the economic outlook in the United States, however cloudy, is still better than in most other regions.

loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

A fragile currency can sometimes work as “a buffering mechanism,” causing nations to import less and export more, Mr. Prasad said. But today, many “are not seeing the benefits of stronger growth.”

Still, they must pay more for essential imports like oil, wheat or pharmaceuticals as well as for loan bills due from billion-dollar debts.

debt crisis in Latin America in the 1980s.

The situation is particularly fraught because so many countries ran up above-average debts to deal with the fallout from the pandemic. And now they are facing renewed pressure to offer public support as food and energy prices soar.

Indonesia this month, thousands of protesters, angry over a 30 percent price increase on subsidized fuel, clashed with the police. In Tunisia, a shortage of subsidized food items like sugar, coffee, flour and eggs has shuttered cafes and emptied market shelves.

New research on the impact of a strong dollar on emerging nations found that it drags down economic progress across the board.

“You can see these very pronounced negative effects of a stronger dollar,” said Maurice Obstfeld, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an author of the study.

central banks feel pressure to raise interest rates to bolster their currencies and prevent import prices from skyrocketing. Last week, Argentina, the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Norway raised interest rates.

World Bank warned this month that simultaneous interest rate increases are pushing the world toward a recession and developing nations toward a string of financial crises that would inflict “lasting harm.”

Clearly, the Fed’s mandate is to look after the American economy, but some economists and foreign policymakers argue it should pay more attention to the fallout its decisions have on the rest of the world.

In 1998, Alan Greenspan, a five-term Fed chair, argued that “it is just not credible that the United States can remain an oasis of prosperity unaffected by a world that is experiencing greatly increased stress.”

The United States is now facing a slowing economy, but the essential dilemma is the same.

“Central banks have purely domestic mandates,” said Mr. Obstfeld, the U.C. Berkeley economist, but financial and trade globalization have made economies more interdependent than they have ever been and so closer cooperation is needed. “I don’t think central banks can have the luxury of not thinking about what’s happening abroad.”

Flávia Milhorance contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.

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How Accent-Changing Apps Are Removing Communication Barriers

Apps like Sanas are helping smooth communication by removing accent barriers that can lead to misunderstandings.

Accents are diverse and unique, but sometimes accents get in the way of understanding people. An app called Sanas looks to remove that barrier by using AI technology to take away a person’s accent.

“We’re all trained with the products, with the services,” said Dwayne Alviola, “Whether we’re in the Philippines or in a different country, rest assured that we’re trained in every detail to handle your accounts.”

Alviola lives in the Philippines and has worked for U.S.-based companies for eight years. He previously worked in call centers and now works in customer service.

Throughout the years of working in call centers, Alviola says he and his coworkers faced discrimination and racism on the other end of the call.

“Usually, the “f-you” word, then usually they’ll be in different types of curses, but since it’s our second language, we don’t even mind it,” Alviola said. “But, racism comes in, even if we know that we’re not the one being blamed for their experience, it still hits us the most.”

Alviola says they’re stuck. When he was working in call centers, they’re not allowed to hang up, so they have to be on the call until the caller on the other line clicks off. He says accent-altering apps can lead to smoother communication and less verbal abuse.

“Especially for new graduates who just entered training, then it would help them boost their confidence,” Alviola said. “That’s also one reason why I like the app, because if it was developed just a few years ago when I was starting, I would love it.”

Others find the Sanas app especially helpful when cops or hospitals are involved.

“If there is a law, like a with discussion, with the cop, with their doctor mainly, there are a lot of problem when communicating with the doctor if you don’t know proper English,” said Mehboob Ahmedabadi, an Indian man working in media.

On the flip side, others argue that apps that take away accents perpetuate racism and discrimination by masking the problem at hand. Judy Ravin, the founder of Accents International, says there’s a way to do things differently.

“At the conclusion of our program, which is called Powerful Pronunciation, people will still have an accent,” Ravin said. “We think that’s a good thing. An accent is a piece of our cultural and linguistic identity. What we won’t have is a communication barrier due to pronunciation.”

Unlike the app that filters voices, Accents International improves pronunciation through real time coaching. For example, the vowel sounding “aw” used in words like “law” or “daughter” can be tough for those not familiar with pronouncing it.

