What American voters think of the 2020 elections

Fewer than one-third of Americans think the 2020 elections will be held in an honest, open manner, according to a new Public Affairs Council survey released Thursday. 

“We’ve never seen an American election with so much doubt about whether the results will reflect the will of the voters,” said Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham. “The question is whether these concerns produce record turnout or discourage infrequent voters from casting their ballots.”

According to the poll, conducted with Morning Consult of 2,199 adults between August 19-21:

  • 29% of Americans have faith that the elections will be run in an honest and open way.
  • 21% think the elections will be neither honest nor open.
  • 18% believe the elections will be open to everyone with a right to vote but won’t be run in an honest way.
  • 14% said the elections will be honest but not adequately open.

The poll also showed Democrats are more worried about the integrity of the elections:

  • 45% of Republicans said they are concerned about honesty, openness, or both.
  • 61% of Democrats and 51% of independents said they are concerned.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday would not commit to whether he’d accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the November election, but on Thursday he said he’d accept a Supreme Court ruling on the outcome if it comes to that. 

Miralem Pjanic

Miralem Pjanic reveals why he rejected Barca move in 2008

Third time lucky. Miralem Pjanic is a Barça player after two unsuccessful attempts to sign him by the club, as revealed by the Bosnian midfielder himself in this part of the interview he gave to SPORT.

First, in 2008, when he was a promising but unknown midfielder for French team Metz. Later, already consecrated as a player in Serie A, Barça knocked on his door again.

You were a kind of Barcelona hero when you scored the goal that eliminated Madrid from the Champions League in 2009. A year before, you were close to signing for Barça. What happened?

I was not prepared to arrive at a club like Barça. I was 17 years old, I was too young and I was starting my professional career. I was not ready to take the step of joining a club of the magnitude of Barça. I preferred to go to Olympique de Lyon: I knew French football, I had been at Metz for years, and at that time I believed that the best thing was to go to the best club in France at that time, Lyon. The best thing for me was to keep learning, to keep training without missing minutes of play. When I look back and think about my career, I realize that whatever team it is, Metz, Lyon, Roma or Juventus, I was always going step by step, growing, having minutes and becoming important.

At that moment, did Barça call you for the first team or the B side?

For the B-team. But I think I chose well. It felt like that at the time. In my career I have always been able to choose, following my instincts, and I think I have done well. I remember that I was also at Uli Hoenness’s house, Bayern loved me at that time too, but for me the best thing was to stay in France. I never wanted to fly too high, or too quick, but to go step by step. And at that time the only way to learn was to keep playing.

Barça tried signing you again a couple of years ago.

Yes, we spoke two or three times in recent years. But it could not be because the clubs did not agree on terms, neither with Roma nor with Juve. Now things have turned out well and I am very proud to be part of this team. I have always considered myself a Barça fan.

Important tips on horse nutrition

Every animal needs love and care from humans, especially one of the world’s loveliest creatures—horses. These rare, unique and beautiful animals are a sight to behold whether owned for sports, companionship, transportation, or other productive activities. Providing horses with solid health care therefore comes with good sense of responsibility, first, because it keeps the animals free of diseases, and secondly, extends their life span thereby improving horse owners’ joy, self-fulfilment, and pride. This is more so because good equine husbandry is a sine qua non for healthier animal life, and this highlights the importance of preventive care. “Prevention is better than cure,” they always say. This article contains a brief summary of nutrition and healthcare tips every horse owner should know:

Quality food and good health

Horses need adequate rations of water, protein, vitamins, minerals, and energy to maintain optimal performance for a long time. Their overall health status is determined – to a large extent — by how they are fed. For example, findings show that improper feeding can cause health issues such as impaired freedom of movement marked by soreness and stiffness, exposure to contagious diseases, and indigestion or abdominal pain whereas excessive, deficiency, or imbalance in nutrient rations also affect equine health and performance. Proper quantities of food nutrients and water are essential for horses to live healthier lives.

What you should know about feeding horses:

Fact 1: Horses are forage eaters.

Fact 2: Horses spend around 18 hours every day grazing across long distances.

Fact 3: Their intestines can contain up to 5 gallons of water and this reduces the quantity of food they can consume at a time.

Fact 4. Horses feed better when allowed to gnaw continuously because their digestive system functions better when processing food in small quantities.

Feeding the horses

A horse’s most natural food is pasture (i.e. grass). The animals, particularly those performing less strenuous jobs, derive pleasure from feeding alone if they have ample time to graze quality forage in the pasture.

