Resident Evil VIII rekindles the illogical, weird magic of the series #SootinClaimon.Com

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Resident Evil VIII rekindles the illogical, weird magic of the series


Resident Evil is about the balance of fear and power. Its a staple of the series. At the beginning of each game, the player is meant to feel overwhelmed and confused. By the end, they can fight back against these emotions – usually with a rocket launcher.

Resident Evil VIII rekindles the illogical, weird magic of the series

“Resident Evil VIII: Village” continues this tradition, dropping faceless protagonist Ethan Winters – also the star of “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard” – in the middle of a wildly unfamiliar situation. But if you loved the understated horror of Ethan’s adventure in the seventh game, you’ll only get a bit of that here. In fact, you’ll likely leave disappointed. But if you’re like me and your favorite title is “Resident Evil 4,” this will delight.

Built like a Disneyland of horror tropes and gore, the eponymous village funnels you toward gory sights and sounds, with Ethan circling a drain of carnage. Resident Evil games are almost literally visceral experiences, holding up guts and gross things up to the camera to intimidate, bewilder and occasionally even charm. The good news: “Village” is a visually stunning ride. Later in the game, when the action ramps up, I couldn’t help but compare it to 2019′s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” with its arresting visual and audio fidelity. (Just swap the guns and militants for werewolves and biomechanical freaks).

“Village” quickly moves along narrative beats familiar to “Resident Evil 4” veterans, including oddball villains like the now-infamous Lady Dimetrescu, the 9-foot-tall vampire that dominated the game’s marketing. She and the other lords of the village conjure gleeful energy throughout the game, fabulous and fearsome. It’s the kind of gory glamour the series sometimes loves to dress itself in, as in the opera-house drama of “Code Veronica,” or the sixth sequel’s climactic battle between a zombie Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Jeep. In “Village,” Ethan trades the small-town Louisiana horror of “Biohazard” for weirder territory.

Now we turn to some bad news: Dimetrescu is far from the game’s focus. Rather, she’s just one of four villains Ethan must topple to rescue his daughter. Yes, it’s another horror game about the travails and emotions of being a dad. The premise is stale, so it’s good that the four “children” of the chief antagonist, Mother Miranda, try to breathe life (or death?) into it. Not all of them do. A third villain’s section of the horror theme park is a swampy trial-and-error drudge, and his fight fails to excite.

Dimetrescu is charismatic to the detriment of your other foes. She is imperious and poised, and you’ll find it impossible to unglue your eyes from the screen any time she appears, or even as she stalks you throughout her castle. No one, not even the mysterious Mother Miranda, commands as much attention, and it’s hard not to notice once she exits the stage.

Fortunately, the horror showcase that follows is immediately terrifying. Anyone concerned that Dimetrescu’s flamboyance might subdue the game’s fear factor need not worry. The next monster is a constant startling presence, with a face so unsettling it had the polar opposite effect of Dimetrescu: I kept having to look away.

“Village” gives players plenty of opportunity to explore. It’s very much a lighter “Metroid” experience, where accomplishing certain tasks gives you the key to explore more areas and find more secrets. The actual village hub has a few locked doors and treasure chests with ample rewards and story nuggets about what exactly is going on. It’s surface-level stuff, and hardly any of it is coherent or compelling, but this is Resident Evil, not “The Last of Us.”

Make no mistake: the environment isn’t interactive, it’s mostly there to set a majestic mood while leaving just enough visual cues to push you forward. This game is far from clever, and the puzzles are about as hard as they were in the recent remakes. But they’re enough to make some players feel clever, and that’s all you can ask. And the backdrop for these simplistic puzzles almost never gets old to tour. Outside of the village and the castle, the story takes you to the expected tropes of past Resident Evil titles, but plays with your expectations enough to keep it engaging and surprising.

As audience surrogate and everyman, Ethan Winters is not an interesting or wise character. But “Village” eventually turns him into a sympathetic one, painting him as a hapless, entangled victim. By the end of the game, Ethan Winters is no longer the dogged, serious and scared hero of “Biohazard.” He’s the tragic superhero protagonist of a Zack Snyder film, a singular, narrow vision of emotion maximized to mythology. It’s here where Resident Evil returns to its classic escalation of stakes and action. Unlike the lonely “Biohazard,” “Village” ends with a muddy conspiracy and muddier motivations, and at a scale we haven’t seen since the loud, ridiculous “Resident Evil 6,” all the way back in 2012.

This is why your enjoyment of “Village” depends on what you want out of Resident Evil. I love when “Village” leans into camp and slapstick goth violence. I love when it magically, without logic, gives me the tools I need to fight against the madness. I love how many aesthetic cues it takes from the fourth game. I love how many gameplay mechanics “Village” borrows from it too, especially the return of the attaché case. Resident Evil games are as much about inventory management as they are about killing zombies, and “Village” allows you to play “Tetris” with your items. My Ethan Winters took plenty of breaks to play Marie Kondo, decluttering and rearranging until the joy sparked.

A mercantile system also returns in the very large body of the Duke, who lords over the proceedings with a watchful eye. The Duke is absolutely related to the famous “What’re ya buying” anonymous merchant of “RE4,″ whose identity has confounded fans and lore theorists. But the Duke gives a few more clues about the nature of these retailers, and about the whole series in general. After buying one of the many upgrades for your weapons (which persist in future playthroughs), the Duke will cheerfully tell you to “have a wonderful adventure.”

