Under-fire Chinese app TikTok to set up European hub in Ireland – dpa international

DUBLIN — Video-sharing app TikTok will invest 420 million euros (500 million dollars) in a European data storage centre in Ireland, the company announced on Thursday. The proposed hub will house European user data, according to Roland Cloutier, TikTok’s global chief information security officer, who said the move will strengthen “safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data” in a “state of the art physical and network security defence system.” Cloutier said “hundreds” of jobs will be created – an announcement welcomed by IDA Ireland, the state investment promotion agency, as “good news.” IDA Ireland Chief Executive Officer Martin Shanahan said IikTok’s statement “postions Ireland as an important location in the company’s global operations.” Banned in China, US online giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have substantial operations in low-tax Ireland.

No sweat for British scientists sniffing out cause of body odour – dpa international

Antiperspirants for sale in Dublin pharmacy (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Researchers at the University of York in Britain have found a “unique” enzyme deemed responsible “for the pungent characteristic smell we call body odour or BO.” The research, published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports, describes a “BO enzyme” that occurs in a handful of bacteria and causes “the characteristic armpit odour” that has in turn spawned a lucrative market in deodorants and antiperspirants. The research was carried out by the university in partnership with the research and development wing of Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch conglomerate that counts among its brands the antiperspirant Axe, Lifebouy soaps and Lux perfumes. Michelle Rudden of the University of York’s Department of Biology said the discovery marks “a key advancement in understanding how body odour works,” which in turn “will enable the development of targeted inhibitors.”

Amazon announces 1,000 new jobs and cloud investment in Ireland – dpa international

Outside an Amazon office in Dublin (Smon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Retailer Amazon will hire 1,000 people in Ireland over the next two years, according to a Monday statement by the country’s official investment promotion agency, IDA Ireland. The jobs are expected to take Amazon’s Irish headcount to 5,000 and are mostly in engineering and technical roles. “We have seen a surge in demand for cloud services in Ireland and globally, and we are excited to add 1,000 highly skilled roles,” said Mike Beary, Amazon’s country manager in Ireland. US-based Amazon will also invest in a cloud computing centre due to open in 2022 in Dublin, according to the IDA Ireland statement. Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said that the announcement bolsters Ireland’s “reputation as a leading nation in global technology.”

Scottish Catholic shrine gets tech salvation for holy water drought – dpa international

DUBLIN — With concerns about coronavirus leaving most Catholic churchgoers without their cherished holy water, a prototype contactless dispenser is being trialled at a shrine in Scotland. In use starting this week at Carfin Grotto in the town of Motherwell, the device resembles a water-cooler or liquid soap dispenser and is activated by cupping a hand near a sensor positioned under the water. A video posted on the Carfin Grotto Facebook page shows the dispenser in action, with the narrator thanking a parishioner named Paul Lawlor and a local tech firm known as Lawlor Techologies for the device. “One of the things we’ve been missing the most,” the narrator said, “is blessing ourselves with holy water.”

British team announces ‘major breakthrough’ in Covid-19 treatment – dpa international

At the entrance to a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Face masks are widely-used in some countries as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus - a disease for which there is no vaccine (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A steroid called dexamethasone should be given to patients affected by Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, British researchers reported on Tuesday. Tests on 2,104 patients showed that low doses of the drug cut deaths by a third among patients on ventilators and by a fifth among those receiving oxygen, findings described by the researchers as a “major breakthrough” that “will save lives.” “One death would be prevented by treatment of around eight ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone,” said the research team, which is testing a range of drugs on 11,500 Covid-19 patients at 175 British hospitals/ Martin Landray of the University of Oxford, one of the trial’s leaders, said that dexamethasone, a drug in use since the 1960s to treat inflammations and conditions such as asthma, could prove a “remarkably low cost” means of combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

Face masks ’79-per-cent effective’ in slowing Covid-19 spread at home – dpa international

Lining up to enter a Kuala Lumpur hardware shop after Malaysia ended its lockdown on May 4 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Wearing face masks at home can prevent pre-symptomatic transmission of the new coronavirus in households, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal. The findings, based on interviews with Chinese families carried out by doctors and academics in Australia, China and the United States, suggest that “precautionary [non-pharmaceutical interventions], such as mask use, disinfection and social distancing in households can prevent Covid-19 transmission during the pandemic.” The authors contend that the research shows wearing masks at home to be “79-per-cent effective at curbing transmission before symptoms emerged in the first person infected.” The work was led by the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and involved the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada and the University of New South Wales’ Faculty of Medicine.

