版权所有 - 中国日报�(ChinaDaily) China Daily <![CDATA[US top officials linked to Ukraine probes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524825.htm Sondland implicates Pompeo and Pence: 'Everyone was in the loop'

WASHINGTON - The US ambassador to the European Union testified that top officials of the administration of President Donald Trump were involved in efforts to pressure Ukraine to conduct two probes that would benefit Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

The envoy, Gordon Sondland, in the fourth day of public hearings in an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, said he "followed the president's orders" to work with Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer.

The efforts by Giuliani to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former US vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter "were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit" for the Ukrainian leader, Sondland said.

Sondland also depicted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as engaged in attempts to make the investigations happen, including one targeting the Bidens. Sondland also said US Vice-President Mike Pence was aware of the efforts.

"Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret," Sondland said in reference to an email he sent on July 19 to top US officials before the July 25 telephone call between Trump and Zelensky that triggered the impeachment hearings by the House Intelligence Committee.

Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were among the recipients of the email, in which Sondland discussed Zelensky's willingness to "run a fully transparent investigation".

In the July 25 call, Trump asked Zelensky to carry out two investigations. One involved Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, who was on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The other involved a theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

Sondland described Trump in May telling him, along with Perry and then-US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, to work with Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, on Ukraine policy.

"We did not want to work with Mr Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders," Sondland said.

Sondland said he told Pence he was concerned that the freezing of $391 million in security aid to Ukraine was part of the pressure campaign. The aid had been approved by Congress to help Ukraine fight separatists backed by Russia. Pence's chief of staff denies the conversation took place.

Sondland also testified that the president did not directly ask for a quid pro quo. "Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the investigations," Sondland said. "The aid was my own personal guess based, again, on your analogy, two plus two equals four."

As both sides spun Sondland's testimony, Democrats focused on his implication of top White House officials, while Republicans sought to emphasize the lack of a direct demand by Trump.

"I believe I just asked him (Trump) an open-ended question," Sondland said, in response to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is presiding over the inquiry. "What do you want from Ukraine?

"'I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.' Something to that effect," Sondland said Trump had replied.

Trump, in a visit on Wednesday to an Apple assembly plant in Austin, Texas, railed against the impeachment proceedings and the media and praised the strength of the US economy.

"Some of the fair press, of which there isn't too much, said 'this (impeachment) thing is over'," Trump said. "We have a phony press. They're dishonest."

The investigation could lead the Democratic-led House to approve formal charges against Trump - called articles of impeachment - that would be sent to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial on whether to remove him from office. Few Republican senators have broken with Trump.

 

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2019-11-22 07:41:20
<![CDATA[Smoke blankets Sydney amid spreading wildfires]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524824.htm PERTH, Australia - Hazardous smoke blanketed Sydney on Thursday as wildfires burned across eastern and southern Australia.

Thick smog shrouded the country's most populous city for another day, leaving its iconic skyline barely visible two days after smoke created serious air quality issues.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service said the smoke came from around 50 wildfires burning mainly in northern parts of the state. Air pollution levels were reading nearly 10 times higher than the national standard.

"The smoke is expected to continue for several days," the fire service said.

Wildfires have destroyed more than 600 houses in Australia's most populous state.

The annual Australian fire season normally peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, but has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

People with respiratory or heart conditions were advised to stay indoors and seek medical advice when necessary.

The fire danger has spread, with the authorities declaring a high-fire risk for parts of Victoria state to the south. It is the first time in a decade Victoria has been declared Code Red, with the highest fire risk and a statewide total fire ban.

Temperatures were forecast to exceed 40 C in the state's north.

Melbourne, Australia's second-most populous city, is forecast on Thursday to hit 39 C after falling just short of its hottest November minimum at 26 C overnight.

Victoria Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp warned Victorians to be vigilant. "Given fires could start and move quickly, you won't always receive a warning or be told what to do if a fire starts," he said.

The fire danger was also elevated to "severe" in the island state of Tasmania, off mainland Australia's southeastern coast, while more than 40 wildfires have broken out in South Australia.

Meanwhile, an online fundraiser for koalas injured in devastating bushfires topped A$1 million ($680,000) on Thursday, making it Australia's biggest campaign on the GoFundMe platform this year.

A crowdfunding page set up by the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital to provide automatic water drinking stations for wild koalas soared past A$1 million, with donations from more than 20,000 people from countries including the United States, France and England.

The wildlife charity's Help Thirsty Koalas Devastated by Recent Fires drive, which had an initial goal of just A$25,000, got more donations than any other campaign in Australia this year, GoFundMe said, and is the second-biggest since the platform launched in Australia in 2016.

It is one of 700 bushfire-related fundraisers launched on the platform in the past 10 days, which to date have raised a combined A$2 million.

The next-biggest online appeal has raised A$60,000 to support firefighters and people affected by the blazes.

The koala hospital, nearly four hours' drive north of Sydney, has rescued 31 koalas from the scorched bush in recent weeks, and said it had been "overwhelmed by the kindness, good wishes and support from the Australian and international community".

It plans to use the excess funds to deliver koala drinking stations to other parts of the state, purchase a water-carrying vehicle to replenish the stations, and to establish a koala breeding program.

 

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2019-11-22 07:41:20
<![CDATA[Strong quake strikes near Thai-Lao border]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524823.htm

BANGKOK - A 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit a border area between northern Thailand and Laos on Thursday morning, with tremors felt in the Thai province of Nan bordering Laos.

Somsak Khawsuwan, director-general of the Thai Meteorological Department, said on TV that more than 100 small and large tremors had occurred in neighboring Laos since 11 pm on Wednesday.

Somsak also said the major quake was recorded at 6:50 am on Thursday, 3 kilometers below the surface.

Local media reported that the quake was strongly felt by people in Thailand's north and northeast and even by residents of high-rise buildings in the capital Bangkok.

Thai TV images showed collapsed makeshift houses in Nan Province. A Border Patrol Police academy announced the closure of a school on Thursday as a result of partially collapsed roofs and ceilings.

TV footage showed cracks on the wall of a 500-year-old temple hall in Nan Province. Meanwhile, broken glass was seen at a local bank.

There were no immediate reports of damage after the earthquake. However, even residents in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi said they felt buildings sway. "The ceiling lights were shaking quite strongly. I felt dizzy and scared," said Hanoi resident Tran Hoa Phuong, who felt the earthquake in her 27-story apartment building, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Xinhua News Agency reported that Laos-China Railway Co Ltd, which is in charge of the construction of the China-Laos railway running through northern Laos, said that the railway construction was not affected by the earthquake.

The 414-km railway, with tunneled sections totaling 198 kilometers and bridges covering 62 km, will run from Boten, on the northern border with China, to Vientiane, with an operating speed of 160 km/h.

Bounphak Inthapanya, deputy governor of the Xayabury Province, told reporters with online newspaper Vientiane Times that all the districts of the province might be affected by the earthquake, with Hongsa district being the worst hit.

"Some buildings were damaged, but the provincial government has not received a detailed report of damage and casualties," he said.

The deputy governor also said that the provincial government has dispatched officials to every district to collect information on the impact of the quake.

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2019-11-22 07:41:20
<![CDATA[Bolivian interim leader proposes new elections]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524822.htm

LA PAZ, Bolivia - Bolivia's Jeanine Anez, leader of an interim government supported by the opposition, sent a bill on holding new elections to the legislature on Wednesday, amid escalating violence that has claimed at least 30 lives over the past month.

The unrest stems from the disputed results of a general election on Oct 20 and the subsequent resignation of Evo Morales as president and his political exile.

Officials raised the death toll by eight a day after security forces cleared a blockade of a fuel plant by anti-government protesters in the city of El Alto, near La Paz.

The demonstrators had tried to blow up the plant with explosives, which could have caused a "massive tragedy", interim Defense Minister Fernando Lopez said.

Bolivia has been in turbulence since last month. Morales resigned on Nov 10 after weeks of protests and pressure from the security forces, but his supporters oppose the interim government that took his place.

The bill that Anez sent to the legislature on Wednesday would allow the scheduling of new elections, without providing a date.

"This bill can be perfected and serve as a basis for consensus," she said at a news conference. She was referring to the legislators of Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party, which has a majority in congress.

The bill also calls for the creation of a new Supreme Electoral Tribunal, or TSE, to oversee the process.

Anez, a conservative lawmaker, declared herself interim president after Morales and vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera resigned.

Interim Justice Minister Alvaro Coimbra said the bill submitted to lawmakers has "three main objectives", which were recommended by the Organization of American States and the European Union: to declare the results of the Oct 20 elections null and void, call for new elections, and designate new members to the TSE.

The bill speeds up the usual procedure by calling for the members of the electoral body to be designated within 15 days of the law's approval.

If the bill fails to win approval in the Legislative Assembly, with the left-leaning Movement Towards Socialism holding its majority, the interim government said it would resort to holding elections by decree.

Morales is in Mexico, which granted him political asylum. His supporters continue to protest his ouster.

He has criticized the Organization of American States, whose investigators concluded there were flaws in last month's election. In Washington, the organization passed a resolution to help Bolivia hold elections quickly.

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2019-11-22 07:41:20
<![CDATA[Windier world powers up green prospects]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524821.htm A study involving scientists from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen has given a boost to the wind-powered energy industry after revealing that wind speeds around the world have increased in the past 10 years.

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Cleaner electricity in store after study with Chinese input logs faster winds

A study involving scientists from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen has given a boost to the wind-powered energy industry after revealing that wind speeds around the world have increased in the past 10 years.

Since the 1970s, a process known as global terrestrial stilling meant that wind speeds had been decreasing, but research by the team in Cardiff, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, confirms that not only has the trend been reversed, but the increase since 2010 is three times greater than the previous rate of decline.

"This rapid increase in global wind speeds is certainly good news for the power industry," said Adrian Chappell, from the Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

"The reversal in global terrestrial stilling bodes well for the expansion of large-scale and efficient wind-power generation systems in these mid-latitude countries in the near future."

Zeng Zhenzhong from Shenzhen, who also worked on the project during his time at Princeton University, said this would be good news for turbine electricity.

"This terrestrial stilling has been considered a potential drag on the future of wind power," he told website Mashable, but added that the way oceanic circulation patterns affected wind speed meant there was the potential for the improvement to be undone in the future.

"We predict that the increasing wind speed trend will continue for 10 years, but we also show that because this is caused by ocean-atmosphere oscillations, maybe a decade later it will reverse again."

Given the positive impact of wind power, Zeng said that ironically the study may shed light on the importance of climate change in affecting changing wind speeds, although the idea needed further investigation.

"We believe our study advances (the) understanding on how climate change affects wind, and we appeal for more scientists to focus on this important climate variable," he said. "The study of wind can also shed light on the dynamic mechanisms of climate change."

Chappell said the study's findings underlined the importance of wind power in helping achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, and fighting global warming.

"The development of renewable energy sources is central to keeping warming below 2 C," he said. "One megawatt of wind power reduces 1,300 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and saves 2,000 liters of water compared with other energy sources."

Simon Daniel, CEO of smart clean technology company Moixa, said the topic was of particular interest to islands such as the UK.

"The global increase in wind speeds will affect islands more than anywhere else," he said.