“The way we teach it is both,” Ravin said. “What does it look like, and what does it feel like? Well, it looks like someone’s popped an egg in their mouth. It looks like a perfect oval… and a person can feel the top of their tongue behind their lower teeth. So what does it look like? What does it feel like… not, what does it sound like?”

Vincent Dixon had a thick Irish accent, but through years of teaching English in France, he learned to communicate more effectively.

“I think sometimes people feel that their accents makes them lesser or more, and it really doesn’t,” Dixon said. “It just makes you who you are. It’s like the color of my eyes or the color of my hair.”

In a world filled with more AI listening, trying to get machines to understand despite an accent can be especially frustrating.

“It’s very frustrating because I talk to my watch, I talk to my husband,” said Eileen Panzardi, a Puerto Rican living in Atlanta. “I talk to my phone, and I have to pass it to my daughter, who was born here in Atlanta, and ask her to say whatever word it is for Siri to understand me because sometimes she don’t even get me.”

Ultimately, the goal of accent-changing technology is to create better person-to-person communication in an ever-increasing, globalized world.

“For me, the key point is not their identity in communication,” said Haulk A, a Kurdish software engineer living in Chicago. “In the communication, the important thing is to the message that you send and the message that you get.”

Source: newsy.com

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Japan’s Universal Entertainment takes over operations of Okada Manila casino

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MANILA, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp (6425.T) said on Sunday its local representatives in the Philippines have taken over the operations of the Okada Manila gambling resort, the latest step in a long-running ownership dispute.

Universal said in a statement accompanied by a copy of a Sept. 2 order from the local gaming regulator that the takeover of the $3.3 billion gambling resort, the largest in Southeast Asia, had been “generally peaceful”.

The regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), said in its order that it was withdrawing its recognition of board members of Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment, the developer and operator of Okada Manila, previously installed by a group including Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada.

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Pagcor also directed Okada’s Filipino partners to stop operating the casino and disbursing funds from the property’s coffers.

Pagcor said that only Okada himself would be recognised henceforth, in compliance with a Philippine Supreme Court order in April that reinstated the pachinko mogul as chairman, stockholder and director of Tiger Resort.

Okada had been ousted from both Tiger Resort’s and from Universal’s boards in 2017.

The group of Okada and his Filipino associates, however, said on Sunday that Pagcor had defied the Supreme Court order and that they would take legal action over the matter. They did not elaborate.

In a notice issued on Saturday after the order from Pagcor, Okada Manila had said “business remains as usual” at the 44-hectare (108-acre) resort.

Okada Manila started operations late in 2016. With 993 suites and villas, 500 table games and 3,000 electronic gaming machines, it is the biggest of four multibillion-dollar casino-resorts operating in the Philippine capital, which has one of Asia’s most freewheeling gaming industries.

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Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Qatar Detains Workers Protesting Late Pay Before World Cup

By Associated Press
August 22, 2022

The move comes as Qatar faces intense international scrutiny over its labor practices ahead of the tournament.

Qatar recently arrested at least 60 foreign workers who protested going months without pay and deported some of them, an advocacy group said, just three months before Doha hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The move comes as Qatar faces intense international scrutiny over its labor practices ahead of the tournament. Like other Gulf Arab nations, Qatar heavily relies on foreign labor. The workers’ protest a week ago — and Qatar’s reaction to it — could further fuel the concern.

The head of a labor consultancy investigating the incident said the detentions cast new doubt on Qatar’s pledges to improve the treatment of workers. “Is this really the reality coming out?” asked Mustafa Qadri, executive director of the group Equidem.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday night, Qatar’s government acknowledged that “a number of protesters were detained for breaching public safety laws.” It declined to offer any information about the arrests or any deportations.

Video footage posted online showed some 60 workers angry about their salaries protesting on Aug. 14 outside of the Doha offices of Al Bandary International Group, a conglomerate that includes construction, real estate, hotels, food service and other ventures. Some of those demonstrating hadn’t received their salaries for as many as seven months, Equidem said.

The protesters blocked an intersection on Doha’s C Ring Road in front of the Al Shoumoukh Tower. The footage matched known details of the street, including it having several massive portraits of Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, looking down on passers-by.

Al Bandary International Group, which is privately owned, did not respond to requests for comment and a telephone number registered in its name did not connect on multiple attempts to call it.

