‘My food allergies are life-threatening’

Image copyright Food Criterion Agency

“If I eat something I am allergic to I can go into anaphylactic shock.”

Following the inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who went into cardiac arrest after feeing a baguette containing sesame seeds but not labelled as such, their own families are campaigning for change to food labelling laws.

Ciara Williams, who is 23, has had allergies since she was a baby.

Her mother – who also has allergies – recognised the symptoms when Ciara was given milk.

“I came out in hives but luckily a healthcare guest was at home when it happened, ” added Ciara, from Flintshire.

US consumer borrowing up strong $20.1 billion in August

Americans increased their borrowing in August with the category that embraces auto and student loans rising by the largest amount in nine months.

Consumer debt rose by a seasonally adjusted $20.1 billion in August following a gain of $16.6 billion in July, the Federal Reserve reported Friday.

The August performance surpassed expectancies. Many economists had been looking for a smaller increase of around $15 billion.

The gain was led by a $15.2 billion rise in auto loans and student loans, the biggest jump in this category since last November. The category that encompasses debit card determined an increase of $4.8 billion, up from a $1.3 billion rise in July.

Consumer borrowing is closely watched for signals it sends about household spending which takes into consideration 70 percent of economic activity.

The overall economy developed at a robust annual rate of 4. 2 percent in the April-June quarter, is assisting increased spending fueled by the $1.5 trillion tax cut that President Donald Trump pushed through Congress last year.

Many economists believe consumer spending will remain strong for the rest of the year and they are forecasting that overall growth, as measured by the gross national product, will reach 3 percent this year, best available performance in 13 years.

The report on borrowing demonstrated it rising to a new record of $3.94 trillion. The Fed’s monthly report on customer borrowing does not include mortgage indebtednes or any other loans secured by real estate including home equity loans.

Read more: https :// www.foxnews.com/ us/ us-consumer-borrowing-up-strong-2 0-1-billion-in-august

‘Palau against China!’: the tiny island standing up to a giant

Archipelago is refusing to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, despite a huge downturn in its tourism industry

Wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sipping an iced tea, Ongerung Kambes Kesolei sits at a veranda saloon overlooking a inn pool, under devotees that slowly push humid air around on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

But the tranquilize of the scene is deceptive, for Kesolei is explaining that his small island home of Palau– a dot on the map in the north-west corner of the Pacific with a population of only over 20,000 people- has attracted the ire of one of the world’s most powerful nations and is now at the centre of a geo-political bunfight.

” They[ China] want to diminish Tsai Ing-wen[ the Taiwanese president] and that’s where Palau comes into play ,” said Kesolei, the editor of one of Palau’s two newspapers.

Palau is one of only 17 countries that has refused to give up diplomatic relations with Taiwan and switch allegiance to China.

Palau, which was under US administration until its independence in 1994, struck up diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1999 after a few years of what Kesolei calls ” wooing” from both Beijing and Taipei. The nearly 20 -year relationship has been strong, with Kesolei saying ” every Palauan has a story” of their relationships with Taiwan, whether travelling there for a holiday, education or medical treatment.

Palau map

But Taiwan’s allies are slowly being chipped away, as China sets the pressure on and seeks to penalise those that recognise self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing considers a Chinese territory. El Salvador switched its devotion last month, and Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic severed ties with Taiwan earlier this year.

Those countries that continue to recognise Taiwan- especially the six Taiwanese allies located in the Pacific, where China is seeking to increase its affect- are feeling the pressure.

‘The governments are having a fight’

For tiny Palau, where tourism accounts for 42.3% of GDP, this pressure has come in the form of what the locals call the “China ban”.

In November 2017, the Chinese government ordered tour operators to stop selling bundle tours to Palau, with reports that doing so could lead to fines.

Some insist Palau has always been a blacklisted destination but that until very recently the Chinese government turned a blind eye.

Businesses
Businesses in Palau are feeling the effect of the drop off in tourism from China Photograph: Kate Lyons for the Guardian

Evan Rees, Asia-Pacific analyst at Stratfor, says China applies such bans- as well as the grant and withholding of Approved Destination Status( ADS) to countries- as” part of a larger toolkit for compelling behaviour “.

Last year, South Korea was the subject of such a traveling outlaw, after a row over its deployment of a US missile defence system, which had a devastating impact on tourism to the country during the course of its PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The forbiddings affect bundle tours booked through travel bureaux, which accounts for about 45% of all Chinese sightseers, said Rees, though independent Chinese travellers are still able to visit “banned” destinations.

One Palauan-based Chinese industrialist said the word “Palau” had also been blocked as an internet search word in China.

The impact of the ban on Palau has been stark.

The number of sightseers from China has plummeted so dramatically that one airline flying charter flights between China and Palau stopped flights at the end of August, because” the Chinese government attained Palau an illegal tour destination perhaps and most likely due to lack of diplomatic status “.

Palauan tour operators and government officials bridle at propositions the ban has brought Palau to its knees- there were still 9,000 visitor advents in July- but tenancy rates at inns have dropped and industries are hurting.

Chinese tourists to Palau

The pain of the prohibition has been especially acute because it was immediately preceded by a staggering boom in tourism from China, with tourist advents from the two countries skyrocketing from 634 in 2008- attaining up less than 1% of all guests- to more than 91,000 in 2015- 54% of all visitors.

