The world is dangerously dependent on Taiwan for semiconductors

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Taiwan, which China regards as a province, is being courted for its capacity to make leading-edge computer chips. That’s mostly down to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest foundry and go-to producer of chips for Apple Inc. smartphones, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing.

Taiwan’s role in the world economy largely existed below the radar, until it came to recent prominence as the auto industry suffered shortfalls in chips used for everything from parking sensors to reducing emissions. With carmakers including Germany’s Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co. of the U.S. and Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. forced to halt production and idle plants, Taiwan’s importance has suddenly become too big to ignore.

U.S, European and Japanese automakers are lobbying their governments for help, with Taiwan and TSMC being asked to step in. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the potential for shortages last year and agreed on the need to accelerate Europe’s push to develop its own chip industry, according to a French official with knowledge of the matter.

The auto industry’s pleas illustrate how TSMC’s chipmaking skills have handed Taiwan political and economic leverage in a world where technology is being enlisted in the great power rivalry between the U.S. and China — a standoff unlikely to ease under the administration of Joe Biden.

Test official offers to host Olympics if Tokyo backs out

MIAMI – Florida’s chief financial officer on Monday told the International Olympic Committee that the state would be happy to host the Olympics Games amid speculation that current host Japan may back out.

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Jimmy Patronis sent a letter to Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, “to encourage you to consider relocating the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo, Japan to the United States of America, and more specifically to Florida.”

“With media reports of leaders in Japan ‘privately’ concluding that they are too concerned about the pandemic for the 2021 Olympics to take place, there is still time to deploy a site selection team to Florida,” he said.

The letter, signed by Patronis and posted online, cited the supposed strength of state’s vaccination rollout, its economic reopening and sports events it has hosted during the pandemic, as well as the fact that its theme parks, including Disney World, are open for business.

But Florida has struggled badly during the coronavirus pandemic, with over 25,000 deaths so far in the state as the U.S. death toll nears 420,000.

“Whatever precautions are required let’s figure it out and get it done,” Patronis said.

Last Friday, parties responsible for organizing the Tokyo Games — scheduled for last July but delayed one year because of the global health crisis — insisted they would be sticking to the planned dates of July 23-Aug. 8.

“I am determined to realize a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

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After a year of anxiety, what can we expect from the Year of the Ox in 2021?

Few people will have been sorry to see the end of 2020, a year characterized by the global COVID-19 pandemic. For those who follow the Chinese new year, the close of the tragic and tumultuous Year of the Rat is fast approaching, too.

Feb. 12 marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox. The second animal of the Chinese zodiac, the ox denotes the hard work, positivity and honesty that will be manifested in all of us in the coming 12 months, according to astrologers.

Jupiter Lai, a Hong-Kong based Chinese and Western astrologer, says the ox is “grounded, loyal, gentle and trustworthy.”

Following the Chinese calendar, which rotates in 60-year cycles based on 12 earthly branches, each represented by an animal year, and five element years — wood, fire, earth, metal and water — 2021 is the Year of the Metal Ox. On a deeper level, each earthly branch is characterized by a yin or yang force and an element.

In the Year of the Rat, the force was the fast, hard, active yang while the element was water, which Lai says is known for “changing all the time.” The ox’s earthly branch, meanwhile, is associated with yin, which is slow, soft and passive. Its element is earth, representing “stability and nourishment. It is believed these additional associations and the characteristics of the ox have great synergy and are mostly favorable.

Suga forced to compromise on virus penalties as revised bills reach Diet

The Lower House began debating bills to stifle the novel coronavirus Friday, following a deal cut by the ruling coalition and the largest opposition party to eliminate provisions on criminal punishments and lower the values of nonpenal fines.

The Liberal Democratic Party and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) reached an agreement Thursday evening before the bills were introduced to the Diet floor — a highly unusual process since they had been approved already by the Cabinet.

The series of developments reflect Suga’s desperation to blunt the speed of virus transmission and stamp out criticism from opposition parties over his handling of the pandemic, by bringing them to the ruling parties’ side and accepting their demands.

