ho Cheng Wa, who heads the Municipal Affairs Bureaus (IAM) Department of Integrated Services and Quality Supervision, told reporters on the same occasion on Monday that officials allowed more than 100 people that were queuing outside the Government Services Centre in Areia Preta to top-up their smart cards from 8:10 am on Monday, to wait inside the building.

The centres opening hours are from 9 am to 6 pm. It is closed on weekends and public holidays.

(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)PHOTO The Macau Post Daily/Nicole Iun

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110000 residents top up their consumption smartcards on 1st day - Macau News

Workers say they knew nothing of colleagues used to file IPIM applications – Macau Daily Times

Several of the witnesses heard yesterday in the ongoing corruption case involving the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM) supported the prosecutions claims that some of the applicants for Macau residency were people who had never worked for the companies listed on their applications.The high-profile case involves some 26 defendants accused of corruption crimes, the forging documents and making false declarations on applications for residency.In the Court of First Instance session yesterday, testimony was offered by people who used to work in several companies owned by defendant Ng Kuok Sao, who is accused of heading the unlawful scheme to unlawfully obtain residency permits.Among the witnesses were several workers from different departments at the One Kin Construction Company, which is considered to be the headquarters from which the scheme operated. Others worked for smaller companies that were used to hire applicants attempting to obtain the Macau residency through qualified technical or higher management staff programs.All testimonies offered to the court consistently noted that they did not know and had not met the applicants, nor had they heard of the job positions listed in the IPIM applications.The highlight of the session was the testimony of a former staff member at the One Kin Company, Alin Cheang, who worked in the company for just over one year.The name of this individual had been raised on several previous occasions. Documents and messages to Ngs wife, Wu Sok Wah, as well as to another assistant, showed her involvement in processing the cases of at least three of the applicants.In her testimony, Cheang first said that she had not handled any of the cases related to residency. However, she was stopped by Judge Leong Fong Meng who accused her of lying to the court.Leong urged the witness to change her statement and tell the truth, otherwise a criminal case would be filed against her for lying to the court.

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Another record surge of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong – Macau News

Hong Kong reported on Monday a record number of 145 new coronavirus infections, 142 of which are local cases.

Of the local cases, 83 are linked to previously confirmed cases while officials are unable to trace the source of infection of 59 patients.

There are 13 more confirmed cases at an elderly care home in Tuen Mun, taking the total number of residents and staff infected there to 24.

A caretaker who works at a care home for the severely disabled in Tuen Mun has come down with COVID-19. A nurse who works at an elderly care home in Fanling has also been confirmed with the infection.

Several more workers at the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse have tested positive for the virus in preliminary tests.

Meanwhile, the Hospital Authority said two nurses who work at Prince of Wales Hospital and Shatin Hospital respectively tested positive for the virus after their family members were confirmed with the infection.

The authority said the number of patients in a critical condition has risen to 39. More than 100 newly confirmed patients are waiting to be admitted to hospitals.

More than 60 people have tested positive for the virus in preliminary tests pending confirmation.

(RTHK/Macau News)

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Another record surge of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong - Macau News

