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Venezuela’s Independent Media Decimates by Country’s Years-Long Crisis

"It was a course we couldn't get away from," Jorge Makriniotis, manager at the 75-year-old El Nacional

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Venezuelas, Media, Crisis
FILE - The General Manager of Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional Jorge Makriniotis speaks during an interview with the AFP, at its printing press in Caracas, June 14, 2019. VOA

Starved of advertising revenue and battling a stranglehold on the newspaper industry by the government, Venezuela’s independent media have been decimated by the country’s years-long crisis — with many migrating online to survive.

“It was a course we couldn’t get away from,” Jorge Makriniotis, manager at the 75-year-old El Nacional, told AFP.

The newspaper ran its last physical edition — which had already dropped from 72 to just 16 pages — on December 13 last year.

Like many other former print media, it is only available on the internet now.

Venezuelas, Media, Crisis
FILE – A woman buys printed newspapers at a kiosk in Caracas, Venezuela, July 3, 2019. VOA

In 2013, Venezuela’s socialist government created a state-run company to control the import and distribution of paper.

Carlos Correa, director of the Espacio Publico non-governmental organization, said the move created “discriminatory dynamics” that saw pro-regime media favored — while others were starved of printing paper, and advertising revenue.

Since then, 58 daily newspapers have ceased circulation, Correa says.

“There’s never been an official response” to the claims from independent media, said Gisela Carmona, the director of El Impulso — one of the papers that has migrated online, requiring an investment of more than a million dollars.

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After 100 years in print, the newspaper disappeared from the streets in February 2018, having received no paper for 12 months.

Beyond controlling paper supply, critics accuse the Venezuelan government of oppressing dissenting media voices across the board.

The national union of press workers has denounced a “systematic policy” of asphyxiation as dozens of independent radio and television stations also closed.

“Over the past years, the Government has attempted to impose a communicational hegemony by enforcing its own version of events and creating an environment that curtails independent media,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a report on Venezuela earlier this month.

Venezuelas, Media, Crisis
Starved of advertising revenue and battling a stranglehold on the newspaper industry by the government, Venezuela’s independent media have been decimated. Pixabay

One example from 2018 saw El Nacional lose a case brought by Diosdado Cabello, widely regarded as the most powerful regime figure after President Nicolas Maduro, for having published drug-trafficking allegations made against him in the Spanish press.

The economic crisis had a major impact on the media too, as on all businesses.

Five years of recession and rampant hyperinflation — which the International Monetary Fund expects to reach a staggering 10 million per cent this year — have decimated advertising revenues.

Carminda Marquez opened a kiosk in Caracas 18 years, selling dozens of newspapers and other publications.

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“Now I sell three or four,” said the 80-year-old.

Regional newspaper Panorama, which served Venezuela’s second city Maracaibo, struggled on until May 14 when “a perfect storm” of massive power cuts finally sounded it’s physical death knell, its editorial director Maria Ines Delgado told AFP.

Panorama never had to lay off any journalists as one by one they resigned and left for foreign shores.

“Every time we replaced one, another left,” Delgado said from a near-empty editorial room.

Like El Impulso, Panorama is now fed by banner advertising.

The move online has not solved independent media’s myriad problems, though, least of all the ability to reach readers.

Between frequent power outages, patchy internet and the second slowest connectivity in Latin America — after landlocked Paraguay — readers have trouble loading pages, especially on smartphones.

“We know nothing any more,” complained Belkis Nava, who used to read Panorama.

Despite the difficulties, some journalists have launched new media directly on the internet, such as El Pitazo.

Specializing in investigative journalism — it won the prestigious Ortega y Gasset prize awarded by Spanish newspaper El Pais this year — El Pitazo supported itself through a 2017 crowdfunding campaign, director Cesar Batiz told AFP.

However, like other news websites, El Pitazo has come under cyberattack — four times over two years.

Before the first attack in 2017, El Pitazo had 110,000 visits a day. Traffic has since dropped by more than half, and 65 percent of that comes from abroad.

“People aren’t receiving information,” said Melanio Escobar, the director of the Redes Ayuda (Network Help) NGO. (VOA)

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COVID-19: MakeMyTrip Lays Off Nearly 350 Employees

Covid-hit MakeMyTrip says that there's no respite in sight

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According to MakeMyTrip Founder Deep Kalra, the word of travel has been ravaged due to global Covid-19 pandemic. Pixabay

Covid-hit online travel major MakeMyTrip has laid off nearly 350 employees as the pandemic has changed the context and viability of some of its business lines in its current form.

The company is offering mediclaim coverage for the impacted individuals and their families till the end of the year.

According to an internal letter from Founder Deep Kalra and CEO Rajesh Magow sent to employees, the impacted employees will also get leave, gratuity, retention of company laptops and outplacement support, apart from salary payments as per their notice periods.