The Qatari government acknowledged that the firm hadn’t paid salaries and that its Labor Ministry would pay “all delayed salaries and benefits” to those affected.

“The company was already under investigation by the authorities for nonpayment of wages before the incident, and now further action is being taken after a deadline to settle outstanding salary payments was missed,” the government said.

Qadri said police later arrested the protesters and held them in a detention center where some described being in a stifling heat without air conditioning. Doha’s temperature this week reached around 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Qadri described police telling those held that if they can strike in hot weather, they can sleep without air conditioning.

One detained worker who called Equidem from the detention center described seeing as many as 300 of his colleagues there from Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal and the Philippines. He said some had been paid salaries after the protest while others hadn’t. His comments could not be corroborated.

Qatar, like other Gulf Arab nations, has in the past deported demonstrating foreign workers, and tied residency visas to employment. The right to form unions remains tightly controlled and available only to Qataris, as is the country’s limited right to assembly, according to the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.

Qatar, a small, energy-rich nation on the Arabian Peninsula, is home to the state-funded Al Jazeera satellite news network. However, expression in the country remains tightly controlled. Last year, Qatar detained and later deported a Kenyan security guard who wrote and spoke publicly about the woes of the country’s migrant labor force.

Since FIFA awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010, the country has taken some steps to overhaul the country’s employment practices. That includes eliminating its so-called kafala employment system, which tied workers to their employers, who had say over whether they could leave their jobs or even the country.

Qatar also has adopted a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($275) for workers and required food and housing allowances for employees not receiving that directly from their employers.

Activists like Qadri have called on Doha to do more, particularly when it comes to ensuring workers receive their salaries on time and are protected from abusive employers.

“Have we all been duped by Qatar over the last several years?” Qadri asked, suggesting that recent reforms might have been “a cover” for authorities allowing prevailing labor practices to continue.

The World Cup will start this November in Qatar.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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New Comedy ‘Easter Sunday’ Celebrates Filipino-American Life

The new comedy “Easter Sunday” is purposefully out in theaters now, filled with Easter eggs meant to reach and celebrate a Filipino audience.

Career, faith and complicated family dynamics are just a few themes in the new comedy “Easter Sunday,” set in Daly City, California — the real life home to 32,000  Filipinos.

It’s written by Ken Cheng and loosely based on the life of Cheng and Filipino- American comedian Jo Koy.

“A lot of times our stories, especially when we’re talking about immigrants, focus on what I call the noble struggle of immigration, and we never get to relish in the joy and happiness and the laughter and the comedy of that experience,” Cheng said. 

The film gives nods to classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Friday.”

“A one-day movie in which a variety of hijinks and subplots sort of converge into a dramatic moment at the end of the movie,” Cheng said.

The movie is filled with little things — or Easter eggs — meant to reach and celebrate a Filipino audience. 

“All the food that’s included in the movie are literally written verbatim in the screenplay,” Cheng said. “It’s like, this is the dish you should be cooking here… She’s offering a dessert, and the dessert should be this, Polvoron.”

A recurring struggle in the film is its central character’s difficulty navigating stereotypes in Hollywood.

According to a study from CAPE and the Geena Davis Institute, about a third of API characters — 35.2% — embody at least one common API trope or stereotype such as the “Martial Artist,” the “Model Minority” or the “Exotic Woman.”

NEWSY’S AMBER STRONG: How did you figure out how to make this movie that celebrated Filipino culture without making fun of Filipino culture? Does that make sense?

KEN CHENG: It does make sense. For me, the priority is I think that it’s a natural byproduct of allowing characters to just be human on screen. That makes sense if you are able to express these characters humanity. I don’t see how you would laugh at them.

There was brief talk about moving Easter Sunday and its all star cast of AAPI actors to streaming due to COVID-19, but filmmakers tell Newsy they and Koy had their hopes set on something bigger. 

“These are people we do not see on the big screen often, if ever, and it was really important to him and really important to us as producers involved, and to the studio frankly, that that we get to present this movie the way we intended to,” Cheng said.

In a movie titled “Easter Sunday,” there are obviously themes of faith.

According to Harvard Divinity School, 90% of people in the Philippines are Christian, with the majority Catholic.

