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Human rights declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, in countries from Angola to the US to New Zealand

All of the 39 countries human rights experts tracked in 2020 experienced a decline in human rights. It’s not yet clear whether countries will quickly…



Pro-democracy protesters are arrested by police in Hong Kong on May 24, 2020. Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images

Human rights activists and international leaders first warned in April 2020 that countries could use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to crack down on human rights.

Human rights refers to a wide range of political and social rights recognized by international law. It includes everything from people’s right to work and receive an education to people’s right to freely express their opinions and participate in politics.

Human rights scholars and I show in new research that human rights violations ultimately happened in 2020. Each of the 39 countries we analyzed – including Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States – saw an overall decrease in human rights in 2020.

There is new evidence that some countries continue to use the pandemic as a reason to restrict human rights by muzzling dissent, and specifically by limiting people’s rights to gather or demonstrate with others.

Our analysis of human rights in 2020 offers a window into the start of this downward trend.

Rows of young people, some of whom are holding Black Lives Matter flags, walk together down an empty Manhattan street
Demonstrators walk in New York City during a Black Lives Matter protest in August 2020. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

No overall improvement

More than two years after the World Health Organization first declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, some human rights analyses show a continued regression of human rights.

Declarations of emergency, for example, gave police significant power to crack down on political protests.

Cambodia passed a law in April 2021, for example, in response to COVID-19 that grants the government authority to prevent any gatherings or protests. Violators can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Hundreds of individuals were arrested for violating this law in 2021.

In March 2022, Thailand again extended a state of emergency, originally established in April 2020, through May, giving authorities broad power to set public curfews and restrict meetings. Thai authorities charged at least 900 anti-government protesters under this emergency decree between May 2020 and Aug. 31, 2021.

2020 findings

The Human Rights Measurement Initiative, a research group headquartered in New Zealand, and other human rights monitoring organizations are still collecting comprehensive global data for 2021 and 2022.

The initiative last reported on human rights data in June 2021, informing our research.

But there are other sources of evidence that the pandemic’s damage to human rights will not quickly lift, even as COVID-19 cases decline globally.

Some positive changes during the pandemic, like addressing homelessness more seriously, were “swamped by the many more negative impacts of government responses to COVID-19,” according to the Human Rights Measurement Initiative.

The initiative surveyed human rights experts, journalists and lawyers in 2020 and 2021. It found that government protection of civil and political rights and economic and social rights declined from 2019 to 2020.

This group produces human rights data because governments themselves are often unwilling to share accurate information about human rights violations.

The Human Rights Measurement Initiative’s findings are widely used by scholars, nonprofits and journalists.

The United States and Hong Kong serve as two examples of places where the pandemic led to a decline in respect for human rights.

The United States

The United States is one of many countries that scored worse on human rights in 2020 than in 2019, according to the initiative’s 2021 survey.

In the U.S. in 2020, public health restrictions, like limits on public gatherings, also led to human rights abuses and the use of excessive force by police, survey respondents said.

The reason people were protesting appeared to have influenced whether police targeted and arrested demonstrators, survey respondents reported. People protesting social justice issues, like racial justice and gun violence, were especially likely to be arrested.

People arrested for alleged infractions during lawful demonstrations during the pandemic were also put at risk of contracting COVID-19 because of cramped detention spaces where people could not socially distance.

New York police officers wear masks and carry a young Black man by all of his limbs through a street
New York police officers arrest a protester on May 29, 2020, during a Black Lives Matter protest. Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong

China passed new security laws in Hong Kong in June 2020, allowing it to crack down on opposition speech and arrest journalists and pro-democracy activists.

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong – a special administrative region of China – intensified in 2020. In 2021, the democracy movement in Hong Kong broke down with the arrest of more than 100 pro-democracy leaders.

The Chinese government and police reportedly enforced pandemic regulations unevenly in 2020, according to the Human Rights Measurement Initiative – pro-democracy and government opposition protesters were more likely to experience restrictions.

Survey respondents in Hong Kong said they believe the government used the pandemic as a cover for restricting rights for other reasons.

Officials in Hong Kong delayed general elections set for July 2020 by five months, citing COVID-19 concerns.

In February 2022, Hong Kong again postponed elections of its next political leader allegedly because of a COVID-19 surge.