"Here in the UK, we must lead the world as a smart energy island and harness increasing wind speeds to expand renewable energy generation. Using AI to intelligently store and export the increased output from wind farms to electric vehicles and home batteries can deliver a resilient, economic energy system that hits our 2050 net-zero goals," said Daniel, referring to artificial intelligence.

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2019-11-22 07:40:34
<![CDATA[Recycling of plastic gets a boost]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524820.htm

SYDNEY - Although plastic is a strong, cheap and hygienic material, its durability presents major problems when it comes to the environment.

Since plastic does not decompose when buried and casts off toxic smoke when burned, the global community has been struggling to find an effective way to recycle and reuse it.

Often a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, sorting through different types of plastic materials at recycling facilities can be extremely difficult.

But Licella, an Australian company, may have found a viable way.

"So the process works by taking heat and cutting the plastic into small pieces," said University of Sydney Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, who created the groundbreaking solution along with CEO Len Humphreys.

"The plastic goes from a solid to a wax, to a liquid, to a gas, and that process is called pyrolysis," he said.

Researchers have been looking into pyrolysis for a number of years as a way to solve the plastic crisis.

But success eluded them because the process gives rise to an unstable oil with a very low liquid yield that's mostly unusable.

By employing a new technique involving something scientists call "supercritical water", Maschmeyer and the team at Licella have managed to make it work.

Most people know water in the form of a solid, liquid or gas. Gas can become so compressed that it acts like a liquid at a certain temperature and pressure, which is a state called supercritical.

"So what happens is, the water suddenly changes from steam into a solvent that dissolves things ... and we're able to activate the hydrogen in the water and it then reacts with the decomposing plastic and then we add (more) hydrogen to the decomposing plastic to stabilize it," Maschmeyer said.

As a result, the liquid yields are between 80 and 90 percent, making the process extremely viable economically.

The finished product can then be turned into new plastics, diesel gas oils, industrial waxes and even road bitumen.

Maschmeyer said the company, already with a demonstration plant in Sydney, is now set to launch its first commercial facility in Britain next year.

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2019-11-22 07:40:34
<![CDATA[Trump to hear views on vaping after stepping back from ban]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524819.htm US President Donald Trump was scheduled to meet with vaping industry representatives and medical experts on Friday after he backed off from a nationwide ban on flavored e-cigarettes that had sparked opposition from manufacturers of vaping products and those who use them.

"There is a serious problem among our youth and their growing addiction to e-cigarettes," the White House said on Wednesday in a statement. "The policy-making process is not stalled - it continues to move forward."

Along with state officials, representatives of advocacy groups and medical associations will also attend the meeting.

In September, Trump said he was considering a ban on the sale of most flavored nicotine e-cigarettes that appeal to teenagers.

But earlier this month, the US president delayed the ban on sweet, fruit-flavored e-cigarette pods after pushback from vape shop owners, e-cigarette users and advisers who said prohibiting the products would damage his 2020 election prospects in key swing states.

Trump has said he favors raising the minimum age for purchasing vaping products from 18 to 21, a position favored by Juul Labs, the market leader in the sector.

In the US, about 2,100 people have gotten sick from vaping, and 42 have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reported.

More than 27.5 percent of high school students in the US have used e-cigarettes, up from 20.7 percent in 2018, the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey found.

Many who have become ill due to the use of e-cigarettes said they also vaped products that contained THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana that gives users a "high" or "buzz". Such products often contain vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent. The link to illness isn't conclusive, and more research is needed, the CDC said.

Juul, which holds about 70 percent of the e-cigarette market in the US and is the target of several federal investigations, has said that it has stopped accepting orders for most flavored pods in the US and has suspended all broadcast, print and digital advertising.

Lawsuits filed against Juul this week by the attorneys general of New York and California allege that the company deliberately marketed and sold vaping products to young people and helped create a public health crisis.

The lawsuits allege that the company specifically targeted young people with deceptive advertising featuring flavors like mango, cool mint and cucumber. They charge that the company failed to warn customers that the products contain nicotine, misrepresented them as a safer alternative to cigarettes and illegally sold them to minors. The attorney general of North Carolina announced a similar lawsuit in May.

The American Medical Association, or AMA, has called for an immediate ban on all electronic cigarettes and vaping devices not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, to help people quit using tobacco.

So far, no vaping products have been reviewed or approved for that use by the FDA.

Members of the AMA, the largest national association of medical doctors, voted on Tuesday in San Diego to request that federal and state governments prohibit the general sale of vaping and e-cigarette products not approved as cessation products. They said the products should be available only by prescription.

The medical association also recommended more study on the use of drug and non-drug treatments to deal with nicotine addiction. The doctors called for diagnostic codes for e-cigarette and vaping associated illnesses, which would help researchers better identify patients with lung injuries stemming from vaping.

Some criticized the association's proposal, saying legal tobacco products have been proven to cause more health problems than e-cigarettes.

Last week, the Massachusetts state House of Representatives voted to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products and to impose a 75 percent excise tax on the sales of e-cigarettes. The state Senate is expected to take up the measure soon.

In September, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker had banned the sale of all vaping products for four months after declaring a public health emergency.

Proponents say such a ban and tax would discourage children and teenagers from vaping and help prevent them from becoming hooked on nicotine.

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2019-11-22 07:40:34
<![CDATA[Camel herding in Western Sahara: A passion with pedigree and new tech]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/22/content_37524818.htm DAKHLA, Western Sahara - In the Oued Eddahab desert in Western Sahara, Habiboullah Dlimi raises dairy and racing camels just like his ancestors used to - but with a little help from modern technology.

His animals roam free in the desert and are milked by hand as camels always have been, at dawn and dusk.

When camels "feed on wild plants and walk all day, the milk is much better," said the 59-year-old herder, rhapsodizing about the benefits of the nutrient-rich drink, known as the "source of life" for nomads.

But Dlimi no longer lives with his flock.

He lives in town with his family. His camels are watched over by hired herders and Dlimi follows GPS coordinates across the desert in a 4X4 vehicle to reach his charges.

He is reticent when asked about the size of his herd. "That would bring bad luck," he said.

He prefers to speak of the gentleness and friendliness of the animals he knows like his own children.

"Camels can endure everything: sun, wind, sand and lack of water, and if they could talk, you'd easily hear how intelligent they are," he said.

Dlimi comes from a long line of desert dwellers from the Ouled Dlimi tribe.

As tradition dictates, he lists his ancestors going back five generations when introducing himself.

"I know the desert and the desert knows me," he said.

Like elsewhere, the nomads of Western Sahara are settling, following a shift from rural to urban living.

"Young people prefer to stay in town," Dlimi said, and herders now mostly come from neighboring Mauritania, whose desert north is traversed by caravans of up to a thousand camels.

Even they "often demand to work in areas covered by (mobile phone) network signal", he added.

The population of the nearby town of Dakhla has tripled to 100,000 in 20 years, with growth driven by fishing, tourism and greenhouse farming encouraged by Moroccan authorities.

'Eight-time champion'

While Dlimi loves the desert, he does have one complaint: "The camel dairy industry is valued everywhere in the world except here."

Camel milk is trendy with health-conscious consumers and the lean meat is excellent, Dlimi claims.

Today though, it is small livestock farming that is the main agricultural focus, in response to what nonnomadic Moroccans tend to eat.

The 266,000 square kilometers of Western Sahara under Moroccan control host nearly 6,000 herders, 105,000 camels, and 560,000 sheep and goats, according to figures from Rabat.

In other arid countries, including Saudi Arabia, intensive farming of camels has taken off.

But, while Moroccan authorities have undertaken several studies into developing Western Sahara's camel industry, none so far has been acted upon.

Regardless, a local adage holds that he who has no camel, has nothing.

"Some say that Saharans are crazy because when they have money they spend it on four feet," Dlimi jokes.

For him, 20,000 dirhams ($2,000) spent on a camel is a safe investment.

But it is also a consuming passion.

His Facebook page and WhatsApp messages are filled with talk of camel husbandry techniques, research and racing.

Racing "is a pleasure and it pays", Dlimi said.

Since the United Arab Emirates funded construction of a camel racing track at Tantan, 900 kilometers to the north, racing animals have appreciated in value and can sell for up to 120,000 dirhams, according to Dlimi.

To train his racing camels, Dlimi chases the young animals across the desert in his 4X4 truck.

The technique has made his camels eight-time champions in national competitions, he said.

But camels can be stubborn, Dlimi stressed, recounting how he once sold his best champion for a "very good price", but the animal refused to race once it had changed hands.

 

A herder guides his camels in the desert near Dakhla in Western Sahara on Oct 13.Fadel Senna/afp

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2019-11-22 07:40:34
<![CDATA[Top adviser visits Laos to enhance ties]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524515.htm Wang Yang says China values high-level exchanges to deepen trust, spur projects

VIENTIANE - China's top political adviser Wang Yang has paid a visit to Laos during which he called for the implementation of a consensus reached by the leaders of the two neighbors to further enhance bilateral relations.

During his four-day stay, which began on Saturday, Wang, the chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, met with the General Secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party Central Committee and Lao President, Bounnhang Vorachit; Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith; and President of the National Assembly Pany Yathotou. Wang also held talks with the President of the Lao Front for National Construction, Xaysomphone Phomvihane.

When meeting with Bounnhang, Wang said the top leaders of the two parties and two countries signed an action plan in April on building a community with a shared future for China and Laos, providing important guidance for the future development of bilateral relations.

He said China is ready to work with Laos to enhance strategic communication on major bilateral issues, promote the synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative and Laos' strategy to transform itself from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub, together with the construction of the China-Laos Economic Corridor, and carry out comprehensive and institutionalized dialogue and exchanges at various levels.

Wang also briefed Bounnhang on the fourth plenary session of the 19th Communist Party of China Central Committee, saying China is willing to work with Laos to enhance experience exchanges in governance and jointly develop their socialist systems featuring different characteristics.

Bounnhang expressed his congratulations to China on its great achievements made in the past 70 years.

Hailing the traditionally friendly relations between Laos and China, Bounnhang said Laos stands ready to work with China to jointly implement the action plan on building a community with a shared future for China and Laos, facilitate frequent exchanges on the development of the ruling parties and their cadres at different levels, and enhance mutual support on issues regarding each other's major concerns. The country would also work with China to coordinate on major international and regional issues to promote a more comprehensive and higher quality development of bilateral relations, Bounnhang said.

In his talks with Xaysomphone, Wang said the China-Laos relationship has ushered in a new era under the leadership of the top leaders of the two parties and two countries.

China is ready to work with Laos to facilitate high-level exchanges, deepen political mutual trust, implement major industrial capacity, economic and trade cooperation projects, and take the China-Laos tourism year as an opportunity to expand tourism cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, said Wang.

He added that the CPPCC is willing to work with the Lao Front for National Construction to enhance exchanges at all levels and mutual learning to enrich the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

Xaysomphone said the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics is solid proof of the CPC's strategic vision and governance capacity.

Noting that Laos and China are enjoying their best relations ever, Xaysomphone said his country firmly supports the BRI, and is ready to work with China to deepen experience exchanges in governance and enhance all-around mutually beneficial cooperation.

During his meetings with Thongloun and Pany, Wang said the China-Laos relationship not only has a solid political foundation, but also has economic complementary advantages.

Underpinning friendship

China appreciates the policy and legal support provided by the Lao government and the National Assembly to promote bilateral cooperation, Wang said.

