The price of crude continued to plunge on Monday, dragged down by fears of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, raising concerns about the global economic growth.
International benchmark Brent crude was down 2.95 percent to $58.90 a barrel, after hitting $58.68 earlier, the lowest level since late October. US West Texas Intermediate crude nosedived more than three percent to $55.52, after falling to a four-month low of $52.1 a barrel.
The coronavirus could cut into demand by around 260,000 bpd and reduce oil prices by about $3 per barrel, according to a report from Goldman Sachs.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said OPEC will be closely monitoring developments in global oil markets amid “gloomy expectations” of the outbreak’s impact on the Chinese and global economy.
“Such extreme pessimism occurred back in 2003 during the Sars outbreak, though it did not cause a significant reduction in oil demand,” he said.
The coronavirus, was identified in December and was linked primarily to stallholders who worked at Wuhan’s Hunan Seafood Market in China, has already killed 80 people and infected nearly 2,800 worldwide. The virus has spread to South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States, among other places. On Friday, the CDC confirmed the second case in the US.
Oil prices are also down due to flight disruptions during one of China’s busiest travel seasons — the Lunar New Year holiday. Chinese authorites have put on lockdown cities in Hubei province, including Wuhan, believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak, affecting millions of travelers.
China has announced an extension of its Lunar New Year holiday through February 2 and suspended sales of package tours to help battle the spread of the disease.
By Jim Hoft
South Africa’s Caster Semenya competes in the women’s 800 and 1500 meter races and consistently defeats the women in the race by 3-4 seconds.
Caster is the Olympic champion.
The runner from Pretoria has raised eyebrows due to her stocky, muscular physique and apparently masculine characteristics, including facial hair and a deep voice.
Semenya, in black, is married to a woman. Caster admits his wife thought he was a man when they first met.
Caster Semenya was born intersex. She has both female and male organs and a very high testosterone level.
In May the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled that Caster will need to lower her testosterone levels to compete with women in the future.
After a recent race in Doha, when asked if she would take testosterone-limiting medication, Semenya told Al Jazeera: “Hell no.”
She is just fine with her high testosterone levels and thinks it’s fair for her to compete with women.
The IAAF ruled in court that Caster Semenya is a biological male.
The Daily Caller reported:
Women’s Olympic champion Caster Semenya is a biological male, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world’s largest sports governing body, argued in court.
Semenya, the South African runner who dominated the female competition in the women’s 800M at the 2016 London Olympics, is fighting an IAAF requirement that biologically male runners suppress their testosterone below a certain level in order to compete in female events.
Media reporting on the subject has often left out the fact that the IAAF’s rule only applies to runners with male chromosomes rather than female runners with high testosterone levels.
The IAAF called the requirement “an extremely progressive compromise” between protecting the integrity of women’s sports and accommodating “certain biologically male athletes with female gender identities” like Semenya who want to compete in women’s sports, the court documents show…
…Semenya’s case, the IAAF reiterated, “is not about biological females and how their bodies respond to testosterone; it is about biological males with 5-ARD (and other [male sexual development disorders]), how their bodies respond to testosterone, and the performance advantages of that response when they compete against biological females.”
Athletes with 5-ARD are “biologically indistinguishable… in all relevant aspects” from typical male athletes, with the only major difference being the “size and shape of their external genitals,” the IAAF argued.
US transgender runner Cece Telferm, who previously competed against men, has become embroiled in controversy after winning the women’s 400m hurdles title – with many fans accusing the athlete of having an unfair advantage.
Franklin Pierce University senior Telfer took the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s 400m hurdles title in dominant fashion at the end of May, setting a new personal best of 57.53 and finishing more than a second ahead of rival runners.
However, the victory was met with mixed reaction on social media, with many users insisting that Telferm should not have been allowed to compete against women.
“Cheat. It’s a shame that cheats are also given awards and celebrated,” one user wrote.
A number of fans fumed that the result of the race was highly predictable, as a mediocre male runner is stronger than even the best female athletes.
“This is getting beyond ridiculous. Natural born female sport is now in absolute crisis and if this is permitted to continue unchecked, XX chromosome World and Olympic records will shortly be consigned to history. XX female athletes cannot beat CeCe, it’s simply not a fair fight!” one person wrote.
Some users suggested that there should be a new division introduced for transgender athletes to ensure fair competition in sport.
“There needs to be men’s, women’s and ‘others’ categories then. It has to be a level playing field or it’s just not fair,” one commentator suggested.
“I am so thinking this is not fairness or sporting. Create a new category,” another user added.
“Sports need another category—men , women, and transgender. The women are competing with a biological male, in this case. In other words, more muscle just by nature’s biology,” one more comment reads.
HBO’s hit new series based on the Chernobyl tragedy has divided opinion online, but the oddest reaction yet has come from a budding UK actor wondering why the show’s creators had not chosen more people of color for the cast.
While the docudrama has come under criticism for various historical inaccuracies, until now, the lack of racial diversity among the actors was not one of those criticisms — for the simple reason that 1980s Ukraine was not exactly a thriving hub of modern-day multiculturalism.
That should have been no reason to leave black and brown actors out though, according to actress Karla Marie Sweet, who tweeted that there are “so many great actors of colour” in the UK who “would’ve been amazing” in the series. Sweet felt “disappointed” to see “yet another hit show with a massive cast” that “makes it looks like PoC don’t exist.”
Just to clear up any confusion, the show “makes it look” like that to reflect the reality of the time and place — and the producers seem to have been at least trying to create an authentic vibe.
Needless to say, Sweet’s tweet didn’t exactly go down well on Twitter, where she was promptly told to “learn history.”
