Some Cineworld cinemas will not reopen as bosses consider permanent closures and job losses in bid to save struggling cinema chain


Some Cineworld cinemas are set to never reopen after the coronavirus lockdown as bosses consider permanent closures and job cuts in a desperate bid to save the struggling cinema chain.

The company has been hammered by the pandemic, which forced industry-wide closures seeing them shut all 128 of its venues earlier this month of its own accord, rather than under government orders – with 5,500 people said to be at risk of losing their jobs.

A lack of new films has meant cinemas have struggled to draw in audiences in recent months, with the postponement of the latest James Bond picture, No Time To Die, cited as the potential final straw for many.

It was reported last night that Cineworld, which owes some £6.2 billion to its lenders, was lining up a rescue package as a result, and that slashing rents and shuttering swathes of sites could be required to balance the books.

Even when the England-wide lockdown ends, Cineworld has no plans to open and has hired restructuring firm Alix Partners to hold emergency talks with lenders.

It is also understood to be considering raising money from investors or restructuring its debt top help avoid breaching its loan terms in December.

When last month’s closures were revealed, staff took to Twitter to slam the company for not telling employees about the plans before they were reported in the Sunday Times – which said in its report that it had approached Cineworld for a comment prior to publication.

One Twitter user said: ‘This is going out to all my fellow Cineworld colleagues up and down the country, wishing you the best in these early hours with the news of the closures.

‘Been with Cineworld for 12 years, to find out I’ve not got a job via Twitter; once again; is damn appalling.’

The announcement that the new 007 film would be delayed until April 2021 was made just weeks before it was about to be released, coming as a huge blow to cinemas.

The highly-anticipated movie had already been postponement from its original release date in April due to coronavirus.

Then, the release of the highly-anticipated Fast and Furious sequel F9 was also delayed again, while Disney announced in September that its live-action version of Mulan instead debut on its streaming service Disney Plus instead of a theatrical release.

Union Bectu, which represents staff in the cinema sector, urged filmmakers last month to think ‘carefully’ about the impact delayed releases could have on the industry.

A spokesperson said: ‘The delay in the release of the Bond film, along with the other delayed releases, has plunged cinema into crisis.’

Boss Philippa Childs said: ‘If these reports are true, then the first people Cineworld should be informing are their staff who will suffer as a result – not the Sunday newspapers.

‘Whilst cinemas have been able to open since July, and the experience of those who have visited since then has been an overwhelmingly positive one, the stark reality is that without new releases it is unlikely that footfall will increase to a level that makes opening financially viable.’

Cineworld, which also owns the Picturehouse chain and the Regal chain in the US, employs around 45,000 staff, including 5,500 in the UK.

Yesterday, the owner of London’s Trocadero Centre lodged a High Court claim against Cineworld, suing it for £1.4 million over unpaid bills, while shares were down 8.7 per cent in early trading.

The company declined to comment.





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Clive Palmer loses High Court challenge to Western Australia’s COVID-19 border closures



Billionaire miner Clive Palmer has lost his High Court challenge against Western Australia’s coronavirus border closures.

The question put to the High Court was whether Western Australia’s Emergency Management Act and the directions to close the borders in light of the coronavirus pandemic breached section 92 of the Constitution.

Mr Palmer’s lawyers told the High Court the closure did breach section 92, which guarantees movement between states.

But the West Australian Government told the court the closures were justified because they were reasonable and necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel said today the court had found the Act complied with the Constitution, and the directions did not raise a constitutional issue.

Mr Palmer was ordered to pay costs.

How it all unfolded

The High Court challenge kicked off after Mr Palmer was denied an exemption to allow him to enter Western Australia in May.

His lawyers told the court the closures were not necessary or reasonable, and suggested keeping people out made no difference to the risk of the spread of COVID-19 inside the state.

Ultimately, this was found to be untrue.

But there were some tricky moments in the case.

Part way through the hearing Mr Palmer’s counsel, Peter Dunning, conceded he was not suggesting the Emergency Management Act was invalid, and was only concerned about the directions to shut the borders. 

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel pointed out removing the challenge to the Act might mean there was no longer a constitutional question for the High Court to consider.

“Section 92, of course, operates on the statute, not what is made under the statute, the latter usually raising a question of whether or not it is properly authorised within what is otherwise a valid Act,” she said.

Mr Dunning told the court the directions had taken on the character of legislation.

