Skeptical comments

Posted in: Asian shares mixed as Wall Street hovers near bear market See in context

Wall Street dipped once again to the edge of a bear market.

Bear market. Analytic? Or state of mind?

Your choice.

As the WSJ points out, equities enter a bear market when widely followed indexes sink 20% from their high points. But there is nothing official about that. So, no sirens and lights. And it is an arbitrary number; Much like 10% is widely considered a correction. Depending on who you ask, there have been between 8 and 25 bears over the past century, lasting anywhere between 10 and 57 months.

The other kind is mindfulness. When a bear market means investors are more risk-averse than risk-seeking. Speculation is avoided in favor of stability and security.

Some investors want to try to “beat” the markets, purchasing and selling individual stocks based on the current action, hoping that the market – or select sectors – are experiencing dips that are buying opportunities. Or that the market – or select sectors - have reached bottom. And that they must act to get in before the eventual rebound.

But what happens when you can’t easily touch bottom? Let alone see the bottom? Still want to dive in? It is helpful to ask yourself: Do you see a reasonable likelihood that you will need to dig into your investments for cash over the next few years?

Thomas Jefferson once said, "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."

Good luck!

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Posted in: Climate to conflict, Davos' post-COVID return has full plate See in context

Fringe need not apply.

We all are keen to see one another again in person. The atmosphere in which Davos takes place will be welcoming but is also of the utmost seriousness. There is no place for the frivolous fringe that seeks to distract and divert attention ­– and I condemn it wholeheartedly - particularly of those who have nothing to do with the World Economic Forum community and just to Davos to hijack our brand.

Professor Klaus Schwab, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/05/davos-2022-klaus-schwab-trust-based-and-action-oriented-cooperation/

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Posted in: BOJ under pressure as inflation tops 2% See in context

A potential savior is what the BOJ and economists call "forced savings," or trillions of yen that likely have accumulated due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19, because the money could serve as a buffer in the short-term. For the longer-term, more robust wage growth is a must, economists say.

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Naoko Ogata, a senior economist at the Japan Research Institute, said it is "inevitable" that the prospect of accelerating inflation will cool sentiment. But so-called forced savings worth around 20 trillion yen ($156 billion) and government subsidies to cushion the negative impact of higher energy costs would offer some help. "Provided that a working family of two or more people has around 500,000 yen in forced savings, they can absorb an estimated blow of less than 100,000 yen a year from the recent inflation," Ogata said.

Found yourself asking, “what is forced savings”? And how can it be a savior?

Good questions.

In the most common usage, forced savings / involuntary savings is

the enforced reduction of consumption in an economy. This can be achieved directly by the government increasing taxation so that consumers’ disposable income is reduced or it may occur indirectly as a consequence of inflation, which increases the price of goods and services at a faster rate than consumers’ money incomes increase.

Governments may deliberately increase taxes so as to secure a higher level of forced savings in order to obtain additional resources for investment in the public sector. A ‘forced saving’ policy is often attractive for a developing country the economic development of which is being held back by a shortage of savings. Collins Dictionary of Economics, 4th ed. 2005.

Close, but not quite there, you would say. And you would be right; particularly since it involves the integration of severals theories of economics, that do not always apply in the real world. Or make sense in all situations.

Here is a way of looking at this, that might take us closest to where the Bank of Japan is hovering towards salvation. If looking, not at redistribution of wealth that may accompany a credit-driven boon, in a boon-and-bust model, then forced savings may refer more closely:

to an increase in saving near the end of the [financial] boom. Consumer goods have been in high demand during the boom but are now increasingly in short supply because so many resources have been committed to production processes that are yet to yield any consumable output. The prices of consumer goods are bid up, which . . . "brings about the tendency toward forced saving." Reinforcing this tendency is the movement in the rate of interest during this same phase of the cycle. Entrepreneurs who are trying to secure additional - but increasingly scarce - resources to see their projects through to completion are bidding up interest rates, a circumstance that provides an incentive for would-be consumers to save instead.