“We can all debate about the origins of why Catholicism specifically played such an important role as a byproduct of colonialism in the Philippines, but it is undeniably such a large part of the Filipino and Filipino American specifically experience,” Cheng said.

The topic of faith becoming more prevalent in shows with AAPI leads, like “Ms. Marvel” airing on Disney+,  relies heavily on Islamic traditions. There’s also the Kim family in the CBC show “Kim’s Convenience,” which features numerous plots centered around the Korean Family’s Christian faith. 

“Church is, frankly, one of the central hubs of the community in which people find community, especially newly arrived immigrants who don’t know anybody else in this country,” Cheng said. “That’s where they go to find their countrymen there,  find solidarity and sort of a sense of collective belonging.”

“Easter Sunday” is now playing, purposely, in theaters only. 

Source: newsy.com

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Former Software Engineer Aims To Change The Future Of Farming

A former IBM engineer is building open-source tractors for the masses in hopes of changing how food is grown and who grows it.

The founder of Ronnie Baugh Tractors in Paint Rock, Alabama learned an invaluable lesson as a marine in the Vietnam War: If you believe something’s impossible, you’re dead.

Horace Clemmons, now 79, says that advice not only kept him alive in the war; it’s also the driving force behind his current effort to reinvent an industry now dominated by corporate giants like John Deere and AGCO.

“The goal is to try to convince everybody else they can make these things,” Clemmons said. “All you need is two jack stands and somebody that can turn a wrench and somebody that can weld, and you’re in business making your own tractor.”

Clemmons worked for IBM in the 1970s as an early software engineer, but his success came after he left that job and founded the first cash register company to use open-source software.

“I said at the time I left IBM, ‘I will create a business unlike IBM,'” Clemmons said. “People will not do business with me because they have to. They will do business with me because they want to.”

In a former t-shirt factory surrounded by cotton farms that now export their harvest to China, Clemmons today is trying to bring that same open-source philosophy to tractors.

Everything that goes into a tractor is somewhat cheap and widely available. If someone can’t afford the $22,000 sticker price, Clemmons will sell them the plans to build their own. Its “open system design” is a far cry from the patented and proprietary technology of a John Deere. 

The hope is that this novel approach will inspire farmers to innovate and customize the tractor the same way open-source computing and the coders who had access to it sparked the PC revolution that changed the world.

“So IBM started dominating the PC market, but Michael Dell in his dorm room looked at what IBM was doing and said, ‘But the customers are asking for something different,'” Clemmons said. “And IBM says, ‘No, no, you buy what I got.’ And Michael decided, ‘Screw that. I’m going to start a business doing what the customer wants done.’ Like, what was Dell’s revenue last year? 107 or 8 billion. And what was IBM’s? 50 something? Okay. If we do the right thing, that’ll be John Deere 10 years from now.”

Clemmons says his ultimate goal is to give the millions of impoverished small farmers around the world access to mechanization and the economic empowerment that comes with it. He says the whole concept behind Ronnie Baugh Tractors is to show the world what’s possible. Partners in Uganda, Senegal and the Philippines have already licensed the design and are now building Oggun tractors domestically. They’re even adding two-wheel and fully electric versions to the lineup. 

Having access to low cost, highly customizable agricultural equipment that is also open-source technology has the potential to benefit millions of small farmers in the developing world. But in the U.S., the idea is also gaining traction — for very different reasons.

In Tarrytown, New York, the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is like a living laboratory for sustainable food production. Jack Algiere, the center’s director of agroecology, says he purchased one of Clemmon’s first Oggun tractors because of its versatility. 

“The diversity of a farm like this where we’re growing literally hundreds of different crops — there is no one piece of equipment, there is no giant thing that we’ll use to solve all of our problems,” Algiere said. “There are a lot of little instruments in our toolbox, so we want those to be as minimal as possible and as repairable as possible.”

Not to mention, there’s the ability to tinker with the design. Algiere says he’s made multiple modifications, cutting and welding the frame to raise the floorbed, making room for nearly a dozen different custom tools. All of these changes are shared among the growing Oggun community of small farmers. Farmers, he says, who have been underserved by the agricultural equipment industry since big agriculture all but wiped out the small farm in the 1950s.

“No one goes small anymore,” Algiere said. “Once you get small, you go into garden tractor garden equipment, lawn tractors, because that’s where the market is. This is an invisible market.”