Govt to finish leisure land projects this year – Macau Daily Times

Sports and leisure facilities, playgrounds, restaurants, cafes, and garden areas; these are just some of the proposed plans that will go ahead, as announced by the government during this years Policy Address.Some of the projects, which were announced at the Legislative Assembly (AL) by the Secretary for Administration and Justice, Andr Cheong on April 24, have already started development and will be concluded before the year ends.One of the most ambitious projects is located at Macaus seafront. This project promises to reshape the whole coastal area from the Science Center to Barra.Works on the project started on May 15 and the first phase is expected to last 208 days, that is, until December 9. The government also announced that it will be investing some 60 million patacas in this project and aims to create some 200 jobs.According to the Policy Address, a similar project will also begin in due course at Hac Sa Beach in Coloane after the governments retrieval of several land plots in that area.In a statement, the Municipal Affairs Bureau (IAM) said that the ongoing construction works in the first phase of the coastal project between the Science Center and the Statue of Goddess Kun Iam in NAPE came in response to the community calling for more recreational and leisure areas to be built along coastal areas.IAM will build, in a phased manner, a green corridor on the south bank of Macau, connecting the Science Center to Goddess Kun Iam and Barra, providing a diversified coastal leisure space and building a healthy city for the people of Macau, the statement says.In this first phase, the project spans an area of 15,000 square meters from the Science Center to the Statue of Goddess Kun Iam and will include, among other infrastructure, a childrens playground, a walking/jogging track, esplanade, and multisport fields, physical exercise equipment, a gate-ball field, and a skating rink.Preparations to build a cycling path linking this area to Barra will begin in the first phase, and will subsequently be built in the second phase.The IAM also noted that the works under development are being done according to the government policy of work instead of subsidies, started by Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng, whose goal is to create more jobs and business opportunities for people and private companies instead of promoting government subsidies.Several other projects moving forward are included in the same package but are of much smaller scale. They include the reconstruction of the Sai Van Lake pedestrian area that started early this month and is expected to finish by the end of November, and the renovation of Chunambeiro Park which began in early June and should reach completion before the end of September.As for the large-scale leisure complex that will be created at Hac Sa Beach, the plan states that the whole area, including the existing facilities for picnic, playgrounds and the swimming pool, will be upgraded giving way to new sports and recreational spaces, as well as significant improvements made to the camping site and horticulture area.The many projects under Cheongs purview aim to meet the call for more quality spaces in Macau to fulfill the demands of Macau as a World Center of Tourism and Leisure, the Secretary said at the AL during the Policy Address discussion.At the time, Cheong also mentioned that those projects include some of the idle land retrieved in the past few years by the government to put them to good use for the population.As another example, the Secretary mentioned four land plots reclaimed by the government at Doca do Lam Mau where the government now proposes to build sports fields, physical exercise areas, and playgrounds on an area of around 3,700 square meters.

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Govt to finish leisure land projects this year - Macau Daily Times

‘Parts of Spain safer than UK’, PM Sanchez says – Macau Business

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has hit back at Britains move to quarantine all travellers returning home from Spain, saying parts of the country are safer than the UK.

The Spanish leader defended the Balearic and Canary islands, Andalucia and the Valencia region favourite summer holiday destinations for Britons saying they had a cumulative incidence of the virus that is lower than that currently in the United Kingdom.

That is to say, in epidemiological terms, it might even be safer at these destinations than in the United Kingdom, Sanchez told the private channel Telecinco in an interview late Monday.

The spread of the infection in Spain was uneven, he said, with two-thirds of new cases registered in just two regions Aragon and Catalonia,where the regional authorities have urged residents of metropolitan Barcelona and another city to stay at home.

Madrid was in talks with London to try to convince them to reconsider the measure, which in our opinion is unbalanced, he said.

British tourists are the largest national group of visitors to Spain, with 18 million of them visiting the country last year.

The quarantine decision is a major blow to Spains tourist industry, which accounts for 12 percent of gross domestic product and 13 percent of employment.

We will continue working with the British authorities, Sanchez said, adding that in a significant part of the country, the epidemic is well under control.

Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya had on Sunday tried to allay fears after some countries reimposed travel restrictions on Spain.

Spain is a safe country, she told reporters. Like other European countries, Spain has new outbreaks. Its not unusual.

Madrid is making great efforts to control these outbreaks, she said after nearly 1,000 new cases were reported on Thursday and Friday.

The number of COVID-19 cases has tripled in two weeks, and the authorities are monitoring more than 360 outbreaks.

Passengers from Spain arriving in the UK must now spend a fortnight in isolation, with Norway imposing similar conditions.

On Friday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex strongly recommended that people avoid going to northeastern Spain, the worst-hit area.

Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 28,400 lives and infected more than 272,400 people, declaring a lockdown and state of emergency in mid-March which only lifted on June 21.

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'Parts of Spain safer than UK', PM Sanchez says - Macau Business

Virus-hit Iran warns against weddings and funerals – Macau Business

Tehran on Monday warned Iranians against holding wedding and funeral gatherings as the countrys novel coronavirus outbreak showed no signs of abating, claiming another 212 lives.

