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World News: Housing crisis for victims of Hurricane Sandy

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

US storm victims face housing crisis as cold snap hits
Phuket Gazette / Reuters
PHUKET: A housing crisis loomed in New York City as victims of superstorm Sandy struggled without heat in near-freezing temperatures yesterday and nearly 1 million people in neighboring New Jersey shivered in the dark without power.

Fuel shortages and power outages lingered nearly a week after one of the worst storms in US history flooded homes in coastal neighbourhoods. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 30,000 to 40,000 people in New York City alone would need shelter.

“We don’t have a lot of empty housing in this city. It’s a problem to find housing. We’re not going to let anybody go sleeping in the street,” Bloomberg said. “But it’s a challenge and we’re working on this as fast as we can.”

Temperatures were forecast to fall close to freezing overnight and an early-season “Nor’easter” storm was expected to hit the battered region this week with strong winds and heavy rain.

“The power is back, but we have no heat,” said Adeline Camacho, a volunteer who was giving soup and sandwiches to needy residents of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. “A lot of people haven’t been able to bathe or stay warm. Last night was cold and this night is going to be much worse.”

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said federal agencies are looking for apartments and hotel rooms for people displaced by Sandy. “Housing is really the number one concern,” Napolitano said at a news conference with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Overnight, at least two more bodies were found in New Jersey – one dead of hypothermia – as the overall North American death toll from Sandy climbed to at least 113.

“People are in homes that are uninhabitable,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference.

Concerns are also growing that voters displaced by Sandy won’t get to polling stations on Election Day tomorrow. Scores of voting centres were rendered useless by the record surge of seawater in New York and New Jersey.

STRUGGLING IN STATEN ISLAND
Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean before turning north and hammering the US Eastern Seaboard on Monday with 80 mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds.

The two new deaths in New Jersey – where the storm came ashore last Monday night – included a 71-year-old man who suffered from hypothermia and a 55-year-old man who died from smoke inhalation in a house fire, police said.

That raised New Jersey’s death toll to 24 while the New York City death count was 40.

In the hard-hit borough of Staten Island, Marie Mandia’s house had a yellow sticker on it, meaning the city restricted its use. The storm surge broke through her windows and flooded her basement and main floor, the retired teacher said.

“I’m not staying here. There’s no protection,” said Mandia, 60, who stood outside by a pile of her ruined things – a washer, drier, television and furniture. “Here’s my life. Everybody’s looking at it.”

Similar scenes of destruction were to be seen in the Rockaways, a strip of land along the Atlantic in Queens. Street after street, people were digging out from under several feet of sand and cleaning up from the deluge of water that ripped apart fences, turned over cars and left homes flooded.

Volunteers made their way there to help, even as life appeared to be back to normal in Times Square, where the neon lights were bright and Broadway theatres were up and running.

“It’s like the city, the officials have forgotten us. Only our neighbours and strangers, volunteers, have been here,” Gregory Piechocki said. “We don’t need food or water. We need a warm place to sleep and some sign that we aren’t forgotten.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said 182,000 individuals in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey had registered for assistance by yesterday afternoon, and more than US$158 million had been approved.

Sunday was to have been marathon day in New York, an occasion that normally draws more than 40,000 runners from around the world. But Bloomberg abruptly called off the race on Friday, bowing to criticism that it would divert resources from flood-ravaged neighbourhoods.

Without a race, hundreds of runners set off on informal runs to deliver food and clothes to people in need. More than 1,000 people crowded onto two Staten Island Ferry boats early yesterday morning, headed to the stricken borough with relief supplies.

Ruth Silverberg, 59, recently took a cruise in the Bahamas. She returned to her Staten Island home for the first time since the storm and found more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) of water in her basement. “Things were just floating. I thought it would take me two weeks to clear it out,” she said.

Instead, a group of 15 marathon runners formed an assembly line and cleared the basement of its contents in two hours. “I’m awed,” Silverberg said, her voice breaking.

FUEL AND POWER CRISIS
Fuel supplies continued to rumble toward disaster zones and electricity was slowly returning to darkened neighbourhoods where many families have been without power for six days.

In New Jersey, where residents were waiting for hours in line at gas stations, Christie tried to ease the fuel crunch by reassuring people that refineries and pipelines were back online and gas was being delivered. “We do not have a fuel shortage,” he said at a news conference.

