For the first time in 2 months, a bell rings again at NYSE – The Denver Post

NEW YORK — The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange reopened for the first time in two months Tuesday, but its controlled chaos is more subdued.

The floor, known worldwide for an anarchic atmosphere with traders shouting orders over one another, has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak. The NYSE says fewer traders will be on the floor at a given time for now in order to support six-feet social distancing requirements. They also must wear masks.

Anyone entering the Exchange at 11 Wall Street is also being asked to avoid public transportation and they will have their temperature taken before entry, said Stacey Cunningham, president of the NYSE.

“We will respect the sacrifices of frontline workers and the city at large by proceeding cautiously, limiting the strain on the health-care system and the risk to those who work beneath our roof,” Cunningham wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Cunningham said most of the areas outside of the trading floor will remain empty and the majority of employees will continue to work remotely.

Designated market makers, which oversee the trading of the NYSE’s 2,200 listed companies, will continue to do so remotely and electronically as they have been since March 23.

The reopening comes at a time when many areas of the U.S. are starting to lift shelter-in-place orders and allowing businesses to open their doors again even as other areas of the country are seeing no drop-off in confirmed coronavirus cases.

On Tuesday, however, the World Health Organization said that the world remains mired in only the first stage of the pandemic, putting a damper on hopes for a speedy global economic rebound.

Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 5.5 million people, killing over 346,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Europe has had about 170,000 deaths and the U.S. has seen nearly 100,000. Experts say the tally understates the real effects of the pandemic due to counting issues in many nations.

There was some optimism about the race for a vaccine. The Dow surged more than 600 points at the opening bell.

The NYSE is owned by Intercontinental Exchange, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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World News

'Privacy minefield': India COVID-19 app raises surveillance fears

Experts raise privacy concerns over government’s Aarogya Setu app, now mandatory for public and private sector workers.

Indian authorities have made a contact-tracing mobile app mandatory for all public and private sector employees, raising concerns among digital rights experts about privacy and increased surveillance.

Aarogya Setu, the app launched by the Indian government earlier this month to stem the novel coronavirus outbreak, evaluates users’ risk of infection based on location, and their medical and travel history. It uses Bluetooth and location services to trace a user’s contacts.


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“Use of Aarogya Setu app shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public,” a directive issued by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said on Friday.

The fresh guidelines came as India extended its coronavirus lockdown for another two weeks after May 4.

“It shall be the responsibility of the head of the respective organisations to ensure 100 percent coverage of this app among the employees,” the ministry said.

The app had already been made mandatory for food delivery workers and some other service providers, as well as all federal government employees.

It may also be needed to access public transit and airports when a nationwide lockdown lifts, according to local media reports.

Digital rights organisation Internet Freedom Foundation called the app a “privacy minefield”, adding “it does not adhere to principles of minimisation, strict purpose limitation, transparency and accountability”.

“The app runs very palpable risks of either expanding in scope or becoming a permanent surveillance architecture,” said executive director Apar Gupta.

Deepinder Goyal, founder of food delivery firm Zomato, said, “Being on the front line exposes our delivery partners to catching the infection, and therefore, any customers that they get in touch with for those few handover seconds.”

By mandating all its delivery staff to use Aarogya Setu, “the idea is to keep individuals, as well as authorities, informed in case they have crossed paths with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus – to prevent further spread,” he said in a statement.

India has recorded more than 35,000 cases of the coronavirus, including about 1,150 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.

About 80 million downloads of Aarogya Setu – meaning “health bridge” in the Sanskrit language – have been reported, a small fraction of the 500 million smartphone user base in a population of more than 1.3 billion.

India is among a growing list of nations using mobile apps, facial recognition cameras, drones and other technologies to track the virus, monitor people under quarantine, and determine who can work and take public transit as lockdowns are eased.

A spokesman for the information technology ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Mission creep’

Digital rights experts have warned that use of such technologies increases the risk of surveillance, and that some of these measures will persist even after the situation eases.

At the time of the launch of Aarogya Setu, officials had said: “The personal data collected by the app is encrypted using state-of-the-art technology and stays secure on the phone till it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.”

Like China’s Health Code app that shows a user is symptom-free to board the subway or check into a hotel, federal government employees in India must have a “safe” or “low risk” status on their Aarogya Setu app to go to work, according to a notification dated April 29.

The app may soon be installed on all smartphones by default, according to local media reports.

Bluetooth phone apps for tracking the coronavirus have seen modest early results, although more countries are rolling them out. Luxury carmaker Ferrari has a voluntary contact-tracing app as part of its plan for reopening its factories.

About 600 scientists and researchers from around the world, in a joint statement earlier this month, said GPS-based contact tracing apps lacked “sufficient accuracy” and carried privacy risks.

Some of these apps enabled government or private surveillance through “mission creep”, they said, a shift from the stated objectives.

Countries are addressing privacy concerns differently, said Anirudh Burman, an associate fellow at Carnegie India.

“What we are seeing so far is that most of these applications are designed for pandemic prevention,” he said.

“We are not yet seeing any significant evidence of the scope of these applications increasing. It is not clear yet that there is a significant function creep,” he said.

