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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a Samjiyon County farm in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. 

KCNA | Reuters 

North Korea has stepped up measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly African swine fever, its main state newspaper said on Wednesday, breaking its silence on the outbreak which was first reported in late May.

In late May, North Korea reported an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), South Korea’s agriculture ministry said but the North has not made any official comment on its outbreak.

North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Wednesday nationwide preventive measures are being carried out to contain the virus, quoting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying “prevention is the key to production in livestock industry”.

“Increasing livestock production goes hand in hand with raising farm animals safe from various diseases,” said Kim according to the newspaper.

“Once highly contagious diseases like African swine fever are spread … herds of farm animals could die.”

Preventative measures include disinfecting farms and restricting sales of pork and processed meat, the newspaper said.

North Korea raises mainly chicken, ducks and rabbits. Its pig population was 2.6 million as of 2017, according to data from Statistics Korea.

In the wake of the North’s outbreak, South Korea has stepped up disinfection measures near the shared border to keep the viral disease spreading to the South.

So far, no further cases have been reported in North Korea.

African swine fever (ASF) is fatal and highly contagious to pigs and wild boards, but it does not affect humans. Since the first outbreak of ASF in East Asia was reported in China in early August last year, the virus has spread across China including Vietnam.

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Melbourne’s gin distilleries are changing how the country drinks

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From the moment they decided to open a distillery in Australia’s Yarra Valley, the co-founders of Four Pillars Gin — Stu Gregor, Cam MacKenzie and Matt Jones — knew it was serious business.

“When we started, we didn’t want to make the best gin in Melbourne,” said Gregor, “but one that would be considered a great gin compared to any in the world.”

The founders of Four Pillars Gin: (from left) Stu Gregor, Cam MacKenzie and Matt Jones.

Courtesy of Four Pillars Gin

Six years ago, they invested in a German still and perfected a range of gins, including the company’s flagship drop, Rare Dry Gin, made with native botanicals like lemon myrtle and Tasmanian pepperberry.

In November of 2019, they achieved their goal, winning the 2019 International Gin Producer of the Year at the 50th Annual International Wine and Spirits Com petition in London.

A big part of their success has been getting the product in front of a wide variety of people.

Four Pillars Gin range.

Courtesy of Four Pillars Gin

“Five years ago, most people had never had an Aussie gin,” said Gregor. “It was something their grandma drank, and they probably would only have come across Gordon’s or Beefeater.”

“We wanted to have a great home that people would want to visit. It was rammed when I arrived here today, and that was at 11:45 a.m. on a Friday morning,” he said.

“Five years ago, most people had never had an Aussie gin. It was something their grandma drank.

Stu Gregor

Co-founder of Four Pillars Gin

Recognizing their chosen beverage might not be to everyone’s taste, they developed a range of gins to appeal to a wide variety of drinkers. There’s a Spiced Negroni Gin, Christmas Gin and Bloody Shiraz Gin, the latter a tip of the cap to their home in the Yarra Valley, a well-known producer of Australia’s shiraz wine.

“We made the first batch of Bloody Shiraz as a bit of an experiment,” Gregor explained. “This year we’ll make well over 100,000 bottles, and we buy more shiraz grapes than anyone else in the Yarra Valley.”

Four Pillars gin is available throughout Australia, as well as in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia.

Dark past, bright futures

“About five years ago, the Australian gin market was made up of about five craft distilleries,” said Little Lon Distilling. executive Dean Jarvis. “At last count there’s something like 241.”

“We thought it might last 12 to 18 months, and it’s been five or six years and shows no sign of slowing down.”

Eighteen months ago, Little Lon’s founder Brad Wilson and his team moved into a small location in the heart of Melbourne. One of the last red-brick, single-story cottages in the city, the distillery’s new home came with an interesting past.

Melbourne’s Little Lon distillery.

Courtesy of Little Lon Distilling

“The story and history of this place was a big thing. Around the 1890s and into the early 1900s, this was a brothel and sly grog shop,” Wilson said, using the Australian term for a place that sold illegal alcohol during the country’s Prohibition period.

“That was the madam’s work room,” he said, indicating a small space that currently houses the still. “Now it’s our work room.”

From the start, Wilson was serious about creating a unique product.

“We’re one of the few distillers who go to the trouble of making a base spirit from malt barley,” he explained. “We make it a bit hard for ourselves, but we get a lot more control over the flavor.”

Little Lon’s Dean Jarvis.

Courtesy of Little Lon Distilling

In the 20-seater bar area, Jarvis pours tastes of the company’s three main products. First up is Ginger Mick, named after a “local larrikin” (an Aussie term for mischief maker), that is made with mixed citrus and fresh ginger — a great gin for cocktails.

Then it’s Miss Yoko, the Chinese madam of the house (who told people she was from Japan). The drink is “a little bit exotic and made with fresh, hand-peeled lychees, lemongrass and a little bit of cinnamon,” Jarvis said.

“It’s really great as is — subtle, you really have to look for the lychees — but if you add a splash of tonic, you almost get freeze-dried raspberries.”

We’re one of the few distillers who go to the trouble of making a base spirit from malt barley.

Brad Wilson

founder of Little Lon Distilling

Finally there’s the rosemary overtones of Constable Proudfoot, named after an imposing policeman who once patrolled the area streets.

“It makes a cracking G&T or a herbaceous, floral martini, if that’s your thing,” said Jarvis.

Those who sign up for a masterclass receive a gin tasting, distillery tour and lessons on the rich history of the area and the characters who once roamed the building and neighboring streets.

Gin flights and martini carts

When they launched the business three years ago, Dave Irwin and Matt Argus of Patient Wolf Distilling worked from a Brunswick warehouse in the north of Melbourne. But the space wasn’t big enough to house their ambitions.