Neither side agreed on the case’s facts

The case was slated for an urgent hearing, but when there was no agreement about the key facts, the matter was sent to the Federal Court to assess the health risk posed by COVID-19 and whether border closures were the most effective measure to contain its spread.

It was during that process the Federal Government, which had sided with Mr Palmer, bowed out.

Federal Court Justice Daryl Rangiah found the most effective way to keep the virus away was to shut the border.

“The border restrictions have been effective to a very substantial extent to reduce the probability of COVID-19 being imported into Western Australia from interstate,” he said.

West Australia’s Solicitor General Joshua Thomson said that was enough to sink Mr Palmer’s case, which the WA Premier branded “selfishness”.

Western Australia was backed by Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania as well as the ACT and the Northern Territory, who were all concerned about their powers to control their borders in the current circumstances.

The Tasmanian representatives said the risk is unquantifiable and no one knows when or where there’ll be an outbreak.

The High Court will release its reasons for today’s decision later.



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Agudath Israel of America Leads Law Suit Against NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Over Covid Closures


Agudath Israel of America Leads Law Suit Against NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Over Covid Closures

Some Rabbis are even telling people to go forward with holiday celebrations as usual because “God will protect them.”

Hasidim Protesting NY Covid Restrictions – From ABC7 News Video

Agudath Israel of America has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking for a temporary restraining order to bar the State of New York from enforcing its limits on house of worship attendance in certain areas of the state. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the new restrictions in part due to the large spikes in Covid-19 in certain communities, specifically, the Ultra-Orthodox in Brooklyn who have flouted calls for social distancing during the Jewish holiday period.

These activities have led to recent violent protests, confrontations with the police and even assaults on members of their own community who were reporting on the protests. (Read more on that here.)

The organization maintains that Governor Cuomo’s Order’s restrictions unconstitutionally discriminate against religious practice while simultaneously permitting comparable secular conduct. Moreover, they say, the restrictions violate Free Exercise rights because they appear to target conduct due to their religious motivation.

OK, so that may be technically legally true, but why do they not at the same time call on their people to voluntarily follow all of the recommended guidelines to limit the spread of the Corona Virus.

While most of the Orthodox Jewish leadership has acknowledged the need for limitations this year due to the Corona Virus threat, some fail to see the danger. There are extreme groups whose leaders for some reason see the limitations imposed by governments as an attack on their religion. This is in spite of the fact that in places such as New York the shutdown has affected all manner of businesses as well from places of entertainment to small businesses.

And some extreme Hasidic leaders seem to think that the practice of Jewish rituals and commandments will protect people from infections. One such leader is Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein of the Or HaChaim neighborhood in Bnei Brak. The Jewish Press reported that Rabbi Klein said, “I don’t say what you should do in practice, I only explain what the view of the Halacha (Jewish Law) is: It is not a problem to convene according to the Halakha for the purpose of a mitzvah because the mitzvah protects.”

“The outlook of the medical people is not that of the Torah. Those who are not Torah scholars do not understand that Torah and mitzvoth (Jewish commandments) are the source of life for the people of Israel,” added Rabbi Klein. “Regarding the authorities, we should heed the advice of the doctors, but regarding mitzvoth the outlook is different.”

The Jewish Press has described is Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein as a Posek – A Rabbi authorized to make major decisions in Jewish Law – whose opinions and rulings are accepted by all Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) communities. But he sounds more like a Christian Scientist than an Orthodox Rabbi. Jewish Law clearly states that on the fast day Yom Kipur, the Day of Atonement, if a doctor orders someone not to fast, then we make the person eat and drink according to the medical determinations. We force the person to eat and do not let him insist on fasting against a doctor’s orders.

So if this is the case even on Yom Kipur, why then is it so hard to accept that going about business as usual is going to endanger the lives of your fellow Jews. To put this in the terms of Halacha, fasting on Yom Kipur is a direct commandment from God. Celebrations on Sukkot and this weekend’s holiday known as Simchat Tora are only customs. We will leave it to the reader to draw the a priori conclusion here.

Let’s put forward this simple hypothetical example. If the local authorities came by just before the holiday and said that the synagogue, or whatever venue was reserved for the celebrations, must be closed due to a fire hazard, or fear that is in danger of collapsing, and prohibit admission to it, would these same people not accept such a ruling. Then if they had to hold the celebrations outside in a park instead, but a hurricane came by or a fire were to break out right by the park, surely they would send everybody home for their safety.