Police wearing face masks stand over a row of young people seated against a wall in Hong Kong.
Riot police detain pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on May 27, 2020. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Lasting trends

The pandemic has prompted growing awareness of structural inequalities based on wealth, ethnicity, gender and race, giving some reasons for hope.

In many places, governments are lifting COVID-19 restrictions, which could allow more individuals to return to work and school and gather or travel more freely.

Human rights continue to decline in most countries, though, according to the global alliance CIVICUS.

The pandemic also continues to draw public attention away from some human rights violations that are happening in ongoing wars, as in Yemen and Ethiopia.

Our analysis indicates that countries that had more human rights protections in place before the pandemic saw, on average, smaller decreases in rights violations in 2020 than countries that did not have as many protections. We believe adopting policies and practices that protect human rights during calmer times appears to help countries weather the storm during crises like a global health pandemic.

[More than 150,000 readers get one of The Conversation’s informative newsletters. Join the list today.]

Stephen Bagwell is affiliated with the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, a global consortium of human rights scholars and practitioners who aim to provide accurate and comprehensive indicators of human rights respect around the world.

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After a near 10% rally this week can the Netflix share price make a comeback?

The Netflix share price rallied by nearly 10% (9.6%) this week after co-CEO Ted Sarandos confirmed the film and television streaming market leader is to…



The Netflix share price rallied by nearly 10% (9.6%) this week after co-CEO Ted Sarandos confirmed the film and television streaming market leader is to introduce a new ad-supported, cheaper subscription. The company also announced it is to lay off another 300 employees, around 4% of its global workforce, in addition to the 150 redundancies last month.

Netflix has been forced into a period of belt-tightening after announcing a 200,000 subscriber-strong net loss over the first quarter of 2022. The U.S. tech giant also ominously forecast expectations for the loss of a further 2 million subscribers over the current quarter that will conclude at the end of this month.

netflix inc

The company has faced increasing sector competition with Paramount+ its latest new rival, joining Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max and a handful of other new streaming platforms jostling for market share. A more competitive environment has combined with a hangover from the subscriber boom Netflix benefitted from over the Covid-19 pandemic and spiralling cost of living crisis.

Despite the strong gains of the past week, Netflix’s share price is still down over 68% for 2022 and 64% in the last 12 months. Stock markets have generally suffered this year with investors switching into risk-off mode in the face of spiralling inflation, rising interest rates, fears of a recession and the geopolitical crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Growth stocks like Netflix whose high valuations were heavily reliant on the value of future revenues have been hit hardest. No recognised member of Wall Street’s Big Tech cabal has escaped punishment this year with even the hugely profitable Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon all seeing their valuations slide by between around 20% and 30%.

But all of those other tech companies have diversified revenue streams, bank profits which dwarf those of Netflix and are sitting on huge cash piles. The more narrowly focused Meta Platforms (Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram) which still relies exclusively on ad revenue generated from online advertising on its social media platforms, has also been hit harder, losing half of its value this year.

But among Wall Street’s established, profitable Big Tech stocks, Netflix has suffered the steepest fall in its valuation. But it is still profitable, even if it has taken on significant debt investing in its original content catalogue. And it is still the international market leader by a distance in a growing content streaming market.


Source: JustWatch

Even if the competition is hotting up, Netflix still offers subscribers by far the biggest and most diversified catalogue of film and television content available on the market. And the overall value of the video content streaming market is also expected to keep growing strongly for the next several years. Even if annual growth is forecast to drop into the high single figures in future years.

revenue growth

Source: Statista

In that context, there are numerous analysts to have been left with the feeling that while the Netflix share price may well have been over-inflated during the pandemic and due a correction, it has been over-sold. Which could make the stock attractive at its current price of $190.85, compared to the record high of $690.31 reached as recently as October last year.

What’s next for the Netflix share price?

As a company, Netflix is faced with a transition period over the next few years. For the past decade, it has been a high growth company with investors focused on subscriber numbers. The recent dip notwithstanding, it has done exceedingly well on that score, attracting around 220 million paying customers globally.

Netflix established its market-leading position by investing heavily in its content catalogue, first by buying up the rights to popular television shows and films and then pouring hundreds of millions into exclusive content. That investment was necessary to establish a market leading position against its historical rivals Amazon Prime, which benefits from the deeper pockets of its parent company, and Hulu in the USA.