At Elilai restuarant, which is heavily promoted as the” best restaurant in Palau” on billboards all over the island, I am the sole diner in a restaurant who are able to comfortably accommodate 50.

Waitress Donita Rose Cagaoan-Tipay is apologetic about the empty chamber, saying it was the result of a” forbidding from China”, though she says she doesn’t know much more about it than that.

” I asked my friend who is a Chinese tour guide, he said Palau and China, the governmental forces are having a fight ,” she explains.

The boom

The empty eateries are a far cry from 2014 and 2015, when charter flights from China began landing every day each carrying hundreds of tourists.

Leilani Reklai says the impact on the island was overwhelming.” Guys were hanging around town buying land, getting cash in suitcases and buying everything in sight ,” says Reklai, who is the president of Palau’s tourism association.

Leilani
Leilani Reklai, President of the Belau Tourism Association on the island of Palau. Photograph: Kate Lyons for the Guardian

Reklai owned two barges that took tour groups to the Rock Islands, the most famous of Palau’s tourist attractions, which before the Chinese boom would go out four periods a week during peak season.

” But for virtually one year my guys were going out seven days a week” she says.

” Some people were saying’ This is the Chinese strategy, “thats what they” do, they are going to pour a lot of money in here, and got to get addicted like it’s Coke and then turn off the faucet ‘. But of course, fund was louder so people weren’t listening ,” says Reklai.

At 70, Francis Toribiong has had almost every job in the tourism business. He says the dip hurt “everybody”. Toribiong has been forced to sell a 25 -bed hostel but says he got off relatively lightly.

” There are so many young men who went to the development bank and borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy barges ,” he says. Now, demand has plummeted so much better that they are lucky if they can continue to stimulate enough to cover fuel and the loan repayments.

Francis
Francis Toribiong, who has worked in tourism in Palau for 50 times Photograph: Kate Lyons for the Guardian

A blessing in disguise?

Despite the suffering, most people concur the boom was unsustainable.

At its crest in 2015, 169,000 sightseers arrived in Palau and the country’s power, sea and sewage systems struggled to cope. There was huge inflation, and the price of meat and rent skyrocketed.

” There was an outcry ,” says Ngiraibelas Tmetuchl, president of the Palau Visitors Authority, the government’s tourism marketing limb.” Costs of crabs ran up, prices of fish, rents ran up, people were displaced. There was an apartment that was going for $500 , now they charge $1,200. There was a shortage of rooms. Apartments[ were converted] from apartments to hotels .”

Kevin Mesebeluu, director of the general committee of tourism, says the China ban may be” a blessing in disguise”, devoting Palau a chance to reevaluate its approach to tourism.

” The president has been very clear about the direction ,” he said.” High-value, low-impact sustainable tourism .”

Indeed, the country was heading down this path before the prohibition came into result. In 2015, Palau’s president, Tommy Remengesau, announced a decrease in the number of charter flights between China and Palau, in response to environmental and social concerns.

Boats
Boats sit idle now at Malakal Island, Palau. Photograph: Kate Lyons for the Guardian

Reklani thinks this decision, which came into consequence gradually, signifies Palau escaped much more serious financial hassle.” We definitely got out in time, this sorenes we’re going through, it would have been so much worse ,” she says.

Since the China ban, Remengesau has reiterated his commitment to Taiwan, telling the Nikkei Asian Review that while China was an “important partner” Palau had” more in common with Taiwan “.

A statement from his spokesperson was even more defiant, indicating Palau would not bow to pressure:” Palau is a country of laws, it is a democracy and we construct our own decisions .”

However, there are others who would not mind insuring Palau switch diplomatic horses.

” It’s about hour that we focus our interests and views towards the People’s Republic of China ,” said Senate president Hokkons Baules in July at the groundbreaking rite for a Chinese-backed resort, according to the Island Times.

The China-Taiwan question is expected to be a key issue at the next presidential election in 2020. But the Taiwanese ambassador to Palau, Wallace Chow, says he is not worried about the relationship, saying it is “very solid”.

Speaking to Guardian during an event for 25 Taiwanese youth diplomats who are spending several days in Palau as part of a” soft power” mission, Chow says it is this” down-to-earth, to the people, for the people” approach that will keep Palau onside.

The
The islands of Palau are dotted with signs proving projects funded by Taiwanese facilitate. Photo: Kate Lyons for the Guardian

But Palauans may also be persuaded by the more than $10 m in aid provided by Taiwan to the country each year, reminders of which are dotted around the island as signs announce that road or building programmes are funded by Taiwanese award money.

” I’m very confident that the Palauan people know who is their true-life spouse and which side their bread is buttered ,” said Chow.

Under the slowly moving fans, Kesolei says he does not expect a diplomatic switching anytime soon.” It’s part of our culture that we are very loyal to our friends ,” he says.

Palauans also like the image of themselves as countries around the world that is standing up to a superpower.

” Some of my social circle enjoy this limelight. Palau against China! This tiny thing against the world’s biggest[ country ]! Some of my friends say: if we have the power to decide, let’s be the last man standing with Taiwan,[ other] countries will think we don’t simply switch, we stay with our friends until the very end .”

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ global-development/ 2018/ sep/ 08/ palau-against-china-the-tiny-island-defying-the-worlds-biggest-country