The New York Harbor energy network was returning to normal with mainline power restored, but there were growing concerns about heating oil supplies with cold weather forecast.

Power restorations over the weekend relit the skyline in Lower Manhattan for the first time in nearly a week and allowed 80 percent of the New York City subway service to resume. But Bloomberg said it would be a “very, very long time” before power would return to certain New York neighbourhoods along the coast.

Most schools were due to reopen on Monday, though some were still being used as shelters. Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station, Long Island, was housing about 100 people and expecting more to arrive as temperatures fall.

Some 1.9 million homes and business still lacked power across the Northeast on Sunday, down from 2.5 million the day before.

“All these numbers are nice, but they mean nothing until the power is on in your house,” Cuomo said.

One of those still without power was 70-year-old Ramon Rodriguez, who lives in the Brooklyn seafront neighbourhood of Red Hook. “I feel like I’ve spent my whole Social Security check on batteries and candles,” Rodriguez said as he waited in line at the 99 Cent Dreams store. His search for ice to keep his freezer cold came up short. But, he added, “at least it’s cold enough to leave food outside the windowsill.”

At the building where he lives, garbage bags were piled high and the intercom that is typically used for security was not working, so the front door was unlocked.

ELECTION FACES ‘REAL PROBLEMS’
President Barack Obama, neck-and-neck in opinion polls with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, ordered emergency response officials to cut through government “red tape” and work without delay to help affected areas return to normal.

With the post-storm chaos overshadowing the final days of campaigning, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 6

— Reuters

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Economy

Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand

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Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand | The Thaiger

Vietnamese finance officials are downgrading expectations for a recovery of the south east Asian nation’s economy in 2021. The normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 has stalled due to a huge drop in local and global demand, and the absence of international tourism. The booming economy, growing at an average of 6% per year since 2012, will struggle to reach a growth rate of 2% this year.

Fuelled by manufactured exports, the Vietnam economy has dropped back to a trickle. The Asian Development Bank estimates that this year’s GDP growth could be as low as 1.8%. The Vietnamese factories, that usually crank out shoes, garments, furniture and cheap electronics, are seeing dropping demand as the world’s consumer confidence drops dramatically.

Stay-at-home rules in Europe and America are keeping are keeping people away from retail stores. And despite the acceleration of online retail, many of the consumers are emerging from the Covid Spring and Summer with vastly reduced spending power.

The headaches of 2020 are also challenging Vietnam to maintain its reputation as south east Asia’s manufacturing hotspot. Rising costs and xenophobic foreign policy have put China ‘on the nose’ with some governments, complicating factory work in China, whilst other south east Asian countries lack infrastructure and are incurring higher wage costs.

One Vietnamese factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which produces footwear for top international brands, has laid off 150 workers earlier this year. There are hundreds more examples of the impact of falling demand in the bustling Vietnamese manufacturing economy.

Vietnam’s border closure is also preventing investors from making trips, setting up meetings and pushing projects forward. Those projects in turn create jobs, fostering Vietnam’s growing middle class. Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel. “International tourism is dead,” says Jack Nguyen, a partner at Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.”

“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements. Who knows when that’s going to be.”

A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result.

“Recovery could take 4 years.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment is now warning that global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as 4 years, perhaps more.

Not that foreign investors in the country are pulling out. Indeed, many are tainge a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive Covid-19. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.

SOURCE: VOA News

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Business

Singapore’s population contracts along with its GDP

The Thaiger

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Singapore’s population contracts along with its GDP | The Thaiger

The little south east Asian island nation of Singapore, which has always punched way above its weight, with the fourth largest economy, but the biggest GDP per capita in the region, is getting smaller. Both its economy and population. The population of the Republic of Singapore is shrinking for the first time since 2003. Border closures and, mostly, job losses, are forcing 10s of 1000s of foreign workers back to their home countries.

Singapore’s overall population dropped by nearly 20,000 people, or 0.3% of the population at the endow 2019, to 5.69 million people.

There’s been a sharp drop in expats, down 2% to 1.64 million, and a smaller drop in permanent residents. At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a number of citizens to return from overseas, swelling the numbers of locals slightly.

The annual report of Singapore’s demographics notes that the transitions are nearly entirely due to the coronavirus outbreak. The report also says that there has already been an economic decline officially estimated between 5%-7% for 2020.