If not now during the Corona Virus pandemic, then when? If we will not make sacrifices this holiday season to protect ourselves from Covid-19, then who will do so for us?

And the danger is much greater this weekend as Jews around the world will observe the holiday Simchat Tora in which the Tora itself is celebrated. The holiday tradition is for large groups to come together to sing and dance with Tora scrolls. This, of course, is problematic to say the least in the Corona Virus era.

But most Orthodox Jewish acknowledge the danger in observing the holiday as usual, with no cancelations or limitations of the traditional celebrations. The New York Board of Rabbis has come out and condemned the recent violence committed by members of the Hasidic community during protests against the Covid-19 restrictions.

It released a statement saying, “We cannot defend individuals in our Jewish community who demonstrate a blatant disregard for the COVID-19 health protocols and endanger their lives and those of other people. COVID-19 is a non-discriminating disease that must be fought by all people following the rules without exception.”

“We believe in collective responsibility where we are accountable for our behavior and reject collective guilt where everyone is depicted without distinction. Therefore, it is the duty of citizens within those virus hotspots to take responsibility for their behaviors which are no doubt causing the drastic surge in cases. Their job is not to respond with defensive rhetoric, but rather do everything in their power to bring down the spread of COVID-19.”

Strong, but necessary, words.

Everyone have a safe, happy and meaningful end of the Sukkot holiday, Shmini Azeret and Simchat Tora. Next year in a Corona Virus free Jerusalem.







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Earth’s Biggest Telescopes Reopen After Months of COVID Closures


After more than six months of COVID-related closures, observational astronomy is largely getting back to work.

Many of the world’s biggest telescopes have reopened their domes in recent weeks, returning their gazes to the heavens for the first time since the pandemic forced a global shutdown of observational astronomy in March. Other major telescopes expect to reopen soon. 

This wave of reopenings was buoyed by declining COVID-19 cases in Chile, especially in the Atacama Desert, a region home to many world-class observatories. U.S. officials who manage telescopes in Hawaii and Arizona say they’re also beginning to resume operations, largely thanks to significant changes in their workflows. 

If major observatories continue to come back online — and remain open — it will end an unprecedented dark era in astronomy. After all, even during World War II, America’s observatories kept a close eye on the skies. 

Astronomy in Quarantine 

Earlier this year, an Astronomy magazine analysis showed that over 100 of Earth’s largest telescopes temporarily shuttered their doors closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And by late March, observational astronomy had almost completely shutdown. 

The closures reveal a little-realized truth about modern astronomy. Even in 2020, most observatories are not fully automated. 

Telescopes have grown dramatically larger and more complex in recent decades. They’ve also been pushed to more remote locations, farther and farther from civilization’s expanding light pollution. Basic tasks like swapping the instruments and cleaning the mirrors on these behemoths can require a small village of engineers, technicians, observers, medics, cooks, groundskeepers, and more.

In Chile, where many of the world’s biggest observatories are now located, the telescopes are so far away from cities that employees can’t just commute to the mountain each night. They have to live on campus part-time. Even the astronomers using the instruments typically travel to the observatories during their awarded observing nights. 

This reality forced observatories to shut down in the early days of the pandemic. There was no way to abide by social distancing rules and effectively run the telescopes. In interviews back in March, observatory directors said they expected telescopes to be offline for at least three to six months. And that’s largely how the pandemic played out for them.

A number of observatories did manage to change their workflows enough to feel safe reopening during the summer. And in recent weeks, many of the remaining observatories have likewise reopened. 

The only telescopes little impacted were the small, survey telescopes that run robotically, or with minimal support. These scan the skies for transient objects — the field’s term for unexpected and brief astronomical objects and events. 

For example, the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona never stopped searching for asteroids. And astronomers kept the Las Cumbres Observatory network of robotic telescopes hunting for both supernovae and space rocks. Hopefully, that was enough to avoid any major gaps in the observational record. 

What Was Missed 

Luckily for the field, those survey telescopes didn’t pick up any once-in-a-lifetime objects that would leave astronomers agonizing over what might have been.

“I’m sure we’ve missed a few things,” says John S. Mulchaey, director of the Carnegie Observatories, which runs some of the world’s largest and most historically important telescopes. “But for most of astronomy, you don’t miss that much. For those of us studying galaxies in the distant universe, they’re gonna be there next year. They’re gonna look the same.” 