He called on the two sides to implement the consensus reached by leaders of the two parties and two countries, guarantee that the construction of the China-Laos railway be completed as scheduled, and to promote more social welfare projects as aid that will consolidate the foundations of public opinion underpinning the friendship between the two countries.

The Lao side said that the great achievements China has made in the past 70 years are solid proof of the superiority of the socialist system.

The Lao officials expressed appreciation for China's active role in international and regional affairs and voiced support for the measures China has taken to safeguard its core interests and national security.

Laos is willing to make it more convenient for Chinese companies to invest in the country, and for more Chinese tourists to visit, they said.

During his stay in Laos, Wang also met with Khamkhanh Chanthavisouk, secretary of the Luang Prabang Party Committee and governor of the Lao province, inspected the construction of the China-Laos Railway, attended a meeting with representatives of overseas Chinese in Laos and activities for the China-Laos tourism year. He laid a wreath at the statue of former Lao president Kaysone Phomvihane.

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2019-11-21 07:42:12
<![CDATA[Deaths reported after Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524514.htm JERUSALEM - Israeli fighter jets attacked dozens of sites in Syria in "a wide-scale" airstrike on Wednesday, retaliating against rocket fire from Syria a day earlier, the Israeli military said.

Syrian state media reported that two civilians were killed, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll was 11.

Seven were foreigners, the group's head Rami Abdel Rahman said, though he could not confirm whether they were all Iranian. Four civilians were also wounded, he added.

The Israeli military issued a statement saying the predawn strikes targeted sites belonging to the Iranian Quds Forces and the Syrian army near Damascus and in southwest Syria, near its disputed border with Israel.

The targets included surface-to-air missiles, headquarters, weapons warehouses, and military bases. Several Syrian aerial defense batteries were destroyed in the airstrikes, according to the military.

The Syrian army said in a statement that the Israeli fighter jets arrived from the Golan Heights and the Lebanese Marj Oyoun area.

"Our air defenses were able to intercept the hostile missiles, destroying most of them before reaching their targets," read the statement.

Syria's state SANA news agency said the two civilians were killed by shrapnel when an Israeli missile hit a house in the town of Saasaa, southwest of Damascus. It said several others were wounded, including a girl in a residential building in the suburb of Qudsaya, also west of the Syrian capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the strikes were a retaliation for four rockets that had been launched from Syria toward Israel on Tuesday. Israel's aerial defense systems intercepted the rockets.

Israel believed an Iran-backed Shiite militia was behind the rocket fire.

"I made it clear: Whoever harms us, we will harm them. That's what we did tonight," Netanyahu said early on Wednesday. "We will continue to aggressively protect Israel's security."

Israel's new hard-line Defense Minister Naftali Bennett issued an equally firm statement.

"The rules have changed: Whoever fires on Israel during the day will not sleep at night," he said. "Our message to the leaders of Iran is simple: You are no longer immune. Any place you dispatch your tentacles, we will chop them off."

The Israeli army said in a statement that it "holds the Syrian regime responsible for actions taken in its territory and warns it from operating or allowing hostilities against Israel", adding that further rockets will be answered with "a severe response".

"The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will continue operating firmly and resolutely against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria," the statement read, adding that the military is prepared for "various scenarios".

Russia condemned the attack.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted by TASS news agency as saying the operation "totally contradicts international law".

"We are going to examine the circumstances. All this is very bad," he added.

The strikes further highlight the sprawling tensions between Israel and Iran in Syria. Clashes between the two countries have escalated over the past months. Israel accuses Iran of entrenching itself near the Israeli border.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against Iranian targets and convoys transporting weapons to Hezbollah, an Iranbacked Lebanese militia.

 

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2019-11-21 07:20:38
<![CDATA[Philippine vapers warned of arrests after Duterte ban]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524513.htm

MANILA - Philippine police were ordered on Wednesday to arrest anyone caught vaping in public, just hours after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced a ban on e-cigarettes.

The abrupt prohibition, revealed by Duterte on Tuesday, adds to a growing global backlash against a product once promoted as less harmful than tobacco smoking.

Duterte, a former smoker, called the devices "toxic" and said vaping introduced "chemicals" into the user's body.

He ordered the arrest of anyone vaping publicly in a country that already has some of Asia's toughest anti-smoking rules.

No formal written order has been made public that spells out the scope of the ban or penalties for violations.

Duterte is known internationally for his anti-narcotics crackdown, but he has also targeted tobacco with a wide-ranging ban on smoking in public.

Citing "the order of the president", a statement from the head of the Philippine police on Wednesday ordered "effective today, all police units nationwide to enforce the ban on use of vapes; ensure that all violators will be arrested".

The ban came days after Philippine health authorities reported the nation's first vaping-related lung injury, which resulted in a 16-year-old girl being hospitalized.

Vaping has taken off in the Philippines, with speciality shops and vapers puffing away in public a common sight.

E-cigarettes warm flavored nicotine liquid to produce vapor that is free of the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, but does contain substances that could potentially be harmful.

Critics say that apart from being harmful in themselves, the multiple exotic flavors of e-cigarette liquids appeal particularly to youngsters and risk getting them addicted to nicotine.

The devices have become hugely popular in the past decade but a rash of vaping-linked deaths and illnesses in the United States is feeding caution about the product, already banned in some places.

In September, India became the latest country to ban the import, sale, production and advertising of e-cigarettes, citing in particular concerns for its youth.

The devices are already banned in several places such as Brazil, Singapore, Thailand and the US state of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, New York on Tuesday became the second US state this week to sue Juul Labs Inc, the largest e-cigarette manufacturer in the country, for illegally targeting minors with its marketing campaigns.

The lawsuits came as the vaping industry faces intense scrutiny over an epidemic of lung ailments linked to e-cigarette use that has killed more than 40 people and sickened more than 2,000 in recent months.

The New York action also came a day after California filed a similar lawsuit, accusing Juul of misleading consumers by misrepresenting its products as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes and of illegally selling to minors.

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2019-11-21 07:20:38
<![CDATA[Foreign waste taints Indonesian food chain]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524512.htm

Foreign plastic waste dumped in Indonesia is contaminating the country's food chain, according to an analysis by the International Pollutants Elimination Network, or IPEN.

Indonesia is one of several Southeast Asian nations to have experienced a large increase in garbage imports since China stopped accepting shipments of plastic waste in January 2018 on environmental grounds.

The IPEN conducted an analysis of free-range chicken eggs collected at two sites in Indonesia where imported plastic waste is dumped and used for fuel or burned to reduce volume.

Samples revealed that the eggs contained "significant levels of very hazardous chemicals" including dioxins, a group of chemical compounds that are toxic to humans.

"The second-highest level of dioxins in eggs from Asia ever measured was found in samples collected near a tofu factory in Tropodo that burns plastic waste for fuel," the IPEN said in its report.

Dioxins have been linked to reproductive and developmental problems and to conditions affecting the immune system.

The highest levels of dioxin ever recorded in eggs in Asia were in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, in 2012, near a former United States Army base where there were at least four major chemical weapon spills during the 1970s. The IPEN said the dioxin levels in the Tropodo eggs were only marginally lower than those from Bien Hoa.

An adult eating just one egg from a free-range chicken foraging in the vicinity of the tofu factory in Tropodo would exceed the European Food Safety Authority's tolerable daily intake for chlorinated dioxins by 70-fold, according to the IPEN.

Since the China ban, developed nations including the United Kingdom have been criticized for redirecting plastic waste exports to Southeast Asian nations that do not have the capacity to recycle all shipments.

Last year, Indonesia received 320,000 tons of plastic waste, up from the 128,000 tons it handled in 2017, according to the nation's trade ministry.

Between January and July last year, Malaysia received 456,000 tons of waste from overseas, compared with 316,600 tons for all of 2017, according to government trade data. Both the UK and the US doubled plastic waste exports to Malaysia during this period.

The UK government is carrying out a waste and resource consultation, and is considering changing producer responsibility regulations, in order to encourage more frugal packaging practices and to increase investment in domestic recycling.

Currently, businesses that produce plastic packaging are required to cover 10 percent of recycling costs, with the taxpayer and local authorities paying the rest. The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency, or EIA, is calling for businesses to take responsibility for the entire cost.

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2019-11-21 07:20:38
<![CDATA[UK TV debate draws titters from audience]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524511.htm Johnson, Corbyn square off on Brexit, health in head-to-head televised battle

Britons were glued to their televisions on Tuesday evening for a live head-to-head between the two main contenders to form the nation's next government, a debate that held few surprises other than the derision the studio audience directed toward the party leaders.

Boris Johnson, the incumbent British prime minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party, tried to use the platform to hammer home his message that a clear majority for his party would enable him to plot the course of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. But the audience, after hearing his well-rehearsed rationale several times, began to laugh and jeer when he tried to repeat it.

And Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, fared no better when he attempted to explain his party's desire to shorten the working week, and when he tried to set out his Brexit stance.

The BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said it was "striking" how ready the audience was to lampoon the party leaders.

"That seemed a taste of how many people may well feel in this election: That they are being asked to choose a national leader from a less than tempting pair," she said.

But for all the cynicism, nearly 6.7 million people watched the debate, which touched on hot topics, including the National Health Service, the future of Scotland, the relevance of the royal family, and whether people can trust their leaders.

But Brexit was, of course, the big issue and Johnson said a vote for his party in the Dec 12 poll would help "end this national misery" and "get Brexit done". Corbyn responded by saying a Labour government would negotiate a new deal with the EU and offer the British public a choice between it and staying on as a member of the bloc.

Other major rows

One of the major rows of the night came when Corbyn accused Johnson of planning to give health companies from the United States access to the NHS in a post-Brexit trade deal.

"You are going to sell our National Health Service out to the United States and 'big pharma'," he said while holding up a document that he claimed listed secret meetings on the issue.

Johnson insisted Corbyn's claims were "an absolute invention" and said there were "no circumstances whatever in which this government... will put the NHS on the table in any trade negotiation."

Another controversial moment came when Johnson said the Labour Party was preparing to form a partnership with the separatist Scottish National Party, or SNP. He claimed the SNP would support the Labour Party in forming a government in return for a referendum on Scotland leaving the UK.

Corbyn said the claims were "nonsense".

When the dust settled, a YouGov poll found the public were evenly split on who won the debate.

While the tussle continued, the Conservative Party rebranded one of its Twitter accounts as "factcheckUK", which drew complaints that the party was trying to mislead people into thinking the site was independent. Twitter forced the name to be changed back and the Electoral Commission, which ensures fair play in UK elections, said voters were entitled to transparency and integrity from campaigners.

After the debate, UK newspapers expressed a range of opinions on who won that were in line with their political affiliations. The right-wing Daily Mail focused on Corbyn refusing nine times to answer whether he would back a Brexit deal. And the similarly aligned Daily Express insisted: "Boris Johnson tore into Jeremy Corbyn over his 'absurd dither and delay' Brexit policy."

But the left-wing Guardian insisted the Labour leader "successfully attacked the prime minister over the NHS and public services."

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2019-11-21 07:20:38
<![CDATA[CSGKC aims for world-class status]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524510.htm Big investment continues to pour in the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, an iconic collaboration project between the two countries, while a group of top-notch companies have also started to operate.