“These trends were largely due to Covid-19 related challenges, brought about by weak demand and travel restrictions. The government has been raising barriers for foreign hiring to preserve jobs for locals.”

Singapore’s non-resident population has surged 200% over the last 2 decades, fuelling mega population growth in the city-state with one of the world’s lowest birth rates. If not for the influx of foreigners, Singapore would have been recording a net drop in population.

The rise of Singapore’s middle class, and the ‘trend’ to hire domestic help, has caused an influx of low-paid migrants to act as nannies, maids, cleaners, drivers and construction workers. Many of these have either voluntarily headed back to their countries, mostly the Philippines, or been sacked.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser notes that the decline in non-resident population is mostly due to the departure of work permit holders, who take up jobs which Singaporeans avoid in the first place. He says the trend probably signals some sectors of the economy are not doing well.

“The issue of foreigners in our midst cannot be addressed simply by cutting down their numbers, without negative consequences for our economy.”

Meanwhile, Japan says it has made an agreement with SE Nations Singapore and Brunei to reopen their borders for newly arriving expats from next Wednesday and and other long-term residents from October 8.

Those eligible to travel will be allowed in on condition they self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival as a preventative measure against the spread of Covid-19.

Brunei and Singapore join 7 other ASEAN countries, including Vietnam and Thailand, with the new travel bubble with Japan. Japan still has a ban in place for the entry of travellers from 159 countries and regions. Japan’s foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi says the government is seriously considering how to restart travel back to Japan, both for business and tourism.

“We see the resumption of new entries (of foreigners) to Japan as an extremely important issue.”

Japan already allows short-term business travellers from Singapore to enter the country without doing quarantine, on condition they take a test before they travel to Japan, then another when they arrive, can provide an itinerary of their stay and take preventative steps to actively socially distance during their visit.

SOURCE: trip.sg

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World

Richest 1% responsible for twice the amount of carbon emissions than the poorest 50%

Caitlin Ashworth

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Richest 1% responsible for twice the amount of carbon emissions than the poorest 50% | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Alexander Popov

The richest people in the world, who make up just 1% of the population, are responsible for a significant amount of carbon emissions. A study shows that the “1 percenters” make up twice as much carbon pollution than the poorest half of the world. Some say the poor are the least responsible for climate change, but have to deal with most of the negative consequences.

In a 25 year study led by Oxfam, researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute found that wealthy countries were responsible for using up nearly a third of the Earth’s carbon budget. The study was conducted from 1990 to 2015, when annual emissions grew by 60%.

Oxfam is a confederation of 20 independent charitable organisations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty, founded in 1942 and led by Oxfam International. It is a major nonprofit group with an extensive collection of operations.

63 million people made up the richest 1% of the world. Since 1990, they have been responsible for 9% of the ‘carbon budget’. The carbon budget is the maximum amount of greenhouse gases that can go into the air before temperature rises to catastrophic levels. 3.1 billion people make up the poorest half of the world’s population. The carbon emissions growth rate of the rich 1% was 3 times more than the poorest half of the world.

There’s not just an economic inequality between the rich and the poor, according to the head of policy, advocacy and research, Tim Gore. He told AFP the research shows the world’s “carbon inequality.”

“It’s not just that extreme economic inequality is divisive in our societies, it’s not just that it slows the rate of poverty reduction …But there is also a third cost which is that it depletes the carbon budget solely for the purpose of the already affluent growing their consumption … And that of course has the worse impacts on the poorest and least responsible.”

Carbon emissions have decreased since the pandemic. But just a few months doesn’t take away the damage that has been done for years. Temperatures are still on track to rise several degrees this century. Although the 2015 Paris climate deal was set to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels, emissions have continued to increase.

“It’s clear that the carbon intensive and highly unequal model of economic growth over the last 20-30 years has not benefited the poorest half of humanity… It’s a false dichotomy to suggest that we have to choose between economic growth and fixing the climate crisis.”

Some say the global economy needs to prioritise “green growth.” If not, the decrease in pollution during the pandemic will have a very small and insignificant overall impact on climate change. Some say carbon emissions affect the poorest nations the most who don’t have enough resources to fight natural disasters possibly brought on by the rising temperatures, like wildfires and droughts.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | AFP

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