Mulchaey says he did ponder how tragic it would have been if Betelgeuse went supernova. Early in the year, astronomers were mystified by the behavior of the dying red supergiant star in the constellation Orion. 

“That doesn’t seem likely, but we haven’t had a visible supernova in our galaxy in 400 years or something,” he says.

Early on, astronomers were also worried about their ability to detect potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroids. And new asteroid detections did decline initially, according to Kelly Fast, NASA’s program manager for Near-Earth Object Observations. However, as smaller observatories found ways to reopen, those detections eventually started going back up. 

“Most stuff that would have been done this year can be done next year,” Mulchaey says. “It means it takes an extra year to get to the answer, but that’s not that bad in the scheme of things.”

Telescopes Restart 

In Chile, the past month has seen telescopes restart at observatories across the country, including Las Campanas, Paranal, Cerro Pachon, and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. Other major instruments like the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment, the Gemini South telescope, and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope have also resumed their operations. Below is a brief summary of the statuses of other notable observatories.

  • Construction has restarted at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, formerly known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a massive, next-generation instrument that will image the entire visible sky every night. 

  • The Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile, or ALMA, has begun working toward reopening. Before the shutdown, astronomers used ALMA’s 66 radio telescopes to help discover phosphine gas in the atmosphere in Venus, which could be evidence of alien life. The finding is controversial though, and researchers could be eager for a second look. However, the array is so complex that it could be months before ALMA is fully back online. 

  • Meanwhile, Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, has started working to get its telescopes observing again. A major new project there called the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument saw first light last fall and researchers are eager to get it operational again. Other major telescopes in the United States opened in May and June. The relatively low number of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii also helped instruments like the Gemini North telescope get back to work.

  • In Antarctica, Earth’s only coronavirus-free continent, upgrades to the South Pole Telescope (SPT) have been postponed as fewer people are deploying to the continent. But SPT’s observing schedule has continued uninterrupted. “There has been a very strict protocol, limiting deployments to only essential personnel and with very strict quarantine rules,” says the University of Chicago’s John Kovac.

  • La Silla Observatory in Chile, home to a number of European Southern Observatory instruments, still hasn’t restarted science operations. 

Although not an observational observatory, LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, was forced to shut down its observing run a month early due to COVID-19. LIGO was planned to be offline for upgrades until 2022, but the pandemic is causing delays that could extend the process even longer. Processing the data from the last observing run is also taking longer than expected. 

“There are delays due to supply chain issues, changes in how vendors work, and teams learning to work in a COVID-safe way,” says LIGO spokesperson Patrick Brady. They likely won’t know until next year whether the pandemic has postponed LIGO’s ability to tune back into gravitational waves again.

Not the Same

Even as major observatories continue to come back online, many won’t be operating at 100 percent for the foreseeable future.

Large telescopes often have their instruments changed multiple times a night as they start new observing runs. But observatory directors say that changing instruments just won’t be possible in many cases now, as they’ve had to learn to work with dramatically reduced staff. Sometimes, they even have to find ways for one person to do tasks that would usually take an entire team.

Astronomers no longer physically travel to the telescopes from during their observing nights, either. And public tours have also been canceled, robbing observatories of vital revenue and access to potential donors. 

Maintenance has also been delayed. Large telescope mirrors often stretch more than a dozen feet across and sit exposed to the outdoors all night long, gathering dust. That means observatories have to regularly clean and recoat their mirrors, or else they’ll gradually lose their light-gathering abilities.

“One aspect that has suffered at the [Hobby-Eberly Telescope] and other large telescopes is that our mirror cleaning and segment re-aluminization are way behind schedule,” says Steven Janowiecki, an astronomer at the McDonald Observatory who serves as the observatory’s science operations manager. “Those processes require people to be in close proximity and have been significantly reduced since March. That will have long term impacts on our light-collecting ability — perhaps 5 to 15 percent — but we’ll still be observing.”

So, although the observational abilities of major telescopes around the world might remain slightly dimmed in the short term, astronomers and engineers are working hard to get Earth’s observatories fully back in the game.



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MRT disruption on Oct 14 prompts system overhaul, with early weekend closures from November


SINGAPORE: A main contractor of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will replace 150km of power cables and more than 100 circuit breaker components along the Tuas West Extension, after some faulty parts led to a disruption of train services on Oct 14. 