The Resident Evil series is eternally challenged by balancing its aggressive violence, the grim beauty of its environments, and the whimsy of its typecast, entirely moronic characters. “Village” almost walks that line – until it can’t help itself, and runs amok with its own imagination. Many fans, myself included, will welcome it. If the end of the world already feels like a bunch of nonsense with irrational, emotional people, might as well make an adventure of it.

Published : May 06, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Gene Park

Pandemic highlights need for resilient occupational safety and health systems: ILO #SootinClaimon.Com

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Pandemic highlights need for resilient occupational safety and health systems: ILO


The pandemic has reinforced the need for resilient national Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) systems to be put in place. To mark Safe Day 2021, ILO’s assistant director-general and regional director for Asia-Pacific, Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, explains what they are and what needs to be done.

Pandemic highlights need for resilient occupational safety and health systems: ILO

Workplaces can easily become contaminated, exposing workers, their families and communities to the risk of infection. In addition to infection, workers in all sectors face additional hazards that have emerged due to new work practices and procedures adopted to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Working at home, for instance, has led to ergonomic and psychosocial risks with some 65 per cent of surveyed enterprises reporting that worker morale has been difficult to sustain.

Certain workplaces have been particularly affected, such as the 136 million health and social workers at serious risk of acquiring Covid-19 during the course of their work. Moreover, those workers, as well as essential staff in many other sectors, have faced increased workload, longer working hours and reduced rest periods. The risk of violence and harassment at work has also risen, with consequences for both physical and mental well-being.

The protection of workers against sickness, disease and injury related to their work environment has been a central issue for the ILO since 1919.

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, principles contained in the ILO Occupational Safety and Health standards have shown to be more relevant than ever, especially the principle of prevention.

Faced with an unprecedented public health emergency, governments have taken measures to curb the spread of the virus through public health systems. Actors in the world of work, particularly in the field of OSH, have been crucial in the emergency response for protecting workers including those who support public health systems.

At the same time, special attention has been needed to ensure that policies and strategies do not discriminate against anyone, and consider those in vulnerable situations including the young, women, disabled and migrant workers, the self-employed and the informal economy.

Among the many lessons learned from this crisis, is the need for countries to have a sound and resilient OSH system in place, one that can build capacity for future emergencies and protect workers’ safety and health while supporting the survival of enterprises.

The ILO’s Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 lays out key elements of a national OSH system.

They comprise regulatory and institutional frameworks; occupational health services; information, advisory services and training; data collection and research; and mechanisms for strengthening OSH management systems at the enterprise level to prevent and respond to OSH risks. Investing in these systems enables countries to better face and recover from crises by safeguarding lives and livelihoods, and advancing the protection of workers.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Covid pandemic has led to many countries taking steps to strengthen priority elements of their national OSH system.

For example, Singapore has adopted new regulations on teleworking or leave with a view of protecting vulnerable populations. In India, the Health and Family Welfare Ministry has produced and disseminated materials on how to effectively communicate with workers and people who are suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19.

In New Zealand, occupational health professionals have helped workers set up ergonomically sound home office environments to support healthy teleworking. In Bangladesh, research has looked at instances of suicides by workers due to Covid-related unemployment or business closures. Meanwhile, a study in Malaysia examined the specific risks that migrants face in connection with Covid-19.

The pandemic has furthermore demonstrated the importance of social dialogue between governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations not only in responding to crises but also in promoting good OSH conditions. A climate of trust, built through social dialogue, is essential for the effective implementation of measures to address emergencies such as Covid-19, which require quick but effective action. Strengthened respect for, and reliance upon, mechanisms for social dialogue create a strong foundation for building resilience and encouraging commitment from employers and workers to the necessary policy and practical measures.

Covid-19 has undoubtedly been one of the gravest occupational safety and health challenges the world has ever faced. A strong national OSH system can only be built through concerted action and commitment of all stakeholders.

Published : May 03, 2021

By : THE NATION

Biden’s star trek on climate change #SootinClaimon.Com

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Biden’s star trek on climate change


Joe Biden reaches a milestone on Thursday, marking his first 100 days as the 46th president of the United States. After four years of chaotic Trump governance, the world was relieved at how quickly Biden shifted to calm and competent professionalism in tackling the pandemic, economy and foreign affairs.

Biden’s star trek on climate change

Biden used April 22, Earth Day, to call a Global Summit on climate change. The theme this year was to “Restore our Earth” after last year was marked by the pandemic, unprecedented natural disasters and the second-hottest year on record. It also witnessed record stock market prices coupled with rising poverty, indicating a growing wealth gap.

The 40 global leaders invited to the global summit included not only heads of G-20 countries but also of small nations like Bhutan, Gabon, Antigua and Barbuda and Marshall Islands. Within the Asian region, leaders of non-G20 members like Vietnam, Singapore and Bangladesh joined heavyweights like China’s President Xi, Indian Prime Minister Modi, Indonesian President Jokowi, Japan’s Prime Minister Suga and South Korean President Moon. Significantly, this was German Chancellor Merkel’s last global summit appearance, while Pope Francis was also invited to add a moral tone.

President Biden’s opening remarks tackled not just the existential threat of climate change but also jobs and getting the economy moving through clean investments. He urged global leaders to take concrete action to prevent the Earth’s temperature from rising more than 1.5C. To show American leadership, he committed the US to two significant steps. The first is a formal commitment to cut US emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030. The second is to double his country’s annual public climate financing for developing countries by 2024.

How significant was this Global Climate Summit? Optically, it could be the Green New Deal of the Century. Practically, it’s all about delivery – whether the US can lead the world out of the climate warming trap with action and not just words. If America is not able to put its own house in order in terms of social inequality, economy and climate change, it will cede leadership elsewhere.