Netflix’s investment in its own exclusive content catalogue also helped compensate for the loss of popular shows like The Office, The Simpsons and Friends. When deals for the rights to these shows and many hit films have ended over the past few years their owners have chosen not to resell them to Netflix. Mainly because they planned or had already launched rival streaming services like Disney+ (The Simpsons) and HBO Max (The Office and Friends).

Netflix will continue to show third party content it acquires the rights to. But with the bulk of the most popular legacy television and film shows now available exclusively on competitor platforms launched by or otherwise associated with rights holders, it will rely ever more heavily on its own exclusive content.

That means continued investment, the expected budget for this year is $17 billion, which will put a strain on profitability. But most analysts expect the company to continue to be a major player in the video streaming sector.

Its strategy to invest in localised content produced specifically for international markets has proven a good one. It has strengthened its offering on big international markets like Japan, South Korea, India and Brazil compared to rivals that exclusively offer English-language content produced with an American audience in mind.

The approach has also produced some of Netflix’s biggest hits across international audiences, like the South Korean dystopian thriller Squid Games and the film Parasite, another Korean production that won the 2020 Academy Award for best picture – the first ever ‘made for streaming’ movie to do so.

Netflix is also, like many of its streaming platform rivals, making a push into sport. It has just lost out to Disney-owned ESPN, the current rights holder, in a bid to acquire the F1 rights for the USA. But having made one big move for prestigious sports rights, even if it ultimately failed, it signals a shift in strategy for a company that hasn’t previously shown an interest in competing for sports audiences.

Over the next year or so, Netflix’s share price is likely to be most influenced by the success of its launch of the planned lower-cost ad-supported subscription. It’s a big call that reverses the trend of the last decade away from linear television programming supported by ad revenue in its pursuit of new growth.

It will take Netflix at least a year or two to roll out a new ad-supported platform globally and in the meanwhile, especially if its forecast of losing another 2 million subscribers this quarter turns out to be accurate, the share price could potentially face further pain. But there is also a suspicion that the stock has generally been oversold and will eventually reclaim some of the huge losses of the past several months.

How much of that loss of share price is reclaimed will most probably rely on take-up of the new ad-supported cheaper membership tier. There is huge potential there with the company estimating around 100 million viewers have been accessing the platform via shared passwords. That’s been clamped down on recently and will continue to be because Netflix is determined to monetise those 100 million viewers contributing nothing to its revenues.

If a big enough chunk of them opt for continued access at the cost of watching ads, the company’s revenue growth could quickly return to healthy levels again. And that could see some strong upside for the Netflix share price in the context of its currently deflated level.

The post After a near 10% rally this week can the Netflix share price make a comeback? first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Aura High Yield SME Fund: Letter to Investors 24 June 2022

The RBA delivered a speech this week indicating faster monetary policy tightening is to come in the near-term with the aim of curbing the rate of inflation….



The RBA delivered a speech this week indicating faster monetary policy tightening is to come in the near-term with the aim of curbing the rate of inflation.

Inflation and Monetary Policy 1,2

This week, RBA Governor Philip Lowe spoke about the department’s monetary policy intervention to tackle inflation in the evolving economic environment. Over the last six months, similar factors have continued to put pressure on food and energy prices – namely the war in Ukraine, foods on the East coast, and Covid lockdowns in China. The ongoing lockdowns in China are causing disruptions in manufacturing and production and supply chains coupled with strong global demand that is unable to be met. These pressures have forced households and businesses to absorb the rising cost of living.

To demonstrate the rise, the RBA reporting this week on Business Conditions and Sentiments saw:

  • Almost a third of all businesses (31 per cent) have difficulty finding suitable staff;
  • Nearly half (46 per cent) of all businesses have experienced increased operating expenses; and
  • More than two in five businesses (41 per cent) face supply chain disruptions, which has remained steady since it peaked in January 2022 (47 per cent).

* The Survey of Business Conditions and Sentiments was not conducted between July 2021 to December 2021 (inclusive)

Inflation is being experienced globally, although Australia remains below that of most other advanced economies sitting at 5.1 per cent. The share of items in the CPI basket with annualised price increases of more than 3 per cent is at the highest level since 1990 as displayed in the graph below.

With additional information on leading indicators now on hand, the RBA has pushed their inflation forecast up from 6 to 7 per cent for the December quarter, due to persistently high petrol and energy prices. After this period, the RBA expects inflation will begin to decline.