It’s an invisible but growing market. Algiere says as climate change wreaks havoc on agriculture, the need to adopt a smaller scale, locally adapted approach to growing food has never been greater.

“It’s not about reliving some past or, you know, a fairy tale of what agriculture was, but what our future looks like,” Algiere said.

At the Hudson Valley Seed Company in Accord, New York, Steven Crist uses an Oggun tractor to grow more than 70 varieties of crops a year, producing organic, heirloom seeds that are shipped all over the country.

“For us here, it’s our finesse tool,” Crist said. “When we got this tractor, we were scaling up at the same time, so we built our whole farm around this thing.”

Crist says aside from the utility of the tractor, he felt aligned with the philosophy behind it. 

“It felt in league with the mission of seed saving, organic seed saving in general, where we’re trying to not create borders, not control a patent or a thing,” Crist said. “We’re trying to proliferate it and give people access to the ability to do good work in the world. That’s kind of mushy, but it’s true.”

With climate change and an ever-widening global economic divide, Clemmons says he’s determined so see his plans through, even if it takes generations.

“I mean, people tell me I’m crazy, and I agree with them,” Clemmons said. “I have a sister who tells me I’m as crazy as she is, and I chuckle and say, ‘You’re right, but mine is socially beneficial. I am me. I get up every day. Being me.”

Clemmons says he would rather fail trying to change a broken system than succeed by following its rules.

Source: newsy.com

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China Blocks Some Taiwan Imports But Avoids Chip Disruptions

China blocked imports of hundreds of food items from Taiwan but has not disrupted the flow of processor chips and other industrial components.

China blocked imports of citrus, fish and other foods from Taiwan in retaliation for a visit by a top American lawmaker, Nancy Pelosi, but has avoided disrupting one of the world’s most important technology and manufacturing relationships.

The two sides, which split in 1949 after a civil war, have no official relations but multibillion-dollar business ties, especially in the flow of Taiwanese-made processor chips needed by Chinese factories that assemble the world’s smartphones and other electronics.

They built that business while Beijing threatened for decades to enforce the ruling Communist Party’s claim to the island by attacking.

Two-way trade soared 26% last year to $328.3 billion. Taiwan, which produces half the world’s processor chips and has technology the mainland can’t match, said sales to Chinese factories rose 24.4% to $104.3 billion.

“The global economy cannot function without chips that are made in either Taiwan or China,” Carl B. Weinberg of High-Frequency Economics said in a report.

On Wednesday, Beijing blocked imports of citrus and frozen hairtail and mackerel from Taiwan after Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, arrived on the island. China has not disrupted the flow of chips and other industrial components, a step that would send shock waves through the shaky global economy.

Also this week, China blocked imports of hundreds of other food items from Taiwan including cookies and seafood, though the timing was unclear. The customs website showed their import status was switched to “suspended.”

Fruit, fish and other foods are a small part of Taiwan’s exports to China, but the ban hurts areas that are seen as supporters of President Tsai Ing-wen.

Beijing has used import bans on bananas, wine, coal and other goods as leverage in disputes with Australia, the Philippines and other governments.

Beijing also announced four days of military exercises with artillery fire in waters around Taiwan. That might delay or disrupt shipping to and from the island, one of the biggest global traders.

The potential disruption adds to concerns over weakening global economic growth, but Asian stock markets rose Wednesday after there was no immediate sign of Chinese military action.

The Communist Party says Pelosi’s visit might embolden Taiwan to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent. Beijing says that would lead to war.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has tried to mollify Beijing, saying there is no change in Washington’s “one China policy.” That says the United States takes no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute settled peacefully.

Washington has no formal relations with Taiwan but maintains unofficial ties and is obligated by federal law to see the island has the means to defend itself.

Meeting leaders in Taiwan, Pelosi said she and members of Congress traveling with her were showing they will not abandon their commitment to the island democracy.

“America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad,” Pelosi said in a short speech during a meeting with the president, Tsai. She departed later in the day for South Korea.

“Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said.

Taiwanese companies have invested nearly $200 billion in the mainland over the past three decades, according to the island’s government. Entrepreneurs, engineers and others have migrated to the mainland to work, some recruited by Chinese chipmakers and other companies that want to catch up with Taiwan.