So far, Biden has had most of his nominated officials approved, so that tested professionals are now busy cleaning up Trump’s legacies. This is a calmer and more effective White House, in sharp contrast to the constant barrage of angry and wild tweets emerging from the Trump White House.

Under Biden, the US has led the vaccination rollout, allowing the economy to reopen, and committing $5.1 trillion – $0.9 trillion under Trump, $1.9 trillion in February and $2.3 trillion for infrastructure – in stimulus and infrastructure spending plans, equivalent to nearly a quarter of GDP. Economically, in the medium term, the US is set to have the fastest recovery ahead of Europe and Japan, though not China.

Given bipartisan support for US foreign and national security policies, Biden has retained many of Trump’s hard-line actions on China. If anything, the tone has sharpened in maintaining China tariffs, sanctions and the decoupling of technology and reshoring of manufacturing.

The second phase of Biden’s foreign policy is his decisions to pull out of Afghanistan and make overtures to Iran. The Afghanistan war is the longest in American history and has ended exactly as the Korean and Vietnam wars – in defeat disguised as withdrawal. The history books have been proved right: Afghanistan is a graveyard for empires, from Alexander the Great’s army to the British to the Russians to American military might today.

What the latest Afghanistan war proved is that intervening with “humanitarian” intentions can end in worse human right abuses by destroying families, communities and even nations. This tragedy has been repeated time and again – in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria – with neighbouring countries teetering on the brink of failure amid refugee influxes, overwhelmed infrastructure and, today, the pandemic catastrophe.

Simply put, the strategy behind the Climate Summit was to regain the moral high ground that Trump ceded by signalling a global race to the top on climate action, rather than a race to the bottom through another arms race. However, both will likely be pursued.

Three points stand out from Biden’s maiden 100 days. First, the funding commitment to help the rest of the world tackle climate change is minimal. Doubling current US climate financing of $2.5 billion to $5.7 billion by 2024 is a mere 0.03 per cent of 2020 GDP – hardly generous compared to the 1948 Marshall Plan of $12 billion or 4.3 per cent of GDP. Furthermore, this aid amounts to 0.3 per cent of the $175 billion in US weapons exported last year, or 0.19 per cent of the $3 trillion in quantitative easing created by the Fed last year.

Second, on what moral or legal grounds can the US justify condoning Japan’s move to dump millions of gallons of Fukushima nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean without the approval of those affected? Does transparency in doing bad things make them right?

Third, fixing the domestic economy by relying mainly on foreign funding with a US net liability to the rest of the world of $14 trillion, or 67 per cent of GDP, is highly risky. As former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has warned, the large stimulus package will in the short run lift the economy, but at the cost of growing inflation risks. Any interest rate hikes will kill the asset bubbles and may trigger the next financial crisis.

In essence, Biden is trying to steer what American futurologist Buckminster Fuller called in 1978 the Critical Path of Spaceship Earth between two existential threats of nuclear destruction or climate burning. In the TV series Star Trek, the USS Enterprise ventured into deep space where no man has gone before, fully armed to the teeth, but with the Prime Directive of Non-Interference in alien societies’ development.

President Biden has boldly and rightly staked his reputation on saving the planet through climate action.

As planetary citizens, we salute him. We will watch the next episode with great anticipation.

Andrew Sheng comments on global affairs from an Asian perspective. The views expressed are his own.

Published : April 27, 2021

By : The Nation

Experts demand generic version of drug effective against Covid-19 #SootinClaimon.Com

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Experts demand generic version of drug effective against Covid-19

ColumnsApr 10. 2021

By Bobby Ramakant
Citizen News Service

Shouldn’t a medicine like Remdesivir, which has proved to be life-saving in certain cases of Covid-19, be made available to all those who need it without delay?

Even if Big Pharma has a patent, there are provisions in global trade treaties that allow governments to issue compulsory licences for such a life-saving drug, and keep public interest above profit. This is why medical experts are demanding that governments use compulsory licensing for generic production of such a drug to help save lives.

Compulsory licensing is one of the key public health and social justice safeguards that allows governments to use, produce, and import or export patented technologies in the public interest.

When confronted with intellectual property barriers that block access to affordable life-saving treatments, governments of countries like Thailand, Brazil, India, South Africa, Malaysia among others, have used this mechanism of compulsory licensing in the past, to ensure life-saving medicines reach the people who need it most (for HIV, hepatitis C, cancer, etc).

Compulsory licensing enables local production or importation of generic medicines, multiple supply options, reduces price and increases access to life-saving treatments for those most in need.

The Indian state of Maharashtra is registering high numbers of Covid-19 cases as of now, and the situation is equally bad in several states. Among the medicines that have shown to work in Covid-19 are steroids and Remdesivir. The patent owner of Remdesivir, Gilead, had given voluntary licence to six Indian pharmaceuticals. Even then, there is an acute shortage of Remdesivir injections, possibly due to hoarding and racketeering, especially in Maharashtra. This will have a cascading effect in the rest of India. Its maximum retail price ranges between 2,800-5,400 Indian rupees (Bt1,200-Bt2,500) as per the company that produces it, whereas procurement rates at hospitals range between 600-1000 rupees. “After we pointed out this discrepancy, the Maharashtra government has once again capped the price from 1,000 to 1,400 rupees per injection. Each eligible patient needs six doses and is required only for treating moderate or severe Covid cases” said Dr Ishwar Gilada, secretary-general of Organised Medicine Academic Guild (Omag), an umbrella network of several professional medical experts’ associations in India.