Used in this way, the concept of forced saving is wholly conformable with the concept of overconsumption. The two terms taken together suggest a pattern of consumption and saving that characterize the boom-bust cycle. As the boom begins, consumption demand is high relative to the pre-expansion level. Incomes earned by workers and other factors in the early stages of production are being spent on consumer goods. To the extent that this high consumption demand is met with increased allocations to the late stages of production, then resources are being doubly misallocated. Considerations of derived demand and of time discount are sending resources in opposite directions . . . Production activities in the middle stages, which have been effectively raided because of high demands in both the early and late stages, eventually reach maturity but with yields of consumer goods that are deficient with respect to both the boom phase and the pre-expansion economy. It is at this point that consumption falls, as it must, and saving increases. * [Footnotes and internal references omitted].

Roger W. Garrison, Overconsumption and Forced Saving in the Mises-Hayek Theory of the Business Cycle, History of Political Economy, vol. 36, no. 2 (summer) 2004.

Perfect? No. But is a starting point. But it is kind of interesting. And good for a robust discussion.

If this has drawn out the natural economist in you, there is much more available in the above reference at https://webhome.auburn.edu/~garriro/strigl.htm.

And if this really inspires a deeper understanding, you can ruminate over the base theory with the Austrians at the Mises Institute - Jesús Huerta de Soto, Artificial Booms and the Theory of "Forced Saving,"2018, for The Mises Institute - at https://mises.org/wire/artificial-booms-and-theory-forced-saving .

Good times.

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Posted in: Japan's economy may rebound but faces headwind amid price surge See in context

For April, analysts expect the core CPI to further accelerate toward 2 percent, a long-elusive goal set by the Bank of Japan.

Here we go.

Japan's consumer prices rose by 2.5% YoY in April, the most since October 2014, after a 1.2% gain in March.

Month on month, consumer prices went up 0.4% in April, the same pace as in the prior two months.

The core consumer price index in Japan, which excludes fresh food but includes fuel costs, jumped 2.1% in April from a year earlier, more than a seven-year high and rising above BoJ’s 2% target.

Food inflation in Japan accelerated to a seven-year high of 4.0% in April from 3.4% the previous month. This was the eighth straight month of increases in cost of food, showing food prices rising at the fastest pace in seven years.

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Posted in: Harley-Davidson suspends production for 2 weeks See in context

@ Desert Tortoise: Good one.

Also, last two quarters? Maybe more truth than meets the eye.

Likely: Possibility of a recession may scare the beebub out of these people as the year grows older. Reservations keep coming in, and their customers love the brand, true. But manufacturing side in slow mode because of strained vendor chains (including chip supply) and higher commodity and growing labor costs, inventory way down, and little stomach for lots of new debt with higher rates, I wouldn't be too surprised to see layoffs coming soon.

Disclosure: I have no financial interest in this company or a competitor whatsoever, and have no intention to enter into one in the forseeable future.

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Posted in: Tokugawa Japan wasn't nearly as isolated as history books teach See in context

Historic foreign contacts with Japan have always been of interest to me. This is an interesting article, and I will await an English version of the recommended book.

One reference I have enjoyed in the past tells the saga of two ships that approached Uraga Japan with shipwrecked sailors from Japan; The Manhattan in 1845, and The Morrison at Nawa in 1837.

As background, because of landings of foreigners along the Japanese coast, the central government at Edo issued the April 7, 1825 edict ordering the people to drive away by force and foreign ships that might approach a Japanese port. The issuance of the edict was not commonly known outside of Japan.

When the Morrison approached, with shipwrecked sailors, cannons opened fire, causing minor damage. The ship then withdrew to Macao without landing or discharging the Japanese sailors.

With the Manhattan, the ship was allowed to dock, after which officers brought a message to the ship’s captain from the emperor:

“ I am informed, by the mouths of some shipwrecked persons of our country, that they have been brought home by your ship, and that they have been well treated. But, according to our laws, they must not be brought home, except by the Chinese or Dutch . Nevertheless , in the present case, we shall make an exception, because the return of these men by you must be attributed to your ignorance of our laws. In future, Japanese subjects will not be received in like circumstances, and will have to be treated rigorously when returned. You are hereby advised of this, and you must make it known to others. As, in consequence of your long voyage, provisions, and wood and water are wanting on board your ship, we have regard to your request, and whatever you want will be given to you. As soon as possible after the reception of this order, the ship must depart and return directly to her own country.”

