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European markets pull back amid doubts over latest Russian pledges over Ukraine

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European stocks retreated on Wednesday following the latest round of talks between Russia and Ukraine, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.8% in early trade, with autos shedding 1.9% to lead losses, while oil and gas stocks gained 1.7%.

In terms of individual share price movement, Finland’s Nokian Tyres fell 6.6%, while Sweden’s Lundin Energy added 4.7%.

Investor sentiment was boosted on Tuesday following negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials in Turkey, at which Russia’s deputy defense minister claimed Moscow had decided to “drastically” cut back its military activity near Ukraine’s capital.

Alexander Fomin, who spoke following the talks in Istanbul, said Russia would slow its military operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv in order for peace talks to progress. Russia previously claimed that it would reduce military operations in other parts of Ukraine but then continued its advance.

Growing hope for a cease-fire appeared to boost investor sentiment Tuesday, as Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 200 points, or 0.6%. S&P 500 futures also climbed 0.6%, while Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 0.7%. Meanwhile, the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil, which spiked on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fell more than 4% to $100 per barrel.

Doubts have set in over the pledge, however, and while the Russian military has begun moving some of its troops in Ukraine away from areas around Kyiv to positions elsewhere in Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby warned the troop movements do not amount to a retreat.

Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Wednesday trade as investors watch for developments surrounding the war in Ukraine. Stateside, traders are keeping tabs on a slew of key economic reports, while also monitoring the Federal Reserve’s planned interest rate hikes.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Tuesday showed 11.3 million job openings, higher than the 11.1 million expected. The ADP will also release its private payrolls data ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report, on Friday.

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Google set to invest $9.5bn in US

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Google has announced plans to invest $9.5bn in its US offices and data centers around the country in 2022, up from more than the $7bn it spent in 2021.

According to CNN, the big bet on office space was coming at a point Google was embracing a hybrid work model. The Alphabet-owned company has called for many of its employees to work in an office three days a week after two years of being fully remote.

The Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet and Google, Sundar Pichai, said, “It might seem counterintuitive to step up our investment in physical offices even as we embrace more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities.”
Google said it would open an office in Atlanta this year and continue to develop and expand office space in Austin and New York. It added that it planned to continue investing in data centers in Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, among other states.

As part of the announcement, Google said it expected to create at least 12,000 new full-time jobs at the company this year.

Google and other tech companies were among the first businesses to shift to remote work when the pandemic hit in early 2020. But that shift always appeared to be temporary. Like others in Silicon Valley, Google had previously invested billions in expansive campuses and lavish office benefits for workers.

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Lagos Assembly kicks against harassment of residents by police

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Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, yesterday, cautioned police in the state against harassment, intimidation and extortion of residents.

Obasa said this on the floor of the House when lawmakers honoured outgoing Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, who has been promoted to Assistant Inspector-General, and is due to retire in January 2022.

Obasa said Odumosu was honoured as the first Commissioner of Police in the state to stand before the lawmakers and address Lagosians on his experience policing the state.

The Speaker thanked Odumosu for his openness and responsiveness to issues affecting the peace of the state.

“It is important to call on those behind you to know that the relationship between the police and the people need to be constantly improved upon,” Obasa said, adding that men of the Nigeria Police Force need to build more trust among the people.

“Everybody must be treated with respect, dignity and honour. And that is how we can earn respect. Policing should not be about harassment and extortion but building trust among the people and making them comfortable,” Obasa said.

The Commissioner of Police, who led a team of officers to the House, thanked the lawmakers for their support. According to him, nothing could have been achieved in terms of security and peace in the state without assistance of the House.

He said he would remain grateful to Lagosians for making it possible for him and his team to effectively manage the security of the state.

Odumosu, who described Lagos as ‘mini-Nigeria’, said proactivity of the Assembly led to the creation of laws that helped the police remain successful in the state.

He said the Cultism Prohibition Law also helped to reduce illegal associations in tertiary institutions in the state and enlightened property owners and residents.

“We promise to continue to excel in providing watertight security for people of the state,” he told the lawmakers. He also promised he would encourage his successor to sustain the relationship between the police and the House, while urging the lawmakers to extend their support to his successor.