However, hay (such as fescue, timothy or orchard grass) or a mixture of grass and hay provide more options for nutritious food when pasture is less sufficient.

Where grass hay is the only available food, a horse weighing up to 100 pounds will consume about 2 pounds of food to stay healthy, strong and active. This quantity of food is better split into two or four per feeding time to maintain a good body weight. But horses may feed more than the specified quantity and over a longer period if hay quality is more mature and contains less nutrients or offered as a supplement to standard pasture meals.

Horse owners therefore need to acquire experience in food and time management to ensure the animals are constantly in good health condition.

Measuring good health and quality food

A horse’s health condition is easily ascertained by a close examination of the ribs which, if seen or easily felt by the hands, indicates malnutrition. Use of an equine height tape also provides reliable information on the horse’s weight. In addition, top measuring scales are useful in measuring hay weight and quality. Grass is considered “good quality” if leafy but the grade of hay is rated low if it contains excessive dust, musty smell or mold.

Tips on taking care of horses

  • Horses feed on grass, hay, or a mixture of both—with good doses of salt—to maintain a balanced diet. However, you should consider the animal’s age, quality of forage, and energy consumption to know what rations of protein supplements or minerals/vitamins they need. There are lots of forage-based supplements available from feed manufacturers. A mature horse usually feeds between 1 to 2 pounds every day.
  • Horses may consume less than the required quantities of food if they are pregnant, overworked, or raising young ones. Their limitation on food intake capacity is controlled with supplementary diets made from grain and concentrate. This should be served strictly on recommendations (based on body condition) from the manufacturer. Diet should be served slowly and in small amounts. To enhance performance of the horse’s digestive system when there is limitation on food consumption, forage servings per day should maintain about 2 pounds for animals weighing 100 pounds.
Wileyfox phones

Wileyfox UK launches new smart phone for the savvy open market

BUSINESS PROPOSAL FOR THE MARKETING DIRECTOR OF WILEYFOX, U.K.

  1. INTRODUCTION

Wileyfox is a London-based company which deals on high-value, affordable and low-choice mobile phones, including phone-specific screen protectors, clip-on covers and spare batteries. It was established in 2015 (John., 2018).

Wileyfox operates with few workers and has no legacy devices to compete against market leaders such as Apple and Samsung. To effectively differentiate its products, the British phone maker recently announced hardware commoditization as a strategic roadmap to achieving competitive advantage against Android or iOS-reliant rivals (Woods., 2015).

Mike Coombes holds position as Wileyfox CEO and has experience as a former sales executive at Nokia and HTC (O’Reilly., 2013).

Figure 1: Wileyfox Phones

Source: Wileyfox (2019)

  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

On 6 February, 2018, Wileyfox went declared bankruptcy and publicized on 19 March that Santok Group has acquired license to sell its phones in South Africa and Europe. However, as a struggling new entrant in the overcrowded and advanced global markets, Wileyfox aims at maximizing profit potentials by introducing unique multifunctional handsets that guarantee consumer satisfaction through durability, long battery life, user privacy and 3D viewing (Brown., 2018).

The new product will be available worldwide within 2 years after its launch in April 2019. This brief marketing proposal is a sample prepared ahead of the product launch.

  • SITUATION ANALYSIS

Considering its efficient assembly procedures, design skills, cost control, and adaptability to changing market demands, Wileyfox can achieve competitiveness and sustainable growth if management adopts push and pull strategies in its value chain. But the undercapitalized phone maker is liquidating assets and are yet to pay of their debts—an indication of its inability to sustain long-term business. In addition, its Swift and Storm device owners are doubtful of the company’s existence and growth considering that their previous operating system Cyanogen (an Android variant) was problematic. According to Woods (2015), consumers are expecting huge investments in research and development (R&D).

Figure 1: The U.K. phone market

Source: Statistica (2019)

As shown in Figure 1, Wileyfox maintains an insignificant percentage of the U.K. phone market. Thus, its marketing priorities are:

  • To expand customer base through strategic advertising
  • To build solid business relationships with telecom operators
  • To generate sales and achieve incremental profit after 12 months
  • To invest in corporate social responsibility
  • To respect consumer protection laws and
  • To conduct business with an environmentally-friendly approach.
  • MARKET NEEDS AND TRENDS

The fictional smartphone, Blaze 3D Plus, has an innovative, thin and user-friendly design, with a biometric security system, long-lasting solar battery, and an eco-friendly source of power that offers at least 12 hours of talk-time. It comes with a 2-year warranty, which highlights Wileyfox’s focus on quality, affordability and consumer satisfaction. Additionally, the new phone will be usable with any telecom carrier—on pre-paid plans. It will offer larger, durable touchscreen, drop-proof quality, free-calling online services, call recording capability, 15-megapixel camera, among other functions and benefits that outclass competitors.

