Sri Lanka aims to stop money printing as inflation nears 60%

Sri Lanka aims to stop money printing as inflation nears 60%
Consumer prices rose 54.6 percent in June from a year earlier, with transport surging 128 percent from the previous month and food 80 percent. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 July 2022

Sri Lanka aims to stop money printing as inflation nears 60%

Sri Lanka aims to stop money printing as inflation nears 60%
  • Government is working on debt-restructuring plan for IMF bailout

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will stop printing money completely to control a rapid increase in the prices of commodities, its prime minister said on Tuesday, with inflation expected to reach 60 percent this year.

The cash-strapped country of 22 million people is battling its worst economic crisis in decades and has been unable to pay for essential imports for months because of a severe dollar crunch caused by economic mismanagement and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic on its tourism-dependent economy.

Extreme shortages of petrol, food and medicines have led to the closure of many services, and triggered mass protests that have been ongoing since March. The island nation has been forced to shut schools and stop providing fuel to all but essential services.

Consumer prices rose 54.6 percent in June from a year earlier, with transport surging 128 percent from the previous month and food 80 percent.

“Our plan is to control inflation. By the end of this year, inflation will rise to 60 percent,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliamentarians.

“In 2023, we will have to print money with restrictions on several occasions. But by the end of 2024, it is our intention to stop printing money completely.”

Wickremesinghe announced the planned measures after last week’s complicated bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.

The premier, who took office in May and is also the finance minister, said the plan was aimed at reducing the inflation rate to reach between 4 and 6 percent by 2025.

Sri Lanka is facing negotiations with the IMF as “a bankrupt country,” Wickremesinghe said, as he outlined a roadmap to get out of the crisis. The government is planning to submit its debt-restructuring plan for the IMF’s approval by the end of August.

Stopping the printing of money is in line with the fund’s expectations.

“The IMF will not like printing of money; if they have to abide by the IMF, (the) printing of new notes will have to be avoided,” Murtaza Jafferjee, economist and chairman of the Colombo-based think tank Advocata Institute, told Arab News.

“Printing money means the central bank is funding the government; under the IMF agreement we will have to enact the new monetary law act which will restrict funding the government so it will automatically stop.”

The inflation rate, he said, could be even higher than projected.

“It can get worse if we have further supply chain blocks or fuel prices will increase further.”

One solution that could bring quicker relief than the IMF bailout loan — which may take months — could be tourism, a key source of Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves.

In 2019, the South Asian country welcomed over 1.9 million tourists. As COVID-19 restrictions upended the hospitality industry, the number dropped to less than 200,000 last year. But it is slowly picking up again, as 380,000 tourists have already arrived in the country in the first half of 2022, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

“We have to ensure that tourism makes a strong recovery in the second half of the year,” Jafferjee said.


Caste in California: Tech giants confront ancient Indian hierarchy

Caste in California: Tech giants confront ancient Indian hierarchy
Updated 15 August 2022

Caste in California: Tech giants confront ancient Indian hierarchy

Caste in California: Tech giants confront ancient Indian hierarchy
  • Wake up call in tech sector after a low-caste engineer at Cisco Systems accused two higher-caste bosses of blocking his career
  • Caste discrimination was outlawed in India over 70 years ago, yet bias persists, according to several studies in recent years