Thereafter, the Manhattan was "surrounded by a thousand armed boats, in three cordons , a hundred feet apart from one another," that waited until the ship departed. In the meantime, the governor of Yedo visited the sip, and reportedly treated the captain “with the most distinguished civility and kindness.”

Sakamaki, Shunzo, The Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. Transactions. Tokyo 2nd Series Vol. XVIII. December, 1939. Japan and the United States 1790-1853.

Who doesn't enjoy a little history now and then?

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Posted in: Taliban promise 'good news' soon on girls' education See in context

Today from Human Rights Watch:

In recent weeks the Taliban cracked down hard on women’s rights activists. They broke down women’s doors in the middle of the night, raided safe houses, and coerced confessions from women’s rights protesters. Women activists who fearlessly chanted “bread, work, freedom” on the streets of Afghanistan’s cities have been abducted and beaten. Some reappeared, looking shaken and terrified, praising the Taliban in a propaganda video; the fate of others remains unknown.

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The Taliban appear to be finding ways to benefit from the humanitarian crisis. It shields them from blame before some of the population—they can point the finger at the foreigners. And it compels the international community to urgently and intensively engage with them, as donors seek to get aid to starving Afghans, in ways that the Taliban see as conferring legitimacy. The international community has significant power to hold the Taliban accountable — the Taliban craves legitimacy and needs funding. This power must be used to hold the Taliban to account for their human rights violations, not to punish the Afghan people.

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Posted in: Taliban promise 'good news' soon on girls' education See in context

Sorry, but the Taliban allow and practice seigha / fegha / mutah, a form of temporary marriage, a "tradition" that is known as having no foundation or acceptance in Islamic law. Easily obtained and just as easily ended, by the same cleric. Some (current estimates unavailable from NGOs) one hour or one day "marriages" are coerced and forced upon women as blackmail. Or open consentual prostitution. And - as reported by several large media outlets - have involved girls as young as nine. So, sexual molestation and assault and child rape for the day, is something different than sex trafficking?

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Posted in: Taliban promise 'good news' soon on girls' education See in context

Terrorist. As in an advocate or practitioner of terrorism as a means of coercion and violence against non-combatants. Terrorism. As in the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion and violence against non-combatants. Violence and coercion, as practiced against women by the Taliban, as well documented by UN organizations and countless NGOs and internationalists (who also suffer in their hands). So, how about unrepentent terrorist, instead? That works.

As for war against women and children, it is an opinion widely held and well documented as fact by multiple sources.

As for conditions placed on religious displays and clothing by any country, against anyone, it is yours and for your friends to present any such evidence to international organizations for investigation and action. Such as already has been performed against the Taliban. Resulting in sanctions.

Once a Taliban, always a Taliban.

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Posted in: Taliban promise 'good news' soon on girls' education See in context

This guy gave an interview a week past to another news organization, telling the interviewer the same message: good news, very soon, you will see.

Timing is everything. Today, Taliban authorities announced that they have dissolved the country's Human Rights Commission, deeming it unnecessary.

UNSC is scheduled to consider next month whether to adjust the current regime of sanctions against the leaders. One of the sanctions included a ban on the leadership’s international travel, but the UNSC suspended that ban three years ago for the sake of a peace and reconciliation” process, that has showed no progress. But it won't anymore, since - along with the human rights commission being disbanded - the Taliban also eliminated the associated High Council for National Reconciliation.

This is nothing more than a creeping normalization of international relations and recognition with a bloody and brutal authoritarian and extremist regime that shows absolutely no signs of ending its war against women and girls.

Any slacking of sanctions against this most vile batch of terrorists, without a firm commitment with international verification of reform, will be an outrage and a permanent stain on the United Nations.

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Posted in: Japan's wholesale prices jump record 10% in April See in context

Some BOJ board members have expressed concern that households have already begun to perceive inflation at a faster pace than the actual rise, warning that they would become pessimistic with wage growth not keeping pace.