Omag has appealed to the Indian prime minister to put Remdesivir in Drug Price Control Order, as is done for other life-saving medicines. This will help reduce the maximum retail price to an affordable level and remove buffer margins and scope for black-marketing.

Another ask of Omag is to grant a compulsory licence under Section 84 of Indian Patents Act, 1970, to ramp-up production of Remdesivir. It can bring down procurement cost to below 500 rupees per vial, to save millions of Indian Covid patients as also several more globally, who will benefit from made-in-India generic Remdesivir.

Omag has also insisted on rationalising the use of Remedesivir with strict adherence to the guidelines, making multiple Remdesivir stores or Remdesivir banks with strict sales control, and making racketeering of Remdesivir punishable under the Epidemic Act of India.

Gilada, who is also the president of Aids Society of India and Governing Council member of International Aids Society, added that Remdesivir (GS-5734) was originally developed by Gilead Sciences in 2009, to treat Hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial virus, but failed. It was then repurposed and studied as a potential treatment for Ebola and Marburg virus infections. In collaborative study it was subsequently discovered that it had antiviral activity in-vitro against multiple filoviruses, pneumoviruses, paramyxoviruses, and coronaviruses. It is now repurposed for use in Covid-19. Remdesivir was granted a patent in India in 2010. A compulsory licence can be issued against any drug with a three-year-old patent and hence this demand from Omag.

One of the lessons from the global public health emergency, is that profiteering from illness has to end. It is an essential cog-in-the-wheel of sustainable development where no one is left behind and that all healthcare services reach every human being in a rights-based manner, not dependent on the capacity to pay.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) had earlier stated that a compulsory licence is a licence for alternative production or importation of a generic version of a patented medicine which is granted by the government and does not require the consent of the patent-holder. The Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health confirms that countries are free to determine the grounds of compulsory licences. TRIPS, or Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, is an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization. Examples of different grounds for compulsory licence include, for instance to remedy anti-competitive practices, failure to work or insufficient working of the patent, when the patented medicine is unaffordable or unavailable making it inaccessible to patients and when public health is at stake including but not limited to emergency/extreme urgency, epidemics and public non-commercial use.

Bobby Ramakant is a 2008 WNTD Awardee of the World Health Organization director-general.

Open banking system still a distant dream for Thailand #SootinClaimon.Com

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Open banking system still a distant dream for Thailand

ColumnsApr 01. 2021Vilaiporn TaweelappontongVilaiporn Taweelappontong

By THE NATION

Thailand’s financial sector could take as long as 10 years to fully embrace open banking due to a lack of necessary infrastructure, customer confidence to share data and collaboration between banks, PwC Thailand said.

Hence, it added, government and regulatory bodies should put in place an open banking infrastructure as well as legislation governing data sharing and security to unlock the sector’s potential and strengthen Thailand’s data-driven financial ecosystem.

Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, consulting lead partner and financial services leader for PwC Thailand, said the global financial services industry is developing open banking technology that allows third-party providers (TPPs) such as tech firms, fintech players and other banks to access the financial information of banking customers through open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

This shift would make it easy for customers to access financial offerings with personalized services in real-time. Banks and financial institutions can add new revenue streams from innovative financial products and services by partnering up with non-banks such as technology firms and fintech players. All of this will help to accelerate digitalisation, save costs and add more flexibility to operations.

Even so, developing open banking in Thailand still faces many challenges.

“It could take at least 10 years for the financial sector in Thailand to fully embrace open banking simply because it still has a lot more to do both in terms of getting the infrastructure ready and building user confidence,” Vilaiporn said.

Currently, most Thai banks are investing in API development portals and other internal capabilities to share technology within affiliated companies, joint ventures or trading partners, Vilaiporn said. But the accessibility of data remains limited.

“If we want to take further steps to fully adopt open banking, the government and regulators must put in place a regulatory framework concerning interconnectivity, usage and data security while also building awareness among the population around the safety of sharing financial data,” she said.

Loopholes in development

Over the last couple of years, open banking has been revolutionising the global financial services sector. But many countries are still in different stages of adoption, Vilaiporn said.

Many Thai banks are reluctant to share customer data with entities they see as business competitors, and so far, there are no extensive regulations and incentives to convince them to start doing so, she said.

“The open banking revolution has greatly challenged the traditional financial ecosystem in every aspect because banks have to allow third-party providers to access the financial information of their customers.

“However, many banks today still worry about the security of letting other TPPs access their customer data. They are also concerned about competing in an already fierce market, losing business to new entrants such as fintech. And it’s more difficult to manage customer relationships when transactions at the counters of physical banks are diminishing fast,” Vilaiporn said.

A successful push to fully embrace open banking in Thailand would require efforts from all parties along with government incentives to foster collaboration. This would include tightening the regulatory framework and preparing data-security infrastructure in the event of an attack that could cause irreparable damage to the financial services system, she said.

Customers at the heart of open banking

Technological advances and changing consumer behaviour have prompted financial institutions and banks to focus on improving the customer experience to retain existing customers and attract new ones.

Asian banking customers who are frustrated with their traditional banks are shifting to virtual banking, according to “Beyond Digital: Data-Driven Strategies to Grow, Scale and Profit”, a report by PwC and Oracle.

These end-customers demand a single platform that integrates financial and non-financial services, allowing them to transition from one channel to another seamlessly. Such market trends underline the need for banks to adopt open banking solutions to accelerate data-based innovation and interoperability, it said.