Located in northeastern Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong province, CSGKC was officially elevated to the status of a State-level bilateral project just one year ago in accordance with a framework agreement signed by the Chinese and Singaporean governments. The upgrade brought it closer to its ambition of becoming a world-class knowledge city.

On Oct 15, the administrative committee of CSGKC, CapitaLand - one of the Asia's largest diversified real estate groups based in Singapore - and the State-owned Knowledge City (Guangzhou) Investment Group signed a cooperative agreement to build a pilot zone for international scientific and innovation collaboration in CSGKC.

The pilot zone is expected to introduce 50 billion yuan ($7.1 billion) in the next five to 10 years to develop the industries of bio-medicine and healthcare, intelligent manufacturing, new-generation information technology, new materials and new energy, financial services, digital innovation and headquarters economy, according to the agreement.

The joint venture project will also bring the advanced experience of Singapore to the fields of intellectual property rights, education, research and development and financial innovation and accelerate the construction of smart city for a better business environment.

On Sept 27, the local government held a ceremony to collectively kick off the construction of 14 key projects of CSGKC - with an accumulative investment of about 52.3 billion yuan - to build a headquarters economic belt surrounding the Jiulong Lake at the center of CSGKC.

The projects span from commercial compounds, innovation platforms, urban renewal to infrastructure including schools and hospitals, with a focus on a 330-meter-high landmark building that will provide offices and shared space for companies, the local government said.

On the same day, a project was also announced to build CSGKC into a pilot zone for the digital economy with the most advanced network and best telecommunications services in China.

Simultaneously, the first cross-border helicopter line of Guangdong began operation, which can cut the traveling time to Hong Kong international airport to one hour and 20 minutes and that to Macao to about half an hour.

It highlights the advantageous location of CSGKC in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

According to official figures as of mid-October, 1,605 companies had registered with CSGKC since 2010, with an aggregate registered capital of 136 billion yuan.

A total of 54 key industrial projects in 113 construction sites are under construction, with focuses on four strategic industrial value parks in the sectors of new-generation information technology, high-end equipment manufacturing, international bio-medicine and new energy, new materials and smart chips. Besides the flow-in fund, the local government also said in late September that 31 key projects with a total investment of 65.5 billion yuan in CSGKC had been completed and put into production from the beginning from 2019.

They are expected to generate an aggregate output value of 67.5 billion yuan annually, a significant contribution the CSGKC economy that will continue to rise.

Of the projects, the first phase of BeiGene Biologics' manufacturing base was completed in late September.

It will produce anti-cancer medicines developed by the Chinese leading bio-medicine company.

"It is amazing that it took just 18 months from the commencement of construction to trial production," said Liu Jian, senior vice-president of BeiGene, adding that the second and third phases will be kicked off ahead of schedule due to the expected strong demands globally.

Led by BeiGene, more than 30 bio-companies have invested roughly 20 billion yuan together in CSGKC, which is expected to generate nearly 100 billion yuan revenues annually in the near future.

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2019-11-21 07:20:38
<![CDATA[Cooperation key for deepening China-Singapore relations in long term]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524509.htm Cooperation in intellectual property, talent training, professional services exchanges and smart city planning can strengthen ties between China and Singapore in building cooperative projects, said experts and entrepreneurs from both countries.

They made the remarks at the seventh China-Singapore Knowledge Forum Monday in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong province, to tap into opportunities arising from Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The experts suggested consolidating resources and advantages.

The governments of China and Singapore have jointly developed a knowledge city, with a planned area of 178 square kilometers, in northeastern Guangzhou. Joint development began in 2010, and the knowledge city is a place where technologies, funding and talent meet.

Lee Yi Shyan, chairman of Business China, a Singaporean non governmental non profit organization that promotes bilateral relations with China, advised the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City to increase its technological input, accelerate commercialization of technological achievements and encourage cooperation among the scientific research institutes, scholars and enterprises to create new value and jobs.

As a former minister of Singapore, Lee noted the importance of IP protection and a sound legal system for IP.

He also suggested the knowledge city be introduced to professional organizations in sectors such as finance, accounting, law, marketing and human resources and train talent with a global vision.

The two governments just signed an intern exchange program that allows young people in China and Singapore to learn cultural and business opportunities from each other. Lee said such a program can also contribute to talent reservation for both countries.

Pointing out that CSGKC has attached much importance to innovation, Freddy Boey, vice-president of the National University of Singapore, reiterated that innovation must be safeguarded by a world-leading system of IP protection, which can nurture the world-leading innovation environment in return.

As a national pilot zone for intellectual property applications and protection, CSGKC is providing comprehensive services to protect the achievements of companies and facilitate their patent applications.

According to the official statistics, more than 180 IP-related organizations, including the patent examination and cooperation center of National Intellectual Property Administration and IP protection center, were set up in CSGKC to provide one-stop services for the companies.

"The Bay Area cities and Singapore can forge partnership in digitalization and the Bay Area cities are complementary with Singapore in terms of smart cities, venture capital and industrial incubation," said Peng Bo, senior vice-president of Huawei Technologies.

He said Singapore is still leading the cities in the Greater Bay Area in globalized professionals and their experience.

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2019-11-21 07:20:38
<![CDATA[Trump envoy changes story in hearing]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524508.htm WASHINGTON - A key actor in US President Donald Trump's alleged effort to pressure Ukraine for dirt on one of his political rivals was expected to change his testimony in an impeachment hearing in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday morning to suggest Trump did so.

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Unpredictable ambassador to the EU faces questions on president's actions

WASHINGTON - A key actor in US President Donald Trump's alleged effort to pressure Ukraine for dirt on one of his political rivals was expected to change his testimony in an impeachment hearing in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday morning to suggest Trump did so.

In prepared testimony, according to the Washington Post, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is expected to say: "Was there a simple 'quid pro quo' with regard to the requested White House call and meeting? The answer is yes."

With this statement, Sondland would concede that Trump did pressure Ukraine's president in an effort to get him to do a political favor in return for a White House meeting.

Numerous witnesses have fingered Sondland as a central conveyor of Trump's demands that Ukraine investigate potential 2020 rival Joe Biden in exchange for unfreezing US aid to the country.

Previously, in congressional testimony Sondland repeated almost 100 times that he "can't remember" and "can't recall" when pressed over his dealings with Trump and Ukraine.

Initially maintaining that he was unaware that US military aid was being held up in exchange for a probe, he later made a humiliating about-face, amending his testimony to state that he did in fact know that was the case.

In the second week of televised hearings in the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee, the hotel tycoon-turned-diplomat was expected to be confronted with powerful evidence that could force him into refusing to answer, or dramatically offering testimony that implicates Trump.

Sondland's testimony will come a day after Republicans struggled to defend Trump against allegations of abuse of power and charges that he sought to "extort" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

During nine hours of testimony on Tuesday, four witnesses described how Trump, Sondland and Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, sought for months to persuade Ukraine to investigate both Biden and a baseless claim that the Kyiv government helped Democrats in the 2016 US elections.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a member of the White House National Security Council, told the committee that Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelensky - seeking a "favor" to investigate Biden and the vague 2016 election meddling claim - was "inappropriate", "improper" and a "partisan play".

"Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was hearing," Vindman said.

"It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and a political opponent."

Sitting next to Vindman, Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy adviser to Vice-President Mike Pence, said she too had doubts about the "unusual" July 25 call, which they both monitored from a separate room.

"The references to specific individuals and investigations such as former vice-president Biden and his son struck me as political in nature, given that the former vice president is a political opponent of the president," she told the panel.

Conspiracy theories

Two other witnesses in a second session, former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and National Security Council aide Tim Morrison, supported allegations the White House improperly sought the political assistance.

But both assigned more blame to an "irregular" diplomatic track in the hands of Giuliani and Sondland.

Volker said he worried about "conspiracy theories" that Giuliani "was conveying... to the president".

Morrison said his predecessor warned him of "the Gordon problem", referring to Sondland's Ukraine dealings separate from standard US diplomatic channels.

Republicans and the White House continued to insist that the investigation, which could see Trump impeached as soon as the end of the year, was a political witch hunt.

"We have learned nothing new in today's illegitimate 'impeachment proceedings,'" said White House Spokesperson Stephanie Grisham.

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2019-11-21 07:20:06
<![CDATA[Man-made noise a 'major pollutant']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524507.htm PARIS - While it is well known that human hubbub can have a negative impact on some animals, a new study reports that the noise we make should be treated as a "major global pollutant".

"We found that noise affects many species of amphibians, arthropods, birds, fish, mammals, mollusks and reptilians," scientists at Queen's University Belfast said in a paper published on Wednesday in the Royal Society's Biology Letters.

Human noise pervades the environment, from vehicles and industry in dense urban centers, to planes overhead, to ocean-going vessels whose propellers may interfere with whales' sonar communications and even be implicated in mass beaching as the disorientated animals lose their sense of direction.

Reviewing a series of individual noise studies in what is known as a meta-analysis, the paper by Hansjoerg Kunc and Rouven Schmidt concluded that the issue should be seen as the "majority of species responding to noise rather than a few species being particularly sensitive to noise".

The paper said an animal's response to the clatter of human activity is not necessarily straightforward, and cannot be easily termed as positive or negative.

Man-made noise, for example, has been shown to interfere with the sonar detection systems that bats use to find their insect prey, making it more difficult for the flying mammals to catch insects.

But that may be good news for the bugs. "Potential prey may benefit directly from anthropogenic noise," the paper said.

Kunc cautioned, however, that the big picture is still one of serious disruption across the natural environment. "In the bat example, the predator might suffer because they cannot locate their prey,... but in species where potential prey rely on sound to detect predators, the prey might suffer because they might not be able to hear them early enough to escape," he said.

Human sound pollution and the animal response to it must be seen in the context of an ecosystem, especially when considering conservation efforts, the authors said.

"Noise must be considered as a serious form of environmental change and pollution as it affects both aquatic and terrestrial species. Our analyses provide the quantitative evidence necessary for legislative bodies to regulate this environmental stressor more effectively," they said.

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2019-11-21 07:20:06
<![CDATA[Aussie bank facing huge fine for money-laundering breaches]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524506.htm

SYDNEY - Australian banking giant Westpac faces a massive fine after being accused by regulators on Wednesday of "serious and systemic" breaches of money-laundering laws involving more than $7 billion.

Australia's financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, said it had taken legal action against Westpac for failing to report more than 19.5 million international fund transfers, including "high-risk transactions" to Southeast Asian nations potentially linked to child exploitation.

Overall, AUSTRAC chief Nicole Rose said Westpac violated the anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing law 23 million times.

She did not comment on the amount of a potential penalty for Australia's second-biggest bank, saying it was a matter for the courts.

But in its submission to the Federal Court, AUSTRAC noted that each of the 23 million breaches attracts a civil penalty "between A$17 million and A$21 million" - theoretically putting the bank on the hook for up to A$483 trillion ($330 trillion) in fines.

The global economy was worth almost $86 trillion in 2018, according to the World Bank.

Australia's largest lender, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or CBA, last year faced a theoretical maximum fine of A$1 trillion after AUSTRAC found it had failed to report on 53,500 transactions, far fewer than the alleged breaches by Westpac. The CBA ended up negotiating an A$700 million settlement.

Westpac shares closed down 3.3 percent on the news.

