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University standoff enters third day

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Firemen put out a burning car set on fire by protesters near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the Tsim Sha Tsui district on November 18, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.

Billy H.C. Kwok | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Hong Kong’s new police chief called for the support of all citizens to end social unrest that has disrupted the city for more than five months, while protesters remained trapped by his officers at a university for a third day on Tuesday.

About 200 protesters were still inside the sealed-off Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus, raising fears of bloody clashes with no resolution in sight.

China’s top legislature, commenting on a ruling that said a proposed ban on face masks worn by protesters was unlawful, said Hong Kong courts had no power to rule on the constitutionality of the city’s legislation, according to state media outlet Xinhua.

The statement came a day after Hong Kong’s High Court vetoed the ban, imposed using colonial-era emergency powers, on wearing face masks during public demonstrations.

The former British colony appointed a new head of police, Chris Tang, on Tuesday to oversee the city’s force of more than 30,000 officers. Tang said the force was not able to end the protests alone.

He also said “fake news” was undermining the reputation of Hong Kong police.

Dozens of mask-wearing protesters staged a dramatic escape from the Polytechnic University on Monday night by shimmying down plastic hosing from a bridge and fleeing on waiting motorbikes as police fired projectiles.

Police allowed two prominent figures onto the campus late on Monday to mediate but many protesters refused to leave voluntarily.

The university, in the center of the bustling Kowloon peninsula, is the last campus still occupied by activists during a week that saw the most intense violence since the anti-government demonstrations escalated more than five months ago.

Protesters said supplies, including food, were dwindling rapidly.

“There have been so many people who have sacrificed for this,” said a 21-year-old university student, who identified himself as T, who had escaped from the university on Tuesday.

“Some people just don’t give a s—. They just want to sit back and wait for a successful result,” he said.

Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in Hong Kong’s promised freedoms when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. They also say they are responding to excessive use of force by police.

China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula granting Hong Kong autonomy. The city’s police deny accusations of brutality and say they have shown restraint.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she hoped the universitys tandoff could be resolved peacefully, although she was shocked that campuses had been turned into “weapons factories”.

Clashes worsen

The number of people demonstrating has fallen in recent weeks but clashes have worsened since early last week, when police shot a protester, a man was set on fire and the city’s financial district was filled with tear gas in the middle of the workday.

Police spokesmen said they fired three live rounds early on Monday morning but no one was hurt.

Protesters have torched buildings and public infrastructure, including a footbridge and toll booths at the city’s Cross Harbour Tunnel linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula. The popular tunnel remained shut due to extensive damage, authorities said.

Some train services and many roads across Kowloon remained closed. All schools were shut again on Tuesday, extending a string of closures since last week due to safety concerns.

The city’s hospital authority reported 116 injuries on Monday, including one female in serious condition.

Jasper Tsang, a pro-Beijing politician who is the former head of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, told Reuters there could be bloodshed if the police entered the Polytechnic University campus by force and would meet strong resistance.

“This is something that we want to avoid,” he said.

Thousands of black-clad protesters have taken to the nearby commercial and tourist district in Tsim Sha Tsui in support of those still inside.

Roaming the streets, many carrying petrol bombs, they have blocked key roads with bricks and bamboo, forcing prime shopping malls, offices and stores to close.

The unrest poses the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. Beijing denies accusations of meddling and has accused foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, of inciting trouble.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters the United States was “gravely concerned” about the unrest and violence and said the Hong Kong government bore primary responsibility for ensuring a return to calm.

China’s ambassador to London accused foreign countries on Monday, including the United States and Britain, of interfering in Chinese internal affairs through their reactions.

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EU grants conditional clearance to Covid-19 antiviral remdesivir

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An employee of Egyptian pharmaceutical company Eva Pharma works on the production line of Remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral medication which has been approved as a specific treatment for Covid-19.

Fadel Dawood | picture alliance via Getty Images

The European Commission said on Friday it had given conditional approval for the use of COVID-19 antiviral remdesivir following an accelerated review process.

The EU executive said the drug, produced by Gilead Sciences Inc, was the first medicine authorized in the European Union for treating COVID-19 following a “rolling review” begun by the European Medicines Agency at the end of April.

The agency reviews data as they become available on a rolling basis, while development is still ongoing.

The Commission said on Wednesday it was in negotiations with Gilead to obtain doses of remdesivir for the 27 European Union countries.

However, that may prove difficult after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it had secured all of Gilead’s projected production for July and 90% of that for August and September.

Remdesivir is in high demand after the intravenously-administered medicine helped to shorten hospital recovery times in a clinical trial. It is believed to be most effective in treating COVID-19 patients earlier in the course of disease than other therapies like the steroid dexamethasone.

Still, because remdesivir is given intravenously over at least a five-day period it is generally being used on patients sick enough to require hospitalization.

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A factory is challenging perceptions

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From cars to tables and computers to radios, factories manufacture a host of products integral to modern life. In many cases these facilities can be energy intensive and, if we’re being honest, not very pleasing to look at.  

