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Focus: The Big Deal by Psalm Eben

The word FOCUS is a big deal that sounds so complacent and with so many questions, Mr Akpan: Be focused... Daughter: Ok Daddy but I have tried my best. I am tired of doing things over and over with no results... What is focus?  Focus is a central point of attraction, attention, or activity, a resolute point to keep pressing on.

McDonald’s will reopen some branches in Ukraine to support ‘important sense of normalcy’

The US fast-food giant closed its restaurants in Ukraine when Russia invaded the country almost six months ago. McDonald’s also “de-arched” in Russia and sold its outlets to a franchise owner.

Following Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February, McDonald’s closed its restaurants in Ukraine, but has continued to pay more than 10,000 staff employed in the country, while it closed and sold branches in Russia.

It said on Thursday that it will slowly start to reopen some of its branches in the capital Kyiv and western Ukraine. Other major Western companies have also reopened their businesses in Ukraine recently, including Nike, KFC and Mango. “We’ve spoken extensively to our employees who have expressed a strong desire to return to work and see our restaurants in Ukraine reopen,” Paul Pomroy, corporate senior vice president of international operated markets, said in a message to employees. Advertisement “In recent months, the belief that this would support a small, but important sense of normalcy has grown stronger.” Ukraine’s economy has been severely impacted by the war, with the International Monetary Fund expecting its economy to shrink by 35% in 2022, in part due to businesses halting operations because of the war.

McDonald’s has 109 restaurants in Ukraine, but Mr Pomroy didn’t say how many would reopen, when it would happen or the locations.

The company said it would start working with vendors to get supplies into branches, prepare stores, bring employees back and launch safety procedures due to ongoing fighting in the east.

McDonald’s has sold its 850 restaurants in Russia to local franchise owner Alexander Govor, who held a licence for 25 branches in Siberia and who has begun reopening former McDonald’s locations under the name Vkusno-i Tochka or Tasty-period.

McDonald’s opened its first Russian location in Moscow three decades ago. Selling its Russian business was the first time the fast-food giant has “de-arched” or left a major market.

McDonald’s closed hundreds of locations throughout Russia in March, costing the company $55m (£45m) a month.

By:

SOURCE: SKY NEWS

Tonnes of dead fish pulled from River Oder in Poland as officials warn of possible contamination

At least 10 tonnes of dead fish have been pulled out of the River Oder which flows along part of Poland’s border with Germany – as officials warn people not to enter the water due to possible contamination.

Anglers and volunteers removed the dead fish from the 200km (124 mile) stretch of the river north of Olawa in southwest Poland, the head of the agency which manages the country’s national waters has said.

Przemyslaw Daca, head of State Water Holding, also called the situation a gigantic ecological catastrophe.

Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki has vowed to punish those responsible after environmental authorities said they notified prosecutors about potential contamination of the country’s second longest river.

Ewa Drewniak, a biologist working with opposition political group Civic Coalition, has accused the government of not responding quickly enough. Advertisement “Dead fish have been flowing in the Oder for the past two weeks and people have not been informed about it, I’ve seen scores of people bathing in the river a week and a half ago, they were not aware of the danger, this is scandalous,” she said. Regional environmental protection authorities in the Polish city of Wroclaw said Oder water samples taken on 28 July showed an 80% probability that they contained mesitylene, a toxic substance, although this was not present in samples taken after 1 August.

Low river levels due to the drought in Europe might have aggravated possible contamination, Mr Daca said on Wednesday.

He added they suspected a strong oxidizing agent might have gotten into the water causing oxygen levels to spike, which can harm fish.

Mr Daca also said there was no reason for panic and the situation was improving.

Several German districts bordering Poland warned locals to avoid the river water and not to eat fish from the Oder as long as the cause of the fish deaths was unclear.

“The reports from the Oder are simply terrible,” Michael Kellner, a senior politician of Germany’s The Greens party, said on Twitter.

SOURCE: SKY NEWS

More than 1,000 firefighters struggling to tackle huge forest blaze in France

Around 6,800 hectares (26 square miles) in the Gironde region and neighbouring Landes have been burnt by the blaze, which began on Tuesday.

At least 16 houses have also been destroyed, and emergency services have forced around 10,000 people to evacuate the area.

Photographs released by firefighters showed flames raging through pine forests, sending clouds of smoke in the air and illuminating the sky with intense orange light.

It comes after the region was ravaged by flames last month and as France tackles its fourth heatwave following its worst drought ever.

“The conditions are particularly difficult: the vegetation and the soil are particularly dry after more than a month without rain,” local officials said in a statement.

“The scorching temperatures are expected to continue until Saturday and combine with very dry air to create very severe fire risk conditions.”

On Thursday, temperatures were due to reach 40C (104F) across the region.

Four firefighting planes, based in Sweden and Greece, have been sent to the country by the European Commission to help put out the blaze.

Nine other aircraft and two helicopters have also been mobilised.

Commission spokesperson Miriam Garcia Ferrer also said firefighting teams from Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania were on their way to help French crews.

“The EU continues to monitor the situation across Europe and stands ready to help the affected countries,” she added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and interior minister Gerald Darmanin are due to visit the evacuated small town of Hostens to meet crews, rescuers, local officials and volunteers.