“Policing Lagos is not a tea party. Without the laws in Lagos, it would have been difficult to police the state. Don’t get tired, don’t relent in making laws that would make Lagos maintain its place as the most peaceful state in Nigeria,” he said.

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Omicron: Govts may shut down schools; 647m children yet to fully resume

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THE World Bank has said that the new wave of COVID-19 pandemic that has seen a variant of the virus, Omicron, ravaging the world, may lead to governments across the globe being tempted to shut down schools again.

The World Bank has said this in a report titled: “Reversing the pandemic’s education losses”, recently released.

In the said report, the bank also said no fewer than 647 million school children are yet to fully resume for either physical or online learning.

It added that school children in developing nations are the hardest hit regarding the negative effects the pandemic has had on education globally.

“When schools around the world moved online due to COVID-19, children in developing countries suffered the most.

“Even though digital learning does not produce the same outcomes as in-person education, technology used effectively can close educational gaps and prevent learning loss.

“As the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches, classrooms remain fully or partially closed for as many as 647 million schoolchildren around the world.

“Even where schools have reopened, many students continue to lag behind. It is now abundantly and painfully clear that children have learned less during the pandemic.”

According to World Bank estimates, pandemic-related school closures could drive up “learning poverty” – the share of 10-year-olds who cannot read a basic text – to around 70% in low- and middle-income countries.

This learning loss could cost an entire generation of schoolchildren $17 trillion in lifetime earnings.

“As the Omicron variant takes hold, more governments may be tempted to close schools. Without the online infrastructure in place to support learning, doing so would extend the educational losses and deny children many other benefits of daily school attendance, like the possibility to connect with classmates and develop social skills for personal growth.

“Interactions with teachers and peers are essential to develop the abilities necessary to work collaboratively. Being part of a class promotes a sense of belonging and helps build self-esteem and empathy.

“Throughout the pandemic, marginalised children have struggled the most. When classrooms around the world reopened this fall, it became clear that these children had fallen even further behind their peers.

“Before the pandemic, gender parity in education was improving. But school closures placed an estimated 10 million more girls at risk of early marriage, which practically guarantees the end of their schooling.

“Unless this regression is reversed, learning poverty and the associated human capital loss will hold economies and societies back for decades. Children must be given a chance to recover the education they have lost.

“They need access to well-designed reading materials, digital learning opportunities, and transformed education systems that help prepare them for future challenges. Well qualified teachers and effective use of technology are fundamental to this process.

“Many countries have deployed massive stimulus packages in response to the health crisis. But, as of June 2021, less than three per cent of these funds was devoted to the education and training sector.

“And most of these resources were spent in advanced economies. For many low-income countries, elevated debt-service payments crowd out essential social spending – including for education.

“The resulting weakness in investments to support education and training threatens to deepen the disparities in learning outcomes that existed prior to the pandemic.

“And while narrowing the education gap will require using resources more efficiently, the bottom line is that more resources are needed.

“For the world’s poorest countries, in particular, an acceleration in debt relief under the G20’s Common Framework, would provide fiscal space to increase support for human capital.

Investment in education must include funding for educational technology, taking into account what has worked well in different contexts around the world,” the report said.

The Bank called for improved investment in infrastructure to move education to the digital level and commended countries such as Uruguay and India for making giant strides in that direction.

“By investing in learning recovery and using technology wisely, it is possible to use the pandemic experience as a catalyst to improve education for all children.

“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank Group are working together to ensure that all education systems use technology effectively to close gaps and help reverse learning losses.

“Embedding the use of technology within an overall strategy for ending learning poverty can help improve foundational skills, increase instructional time, and make the most efficient use of resources.

“This is particularly critical in low-income countries, where technology can provide teachers with the support they need quickly.

“Digital access can serve as a great equalizer. Resources must be invested wisely, taking into account countries’ electricity infrastructure, internet connectivity, digitally enabled devices for the most disadvantaged students, and data-management and implementation capacity.

“Without a carefully considered process to increase the use of technology, good intentions and well-designed policies will fail to achieve the recovery and acceleration of learning that developing countries need.

Access to quality education was uneven before the pandemic, and now it is even more so.

“By investing in learning recovery and using technology wisely, it is possible to use the pandemic experience as a catalyst to improve education for all children,” the report added

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