“It is undoubtedly the toughest decision we have had to take so far and it’s the saddest day for us as an organization,” read the letter.

The company analysed Covid-19 impact closely and spent considerable time thinking about the path to business recovery.

“It is evident that the pandemic has changed the context and viability of some of our business lines in its current form. Keeping this in mind we have had to take this sad but inevitable decision of rightsizing our workforce in these businesses,” said the duo.

MakeMyTrip Logo
MakeMyTrip analysed Covid-19 impact closely and spent considerable time thinking about the path to business recovery. Wikimedia Commns

The staff rationalization, they said, is mapped to their future business strategy and “is in no way a reflection of the work done by people in these teams”.

According to Kalra, the word of travel has been ravaged due to global Covid-19 pandemic.

“What’s evident is that the impact of COVID-19 crisis is going to be long drawn for us. It’s unclear when traveling will become a way of life, as it was pre-Covid,” said the letter.

The tourism industry in India is staring at two crore job losses as industry insiders cite central apathy and a predictably long recovery period.

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Indian tourism travel and hospitality impacts 10-12 per cent of India’s employment which covers almost 5 crore plus direct and indirect jobs.

“We are living through extraordinary times which have impacted individuals, communities, businesses, countries and our world at a magnitude unknown before and there is no let-up in sight,” said the MakeMyTrip executives.

The Indian tourism, travel and hospitality sector has already seen over one quarter of accumulated losses which began from February onwards. (IANS)

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Trump Universe Comes to A Stalemate

The tale of Donal Trump and his petty politics continues

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Trump failing at handelling the crisis. Pixabay

BY SAEED NAQVI

When the tortoise agreed to ferry a stranded scorpion on its back across the river, which was in spate, he didn’t know what he had bargained for. Midway, the scorpion stung the tortoise, deep, through its hard shell.

“Why have you done this?” asked the tortoise. “Now we shall both drown.”

“It’s in my nature,” said the scorpion.

Given its own self-esteem, the US should have been “ferrying” the world through the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the country is itself so overwhelmed by Corona that it has no time for leadership. Fair enough, let the US attend to protecting its people. But Trump’s Washington is not only making a mess of its own crisis, but it is also aggravating the world’s problems. The tortoise did not live to digest the lesson: a cooperative order is simply not possible with Trump.

If US capitalism in the post-Cold War world were scripted like a Webster melodrama, the audience should prepare itself for some frenetic tattooing by the “scorpion”. Even as the world is focused on fighting coronavirus, US claws are out, groping the Venezuelan coastline, using Columbian territory as its very own. Eight mercenaries are reported dead, even as two pedigreed Americans are in Venezuelan custody, presumably, singing like canaries by now. Wordsmiths have already named the expedition as the “Bay of kids”, so infantile has this latest US adventure been to unseat President Nicolas Maduro. Former US Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau has claimed responsibility. President Trump has closed his gloves in front of his face like a pugilist on the defensive. “I knew nothing about it.”

Of course, he knew just about as much as he did about the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince’s idea of “privatizing” the Afghan War. Don’t laugh, Prince’s 100-page dossier spelt out details of how Afghanistan should be privately governed. The proposal was considered by freaks in the administration. According to the plan, Afghanistan would be ruled, just as India was, under a Viceroy. The plan was shot down. But Prince proved his resourcefulness once again in Venezuela. According to The Guardian, London, Prince secretly met one of Maduro’s closest allies, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez who also looks after security. About eight months ago, Prince was suggesting an invasion of Venezuela by “a private army of 5,000.” This was after the US had recognized Juan Guaido as the OPEC nation’s “legitimate President.” Which side of the street was Prince playing? The tricks have not worked. Trump will have to go into elections with a military failure in his backyard. Will his cohorts allow him to?

The US
The US criples against the pandemic fight. Pixabay

The world has been persuaded to put its head down on Corona. But this does not come in the way of Trump’s military adventure: holding US-Sri Lanka joint training in March and April at Sri Lanka’s Air and Naval base in Trincomalee, despite a ban on travel because of the pandemic.

This military bonhomie at a time when the coronavirus stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, has been advised to dock at Guam. More than 4,500 crew members have been moved ashore. The spike in corona cases among the Sri Lankan Navy and Army can be traced to the companionship with US military personnel.

How can one raise fingers at the island nation’s obsequiousness when the great nation to its north circumvents its own rules to ship Hydroxychloroquine to the US because Trump has threatened “retaliation” if he were not helped in his hour of need.

This is not all. The man who is building a wall to keep Mexicans out, delivers a stark message to his southern neighbour: American economic interest supersede Mexican health interests. In other words, allow workers to operate factories essential not for Mexico but to the US — pandemic or no pandemic.

Germans coped with that mentality in March: the Trump administration tried to lure a German firm, CureVac, to the US. This is not where the audacity ends. The vaccine, jointly developed, would be available to the Americans first. The Angela Merkel establishment politely showed US negotiators the door.