OAKLAND, California : America’s tech giants are taking a modern-day crash course in India’s ancient caste system, with Apple emerging as an early leader in policies to rid Silicon Valley of a rigid hierarchy that’s segregated Indians for generations.
Apple, the world’s biggest listed company, updated its general employee conduct policy about two years ago to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste, which it added alongside existing categories such as race, religion, gender, age and ancestry.
The inclusion of the new category, which hasn’t been previously reported, goes beyond US discrimination laws, which do not explicitly ban casteism.
The update came after the tech sector — which counts India as its top source of skilled foreign workers — received a wake-up call in June 2020 when California’s employment regulator sued Cisco Systems on behalf of a low-caste engineer who accused two higher-caste bosses of blocking his career.
Cisco, which denies wrongdoing, says an internal probe found no evidence of discrimination and that some of the allegations are baseless because caste is not a legally “protected class” in California. This month an appeals panel rejected the networking company’s bid to push the case to private arbitration, meaning a public court case could come as early as next year.
The dispute — the first US employment lawsuit about alleged casteism — has forced Big Tech to confront a millennia-old hierarchy where Indians’ social position has been based on family lineage, from the top Brahmin “priestly” class to the Dalits, shunned as “untouchables” and consigned to menial labor.
Since the suit was filed, several activist and employee groups have begun seeking updated US discrimination legislation — and have also called on tech companies to change their own policies to help fill the void and deter casteism.
Their efforts have produced patchy results, according to a Reuters review of policy across the US industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers from India.
“I am not surprised that the policies would be inconsistent because that’s almost what you would expect when the law is not clear,” said Kevin Brown, a University of South Carolina law professor studying caste issues, citing uncertainty among executives over whether caste would ultimately make it into US statutes.
“I could imagine that parts of ... (an) organization are saying this makes sense, and other parts are saying we don’t think taking a stance makes sense.”
Apple’s main internal policy on workplace conduct, which was seen by Reuters, added reference to caste in the equal employment opportunity and anti-harassment sections after September 2020.
Apple confirmed that it “updated language a couple of years ago to reinforce that we prohibit discrimination or harassment based on caste.” It added that training provided to staff also explicitly mentions caste.
“Our teams assess our policies, training, processes and resources on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are comprehensive,” it said. “We have a diverse and global team, and are proud that our policies and actions reflect that.”
Elsewhere in tech, IBM told Reuters that it added caste, which was already in India-specific policies, to its global discrimination rules after the Cisco lawsuit was filed, though it declined to give a specific date or a rationale.
IBM’s only training that mentions caste is for managers in India, the company added.
Several companies do not specifically reference caste in their main global policy, including Amazon, Dell , Facebook owner Meta, Microsoft and Google. Reuters reviewed each of the policies, some of which are only published internally to employees.
The companies all told Reuters that they have zero tolerance for caste prejudice and, apart from Meta which did not elaborate, said such bias would fall under existing bans on discrimination by categories such as ancestry and national originon policy.

Casteism outlawed in India
Caste discrimination was outlawed in India over 70 years ago, yet bias persists, according to several studies in recent years, including one that found Dalit people were underrepresented in higher-paying jobs. Debate over the hierarchy is contentious in India and abroad, with the issue intertwined with religion, and some people saying discrimination is now rare.
Government policies reserving seats for lower-caste students at top Indian universities have helped many land tech jobs in the West in recent years.
Reuters spoke to about two dozen Dalit tech workers in the United States who said discrimination had followed them overseas. They said that caste cues, including their last names, hometowns, diets or religious practices, had led to colleagues bypassing them in hiring, promotions and social activities.
Reuters could not independently verify the allegations of the workers, who all spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared harming their careers. Two said they had quit their jobs over what they viewed as casteism.
Some staff groups, including the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) at Google’s parent company, say explicit mention of caste in corporate rules would open the door to companies investing in areas such as data collection and training at the same levels as they do to protect other groups.
“Significant caste discrimination exists in the United States,” said Mayuri Raja, a Google software engineer who is a member of the AWU and advocates for lower-caste colleagues.
Over 1,600 Google workers demanded the addition of caste to the main workplace code of conduct worldwide in a petition, seen by Reuters, which they emailed to CEO Sundar Pichai last month and resent last week after no response.
Google reiterated to Reuters that caste discrimination fell under national origin, ancestry and ethnic discrimination. It declined to elaborate further on its policies.

