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‘It’s Gonna Be Quite Awful’: Sydney’s Small Businesses Say Lockdown Repressive

Brittany Jordan

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‘It’s Gonna Be Quite Awful’: Sydney’s Small Businesses Say Lockdown Repressive


Small business owners are bearing the brunt of Sydney’s three-week lockdown, with one worker calling the restrictions communistic as the new measures mean many in the retail, hospitality and construction sectors can not work until the end of the month.

Nam Nguyen, the owner of a barbershop in the heart of Fairfield, which has emerged as one of Sydney’s biggest COVID-19 hotspots, told The Epoch Times he was going to be forced out of work after losing 100 percent of his customers since he shut down the store.

In the past three weeks, Nguyen has lost over $5,000 in revenue.

“I’m just gonna lose my job,” Nguyen said. “I still have to pay for my rent, living cost, food, insurance, utilities, you name it, all while I’m losing my income.”

He noted that some loyal customers had invited him over to do their hair and earn some extra money, but he had to turn them down because even that would be counted as breaking the rules.

“Last year was a bit better because we could still work, but now we’re not allowed to,” Nguyen said.

Nam Nguyen is the owner of a barbershop at the heart of Fairfield (Supplied to The Epoch Times).

Currently, Nguyen is receiving $500 a week as part of the government’s economic support package, but he said it could barely compensate for the financial loss his business is suffering.

“If the lockdown is extended, some medium-sized businesses will be crushed, I mean really crushed. Even if the government gives them $10,000, it won’t be enough. Some are extremely worried; some are going into insolvency,” he said.

“It’s gonna be quite awful.”

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Nam Nguyen’s barbershop before lockdown (Supplied).

Construction companies also protesting the lockdown rules, which saw construction sites across Greater Sydney forced to close until July, a move that is estimated to cost millions every week.

Khoa Tran, a worker at a construction site in Parramatta, criticised what he called the “communist-style” restrictions.

“What the authority is doing is fuelling fear in people. It’s similar to how communist regimes utilise fear to educate their citizens,” Tran said.“These rules push people to the corner. No money to pay bills, no food to eat… Will the government be able to afford it?”

“They said they would lockdown until the pandemic ends, but you can’t tell when it will end,” he added, “People will have to learn to live with the virus somehow.”

According to The Financial Review, the three-week shutdown is costing the state $150 million a day in lost economic activity, which will take longer to recover if the restrictions are maintained for a further month.

Meanwhile, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) estimated the retail sector would lose about $1 billion in trade per week as long as the lockdown is still in place.

“We’ve got grave concerns for businesses, and particularly smaller retailers in the CBD. They were already crippled by last year’s lockdowns, and with the absence of JobKeeper this time, it’s a double whammy,” ARA CEO Paul Zahra told 9News.com.au.

“There’s also a double cost to this – there’s a financial hit, and there’s the mental health hit for business owners who are deciding that it’s just not worth it.”

The federal and state governments have stated that the lockdown is vital to curb the increasingly contagious Delta variant, which has so far caused only five deaths out of over 500 positive cases in Australia’s most populous state New South Wales.

No official cost-benefit analysis has yet to be released to justify the decision making.

While a number of epidemiologists back the tough COVID response, some economists argued the pain is not worth it.

The University of NSW Economist Gigi Foster pointed out the trade-off from strict lockdowns not only includes economic losses and increased inequality. It also includes deteriorating mental health, long-term costs to children and university students whose education is interrupted, rising domestic violence, and other health care problems.

“If we counted cases of all viruses that infect us and treated them like the fearsome pestilence of the sort that COVID has been elevated to in the media, we would do nothing all day but hide under the bed,” Foster wrote in an op-ed for Sydney Morning Herald.

Foster also noted at the Australian Conference of Economists 2021 that Australian policymakers should be held accountable for the “greatest economic policy debacle in a generation.”

Last year research by the International Trade Centre found COVID-19 lockdown policies can bring five small firms to bankruptcy in as little as three months.

It also revealed that smaller companies tend to be more strongly affected by the restrictions than larger ones, while the majority of businesses (55 percent) are negatively affected.

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Absent Help From Authorities, Locals Take Relief Work Into Their Own Hands in Flood-Hit Central China

Brittany Jordan

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Absent Help From Authorities, Locals Take Relief Work Into Their Own Hands in Flood-Hit Central China


Two days and two nights. That was how long it took for more than 400 villagers in a flooded Chinese town to raise the walls of a dam to protect their homes from rising waters. It took just a few hours for officials to tear it down.