More than 120,000 commuters along the North-South, East-West and Circle lines were affected.

READ: Train services resume on North-South, East-West, Circle lines after disruption due to power fault

Releasing its report on the incident on Wednesday (Oct 28), LTA said the disruption was caused by the “occurrence of concurrent faults”, starting with a faulty power cable on the Tuas West Extension.

This would not have caused a disruption if the circuit breaker had kicked in, but it malfunctioned, said LTA.

To facilitate the replacement of all the circuit breaker components, called trip coils, some MRT stations will close early from November. Work on this is expected to be completed by the end of the year. 

As for the new cables, LTA said they will take some time to arrive. The authority will therefore schedule early closures or late openings on weekends or full Sunday closures for “limited periods” next year to facilitate the replacement work.

There are no details yet on the stations that will be affected by the closures.

Timeline: How a power fault caused an hours-long disruption on three MRT lines on Oct 14

In its report, LTA said that power cables on the Tuas West Extension had encountered similar malfunctions on four other occasions between 2018 and 2020.

However, they did not cause train disruptions as the circuit breakers worked in those instances.

SMRT has also suspended an employee and his supervisor for an error committed in the chain of events leading to the disruption. 

WHAT HAPPENED

The train operator had said on Oct 15 that the disruption was caused by a breakdown in the insulation of a power cable along the Tuas West Extension, as well as an attempt to restore power to two MRT lines without first isolating the fault. 

The Tuas West Extension is a 7.5km-long extension on the western end of the East-West Line, comprising Gul Circle, Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road and Tuas West Link stations.

A circuit breaker at the Tuas West Road station should have kicked in to isolate the fault but failed to do so, SMRT said then. LTA explained on Wednesday that this was caused by a faulty trip coil in the circuit breaker.

When the circuit breaker did not function, LTA said a secondary protection mechanism kicked in and isolated a larger electrical sector as a precaution, cutting off power supply from a substation that serves a section of the North-South East-West Line (NSEWL).

An SMRT staff member then tried to draw power from a different substation that also supplies power to the Circle Line (CCL). However, this should only have been done if the initial cable fault was isolated.

SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong said the staff member’s actions “caused a trip on the Circle Line”.

“Our power staff misread the graphics display and thought that the fault had been isolated and proceeded to draw power from Buona Vista (substation),” he said.

“The power staff and his supervisor have been suspended from their duties. They will be required to undergo retraining and recertification before they can resume duties.” 

As the cable fault had not been isolated, a safety mechanism kicked in to protect the CCL’s power system, disrupting supply to parts of the line.

WALKING ON TRACKS

The disruption happened during the evening peak-hour commute. It affected train services from Woodlands to Jurong East on the North-South Line, Queenstown to Gul Circle on the East-West Line, as well as HarbourFront to Serangoon on the CCL.

“After 40 minutes into the disruption, SMRT assessed that the power supply for the NSEWL and CCL could not be restored quickly,” LTA said.

“It proceeded to de-train commuters from 12 stalled rains along the NSEWL and three stalled trains along the CCL.”

Some commuters had to walk on tracks to make their way back to the station, while bus stops were packed with commuters looking for alternative ways to continue their journey.

LTA said SMRT staff walked along the tracks to reach the stalled trains to check on commuters’ well-being, and guided commuters to the nearest station.

“De-trainment on the three affected trains along the CCL was safely completed within 20 minutes,” LTA said.

“De-trainment operations for 11 out of 12 stalled trains on the NSEWL concluded at 8.42pm.

“Due to inclement weather and lightning risk, de-trainment for the last NSEWL train near Bukit Batok station had to be suspended and was only completed at 9.43pm.”

LTA said train services on the CCL and NSEWL were progressively restored at about 8.43pm and 10.34pm, respectively.


A commuter receives guidance at Buona Vista MRT station after a power fault disrupted train services on several lines on Oct 14, 2020. (Photo: Christy Yip)

MORE PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS NEEDED?

The disruption on the NSEWL lasted about three-and-a-half hours from 6.58pm to 10.34pm, LTA said, affecting about 110,000 commuters.

The disruption on the Circle Line (CCL) lasted about an hour from 7.34pm to 8.43pm, affecting about 13,000 commuters.

Of these, LTA said about 6,775 commuters had to disembark from stalled NSEWL and CCL trains.