“The development of open banking will provide a better customer experience from bringing together all the offerings that people want from different providers to a single platform, be it transferring money, checking balances or paying for goods and services.

“Customers can wire money at bank A, pay a bill via app B or apply for a loan via app C, all of which can be done through the same interface without switching in and out of so many apps or platforms. By giving them greater control of their data, it also means they get to have access to an array of services from third parties more easily,” the report said.

Day of the Landless sparks call for reform of global food system #SootinClaimon.Com

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Day of the Landless sparks call for reform of global food system

ColumnsMar 30. 2021

By Bobby Ramakant
Special to The Nation

Today (March 29) marks the Day of the Landless, inaugurated by the Asian Peasant Coalition to spotlight the struggle for land rights by rural people in countries around the world.

Landless farmer groups from around Asia joined a summit ahead of the Day of the Landless in a bid to strengthen their push for land rights and reforms.

The theme this year – “Land of the Landless: Land to the Tillers” – recalls the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “In reality, the toiler is the owner of what he produces. If the toilers intelligently combine, they will become an irresistible power.”

Indian independence leader Ram Manohar Lohia echoed that point: “The most exploited element in Indian society is the landless village labourers and farmers,” said Lohia, adding that the freedom struggle in India could not be completed until the prosperity of the humble kisan (farmer) became a reality.

In 1949, two years after India gained independence, Lohia said reconstruction of the country was primarily a question of the reconstruction of her 550,000 of villages. Like Gandhi, he wanted a village-based democracy in India. Each village should be a zone of peace where land should be given to the impoverished residents who actually tilled the soil, and even landless labourers would secure rehabilitation and social justice. Lohia exposed the bitter truth of so-called urban “development” when he said the government had sacrificed Indian villages for the benefit of cities. Village dwellers were exploited economically and culturally. In Lohia’s scheme of agrarian revolution, those who till the land must also own it.

Land still does not belong to the tillers

More than eight decades after India won independence, Gandhi and Lohia’s words speak louder than ever: most land still does not belong to the tiller. Far from securing the land for tillers, the “development” model India is chasing puts many at risk of losing it. Under the policies of globalisation, privatisation and liberalisation implemented since the early 1990s, even landholder farmers are becoming landless, said Harinder Singh Manshahia, a farmers’ leader and Punjab state president of the Socialist Party (India).

According to National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data, 60 per cent of India’s population has rights to only 5 per cent of the land. Meanwhile 10 per cent has control over 55 per cent of the land. The 2011 Socio Economic and Caste Census shows that 56 per cent of households in rural India do not own any agricultural land. The NSSO 2013 revealed that the top 7.18 per cent of households own more than 46.71 per cent of the land.

For the Day of the Landless 2021, the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) has joined with regional farmers to call for an end to corporate control of food and agriculture.

They called for strengthening of the battle for genuine land reform and rural development to truly transform the world’s food systems.

“On the Day of the Landless, we – farmers and peasants, poor farmhands, agricultural workers, contract farmers, Dalits, rural women and youth, and land reform advocates across Asia – vow to further our resolve in fighting against landlessness,” said Raja Mujeeb, a member of the Pakistan Kisan Mazdoor Tahreek farmers’ alliance.

“Landlessness breeds social injustice, hunger and impoverishment. Landlessness is a bane to farmers and all the people of the world,” he added.

Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and vice president of the Socialist Party (India), said: “It is unacceptable that farmers and food producers who feed our nations do not have access to land and are food insecure because of land and resource grabs, and of corporate capture of agricultural production and trade.”

Why hunger when farmers grow more than we need?

The Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged the world in 2020 further exposed the profit-oriented nature of global food systems as it drove millions of people into chronic hunger. By the end of 2019, at least 690 million people went hungry. By the start of 2020, hundreds of millions of people continued to suffer acute food insecurity as they faced conflict, climate change, and economic crises of epic proportions.

A staggering 7 million people died of hunger last year as of October 2020. Pandemic-related hunger also led to the deaths of 10,000 more children each month over the first year of the health crisis. Forecasts even warned about multiple famines in the coming months as the lowest-income households are most likely to face increased hunger. Strict lockdown policies and quarantines have affected all stages of food supply, resulting in a steep rise in food prices and widespread food insecurity.

APC leaders said that hunger and poverty of Asian peasants and sectors in agriculture are among the direct results of centuries-old landlessness. Large-scale land deals and acquisitions (land grabs led by corporations) have dispossessed and displaced farmers from the plots they till. Millions of hectares of land planted with staples, grains and other food crops, as well as indigenous lands, and public lands were grabbed and converted into plantations, extractive mining projects, and farms devoted to export cash crops. Governments have become willing accomplices in these land grabs through public-private partnerships that take away land, water, and other natural resources from the people. Profits keep pouring into the pockets of the few as the majority of peasants and their families endure worsening landlessness and land grabs amid a pandemic. Farmers who assert land rights are faced with attacks from local landlords, big corporations and even government agencies. Peasant killings and other forms of brutalities against farmers happen on a daily basis.

In Asia, the largest protests we have seen in recent months are by Indian farmers, taking to the streets in hundreds of millions to oppose neoliberal agricultural laws that will make them more vulnerable to a few powerful corporations.

The APC warns that “ongoing efforts to address the rising global hunger and poverty through the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit will only end up in legitimising and further advancing tighter imperialist control over food and agriculture”.

At the summit, the APC called for just, equitable, healthy, and sustainable food systems that would bring to the fore the peasant’s aspirations and struggles for land and genuine agrarian reform.