When the villagers protested, the authorities pepper-sprayed them.

With the fortifications dismantled, the flood currents swept the village unimpeded, submerging crops in water about 3.3 feet deep while causing a power and water outage.

Villager Wang Yan, using a pseudonym, cried as she recounted to The Epoch Times the desperate sight in her hometown of Qimen in Henan, the province in central China now inundated by floods.

“What I told you are all facts, but this content can’t be posted on Douyin,” she said in an interview, referring to the Chinese name of the video-sharing app TikTok.

Authorities have also been releasing additional water from upstream, according to Wang and fellow villager Li Liang, also using a pseudonym, who described the village’s current state as a lone island.

“We villagers’ only hope is for the upstream to discharge less water and not to act too fast, so that the downstream has time to drain some water away,” Wang said, noting that otherwise, “we are doomed.”

To date, the flooding has affected about 12.9 million people, or roughly one in nine people in the province, and destroyed around 267,000 acres of crops, according to official data. The authorities’ disaster response, or lack thereof, has compounded their woes, according to Wang and many others.

Cars sit in floodwaters following heavy rains, in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China on July 22, 2021. (NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Donation Challenges

The government-backed Red Cross Society of China, not affiliated with the International Committee of the Red Cross, has also faced accusations that it lacks transparency.

Qiu Kai, a businessman in Zhengzhou, capital and the largest city in Henan, initially saw that Red Cross had chosen to send flood relief packages on behalf of a coalition of businesses. After talking with a manager at the Henan Red Cross, he donated 1 million yuan ($154,254) under the agreement that he would have control over how the money was spent. But after the money was sent, all he received was a receipt from the organization.

Frustrated, he asked the charity’s manager for a refund, and was told they were “powerless” and “can’t handle it.” “Perhaps next year,” the person told Qiu. He canceled the donation account in frustration.

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Children sit on a makeshift raft on a flooded road following heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China July 22, 2021. (Reuters/Aly Song/File Photo)

The Chinese Red Cross has been plagued with credibility issues for years. It has struggled to win back trust ever since 2008, when it mismanaged donation funds destined for the survivors of an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan Province of southeastern China.

Qiu has purchased boats, water pumps, life jackets, buoys, and ropes totaling more than 50,000 yuan ($7,712), which he had planned to donate to local authorities, he said. But he’s been turned away each time.

“No one was there to receive the goods,” he told The Epoch Times. “There was no one to receive the items nor sign their signature.”

Qiu spent seven hours at one emergency management center alone.

He ended up calling the city’s mayor and other officials and was rebuffed. One of the officials told him that the city was “relatively stable now and you can send these to the places that need them more.”

“I talked until I was exhausted,” Qiu said.

Much of the relief packages are now sitting in a warehouse.

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Residents wade through floodwaters on a flooded road amid heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, on July 20, 2021. (China Daily via Reuters)

Help From Beijing ‘Nowhere in sight’

Dozens of civilian-initiated rescue teams have arrived in the province to offer help.

Zhang Ye, also using a pseudonym, is serving as one member of a rescue team from the neighboring province Hunan. Zhang said that they go to every flood-ravaged home to see if there’s anyone inside. They then take the residents to a safer area where local volunteers take over.

The authorities were “nowhere in sight” as they carried out rescue work, he told The Epoch Times.

Villagers have greeted them with enthusiasm, Zhang said, noting that local children have acted as their guide.

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A volunteer team helps rescue flood-impacted villagers in Xinxiang City, Henan Province, China, on July 25, 2021. (Provided to The Epoch Times)

With the villagers’ help, his team rescued around 236 stranded people in one village on July 25—some from on top of their roofs.

“People give us directions, we just run to wherever is needed,” Zhang said.

On Saturday night, Zhang’s group had to evacuate from their lodging organized by local residents because of the incoming floodwater.

They moved to a gas station located at the highest point of the village. The local residents sent them fresh eggs and blankets.

“The villagers didn’t want us to leave, and we told them we won’t,” Zhang recalled.

They fell into a short sleep. When they got up at around 4 a.m., everyone had a blanket over them—the work of the appreciative villagers.

It showed how “indispensable” their labor was, Zhang said, noting that they were just “doing what they can.”

Gu Xiaohua contributed to this report.