LTA noted feedback that asked for more updates leading to passengers needing to alight on the tracks “for better awareness and preparedness”.

“Regular public announcements on service disruption were made to all stations and trains throughout the network,” it said.

“Information related to the incidents were also provided to commuters via the various signage on the stations, SMRT Connect App and Twitter messages.”

FAULTY PARTS

Site investigations conducted after service hours on Oct 15 found that a section of the cables located about 500m from Tuas Link station was burnt through, LTA said.

“The faulty trip coil and faulty cables have since been replaced,” LTA said.

Maintenance teams also combed through all the stations on the Tuas West Extension to ensure all the trip coils in the circuit breakers were functioning.

“Two other trip coils were found to exhibit inconsistent performance and were immediately replaced on Oct 15,” LTA said.

“The faulty trip coils have been sent for further forensic examination.”

Alstom, the contractor that supplied the power cables and trip coils for the Tuas West Extension, is also investigating why the power cables had burnt through.

But this is not the first time the power cables had malfunctioned.

Since service on the Tuas West Extension started in 2017, LTA said there had been four instances at different locations involving faults in the upper layer of the power cables.

“These instances did not lead to any service disruption because the circuit breaker kicked in as intended and isolated the faults,” LTA said.

“LTA treated this as a matter of significant concern and raised the issue with the main contractor Alstom in January 2020.”

LTA added that Alstom had agreed to replace the upper of two layers of power cables at the Tuas West Extension, with replacement works scheduled to commence this month.

Investigations into one of the power cable failures in 2018 found that a metallic string made of copper had affected the internal insulation layer. It is thought that a similar fault could have occurred in the Oct 14 disruption.

LTA said previous batches of the cables, which are of similar design and by the same manufacturer, have been used in other parts of the MRT network. These cables have not seen similar faults so far.

“The Tuas West Extension circuit breakers are of an established design and are widely used in the power industry,” it added.

SYSTEM OVERHAUL

In light of the Oct 14 disruption, LTA said all the power cables and trip coils along the Tuas West Extension will be replaced to “provide additional assurance that power cable faults will not lead to another service disruption”.

Alstom will bear the cost of replacing these parts and supply power cables with thicker metallic strings and a more resistant internal structure.

While the cables are being replaced, LTA said SMRT will increase the frequency of checks on the trip coils and circuit breakers.

“This includes visual checks of the trip coil health status every 10 days, and mechanical testing every six months instead of 12 months,” it said.

“SMRT will also enhance their standard operating procedures for power recovery so that similar errors of judgment will not recur,” LTA added.

“Once again, we apologise for the inconvenience caused to commuters that evening. LTA, SMRT and Alstom will work together to address the underlying issues to minimise the risk of a reoccurrence.”

Ms Fang Ling, Asia-Pacific senior vice-president at Alstom, also apologised for the “inconvenience caused to Singapore commuters”.

“In line with our absolute commitment to operational safety and as a precautionary measure, we are replacing all the power cables with a higher specification, and circuit breaker trip coils in the safest and quickest manner possible,” she said.



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Gap considers store closures placing thousands of jobs at risk


Hundreds of Gap stores could close across Europe after the American fashion retailer said that it was considering changes to its business model outside the United States.

Shares in the San Francisco-based company jumped last night after it said that options under consideration included the possible closure of outlets in Britain, France, Ireland and Italy by mid-2021. That could put up to 3,000 UK jobs at risk.

Gap, which had 129 Gap-branded stores in Europe at the end of July, wants to focus on its domestic American business. The group is looking to operate more through franchises in Europe in the future.

“Franchisees already operate in 35 countries through 400 stores and we believe there is significant room to expand our franchise footprint,” Katrina O’Connell, Gap’s chief financial officer, said yesterday at a virtual investor event.

The move comes as Gap struggles with out-of-fashion styles and intense competition from rivals including Zara, part of the Spanish Inditex group, and H&M, of Sweden. The pandemic has compounded its troubles by delivering a severe hit to its store sales worldwide.

Gap also said yesterday that it was reviewing its warehouse and distribution model and its Gap and Banana Republic-owned ecommerce operations in Europe. Earlier in the year Gap said that it planned to close more than 225 unprofitable Gap and Banana Republic stores globally.

Gap was founded in 1969 by Donald and Doris Fisher in San Francisco. The company now has more than 3,800 stores worldwide, under brands also including Old Navy and Athleta and featuring 611 Gap outlets in the US.