Cathy Estavillo, chairperson of Amihan women peasant federation (Philippines) and vice chair of APC; Ravindra, landless person from Hardoi in UP, India; and Anil Mishra, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh, India and president of the Socialist Kisan Sabha also addressed the summit under the unifying call that “Land Must Belong to the Tillers”.

Bobby Ramakant is a member of CNS (Citizen News Service), Asha Parivar, APCAT Media, and the Socialist Party (India). Follow him on Twitter @bobbyramakant or read www.bit.ly/BobbyRamakant

ASEAN must stop Myanmar from becoming cold war theater #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30403947

ASEAN must stop Myanmar from becoming cold war theater

ColumnsMar 21. 2021

By Endy Bayuni
The Jakarta Post

At the current rate, the crisis in Myanmar will have serious geopolitical and security implications, not only for the country itself but also for its Southeast Asian neighbors. An economically weak and politically unstable Myanmar makes it easy prey for China and the United States to wage their proxy battles.

This is bad news for ASEAN.

China’s nonchalant attitude towards the military coup in Myanmar raises speculations that it is ready to accept and recognize the junta as the legal representative government. At the most, Beijing has expressed concerns about the fate of its investment projects in Myanmar as some protesters opposing the military are venting anger at China’s business interests.

China’s attitude stands in sharp contrast to the reaction of most of the rest of the world, which has condemned the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, for the Feb. 1 coup that prevented the National League for Democracy (NLD) from assuming power after the party’s landslide electoral victory in November.

Widespread global condemnation has not stopped the Tatmadaw from killing peaceful protesters who have demonstrated in the streets of Yangon since the power grab. At least 150 people have died in military crackdowns. Calls for allowing peaceful protests and for the release of hundreds of protesters and NLD leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have fallen on deaf ears.

With ASEAN powerless to stop the escalation and the United Nations Security Council paralyzed by great power political games, the opposition forces in Myanmar are inevitably turning to the West for help. But the US and other Western countries could, at best, impose economic sanctions, which, judging by the history of such sanctions, will have a limited impact.

Myanmar will soon become polarized in the hegemonic contest emerging in Asia. The country is ripe to be the next cold war arena, especially with tensions growing between China and the US.

Read also: Government offers relief flights for diaspora in Myanmar

Both powers have upped the ante, moving outside the original economic and trade domain to the COVID-19 pandemic and, inevitably, to a contest for power and influence in the Asia.

US President Joe Biden has formalized the Indo-Pacific Quad, an informal alliance founded in 2007 to counterweigh the rise of China consisting of the US, India, Japan and Australia. The Quad’s first summit was held by video conference last week. The alliance is matching China’s COVID-19 diplomacy with promises to supply vaccines to Asian countries. Quietly, Quad countries are inviting other Asian countries to join the anti-China group, calling it Quad-Plus.

Southeast Asia could once again become a theater for great power competition to expand spheres of influence. From the perspective of the contestants, if lives are lost along the way, they are nothing more than collateral damage.

This would unravel more than five decades of ASEAN’s hard work turning Southeast Asia into what we know today, a region relatively free of conflict that has allowed member countries to forge ahead with economic development and build prosperity for their people.

Pre-ASEAN Southeast Asia was full of conflict and wars between neighboring countries as they were pulled apart by competing superpowers. The Vietnam War was the largest, longest and probably the most remembered, but there were other big conflicts and tensions in the region in the 1960s, including the bloody confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia. ASEAN diplomacy led to the signing of the Cambodian peace agreement in Paris in 1991.

It took the vision of the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in 1967 to launch ASEAN with the goal of transforming Southeast Asia from a region of conflict to one of peace. And it took ASEAN another 30 years before the five other countries in the region joined: Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Read also: Anti-China outrage pulls Beijing into Myanmar coup crisis

Much of today’s wealth and prosperity in Southeast Asian countries would have been impossible without ASEAN, albeit to differing extents. To the frustration of many, ASEAN could have moved faster in establishing its charter and becoming a community, which is now postponed to 2025.

The ASEAN achievement, after 53 years of work, could quickly crumble if the situation in Myanmar spins out of control and competing big powers take their battles to the region.

History shows that ASEAN countries cannot afford to sit on their laurels and watch the tragedy in Myanmar unfold.

Indonesia’s initial diplomatic efforts, putting together an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting, may have failed to make a dent, but this is not a reason to give up the effort. The endgame of Indonesian and ASEAN diplomacy is to help restore democracy, peace and stability in Myanmar for the sake of the country’s people and for the sake of all people in Southeast Asia.

***

Senior editor at The Jakarta Post

Instead of reducing maximum speed limit, Thailand increases it to 120 kph #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30403650

Instead of reducing maximum speed limit, Thailand increases it to 120 kph

ColumnsMar 13. 2021

By Bobby Ramakant – CNS

Thailand was among the countries globally that promised last year to reduce the maximum speed limit to 30 kilometre per hour (30 kph) to reduce road traffic crashes, and thus, save lives.

More importantly, the government of Thailand played a major role last year as part of the International Advisory Committee to 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in Stockholm during 19-20 February 2020.

But according to a news, the Thai government is set to increase the maximum speed limit on major highways (with four or more lanes) from 90 kph to 120 kph.

In addition, the rightmost lane or ‘fast lane’ will also have a minimum speed limit of 100 kph to reduce the risk of rear-ending collisions.

