By John Ruwitch and Donny Kwok DONGGUAN/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Thousands of workers at a giant Chinese shoe factory shrugged off an offer for improved social benefits on Tuesday, prolonging one of the largest strikes in China in recent years amid signs of increased labor activism as the economy slows. The industrial unrest at Yue Yuen Industrial (Holdings), now stretching to around ten days and sparking sporadic scuffles with police, has centered on issues including unpaid social insurance, improper labor contracts and low wages. Workers have demanded improved social insurance payments, a pay rise and more equitable contracts. "The factory has been tricking us for 10 years," said a female worker inside a giant industrial campus in Gaobu town run by Yue Yuen in the southern factory hub of Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta. "The Gaobu government, labor bureau, social security bureau and the company were all tricking us together." A spokesman for Yue Yuen said the firm, which makes shoes for the likes of Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Asics and Converse with a market capitalization of some $5.59 billion, had agreed to an improved "social benefit plan" on Monday, while stressing the business impact had been "mild" so far. "Basically, the terms that we announced yesterday was after a very thorough internal analysis and calculation and considering all the factors including the affordability from the factory perspective," the spokesman told Reuters by phone. "The revised plan will be effective from May 1, about a couple of weeks from now." Despite this, thousands of workers, most out of uniform but with factory lanyards and ID cards around their necks, loitered in and around the leafy industrial estate, lounging on plastic chairs, sitting on curbs, chatting, drinking tea and nibbling nuts, refusing to return to their production lines. Hundreds of police remained stationed in the area, some with riot shields and German Shepherds on leashes. SOCIAL INSURANCE DISPUTE The strike fits a growing pattern of industrial activism that has emerged as China's economy has slowed. A worsening labor shortage has shifted the balance of power in labor relations, while smartphones and social media have helped workers organize and made them more aware than ever of the changing environment, experts say. A key point of contention at Yue Yuen has been the perceived scamming of workers through inadequate contributions from the firm into a social insurance scheme each month, and the difficulty of cashing in or transferring this money later. But Yue Yuen's spokesman said: "If we raise the social security payment on the company part, which we are committed to do, it will also be a larger deduction from the employees' monthly checks, so the net they can pay may be lower as a result." Li Qiang, a labor expert with China Labor Watch, a U.S.-based labor NGO, said the social insurance problem was longstanding and one which workers were no longer willing to tolerate, given improved legal and rights awareness. "This is a costly lesson to multinationals to not ever ignore the rights of workers," Li told Reuters. In over 400 factory probes conducted by the group over the past decade, none was found to have bought full mandatory social insurance for workers as stipulated under Chinese law. Scores of factory hands interviewed by Reuters said thousands, even tens of thousands, remained on strike, including those in other Yue Yuen factories in the region, including Huangjiang town, accounts that matched those of online and social media posts. An independent labor organization run by labor rights activist Zhang Zhiru, who has been in close touch with Yue Yuen strike organizers, said more than 30,000 workers went on strike on Monday, and even more on Tuesday in as many as six plants. Online posts by workers have also called on Nike to pressure management to reform the firm's labor union and allow workers to elect their own president. Yue Yuen says on its website it is "the world's largest branded footwear manufacturer" and made over 300 million pairs of shoes last year, with its production evenly split between China, Indonesia and Vietnam. It notched up net profit of $434.8 million in 2013 off $7.58 billion in revenue. (Additional reporting by Fiona Li and James Pomfret; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Calls for the abolition of the British monarchy were made on social media following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah.
- The Independent
Meghan Markle says her father ‘betrayed her’ in new Oprah clip as he faces TV interview with Piers Morgan
Duchess describes way in which UK tabloids ‘hunted’ down her parents before falling out with her father, Thomas Markle
Prince Harry said he and Meghan Markle hadn't planned on signing streaming deals, but they needed the money for security
Harry told Oprah he was financially cut off by the royals and that his family's security was taken away, so he signed deals with Netflix and Spotify.
- USA TODAY
Blunt is the fifth veteran Republican senator to avoid a re-election race in 2022, joining Rob Portman, Pat Toomey, Richard Shelby, and Richard Burr.