“You didn’t see PoC because they’re not there!”
One user said perhaps the actors were chosen for the same reason that Martin Luther King should probably not be played by a white person — because he was black.
Another said he was taking a screenshot of the thread because “nobody will believe” something so stupid could have been posted.
To be fair, Sweet did at least acknowledge the lack of people of color in the USSR in another tweet, but suggested that since the actors spoke with British accents (it was a British production), the creators should have just thrown accuracy completely out the window and hired a more diverse-looking cast. Emotions like fear, panic and sadness can be “communicated just as effectively” by people of color, she added, missing the point entirely.
Having actors of another race would “break immersion” for the viewers, another user tried to explain — but ultimately, Sweet didn’t seem open to criticism, later tweeting about the reactions she had received from “racist Twitter.”
By Dr. Susan Berry
Film industry giants Disney and Netflix are threatening to boycott the state of Georgia over its new “heartbeat” abortion law, but have continued and even stepped up filming in countries in which abortion is entirely illegal or highly restricted.
Variety reported Monday Netflix intends to increase production in Egypt – where abortion is illegal – with Paranormal, directed by Amr Salama and based on the horror books by late Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik.
“We are excited to continue our investment in Middle Eastern productions by adapting the highly acclaimed Paranormal novels into a thrilling new series,” said Kelly Luegenbiehl, Netflix vice president of international originals.
Variety reported Paranormal is the third Middle Eastern Netflix original series. It follows Jinn, a teen drama with supernatural themes that was filmed in Jordan, where abortion is illegal, except to save the life of the woman or if her health is threatened. Women as well as abortionists can be penalized for defying the law in Jordan.
Despite filming in these nations, however, on Tuesday Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told Variety the company has “many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights … will be severely restricted” by the Georgia law that prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Sarandos said Netflix would be working with the ACLU to fight the new law.
“Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to,” he added. “Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
While Disney Chairman Bob Iger commented that it would not be “practical” for his company to continue to shoot in Georgia, given its new abortion law, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Disney filmed part of its 2019 film Aladdin in Jordan as well.
The Free Beacon also noted that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise. In 2015, the company distributed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was filmed in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where abortion is illegal except during the first 120 days of pregnancy and only when the mother’s life is threatened or the baby is diagnosed with a “lethal abnormality” that is “incompatible with life.”
Republican pollster Logan Dobson also observed on Twitter that Star Wars: The Last Jedi filmed scenes in Croatia, Ireland, and Bolivia – all nations in which abortion was highly restricted at the time of filming:
The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted the inconsistency in Disney’s policies, and specifically pointed out that the company also touts its theme park and films in China, where Turkic Muslims are being held in internment camps:
More than a few Americans may also notice the contradiction that Disney is more worried about filming in a U.S. state that has passed a law democratically than it is operating its theme park and hawking its films in China, which uses facial-recognition software to monitor its population and has a million Uighurs in re-education camps.
For decades, China also attempted to force control of its population with its “one-child policy,” which restricted the number of children a couple could have to only one.
Georgia’s Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act (HB 481) prohibits abortions in the state after a heartbeat is detected, usually at about six or seven weeks of pregnancy. Cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger are exceptions to the law.
Georgia is the third largest production hub in the country, due to its generous tax incentives.
Actress and political activist Alyssa Milano called for a Hollywood boycott of Georgia if Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law. Milano then followed with a call for a sex strike – urging women to engage in abstinence from sex – to protest the end to “reproductive rights.”
Roughly 130 world leaders from 23 countries, ranging from royalty to industry and everything in between, will attend the 2019 Bilderberg Group this week, to discuss topics like Russia, Brexit and the future of AI.
The ultra-secretive meeting will take place from Thursday to Sunday in Montreux, Switzerland. Founded in 1954, the notorious meeting is ostensibly aimed at improving relations between the US and Europe, though the event has long been shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories as attendees are forbidden from disclosing what was discussed.
Many contend it has a far more sinister purpose than mere international relations. Theories range from far-left worries that the group’s aim is to impose eternal capitalist domination, while some on the right have expressed concerns about the establishment of a world government named the New World Order.
Top politicians, business leaders, financiers and academics usually traditionally rank among the invitees. Among the confirmed 2019 attendees are some powerful titans of the tech industry including Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, leading bankers from Goldman Sachs and the Bank of England as well as Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam, and notable world leaders and former politicians including former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump adviser Jared Kushner also features on the confirmed guest list while rumors circulate that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might make an appearance, reportedly to discuss the Iran situation with Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, though he does not appear on the official guest list. The Swiss Finance Ministry has denied such reports but Switzerland often represents US interests in Iran as a go-between.
The published 2019 talking points include topics such as Brexit, the ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI), climate change and sustainability, and the future of space exploration. Russia, China, the future of capitalism, and the weaponization of social media also feature among the loose list of discussion topics. However, meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, meaning participants may use any information gleaned therein but may not disclose its source or their affiliations, so that discussion may take place in a ‘free-fire’ zone away from the scrutiny of public discourse. No votes are taken, no policies set and no statements are made at the meeting.
One of the founders of the group, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, said the extreme secrecy was necessary so that “severe economic dips like the Great Depressions could be avoided if responsible and influential leaders could manage world events behind their necessary public posturing.”
Confirmed past luminaries who have graced the top secret meeting include: Bill Clinton (1991), David Cameron (2013), Bill Gates (2010), Prince Charles (1986), Jeff Bezos (2011, 2013), Margaret Thatcher (1975, 1976 and 1986) and banker David Rockefeller (2008, 2009, 2011).