A 2020 census found 158,000 Taiwanese living on the mainland, according to the police ministry.

Taiwan plays an outsized role in the chip industry for an island of 24.5 million people, accounting for more than half the global supply.

Its producers including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. make the most advanced processors for smartphones, tablet computers, medical devices and other products.

Beijing has invested billions of dollars in developing its own industry, which supplies low-end chips for autos and appliances but cannot support the latest smartphones, tablet computers, medical devices and other products.

Chips are China’s biggest import at more than $400 billion a year, ahead of crude oil.

That concentration has fueled concern in the United States and Europe about relying too heavily on supplies from East Asia. The U.S. government is trying to expand America’s production capacity.

Overall, China is Taiwan’s biggest trading partner, taking more than twice as much of its exports as the United States, the island’s No. 2 foreign market.

Beijing has tried to use access to its markets to undermine Tsai and other Taiwanese leaders it accuses of pursuing independence.

The Communist Party also has used military action in the past to try to hurt Taiwanese leaders by disrupting the island’s economy.

The mainland tried to drive voters away from then-President Lee Teng-hui ahead of the island’s first direct presidential elections in 1996 by firing missiles into shipping lanes.

That forced shippers to cancel voyages and raised insurance costs but backfired by allowing Lee to brag about standing up to Beijing in front of cheering supporters. Lee won the four-way election with 54% of the vote.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Strong Earthquake Kills At Least 5 People In Northern Philippines

By Associated Press
July 27, 2022

Dozens of people are still missing in a mountainous area of Abra province following the 7 magnitude quake.

A strong earthquake set off landslides and damaged buildings in the northern Philippines on Wednesday, killing at least five people and injuring dozens. In the capital, hospital patients were evacuated and terrified people rushed outdoors.

The 7 magnitude quake was centered in a mountainous area of Abra province, said Renato Solidum, the head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, who described the midmorning shaking as a major earthquake.

Bureau of Fire Protection via AP

“The ground shook like I was on a swing and the lights suddenly went out. We rushed out of the office, and I heard screams and some of my companions were in tears,” said Michael Brillantes, a safety officer of the Abra town of Lagangilang, near the epicenter.

At least five people died — mostly in collapsed structures. One villager died when hit by falling cement slabs in his house in Abra, where dozens of others were injured. In Benguet province, a worker was pinned to death after a small building that was under construction collapsed in the strawberry-growing mountain town of La Trinidad.

Hundreds of houses and buildings had cracked walls, including some that collapsed in Abra, where President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office less than a month ago, planned to travel Thursday to meet victims and local officials.

Marcos Jr. told a news conference he was in his office at the riverside Malacanang presidential palace complex when the chandeliers began swaying and making clanking sounds. “It was very strong,” he said of the ground shaking.

In a chilling near-death experience, Filipino photojournalist Harley Palangchao and companions were traveling downhill in two vans in Mountain Province when they suddenly heard thunder-like thuds and saw an avalanche of boulders as big as cars raining down just ahead of them from a towering mountain.

Amid screams of his companions in their van to “back up, back up!” the 44-year-old father of three raised his camera in the front seat and snapped what he feared could be the final pictures of his life. The van in front of them was grazed by a boulder, injuring one, but he and others in the second van drove backward fast enough and escaped unscathed.

The Red Cross issued a picture of a three-story building precariously leaning toward a debris-covered road in Abra. A video taken by a panicking witness showed parts of an old stone church tower peeling off and falling in a cloud of dust on a hilltop.

Patients, some in wheelchairs, and medical personnel were evacuated from at least two hospitals in Manila, about 265 miles south of Lagangilang, but were later told to return after engineers found only a few minor cracks on walls.

The quake’s strength was lowered from the initial 7.3 magnitude after further analysis. The quake was set off by movement in a local fault at a depth of 10 miles, the institute said, adding it expected damage and more aftershocks.

The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It is also lashed by about 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Global Central Banks Ramp Up Inflation Fight

Central bankers around the world are lifting interest rates at an aggressive clip as rapid inflation persists and seeps into a broad array of goods and services, setting the global economy up for a lurch toward more expensive credit, lower stock and bond values and — potentially — a sharp pullback in economic activity.

It’s a moment unlike anything the international community has experienced in decades, as countries around the world try to bring rapid price increases under control before they become a more lasting part of the economy.