During 19-20 February 2020, the Stockholm Declaration was adapted at the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, by ministers and heads of government delegations, which has one of these commitments enshrined: “focus on speed management, including the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/hour in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe, noting that efforts to reduce speed in general will have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries.”

Will roads become safe or unsafe if we increase speed limit?

This news also states that “The new speed limit will assist with traffic flow while boosting convenience and safety for road users”. But stronger evidence is piling on from cities that have reduced the maximum speed limit to 30 kph.

Cities that have implemented maximum road travel speed of 30 kph have shown lifesaving decline in road traffic crashes too. That is why, the commitment to reduce maximum travel speed limit to 30 kph was made by governments including that of Thailand.

Think about this: roads must become safer and convenient not just for motorised vehicle riders, but for everyone as each one of us has a human right to commute safely – such as those who walk, cycle, do vending on roadsides, or opt for non-motorised options.

Moreover, it is not only those who ride motorised vehicles but also those who cycle, walk or use other forms of transport or engage in roadside vending or other activities, who get injured or die untimely in these crashes.

According to the 2020 review of the World Health Organization (WHO), “each day, for almost 60 people in Thailand, travel from their homes – is a journey of no return. Most of these are young people, people of working age – in the prime of their lives.

Most use motorcycles, the most common vehicle on Thailand’s roads. Most die in crashes with larger vehicles.”

This review further added “Motorcycle riders, cyclists, pedestrians and those who have physical limitations, such as people with disabilities, children and older persons are relatively unprotected and, therefore, more vulnerable to serious injury and death.”

The WHO review noted that “Each year, more than 20,000 Thai people die from road crashes and many others are seriously injured and become permanently disabled.

During 2011-2013, the annual average economic loss resulted from the road traffic trauma of the country was 545,435 million Thai baht, representing 6% of the national GDP (TDRI 2017).”

Reduced traffic and speed helps make roads safer

If there are stronger public transport system, which are comfortable, affordable, and accessible to all – rich and poor alike – then private vehicle ownership will lose relevance.

On the contrary, if we do not have strong public transport systems then people will be forced to buy/ rent/ share and use private vehicles. Industry will want its sales to increase but this is neither sustainable nor going to make roads safer for anyone.

During Covid-19 lockdown last year, there was 50% reduction in road traffic deaths in Thailand (compared to the previous five-year period) thereby saving lives of almost 1000 road users in just one month of April 2020.

WHO added in its review that “We learned that reducing the volume of vehicles on the road, combined with reduced access to alcohol, can significantly reduce road traffic deaths and injuries.”

Road safety worldwide is a formidable challenge

Over 50 million people get injured and 1.35 million die every year due to road traffic crashes worldwide. More alarming is the fact that 90 per cent of these injuries and deaths occur in developing countries.

Road traffic crashes are also the leading cause of death around the world for children and young people between 15 and 29 years of age. Over-speeding is identified as a major cause of almost 70% of these road traffic crashes.

Another important milestone was in August 2020 when heads of governments at the United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution with road safety commitments in line with Stockholm Declaration for the next decade of 2021-2030. It is important to remember that one of the promises of past decade was to reduce the road traffic accident deaths and injuries by 50% by 2020.

Many countries including Thailand have failed to keep this promise. On a positive side, governments have again resolved to reduce road traffic accident deaths and injuries by at least 50% by 2030. Only 117 months are left to keep this promise now.

Fed’s digital dollar would look nothing like bitcoin #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30403157

Fed’s digital dollar would look nothing like bitcoin

ColumnsMar 01. 2021

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg Opinion · Noah Smith

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently mentioned the idea of creating a so-called digital dollar – a new form of electronic currency that would make the payment system easier for Americans and presumably compete with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But there’s little rationale for a government-managed online dollar that looks anything like bitcoin.

There are probably better ways for the Federal Reserve to make it easier and cheaper for Americans to pay for things.

Yellen is not the first to suggest the idea of a digital dollar – or “Fedcoin,” as some call it. Fed Governor Lael Brainard contemplated the concept last year. And David Andolfatto, a senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, has been investigating the possibility for a number of years now. In 2015 he wrote about it on his personal blog, noting several potential benefits.

A Fedcoin, Andolfatto notes, would allow people to make transactions without opening a bank account – like physical cash, but using an app on your phone instead of your physical wallet. He argues it would also be harder to steal than a bank account that can be hacked. In addition, it would leave an electronic trail that would let the government track down criminals if necessary.

These are all advantages of an electronic currency run by the central bank. But it’s crucial to note that none of these features need to employ the kind of decentralized process that enables bitcoin. (Full disclosure: I own bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.)

Bitcoin is designed to operate without the need for a trusted intermediary, such as a bank. When two people make a transaction in dollars, a bank verifies and logs the transaction, and makes sure that the money is debited from one account and credited to another. With bitcoin, that verification is instead done by a distributed network of computers, called “miners.” The economics of the system by which the miners compete to verify the transaction – and are rewarded with bitcoins for doing so – keeps the whole system honest.

But it also requires enormous resources. The mining process – called a “proof-of-work” system – involves solving very hard math problems, which takes a lot of computing power, which in turn requires a huge amount of energy — about as much as the entire country of Argentina, by a recent estimate. Whether that energy use will ultimately hold back bitcoin as a monetary system is a question that remains to be answered.