But the risk that this may happen is high in India, which has neither a data protection law nor a data protection authority, said Suhrith Parthasarathy, a lawyer.

“Aarogya Setu is framed as a necessary technological invasion into personal privacy to achieve a larger social purpose,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“But without a statutory framework, and in the absence of a data protection law, the application’s reach is boundless.”

The Stream

Will India trade privacy for protection?

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World News

Coronavirus in Colorado: Hundreds rally outside capitol, demand state reopen

DENVER — When a Colorado veteran organized a rally to reopen Colorado, he said he was thinking about the freedoms he fought to protect.

“Just seeing the people struggling and what they’re going through. I’ve got other friends as well. They’re having a hard time now feeding their families, paying their bills because the bills ain’t stopping just because the country shuts down,” said John Tiegen.

Hundreds descended on the State Capitol during the rally Sunday afternoon. Tiegen joined a group of motorcyclists as they circled the building. Others stayed in their cars and honked horns, but a large crowd also gathered on the Capitol lawn.

“Yeah, it’s starting to slowly open, but it needs to just open up,” said Tiegen.

COVID-19 concerns led Governor Jared Polis to issue to a stay-at-home order at the end of March, but that order expired on April 26. Tiegen and others share frustration over the Colorado’s plan to reopen as part of a set of guidelines called Safer at Home.

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World News

Migrant workers throw stones at police in India in protest against lockdown

AHMEDABAD (Reuters) – Hundreds of migrant workers in India’s western state of Gujarat have clashed for a second day with authorities, hurling stones at police trying to enforce a lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Protesters took to the streets in the city of Surat on Saturday, a day after residents in Ahmedabad clashed with paramilitary forces.

More than 500 workers employed in industries in the Hazira belt, on the outskirts of Surat, gathered to demand that the authorities make arrangements for them to return to their home states.

The protesters, most of them migrant workers from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, told police they are struggling to survive without work and money.

“We told them that a large number of workers have [already] been sent to their home states by the government, and similar arrangements would be made for them too,” Inspector H.R. Brahmbhatt, based at Ichhapore police station, told Reuters.

“We asked them to have some patience and to return to their homes because of the lockdown, but they refused, and started throwing stones at us.”

Police used teargas to disperse the crowd, Brahmbhatt said.

D.N. Patel, joint commissioner of police for Surat, said around 50 workers were arrested and have been charged with unlawful assembly and rioting.

“We are in the process of identifying more people who were involved in the violence,” he said.

The violence comes as the number of reported coronavirus cases in India climbed to 59,662, with 1,981 deaths.

Gujarat has seen several incidents of violent protests by residents and migrant workers since the nationwide lockdown began on March 25. It has been extended twice and will now run until May 17, the government said last week.

Surat, which is home to nearly a million migrant workers, is a hub for the textile and diamond industry.

Earlier in the week, 1,000 migrant workers took part in a protest in the village of Vareli, on the outskirts on Surat.

Patel said a large number of police reinforcements have been sent to the area and the situation was under control.

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World News

Brazil’s Amazon sees surge in deforestation

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest rose sharply last month as the country prepared to send troops to try to curb illegal logging and mining.

Brazil’s space research agency said the area destroyed in April was 64% bigger than in the same period last year.

In the first four months of 2020, destruction of the forest by illegal loggers and ranchers rose 55%, it said.

Environmentalists say President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies and rhetoric encourage illegal activity.

Mr Bolsonaro denies this. Earlier this week he authorised the deployment of armed forces to the region.

The Amazon rainforest is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming.

Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) said that more than 405 sq km (156 sq miles) of the Amazon had been deforested last month compared with 248 sq km in April last year.

Between January and April, a total of 1,202 sq km was wiped out, it said.

Conservation groups said that, since the coronavirus outbreak began, fewer government enforcement agents had been deployed.

Brazil has been one of the worst-affected countries in South America, with 141,000 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths.

“The pandemic has not helped because there are apparently less agents out there and illegal loggers obviously don’t care about the virus in remote areas of the Amazon,” said Paulo Barreto, senior researcher for the non-profit conservation group Imazon.

Environmental enforcement agency Ibama said it was scaling back field agents in other at-risk areas but not in the Amazon.

Deforestation in the region has soared since President Bolsonaro took office last year.

He has argued that more farming and mining in protected areas of the forest are the only way to lift the region out of poverty.

Mr Bolsonaro’s environmental policies have been widely condemned but he has rejected the criticism, saying Brazil remains an example for conservation.

He has criticised Ibama for what he described as excessive fines. His first year in office saw a sharp drop in financial penalties being imposed for environmental violations. At the same time, the agency remains underfunded and understaffed.

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World News

Major rift opens up in Syria’s ruling family as Assad’s super-rich cousin breaks ranks

A cousin of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has claimed the country’s security forces are arresting his employees in order to “pressure” him into paying hefty taxes.

Billionaire business tycoon Rami Makhlouf has made a rare public intervention against Syria‘s president, his maternal cousin, as a major dispute opens up within the Assad family, which has ruled the war-torn country for 50 years.