“These proposals include necessary revisions to raise the effectiveness of infectious disease control measures, by establishing stipulations on compensation and penalties while rights of individuals and businesses people are taken into account,” Suga said Friday afternoon, asking for swift Diet deliberations and approval.

“We need to suppress the infection to make our measures more effective, based on the knowledge and experience we’ve gained through the past year.”

Disability and dating: ‘Why do people think I’m my boyfriend’s carer?’

Dating is complicated at the best of times, but social stigma means dating someone with a disability is rarely discussed. After Hannah and wheelchair user Shane Burcaw spoke out over online comments dismissing their relationship, we spoke to other couples about their experiences.

After Hannah and Shane recently tied the knot at an intimate home ceremony, they shared a photo of the day on social media.

“We’re husband and wife!!!!” wrote Hannah. “I’m incredibly lucky to now be married to the greatest guy I know.”

But they were met with messages like this:

“For real though… does she also have another partner for having sex with?”

“Is he rich or something?”

“Oh my God… this must be photoshopped.”

Drag Race UK’s Cherry Valentine on the ‘fabulous’ Traveller women in her family who inspire her drag

Drag Race UK queen and mental health nurse Cherry Valentine explains how she’s influenced by her Traveller heritage – and why she’s so keen to help with the UK’s vaccine rollout.

This article contains spoilers for episode two of Drag Race UK series two.

“When I was in college, I felt like I was living a double life.

“At home I would be one person and say I had a girlfriend – and then when I was around my friends I would become someone completely different.

“It sort of split my personality. When I grew up, I looked back and realised, ‘Oh, that’s not really healthy.'”

While the contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK are getting ready to perform, they often chat about their personal lives. And in the latest episode of the reality programme, Darlington drag queen Cherry Valentine – the second contestant to leave the show – revealed something about herself that she doesn’t always discuss so freely: her Traveller family.

Feeling hot hot hot: the weird things that happen to your body in extreme heat

The Met office has issued a warning of heatwave conditions over the weekend, which got us to thinking about some of the bizarre things that can happen to our bodies in the heat. Did you know that…

…hot weather can give you bad breath

You may be thinking that summer is the ultimate time to start smooth-talking the objects of your desire, but excessive heat can cause you to dehydrate (eerrrm, sweaty much?), which has been proven to have a pretty unsexy side effect – bad breath. 

When you are dehydrated, your mouth becomes dry. Bacteria accumulates because there isn’t enough saliva to wash it away. Hello halitosis

“It won’t come as a big surprise that we need to drink more water throughout the warmer months, as the body loses more water naturally through sweating,” explains the bad breath and halitosis expert Dr Harold Katz in Metro.co.uk. “That, coupled with an increase in the use of hay fever medications, fad summer dieting, an increase in outdoor exercising and over-exposure to the sun, can also all exacerbate the problem.”

*fills up (eco-friendly) water bottle*

…the sun can make you strong

You might feel like the sun is giving you an extra spring in your step. And this may actually be happening. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is linked to strong bones. 

That is why public-health officials even advised us to take supplements in darker autumn months – because a scarcity of sunlight can lead to brittle bones. So get yourself to a park and stock up on some vit D while you can. Obviously be careful you don’t get sunburnt in the process.

Marjorie Taylor Greene: Why she embodies Republicans’ post-Trump dilemma

After just a few weeks in Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene is doing a really good job getting attention from the backbenches. 

The firebrand Republican is not doing as well at endearing herself to her party’s leadership.

In the past week, liberal groups and media outlets have scrutinised Greene’s past social media activities and unearthed a wealth of inflammatory material, the most recent involving a Parkland shooting victim.

This has forced Republicans, once again, to distance themselves from the businesswoman turned conservative activist turned elected politician.

But it’s what she represents that makes the situation tricky – full-throated, grassroots Trumpism which is confrontational, conspiracy-laden and sometimes tinged with racial overtones.

GameStop: Meet the amateur traders fighting Wall Street

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Until the start of the pandemic, it had never occurred to Alex Patton that he could become an amateur trader.