What’s clear, however, is that there’s no need for the Fed to create its own proof-of-work system for Fedcoin. Proof of work is an expensive way to establish trust in a decentralized world; the Fed, which is a centralized and already trusted entity, doesn’t need to spend massive amounts of electricity reestablishing trust every time someone wants to spend a digital dollar. Instead, it could just clear the transaction like any bank does, cheaply and easily. As long as people trust the Fed not to steal their money (and why would it, when it can print as much as it likes?), a Fed payments system could be incredibly cheap without relying on any cryptocurrency technology at all.

So a Fedcoin shouldn’t look anything like bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean the central bank can’t get involved in processing payments. The Fed could absolutely create an app by which people could cheaply send digital dollars to each other in a peer-to-peer way, without a bank account. Instead of being stored on a distributed ledger like a cryptocurrency, these dollars would simply exist on the Fed’s own centralized database, which people could access through their phones – much as they currently use phones to access their Venmo accounts.

A Fed-run electronic payment system would compete with existing payment applications, such as PayPal, Venmo, Stripe, Visa and MasterCard. That would put those companies at an inherent disadvantage, since they all require banks to operate, and the Fed is its own bank. And because the Fed is part of the government, it doesn’t even need to turn a profit, so its payment service could be very cheap indeed. Fee-charging payment services might be put out of business.

In fact, since the digital dollars that people held at the Fed would be an alternative to keeping those dollars in a checking account, the Fed would also be competing with private banks and credit unions. Many checking accounts are already free, but as Andolfatto notes, simply downloading a Fed-made app would be easier than applying for a bank account, and you probably wouldn’t have to worry about any hidden or surprise fees.

So the Fed could create its own distributed, peer-to-peer payments and cash storage system, and do it much more cheaply than bitcoin. But by doing so, it would be directly competing with much of the world’s existing financial and payments infrastructure. Maybe that’s a good thing – maybe payment and cash storage is simply such a mature and commodified product now that there’s no reason to have profit-making companies doing it, and government can safely muscle them out. But that would in effect be nationalizing an industry, which is always a risky move. Yellen is correct to promise only to do more research into the idea.

Keep indie scene alive #SootinClaimon.Com

#SootinClaimon.Com : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

https://www.nationthailand.com/opinion/30402886

Keep indie scene alive

ColumnsFeb 21. 2021

By Kim Hoo-ran
Korea Herald

Seollal, or Lunar New Year’s Day, typically means staying up until late at night the previous day and waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare the family breakfast. In our family, which does not hold ancestral rites, the big family breakfast has evolved into a brunch with more than 10 dishes topped by the requisite tteokmanduguk, eating of which marks getting a year older.

Because of all the cooking involved, the days leading up to Seollal are filled with growing anxiety and dread. I am sure I am not alone in feeling this way. So it was with a sense of weariness that I started making galbijjim, or braised short ribs, after the dinner table had been cleared on the eve of Lunar New Year’s Day.

This year, however, there was one consolation: The prospect of streaming hours of Korean indie music on YouTube while cooking. This year’s annual celebration marking the birthday of rocker Han Kyung-rock was held online under the title “2021 Kyungrockjeol in the House.” In any other year, Kyungrockjeol, one of the top three festivals in Hongdae, would have been a beer-filled affair where indie bands perform to rowdy audiences that grew more drunk with each performance.

For years now, I had secretly wanted to attend one of these festivals. But I had stayed away for a good reason — someone in her 50s who does not drink would stick out like a sore thumb among the screaming, headbanging crowd. And now, coronavirus be damned, I finally had a chance to take part, even if virtually.

And listening to music that was neither K-pop nor trot and chopping veggies to the beat of a punk band was loads of fun. Every once in a while, when a tune caught my attention, I would stop stirring the pot and look up to check who was on. Whether I was jumping around with a wooden spoon in my hand, I shall not say.

As soon I got up the following morning to resume cooking, I turned to YouTube to see if the show was still going on. It had ended only a few minutes earlier after showing 83 artists from home and abroad for some 18 hours non-stop.

Between acts, rocker Han walked the empty, forlorn streets of once bustling Hongdae. For years, the area had been a place where budding musicians, with guitars on their backs, walked from gig to gig. The venues that were once packed with enthusiastic crowds seeking new sounds now stood desolate.

During the pandemic that has left nothing unscathed, numerous indie music venues, including large, well-known ones with decades of history, vanished overnight, unable to continue as various stages of social distancing schemes forced them to shut down for extended periods.

Smaller ones, with less overhead costs, struggle to stay open, scheduling performances that often end up being canceled as the number of coronavirus cases rises. Bereft of venues to perform at, artists are without a way to make a living.

Virtual performances are often suggested as an alternative to live performances, with K-pop idol bands’ hugely successful livestream concerts that attract global fans cited as a path to follow. That is an example of how an adversity is turned into an opportunity, it is said.

However, the conditions are vastly different for indie musicians, who are without the resources to livestream high-quality productions. A glittering stage with hundreds of screens showing fans from around the world eagerly wielding glow sticks could not be farther from the realities of the indie music scene.

The artists performing at “Kyungrockjeol in the House” recorded their acts in cramped rooms and studios without sophisticated sound equipment or glitzy backdrop. Han acknowledged many sponsors who provided equipment and instruments free of charge, without whose help the online festival would not have been possible.

The government has pledged to support artists but that help has been slow in coming. For indie musicians, in particular, such support seems out of reach due to the requirements that must be met in applying for assistance. Without speedy action, the indie music scene in Korea will die a slow death.

Diversity enriches a nation’s cultural life and it is time that we pay greater attention to making sure that vibrant creative spirit thrives in in all cultural sectors.

Kim Hoo-ran is the culture desk editor at The Korea Herald. — Ed.