Mr Makhlouf, who owns a business empire in Syria ranging from telecoms to oil trading, is said to have played a big role in financing Assad’s civil war.

However, despite previously having been viewed as part of Mr Assad’s inner circle, he has now broken ranks with Syria’s president.

It follows reports Mr Makhlouf, considered Syria’s wealthiest man, was last month ordered to pay the equivalent of £144m to the government in taxes purportedly owed by his telecom companies.

In a video posted to Facebook on Sunday, Mr Makhlouf said: “Today pressures began in an unacceptable ways and the security forces, in an inhumane way, are arresting our employees.”

He added: “Did anyone expect the security forces would pounce on Rami Makhlouf’s companies who were their biggest supporters and their patron during the war?”

Mr Makhlouf also claimed he has been asked to step down from the companies he runs, including Syriatel, the country’s main mobile operator and main source of revenue for the sanctions-hit government.

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Schools will re-open in phases, says Williamson

The re-opening of schools in England is expected to take place in a “phased manner”, says the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

He told the Education Select Committee the date for opening would depend on scientific advice – but schools would get “as much notice as possible”.

But when pupils start returning, it could just be for some year groups.

“All schools returning on day one with a full complement of pupils would not be realistic,” he told MPs.

With schools closed by the coronavirus outbreak, the education secretary faced questions on a timetable for re-opening and how to support the disadvantaged, while pupils were meant to be learning online from home.

Speaking to an online session of the select committee, Mr Williamson said he was keen for schools to return as soon as was safely possible because of the disruption to pupils’ learning.

But he said it would be a staged return, with schools given time to prepare.

Last week, Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union suggested that Years 6, 10 and 12 might go back first, with 1 June the earliest realistic date for starting to return.

The date for returning will be part of a wider, cross-government plan, Mr Williamson told MPs, with a sub-group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) considering how to re-open schools.

The education secretary said he did not expect this term to be extended into the summer holidays – although committee member David Simmonds suggested some schools had been considering this.

Mr Williamson gave more details of the scheme to lend laptops to disadvantaged pupils studying at home – saying there would be 200,000 laptops, with the first expected to be delivered by the end of May, with most arriving in June.

The education secretary was challenged by MPs on failings with the free school meal voucher scheme.

Ian Mearns said school staff were spending “hours and hours” trying to resolve problems with the system being administered by Edenred.

Mr Williamson recognised there had been “big challenges” and the level of service was not what was expected.

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Coronavirus: Ministers call in PwC for Loganair funding talks

The government has drafted in advisers to help decide the terms of a state bailout for Loganair, the regional airline, as the aviation industry reels from the coronavirus pandemic.

Sky News understands that the Department for Transport (DfT) has retained PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to assist it in negotiations with the regional carrier, which flies to airports in Southend, Belfast and Dublin from Carlisle.

The talks come amid a series of discussions between the government and stricken carriers, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, about rescue deals aided by British taxpayers.

Loganair, which typically operates more than 200 daily flights, has slashed its schedule by more than half as a result of the pandemic.

The privately owned company has asked employees to cut their working hours by 20% and accept a 20% reduction in salary, or take a period of unpaid leave.

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World News

Massive surge in deaths in Ecuador’s largest city

Ecuador’s official coronavirus death toll is 403, but new figures from one province suggest thousands have died.

The government said 6,700 people died in Guayas province in the first two weeks of April, far more than the usual 1,000 deaths there in the same period.

Guayas is home to Guayaquil – the nation’s largest city and the part of the country worst-hit by Covid-19.

Footage obtained by the BBC showed residents forced to store bodies in their homes for up to five days.

They said authorities had been unable to keep up with the huge rise in deaths, leaving corpses wrapped in sheets in family homes and even in the streets.

Authorities last week began distributing thousands of cardboard coffins in Guayaquil. A dedicated helpline was also set up for families that needed a corpse removed from their home.

Jorge Wated, the head of a police unit created to tackle the problem, said earlier this week that 771 bodies had been removed from houses in the city.

According to the government’s figures, 14,561 people have died in Guayas province since the beginning of March from all causes. The province normally sees 2,000 deaths a month on average.

Ecuador as a whole has had 8,225 confirmed cases of coronavirus to date, according to Johns Hopkins University, though a lack of widespread testing means this is likely a significant undercount.

Ecuador’s vice president, Otto Sonnenholzer, apologised to the nation earlier this month for the government’s slow response to the pandemic.

“We have seen images that should never have happened, and as your public servant I apologise,” Mr Sonnenholzer said.

Guayaquil is densely populated and has high levels of poverty – meaning many residents live in close proximity without the ability to regularly wash their hands or practise social distancing.

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World News

In pictures: A unique Easter Sunday under lockdown

Christians around the world have been celebrating Easter Sunday, despite many being confined to their homes because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

In an unprecedented virtual message from an eerily empty Vatican, Pope Francis stood before the cameras and prayed for victims of the disease, calling for global solidarity in the fight against the virus.

Elsewhere, churches found some innovative ways to get their messages across and serve parishioners – including with drive-through Communions.

All images are subject to copyright.

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