But now, in the wake of the GameStop shares frenzy, he is something of an unlikely veteran of the financial markets.

“Before Covid struck, I didn’t know the first thing about investing,” says the 28-year-old railway cyber-security engineer, of Kingston upon Thames, south-west London.

But after the stock market took a bad tumble in March last year and dealt his pension savings a blow, he decided that he should, as he puts it, “take a more active role in managing my money”.

As a dual national with British and American citizenship, he had no difficulty in setting up an account with US trading platform Robinhood, which has found itself at the centre of the GameStop furore.

And, encouraged by friends, he started checking out Reddit’s chat thread wallstreetbets.

“I thought, ‘This is crazy,'” he told the BBC. “Lots of people losing lots of money.”

“I didn’t give it much thought until my friend said, ‘You should check out GameStop.’ And I realised that some of the people on Reddit do some really impressive work in researching those stocks.”

Risky position

Major hedge funds had bet billions of dollars that GameStop’s shares would fall. And some of the research on Reddit indicated that positions taken by short-sellers accounted for more than 100% of existing GameStop shares, Alex says.

“People had done research showing what a risky position those hedge funds were in. And we thought, ‘We can exploit that. This is an opportunity.'”

In the ensuing mania, amateur investors drove up the share price by more than 700% in a week. 

Alex did well out of the deal, investing $1,000 in GameStop shares and making $2,000 profit on top of that. But he was one of the fortunate ones who got out in time.

“The theory was that as the price continued to go up, the people who shorted the stock would be forced to buy those shares at whatever price to close their short,” he says.

But as the activity drew regulatory attention this week, retail investors found themselves suddenly shut out by their trading platforms, unable to keep buying shares in GameStop and certain other companies.

“They assume we retail investors can’t manage our risk, whereas hedge funds have taken a huge risk, an unbelievable risk, and they’re just allowed to carry on, business as usual,” says Alex.

Although Alex emerged financially unscathed, he is still smarting at what he sees as injustice.

“There’s a huge gap between ordinary middle-class, working-class people versus hedge funds that have billions,” he says. “Other people are hurting from this a lot more than me.”

Covid vaccine: Single dose Covid vaccine 66% effective

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The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Janssen is 66% effective, the Belgian company has announced. 

But nobody needed hospital treatment or died from coronavirus after the vaccine took effect in the international trial. 

Crucially, it looked at giving just one dose of the vaccine, which makes it significantly easier to roll out than those requiring two. 

Although there are also signs it is less effective against the new variant that is spreading in South Africa.

The news comes shortly after Novavax announced their jab was 89% effective– and both will need to be reviewed by regulators before they can be used. 

Janssen, a pharmaceutical company owned by Johnson & Johnson, is also investigating whether giving two doses will give either stronger or longer-lasting protection. 

Dr Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said that would “potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes of

Covid-19″. 

The company is aiming to make one billion doses this year. 

The Janssen vaccine uses a common cold virus that has been engineered to make it harmless. 

It then safely carries part of the coronavirus’s genetic code into the body. This is enough for the body to recognise the threat and then learn to fight coronavirus. 

This trains the body’s immune system to fight coronavirus when it encounters the virus for real. 

This is similar to the approach used by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. 

Dr Mathai Mammen, from Janssen, said: “A single-dose regimen with fast onset of protection and ease of delivery and storage provides a potential solution to reaching as many people as possible. 

The ability to avoid hospitalisations and deaths would change the game in combating the pandemic.”

However the vaccine was just 57% effective in the South African part of the trial, where a new version of the coronavirus is spreading. 

The US has ordered 100m doses of the Janssen vaccine and Canada 38m, while the UK has already pre-ordered 30m doses.

Chart showing the vaccine doses the UK has on order

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “This is yet more good news from Janssen on vaccines. 

“If this jab is approved this could significantly bolster our vaccination programme, especially as a single-dose vaccine.

“Once the full data has been submitted [to the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency], they will consider the evidence to determine whether the vaccine meets robust standards of safety, effectiveness & quality.”