Unsure. Consumers, after all, are pretty smart about what hits their own budget. Even with stimulus, incentives, and offsets, we see what is happening around us; Just today:

@ The prices of gasoline increased to an all-time high of 4.0112 USD/Gal.,

@ Rice prices climb to Near 2-Year High, above the $17-per-hundredweight mark, a level not seen since June 2020,

@ US natural gas futures regained ground and consolidated around the $8/MMBtu mark, not far from an almost 14-year peak of $9 touched earlier this month,

@ Wheat futures rose to $12.4 per bushel, approaching a 14-year high of $12.5 hit in March,

@ China's surveyed urban unemployment rose to 6.1 percent in April 2022 from 5.8 percent in the previous month; while China's industrial production unexpectedly fell by 2.9% YoY in April 2022, missing consensus of a 0.4% growth and shifting from a 5% gain in March.

Key is never to blame consumers for not being focused enough. Or not perceptive enough. And be able to accept responsibility when it is due.

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Posted in: BOJ chief rejects scaling back monetary easing as Japan 'different' from U.S., Europe See in context

Japan's core consumer price index, excluding volatile fresh food items, was up 0.8 percent in March from a year earlier and is projected by the BOJ to gain 1.9 percent in the year to next March.

Well . . . that was then.

And this is now:

The Producer Price Inflation (PPI) in Japan now shows MoM an increase to 1.20% in April, up from 0.80% last month (which was also the consensus percent for this month).

PPI YoY increased 10% in April over the same month in the previous year. Previous was 9.5%, and consensus was 9.4%.

Reminder: PPI reflects changes in the price of goods and services sold by manufacturers and producers in the wholesale market during the reported time period.

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Posted in: Japanese government proposes manga-inspired courtship; Suzu Yamanouchi praised for critique See in context

@ Strangerland.

With respect, you really shouldn't. In Aikido, it is about a person's harmony that aims to resolve conflict and redirect aggression against attack; "there are no fights and no competitions in Aikido.  Rather, students work together in pairs or groups, helping each other to learn and improve.  Students set their own goals and the pace for their own training."

Aikido can be translated as the “Way of Harmonious Spirit”. It is a relatively new martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba and based on ancient Japanese fighting techniques. Although a dynamic and very effective form of self-defense, taught to the Tokyo Riot Police, Aikido strives for non-aggression and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

https://aikidoryu.or.jp/en/for-beginners/

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Posted in: Japanese government proposes manga-inspired courtship; Suzu Yamanouchi praised for critique See in context

A followup to my earlier post. I found the following around Tokyo for anyone wishing to know more about Aikido as a means of defense. This is a suggestion, and should not be considered an endorsement; your own search engine results should be able to locate an Aikido dojo (school) or an interest group in your own area .

http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/information/index.html

https://aikidoryu.or.jp/en/

Thank you.

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Posted in: Japanese government proposes manga-inspired courtship; Suzu Yamanouchi praised for critique See in context

@ girl_in_tokyo:

I was honored to have received aikido instruction from a knowledgable sensei, who had apprenticed as a young man to Ōsensei Master Ueshiba. Even though it was a short time and only a mere introduction to the essence of the ways of ki, I've never regretted the physical and mindful teachings, and would highly recommend it to almost anyone seeking more confidence and mindful resources for the body.

Perhaps an introduction course of instruction, if time permits? More information? https://aikidojournal.com/2018/09/25/why-aikido-is-great-for-women/

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Posted in: EU council chief visits Hiroshima; condemns Russian nuclear threat See in context

Want to include testing? Just to be balanced? ncluding former USSR states, now independent coutries?

Russia, between 1949 and 1990, is reported to have conducted 715 nuclear tests using 969 total devices by official count, including 219 atmospheric, underwater, and space tests, and 124 peaceful use tests. Some experts estimate the figures to be higher. Most of the tests took place at the Southern Test Site in Kazakhstan and the Northern Test Site at Novaya Zemlya. Other tests reportedly took place at various locations including Uzbekistan, Ukraine (underground in 1972 in Kharkiv) and Turkmenistan.

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Posted in: Kremlin warns of retaliation after Finland moves toward NATO See in context

@ Kyo wa heiwa dayo ne

You seem to assume that Russia just invaded Ukraine for no reason. Shame your so ignorant and don't have any real situational awareness or understanding of current or past events.

