In the end, it really isn't a surprise.Maybe the timing is unexpected, but Prince Harry and Meghan's reported move to California in recent days seems likely to have been the inevitable end goal for the couple who this week officially started their life outside the senior ranks of the Royal Family."They were always heading to L.A. That was the master plan," Katie Nicholl, Vanity Fair's royal correspondent, said via email.But as with so much else in the world right now, the coronavirus pandemic may have prompted a change in their plans, and moved up the timing of their departure from Vancouver Island, where they had been living with their young son, Archie, since November."I think with North America shutting down because of COVID, they decided to move to California sooner," said Nicholl."Meghan wants to be near her mum [who lives in Los Angeles], which is understandable at this time, and they clearly have projects in the pipeline and wanted to get to L.A. as quickly as possible."Still, it's a move that raised some eyebrows in the U.K., and leaves lingering questions about why they decamped so soon from Canada, which seemed to be in line as their temporary home at least for a little while as they seek to carve out a new life of financial independence."Their early announcements suggest that they might have hoped to undertake royal duties on a part-time basis, and a home in the Commonwealth might have been part of the plan if Prince Harry had retained his role as a Commonwealth youth ambassador," Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris said via email.But things didn't work out that way, with Harry giving up that role as part of the agreement for him and Meghan stepping back from official duties."Instead, they are pursuing independent careers in addition to their philanthropy," said Harris, "and are following outside opportunities such as Meghan's recent project narrating the Disneynature documentary Elephant."That documentary is set to premiere on Disney+ on Friday, and has received mixed reviews in the U.K. media, with comments ranging from the Telegraph calling Meghan a "snug fit for this sweet nature doc" to the Guardian saying she adds "schmaltz" to the "Disney yarn." Thanks to CanadaHarris said the short duration of their stay in Canada is also "perhaps surprising" given the fact that their last public appearance as senior members of the Royal Family came at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey earlier this month, and they visited Canada House in London in January to express their thanks for the hospitality they had received while in Canada over the holidays.WATCH | Prince Harry and Jon Bon Jovi meet at Abbey Road StudiosThe move to California, according to various media reports, may have taken place about 10 days ago. It also raised questions in some quarters in the British media about whether the couple should have considered going back to the U.K., given the serious circumstances surrounding the pandemic, and came at the same time as Harry's father, Prince Charles, tested positive for the coronavirus. (He has since come out of self-isolation, and a palace official has said he is in good health, the BBC reported.)Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told Express.co.uk that the timing of their Hollywood move might be perceived by some as selfish.While the timing was driven by the "imminent closing" of the border between the U.S. and Canada, Fitzwilliams said "the image this will create is that they are on a journey for themselves at a time when their undoubted global reach could give some succour to others."Could have 'won praise'Fitzwilliams also suggested the couple missed an opportunity by not returning to the U.K. "If they had temporarily returned to Britain, whatever their personal feelings, this would have been a selfless move and it would have won universal praise."But returning to the U.K. might not have been easy — or perhaps realistic right now."Frogmore Cottage, their house in Windsor, would have been a very safe place to self-isolate, and Harry must, of course, be anxious about his father and his grandparents [Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip]," royal biographer Penny Junor, author of Prince Harry: Brother Soldier Son, said via email."But equally, Meghan's mother is in L.A. It must have been a tough choice, but having made their decision to step back, it would have been difficult to reverse that decision so quickly in order to show solidarity."Not right nowNicholl said she can't see Harry and Meghan moving back to the U.K. at the moment, given that they have just moved to L.A. "And with the royals in isolation, there isn't much they can do, although I suspect Harry will probably be feeling far from home right now," Nicholl said. "They won't want to take any risks by travelling, and their priority is to keep Archie settled and in a routine. I think they will come to the U.K. when it is safer to do so."There could also have been basic logistical challenges that kept