Inflation has surged across many advanced and developing economies since early 2021 as strong demand for goods collided with shortages brought on by the pandemic. Central banks spent months hoping that economies would reopen and shipping routes would unclog, easing supply constraints, and that consumer spending would return to normal. That hasn’t happened, and the war in Ukraine has only intensified the situation by disrupting oil and food supplies, pushing prices even higher.

is expected to make its first rate increase since 2011, one that officials have signaled will most likely be only a quarter point but will probably be followed by a larger move in September.

Other central banks have begun moving more aggressively already, with officials from Canada to the Philippines picking up the pace of rate increases in recent weeks amid fears that consumers and investors are beginning to expect steadily higher prices — a shift that could make inflation a more permanent feature of the economic backdrop. Federal Reserve officials have also hastened their response. They lifted borrowing costs in June by the most since 1994 and suggested that an even bigger move is possible, though several in recent days have suggested that speeding up again is not their preferred plan for the upcoming July meeting and that a second three-quarter-point increase is most likely.

As interest rates jump around the world, making money that has been cheap for years more expensive to borrow, they are stoking fears among investors that the global economy could slow sharply — and that some countries could find themselves plunged into painful recessions. Commodity prices, some of which can serve as a barometer of expected consumer demand and global economic health, have dropped as investors grow jittery. International economic officials have warned that the path ahead could prove bumpy as central banks adjust policy and as the war in Ukraine heightens uncertainty.

blog post on Wednesday. Ms. Georgieva argued that central banks need to react to inflation, saying that “acting now will hurt less than acting later.”

rising consumer prices and declining spending, the American economy is showing clear signs of slowing down, fueling concerns about a potential recession. Here are other eight measures signaling trouble ahead:

In recent years, emerging markets have often raised interest rates in anticipation of the Fed’s slow and steady moves to avoid big swings in their currency values, which depend partly on interest rate differences across borders. But this set of rate increases is different: Inflation is running at its fastest pace in decades in many places, and a range of developed-economy central banks, including the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, the Bank of Canada and the Reserve Bank of Australia, are joining — or may join — the Fed in pushing rates quickly higher.

“It’s not something we’ve seen in the last few decades,” said Bruce Kasman, chief economist and head of global economic research at JPMorgan Chase.

The last time so many major nations abruptly raised rates in tandem to fight such rapid inflation was in the 1980s, when the contours of global central banking were different: The 19-country euro currency bloc that the E.C.B. sets policy for did not exist yet, and global financial markets were less developed.

That so many central banks are now facing off against rapid inflation — and trying to control it by slowing their economies — increases the chance for market turmoil as an era of very low rates ends and as nations and companies try to adjust to changing capital flows. Those changing flows can influence whether countries and businesses are able to sell debt and other securities to raise money.

“Financial conditions have tightened due to rising, broad-based inflationary pressures, geopolitical uncertainty brought on by Russia’s war against Ukraine, and a slowdown in global growth,” Janet L. Yellen, the U.S. Treasury secretary, said in speech last week. “Now, portfolio investment is beginning to flow out of emerging markets.”

fastest pace since 1983. In the United Kingdom, it is similarly at a 40-year-high.

kick off rate increases back in December and has been steadily raising rates since. Policymakers are increasingly worried about inflation creating a cost-of-living crisis in Britain and worry that higher rates could compound economic pain. At the same time, they have signaled that they could act more forcefully, taking their cue from their global peers. There is a “willingness — should circumstances require — to adopt a faster pace of tightening,” Huw Pill, the chief economist of the Bank of England, said this month.

“Many central banks are looking at this as a sort of existential question about getting inflation and inflation expectations down,” said Matthew Luzzetti, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.

The Fed raised rates by a quarter point in March, half a point in May, and three-quarters of a percentage point in June. While its officials have predicted that they will maintain that pace in July, they have also been clear that an even bigger rate increase is possible.

“Inflation has to be our focus, every meeting and every day,” Christopher Waller, a Fed governor, said during a speech last week. “The spending and pricing decisions people and businesses make every day depend on their expectations of future inflation, which in turn depend on whether they believe the Fed is sufficiently committed to its inflation target.”