Unfortunate rhetoric. Considering that it is well established that long standing Red Army doctrine for decades was for their forces to reach the English Channel in mass within 48 hours or less. The Put was also reported to have told a diplomat about four years ago that they had plans, within a decade or so, to bring back the empire largely through border "allies" who owed sole allegance to Russia politically, militarily and economically; facilitated largely by large scale relocation of ethnic Russians in the border countries to a large minority population. Failing that, he reportedly told said diplomat, that they could "possibly" accomplish it by eliminating political opposition/ opponents in these countries of interest, and by military force, if necessary.

Hence, real situational awareness.

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Posted in: Ukraine asks G7 to step up arms supply, pressure on Russia See in context

One more item about Russia's economy supposedly crushing it.

The Central Bank of Russia yesterday issued a new policy report, forecasting the Russian economy to shrink between 8 to 10% through the remaining CY, and could contract up to 3% the following year, before potentially returning to growth in 2024.

At the same time, the CBR expects its key interest rate to range between 12.5 to 14% this year, 9 to 11% in 2023, and 6 to 8% in 2024. The bank cut its key lending rate by 300bps to 14% during its April meeting (more than market expectations).

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Posted in: Ukraine asks G7 to step up arms supply, pressure on Russia See in context

@ Ingvar:

I'm unaware of any books by Goebbels, Himmler and Goering and unaware of any significant speeches or articles by the latter two.

Respectfully, Goebbels was the author of at least several books, including the infamous Kampf um Berlin in 1939. He also authored the malodorous Michael; ein deutsches schicksal in tagebuchblättern, 1939. He delivered a keynote speech, The truth about Spain to the National Socialist Party Congress in Nurnberg, 1937, which was noteworthy in international diplomacy at the time.

Goering was credited with one book that I am aware of; Germany reborn, 1934. He is also know for giving the “Nationalismus und Sozialismus: Rede auf der NSBO. im Berliner Sportpalast on 9. April 1933,” basically a psycho pep-talk that his party would solve the problems of the workers; known, still, as the "little fish" speech, for the ironic (and completely untrue) statement that opponents of his party were “little fish” that had nothing to fear, since he and his trolls would not seek revenge. Within the next five years, most opposition leaders were murdered.

And don't get me started on Himmler and his Posen Speech of 4 October, 1943). Ultimate in disgusting!

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Posted in: Ukraine asks G7 to step up arms supply, pressure on Russia See in context

@ Ingvar:

Respectfully, Russia’s annual inflation rate climbed to 17.8% in April, up from 16.7% the previous month. It was the highest reading since January. On a monthly basis, prices increased by 1.56%. Source: the State Statistics Service.

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Posted in: Zoos struggling to procure feed for grass-eating animals See in context

Oops! My earlier comment (07:31 am JST), 2nd para, 2nd sent . . . please substitute "golf course" for "gold course." Thank you!

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Posted in: Azaleas in full bloom See in context

Wonderful!

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Posted in: While in college, I cared for my mother with an intractable disease night and day. I experienced a great deal of difficulty when I tried to find a job. See in context

I cared for my mother with an intractable disease night and day.

While I feel for this caregiver, and the plight of all caregivers in sustaining employment around family care responsibilities, and I would not even consider subtracting from the overall theme of the quote, I am still left puzzling over the term, intractable disease, and it's use in Japan. Is this literally 'nanbyo?' Isn't that considered diagnostically a rare disease or condition of unknown etymology? with unidentifiable causes, along with a lack of curable treatments?

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Posted in: Zoos struggling to procure feed for grass-eating animals See in context

Tobe Zoological Park in Tobe, Ehime Prefecture, was unable to obtain Bermuda grass, used as the main feed for camels and kangaroos, from November through January this year.

I'm not sure I can necessarily follow why feed grasses are not grown domestically.

I understand that some large sports arenas in Japan, including the Japan National Stadium, has been planted with several varietals of Bermuda grass for years. Ditto for gold courses. Ideal conditions in some areas.

Or did zoos find it cheaper to buy imports?

Or is this just a 'how inflation is making life more difficult for everyone, even animals' kind of piece?