Table 1: Features and Benefits of Blaze 3D Plus

Source: The Author (2019)

  • TARGETED SEGMENTS

As shown in Table 1, the cost-efficient Blaze 3D Plus will provide convenience for travellers, with added entertainment programs for all customers. The primary target segment (Wedel., 2000) comprises of middle and upper-income customers(professionals) who don’t have charging time and therefore prefer long-lasting batteries for uninterrupted usage. This group also includes people whose annual income is above $80,000.

Secondary targets are young adults aged between 18 – 30 years old, who can afford new, appealing gadgets—especially phones with alternative energy sources and unique features that can be traded for newer models at little costs.

  • MARKET GROWTH

Market trends between 2014 – 2018 show significant increase in smartphone sales, and users are shifting from traditional handsets, which offer limited features, to iOS and Android-powered cell phones with virtual keyboards and touchscreen interface. Table 2 shows total shipment volume of 1,204.4 million and 1,738.5 million in 2014 and 2018 respectively. The 11.5% increase is a proof of the unlimited opportunities in global smartphone markets, which Wileyfox should maximize with its launch of Blaze 3D Plus.

Table 2: Global Smartphone Sales & Market Share (2014-18)

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker (2019)

*Units in Millions

Figure 2: Global Market Share of Smart-Connected Devices (2013-18)

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker (2019)

  • SWOT ANALYSIS

Wileyfox has to build on its strengths with the launch of Blaze 3D Plus. Product differentiation, as highlighted in Table 1, will certainly provide differential advantage and build positive brand image for the company.

However, major challenges include poor visibility in global markets, lack of investment capital, limited distribution networks etc. Until Blaze 3D Plus is thoroughly tested and found to be safe and compatible with telecom networks, Wileyfox cannot expect a favourable competition (Burrnett., 2007).

Table 3: SWOT Analysis of Wileyfox

Source: The Author (2019)

  • COMPETITION

Samsung, Huawei and Apple present Wileyfox with its greatest challenges. Others in the highly competitive smartphone market are Chinese brands—Xiaomi and OPPO (Reith & Chau., 2018). Wileyfox should therefore adopt the “bring-your-own-gadgets” at work to prove their credibility, show compliance to corporate policies that protect consumer rights, and increase sales. However, most first-time smartphone buyers may not choose Blaze 3D Plus because of its sophistication.

  • PRE-LAUNCH PHASE

Introducing new profitable products in the highly-competitive smartphone industry comes with opportunities and stress-prone planning activities for the launch team, especially in the pre-launch phase where cutting corners or ignoring something can jeopardize realization of business objectives. For example, there should be a comprehensive list of activities with names/groups attached to departments and responsibilities, including links for inter-departmental functioning and external support.

The product development and product launch phase are crucial for goals attainment and sustainability. Wileyfox Corporate Executive Board should therefore take cognizance of these 3 major challenges: product planning; communications (internal); and uniform implementation of product launch objectives by employees in marketing, sales, engineering, customer support and supply chain.

Product Launch Plan: This stage requires a strategic and comprehensive product development idea, which must be separate and segmented into:

  1. Initial planning, ii. Pre-launch activities, iii. Sales and channel launch preparedness, iv. Launch date, v. Post-launch supervision.

Initial planning should take between 3-6 months before the product launch date, and the key objectives should be to:

  • Increase sales volume from existing customers
  • Discover new markets
  • Maximize use of new technology

Pre-launch activities should take about 3 months before the product launch date, with key activities focused on: developing a timeline that indicates topics, themes, deliverables and timing, including appropriate marketing channels for promoting the launch (email, intranet, screensavers, newsletters, corporate blog, face-to-face meetings etc); creating reference terminology for the new product; formulating creative visual aspects of branding for the product; planning strategic marketing activities and key launch events; finalizing pricing and distribution channels; organizing sales training activities/materials and sales collateral; and using print/media advertising etc to create pre-launch awareness.

Sales and channel launch preparedness should take about 1 month ahead of launch date. It requires training/advising of the launch team on key activities/events, roles and responsibilities; availability of sales tools/collateral; explaining the process; and offering support.

On the launch date, the company’s planning and preparedness are tested from press releases to live media update on the public unveiling usually held at a trade centre. After this, the new products go on sale while business managers monitor market trends for performance and policy adjustments—where necessary. Two-way communication should be encouraged and, importantly, negative comments should be embraced.