Among the most damaging allegations, the regulator accused Westpac executives of "indifference" to clear evidence that some international transfers were used to fund child exploitation.

"Since at least 2013, Westpac was aware of the heightened child exploitation risks associated with frequent low value payments to the Philippines and Southeast Asia, both from AUSTRAC guidance and its own risk assessments," it said.

The regulator added that senior Westpac management was "specifically briefed" in June 2016 on these risks with respect to one of its money transfer channels.

In response to the charges, Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer insisted bank executives have "absolutely not been indifferent" to the issue.

He later held a conference call saying he was personally "disgusted" by the subject matter of some allegations but declined to say whether he would resign.

Hartzer also said many of the transfers cited by AUSTRAC as unreported were "recurring, low-value payments" from foreign government pension funds to people living in Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who leads a conservative, pro-business government, said he was "appalled" by the allegations against Westpac and that Australia's banks need to "lift their game".

Rose told a news conference that Westpac's failures "resulted in serious and systemic noncompliance" with anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws.

She said the unreported transactions amounted to more than $7 billion from 2013 to 2018.

Westpac "failed to appropriately assess and monitor the ongoing money-laundering and terrorism financing risks associated with the movement of money into and out of Australia through correspondent banking relationships", she said.

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2019-11-21 07:20:06
<![CDATA[Danish park welcomes Christmas with a tree decorated by Swarovski]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524505.htm

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Starting with a spectacular Christmas tree adorned with 3,000 sparkling crystals unveiled to the public in Denmark's most famous amusement park, the Christmas season in the Nordic country keeps getting more dazzling.

Since Saturday Tivoli Gardens, located in the center of Copenhagen, has been celebrating the 25th anniversary of its traditionally-themed Christmas market.

The Christmas market, which includes amusements and more than 60 Christmas stalls, runs from Nov 16 to Jan 5.

Beneath a dangling chain encrusted with 130,000 lights, 1 million multicolored bulbs gleam. A Christmas tree adorned with 3,000 Swarovski crystals, worth approximately 1 million Danish kroner ($150,000), dazzles brilliantly at the very center of the park.

On Saturday, the 100 children in the Tivoli Youth Guard marched through the park as music wafted from the park's stages, serenading the first visitors strolling starry-eyed and enchanted by the sparkling maze of Yuletide decorations.

Comprising boys and girls aged 8-16, the Tivoli Youth Guard celebrated its 175th anniversary in August. The world's oldest youth guard is widely listed as a mustsee attraction for visitors to Copenhagen.

The 10-meter high Christmas tree was designed by renowned Austrian glass manufacturer Swarovski and decorators took 10 days to beautify the tree, to which Swarovski promised to give a unique and "exclusive Nordic look".

Groups of excited visitors took selfies in front of the bejeweled tree throughout the weekend.

"The lights are amazing, and for Christmas, it's the best thing you want to see. I can stay here all day long and stare at it, to be honest," said Ioanna Nomidou, a visitor from Greece.

Tivoli, founded 176 years ago, is the second oldest seasonal amusement park in the world, after Bakken amusement park. Ten kilometers north of Copenhagen, Bakken opened in 1583.

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2019-11-21 07:20:06
<![CDATA[Japan seeks to win over skeptics in plan to serve Fukushima food at Olympics]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/21/content_37524504.htm

FUKUSHIMA - For years, Japan's government has sought to convince consumers that food from Fukushima is safe despite the nuclear disaster there eight years ago. But will it serve the region's produce at the Tokyo Olympics?

It's a thorny subject for the authorities. They pitched the 2020 Summer Games in part as a chance to showcase the recovery of areas affected by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Government officials tout strict checks on food from the region as evidence that the produce is completely safe, but it remains unclear whether athletes and sports teams from around the world will be convinced.

Producers in the region of Fukushima, in the northeast of the main Honshu Island, are keen for their agricultural products to be served at the Olympic Village and have submitted a bid to the organizers.

"The Fukushima region has put forward food from 187 producers and is second only to Hokkaido (Island) when it comes to meeting the specified criteria in terms of range of products," said Shigeyuki Honma, assistant director general of the local government's agriculture and forestry planning division.

"Fukushima wants to serve athletes its rice, its fruits, beef and vegetables. But the committee still has to decide."

In the years since the nuclear disaster, when tsunami waves overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, strict measures have been in place to screen all manner of local products.

And officials say the figures speak for themselves.

Japan allows a maximum of 100 becquerels of cesium radioactivity per kilogram, or Bq/kg. The European Union, by comparison, sets that level at 1,250 Bq/kg and the US at 1,200.

From April 2018 to March this year, 9.21 million bags of rice were examined, with not a single one exceeding the Japanese radioactivity limit.

The same for 2,455 samples of fruit and vegetables, 4,336 pieces of meat and 6,187 ocean fish.

"Only river fish and wild mushrooms have on just six occasions been found to exceed the limits," said Kenji Kusano, director of the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Centre, in Koriyama, the government's main screening site.

But the figures have only gone some way to reassuring foreign officials: Numerous countries including South Korea and the United States maintain restrictions on the import of some or all produce from Fukushima.

South Korea, which is currently locked in a dispute with Japan over wartime issues, has been vocal about its concerns ahead of the Olympics, even raising the possibility of bringing in its own kitchen and food.

"We have requested the Olympic organizers that provide objective data verified by an independent third body," the South Korean Sports and Olympic Committee said in a statement earlier this year.

"Since Japan repeatedly said its food from Fukushima is safe, we have demanded they provide statistics and data to back up their claims," an official with the committee said.

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2019-11-21 07:20:06
<![CDATA[Specialization key to economic transformation]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524242.htm Editor's note: The Chinese government has adopted a series of measures to boost economic growth, including stimulating consumption, further opening up to foreign investment, supporting private enterprises and encouraging technological innovation. China Daily interviewed senior executives of well-known multinational companies to share their views on the country's economic development and their companies' business strategies in China.

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Nation's shift to high-quality development requires greater focus on core businesses aligned with market trends

Editor's note: The Chinese government has adopted a series of measures to boost economic growth, including stimulating consumption, further opening up to foreign investment, supporting private enterprises and encouraging technological innovation. China Daily interviewed senior executives of well-known multinational companies to share their views on the country's economic development and their companies' business strategies in China.

Q1: China has rolled out a series of measures to stimulate consumer spending and boost economic growth. What opportunities are there for your business?

Q2: Overall Chinese economic growth has slowed, but the top-line numbers remain relatively robust. In what areas do you plan to increase investment or employment?

Q3: What business opportunities do you see as China continues to pursue higher-quality growth, which is increasingly driven by services and consumption?

Q4: What do you see as the most resilient part of the Chinese economy and how do you plan to align your business with it?

Q5: How has your company adjusted to the uncertainties brought by trade frictions between China and the United States?

Q6: China has adopted policies to further open the economy to foreign investment, to transform financial services and to promote private enterprises. How are you planning to take advantage of these policies?

Q7: How does your company plan to take advantage of the technology transformation opportunities in China over the next decade?

A1 We believe these measures will improve the domestic consumption environment and further promote the healthy and sustainable development of China's economy. It is important for China, as well as for the world, that the Chinese economy shows continued growth, by investment, export and domestic consumption, bringing more wealth for the Chinese people. As a global science-based company active in nutrition, health and sustainable living, DSM welcomes these new measures as they will also bring new business opportunities for Chinese and foreign companies in China. The opportunities for new green energy vehicles are a good example. Chinese automobile manufacturers are looking for greener and lighter solutions. This creates huge opportunities for companies like DSM, as we provide high-performance lightweight engineering solutions that replace metal parts so that vehicles will be more efficient, traveling further with lower battery consumption.

A2 China remains the fastest-growing large economy in the world registering more than 6 percent growth in the first half of 2019, and we are also optimistic about the economic prospects going forward. Over the years, DSM has continuously increased its investments in China to strengthen our capability in R&D and production in key areas across our nutrition and biomaterials businesses. For example, recently DSM has formed a new joint venture with Nenter in Hubei province to produce vitamin E, and this will increase employment in Jingzhou, Hubei province.

In addition, we are also increasing investment in industries in which we can deliver significant sustainable impact spanning our focus areas of nutrition and health, climate and energy, and resources and circularity. For example, we have introduced in the China market our high-performance plant-based resin Decovery, which can deliver as much as 34 percent in carbon footprint reduction.

A3 High-quality economic development requires greater specialization in core businesses aligned with market trends. DSM has over the years evolved to become a world leader in nutrition, health and sustainable living with a strong focus on science and innovation by constantly divesting from noncore business. Now, as China's economy shifts its focus from high-speed growth to higher quality, there is greater emphasis placed on supply chain, innovation and sustainability. Supply chains across a number of industries have begun working collaboratively to reduce their environmental footprint and meet new demands for innovative and sustainable solutions. As a result, we see huge market demand for products and solutions that are science-based, sustainable, and scalable for the transformation the country is undergoing today. We will invest more in our unique science competencies and local partnerships to fuel high-quality growth in China.

A4 China's pursuit of sustainable development and the green and circular economy is proving to be one of the most resilient cornerstones of its economy. While 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, Royal DSM also celebrates 56 years of cooperation with China this year. Since our establishment in 1963, we have not only pursued business growth, but also ensured commitment and deep engagement in the sustainable development process. We believe we can only be successful and achieve our purpose if we make change happen through taking three key actions. First, we are proactive in improving our business operations to reduce our impact on the environment. Second, we enable our colleagues, customers and partners to deliver sustainable solutions for the planet and society.

A5 While the direct impact on DSM business is limited, we have observed a certain degree of impact on consumer confidence, which has a predominant influence on automotive and electronic industries, and to a lesser extent on nutrition and health. At DSM, we embrace globalization and advocate fair and open trade between companies and countries.

We believe that globalization builds on the core element of our economy: an exchange (trade) of specialization of competences. It has brought prosperity to many countries in the world and billions of people. However, perhaps not all countries or all people in all countries. We don't believe protectionism is the right answer. Instead we should make the benefits of globalization available to all people, like the Chinese government is trying to do.

We believe China and the United States are important markets for the development and growth of the global economy, which is why we are doing everything we can to participate in business development in both countries.

A6 These policies show that China is committed to further opening the nation's economy and connecting the country to the world while encouraging open collaboration and synergy through more inclusive and diversified relationships. DSM will take advantage of this opportunity to optimize our operations in China. We will keep up our investments to better provide high-quality, sustainable and innovative solutions. DSM recently invested to upgrade its Jiangshan vitamin C facility (in Jiangsu province) to improve quality, safety, sustainability and production efficiencies and we are always looking for opportunities to continue fulfilling our commitment to China.

A more open market also offers DSM the opportunity to jointly innovate with local partners to cope with increased market demand. Since China has become one of the largest markets in food enzymes, DSM has established joint ventures with Chinese partners to innovate and develop food enzymes to further meet market demand and enhance global leadership in the industry. Also the Belt and Road Initiative builds on a more open and collaborative economic growth model.

A7 China is leading the world in many technological aspects. Digitalization is a good example. DSM benefits from the digitalization process. For instance, riding on these technology trends, we have built online platforms that connect us closer to customers. But we are also enablers of this technology as we provide world-leading solutions for base stations to meet demand for fast transmission.