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Poker machine profits in Queanbeyan double during Canberra COVID-19 closures | The Canberra Times


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Profits from pokies in Queanbeyan more than doubled each month ACT clubs stayed closed due to COVID-19, when compared to the year prior. Following reports Canberrans rushed across the border to gamble when NSW venues opened on June 1, the 15 venues in the Queanbeyan-Palerang local government area took in $7,384,845 from gaming that month, up from $3,462,833 in June 2019. While ACT gaming machines stayed switch off to comply with early stage-three restrictions in July, Queanbeyan’s gaming profit shot up more than 150 per cent on the same time last year. The NSW gaming data revealed a more moderate increase of 84 per cent in August, with Canberra gaming venues switched back on in the second week of that month. ClubsACT chief executive Gwyn Rees fought hard to bring Canberra in line with its border state, claiming clubs were losing about $5 million in revenue per week during restrictions. “The ACT was the last jurisdiction to provide a COVID recovery roadmap, last to get relief out, slowest to reopen business and is the worst performing on business support,” Mr Rees said at the time. With Canberra clubs reopened throughout September, gaming machine profit from Queanbeyan’s eight clubs and seven hotels dropped to $5,321,528, still up 27 per cent on last year. Relationships Australia spokesperson Julie King said clients who engaged with the support service for counselling and financial advice during the coronavirus closures in Canberra had reported crossing to NSW during COVID-19. READ ALSO: Ms King said while having all gaming-machine venues closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus had been beneficial to problem gamblers who used machines, they had seen an increased uptake of online gambling. “I think the biggest issue of what’s happened with COVID is not necessarily changing the behaviour of the gambler but it’s the potential impact that had on their families,” she said. “If the gambler would not normally be gambling in the house the children would not normally be exposed to it, but given during the COVID time children were at home often they would observe their parent or their older sibling gambling which increases the risk to children.”

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WARNING: Reef fin fish closures, danger of ooshie lures



UNTIL midnight on Sunday, it is illegal to catch all species of coral reef fin fish during the first of two annual closures.

Inshore Fishing Mackay’s Jason Kidd explained the closure coincided with the full moon and the fin fish spawning season.

“Fishers caught doing the wrong thing … risk on-the-spot fines of $533 for recreational fishers or $1067 for commercial fishers, with a maximum penalty in excess of $130,000,” Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol District Manager Tony Loader said.

“Coral reef fin fish include cods and groupers, emperors, parrotfishes, sweetlips, wrasses, coral trout, fusiliers, surgeonfishes, tropical snappers and sea perches.”

Then from November 1 through to January 31, it will be prohibited to catch barramundi on Queensland’s east coast, including for catch and release, as they undergo their spawning season.

Anglers can use the Qld Fishing 2.0 app to help with species identification.

Read more: New ‘improved’ fishing app uses artificial intelligence

In the interests of protecting our fish for the future, Mr Kidd also said the recent viral craze of using ooshies as lures was potentially dangerous.

“If we have bits of ooshies pulled off the hook or eaten, they could go and damage the fish whereas all of our soft plastic lures and all of the lure designers have had to make their materials safe for the fish to eat,” he said.

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Mr Kidd said safe-to-use bioluminescent or glow in the dark lures had already been on the market for more than a decade.

With features like speckles that imitated real-life squid, he said the lures were effective for attracting “red fish” in waters deeper than 10m or for fishing at night.

“Any of those glow lures work really well in the deeper waters where the natural light doesn’t penetrate.

“For people who go out to the reef, when you get down into that 20 to 30m, it’s complete darkness.”

“(If) I’m going to use the (lures) at night – just before I throw them out, we throw a torch at them; it charges them up and they’ll glow hard.”

Mr Kidd recommended lures from any of the more reputable brands.

So there you have it, ditch the ooshies and get back to basics.

But before you head out, check out this weekend’s weather forecasts for Mackay.

 

Friday: Mostly sunny. Light winds becoming south-easterly 20 to 25 km/h in the morning then becoming light in the evening. Minimum of 28C, maximum of 28C. UV index predicted to reach 11 (extreme).

Saturday: Partly cloudy. Light winds becoming easterly 15 to 20 km/h in the middle of the day then becoming light in the evening. Minimum of 19C, maximum of 28C. UV index predicted to reach 11 (extreme).