‘Not good for business’
Adding caste to a general code of conduct is not unheard of.
The World Wide Web Consortium, an industry standards body partly based in Massachusetts, introduced it in July 2020. California State University and the state Democratic Party have followed over the past two years.
In May this year, California’s employment regulator, the Civil Rights Department, added caste to its example equal employment opportunity policy for employers.
Yet the move by Apple, a $2.8 trillion behemoth with more than 165,000 full-time employees globally, looms large.
The iPhone maker’s fair hiring policy now states that Apple “does not discriminate in recruiting, training, hiring, or promoting on the basis of” 18 categories, including “race, color, ancestry, national origin, caste, religion, creed, age” plus disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.
By contrast, many employers are hesitant to go beyond laws with their primary policies, according to three employment attorneys including Koray Bulut, a partner at Goodwin Procter.
“Most companies simply quote from the federal and state statutes that list the protected categories,” Bulut said.
Some companies have, however, gone further in secondary policies that govern limited operations or serve only as loose guidelines.
Caste is explicitly written into Dell’s Global Social Media Policy, for example, and in Amazon sustainability team’s Global Human Rights Principles and Google’s code of conduct for suppliers.
Amazon and Dell confirmed they had also begun mentioning caste in anti-bias presentations for at least some new hires outside India. They declined to specify when, why and how broadly they made the addition, though Dell said it made the change after the Cisco lawsuit was filed.
The companies’ presentations include explanations of caste as an unwanted social structure that exists in parts of the world, according to a Reuters review of some of the online training, with the Dell material referencing a recent lawsuit “from the headlines.”
John-Paul Singh Deol, lead employment attorney at Dhillon Law Group in San Francisco, said that only including caste in training and guidelines amounted to “giving lip service” to the issue because their legal force is questionable.
This characterization was rejected by Janine Yancey, CEO of Emtrain, which sells anti-bias training to about 550 employers, and a longtime employment attorney.
“No company wants to have employee turnover, lack of productivity and conflict — that’s just not good for business,” she said.
Yet explicitly referencing caste would likely invite an increased number of HR complaints alleging it as a bias, Yancey added. “Whenever you’re going to call out something specifically, you’re exponentially increasing your caseload,” she said.
Apple declined to say whether any complaints had been brought under its caste provision.
South Carolina law professor Brown expects no immediate resolution to the debate over of whether companies should reference caste.
“This is an issue that ultimately will be resolved by the courts,” he said. “The area right now is unsettled.” 

Decoder

Casteism

It is a millennia-old hierarchy in India where social position has been based on family lineage, from the top Brahmin “priestly” class to the Dalits, shunned as “untouchables” and consigned to menial labor. While caste discrimination was outlawed in India over 70 years ago (though studies say bias persists), it has gotten exported abroad in some way by members of the Indian diaspora. In the US, the tech sector — which counts India as its top source of skilled foreign workers — received a wake-up call in June 2020 when California’s employment regulator sued Cisco Systems on behalf of a low-caste engineer who accused two higher-caste bosses of blocking his career. 


Republicans push to see affidavit that justified FBI search of Trump’s home

Republicans push to see affidavit that justified FBI search of Trump’s home
Updated 15 August 2022

Republicans push to see affidavit that justified FBI search of Trump’s home

Republicans push to see affidavit that justified FBI search of Trump’s home
  • "The Justice Department should "show that this was not just a fishing expedition, that they had due cause to go in and to do this, that they did exhaust all other means," Rounds said

WASHINGTON: Republicans stepped up calls on Sunday for the release of an FBI affidavit showing the justification for its seizure of documents at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home amid reports of heightened threats against federal law enforcement personnel.
A search warrant released last week after the unprecedented search showed that Trump had 11 sets of classified documents at his home, and that the Justice Department had probable cause to conduct the search based on possible Espionage Act violations.
Republicans are calling for the disclosure of more detailed information that persuaded a federal judge to issue the search warrant, which may show sources of information and details about the nature of the documents and other classified information. The unsealing of such affidavits is highly unusual and would require approval from a federal judge.
"I think a releasing the affidavit would help, at least that would confirm that there was justification for this raid," Republican Senator Mike Rounds told NBC's "Meet the Press".
"The Justice Department should "show that this was not just a fishing expedition, that they had due cause to go in and to do this, that they did exhaust all other means," Rounds said. "And if they can't do that, then we've got a serious problem on our hands."
Separately on Sunday, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Marco Rubio, asked the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to provide the seized documents on a classified basis.
A spokesperson for the committee, charged with oversight of the handling of classified information, said the two senators had also requested "an assessment of potential risks to national security" as a result of possible mishandling of the files.
Representative Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN on Sunday that the Biden administration should provide more details on what led to the search.
"Congress is saying, 'Show us. We want to know what did the FBI tell them? What did they find?'" Turner said.
The Department of Justice did respond to a request for comment on the FBI affidavit.