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Posted in: Wealthy nations carving up space and its riches See in context

How can any article, pretending to be a serious discussion of the world’s access to satellite resources, completely ignore the United Nation’s UNITAR, and their program called UNOSAT? UNOSAT makes satellite based solutions and geographical information easily available and affordable for the entire UN Family, member states, international organizations and NGOs.

While UNOSAT and the United Nations per se currently don’t have satellites that they own, they do have considerable and priority access to extensive amounts of satellite positioning and satellite data, for free or next to no cost, from the European Union's Copernicus Program. Several UN organzations, including UNOSAT, UNDP and UNICEF has been using Norwegian Space Agency data free of licensing and other limitations for several years now. Not to mention many long-term generous contracts that UN organizations have with national space agencies, such as NASA and the European Space Agency.

In fact, satellites play such a central role in the realization of the UN's Agenda 2030, that the UN has also established a Space 2030 Agenda to show how satellites and space can help them reach the 17 Goals for Sustainable Development. (https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/space4sdgs/index.html).

And no mention at all about the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO). https://itso.int/about-us/. And the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). https://www.unoosa.org/ .

Yet none of this deserves serious consideration, let alone mention in Ms. Ogden’s feature opinion. Instead, we are handed:

Right now, the major players in space are establishing the norms for exploiting resources.

Inadequate.

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Posted in: Japanese government proposes manga-inspired courtship; Suzu Yamanouchi praised for critique See in context

However, is "romance support" really the best course of action for the government to address these problems?

Picture, if you can, the young couple (pictured above) standing in the school hallway, when suddenly interrupted by a frantic looking older person, in uniform, insisting, 'your'e not doing it right! Step aside, and I'll demonstrate to you the proper, recommended method!'

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Posted in: U.N. holds emergency meeting on Taliban crackdown on women See in context

Current status in France of full-face veil bans in public, via CNN:

In 2011, France became the first country in Europe to ban all face-covering garments in public spaces, including balaclavas, masks, burqas and niqabs. Several other countries, including Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark followed with their own bans, partials bans and local bans of face coverings.

Last week, the French senate also voted to ban hijabs for female athletes, although the measure must now be voted on in France's lower house. President Emmanuel Macron and his party oppose the ban. And last year, a move to ban anyone under the age of 18 from wearing hijab in public was rejected by members of the national assembly.

Authority as to this being a choice versus a requirement under Islam:

Islam has flexibility in many issues and whether a woman likes to wear the hijab or the niqab, it is her personal choice; both are acceptable but according to the opinion of many contemporary scholars, niqab is not required. https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/is-face-veil-niqab-compulsory/

[T]here is no requirement to cover the hair in the Qur'an for women. There is also no requirement for the face veil. The human head has eyes, mouth, nose and ears, all of which are designed to be left unobstructed at all times - i.e. the head is intended by Allah to be left uncovered, and the Qur'an remains in harmony with this.https://www.quranicpath.com/misconceptions/hijab_niqab.html

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Posted in: What are some telltale signs that a business might be on the verge of bankruptcy? Also, have you ever worked for a company that went under and did you see it coming? See in context

You arrive to work one day, only to find a construction crew demolishing the building, and a huge sign in the parking lot, announcing that it is a future site of a new rugby field.

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Posted in: N Korea reports 6 deaths, 350,000 ill after admitting COVID-19 outbreak See in context

In related news, the day before, world leaders pledged US$3 billion in new funding at the Virtual global Covid-19 summit. Over US$2 billion of the money will go towards ‘immediate’ Covid-19 response, while US$962 million has been committed to a World Bank fund. https://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/3177555/virtual-global-covid-19-summit-yields-us3-billion-new-funding

No word yet over how much of the $3B The Kim has asked for.

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Posted in: Parents swap, sell baby formula as Biden focuses on shortage See in context

From early April, from Datasembly:

Baby formula stock was relatively stable for the first half of 2021. Out-of-stock rate (OOS) fluctuation was between 2-8%. The OOS detail shows that in January 2022, baby formula shortages have hit 23%. Hyperlocal data indicates they will continue to worsen, showing OOS levels now at 31% as of April 2022.

https://datasembly.com/news/out-of-stock-rate-in-april-2022/

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