As concerns about sustainability and the environment mount, however, a number of firms are attempting to reduce the impact of their operations with factories and offices using clever design, interesting materials and renewable sources of energy.

Earlier this week, designs for a new furniture factory in Norway were released, with the firms involved in its development hoping it will be sustainable, aesthetically pleasing and technologically advanced.

Known as The Plus, the 6,500-meter-squared building will be located in Magnor, Norway and surrounded by trees, with the site also functioning as a 300-acre park.

The architecture practice involved with the project’s design is the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and their client is Vestre, a Norwegian furniture manufacturer established in 1947.

Construction work is due to start in August and when finished, the facility will be home to a range of sustainable features. According to BIG — which has offices in Copenhagen, New York, Barcelona and London — the building’s façade will be formed of local timber, recycled reinforcement steel and low-carbon concrete, while 1,200 solar panels will be installed on its roof. Overall, it’s hoped that greenhouse gas emissions from The Plus will be 50% less compared to a conventional factory.

A dedicated website outlining the plans for the building states that more than 90% of water used in production will be recycled. It adds that the factory will use “self-learning industrial robots” and driverless electric trucks. The robots will, according to the site, be able to apply color coatings to products using artificial intelligence and “object recognition” technology.

The Plus is one of many sustainability-focused buildings currently in development. Drinks giant Diageo recently announced plans for a carbon-neutral whiskey distillery in Kentucky.

In a statement issued Monday, Diageo, which produces drinks including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness, listed a number of features that it hopes will boost the sustainability of the distillery and its operations.

These include: the facility running on 100% renewable electricity; the use of LED bulbs indoors to boost energy efficiency; and all vehicles operated there being electric.

Meanwhile, last week, Australian tech firm Atlassian unveiled plans to construct what it described as “the world’s tallest hybrid timber building.”

The design will incorporate timber and a façade of glass and steel that will also use solar panels and have “self-shade capabilities.” Plans are also in place for a staggered outdoor garden to be integrated into the structure.

 

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Trump in trouble over coronavirus, Black Lives Matter: Expert

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President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis and widespread protests over racial injustice have landed him “in big trouble” ahead of November’s election, according to one politics expert.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Friday, Inderjeet Parmar, professor of International Politics at City University, said Trump had been given two political gifts — but had squandered both.

“The pandemic, deadly as it has turned out to be, was a chance for him to unite the country, to rise above the political factionalism, and effectively act as the president of the United States in a period of emergency,” Parmar said.

“He didn’t do it, and he’s in big trouble because of that … President Trump has made his bed, and I think in the end he’s going to pay a terrible price, and that price is already being paid by a very large number of American people, both in terms of their health, and also in terms of the economy.”

A spokesperson for the White House was not immediately available to comment when contacted by CNBC.

There have been more than 2.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 128,740 fatalities from the virus in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has recorded the highest number of infections and the most deaths due to the coronavirus in the world.

The nationwide protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd had also seen Trump fail to offer “anything in regard to any kind of significant sympathy,” Parmar added.

“I think what he’s shown is when it comes to real emergencies, when you need real leadership, he actually doesn’t have any of that kind of quality,” he said. “He talks about the people but he doesn’t appear to know the people’s interests lie in their economic wellbeing and their physical and personal safety.”

Parmar claimed that Trump’s response to both crises would weigh heavily on his chances of reelection in November.

“Trump has done a great deal for candidate Biden, so Biden can almost sit in his armchair in his basement and reap the rewards of President Trump’s total indifference to such a large set of problems in the United States,” he said.

Meanwhile, Parmar noted that Biden had been reaching out across the Democratic party and to opponents he had in the primaries.

“He is actually building bridges or moving a bit further to the left, and he’s opened a space for the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Cortez and others, and I think their voices are going to be stronger in that administration,” he predicted.

Because of this, however, Parmar acknowledged that financial markets could well have something to worry about, as a Biden presidency was likely to lead to a greater focus on social programs.

“The broad neo-liberal market-oriented consensus has been shaken by the responses of government to the pandemic,” he told CNBC. “But I think the underlying philosophy of the market, I don’t think that’s been defeated, I think it’s going to carry on. So I suspect a lot of people are still going to be very unhappy.”

CNBC’s latest Change Research survey showed that Trump had slumped against Biden in polls, with support for Biden surging in several key battleground states.

Analysts at the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a report last month that while the presidential election would be closely fought, “the odds have now shifted firmly in Mr. Biden’s favour.” The EIU cited several reasons for the shift in support, but researchers emphasized the importance of how Trump had handled the Covid-19 outbreak and Black Lives Matter protests.

In June, Eurasia Group’s Jonathan Lieber told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” that Trump was “on the wrong side” of public opinion polls when it came to the Black Lives Matter movement, which was starting to seriously hurt the president’s approval ratings in the run up to the elections.

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