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Macau legislators pass landmark casino reform bill



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk in front of Casino Lisboa in Macau, China December 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Legislators in Macau approved a landmark casino bill on Tuesday, the biggest reforms in more than two decades, ahead of an expected casino licence bidding process in the world’s biggest gambling hub.

The changes – marking the first major reforms since casinos were first liberalised in 2002 – mean far greater oversight and control by the government into casino operations in Macau.

The vote came as the Chinese special administrative region carries out mass COVID-19 testing of its more than 600,000 population after dozens of locally transmitted cases were found in recent days.

A hotel and casino resort on Macau’s main peninsula was locked down by authorities on Tuesday due to a coronavirus infection, with some 700 people forced to quarantine.

Macau’s legislature released a final draft of a highly anticipated gaming bill last week, fixing casino tax to 40% from 39% currently and giving officials far greater oversight into casino operations

The 55-page document, released in Portuguese and Chinese on the legislature’s website, comes as the government is due to formally sign a six-month licence extension for casino operators this week.

The moves are expected ahead of casino license expirations due this month. The extension, to Dec. 31, allows more time for a highly anticipated rebidding process. Macau is the only place in China where gambling in casinos is legal.

The final version is similar to an initial draft first circulated in January but clarifies that casino tax on gross revenues will increase to 40% although the chief executive has discretion to reduce up to 5% if operators succeed in attracting non-mainland Chinese gamblers. [L4N2TY23L]

Casino operators must have 5 billion patacas ($618.43 million) in cash at all times during the 10-year license period.

Macau’s casino operators – Wynn Macau (OTC:WYNMF), Sands China (OTC:SCHYY), MGM China (OTC:MCHVY), Galaxy Entertainment and Melco Resorts – all have sufficient liquidity with only SJM Holdings (OTC:SJMHF) needing to beef up liquidity, analysts said.


Ottawa police call in Canada Day reinforcements for ‘freedom’ protests



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man poses for a photo in front of the National War Memorial as truckers and supporters take part in a convoy to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 29, 20

By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Ottawa officials said on Monday they are closing roads and calling in reinforcements to keep anti-government “freedom” protesters from disrupting Canada Day festivities, which are being held for the first time in three years on Friday.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free concerts and other activities usually held on the July 1 national holiday, which celebrates the founding of the country, were canceled.

This year several groups that say they are protesting against a variety of things – including coronavirus vaccination mandates, globalization and government efforts to limit freedom in Canada – are planning marches and even a dance party.

Some of the same organizers were behind a truck convoy that blocked Ottawa’s downtown core around parliament for three weeks, snarling international travel and trade as well as resulting in dozens of arrests. Ottawa officials are still facing criticisms for their handling of the crisis.

Ottawa’s interim Police Chief Steve Bell said he expects hundreds of thousands of people to participate in the Ottawa celebrations, but does not know how many people plan on joining the protests.

“We won’t be intimidated by any group that plans to disrupt the celebrations,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said during a news conference. “We’re prepared, and we will not tolerate any illegal activity by anyone.”

Friday’s protests will include an alternative free concert in front of the Supreme Court, a march to city hall where speakers will address the public and finally a dance party in front of parliament.

Multiple police forces, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), are being brought in to help, Bell told reporters.

Already from Wednesday, access to the streets around parliament will be limited, and most of the streets in the downtown core will be closed on Friday. No vehicles will be allowed to park illegally and no structures, including tents, will be allowed, Bell said.

“We’re prepared to take decisive and lawful action to deal with threats, occupation attempts, and other unlawful behavior that we observe,” Bell said.

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WHO says monkeypox is not yet a health emergency



© Reuters. Test tubes labelled “Monkeypox virus positive” are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON (Reuters) – Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) ruled on Saturday, although WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was deeply concerned about the outbreak.

“I am deeply concerned about the monkeypox outbreak, this is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO Secretariat are following extremely closely,” Tedros said.

The “global emergency” label currently only applies to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, and the U.N. agency has stepped back from applying it to the monkeypox outbreak after advice from a meeting of international experts.

There have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death reported in the last six weeks from 48 countries where it does not usually spread, according to WHO.

So far this year almost 1,500 cases and 70 deaths in central Africa, where the disease is more common, have also been reported, chiefly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monkeypox, a viral illness causing flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is endemic.