The Bank of Canada has already gone for a full percentage point move, surprising investors last week with its largest move since 1998, while warning of more to come.

said in a statement.

of other central banks have made big moves. More action is coming. Central banks around the world have been clear that they expect to keep moving borrowing costs higher into the autumn.

“I wouldn’t say we’re at peak tightening quite yet,” said Brendan McKenna, an economist at Wells Fargo. “We could go even more aggressive from here.”

A key question is what that will mean for the global economy. The World Bank in June projected in a report that global growth would slow sharply this year but remain positive. Still, there is “considerable” risk of a situation in which growth stagnates and inflation remains high, David Malpass, head of the World Bank, wrote.

If inflation does become entrenched, or even show signs of shifting expectations, central banks may have to respond even more aggressively than they are now, intentionally crushing growth.

Mr. Kasman said the open question, when it comes to the Fed, is: “How far have they gone toward the conclusion that they need to kick us in the teeth, here?”

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Gas Prices Around the World Threaten Livelihoods and Stability

“NO ES SUFICIENTE” — It’s not enough. That was the message protest leaders in Ecuador delivered to the country’s president this past week after he said he would lower the price of both regular gas and diesel by 10 cents in response to riotous demonstrations over soaring fuel and food prices.

The fury and fear over energy prices that have exploded in Ecuador are playing out the world over. In the United States, average gasoline prices, which have jumped to $5 per gallon, are burdening consumers and forcing an excruciating political calculus on President Biden ahead of the midterm congressional elections this fall.

But in many places, the leap in fuel costs has been much more dramatic, and the ensuing misery much more acute.

Britain, it costs $125 to fill the tank of an average family-size car. Hungary is prohibiting motorists from buying more than 50 liters of gas a day at most service stations. Last Tuesday, police in Ghana fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators protesting against the economic hardship caused by gas price increases, inflation and a new tax on electronic payments.

largest exporter of oil and gas to global markets, and the retaliatory sanctions that followed have caused gas and oil prices to gallop with an astounding ferocity. The unfolding calamity comes on top of two years of upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, off-and-on shutdowns and supply chain snarls.

World Bank revised its economic forecast last month, estimating that global growth will slow even more than expected, to 2.9 percent this year, roughly half of what it was in 2021. The bank’s president, David Malpass, warned that “for many countries, recession will be hard to avoid.”

ratcheting down gas deliveries to several European countries.

Across the continent, countries are preparing blueprints for emergency rationing that involve caps on sales, reduced speed limits and lowered thermostats.

As is usually the case with crises, the poorest and most vulnerable will feel the harshest effects. The International Energy Agency warned last month that higher energy prices have meant an additional 90 million people in Asia and Africa do not have access to electricity.

Expensive energy radiates pain, contributing to high food prices, lowering standards of living and exposing millions to hunger. Steeper transportation costs increase the price of every item that is trucked, shipped or flown — whether it’s a shoe, cellphone, soccer ball or prescription drug.

“The simultaneous rise in energy and food prices is a double punch in the gut for the poor in practically every country,” said Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University, “and could have devastating consequences in some corners of the world if it persists for an extended period.”

Group of 7 this past week discussed a price cap on exported Russian oil, a move that is intended to ease the burden of painful inflation on consumers and reduce the export revenue that President Vladimir V. Putin is using to wage war.

Price increases are everywhere. In Laos, gas is now more than $7 per gallon, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com; in New Zealand, it’s more than $8; in Denmark, it’s more than $9; and in Hong Kong, it’s more than $10 for every gallon.

Leaders of three French energy companies have called for an “immediate, collective and massive” effort to reduce the country’s energy consumption, saying that the combination of shortages and spiking prices could threaten “social cohesion” next winter.

increased coal production to avoid power outages during a blistering heat wave in the northern and central parts of the country and a subsequent rise in demand for air conditioning.

Germany, coal plants that were slated for retirement are being refired to divert gas into storage supplies for the winter.

There is little relief in sight. “We will still see high and volatile energy prices in the years to come,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency.

At this point, the only scenario in which fuel prices go down, Mr. Birol said, is a worldwide recession.

Reporting was contributed by José María León Cabrera from Ecuador, Lynsey Chutel from South Africa, Ben Ezeamalu from Nigeria, Jason Gutierrez from the Philippines, Oscar Lopez from Mexico and Ruth Maclean from Senegal.

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