Despite repeated calls to not hold weddings and mourning ceremonies, reports from across the country still indicate they are taking place, said health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari.

The presence of people at these overcrowded events increases the risk of mass infection, she added, in remarks aired on state television.

While there is no nationwide ban on weddings and funerals, the venues in which they are staged have been ordered shut and authorities have repeatedly urged people to keep such gatherings small.

The Islamic republic has been battling to contain the Middle Easts deadliest novel coronavirus outbreak since announcing its first cases on February 19.

Lari said another 212 people had died of the COVID-19 illness in the past 24 hours, bringing the countrys overall death toll since February to 15,912.

She added that 2,434 new infections during the same period took the total caseload to 293,606.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei has also tested positive for the novel coronavirus, state news agency IRNA reported on Monday.

Rabiei had been resting at home since late last week after showing some symptoms but has since been hospitalised, IRNA added.

He is the latest high-profile Iranian official to contract the novel coronavirus. Several have died but most have recovered.

Virus-related deaths and infections in Iran have risen to record highs since hitting months-long lows in May.

That has prompted authorities to make masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and reimpose restrictions in some areas.

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Virus-hit Iran warns against weddings and funerals - Macau Business

Jordan to reopen to ‘low risk’ countries in August – Macau Business

Jordan will reopen its airports to commercial flights next month after a near five-month shutdown imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, an official said Sunday.

The move comes as the country is trying to revive its economy which has been badly hit since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Civil aviation commission chief Haitham Misto told state television that flights from 22 low risk countries will be allowed from August 5.

The countries listed by the health ministry include Austria, Canada, China, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Thailand, he said.

Travellers from those countries will not need to isolate for 14 days when they reach Jordan but must be tested for the virus before arriving, Misto said, adding that the list would be updated every two weeks.

Transport Minister Khaled Saif however that those travellers must show proof of having spent two weeks in one of the countries on the list before arriving in Jordan.

Anyone providing false information will be fined 10,000 dinars ($14,000), he said.

The desert kingdom, which has recorded 1,154 cases of the virus including 11 deaths, imposed a tough curfew enforced with drones to curb the spread of COVID-19, before easing policies in early June.

Airports were closed in mid-March and international flights suspended.

The curbs hit cash-trapped Jordan hard. Its economy relies heavily on international aid, tourism revenues and expatriate remittances.

Before the coronavirus struck, Jordan hosted five million visitors a year and tourism accounts for 14 percent of the countrys GDP, employing about 100,000 people.

Tourism earned Jordan around $5.3 billion last year.

Around a quarter of a million people a year used to visit Jordan for medical treatmentbefore the pandemic broke out, bringing in some $1.5 billion.

The country was already in a precarious situation even before the new coronavirus, with unemployment at 19.3 percent in the first quarter of this year.

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Jordan to reopen to 'low risk' countries in August - Macau Business

‘Alarm’ at Poland’s plan to leave treaty protecting women – Macau Business

The Council of Europe said Sunday it is alarmed that Polands right-wing government is moving to withdraw from a landmark international treaty combating violence against women.

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said on the weekend that on Monday he will begin preparing the formal process to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, the worlds first binding instrument to prevent and combat violence against women, from marital rape to female genital mutilation.

A previous centrist Polish government signed the treaty in 2012 and it was ratified in 2015, when Ziobro called it an invention, a feminist creation aimed at justifying gay ideology.

The treaty was spearheaded by the Council of Europe, the continents oldest human rights organisation, and its Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric condemned the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) governments plan to withdraw.

Leaving the Istanbul Convention would be highly regrettable and a major step backwards in the protection of women against violence in Europe, she said in a statement on Sunday.

If there are any misconceptions or misunderstandings about the convention, we are ready to clarify them in a constructive dialogue.

Around two thousand people marched in the Polish capital Warsaw on Friday to protest the governments withdrawal plan, some shouting stop violence against women.

There was also outrage from several members of the European Parliament, with Iratxe Garcia Perez, the Spanish leader of the Socialist group, calling the decision disgraceful.

I stand with Polish citizens taking (to) the streets to demand respect for womens rights, he tweeted.