In December of 2019, they moved to the the city’s Southbank, not far from the Yarra River and city center.

“Now we have a bar and a place where we can tell people more about the distillery,” said Irwin. “We wanted to feed our brand, first of all, but having a front-of-house allows us to portray how we want to be seen and how we want the drinks to be made.”

The interior of Patient Wolf Distilling

Cheyne Toomey Photography

Those wanting a taste of Patient Wolf can order a gin flight which comes with an explanation of how each is made along with each gin’s unique characteristics.

“Before we even made our first gin, we identified gaps in the market,” said Irwin, who launched into the fast-growing market. “We put gin samples in front of people to get their thoughts. Now everything we do is based on tradition — but has an edge to it.”

Patient Wolf’s Melbourne Dry Gin — “a good all-rounder” — is available around the country.

“We vapor infuse with grapefruit and orange, and it’s made in the London Dry style,” said Irwin, noting the presence of juniper, coriander and lesser-known botanicals like aniseed myrtle.

Tonka beans from Brazil and Venezuela add flavors of marzipan and bitter almond and give the gin a good viscosity, he added.

A challenge to the bar scene, it’s now popular to meet at distilleries.

Cheyne Toomey Photography

Also on the list is Summer Thyme, perfect for pouring gin and tonics and the winner of Best London Dry Gin at the 2019 Hong Kong Spirit Awards. Blackthorn, a version of sloe gin, is equally good sipped from the freezer.

At the moment, Patient Wolf is also working on launching a martini cart.

“You’ll hire the cart, someone will bring it around, explain the history of martinis, then help you to make one yourself,” said Irwin. “Basically, it’s martinis on tap.”

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Lufthansa taps Google’s cloud tech to reduce flight delays

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A Boeing 747-8 Lufthansa airplane takes off from the Airport Tegel in Berlin.

Britta Pedersen | AFP | Getty Images

Lufthansa is partnering with Google’s cloud unit in an effort to minimize the impact of flight delays and other irregularities on its passengers.

The German carrier will use Google Cloud’s infrastructure to bring its disparate IT systems and data on processes like aircraft replacement and crew scheduling into one unified platform.

The aim is to optimize Lufthansa’s operations, especially during flight disruptions caused by extreme weather or congestion. The airline’s staff will use an operations platform powered by Google’s cloud tech to come up with suggestions for putting its flight plan back on track.

A team of Google software engineers will be onsite with Lufthansa’s IT and operations experts develop and test the firm’s new platform.

“By combining Google Cloud’s technology with Lufthansa Group’s operational expertise, we are driving the digitization of our operation even further,” said Detlef Kayser, an executive board member at Lufthansa. “This will enable us to identify possible flight irregularities even earlier and implement countermeasures at an early stage.”

Over 145 million passengers flew with the German aviation giant last year, a record number for the company. But it also faced industrial action from cabin crew and other staff, resulting in hundreds of flight cancellations.

Google Cloud’s CEO, Thomas Kurian, said the partnership would provide the two companies with a “significant opportunity to revolutionize the future of airline operations.”

The U.S. tech giant has been investing heavily in Europe. It unveiled plans for an investment of 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) aimed at expanding its data centers across the region and says its cloud business is now growing faster in Europe than any other region.

Cloud computing, where things like data storage and processing are made available over the internet, has become a major battleground for some of the world’s largest tech companies — especially Amazon and Microsoft, whose cloud services now dominate the market.

Explaining its decision to go with Google, rather than Amazon or Microsoft, a Lufthansa spokesperson said it was down to “their high technical expertise and their databases with very good data quality.”

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Expect OPEC oil production cuts to continue in 2020: Wood Mackenzie

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OPEC is likely to continue with its oil supply cuts for the rest of 2020, a research director said Monday.

“One thing which we are seeing in our numbers is that the market is still not ready to absorb the production cuts back, even for (the) whole of this year,” Sushant Gupta, who heads Wood Mackenzie’s refining and oils market team in Asia, told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”

“We expect OPEC to continue cutting production for 2020,” he said.

OPEC and its allies agreed in December 2019 to cut supply by an additional 500,000 barrels per day until its next meeting in March 2020, bringing the total reduction to 1.7 million barrels a day.

However, the duration of the deal remains uncertain. The energy alliance usually gathers every six months, so the announcement of a meeting in March caused some analysts to believe that tighter policy would only last for the first quarter of 2020.

Gupta argued that the additional cuts indicate OPEC is aware of oversupply in the oil market for at least the first half of this year.

“They will have to manage that oversupply somehow, by either higher compliance or even deeper cuts for (a) longer time,” he said.

He added that Wood Mackenzie expects oil supply to outpace demand for “the whole of 2020.” Part of that supply will come from non-OPEC, non-U.S. producers such as Brazil, Canada and Norway, he said.

“It’s more pronounced in the first half 2020 than the second half … but we expect (OPEC) to rollover production cuts for the whole of 2020,” he said.

Oil price forecast

Gupta also weighed in on oil prices in a “fundamentally oversupplied” market. “We expect prices to stabilize at around $65 per barrel for the first half of this year and around $64 per barrel for the whole year 2020.”

When asked about black swan events — rare and unpredictable occurrences with severe consequences — for the market, he pointed to geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. Still, oil prices will “come back again” to the fundamentals, he said.

“Geopolitical events will continue to play a key part in 2020,” he said. “But … from the demand side of things, the U.S.-China trade dispute and overall health of the global economy will play an equally important part in keeping the prices in balance.”

—CNBC’s Sam Meredith and Pippa Stevens contributed to this report.

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