HEIGHTENED THREATS
The calls from Republicans came amid reports https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mar-a-lago-search-fbi-threat-law-enforcement that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned of increased threats to law enforcement emanating from social media platforms in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago search.
The FBI said in a statement that it is always concerned about threats to law enforcement and was working with other agencies to assess and respond to such threats, "which are reprehensible and dangerous."
Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent and prosecutor from Pennsylvania, said he was concerned about the safety of federal law enforcement officers amid such threats, adding "everybody needs to be calling for calm."
He told CBS' "Face the Nation" that the search of Trump's home "was an unprecedented action that needs to be supported by unprecedented justification" and the probable-cause affidavit would show whether that standard was reached -- even if it was only shown to lawmakers in a classified briefing.
"I've encouraged all my colleagues on the left and the right to reserve judgment and not get ahead of yourself because we don't know what that document contains. It's going answer a lot of questions."

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT
Democrats on Sunday did not echo calls for the affidavit's release.
Instead, Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said he was asking for an assessment of potential damage done to U.S. national security from Trump's possession of the classified documents, along with an intelligence briefing.
The "Top Secret" and "Sensitive Compartmented Information" documents could cause "extremely grave damage to national security" if disclosed, Schiff told CBS.
"So the fact that they were in an unsecured place that is guarded with nothing more than a padlock, or whatever security they had at a hotel, is deeply alarming," Schiff said.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told NBC that she could not make a judgment as to whether the Justice Department should indict Trump on criminal charges.
"This is going to be up to the Justice Department to make a decision about what happened here, why it happened, and if it rises to the level of a crime," Klobuchar said.

 


Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square
Updated 15 August 2022

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square
  • The intersection became a makeshift memorial after Floyd’s death and was officially renamed earlier this year

MINNEAPOLIS: One man died and another was seriously hurt in the second fatal shooting this month near the intersection where George Floyd died in police custody more than two years earlier.
Minneapolis Police spokesman Officer Garrett Parten said officers found two wounded men with life-threatening injuries Sunday afternoon near the intersection in south Minneapolis that was renamed to remember Floyd’s death. One man died at the hospital, and the other man’s condition wasn’t immediately available.
No arrests were reported immediately.
A week before Sunday’s shooting, Mohamed Omar, 29, died after he was shot in the area early on Aug. 7. Parten said the police department would likely increase patrols in the area after the two shootings, which both took place near the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.
The intersection became a makeshift memorial after Floyd’s death and was officially renamed earlier this year. Floyd, who was Black, died May 25, 2020, after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Floyd’s death sparked protests nationwide and forced America to confront racial injustice.


Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother

Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother
Updated 15 August 2022

Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother

Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother
  • Police identified the driver as 24-year-old Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes of Nescopeck, who was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of criminal homicide

BERWICK, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania state police say a man who was upset about an argument with his mother drove through a crowd at a fundraiser for victims of a recent deadly house fire, killing one person at the event and injuring 17 others, then returned home and beat his mother to death.
Police identified the driver as 24-year-old Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes of Nescopeck, who was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of criminal homicide.
Police allege in a criminal complaint that Sura Reyes said he argued with his mother at their Nescopeck home Saturday evening and while driving through nearby Berwick was “extremely frustrated” and was “tired of fighting with his mother, including about money, and wanted to be done with it.”
At the time, police said, a crowd of about 75 people, including adults and small children, had gathered in a blocked-off parking lot in Berwick outside the Intoxicology Department bar, which was holding an all-day fundraising event to benefit victims of the Aug. 5 blaze in Nescopeck that killed seven adults and three children.
Police say Sura Reyes told them he drove past the gathering, then turned around and headed back to the bar “to drive through the crowd of people.” Investigators asked how fast he drove into the crowd and Sura Reyes replied “speeding up.”
“Video surveillance gathered by the Pennsylvania State Police corroborates Sura Reyes’s statement that he sped up into the crowd purposefully,” according to the criminal complaint.
Geisinger Medical Center said it received 15 patients after the crash, and five remained in critical condition while three were listed in fair condition, a hospital spokesperson said Sunday morning. Seven patients had been treated at hospitals and released.
Trooper Anthony Petroski III told reporters late Saturday that Sura Reyes was not currently a suspect in the fire, the cause of which remains under investigation.
“This is a complete tragedy in a community where there’s already been tragedy,” Petroski said.
Shortly after the crash was reported, troopers were called about a man “physically assaulting” a woman less than two miles away in Nescopeck. Troopers arrived to find local police had arrested Sura Reyes and a woman was dead.
Luzerne County Coroner Francis Hacken confirmed Sunday that the victim, Rosa D. Reyes, 56, of Nescopeck, was the mother of Sura Reyes and had died of multiple traumatic injuries after being hit by a vehicle and assaulted with a hammer.
In the criminal complaint, police say Sura Reyes told investigators he saw his mother in the street upon returning home and struck her with his vehicle, then hit her with a hammer several times.
Sura Reyes was denied bail and remained in Columbia County prison pending an Aug. 29 preliminary hearing. News outlets reported that he said “Sorry” in response to reporters’ questions as he was taken from Shickshinny police station. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had a lawyer to comment on his behalf.
The first funerals for victims of the fire were held Friday, and more were scheduled for Sunday and Monday.
The bar called the events an “absolute tragedy” and said on its Facebook page that they will be closed until further notice and would like privacy “while we grieve add try to process the events that occurred.”