The leader of the EU parliaments Renew Europe group, former Romanian prime minister Dacian Ciolos, tweeted: Using the fight against the Istanbul Convention as an instrument to display its conservatism is a new pitiful and pathetic move by some within the PiS government.

Fellow MEP and former Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt said the decision was scandalous, adding that violence is not a traditional value.

The Council of Europe emphasised that the Istanbul Conventions sole objective is to combat violence against women and domestic violence.

The treaty does not explicitly mention gay marriage.

But that has not stopped the backlash to it in Hungary and Slovakia, where the parliament rejected the treaty insisting without proof that it is at odds with the countrys constitutional definition of marriage as a heterosexual union.

The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, which is separate from the European Union, has no binding powers but brings together 47 member states to make recommendations on rights and democracy.

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'Alarm' at Poland's plan to leave treaty protecting women - Macau Business

The message behind golds rally: the world economy is in trouble – Macau Daily Times

Its easy to forget now but there was a time early on in the pandemic when the price of gold was in freefall.It was a curious thing, what with the virus sparking a collapse in the global economy, and it would prove in time to be one of the great head-fakes in the recent history of financial markets. For the pandemic of 2020 would soon show itself to be the driving force behind one of the most ferocious rallies the gold market has ever seen. At the close of trading in New York on Friday, bullion had spiraled to $1,902.02 an ounce, some 30% higher than the low it hit in March and just 1% off a record high set back in 2011.The virus has unleashed a torrent of forces that are conspiring to fuel relentless demand for the perceived safety from turmoil that gold provides. Theres the fear of further government-ordered lockdowns; and politicians decision to push through unprecedented stimulus packages; and central bankers decision to print money faster than they ever have before to finance that spending; and the plunge in inflation-adjusted bond yields into negative territory in the U.S.; and the dollars sudden decline against the euro and yen; and rising U.S.-China tensions.All these things, when taken together, have even triggered concern in some financial circles that stagflation a rare combination of sluggish growth and rising inflation that erodes the value of fixed-income investments could take hold across parts of the developed world.In the U.S., where the virus is still raging and the economic recovery is stalling, this debate is growing louder. Investor expectations for annual inflation over the next decade, as measured by a bond-market metric known as breakevens, have moved higher the past four months after plunging in March. On Friday, they hit 1.5%. And while that remains below pre-pandemic levels and below the Federal Reserves own 2% target, it is almost a full percentage point higher than the 0.59% yield that benchmark 10-year Treasury bonds pay.The main driver behind golds latest rally has been real rates that continue to plummet and dont show signs of easing anytime soon, Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at Oanda Corp., said by phone. Gold is also drawing investors concerned that stagflation will win out and will likely warrant even further accommodation from the Fed.U.S. bond markets have been a driving force behind the rush to gold, which is serving as an attractive hedge as yields on Treasuries that strip out the effects of inflation fall below zero. Investors are looking for safe havens that wont lose value.The mania for gold right now has trickled down to Main Street. Retail investors have helped put ETF holdings backed by gold on track for an 18th straight weekly gain, the longest streak since 2006. Meanwhile, gold posted its seventh weekly gain on Friday, and analysts dont expect the increases to end anytime soon.When interest rates are zero or near zero, then gold is an attractive medium to have because you dont have to worry about not getting interest on your gold, Mark Mobius, co-founder at Mobius Capital Partners, said in a Bloomberg TV interview. I would be buying now and continue to buy.Analysts have been predicting huge upside for gold for several months. In April, Bank of America Corp. raised its 18-month gold-price target to $3,000 an ounce.The global pandemic is providing a sustained boost to gold, Francisco Blanch, BofAs head of commodities and derivatives research, said Friday, citing impacts including falling real rates, growing inequality and declining productivity. Moreover, as Chinas GDP quickly converges to U.S. levels helped by the widening gap in Covid-19 cases, a tectonic geopolitical shift could unfold, further supporting the case for our $3,000 target over the next 18 months.Bank of Americas bold prediction was made after gold prices initially dropped in March as investors sought cash to cover losses on riskier assets. Prices quickly recovered after a surprise cut to the Feds benchmark rate and signs that the economic toll of the coronavirus would lead to massive stimulus efforts from global governments and central banks.This isnt the first time gold has gotten help from central bank stimulus programs. From December 2008 to June 2011, the Fed bought $2.3 trillion of debt and held borrowing costs near zero percent in a bid to shore up growth, helping send bullion to a record $1,921.17 in September 2011.The crisis a decade ago was all about banks, said Afshin Nabavi, head of trading at Swiss refiner and dealer MKS PAMP Group, who nows sees gold pointing towards $2,000.This time, to be honest, I do not see the end of the tunnel, he said, at least until U.S. elections in November. Steven Frank, Vivien Lou Chen & Elena Mazneva, Bloomberg