- Business Insider
A new lab study shows troubling signs that Pfizer's and Moderna's COVID-19 shots could be far less effective against the variant first found in South Africa
A mutation called E484K appeared to help the variant, first found in South Africa, to evade antibodies produced by the vaccines, the authors said.
Meghan Markle compared losing her voice after marrying Prince Harry to Ariel's story in 'The Little Mermaid'
During her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle compared being "silenced" as a royal to the princess Ariel's story in "The Little Mermaid."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson avoided wading into the clash of British royals on Monday, praising the queen but sidestepping questions about racism and insensitivity at the palace after an interview by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. The former Hollywood actress, whose mother is Black and father is white, accused the royal family of pushing her to the brink of suicide. In a tell-all television interview, she said someone in the royal household had raised questions about the colour of her son's skin.
Joining hundreds of women in Istanbul to protest at China's treatment of Uighurs, Nursiman Abdurasit tearfully thinks of her jailed mother in Xinjiang and fears that Uighurs like her in Turkey may one day be sent back under an extradition deal. Beijing approved an extradition treaty between the two nations in December and with the deal awaiting ratification by Ankara's parliament, activists among some 40,000 Uighurs living in Turkey have stepped up efforts to highlight their plight.
Tyler Perry provided Harry and Meghan a home and security in Los Angeles after their royal support was removed
The couple stayed at Perry's home in California for three months after leaving Canada when their royal security detail was removed.
- The Telegraph
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex unloaded on Prince Charles, The Duchess of Cambridge, and the tabloid press in their extraordinary tell-all with Oprah Winfrey. But despite the numerous allegations levelled at named and unnamed members of the Royal family, The Queen emerged unscathed, and instead received glowing praise from the couple. Meghan described how "everyone" welcomed her to the royal set-up initially, but singled out the Queen as making her particularly comfortable. In another sign of their positive relationship, the Duchess said: “I just pick up the phone and I call the Queen - just to check-in. Meghan said the Queen has "always been wonderful" to her and that she reminded the Duchess of her own grandmother. "She’s always been warm and inviting," the Duchess added. The Duchess shared a touching anecdote on how her future husband’s grandmother gave her "some beautiful pearl earrings and a matching necklace" for the couple's first joint engagement together, and that the monarch also shared her blanket while travelling together between visits. The pair attended a ceremony for the opening of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge, in Widnes, Cheshire in June 2018 and travelled north on the Royal train.
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the Republican Senate leadership, said on Monday he will not run for office in 2022, making him the latest Republican lawmaker in Congress to opt for retirement. The 71-year-old Missouri Republican, who last year called on then-President Donald Trump to be more aggressive in preparing to acquire and deliver coronavirus vaccines, calmly announced his impending departure in a video on Twitter in which he thanked voters for enabling him to have a career in public service. "After 14 general election victories - three to county office, seven to the United States House of Representatives, and four statewide elections - I won't be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate next year," Blunt said in the video.
- The Independent
The Supreme Court has tossed out former President Donald Trump’s last remaining challenge to the 2020 election after he lied about the results of the nationwide vote and urged states to wipe out thousands of ballots while promoting false claims of fraud. The court without comment rejected Mr Trump’s appeal, which challenged thousands of absentee ballots filed in Wisconsin, an election battleground that the former president lost by more than 20,000 votes. It was the last of three petitions filed at the Supreme Court near the end of his presidency that the justices declined to take up.
Prince Harry said Charles 'stopped taking my calls' before the couple announced their step back from the royal family
Prince Harry told Oprah Winfrey that he never blindsided the queen or Prince Charles with his decision to step back from the royal family.
In Asia, some vaccination programmes are either yet to begin, or are at a very early stage.
Yemen's internationally recognized government said on Sunday it had restored diplomatic ties with Qatar after four years of boycott led by Saudi Arabia and joined by other Arab countries. Saudi Arabia and its allies had agreed at a summit in January to end the political row which led to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cutting trade, travel and diplomatic ties with Qatar in mid-2017.
Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker Xpeng Inc said on Monday its net loss in the fourth quarter of last year narrowed 42% from the same period in 2019, as EV sales increased in the world's biggest car market. New York-listed Xpeng, which sells mainly in China and competes with Tesla Inc and Nio Inc, said its net loss attributable to ordinary shareholders was 787.4 million yuan ($120.7 million) for the quarter, compared with 1,354.6 million yuan a year earlier. In the final three months last year, revenue jumped 346% year-on-year to 2.85 billion yuan.
- Associated Press
Philippine police backed by military forces killed nine people over the weekend in a series of raids against suspected communist insurgents, with authorities saying the suspects opened fire first. Others, however, said those killed were unarmed activists. Police said Monday that all of those killed were associated with “communist terrorist groups” and had shot at officers while being served search warrants.
- The New York Times
Most Republicans who spoke at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, avoided acknowledging the events of Jan. 6. But less than 30 seconds into his speech, Sen. Josh Hawley confronted them head on. That day, Hawley said, had underscored the “great crisis moment” in which Americans currently found themselves. That day, he explained, the mob had come for him. The “woke mob,” that is. In the weeks since, they had “tried to cancel me, censor me, expel me, shut me down.” To “stop me,” Hawley said, “from representing you.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “And guess what?” he went on, his tempo building, the audience applauding: “I’m here today, I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not backing down.” The appeal from Missouri’s junior senator reflected what has become standard fare in a Republican Party still in thrall to Donald J. Trump. As Hawley’s audience seemed to agree, his amplification of the former president’s false claims of a stolen election was not incitement for the mob of rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan 6; it was a principled stand against the “radical left.” Yet to some of the senator’s earliest supporters, it was precisely for its ordinariness that the speech stood out, the latest reminder of the distance between the Josh Hawley they thought they had voted for and the Josh Hawley who now appeared regularly on Fox News. Against the backdrop of Trump’s GOP, the idea had been that Hawley was different. Sworn in at 39 years old, he ascended to the Senate in part by selling himself as an intellectual in a movement that increasingly seemed to shun intellect. Whereas Trump fired off brash tweets littered with random capitalizations and adverbs like “bigly,” Hawley published essays on subjects like medieval theology. Throughout his life, whether as a student at Stanford or a law professor in Missouri, Hawley had impressed people as “thoughtful” and “sophisticated,” a person of “depth.” And as a growing number of conservatives saw it, he also had the proper ideas. From the time he was a teenager, he had criticized the free-market allegiance at the center of Republican orthodoxy; when he arrived in Washington, he immediately launched into a crusade against Big Tech. The conservative think-tank class embraced him as someone who had the right vocabulary, the right suits and the right worldview to translate Trump’s vague populist instincts into a fresh blueprint for his party’s future — someone elite enough, in other words, to be entrusted with the banner of anti-elitism. Which is in part why, when Hawley became the first senator to announce that he would object to the certification of Joe Biden as president, many of his allies underwent a public mourning of sorts. They’d expected as much from, say, Ted Cruz — as one senior Senate aide put it, the Texas Republican, who had filibustered Obamacare while its namesake was still in office, had always been transparent about his motivations. But Hawley? To survey Hawley’s life is indeed to see a consistency in the broad strokes of his political cosmology. Yet interviews with more than 50 people close to Hawley cast light on what, in the haze of charm and first impressions, his admirers often seemed to miss: an attachment to the steady cadence of ascension, and a growing comfort with doing what might be necessary to maintain it. Hawley’s Stanford adviser, the historian David Kennedy, struggled to reconcile his memories with the now-infamous image of the senator, fist raised in solidarity with pro-Trump demonstrators shortly before they descended on the Capitol. “The Josh I knew was not an angry young person,” he recalled. “But when I see him now on television, he just always seems angry — really angry.” Kennedy acknowledged that Hawley was just one of many Republicans in the Trump era who had steeped their brand in “anger and resentment and grievance.” But for many of those once close to Hawley, that was the point: How did a man who seemed so special turn out to be just like everyone else? And what, they wondered, did Josh Hawley have to be so angry about? When Hawley arrived in Washington in January 2019 as Missouri’s junior senator, he positioned himself as the intellectual heir of Trumpism — the politician who could integrate the president’s populist instincts into a