Sunday: Sunny. Light winds becoming north-easterly 15 to 20 km/h during the day then becoming light during the evening. Minimum of 19C, maximum of 29C. UV index predicted to reach 11 (extreme).

 

And your BOM coastal waters forecasts for Mackay from Bowen to St Lawrence:

Friday:

Winds: East to south-easterly 15 to 20 knots, turning east to north-easterly inshore south of Sarina in the afternoon and early evening.

Seas: 1-1.5m.

Swell: East to south-easterly below 1m inshore, increasing to 1-1.5m offshore.

Saturday:

Winds: East to south-easterly 15 to 20 knots.

Seas: 1-1.5m, decreasing to 1m during the morning.

Swell: East to south-easterly below 1 metre inshore, increasing to about 1m offshore.

Sunday:

Winds: East to north-easterly 10 to 15 knots becoming north to north-easterly about 10 knots during the evening.

Seas: Below 1m.

Swell: East to south-easterly about 1m offshore.

 

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Finally, the all-important tide times:

Friday: Low of 0.06m at 4.17am, high of 5.67m at 10.14am, low of 0.25m at 4.35pm and high of 5.95m at 10.29pm.

Saturday: Low of -0.01m at 4.57am, high of 5.84m at 10.57am, low of 0.3m at 5.21pm and high of 5.71m at 11.13pm.

Sunday: Low of 0.07m at 5.36am, high of 5.86m at 11.41pm, low of 0.5m at 6.08pm and high of 5.29m at 11.58pm.

 

Happy fishing! And if you manage to reel in an awesome catch, we’d love to see some pictures. Email photos to heidi.petith@news.com.au





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Cars in the capital – The battle over London’s road closures | Britain


ON SEPTEMBER 26TH a few dozen people gathered in Bethnal Green in the East End of London to protest against road closures. Whistles blew and passing drivers honked as speakers railed against Tower Hamlets council. Restrictions on driving (some planned, others already in place) were awful, they said. Banning cars from some roads merely increased traffic on others; local businesses were dying for want of customers; the disabled could not get about. It was all very harmonious, until a suspicious group of men was spotted nearby. “Cyclists!” hissed a protester. “They might be looking for trouble.”

When covid-19 hit Britain in the spring, several London councils moved to head off an expected surge in driving as people tried to avoid public transport. New planning rules allow them to close roads to cars without holding lengthy consultations—they can act first and then, over the next 18 months, ask people what they think of the changes. Councils have duly blocked some roads with bollards and large wooden planters, and erected cameras on others to photograph and fine errant drivers.

This should not have been unexpected. Driving in London has become ever more challenging, and in the 2018 local elections Labour Party councillors in some boroughs pledged to deter it even further. But the sudden changes have been too much for some. Protests have been held, traffic signs have been spray-painted over, bollards and planters have been vandalised and oil has been tipped onto bike lanes.

Ostensibly, supporters and opponents of the new low-traffic neighbourhoods, sometimes called “mini-Hollands”, disagree about facts. Does banning cars from local streets discourage driving or merely displace it to other roads? Does it slow down ambulances and fire engines or speed them up? But the dispute over road closures is really about something bigger.

“It’s social cleansing,” argues Mohammad Rakib, who organised the protest in Bethnal Green. He believes the car bans are designed to create a village atmosphere that will entice more young, bicycle-riding professionals to a mostly poor district. He thinks it is revealing that advocates of low-traffic neighbourhoods laud cities such as Amsterdam and San Francisco: “Those places have already been gentrified.”

The argument, which other protesters also make, that car bans disproportionately affect working-class Londoners is wrong. The wealthy drive cars (and ride bicycles) more than the poorest, who tend to walk or take buses. What is true, however, is that veteran Londoners drive. People who moved to the capital several decades ago are much more likely to own a car than new arrivals (see chart). The opponents of low-traffic neighbourhoods are fighting to save the old, chaotic, dirty London. One group, in Hackney, has embraced the slur that its supporters are “rat-runners”.

The struggle between old and new, between those defending their way of life and those who want a greener city, is London’s version of the cultural divide that gave Britain Brexit and propelled Boris Johnson to power. Jody Graber, a leader of the protests against road closures in Islington, certainly hopes the parallel holds. He plans to stand as a councillor in that heavily Labour borough. “Boris smashed the red wall up north,” he says. “I’m going to smash it in north London.”

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Road warriors”

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