them from crossing the Atlantic Ocean."A few weeks ago, a return to the United Kingdom certainly would have been a viable option for Harry and Meghan, but there are now fewer planes crossing the Atlantic because the United States has banned all but essential travel from the United Kingdom and Europe," said Harris.Such a trip could also have renewed focus on their travel, which was criticized last summer when they made four private jet flights within 11 days."If Harry and Meghan were to return to the United Kingdom at this time, they would likely attract criticism for travelling on a trans-Atlantic flight during a pandemic," said Harris.Other factors that could have played into the decision to go to California include questions of taxation and residency.Security considerations?"The decision to move to Los Angeles may also have been influenced by security considerations," said Harris. "During their time in Canada, Harry and Meghan received British and Canadian security, but they will engage private security services in the United States."President Donald Trump tweeted on the weekend that the U.S. wouldn't be paying for their security, and a spokesperson for the couple said they had no plans to ask for such support.As much as the move means Meghan, a former actor who grew up in Los Angeles, is back in familiar territory, questions also remain regarding Harry's feelings toward the move."I would be surprised if all of this has made Harry happy," said Junor.While he may be trying to make Meghan happy by taking her back to her home, her job and people she knows and loves, Harry is moving away from what is familiar to him, Junior suggested."But in so doing, he has left his home, his job and everyone he knows and loves. I fear there are going to be some very difficult times ahead for him."What's next for them isn't clear. In a social media post earlier this week, they told supporters "you've been great," and said they "look forward to reconnecting with you soon."
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s not just manufacturing that’s struggling with disrupted logistics. As more countries bring down the shutters to limit the spread of the coronavirus, risks are rising for the world's complex food supply networks. Snarl-ups in processing and transport could result in painful price spikes for many fresh goods, even if farms in developed markets can keep working through the outbreak.The picture isn’t all gloomy. On a global scale, stocks of corn, wheat, soybeans and rice are healthier than before previous periods of food inflation. While some prices have been heading higher, increases aren’t across the board. Sugar and corn have been held back by reduced demand from biofuels producers as oil plummets. Low fertilizer and crude prices, meanwhile, will help offset other rising costs for farmers.Yet with infection rates rising there are worrying signs of fraying nerves, as countries engage in their own version of the toilet paper panic. Kazakhstan has banned exports of buckwheat and wheat flour to preserve domestic supplies. Russia, the world’s top wheat shipper, could limit some sales overseas, a threat that has already pushed up prices. Vietnam, meanwhile, is stockpiling rice and has suspended new export contracts. During the 2006-08 spike, such behavior accounted for 45% of the increase in rice prices, and almost a third for wheat, according to a study published by the World Bank.For now, such protectionism isn’t the norm. Kazakhstan, after all, accounts for less than 5% of wheat exports. And cereal harvests are looking decent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects global wheat production to rise almost 5% this year, while rice is seen as stable. Still, supply of key products is concentrated. With restrictions dragging on and more countries scrambling to contain the virus, the resilience of the world’s shopping basket will face further tests.After years of low food inflation, several factors were already pushing up bills before the coronavirus pandemic: severe droughts in Southeast Asia and Australia; an African swine fever outbreak in China that decimated the world’s largest pork producer; and, more recently, swarms of locusts in Kenya, Pakistan, India and beyond. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said in January that, left unchecked, the number of crop-munching insects could increase 500 times by June. One desert locust can eat its own weight in a day — about 2 grams — and swarms contain hundreds of millions.While prices are still well below 2008 or 2011, there are glimpses of how quickly the situation could change. Chinese food prices surged more than a fifth in January from a year earlier as the epidemic took hold, and pork prices more than doubled. Rice is already feeling the combined impact of drought, rising demand from stockpiling households and export restrictions. Prices for standard Thai white rice have risen for six straight weeks, to more than $500 a metric ton, the highest level since 2013. Such