Another aspect in which China is leading the world is sustainability technology. As green composite materials gain more market recognition in China, new materials with their strong functionality and low carbon emissions will become the mainstream choice in the Chinese market. DSM is also paying close attention to other new technologies. DSM has invested heavily in photovoltaic power generation materials and regards them as important business areas in the future.

A1 Among the measures, the internet economy and credit system construction are being emphasized, and both are within Experian's business domain. As China emphasizes boosting domestic consumption through many measures, financial inclusion is constantly mentioned with a strong demand for development. With regard to this, Experian's PowerCurve plays an important role as an engine to help banks and financial institutions implement decision support and analytics and maintain ideal relationships with targeted customers. Precisely targeted decisions, consistently executed across the customer life cycle, not only drive profitability, but also help consumers gain access to quality credit.

Moreover, with the rise of the internet economy, there are risks such as e-commerce fraud. If your fraud systems challenge, block or deny too many good transactions, your good customers will get frustrated. Effective fraud monitoring and detection engines should be about making the customer journey easy and fraud hard. Experian's FraudNet and Hunter are ideal for any organization relying on online transactions and/or accepting applications through traditional or digital channels.

A2 China's economy has been transforming from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development. Under the circumstances, the financial industry is experiencing a critical transition to open banking and financial inclusion with a focus on technology and service.

Experian - with a long-term commitment to providing financial institutions with sophisticated decision support systems and analytical services - has a wealth of experience. Experian's operations in China now cover four major areas - commercial credit services, decision support and analytics, identity and fraud, and data quality and audience targeting. Experian's existing clients include the top 10 banks in China as well as leading enterprises in a wide range of fields such as e-commerce, retail, technology, automotive, hospitality, media, telecommunications, finance, payment and the public sector.

A3 As open banking is gradually becoming a norm globally, most retail banks are expressing a willingness to embrace it. This change in attitude is attributed to the situations of different markets throughout the world. In China, it's initiated by financial technology innovation and driven by the market itself. Open banking has immense potential for banks and consumers alike, democraticizing financial data for the benefit of all.

Experian provides beneficial insights and professional services to open banking endeavors from four perspectives - strategy, data, insights and implementation. Experian aims to help traditional banking operations in China as they are in transition to open banking in a safer and more efficient manner.

Experian's extensive experience in strategy management for retail banking as well as its deep understanding of the Chinese market garnered over decades of operations will enable it to help banks analyze their existing situations and formulate appropriate open banking strategies along with specific implementation methods.

To be truly open, data must be freely accessible, and financial institutions have to consolidate internal data and output them for application in conjunction with external data. Experian possesses unparalleled advantages in the area of automatic multivariate data integration.

The process of translating data into insights has always been Experian Consulting's strength. Experian's innovative X Labs constantly develops products, technologies and applications that meet customers' needs. Leveraging new data from open banking, Experian upgrades its traditional risk assessment model to a more powerful one.

Implementation calls for combining strategies, data and insights, connecting all the dots in the customer's system environment.

A4 All aspects of the economy feature flexibilities, opportunities and possibilities. Experian always focuses on customer needs. With the development of open banking, there is greater freedom for consumers to compare and seamlessly switch financial service providers.

Through the continuous development of innovative products and services in keeping with the pace of technological advancement, Experian has been able to participate in and even take leadership in linking traditional closed systems of banks with the internet ecosystem, thereby creating a new frontier for banks. Banks and consumers are connected in a new manner such that in the internet ecosystem banks are empowered to come into direct contact with consumers, know more about consumers, and more accurately grasp and understand the real and even potential needs of the consumer.

A6 Taking advantage of a series of policies to open the economy to foreign investment, in September 2018, the operation management department of the People's Bank of China announced the completion of its review of an application filed by Experian Credit Service (Beijing) Co Ltd to provide commercial credit services. Thus, Experian became the only wholly British-owned enterprise in China to have successfully passed the PBOC's application review process for the provision of commercial credit services.

Experian actively provides enterprises in China with insights into foreign and local markets, focusing on helping Chinese enterprises expand into overseas markets. The above landmark approval provided new momentum to Experian's business. Experian has been able to help enterprises make business decisions more efficiently, while also contributing to the orderly and steady development of China's commercial credit service market.

In addition, Experian actively participates in the construction of industry standards. Take the recent draft of the Comprehensive Credit Evaluation Index System for Small And Medium-Sized Enterprises led by the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises as an example, Experian assisted in constructing the overall framework of the evaluation index system, and refining the evaluation indexes and evaluation methods in the first, second and third classes.

All in all, Experian has a long-term commitment to the Chinese market. In a favorable policy environment, Experian will be wholeheartedly serving Chinese companies and institutions across a variety of industries with more suitable and localized products and services.

A7 Experian has assiduously made long-term investments in new technologies and applications, one of which is its innovative X Labs dedicated to constantly developing products, technologies and applications that meet local customers' needs.

Experian X Labs is working to discover and seed ideas or enhance existing solutions, building on Experian's core areas of expertise - financial inclusion, digital payments and consumer enablement, using the company's primary pillars - data analytics and modern technology.

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2019-11-20 07:33:30
<![CDATA[JD to ramp up tech investment]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524241.htm Chinese e-commerce giant JD will speed up efforts in technology investment and said its expenditure on research and development amounted to more than 13 billion yuan ($1.9 billion) in the first three quarters of this year, surpassing the 12.1 billion yuan it spent in 2018.

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E-commerce giant believes digital services will be 'key engine' for revenue growth

Chinese e-commerce giant JD will speed up efforts in technology investment and said its expenditure on research and development amounted to more than 13 billion yuan ($1.9 billion) in the first three quarters of this year, surpassing the 12.1 billion yuan it spent in 2018.

Xu Lei, chief executive officer of JD Retail, said the consumer-to-manufacturer or C2M model, which leverages online retailers' big data and customer analysis capabilities to optimize a brand's products specifically to meet the unique demands of the Chinese market, has gained momentum.

"We will offer 100 million new products and C2M commodities within the next three years, with innovative goods accounting for over 70 percent of the total products," Xu said at the JD Discovery, the company's largest tech event of the year held on Tuesday in Beijing.

There are over 30,000 employees in JD's retail segment, among which R&D staff take up more than one-third of the total, Xu said.

JD Logistics CEO Wang Zhenhui said 25 "Asia No 1" logistics parks, which are among the largest and most automated smart fulfillment centers in the region, have been put into operation during the recent Singles Day shopping bonanza.

JD Logistics has also switched on China's first 5G-powered smart logistics park in Beijing, on the back of its collaboration with three telecom carriers, and it plans to apply 5G technologies in more logistics parks, Wang added.

Chen Shengqiang, CEO of JD Digits, said in a keynote speech that the commercialization of the 5G network will bolster the efficient application of digital technology in more complex industrial scenes.

In the past six years, the investments on technology have far exceeded the growth of total revenue, and the revenue from technology services achieved triple-digit growth this year, Liu Qiangdong, chairman and CEO of JD, said during a conference call after the company released its financial results for the third quarter on Friday.

Liu added the revenue from technology services will be bigger than the company's overall revenue in the next five years. "We believe the technology services revenue will be the key engine for the increase of our revenues and net income."

Liu underlined the fact that in JD Retail, JD Logistics and JD Digits, technology is the key driving force, and only through technology will the company achieve long-term core competitiveness.

JD reported that its net revenue for the third quarter of 2019 reached 134.8 billion yuan, an increase of 28.7 percent from the same period last year, while net profit surged 160.6 percent year-on-year to 3.1 billion yuan.

Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Shanghai-based Wanqing Consultancy, said e-commerce giants are aware of the significance of cutting-edge technologies and intelligent logistics, and have invested massively in the sector to gain an upper hand given fierce competition in the market.

 

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2019-11-20 07:33:30
<![CDATA[Energy firms betting on blockchain for industry development]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524240.htm China's energy giants are betting on the potential of blockchain technology to decipher the future of the country's energy industry.

Blockchain's increasing appeal to China's leading energy companies came about when the central authorities highlighted the key role of the revolutionary technology in industrial transformation.

State Grid Corp of China, the largest power utility company in China that offers services to over 1.1 billion people across 26 regions, announced earlier in August it was setting up a branch for blockchain research and development, with one of its goals being to build an internet of things system for power transmission.

The grid giant's Qinghai branch also announced it would set up a blockchain-based shared energy storage platform.

The company said the platform will offer solutions for renewable energy distribution, make an effective use of new energy's power generation capacity in Qinghai, and may bring in over 2.35 billion yuan ($334.7 million) in profit to the province.

China's second largest grid company, China Southern Power Grid, announced in October it would step up blockchain technology development with a focus on the renewable energy certificate trading and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Li Jianbiao, a technician at China Southern Power Grid, said the technology can record transactions among various parties in a verifiable and permanent way, which can make renewable energy certificate trading safer, more effective and transparent.

"Blockchain technology opens a new chapter for China's energy industry," said Cao Yin, vice-director, Advanced Research Institute of Blockchain.

"Going forward, blockchain technology will play a significant role in China's energy trading, power supply-demand tracking and management, and green development as the technology can be used to track and record carbon emissions," Cao said.

Daniel Qin, senior analyst at blockchain research and analytics firm TokenInsight, said blockchain technology is also playing an important role in data tracking for electric vehicles.

Despite the great future potential for blockchain in the energy sector, Qin said the new technology is still facing challenges like whether it is well-suited in real-life situations in such a traditional industry and whether it can be applied alongside existing technologies in the energy sector.

"China, like many other countries, is still at an early stage in blockchain adaptations in the energy industry. But the outlook is positive with concentrated efforts from leading companies," Qin said.

Cao noted that in the global energy sector, many countries have started attempts that include building a more efficient and secure peer-to-peer energy trading platform and internet of things systems.

A report by BIS Research said the market for blockchain adaptation in the global energy market is estimated to be $518.6 million in 2019, and is expected to post a 54.09 percent compound annual growth rate from 2019 to 2024.

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2019-11-20 07:33:30
<![CDATA[EU energy move hailed as game-changer]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524233.htm A decision by the European Investment Bank, or EIB, to end financing for fossil fuel energy projects and strengthen support for clean energy could be a "game-changer" for countering climate change, analysts said.

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Decision by bank to shun fossil fuels paves way for more green funding

A decision by the European Investment Bank, or EIB, to end financing for fossil fuel energy projects and strengthen support for clean energy could be a "game-changer" for countering climate change, analysts said.

The European Union's investment arm, the world's largest multilateral lender, launched its new energy lending policy and confirmed its increased ambition in climate action and environmental sustainability on Friday in Brussels. The bank said that it will no longer consider new financing for unabated fossil fuel energy projects, including gas, from the end of 2021.

"Carbon emissions from the global energy industry reached a record high in 2018. We must act urgently to counter this trend," said Andrew McDowell, EIB vice-president, adding that the bank's new energy lending policy is "a crucial milestone in the fight against global warming".

The new policy details principles that will govern the EIB's future engagement in the energy sector, including prioritizing energy efficiency, enabling energy decarbonization through increased support for low or zero-carbon technologies, and increasing the impact of investment to support energy transformation outside the EU.

The EIB will support 1 trillion euros ($1.11 trillion) of investments in climate action and environmental sustainability in the critical decade from 2021 to 2030, and will gradually increase the share of its financing dedicated to climate action and environmental sustainability to reach 50 percent of its operations in 2025.