Pre-launch marketing Objectives

  1. Increase brand awareness among targeted segments by 50%
  2. Build strong relationships with distributors, retailers and telecom carriers within 100 days
  3. Earn the British government’s recognition for power efficiency before launch
  4. Advertise the benefits of solar-powered battery
  5. Invest in relationship-building activities with host communities, NGOs and charity organizations.

Steps to launching a new product:

  1.  POST-LAUNCH PHASE

According to a 2012 Babson College survey, only about 65% firms attain profitability in their product launch, and nearly 15% of businesses fail due to non-use of quantifiable performance measures until post-launch. These results highlight the importance of planning, strategy, and continuous market assessment even when sales are increasing. In the first 12 months after launching Blaze 3D Plus, Wileyfox management should answer these questions:

  • Did the product launch survive development, manufacturing, administrative and financial setbacks?
  • Was the timing right?
  • How did the target market respond?
  • How did the sales team perform in terms of feedback, use of promotional literature, training materials, and marketing tools, including feedback from customers?
  • Were the customer support channels established before product launch?

Post-launch Marketing Objectives

  1. Achieve unit sales volume of 240,000 within first 12 months
  2. Increase brand awareness across business areas by 20% within 12 months
  3. Restrict losses to less than $1 million
  4. Surpass the break-even mark within 12 months
  5. Achieve at least 10% annual ROI within 12 months
  6. Recycle over 40% of phone parts after life span/warranty period.
  1.  MARKETING MIX

Wileyfox can achieve its goals through effective marketing mix decisions such as:

Product: Differentiating Blaze 3D Plus with features that are inimitable.

Price: Offering low prices, discounts and flexible payment options to selected segments/markets. Average retail and wholesale prices should be $150 and $135 respectively.

Promotion: Using promotional activities (e.g. print/media advertising and sponsorship of sports, educational, entrepreneurship or social events.

Place: Discovering new markets and maximizing distribution channels to ensure a balance between demand and supply.

Table 4: Financials/Forecasts

Source: The Author (2019)

Table 5: Proposed Marketing Activities

Source: The Author (2019)

Depending on the impact of these marketing activities on financials, there may be need for revision and adjustment to protect market share and maintain sustainable growth.

  1.  RECOMMENDATION

Although business is about experimenting, learning and adjusting; to avoid risks from losing market share to contenders, Wileyfox should form mergers and use a strong PR while its affiliate, Santok Group, maximizes local distribution channels in Europe, Asia and other continents where brand presence is currently insignificant.

REFERENCES

Brown S., 2018, “UK phone maker Wileyfox enters bankruptcy,” AndroidAuthority, accessed 26.01.2019, < https://www.androidauthority.com/wileyfox-enters-administration-bankruptcy-835948/>

Burrnett J., 2007, “Product Differentiation,” John Wiley & Sons Inc., New Jersey, accessed 28.01.2019

John M., 2018, “Wileyfox is back: New handsets arriving this year and more good news for owners,” TechRadar, viewed 26.01.2019, < https://www.techradar.com/news/wileyfox-is-back-new-handsets-arriving-this-year-and-more-good-news-for-owners>

O’Reilly L., 2013, HTC UK in turmoil following senior exits,” MarketingWeek, retrieved 27.01.2019, < https://www.marketingweek.com/2013/03/11/htc-uk-in-turmoil-following-senior-exits/>

Reith R. & Chau M., 2018, “Smartphone Market Share,” IDC, retrieved 28.01.2019

Wedel M., “Historical Development of the Market Segmentation Concept.” pp. 3-5, Norwell, USA: Kluwer Academic Publisher, retrieved 28.01.2019

Woods B., 2015, “Wileyfox launches its first Cyanogen OS smartphones, the 5’’ Swift and 5.5’’ Storm,” TheNextWeb, accessed 27.01.2019

Arturo Vidal

Arturo Vidal gives up a fortune to join Inter Milan

Arturo Vidal is on the verge of completing his move to Inter Milan although there are only minor details that need to be resolved as well as the player passing a medical.

After reaching an agreement with Barcelona over the amount owed on his deal, Vidal will soon be an Inter player.

Media reports confirm the Chile international footballer gave up €6.5m in order to push through his move to Inter.

The move was inspired by Antonio Conte’s presence at Inter.

According to the Italian outlet ‘Tuttosport’, “Vidal has given up €6.5m in order to rejoin Conte”. ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’ claim both the Vidal and Luis Suarez deals are being held up by minor details.