East versus West battle looms over 5G rollout – Asia Times

PHNOM PENH – Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei predicted in late December that the number of 5G connections worldwide would jump from around 20 million in 2019 to over 200 million by the end of 2020. Nowhere will the corporate and geopolitical contest to lead that rollout be more hotly contested than in Southeast Asia. Since a successful launch of commercial 5G services last April in South Korea, where around 3.5 million people have signed up for more expensive high-speed 5G and are using three times the data of 4G subscribers, mobile network providers across Asia could be set to cash in if the technology is made widespread soon. If those millions can soon become tens or even hundreds of millions, 5G, which promises download speeds between 20 to 100 times faster than the current leading 4G system, could revolutionize fields from public transport to healthcare to manufacturing, a potential that Dutch bank ING suggests could be “an economic light-bulb moment.”

Vietnam’s dependence on tech investors leaves it vulnerable to trade war swings – Southeast Asia Globe/RTÉ World Report

Roadside decor in Hanoi as Vietnam's ruling Communist Party held a major conference in Jan. 2016. Photo: Simon Roughneen

PHNOM PENH – Going by the sometimes breathless reports about how well Vietnam has done out of the US-China tariff joust, a reader would be forgiven for thinking that an authoritarian single-party state where farmers make up 40% of the workforce has been transformed into a kind of scaled-up Singapore, which despite its small size usually sucks in around half the annual foreign investment bound for Southeast Asia. The numbers in so far suggest that Vietnam’s trade war triumph is indeed nigh. Its economy grew by just over 7% in 2018 – though that has dipped a notch, according to government statistics, to around 6.7% so far this year. But even that slight fall-off will nonetheless make for high growth – due in part to record levels of foreign investment, including some business seemingly diverted to Vietnam as American tariffs add to the cost of exporting to the US from China. “Following the US-China trade tensions, there is evidence of companies making adjustments to avoid the high tariffs situation,” said Bansi Madhavani, economist at ANZ Research, part of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. According to Madhavani’s counterparts at Maybank Kim Eng, part of Malaysia’s Maybank, Vietnam “is emerging as the biggest beneficiary” of those adjustments, “with FDI [foreign direct investment] registration up by +86% in the first quarter of 2019”.  

China’s tech giants leap over ‘Great Firewall’ to spread message – Nikkei Asian Review

KUALA LUMPUR — U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to rein in China’s technological ambitions. Last week Washington took the unprecedented step of threatening to suspend intelligence-sharing with an ally — in this case Germany — should Berlin allow Huawei to supply equipment for 5G networks. At a U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing last Tuesday, Democrat Ron Wyden cited intellectual property theft, forced tech transfers and the firewall in blasting China for using “schemes and entities to strong-arm American businesses, steal American innovations and rip off American jobs.” But despite the hostility from Washington, Huawei has over half a million followers on Twitter and 1.3 million on Facebook. “5G gaming beats the 4G experience every time with even lower latency and ultrahigh bandwidth,” Huawei wrote on its Facebook page during the Mobile World Congress in Spain in late February. A tweet posted a day earlier said: “Huawei’s playing its part too to bringing [sic] safer, faster and smarter 5G experiences.”

Offshore wind projects hasten Asia’s renewable shift from solar – Nikkei Asian Review

Nikkei

JAKARTA — China is starting to build its largest offshore wind-power facility in the latest move in an accelerating shift in Asia away from solar to wind and other renewable energy sources. Work began in late October on the facility off Nanpeng Isle in China’s southern Guangdong Province. The project has a planned capacity of 400,000 kilowatts, and its developer, China General Nuclear Power Corporation, expects it to generate about 1.46 billion kilowatt hours of power annually when it goes on stream in 2020 Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy, sees wind-generated capacity in the region growing by a factor of 20 over the next decade, powered by Beijing’s plans for a 15-fold expansion. Guangdong plans to build 23 offshore wind farms by 2030, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. Meanwhile, Asia’s solar-powered electricity capacity is set to fall this year for the first time since 2001, as countries such as China cut subsidies.