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Biden: American Combat Troops Will Leave Iraq This Year

Brittany Jordan

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Biden: American Combat Troops Will Leave Iraq This Year


President Joe Biden said on July 26 that American combat troops will leave Iraq sometime in 2021, coming weeks after troops departed Afghanistan, although he added that some U.S. personnel would continue to work with Iraqi security forces in their fight against the ISIS terrorist group.

“We are not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Biden told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi during a White House meeting. American forces, however, would “be available to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS.”

The president added that the United States is still committed to fighting terrorism in the region.

“We’re also committed to our security cooperation,” Biden said. Our shared fight against ISIS is critical for the stability of the region and our counterterrorism operation will continue, even as we shift to this new phase we’re going to be talking about.”

The U.S. military has approximately 2,500 American troops in Iraq as of now. Earlier this year, the Trump administration confirmed that it drew down the number of forces to 2,500 in Iraq.

During a press briefing on July 26, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to give details on how many would remain in the country by the end of this year in advisory or training roles.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command soldiers inspect a truck and the site from where rockets were launched towards Ain Al-Asad Military Base, at Anbar province, Iraq, on July 8, 2021. (Joint Operations Command Media Office/Handout via Reuters)

“We feel this is a natural and next step in these ongoing strategic dialogues and we are moving to a phase not where we are ending our partnership, we are maintaining a presence in Iraq with a different mission,” Psaki said. “This is a shift in mission, it is not a removal of our partnership or our presence or our close engagement with Iraqi leaders.”

The change in Iraq comes as the United States nearly finished its withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite some experts expressing fears that terrorism could flare again without any military presence. Meanwhile, some officials have warned that Taliban forces have made significant advances in recent weeks as U.S. troops pull out of the country.

During an interview with NPR on July 23, CIA Director William Burns acknowledged the Taliban currently is in the “strongest military position that they’ve been in since 2001.” Afghan security forces who were trained by the United States have the capability to fend them off, he argued.

“The big question it seems to me and to all of my colleagues at CIA and across the intelligence community is whether or not those capabilities can be exercised with the kind of political willpower and unity of leadership that’s absolutely essential to resist the Taliban,” Burns told NPR.

In 2003, the military under the George W. Bush administration launched an operation in Iraq to topple then-leader Saddam Hussein but remained due to the rise of ISIS, which took over swaths of Syria and Iraq in the midst of the Syrian civil war starting in 2011. All combat operations were ceased in 2010 and most troops left in 2011 but a number of soldiers returned in 2014 to deal with the terrorist group.

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Southern Europe Battles Wildfires as North Cleans up After Floods

Brittany Jordan

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Southern Europe Battles Wildfires as North Cleans up After Floods


ATHENS—Wildfires burned in regions across southern Europe on Monday, fuelled by hot weather and strong winds, as some northern countries cleaned up after a weekend of torrential rain and flooding.

In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said firefighters had battled around 50 fires during the past 24 hours and it was likely there would be more with meteorologists warning that a further heatwave was in prospect.

“I want to emphasize that August remains a difficult month,” he said. “That is why it is important for all of us, all state services, to be on absolute alert until the firefighting period is formally over.”

A firefighter battles the flames after a wildfire broke out near the Sicilian village of Erice, Italy July 26, 2021. (Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via Reuters)

Fire service officials said negligence on farms and construction sites had been behind several incidents, many of which were in the southern Peloponnese region. No casualties were reported.

Conditions in southern Europe were in sharp contrast to the torrential rainstorms that lashed northern countries from Austria to Britain following the catastrophic flooding in Germany and neighbouring countries last week.

On the Italian island of Sardinia, firefighting planes from France and Greece reinforced local aircraft battling blazes across the island where more than 4,000 hectares of forest were burnt and more than 350 people evacuated.

In Sicily, fires broke out near the western town of Erice.

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Smoke billows from a wildfire near Cuglieri, Sardinia, Italy July 25, 2021, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. (Cronache Nuoresi via Reuters)

In Spain, the northeastern region of Catalonia saw more than 1,500 hectares destroyed near Santa Coloma de Queralt, forcing dozens to be evacuated, although the blazes were 90 percent stabilized on Monday, firefighters and authorities said.

In Lietor, in the central east region of Castilla-La Mancha, more than 2,500 hectares burned during the weekend before being brought under control, authorities said.

So far this year, wildfires have burned across 35,000 hectares in Spain, still some way off the 138,000 hectares burned in 2012, the worst year of the past decade.

By Emma Pinedo Gonzalez, Lefteris Papadimas, Angeliki Koutantou, and Emily Roe

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