Whilst those transfers are yet to be completed, both are expected to leave Barça very soon. The Chilean will give up the money owed on the final year of his contract with Barcelona in order to force through his move to Inter.

This means Vidal is likely to leave in a deal structured similar to the one agreed with Sevilla for Rakitic.

The Chilean is expected to fly out to Italy soon in order to pass a medical and be presented to the media there. The chance of joining up with Conte is a key factor behind the move.

‘Gazzetta dello Sport claims the 33-year-old midfielder has agreed to forgo the money owed on his contract with Barça, although some reports in Italy claim Vidal wants the €2.4m owed from bonuses accrued.

Coronavirus Vaccine: Australia to receive first batch of AstraZeneca in Jan 2021

Australia will receive the first doses of an AstraZeneca and Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021 if trials prove successful after Canberra agreed a deal to purchase a second potential vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.

Australia said in August it had signed a preliminary agreement with AstraZeneca for enough doses for its population of nearly 26 million, which would be manufactured locally by pharmaceutical company CSL.

That deal appeared in some doubt when CSL said its priority was manufacturing an alternative potential vaccine developed with the University of Queensland (UQ).

Agreeing a deal to overcome the potential roadblock, Australia will now also buy 51 million doses of the UQ vaccine.

It will take possession of the first 3.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in January and February 2021, and then receive a further 30 million doses, Morrison will say in extracts from an announcement sent to Reuters.

AstraZeneca’s candidate is seen as a frontrunner in a global race to deliver an effective coronavirus vaccine.

“Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a safe and effective vaccine, should it pass late stage testing,” Morrison said.

Under the deal with UQ and CSL, Australia will buy 51 million doses of that tie-up’s vaccine. The UQ and CSL candidate is scheduled to begin phase two trials in late 2020 and if all trials are successful it could be rolled out to Australians in mid-2021.

Both deals will cost in total A$1.7 billion ($1.24 billion), Morrison explained. Should both vaccines prove successful, Australia has secured to right to donate or sell on without a mark-up.

Health officials are discussing who will receive the first doses if trials are successful, Morrison said. Vulnerable people, and front-line health care workers likely to be first in line, a source familiar with the details told Reuters.

The supply agreements come as Australia grapples with a second wave of infections in its second most populous state, Victoria. Australia has recorded more than 26,000 infections and 753 deaths.

Manchester City’s Mahrez and Laporte test positive to COVID-19

Manchester City’s duo of Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte have tested positive for coronavirus.

The club announced this on Monday morning.

It said both players are asymptomatic and observing isolation at home.

The club, in a statement, said: “Manchester City FC can confirm that Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte have tested positive for Covid-19.

“Both players are currently observing a period of self-isolation in accordance with Premier League and UK Government protocol on quarantine. Neither is displaying symptoms of the virus.

“Everyone at the Club wishes Riyad and Aymeric a speedy recovery ahead of their return to training and the new season.”

CORONAVIRUS: Why American scientists think sewage testing is valuable

Days after he crossed the country to start college, Ryan Schmutz received a text message from Utah State University: COVID-19 had been detected at his dorm.

Within 10 minutes, he dropped the crepes he was making and was whisked away by bus to a testing site.

“We didn’t even know they were testing,” said Schmutz, who is 18 and from Omaha, Nebraska. “It all really happened fast.”

Schmutz was one of about 300 students quarantined to their rooms last week, but not because of sickness reports or positive tests. Instead, the warning bells came from the sewage.

Colleges across the nation — from New Mexico to Tennessee, Michigan to New York — are turning tests of waste into a public health tool. The work comes as institutions hunt for ways to keep campuses open despite vulnerabilities like students’ close living arrangements and drive to socialize. The virus has already left its mark with outbreaks that have forced changes to remote learning at colleges around the country.

The tests work by detecting genetic material from the virus, which can be recovered from the stools of about half of people with COVID-19, studies indicate. The concept has also been used to look for outbreaks of the polio virus.

Sewage testing is especially valuable because it can evaluate people even if they aren’t feeling sick and can detect a few cases out of thousands of people, experts say. Another wastewater-flagged quarantine of 300 students at Arizona State University, for example, turned up two cases. Both were students who were asymptomatic, but they could potentially still have spread the virus.

“That’s just tremendously valuable information when we think about the setting of a college dorm, and how quickly this disease can spread through that population,” said Peter Grevatt, CEO of The Water Research Foundation, which promotes studies of water and wastewater to ensure water quality and service.

Wastewater tests also flagged the possible presence of the virus at University of Colorado residence halls.

Utah has used the method more widely, including to track an outbreak at a meatpacking plant. The British, Italian and Dutch governments have also announced similar monitoring programs, and the Massachusetts-based company Biobot tests wastewater from cities around the country.