US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan with China tensions simmering

US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan with China tensions simmering
Updated 15 August 2022

US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan with China tensions simmering

US lawmakers arrive in Taiwan with China tensions simmering
  • The visit follows US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip that has led China to fire missiles around Taiwan in anger
  • A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said members of Congress have gone to Taiwan for decades and will continue to do so

TAIPEI/WASHINGTON: A delegation of US lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a two-day trip during which they will meet President Tsai Ing-wen, the second high-level group to visit while there are military tensions between the self-ruled island and China.
Beijing, which claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has conducted military drills around the island after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in early August.
China has long claimed sovereignty over the island. Taiwan’s government rejects China’s claims and says the island’s people should decide its future.
The de facto US embassy in Taipei said the delegation is being led by Senator Ed Markey, who is being accompanied by four House lawmakers on what it described as part of a larger visit to the Indo-Pacific region.
Taiwan’s presidential office said the group would meet Tsai on Monday morning.
“Especially at a time when China is raising tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the region with military exercises, Markey leading a delegation to visit Taiwan once again demonstrates the United States Congress’ firm support for Taiwan,” it said in a statement.
Markey chairs the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Subcommittee. The co-leaders of the visit are Representative John Garamendi of the congressional Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group and Representative Don Beyer, a spokesperson for Markey said.
China’s embassy in Washington said on Sunday that “members of the US Congress should act in consistence with the US government’s one-China policy” and argued the latest congressional visit “once again proves that the US does not want to see stability across the Taiwan Straits and has spared no effort to stir up confrontation between the two sides and interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said members of Congress have gone to Taiwan for decades and will continue to do so, adding that such visits were in accordance with the United States’ long-standing one-China policy.
Under that policy, the United States has official diplomatic relations with Beijing, and not Taiwan. However, Washington does not take a position on whether Beijing has sovereignty over Taiwan, and is bound under US law to provide Taiwan with means to defend itself.
Markey’s office said the lawmakers in Taiwan “will reaffirm the United States’ support for Taiwan as guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, US-China Joint Communiques, and Six Assurances, and will encourage stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait.”

’SHARED INTERESTS’
The group will meet “with elected leaders and members of the private sector to discuss shared interests including reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and expanding economic cooperation, including investments in semiconductors,” Markey’s office said.
The delegation made a prior stop in South Korea, where Markey met South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry published pictures of four lawmakers being met at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport having arrived on a US air force transport jet, while Markey arrived at the Taoyuan international airport.
“The delegation will meet with senior Taiwan leaders to discuss US-Taiwan relations, regional security, trade and investment, global supply chains, climate change, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” the de facto USembassy said.
While China’s drills around Taiwan have abated, it is still carrying out military activities.
Eleven Chinese military aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line or entered Taiwan’s air defense zone on Sunday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said. Thirteen planes crossed the strait on Saturday, the ministry said.
US officials have said Beijing “overreacted” to Pelosi’s visit and used it as a pretext to try to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.