It has two clades – the West African strain, which is believed to have a fatality rate of around 1% and which is the strain spreading in Europe and elsewhere, and the Congo Basin strain, which has a fatality rate closer to 10%, according to WHO.

There are vaccines and treatments available for monkeypox, although they are in limited supply.

The WHO decision is likely to be met with some criticism from global health experts, who said ahead of the meeting that the outbreak met the criteria to be called an emergency.

However, others pointed out that the WHO is in a difficult position after COVID-19. Its January 2020 declaration that the new coronavirus represented a public health emergency was largely ignored by many governments until around six weeks later, when the agency used the word “pandemic” and countries took action.

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Can abortion pills overcome U.S. state bans?



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Dr. Shelly Tien hands a patient the initial abortion inducing medication at Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City, U.S., December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/

By Brendan Pierson and Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling eliminating the nationwide right to abortion that it had recognized nearly 50 years ago in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, demand for abortion pills, which can be prescribed through online telemedicine visits, will likely rise. However, medication abortion will not necessarily offer a way for most women to avoid the stringent new abortion bans now expected to pass in conservative states, experts say.


In a medication abortion, a patient takes a drug called mifepristone, also known as RU-486, followed by a second drug called misoprostol, to end a pregnancy rather than having a surgical procedure. Over half of abortions in the United States are medication abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights advocacy research group.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in 2000, but until very recently, the FDA mandated that patients get it at a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital. After easing those restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency in December permanently did away with the requirement that it had to be dispensed in person, allowing patients to consult with healthcare providers via telemedicine appointments and receive the pills by mail. That increased access to abortion for patients living in remote areas without providers nearby and women unable to take time off from work or not able to get to clinics for other reasons. The drugs are approved for use through the 10th week of pregnancy


Yes. Medication abortions have become a target of anti-abortion politicians and activists. Indiana bans medication abortion at 10 weeks, and Texas after seven weeks; other state medication abortion bans have been blocked by courts.

Thirty-two states allow only physicians, and not other clinicians such as nurse practitioners, to dispense abortion pills, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Nineteen states require that the dispensing clinician be in the patient’s physical presence, effectively banning telemedicine.


Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, 13 states had so-called “trigger laws” written to impose new abortion bans immediately or soon after Roe v. Wade was overturned, and other states are expected to follow after Friday’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

The Guttmacher Institute predicts at least 26 states, including those with trigger laws, will pass new abortion laws. Such state laws have so far not distinguished between surgical and medication abortion, so they are expected to ban medication abortion entirely. Some will ban abortions almost completely, while others outlaw abortion at six weeks or 15 weeks

U.S. Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota, a Democrat, on Thursday introduced a bill that would ensure that telemedicine abortion is available in states where abortion remains legal in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling.


That depends. It is illegal for a medical professional to prescribe the pills via a telemedicine appointment to a woman in a state where they are illegal, legal experts say.

    “The laws around telemedicine generally say that the location of the patient controls,” said Amanda Allen, senior counsel at the Lawyering Project, an organization that represents abortion providers. Doctors who prescribed abortion pills to a patient in a state where they are illegal could lose their licenses in that state, or even face criminal charges, she said.   

A woman who lives in a state where abortion is illegal could travel to a state where it is legal, have a telemedicine visit, and have the medication mailed to an address there.

    “In some cases, that’s somewhat less burdensome and costly than to travel all the way to a brick-and-mortar clinic in a neighboring state,” she said, noting that patients who travel to clinics in other states have sometimes faced weeks-long waits for appointments.


Yes. GenBioPro Inc, a company that sells mifepristone, has already challenged Mississippi’s restrictions on prescribing abortion pills via telemedicine by arguing that they are “preempted” by the FDA, meaning that the federal approval of the drug overrides any state law. There has not been a ruling in that case, which is pending in Mississippi federal court.

    Similar challenges have succeeded before. In 2014, a Massachusetts federal judge struck down a state law seeking to regulate opioid drugs more stringently than federal law on the grounds that it was preempted.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared to express support for that position in a statement on the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling, saying that states “may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.”

Mississippi has argued that FDA approval cannot overcome the Supreme Court’s rulings granting states authority to regulate abortions.


Yes. Women in states cracking down on telemedicine abortion have increasingly turned to ordering pills online from overseas.

While the practice is not legal, state authorities have said they have no effective way of policing orders from foreign doctors and pharmacies.

(This story refiles to change reference from “medical abortion” to “medication abortion”)

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