The method remains imprecise, though. It can spot infection trends, but it can’t yet pinpoint how many people have the virus or the stage of infection. That means it’s not yet quite as useful on a larger scale in cities, which don’t always have a university’s scientific resources or ability to require people to get tested.

The technology is being closely studied, though, and it is evolving rapidly, Grevatt said, adding that it’s best used along with other methods like contact tracing.

It’s not a panacea for colleges either. Utah State, for example, can only closely monitor sewage from the relatively small portion of students who live on campus — not the thousands of other people who come and go every day. The university has an enrollment of about 28,000.

And this week, Utah State’s positive wastewater test could be narrowed only as far as four residence halls that share the same sewer system. The test came back positive late Aug. 29, and the quarantine started the next day. Students were required to stay in their rooms, eating meals delivered by a “COVID care” team and barred from walking more than a few steps outside the residence hall.

The buildings are laid out in apartment-style suites, and students were released from quarantine in small groups if every roommate in a suite tested negative. The tests had turned up four coronavirus cases as of Thursday.

Schmutz, who tested negative along with his roommates, didn’t miss much in-person class time during his four-day quarantine.

But he’s a little disconcerted that he and his family weren’t told about the sewage testing. “It felt like we were kind of out of the loop on everything. It’s definitely hard to process,” he said.

Utah State has heard from parents and students similarly frustrated, though many others are grateful, spokeswoman Emilie Wheeler said. “They see it as a noninvasive early detection system,” she said.

The program is relatively inexpensive, too. The school takes samples daily to monitor several living areas, and the tests are run by a team of students.

“Wastewater has a story to tell about the public health status of communities,” Grevatt said. “There’s so many folks working on this right now. It’s just remarkable to see how quickly it has moved forward.”

Expect new airplane cabins the next time you fly

Headrest canopies and fabric barriers between seats could start appearing in airplane cabins as the embattled industry tries to ward off the coronavirus.

Airlines desperate for governments to lift travel restrictions and passengers to return are looking at ways to reassure the public that their health won’t be compromised on a flight. New-look seats and fresh cabins could be a start.

One of the biggest companies in that business, Recaro Aircraft Seating GmbH, has designed a range of modifications to keep passengers apart and protect them from infection.

Airlines are considering installing Recaro’s equipment as temporary cabin makeovers, according to Chief Executive Officer Mark Hiller. They need fittings that are easy to maneuver, lightweight and available at short notice, he said.

“There is definitely large interest from across the different regions,” Hiller said in an interview.

With a coronavirus vaccine possibly years away, airlines need to persuade the public it is safe to fly when an infected passenger might be next to them. Sporadic flareups around the world are putting people off: Global traffic in July was down almost 80% from a year earlier, a steeper-than-expected slump, the International Air Transport Association said last week.

Of the planes that are flying, many are half empty. Aircraft typically must be 70% to 80% full to turn a profit, so that increases the appeal of devices that let passengers sit side by side without touching heads, brushing shoulders or nudging elbows.

Airlines are also figuring out how to apply a disinfectant coating developed by Recaro onto their seats, Hiller said. The German company says it has revamped the substance to repel viruses including Covid-19.

While the industry has for months said there’s little chance of catching the virus on a plane because there are hospital-grade air filters on board, that argument has been undermined by breakouts on some flights.

All 187 passengers and six crew on a TUI AG flight from the Greek resort of Zante to Cardiff last month were asked to self-isolate after at least 16 confirmed cases were identified on the Aug. 25 service.

Recaro, which sold about 150,000 aircraft seats last year, isn’t immune to the crisis gripping the aviation industry, despite potential demand for its designs. Hiller said revenue is expected to drop almost 60% this year.

Coronavirus: Mexico runs out of death certificates

Mexico’s deputy health minister said the government had ordered 1.1 million additional death certificates be printed as several parts of the country ran out and Covid-19 cases continue to soar.

Mexico has registered over 66,000 coronavirus-related fatalities, putting it fourth in terms of Covid-19 deaths behind the U.S., Brazil and India.

The World Health Organization has also said Mexico’s cases and deaths are probably “under-recognized” due to limited testing.

Despite this scenario, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said the government’s strategy to tackle the coronavirus was “very good.”

Speaking in a press conference Friday evening, Hugo Lopez Gatell, the health official, said that some states, including Mexico state, were out of death certificates. Authorities had been working for the past two to three weeks to redistribute them from areas with larger stocks, he added.

