The Education Bureau has announced that schools will remain closed until April owing to the coronavirus outbreak, though Form Six public written exams will take place as scheduled.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung told the press on Tuesday that classes would be resumed no earlier than April 20 and the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) exam will take place on March 27 as planned. However, exams for Chinese oral, music, and physical education will be postponed to May and results will be announced a week late, on July 15.
First detected in Hubei, China, over 80,000 people globally have been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 2,600 have died from the SARS-like disease, including two in Hong Kong.
Yeung said that the HKDSE exams were crucial to students’ higher education and employment: “With enough preparatory work and protections, we believe the HKDSE exams can safely begin on March 27 as scheduled,” he said.
When asked by a reporter if the policy of continued school suspensions was at odds with the exams taking place, Yeung said that candidates do not have social contact with each other, so there must be different considerations for different class suspension and exam scenarios.
Candidates who display symptoms of respiratory infection will be prohibited from sitting the exam, Yeung said. He added that everyone should wear face masks inside the exam hall and use hand sanitizer provided by the venue.
He also added that seats would be spaced out and any candidates travelling from mainland China would need to arrive in the city two weeks prior to the tests in compliance with quarantine policies.
With regards to the impact of class suspensions, Yeung said distance learning at home cannot completely replace in-person classroom learning. However, with the adjustment of school events and supplementary classes, he said there was no need to shorten the summer vacation.
“Extending the class suspension has been a difficult decision. Yet as the WHO [World Health Organization] predicted, the epidemic will last for a while and the Bureau thinks it is the safest decision to ensure the physical well-being of students,” he said.
Nearly 90 per cent of students surveyed by pro-democracy group Demosisto said they felt the disease had impacted their preparations for the exams. Fewer than 20 per cent found the online resources provided by the Education Bureau useful, they said at a press conference on Tuesday. The poll was conducted online amongst 11,466 Form Six students – representing a quarter of the 2020 HKDSE candidates.
Isaac Cheng, vice-chairperson of Demosisto said that, in view of the epidemic, the Bureau should postpone the HKDSE exams for a month in the interests of students.
The Legislative Council Finance Committee passed a HK$3 billion anti-epidemic funding application last Friday with a portion covering a HK$3,500 subsidy for individual students during the suspension period.
TD faces public scrutiny, support, of First Horizon takeover in public meeting – Business News – Castanet.net
TD Bank Group’s proposed takeover of Memphis-based First Horizon Bank is the issue before a public meeting Thursday where community members are being given a forum to voice their opinions on the deal.
The virtual meeting is being convened jointly by the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S.Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which are reviewing the proposed US$13.4 billion deal.
The meeting comes as TD has faced renewed criticism in recent months for allegedly aggressive sales tactics in the U.S., including from Senator Elizabeth Warren who has called for the merger to be blocked until the bank is “held responsible for its abusive practices.”
TD agreed to a US$122 million settlement with U.S. regulators in 2021 stemming from illegal overdraft practices, while an investigative report released in May alleged that problematic practices continue at the bank, something the bank had strenuously denied.
The federal agencies also held a public meeting in mid-July for BMO’s proposed US$16.3 billion takeover of Bank of the West, where numerous community groups urged the deal be blocked until a strong community benefits agreement can be reached.
The bank also faced criticism for the proportionately low number of mortgages granted to Black and Latino borrowers, while numerous community groups that have received funding from BMO voiced their support of the deal.
Judge sides with Enbridge Inc. in Michigan’s latest effort to halt Line 5 pipeline
WASHINGTON — The international dispute over Line 5 belongs in federal court, a Michigan judge declared Thursday, dealing a critical blow to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s bid to shut down the controversial cross-border pipeline.
It’s the second time in nine months that District Court Judge Janet Neff ruled in favour of pipeline owner Enbridge Inc., which wanted the dispute elevated to the federal level.
That first decision prompted Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel — believing her only path to victory to be in state court — to abandon the original case, turning instead to a separate, dormant, nearly identical circuit court case to try again.
Neff’s disdain for that tactic was palpable throughout Thursday’s ruling.
“The court concludes that (the) plaintiff’s motion must fail, based on …(the) plaintiff’s attempt to gain an unfair advantage through the improper use of judicial machinery,” Neff wrote.
“The court’s decision … is undergirded by (the) plaintiff’s desire to engage in procedural fencing and forum manipulation.”
A spokesperson for Nessel did not immediately respond to media inquiries.
Whitmer is a Democrat and close ally of President Joe Biden whose political fortunes depending on the support of environmental groups in the state. She ordered the shutdown of Line 5 in November 2020.
She cited the risk of an ecological disaster in the Straits of Mackinac, the environmentally sensitive passage between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron where the pipeline runs underwater between the state’s upper and lower peninsulas.
They went to circuit court, where Enbridge pushed back hard, arguing that Whitmer and Nessel had overstepped their jurisdiction and that the case needed to be heard in federal court.
Late last year, Neff sided with Enbridge, prompting Whitmer and Nessel to abandon the complaint and try again, this time with a similar circuit court case that had been dormant since 2019.
Nessel had hoped to head off Enbridge’s jurisdictional argument on a technicality: that under federal law, cases can only be removed to federal jurisdiction within 30 days of a complaint being filed.
But Neff wasn’t buying it, citing the precedent she herself established in 2021 when she ruled for Enbridge the first time.
“It would be an absurd result for the court to remand the present case and sanction a forum battle,” Neff wrote.
“The 30-day rule in the removal statute is intended to assist in the equitable administration of justice and prevent gamesmanship over federal jurisdiction, but here, it is clear to the court that (the) plaintiff is the one engaging in gamesmanship.”
The Line 5 pipeline ferries upwards of 540,000 barrels per day of crude oil and natural gas liquids across the Canada-U. S. border and the Great Lakes by way of a twin line that runs along the lake bed.
Critics want the line shut down, arguing it’s only a matter of time before an anchor strike or technical failure triggers a catastrophe in one of the area’s most important watersheds.
Proponents of Line 5 call it a vital and indispensable source of energy, especially propane, for several Midwestern states, including Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is also a key source of feedstock for refineries in Canada, including those that supply jet fuel to some of Canada’s busiest airports.
In a statement, Enbridge described Thursday’s decision as “consistent with the court’s November 2021 ruling that the state’s prior suit against Line 5 belonged in federal court.”
That, the company said, is the correct forum for “important federal questions” about interstate commerce, pipeline safety, energy security and foreign relations.
The statement goes on to say that shutting down Line 5 would “defy an international treaty with Canada that has been in place since 1977.”
Line 5 talks between the two countries under that treaty, which deals specifically with the question of cross-border pipelines, have been ongoing since late last year.
“Enbridge looks forward to a prompt resolution of this case in federal court.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press
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