comprehensive ideology for the GOP. In his maiden speech, he summoned the lamentation of cultural erosion he’d been refining since high school, arguing that the “great American middle” had been overlooked by a “new, arrogant aristocracy.” For conservatives who felt Trump had identified uncomfortable truths about the party despite ultimately governing like a typical Republican, Hawley’s arrival was timely. That July, conservative writers and policy experts gathered at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington for the inaugural National Conservatism Conference, meant to map a departure from the corporate-class policies that for decades had defined conservatism. Hawley, who in his keynote speech decried the “cosmopolitan consensus,” was introduced as the fledgling movement’s “champion in the Senate.” He did not discourage whispers about 2024, and some younger Trump campaign aides, who saw him as the “refined” version of their boss, mused privately about working for him should he run. It wasn’t long before Donald Trump Jr. was inviting him to lunch at his father’s Washington hotel. Even so, he baffled his party’s leadership as he tried to derail the confirmation of some of Trump’s conservative judicial nominees, deeming their records on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage insufficiently pure. But it was Trump’s refusal to accept the election results that offered the first real stress test for the brand Hawley had labored to cultivate — whether it was possible to be both the darling of the conservative intelligentsia and the “fighter” the party’s base craved. He had reason to believe it was. He was comfortable paying “the price of admission,” as one Republican official put it, to a place in Trump’s GOP, in part because nothing in his short political career had suggested there would ever be a cost. Early on, few had blinked when he embraced the president during a visit to Missouri. He had courted far-right figures during his campaign, yet still received plum speaking slots at high-minded conferences. And so on Dec. 30, Josh Hawley became the first Senate Republican to announce his intent to challenge Biden’s congressional certification. Hawley’s team was adamant that he had not been motivated by a potential presidential bid in 2024, but among other things had been moved by a December video conference with 30 constituents who said they felt “disenfranchised” by Biden’s victory. “He knows the state well after two campaigns, and I think he knew that Missourians supported the president,” said James Harris, a longtime political adviser to Hawley. He tried to thread the needle as he always had, wrapping his objection not in fevered “STOP THE STEAL” tweets but in questions about the constitutionality of mail-in voting in Pennsylvania. And, had there been no violence, perhaps his gambit would have worked. But when Hawley and others lent their voices to Trump’s lie of rampant voter fraud, people listened. Hawley spent much of Jan. 6 hiding with his colleagues in a Senate committee room as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. He sat hunched against the wall, eyes fixed on his phone, as Republicans and Democrats alike blamed him for the madness. Later that evening, when senators safely reconvened to finish certifying the election, Hawley forged ahead with his objection. The reckoning was swift. Simon & Schuster dropped plans to publish his book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech.” Major donors severed ties. Yet something else happened, too. Hawley saw a surge in small-dollar donations to his campaign, making January his best fundraising month since 2018. As Axios first reported, the $969,000 he amassed easily offset defections from corporate political action committees. Added to that was the applause of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has since bundled more than $300,000 for Hawley. As his advisers saw it, the lessons of the Trump era — that success in today’s GOP means never having to say you’re sorry — were clear. And Josh Hawley was nothing if not a star student. In the weeks since, Hawley has vowed to sue the “woke mob” at Simon & Schuster for dropping his book. He’s written for The New York Post about “the muzzling of America.” He has appeared on Fox News to discuss said muzzling. And while he said shortly after the riot that he would not run for president in 2024, his advisers have continued to hype him as “one of the favorites” of a potential Republican primary field. Hawley tested his new cri de coeur on a live audience on Feb. 26, at the gathering of the conservative faithful in Orlando. “You know, on Jan. 6, I objected to the Electoral College certification,” he began. “Maybe you heard about it.” The room erupted. “I did,” he went on, “I stood up —” His words were drowned out by cheers. It had not been the mood of his speech. But as he paused to take in the standing ovation, Hawley seemed happy. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- Business Insider
Biden eyes trashing Trump-era rules that advocates feared would silence sexual assault survivors on college campuses
The rules were unveiled by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the final year of the Trump administration.
Frank Meeink told CNN's Pamela Brown that he believes Fox News has contributed to domestic extremism in the US.