“They almost ran out in Mexico City,” the deputy minister said. “It has been a pretty intense job.”

The new certificates started to arrive on Thursday, just before stocks from the redistribution also ran out, Lopez Gatell said. According to Health Ministry data as of Friday, Mexico reported 6,196 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 623,090. Deaths stand at 66,851.

Ansu Fati officially Spain’s youngest scorer

Ansu Fati became the youngest goalscorer in the history of the Spanish national team on Sunday by scoring against Ukraine in the Nations League.

Aged 17 years and 311 days, Fati netted in the 32nd minute of the League A, Group 4 clash at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium when he cut in from the left and curled into the bottom corner to make it 3-0.

The Barcelona forward, who was making his first start for Spain, beat the previous record held by Juan Errazquin, who scored three goals aged 18 against Switzerland in 1925.

Fati is the youngest player to score for Spain as well as for Barca in La Liga and the youngest to score in the Champions League as well.

Born in Guinea-Bissau, the teenager made his Barca debut at the start of last season, becoming the second youngest player ever to play for the Catalan giants.

He was the club’s youngest ever scorer in La Liga after he netted off the bench against Osasuna and the he also scored on his first Barca start, against Valencia, aged 16.

The next day, Barcelona newspaper Mundo Deportivo wrote “A star is born” and he continued breaking records by hitting the winner against Inter Milan in the Champions League in December.

Fati was expected to be given his debut for Spain earlier this year but he had to wait as fixtures were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His goal against Ukraine came after a spell-binding opening half an hour from the youngster as he caused havoc down the left wing and almost scored with a bicycle kick.

Fati’s goal put Spain almost out of sight against Ukraine after Sergio Ramos scored the opening two goals, the first from the penalty spot.

 

FAAN: Recurring monthly losses, a sign of an uncertain future after COVID-19

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said it lost N17.5billion of aeronautic charges in 23 weeks and incurred N1.4 billion loss of non-aeronautical charges between April and June, 2020.

Its Managing Director, Capt. Hamisu Yadudu, who disclosed this in a virtual interaction said the agency’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) dipped by over 90 per cent in the last six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the agency’s loss in the last few months is huge compared to the same period last year.

He said compared to last year, only 8.7 per cent of the agency’s non-aeronautical revenue charges were collected from April to June, this year, adding that as a result of the pandemic, FAAN customers were not only defaulting in  payment for services rendered to them but that there  was an increase in request for payment suspension, deferral and waivers

He said 87 per cent of the 2020 budget overhead cost was wiped out in six months with up to 95 per cent decline in weekly revenues.

Yadudu said notwithstanding, the challenges posed by COVID-19 on FAAN’s revenue, the agency has ensured that local airports under its management commenced domestic operations after meeting the requirements set by Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

He said it was upon meeting the conditions prescribed that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and other regulatory agencies cleared airports to reopen.

Yadudu said during the lockdown, its managers opened airports that were involved in evacuation flight arrangements.

This, according to him, further made the agency incur cost on maintenance and utilities despite the total decline in traffic as well as revenue.

“In spite of the drastic drop in revenue, FAAN has managed to ensure that all its local airports have commenced domestic operations having met the requirements by Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, NCAA and other regulatory bodies and have been issued clearance to reopen.

” Fewer  passengers and limited income even with the resumption of international operations  has affected our revenue stream. All these are issues of great concern to the authority and partly what has necessitated the need for all our stakeholders to rub minds on strategies to adapt to ensure that the industry remains in operation to provide the very much needed service,” Yadudu said.

t was gathered that other agencies, including Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), also lost significant revenue in the last few months, which would have accrued to the regulator as five per cent of supposed tickets sold by both domestic, and international airlines.

NCAA, statutorily collects Ticket Sales Charge and Cargo Sales Charge.

Another agency – Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), also lost billions of naira that would have accrued to it as en route navigation charge , terminal navigation charge for the services it would rendered to airlines that did not operate during the ban on international flights while ground handling companies also lost significant revenue during the pandemic.

The Association of Aviation Ground Handlers (AGHAN) said operators in the sub sector lost  about N20 billion  by the end of June, due to the lockdown.

The association said its members have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has devastated the global economy since the beginning of the year.

AGHAN membership comprises the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) and Aviation Handling Services (AHS).

Checks by The Nation revealed that Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) lost millions of naira that would have accrued for payments for Visa on Arrival , resident permits and other documents in the months there was ban on international scheduled flights.

Top earners in the Nigerian banking industry

Nigeria’s seven topmost banks signposted resilient performance in the first half of this year with top-line earnings rising to N1.77 trillion despite the COVID-19 lockdowns that disrupted activities for the most part of the period.

