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DEVELOPMENT

WHO says no need for major alarm over the new UK coronavirus strain. The World Health Organization cautioned against major alarm over a new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in Britain, saying this was a normal part of a pandemic’s evolution.

Toyota’s game-changing solid-state battery en route for 2021 debut. A solid-state battery being introduced by Toyota will allow a trip of 500km with one charge and a recharge from zero to full in 10 minutes. The battery promises to be a game changer not just for electric vehicles, but for an entire industry.

Though magnetic tape may seem archaic, it is still getting better. A design that has a density of 317Gb/in2 has recently been introduced. Tape remains important for data storage, with millions of kilometers of it coiled up in the world’s data centres, which means that – albeit indirectly – most computer users will still rely on tape every day.

What the pandemic Christmas of 1918 looked like. Concerns about the safety of gift shopping, family gatherings and church services were on Americans’ minds then as they are now.

CONFLICT

Mozambique’s Islamist insurgency: UN warns of rising violence in Cabo Delgado. The number of civilians forced from their homes by conflict in northern Mozambique has quadrupled this year – to 420,000 – according to the United Nations.

China and India’s dam race threatens water security. Beijing announced plans for a new super dam in the border with India, where a stand-off between the two countries is happening. In response, Delhi has initiated a rival dam project, which can have serious repercussions on the water flows in both countries.

Execution-style killing of mother and son by off-duty cop sparks outrage in Philippines. The incident was shocking and disturbing for its portrayal of brazen impunity, critics said. It has also once again cast a harsh light on perceived abuses by policemen purportedly emboldened by the bloody drug war.

International peacekeepers prepare to leave Sudan’s Darfur region after 17 years of conflict. Rebel groups have signed peace agreements with Sudan’s government. Civilians remain concerned over the peace deal and the possibility of violence returning to the region.

Rwanda bolsters force in CAR as rebels ‘held back’. Rwanda has deployed what it called a “protection force” to the Central African Republic after its peacekeepers there were attacked by rebels advancing to the capital, Bangui. The Rwandan and CAR governments have accused ex-President François Bozizé of backing the rebels and plotting a coup, which he has denied.

SOCIAL

Paris authorities fined for hiring too many women. Eleven women and five men had been promoted in 2018, breaching a national 2013 rule designed to bring about gender parity in employment. The Paris authorities are being fined €90,000 by the Public Service Ministry.

Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott gives US$4.2b to charity in just 4 months. The world’s 18th-richest person (worth $60 billion) outlined the latest contributions in a blog post, saying she asked her team to work out how to give away her fortune faster.

POLITICS

South Korea passes law to ban anti-North leaflets amid activists’ outcry. The amendment to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act bars any scattering of printed materials, goods, money and other items of value across the heavily fortified frontier.

Thai youth party fails to make gains in local polls. The political successor of a banned party in Thailand that had strong support from young Thais failed to make inroads in weekend provincial elections that were held after months of youth-led protests. This was the first local elections since the coup in 2014.

Nepal’s parliament dissolved amid power struggle in the ruling party. The President dissolved the country’s parliament at the request of the Prime Minister, who is in the midst of an intraparty feud which threatens to destabilise the country. Fresh parliamentary elections will be held in two phases on April 30 and May 10 — one year early.

The Australian test case for Biden. How his administration responds to Chinese pressure on Canberra will signal to others the strength of US pledges of support for allies, and would-be allies.

Emerging markets will feel the impact of the pandemic for longer than advanced economies. New research suggests that, for many countries, the economic effects of the pandemic will last much longer than originally expected.

US Treasury tags Switzerland, Vietnam as currency manipulators. Others on the list include China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Singapore and Malaysia. There are three criteria:

  • A trade surplus greater than $20B, designation, which can lead to sanctions
  • Currency intervention exceeding 2 per cent of gross domestic product
  • A current account surplus exceeding 2 per cent of GDP

 

Brazil’s public debt approaching 100% of GDP. Brazil’s fiscal response to the pandemic, adds up to more than 8% of GDP, twice the average for emerging markets. With the state of calamity ending 31st December, it will need to either chop welfare, breach constitutional spending ceilings or enact fiscal reforms to allow further spending.