gains encourage more beggar-my-neighbor economic policies, to the detriment of all.Then there are bottlenecks caused by virus restrictions. Deliveries and logistics have caused trouble since the outbreak began. Transpacific shipping troubles hampered exports to China from the U.S.; in China, livestock producers struggled even within the country, finding themselves unable to get feed, and then blocked from sending poultry and eggs to market. It’s a problem that could easily repeat itself elsewhere. Coffee traders are already warning of disruptions: Closures in Brazil, El Salvador and Colombia, and missing stevedores, are driving the volatility.Labor is an additional concern. Virus restrictions prevent workers such as distributors and pickers from moving across borders. Laborers migrating to farms in France, or heading to pick fruit in Australia, may find it harder unless they are already in place. France’s agriculture minister last week encouraged unemployed people to go to work on farms; it’s unclear how many can or will heed his call, and at what price.Workers also face the risk of getting ill. That particularly threatens more labor-intensive corners of the industry, such as palm oil plantations or meat processing plants, as Aurelia Britsch, head of commodities research at Fitch Solutions, points out. In both, contaminated workers have already proved disruptive. Malaysia’s biggest palm-producing state, Sabah, has closed down operations in several districts until mid-April after some workers fell sick.In much of the world, preemptive policies can keep things moving. China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, for example, brought in incentives for sowing and mechanization in early February, as well as support for livestock farming, and “green channels” to help the movement of feed, breeding animals and produce. Governments can encourage trade, rather than nation-level hoarding. As the virus spreads, wealthier countries may also need to support developing ones, especially those hit by elevated import bills and weakened currencies. Disruptions will be inevitable. A global food crisis doesn’t have to be.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Clara Ferreira Marques is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities and environmental, social and governance issues. Previously, she was an associate editor for Reuters Breakingviews, and editor and correspondent for Reuters in Singapore, India, the U.K., Italy and Russia.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
- PoliticsThe Daily Beast
For weeks now, I’ve been worried about Joe Biden. Yes, the deadly coronavirus presents serious political problems for Donald Trump (despite his current glowing approval ratings, this crisis undermines the one thing he had going for him: a good economy), but consider how quickly the pandemic killed the Joe-mentum. It wasn’t that long ago that Joe, not COVID-19, was the talk of the town—and rightly so. After a campaign season when Biden barely managed to tread water, and when we nearly wrote him off on the heels of pathetic performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, suddenly Joe came roaring back with a stunning victory in South Carolina that propelled him to a huge Super Tuesday. How Joe Biden Will Counteract Trump's Virus Media CircusThe world was Joe’s oyster, baby—but that turned out to be a turning point in the news cycle. I know this because Super Tuesday was also the last time that I was invited to appear on cable news as a political commentator (in the Trump era, turns out, I should have become an FBI agent, lawyer... or a virologist).By the time Super Tuesday II (or whatever we’re calling it) came along, Biden’s miraculous turnaround was already headline story number II, taking a backseat to (deservedly) breathless pandemic coverage. By March 10, when Biden crushed Bernie Sanders in Michigan, Missouri, and elsewhere, out of the abundance of caution, he would be delivering his “victory” speeches to empty rooms. Talk about anticlimactic. Biden had waited 22 years to win his first presidential primary on Feb. 29. For the first time in his life, he was a candidate for president who was generating excitement and enthusiasm. And that lasted about 15 minutes. Emergencies change everything. Despite the misinformation Donald Trump regularly spews, he is (by virtue of being president) relevant. So are governors. Every day they hold press conferences and “make” news. They trot out experts and recite stats about the number of N95 respirators or surgical masks they need—or they talk about releasing their needed supplies from some (magical?) place called the “national stockpile.” During an emergency, they don flak jackets, NYPD baseball caps, or crisp polos with embroidered emergency logos. You’ve probably heard the scuttlebutt about Andrew Cuomo replacing Biden on the Democratic ticket. At least half of that is attributable to his outfit.So, while Trump and Cuomo were holding their daily press conferences, Biden