In the German episode, the US comes across as almost elegant compared to the highway robbery at the tarmac of Chinese airport loading protection gear against the virus’ for European destinations. American “highwaymen” paid three times the amount and diverted the equipment to the US. French officials called it the “war of masks”.

Donal Trump
Donal Trump and his petty politics don’t pause even in the wake of a world pandemic. Pixabay

Meanwhile across the sea, Trump’s Sancho Panza (or is it the other way around), Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up airstrikes against Syria, attempting Drone assassinations of Hezbollah field commanders, and, in brief, trying to pulverize the “axis of resistance”, with Iran as the prime target. The idea is to provoke just sufficient retaliation to enable Netanyahu to survive corruption charges, also to give Trump an opportunity to beat war drums, always a useful strategy in the election season, particularly when ratings are not promising.

The “Bay of kids” and his Gulf gyrations pale before the high wire act he appears to be developing (or bluffing) vis-a-vis China. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times is one of the many commentators who have chastised Trump’s “irresponsible” diatribe without any credible evidence.

The supremacist, neo-Nazi rally at Charlottesville, Virginia, some years ago, attended openly by the KKK and sundry white nationalists, created ripples and waves which never really subsided. “There are very fine people on both sides” was Trump’s immortal observation, balancing between Klansmen and counter-protestors.

From that persona, Trump never really distanced himself. The result is rampaging anti-Semitism. Israel’s respected newspaper Haaretz has expressed concern. Several protests against the measures taken by states to control coronavirus have featured swastikas and worse.

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Jewish Centre for Public Affairs CEO, David Bernstein is convinced, that “as more people become economically disaffected the more they will look for scapegoats.” Since the economic downslide is on an epic scale, so will corresponding racism grow in the US and elsewhere. Should this President get a second term, we shall all surely go down like that tortoise, gasping. (IANS)

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Modi Enterprises Take to Zero-Based Budgeting in The Wake of Covid Crisis

Modi Enterprises has taken to zero-based budgeting to curb unwarranted expenditure

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Zero-based budgeting
Modi Enterprises switches to zero-based budgeting amidst Covid crisis. Pixabay.

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis and the unforeseen financial impact, Modi Enterprises has taken to zero-based budgeting to curb unwarranted expenditure, said the conglomerate’s Managing Director Samir Modi.

Talking to IANS, Modi also said that the group has postponed several of its major expansion and other corporate plans to the next financial year on the back of the disruptions by the pandemic.

On the need for change in strategy by businesses, Modi said strategies and working models would have to change now on and the group has accepted the changes.

“We have to reset and relearn ourselves,” he said. The founder of 24SEVEN, Modicare and Colorbar also said that work-from-home would be a major focus for the group wherever feasible.

“We have instituted zero-based budgeting process which we never did before. Basically zero-based budgeting process is that you take all cost as zero, you realign the cost and then you cut out all cost that is not needed to be done and all managers have to justify the cost they have put into the budget,” Modi said.

 

Zero-based budgeting
Zero-based budgeting the new way fro Modi enterprises. Pixabay

Zero-based budgeting allows top-level strategic goals to be implemented into the budgeting process by tying them to specific functional areas of the organization, where costs can be first grouped and then measured against previous results and current expectations. It can help lower costs by avoiding blanket increases or decreases to a prior period’s budget.

In an interaction with IANS, Samir Modi also stressed on the significance of work-from-home going ahead and said that Modi Enterprises would look to adopt remote operations wherever possible.

He said that working from home may become a major factor and companies, including his, would have to ensure how e-learning, e-business compensates for coming to work. Modi noted that six months ago he would have been averse to the idea of work-from-home but now it may be a major feature in the group’s operations.

“A lot of rethinking would be required,” he said, while speaking about the need to align the operations and working environment to the social distancing norms.

The entrepreneur further informed that the home delivery would be major focus with 24SEVEN convenience store chain already rolling out the services in select places. The chain has tied up with Swiggy, Zomato and Dunzo and several of the stores have themselves taken to home deliveries.

Zero-based budgeting
Modi enterprises resort to Zero-based budgeting. Pixabay.

Emphasising the need for the significance of the essential goods segment, he said that essential items will be a major segment in 24SEVEN and Modicare, irrespective of the pandemic subsiding. “Because people will be more conscious of safety and health and that will continue,” he said. He added that Colorbar is also coming up with essential items.

Speaking on the implications of the pandemic on expansion and other corporate plans, he noted that several plans and their executions have been postponed till the next fiscal due to the recent disruptions.

Modi said that the cosmetics brand Colorbar recently acquired a proprietary company in Paris and the revamp of the acquired brand has been put on hold.

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Further, the company’s plan of expanding the 24SEVEN network to Bengaluru in the south also has been postponed to the financial year 2021-22, he told IANS. (IANS)