We are beginning to see pandemic-related supply side issues resolve, with delivery times shortening slightly and businesses finding alternative solutions for global production and logistic networks. Whilst there is still a way to go in normalising the flow in the supply side and the possibility that further disruptions and setbacks could occur, the global production system is adapting accordingly, which should help alleviate some of the inflationary pressures.

The RBA’s goal is to ensure inflation returns to a 2-3 per cent target range over time, with the view that high inflation causes damage to the economy, reduces people’s purchasing power and devalues people’s savings.

Household Wealth 3

Growth of 1.2 per cent in household wealth, equivalent to $173 billion, was reported in the March quarter. The rise was a result of an increase in housing prices in the March quarter. Prices have started reversing since that read.

Demand for credit also boomed, with a record total demand for credit of $218.8 billion for the March quarter. The rise was driven by private non-financial corporations demanding $153.2 billion, while households and government borrowed $41.9 billion and $17.5 billion respectively. 

We will likely see a significant shift in household wealth and credit demand in next quarter’s report given the rising interest rate environment, depressed household valuations and elevated pricing pressures. 

Portfolio Management Commentary

A lag in leading economic indicators has shifted the RBA’s outlook, with an increase in the expected level of inflation to peak at 7 per cent and rate rises to come harder and faster in the near term. From a portfolio standpoint we are not seeing any degradation in our underlying portfolio and open dialogue with our lenders has us confident in their borrowing base. We are maintaining a close eye on the economic environment to ensure we maintain the performance of our Fund and ensure our lenders are in a position to maintain performance and strive to capitalise off the back of economic shifts.

1 RBA Inflation and Monetary Policy Speech – 21 June 2022

2 RBA Inflation and Monetary Policy Speech – 21 June 2022

3 Australian National Accounts: Finance and Wealth

You can learn more about the Aura High Yield SME Fund here.

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Home Showings Across US Plunge 24%, Mortgage Rates Remain Elevated

Home Showings Across US Plunge 24%, Mortgage Rates Remain Elevated

Authored by Naveen Anthrapully via The Epoch Times,

Home showings across…



Home Showings Across US Plunge 24%, Mortgage Rates Remain Elevated

Authored by Naveen Anthrapully via The Epoch Times,

Home showings across the United States have fallen, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), with all four regions registering a decline.

Home showings—when a potential buyer takes a private home tour with an agent—were down by 24 percent year-on-year in May, with total showings across the country at 785,005, said the NAR SentriLock Home Showings Report. SentriLock is a lockbox and real estate management solutions company.

All four regions in the United States saw a decrease in showings year-on-year, with the Northwest falling by 55 percent, Midwest by 29 percent, West by 27 percent, and the South by 14 percent.

Total SentriLock cards fell 2 percent YoY to 214,868. The cards allow realtors access to Sentrilock lockboxes—which hold keys to a home and allow communal access to all real estate agents—and indicate the number of realtors who conduct the showing.

The number of showings per card, which reflects the strength of buyer interest per listed property, decreased 23 percent YoY in May nationwide. Region-wise, showings per card in the West fell by 29 percent, the South by 23 percent, and the Midwest by 22 percent. Only the Northeast registered an increase at 45 percent.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) fell by two points to 67 in June, which the organization called a “troubling sign” for the housing market and broader economy.

According to NAHB Chair Jerry Konter, the six consecutive monthly declines of HMI is a “clear sign of a slowing housing market in a high-inflation, slow-growth economic environment.”

This is the lowest HMI reading since June 2020. The index had hit a record high of 90 at the end of 2020 when the pandemic triggered strong demand for homes.

Elevated Mortgage Rates

The fall in home showings is happening as mortgage rates remain at elevated levels. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage had an average interest rate of 5.81 percent as of June 22, according to data from Freddie Mac. is expecting home prices and mortgage rates to continue climbing while home sales drop as buyers get priced out from homeownership, based on a June 13 analysis of market trends. The rise in mortgage rates is driven by the U.S. Federal Reserve hiking interest rates to control inflation, the company noted.

“Rising interest rates have shifted the foundation of the economy as well as the housing market. So many homebuyers take out mortgages so that rising rates affect how expensive homeownership is,” said the company’s Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “It’s causing buyers to make tough trade-offs and disrupting the housing market.”

Tyler Durden Sun, 06/26/2022 - 18:30

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