was holed up (like the rest of us), wearing a dark suit (unlike any of us), staring warily into a computer camera (like the rest of us), positioned bizarrely behind a podium (unlike... anyone?). And now, while the president and governors are out there being relevant, Joe Biden is (like the rest of us) desperately trying to promote a podcast. At first glance, this seems a sad, if unfortunate, development for a guy who has been through so much and was seemingly on the verge of parlaying his moment into a movement. But I’m starting to think that it might work out for him. Initially, I thought social distancing would be politically salutary for Biden, and not just for the obvious reason that after the “rally around the flag” effect wears off, presidents are usually blamed for what happens on their watch, especially when their lack of experience or competence leads to a botched response and lots of people die. A quarantine, I suspected, would allow Biden to run a sort of front-porch campaign where he could present a highly “curated” (read more coherent and robust) and choreographed image. That theory lasted a day or so. After that, I started to notice that Biden was becoming an afterthought. I became convinced that he simply had to find ways to be in the news cycle every day. He could run shadow briefings! He could form a shadow government with a shadow Dr. Fauci and a shadow Dr. Birx. He could wear his own “emergency casual” uniform. He (sort of) tried some version of that. But when he floundered, it struck me as just more confirmation that “sleepy Joe” had “lost a step” and wasn’t capitalizing on the moment. And then, it hit me. Joe Biden should social distance even more. He should recede into the background like Homer Simpson backing into the shrubs, only to reemerge tanned and rested after Labor Day. (As Andrew Card said, ''You don't introduce new products in August.”) He should embrace The 4-Hour Work Week. Now, I know that this thought process seems insane. It has become axiomatic you should never pass up a chance to have sex or be on TV. It has become political wisdom that you concede nothing. That you hustle. That (as Al Pacino might yell during a particularly motivational half-time speech), “We can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell. One inch at a time!” There is wisdom in that. But sometimes, like the bamboo, it’s wiser to go with the flow. Yes, this theory of passive resistance goes against our human pretensions, which push us to believe that, by virtue of our efforts—our work—we have some semblance of control over our own fate. Like Boxer in Animal Farm, we want to believe that all our problems will be solved if we just work harder. What is more, it contradicts an assumption, which suggests media personalities and political leaders gain public support (and attention) by virtue of accretion and exposure. Like lifting weights to get stronger, we think that to become popular means you must put in the daily work and gradually gain a fanbase. But is this true? Citing a decades-old observation called the Feiler faster thesis, my former colleague Mickey Kaus recently argued that news cycles have sped up and that humans can process information quicker than most people realize. “Biden can wait until September, or whenever the conventions are, and then, he can gin up a huge publicity ‘Biden for president’ campaign,” Kaus said. “He doesn’t have to be omnipresent in our attention now in order to do that, then.” This reminds me of an old story. Heading into the 1968 Republican primary contest, Richard Nixon announced a six-month moratorium from politics. In 2014, former Nixon aide Pat Buchanan described it to me as an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” approach. Interestingly, it also had the effect of overexposing Nixon’s rival, George Romney. When a skeptical Buchanan questioned Nixon on the wisdom of this disappearing act, Nixon advised: “Let [the media] chew on [Romney] for a little while.” Kaus’s theory suggests that the Nixon example might now work in a general election. And in a world where conventional wisdom and historical precedent all seem so passe, he may well be correct. Certainly, the media aren’t averse to chewing on Trump. To be sure, a primary isn’t a general election—and George Romney ain’t Donald J. Trump. But the absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder strategy is probably underrated and, largely, untried. So why not try it?It is, perhaps, ironic, but the Chinese proverb about “crisis” also meaning “opportunity” seems apropos. Laying low may be Joe Biden’s best strategy—and it’s one that wouldn’t be possible were it not for social distancing.My best advice for Joe may be this: Don’t just do something, stand there!Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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Nurse and first responder get married in socially distanced backyard wedding: 'We aren’t promised tomorrow'
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