Simon MacKinnon, chairman of Xeros China, a UK environmental technologies company, said that Europe has seen a rapid rise in people's awareness of climate change and environmental issues over the past two years.

"Record hot summers and drought have combined with record floods such as recently in Venice, Italy, and voters are demanding action," he said. "This new EU lending policy will be widely welcomed."

However, the effectiveness of this policy will require the use of both "carrot and stick", he said.

The EU and national governments will have to further tighten regulatory targets. They will also need to make incentives to get the market and investors fully aligned with phasing out polluting technologies, he said.

MacKinnon said it is also important to ensure that the huge amount of funding from the EIB will not be wasted.

"We will wait to see who will be eligible for the funding, the loan decision process and the funding terms on offer," he said.

He Yun, an assistant professor at Hunan University's School of Public Management, said that the world needs new tools and fresh momentum in countering climate change and emissions reductions.

"The EIB's decision is a game-changer," she said. "Not only does it foretell the beginning of an end to all fossil fuels lending and investment, but it also places financial tools at the center to drive our energy transition."

She said that the decision showed that the EU can still lead the world in the fight against climate change despite its member states' diverse energy portfolios and policy differences. As the United States has started the process of pulling out of the Paris Agreement, the EU's leadership will be crucial in maintaining the global climate consensus, she said.

Over the past five years, the EIB has provided more than 65 billion euros of financing for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy distribution, according to the bank.

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2019-11-20 07:53:28
<![CDATA[US ends sanction waivers over Iranian nuclear plant]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524232.htm

The United States said on Monday it will no longer waive sanctions stemming from operations at Iran's Fordow nuclear plant after Teheran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the statement in response to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's announcement of renewed activity at Fordow - the latest step taken by Teheran as it presses European leaders to make good on sanctions relief promised for compliance with a 2015 multilateral accord.

"Therefore, the United States will terminate the sanctions waiver related to the nuclear facility at Fordow, effective on Dec 15, 2019," Pompeo said.

The waivers are among the last remaining components of the 2015 nuclear deal US President Donald Trump withdrew from last year.

However, it could be difficult for the cancellation to have a direct impact on Iran, said Zou Zhiqiang, a researcher at Shanghai International Studies University's Middle East Studies Institute.

"Iran no longer depends on outside support for its nuclear development after going through the US' comprehensive sanctions and extreme pressure.

"Under the current circumstances, Teheran will not retreat easily, and will continue to expand its nuclear development step by step," he said.

Zou added that ending the waivers could be more "harmful" to efforts to persuade Iran to return to compliance with the nuclear deal.

"The waivers were mainly for enterprises from other countries that participated in the transformation of Iran's nuclear facilities under the framework of the 2015 accord. The cancellation will only negatively affect such cooperation," he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, the United Nations atomic watchdog, and Iran itself reported earlier this month that Teheran was again enriching uranium at the sensitive Fordow site. Iran had hidden the site from UN nonproliferation inspectors until its exposure in 2009. Under the 2015 agreement signed with world powers, Iran had committed to transforming it into a civilian research center.

The IAEA said on Monday that Iran's stock of heavy water for reactors had crossed the level agreed upon in the 2015 accord for the first time.

Iran's stock of heavy water - which can be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons as an alternative to enriched uraniumwas 131.5 tons, above the 130-ton limit, said a spokesperson for the agency in Vienna.

Early this month, Iran said it began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into mothballed enrichment centrifuges at Fordow.

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2019-11-20 07:53:28
<![CDATA[China seen cushioning challenges]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524231.htm Growth in global trade is expected to hit the lowest level in more than a decade, but the impact in Asia may be cushioned by factors including Chinese moves to relocate production lines, trade watchers say.

Other parts of Asia are also seen as benefiting from a shift in export demand away from China as a result of its trade war with the United States.

Coleman Nee, a senior economist at the World Trade Organization's economic research and statistics division, forecasts growth in merchandise trade volumes will slow to 1.2 percent this year.

This would be the lowest rate posted since the 2008 global financial crisis, he told the Ninth Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The annual two-day conference, which ends on Wednesday, was organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.

Nee said the WTO has logged an increasing number of trade-restrictive measures enforced by the organization's member countries. He said that from October 2018 to May 2019, WTO members had implemented 38 such measures, covering an estimated $339.5 billion in goods.

"The multilateral trading system is facing multiple challenges right now," he said.

Nee said international trade agreements are always welcome, especially at a time of rising trade tensions. However, there still remains a need for countries to abide by a common set of rules as this serves as the backbone for global trade.

Nee said "trade has been growing at a relatively strong pace" since the global economy recovered from the 2008 crisis. But the onset of trade tensions between the United States and China in 2018 has reined in trade growth. For the first half of 2019, that growth eased to 0.6 percent, he said.

Nee said the trade conflict has also led to trade diversion, with Brazil and some Southeast Asian countries benefiting from increased exports.

If the conflict remains unresolved, Nee said higher tariffs might push up market prices as companies pass on the increased cost of imports to consumers.

Nee said it "is important for this (trade) tension to be resolved (in order) to reduce the uncertainty that undermines and postpones investment decisions".

Chang Ka Mun, managing director of Li& Fung Development (China) Ltd and Fung Business Intelligence under the Fung Group, said the trade conflict has pushed Chinese manufacturers to move their production bases to other countries.

"There are Chinese investments in other developing countries (because they want to) avoid this geopolitical challenge," Chang said.

He said that while China remains the world's manufacturing powerhouse, global businesses need to diversify their sourcing base. Chang said developing countries, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Kenya, may become the next manufacturing bases.

Chang linked this possible trend to China's Belt and Road Initiative and noted that its advent had led to a "new stage of globalization".

He said that countries that receive these investments from China welcome them as ways to boost people's incomes and livelihoods. This shift would help upgrade Asia's share of global trade.

Robbert van Trooijen, senior vice-president for Danish logistics firm Maersk, said the initiative offers opportunities to the Asian supply chain sector.

"We talked about how investments in infrastructure support growth. China is (showing us) how to do that," he said, alluding to the China-funded infrastructure projects under the initiative.

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2019-11-20 07:53:28
<![CDATA[ICC weighing war crimes claims]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524230.htm

The International Criminal Court is assessing accusations made in a BBC documentary that British soldiers murdered civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and covered up the crimes.

The documentary, aired on Monday as part of the Panorama series, followed a yearlong investigation in conjunction with the Sunday Times newspaper that culminated in claims that the now-disbanded Iraq Historic Allegations Team, or IHAT, had found evidence of abuse at a British army base in Basra, Iraq. The British government set up the team in 2010 to investigate allegations of abuse and torture by British soldiers in Iraq.

Panorama claimed the abuse took place in 2003 at Camp Stephen, which was under the care of soldiers from Scotland's Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment. The IHAT probe found soldiers were responsible for the deaths of two men in May 2003.

The IHAT gathered statements from British soldiers and other staff before concluding that the two men found with bags tied over their heads had been tortured before they died. Those documents also allege British soldiers killed children and tortured civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The IHAT report was forwarded to British military prosecutors, who decided this summer not to charge anyone in connection with the incidents.

The BBC reported that Ken Macdonald, who was Britain's civilian director of public prosecutions from 2003 to 2008, said it was "staggering" that no one had been charged based on the collected evidence.

The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, confirmed it is looking at the claims, which Britain's Ministry of Defense said were unsubstantiated.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC the claims were "untrue" and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab noted "all of the allegations, that had evidence, have been looked at".

The Guardian newspaper reported that Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, said allegations of murder, torture, and sexual abuse deserved "anxious scrutiny" by the International Criminal Court.

"To cover up abuse only undermines Britain's reputation, military morale, and leaves our own people more vulnerable to abuse by enemy hands in the future," she said.

The Labour Party also wants the government to respond to claims that war crimes were covered up.

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2019-11-20 07:53:28
<![CDATA[Chinese in NYC wary of seeing doctors]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524229.htm Almost 75 percent of Chinese living in New York City have been diagnosed with a health problem, but many are reluctant to visit a doctor due to what they see as cultural barriers, according to a report released on Monday.

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Cultural barriers keep many of them away from city's clinics, report finds

Almost 75 percent of Chinese living in New York City have been diagnosed with a health problem, but many are reluctant to visit a doctor due to what they see as cultural barriers, according to a report released on Monday.

The report, State of Chinese Health in New York City, found that nearly 80 percent of 300 Chinese people surveyed believe they are in good health, but 70 percent had been diagnosed with illnesses including hypertension, depression and diabetes.

The report, released at the Museum of Chinese in America, or MOCA, in Chinatown, was done by SOMOS, a nonprofit physician-led network of more than 2,500 healthcare providers that has more than 700,000 patients, mainly in immigrant communities.

Doctor Henry Chen, president of SOMOS, told China Daily: "There are multiple things (our community needs help with). One is mental health. It is really a big issue among new immigrants. For most who make it from their homeland, whether mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong or any other region, coming to the States completely changed their environment.

"They face huge challenges, maybe economic, or they feel alone, so support from the community and families is not as good as they thought, so they get depressed."

Due to their cultural background, they don't know how to express it, Chen said. "It's invisible. But they don't want to share it with anyone....This report is good because we have the data. ...We need awareness about the whole population and how best to treat them."

The study found that more than 60 percent of Chinese New Yorkers have limited English proficiency, which often acts as a barrier to finding the best healthcare.

A further 54 percent of those polled said healthcare providers didn't share their culture, and 50 percent said that even when their doctors did speak Chinese, they found it difficult to understand a diagnosis.

Pinge Wu, a 93-year old New Yorker and patient of Chen's, is in good health but speaks only Cantonese. She told China Daily that Chen is "like family" and she trusts him, which makes visiting the doctor easier. She added that she has led such a long life because she had "enjoyed it and ate everything, no special diet".

'Too embarrassed'

The report also found that 48 percent of respondents said they smoked, and only 43 percent said they watched their diet. And 55 percent said the cost of healthcare stops them from going to a doctor. On the positive side, more than 90 percent of Chinese New Yorkers have healthcare insurance, the survey found.

The study was hailed as "desperately needed" and important by Congresswoman Grace Meng, a Democrat from the borough of Queens; Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried; City Council member Carlina Rivera, Asian American Federation Executive Director Jo-Ann Yoo, and MOCA president Nancy Yao.

Meng told China Daily: "New York City is home to the largest Chinese population outside of Asia, so it's really important that we have the numbers to back up what we already know.

"So many stories of Chinese people not being able to access healthcare or transportation is a huge issue. ...A lot of Chinese Americans, especially senior citizens, might be too embarrassed, especially if they don't have a family member to take them to the doctor. They might just suffer silently."

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2019-11-20 07:53:01
<![CDATA[Conservation heroes honored at 2019 African Ranger Awards]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524228.htm Future Hoko, the head game scout at Zimbabwe's Sentinel Ranch Limpopo Safaris, was out in the bush on his daily routine of conserving the wildlife. He was fast asleep at around midnight when he was awakened by a lion scrabbling at his feet.

Within a second, the lion was dragging him as he shouted for help. Fortunately, he broke loose from the animal, reached for his gun and shot in the air several times. The king of the jungle scurried away.