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The message behind golds rally: the world economy is in trouble - Macau Daily Times

Passion for purple revives ancient dye in Tunisia – Macau Business

A Tunisian man has pieced together bits of a local secret linked to ancient emperors: how to make a prized purple dye using the guts of a sea snail.

At the beginning, I didnt know where to start, said Mohamed Ghassen Nouira, who heads a consulting firm.

I would crush the whole shell and try to understand how this small marine animal released such a precious colour.

Now, after years of trial and error and after getting used to the foul stench he uses a hammer and small stone mortar to carefully break open the spiny murex shells.

What happens next is part of a secret guarded so closely that it disappeared hundreds of years ago.

A symbol of power and prestige, the celebrated purple colour was traditionally used for royal and imperial robes.

Production of the dye was among the main sources of wealth for the ancient Phoenicians, and then for the Carthaginian and Roman empires, said Ali Drine, who heads the research division of Tunisias National Heritage Institute.

The industry was under the control of the emperors because it brought a lot of money to the imperial coffers, he said.

In August 2007 on a Tunisian beach, Nouira found a shell releasing a purplish red colour, reminding him of something hed learnt in history class at school.

He bought more shells from local fishermen and set out experimenting in an old outside kitchen at his fathers house that he still uses as a workshop.

Experts in dyeing, archaeology and history, as well as chemistry, helped and encouraged me, but nobody knew the technique, Nouira said.

No historical documents clearly detail the production methods for the purple pigment, Drine said.

Maybe because the artisans did not want to divulge the secrets of their know-how, or they were afraid to because the production of purple was directly associated with the emperors, who tolerated no rivalry, he said.

The only clues for unearthing the techniques lie in archaeological sites and artefacts in the Mediterranean, particularly in Tyre in southern Lebanon, and Meninx, on the coast of Tunisias Djerba island.

Phoenicians from Tyre set down the foundations of what would become the Carthaginian empire on the Tunisian coasts.

Also known as Tyrian purple, the pigment is still highly valued today and is produced by just a handful of people around the world.

They include a German painter and a Japanese enthusiast, each with their own secret techniques.

Among the buyers are collectors, artists and researchers.

The dye can cost $2,800 per gramme from some European traders, and prices can reach up to $4,000, Nouira said.

He said he had produced a total of several dozen grammes of the pure purple dye, which he sells internationally for more modest prices.

Nouira said that when he sought help from other dye-makers, one told him bluntly, its not a cooking recipe to be passed around.'

That made me even more determined. It drove me to read more and redouble my efforts.

In a wooden box where he keeps his stock, ranging from indigo blue to violet, Nouira carefully guards a dye sample from 2009 a dear memento of my first success.

I improved my methods until I found the right technique and mastered it from 2013-2014, he said.

To obtain one gramme of pure purple dye, Nouira said he had to shell 100 kilogrammes of murex, a task that takes him two weekends.

He washes the marine snails and sorts them by species and size, then carefully breaks the upper part of the shells to extract the gland that, after oxidisation, produces the purple colour.

Nouira said his greatest wish was to see his work exhibited in Tunisian museums.

Purple has great tourist potential, he added, expressing a desire to one day also conduct workshops.

But he lamented what he said was the authorities lack of interest in the craft.

In the meantime, he too is keeping his trade secrets close, and said he hoped to pass them on to his children.

Im very satisfied, and Im also proud to have revived something related to our Carthaginian ancestors.

by Kaouther Larbi

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Passion for purple revives ancient dye in Tunisia - Macau Business