SOURCE: SKY NEWS

A third of Brits face poverty with energy bills set to hit $5,000

Nearly one third of households in the United Kingdom will face poverty this winter after paying energy bills that are set to soar again in January, campaigners say.

About 10.5 million households will be in fuel poverty for the first three months of next year, according to estimates from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition (EFPC) published on Tuesday — meaning that their income after paying for energy will fall below the poverty line.
The UK government defines poverty as household income of less than 60% of the UK median, which stood at £31,000 ($37,500) in 2021, according to official statistics.
The predictions are based on new estimates from research firm Cornwall Insight, also published Tuesday, which show that the average household energy bill is expected to hit £3,582 ($4,335) a year from October, and £4,266 ($5,163) from January — equating to about £355 ($430) a month.
January’s forecast represents a 116% increase in energy bills from current levels. As fuel prices surge, estimates are having trouble keeping pace. Just last week, Cornwall Insight predicted January’s prices would rise by 83% from current levels.
The research firm said it had revised its figures because of a jump in wholesale prices and a change in the way the UK regulator calculates its price cap. But there could be relief on the horizon: Cornwall Insight expects bills to start falling in the second half of 2023.
Fuel bills started rising last year as a global natural gas supply crunch pushed wholesale prices up to record levels. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February has only exacerbated the situation.
The averageUKhousehold bill has already risen 54% this year, exacerbating a cost-of-living crisis that has forced many Britons to choose between “heating and eating.”
In May, the government announced a £15 billion ($18 billion) package of support — including a £400 ($484) payment to 29 million households from October — to ease the burden of energy bills.
But Simon Francis, coordinator for the EFPC, said the latest price estimates meant the current level of government support amounted to a “drop in the ocean.”
Craig Lowrey, a principal consultant at Cornwall Insight, said in a Tuesday press release that if “£400 was not enough to make a dent in the impact of [the company’s] previous forecast, it most certainly is not enough now.”
Liz Truss, the UK’s foreign minister and current frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister next month, has proposed cutting taxes to help people struggling with their bills, rather than direct help. Her rival, former finance minister Rishi Sunak, has said more support will be needed.
Meanwhile, the CBI — the country’s top business organization — has urged Johnson to bring the leadership candidates together to agree on a way to support households and businesses with their energy bills so that measures can be announced as soon as the October price cap is set on August 26. The new prime minister is not expected to be elected until September 5.
By Anna Cooban
SOURCE: CNN BUSINESS

Olive oil prices to rise 25% as heatwave hits production

The price of olive oil is set to rise as heatwaves hit production in Spain, a leading exporter has warned.

Acesur, which supplies the UK’s biggest supermarkets, told the BBC this would feed through into prices in shops in the next three to four months when companies renew their contracts.

The company’s export manager, Miguel Colmenero, said customers could see prices rise by 20-25%.

Spain produces nearly half of the world’s olive oil.

But the country, along with other parts of Western Europe which produce olive oil, including Italy and Portugal, has been experiencing extreme temperatures and a lack of rain in recent weeks.

Acesur is involved in the production of more than 200,000 tonnes of olive oil a year, out of the roughly 1.4 million tonnes produced in Spain annually, and sells its products in more than 100 countries.

It sells around 20,000 tonnes a year in the UK and packs own-label brands for Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda. The supermarkets also stock its La Espanola brand, which is the third biggest in the UK.

Most of the olives in its products are grown in Andalucia, southern Spain, which has had very little rainfall in recent weeks.

Mr Colmenero said the impact of the heatwave on production was “drastic”.

Last year, Spain produced around 1.4 million tonnes of olive oil but he said officials were now forecasting as little as one million tonnes for this season.

He added that the dry weather could also impact next season’s crop, if olive trees could not grow new branches due to lack of water.

This is having an impact on global prices. In July the Mintec benchmark price for extra virgin olive oil rose to its highest level so far this year, up by 7.3% on the previous month and 14.2% on the previous year, according to the market research group.

Mr Colmenero said this would eventually feed through into prices for customers, although there would be a three to four month lag because many companies would already have signed 12-month contracts with retailers.

However, he added companies would eventually have to raise their prices when they renewed contracts and customers could see increases of 20-25%.

The BBC contacted the UK’s other biggest olive oil brands, including Filippo Berio and Napolina, but did not get a response.

The average price of own-label olive oil in the four biggest UK supermarket chains was up 50.2% on last year at the beginning of August, according to retail research firm Assosia. From June to July, average prices increased 28.5%.

If the dry weather continues, Roxanne Nikoro, a market analyst for Mintec, said prices could rise further.

However, she added that if the grain corridor agreed from Ukraine led to more supplies of sunflower oil coming out of the country, this “could bring some relief”.

Mr Colmenero said disruption to the supply of sunflower oil from Ukraine was also contributing to “dramatic” price increases, as people turned to olive oil as an alternative, increasing demand.

Ukraine was previously the world’s top exporter of sunflower oil.

Other parts of Western Europe which produce olive oil have also experienced record high temperatures and Mr Colmenero said this would reduce production in other countries too.

In July, Italy declared a state of emergency in five northern regions surrounding the Po River, as it experienced the worst drought in 70 years.

SOURCE: BBC NEWS

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