All the seven largest banks recorded increased top-line, but the underlying profitability of the sector declined by almost two basis points.

The seven first tier banks  are Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank), Zenith Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Access Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), FBN Holdings and Union Bank of Nigeria (UBN).

They account for more than three quarters of the banking industry and are referred to as systemically important banks, in reference to their size and operations.

Total gross earnings within the top seven banking group rose by 7.8 per cent to N1.77 trillion in first half 2020 compared with N1.65 trillion recorded in corresponding period of 2019.

Total pre-tax profit dropped marginally by 0.74 per cent from N463.79 billion in first half 2019 to N460.38 billion in first half- 2020, driven largely by steep decline in the profit of a bank. Profit after tax rose by 10.13 per cent from N388.87 billion to N428.29 billion.

However, the underlying profit-making capacity of the sector declined during the period with an average pre-tax profit margin for the top seven banking group dropping from 28.46 per cent in first half 2019 to 26.94 per cent in first half 2020. With the exception of Stanbic IBTC Holdings and FBN Holdings, the two bank-led holding companies within the group, all the other banks suffered decline in underlying profitability.

The banks are required by  regulations to maintain the Gregorian calendar year as their financial year, with half-year ending June 30, every year.

A market intelligence report by The Nation yesterday showed that GTBank, Nigeria’s most capitalised financial institution, remains the most profitable with a pre-tax profit margin of 48.73 per cent in first half 2020, more than three basis points below 52.19 per cent recorded in first half 2019. Stanbic IBTC Holdings recorded the biggest improvement with pre-tax profit margin rising from 38.04 per cent to 41.41 per cent. FBN Holdings’pre-tax profit margin also improved from 12.93 per cent to 13.97 per cent.

In actual figures, Access Bank displaced Zenith Bank to emerge with the highest gross earnings but Zenith Bank also displaced GTBank to assume leadership in actual pre- and post-tax profits. Access Bank’s gross earnings rose from N324.38 billion to N396.76 billion.

Zenith Bank’s profit before tax rose from N111.7 billion to N114.12 billion while profit after tax increased from N88.88 billion to N103.83 billion.

The two leading banks – GTBank and Zenith Bank – recorded above-average performance across major indices.

The five biggest banks that traditionally pay dividends twice yearly – GTBank, Zenith Bank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Access Bank and UBA – have declared interim dividend for the six-month period.

GTBank and Zenith Bank will distribute a dividend per share of 30 kobo. Stanbic IBTC Holdings is paying the highest interim dividend of 40 kobo per share.

Access Bank retains its 25 kobo per share while UBA will distribute interim dividend of 17 kobo per share.

Analysts at Afrinvest Securities said better-than expected earnings by many banks sustained the bullish run that saw the Nigerian equities market closing with average gain of 1.2 per cent at the weekend.

Cordros Securities noted that the stock market recorded a higher level of activity from both local and foreign investors, “as positive earnings releases from the tier I banks and bargain buying across some bellwethers drove the market to its largest gain in almost a month”.

The All Share Index (ASI)- the value-based common index that tracks all share prices at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) closed weekend at 25,605.64 points, its highest level since March 9.

US Professor sacked for using “bad” Chinese word

A California professor has been replaced for uttering a Chinese word that sounds—in English—like a racist slur, the LA Times reports.

Greg Patton was teaching an online communications course for University of Southern California students when he discussed the importance of pausing and using “er” and “um” as filler words.

“Like in China the common word is ‘that’ —’that, that, that, that,'” he said in August (see video here). “So in China it might be ‘nèi ge’‘nèi ge, nèi ge, nèi ge.’ So there’s different words that you’ll hear in different countries, but they’re vocal disfluencies.”

Nèi ge can be pronounced NAH-guh or NAY-guh in Mandarin, and Patton used the latter pronounciation.

Some students said it sounded too much like the N-word.

“There are over 10,000 characters in the Chinese written language and to use this phrase … is hurtful and unacceptable to our USC Marshall community,”

Black master’s candidates wrote in a letter to Marshall School of Business Dean Geoffrey Garrett—who responded by telling MBA students that Patton’s use of the word “understandably … caused great pain.”

Patton was soon on temporary leave from the course, and issued a letter that both apologized and defended his use of nèi ge.

In a twist, roughly 100 USC alumni—most of them Chinese—wrote the school defending Patton’s use of the word and condemning the “spurious charge.” USC Annenberg Media quotes an MBA student of Korean descent who calls the incident “overdramatized” and says he doubts “the professor meant harm.