Hoko then braved the painful injuries on his leg and climbed a nearby tree until the following morning when he was rescued. He spent a month in the hospital, followed by two more months to recover fully, after which he returned to his duty of protecting nature.

For five years, protecting wild animals and dealing with poachers has been Hoko's job.

"I have a passion for my job and I enjoy it. Since a young age, I have been passionate about wildlife," he said.

Similarly, Leonidas Mpumuje, head rhinoceros monitor in Rwanda's Akagera National Park, recounts how he narrowly escaped death. He was attacked by a poacher, who wanted nothing more than to kill him.

"The poacher called his fellow poachers to come and kill me but, luckily, my colleagues arrived before them, rescued me and arrested him," he said.

Stefan Cilliers, senior section ranger and scout coordinator at Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa, said every night he and his colleagues encounter poachers and smugglers trafficking illegal goods through the park.

Armed traffickers

In addition to intimidation from the communities neighboring his park, Cilliers said he and his colleagues often encounter armed human traffickers traveling on the way from north Africa to South Africa. "However, we keep on working, it's our work, we chose it, we were not forced into it," he said.

The three rangers were among the top 10 who were recognized at the second edition of the African Rangers Awards, held in Accra, Ghana on Nov 15. A total of 50 rangers earned awards in 2019.

Funded by the Alibaba Foundation and Paradise International Foundation, the awards intend to motivate park rangers across the continent to confidently carry on their duties.

The awards were set up to support African rangers combating the precipitous decline of Africa's wildlife due to poaching, habitat loss and illegal trade.

The experiences of Hoko, Mpumuje and Cilliers are not isolated cases. They're just part of the job for park rangers in Africa, who risk their lives to protect the continent's rich and diverse natural wildlife.

According to a 2016 World Wide Fund for Nature survey of rangers in 12 African nations, 82 percent had faced mortal danger on the job, and more than 60 percent were attacked by poachers.

The Africa Rangers Awards seek to identify 500 rangers over the course of 10 years and provide grants totaling $1.5 million to support their work. The first awards event was held in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2018. Fifty rangers working in 17 countries across Africa won awards that year.

Jack Ma applauded African rangers for their efforts at the Accra ceremony. He is the founder of the Alibaba Group, which in turn set up the Alibaba Foundation.

"You are the real heroes of Africa. We respect the work that you do. While we protect ourselves first, rangers face dangers and poverty and put their lives on the line to protect wildlife," Ma told the award winners.

 

Jack Ma (left) congratulates the winners of the 2019 African Ranger Awards at a ceremony in Ghana on Saturday. The annual event honors rangers who safeguard wild animals by combating poachers.Provided To China Daily

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2019-11-20 07:53:01
<![CDATA[Salmon farming thrives in Dubai desert]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524227.htm DUBAI - From a control room in the middle of Dubai's desert, the sunrises and sunsets of Norway and the cool currents of the Atlantic are recreated for the benefit of thousands of salmon raised in water tanks despite searing heat outside.

Dubai is no stranger to ambitious projects, with a no-limits approach that has seen a palm-shaped island built off its coast, and a full-scale ski slope created inside a shopping mall.

But the farming of salmon in the desert is "something that no one could have imagined", said Bader bin Mubarak, chief executive of Fish Farm. "This is exactly what we're doing in Dubai."

Inside the facility, waters flow and temperatures fluctuate to create the most desirable conditions for the salmon living in four vast tanks.

"We provide for them a sunrise, sunset, tide, a strong current or a simple river current - and we have deep waters and shallow waters," Mubarak explained.

Even for a city known for its extravagant ventures, building Fish Farm, located along the southern border of the emirate, was a challenging endeavor.

Salmon usually live in cold waters such as those in and off Iceland, Norway, Scotland and Alaska - which is why the farming of Atlantic salmon in a country where temperatures can reach up to 45 C is a stretch, to say the least.

"Creating the (right) environment for the salmon was the hardest thing we faced," Mubarak said.

"But we came up with the idea of dark water that resembles deep water, a strong current like the ocean with the same salinity and temperature of the Atlantic."

Fish Farm bought nearly 40,000 fingerlings - or juvenile fish - from a hatchery in Scotland and thousands more eggs from Iceland to raise in open tanks in Dubai's southern district of Jebel Ali.

Salmon are born in freshwater but live in salt water for much of their lives before returning to freshwater to spawn.

At their home in the United Arab Emirates, the tanks are filled with seawater that is cleaned and filtered.

Established in 2013, Fish Farm produces 10,000 to 15,000 kilograms of salmon every month.

Mubarak said that because of the technical challenge, raising salmon is still the "greatest production" of the farm. It supplies the fish to Dubai and the rest of the emirates, where the populations include millions of expatriates.

Another goal is to be environmentally friendly and, in a move also motivated by the high cost of electricity, Fish Farm plans to switch to solar power.

The ecological pros and cons of farming fish on land, compared to raising them in rivers and seas, are hotly debated, as is the alternative of harvesting wild fish.

"There are animal welfare concerns about keeping fish whose natural behavior is to swim freely in seas and rivers in closed tanks," said Jessica Sinclair Taylor, from Feedback Global, a London-based environmental group.

"There are also concerns about the energy requirements and therefore carbon emissions."

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2019-11-20 07:53:01
<![CDATA[Nearly 20% of Japan households using e-money, but cash still king]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524226.htm

Nearly 20 percent of Japanese households use electronic money for small purchases, a recent survey by Japan's central bank showed. While that is slightly more than a year ago, a vast majority of Japanese still prefer cash, showing the nation's "cash is king" culture is hard to change.

Released on Monday, the survey conducted by the central bank between June and July found that 18.5 percent of households were using electronic money, including smartphone applications and debit card payments, on shopping trips where 1,000 yen ($9.17) or less was spent. The share in 2018 was 15.4 percent.

The government's efforts to prod Japan to go cashless may be paying off, at least among the younger generation, because the survey data showed that 35.6 percent of people in their 20s and 30s in single-person households used electronic money for small purchases.

The survey also showed that 48.5 percent of respondents still used cash to buy products with prices ranging from 10,000 yen to 50,000 yen. Only 3.4 percent said they used electronic money for larger purchases.

In order to cope with a shrinking population and tighter labor market and to spur labor productivity, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry wants to double the cashless share of consumers' payments to 40 percent by 2025 and, eventually, to 80 percent.

In October, the Japanese government introduced a nine-month rebate program to promote cashless payments, which will partially offset the impact of the sales tax hike from 8 percent to 10 percent.

Up until June 2020, the $2.58 billion government program will cover the costs of a 5 percent rebate on goods bought at small stores and restaurants, as long as the customer uses a credit card, debit card or smartphone application. There is also a 2 percent rebate for electronic purchases made in big franchised stores.

Whether the rebates will be effective in promoting cashless payments and bolstering the economy is yet to be seen as the central bank survey showed that Japan's cash mentality remains entrenched. Eighty-four percent of respondents still used bills and coins for purchases under 1,000 yen.

Echoing the central bank survey, a similar poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper in October found that about 20 percent of respondents said they had either started using cashless payments or were considering using such payment methods, after the government introduced the rebate system.

Older generations generally appeared hesitant about going cashless, the Mainichi poll showed. Some 31 percent of those in their 50s, 43 percent of those in their 60s and 54 percent of those aged 70 and older said they had no intention of switching to cashless payments.

Japan's efforts pale in comparison with some of its Asian neighbors. According to data from the Payments Japan Association, 96 percent of transactions in the Republic of Korea and 66 percent in China are already cashless.

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2019-11-20 07:53:01
<![CDATA[DPRK: No talks until US drops hostile policy]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/20/content_37524225.htm The chief nuclear negotiator of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said on Tuesday that dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington is "impossible" unless the United States makes a bold decision and drops its hostile policy against the DPRK.

Kim Myong-gil made the remarks in an interview with the state's Korean Central News Agency, adding that the DPRK has "already reiterated its stance for many times".

Kim's interview counts as the fourth instance within 24 hours that the DPRK sought to exert pressure on the US.

Also on Tuesday, senior DPRK official Kim Yong-chol said the US must completely scrap all joint military drills between it and the Republic of Korea, and abandon its hostility to the DPRK if it wants to see the resumption of nuclear negotiations.

On Monday, a former chief nuclear envoy of the DPRK, Kim Kye-gwan, issued a statement that Pyongyang is no longer interested in holding another summit with Washington, arguing that Pyongyang gained "nothing" from their previous meetings.

Hours later, the Korean Central News Agency carried a separate statement that the US "should not even dream of having negotiations with the DPRK" before dropping its "hostile policy" against Pyongyang.

Last week, the DPRK's Foreign Ministry said the differences between the two sides won't be addressed with minor concessions, such as the opening of a liaison office in each country.

Wang Junsheng, an associate researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the DPRK, by releasing a series of statements stressing its stance ahead of the resumption of nuclear talks, is aiming to increase the pressure on the US.

"From the DPRK's statements, we can see signs that they want the US to get to the more substantive issue of denuclearization, and though it's not explicitly stated, what they really hope to see is Washington's sanctions relief. Other actions are seen as coming nowhere near this core concern," Wang said.

After the second summit between US President Donald Trump and the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-un collapsed without a deal in February, the DPRK warned that it will seek a "new way" unless Washington comes up with a new proposal by the end of this year.

The US and the DPRK held their last working-level talks in Stockholm in early October, but the meeting ended without much progress and Pyongyang accused Washington of failing to come up with a new proposal.

The ROK and the US announced on Sunday the postponement of joint air exercises that had been set for later this month in a move at backing the diplomatic efforts. However, Pyongyang said it wants the military drills stopped completely.

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2019-11-20 07:53:01
<![CDATA[4 partygoers latest to die in California shooting spree]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524040.htm FRESNO, California - Ten people were shot and four of them were killed on Sunday at a party in Fresno when suspects sneaked into a backyard filled with people and fired into the crowd, police said.

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Backyard gathering sprayed with bullets on the day vigil is held for victims of high school attack

FRESNO, California - Ten people were shot and four of them were killed on Sunday at a party in Fresno when suspects sneaked into a backyard filled with people and fired into the crowd, police said.

The shooting took place about 6 pm on the city's southeast side where people had gathered to watch a football game, Fresno Police Lieutenant Bill Dooley said.

Deputy Chief Michael Reid told the Fresno Bee newspaper and the KSEE/KGPE TV stations that of the 10 people shot, three were found dead in the backyard. A fourth victim died at the hospital.

Six others are expected to survive and are recovering at the hospital, police said. All the victims were Asian men ranging from ages 25 to 35, Reid said.

"What we do know is that this was a gathering, a family and friend gathering in the backyard," Dooley said. "Everyone was watching football this evening when unknown suspects approached the residence, sneaked into the backyard and opened fire."

The victims were taken to Community Regional Medical Center in critical condition, where some are in critical but stable condition, the TV stations reported.

About 35 people were at the party when the shooting began, Reid said.

"Thank God that no kids were hurt," he said.

No suspect is in custody. Police said there was no immediate indication that the victims knew the shooter or shooters.

Police were going door-to-door in search of surveillance video that might help them track down the suspects. The shooting took place about 800 meters from the central California city's airport.

Agents from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office in San Francisco were responding to the shooting, the Bee reported.

It was at least the second fatal gun attack on Sunday in southeast Fresno, the Bee reported. A man in his 20s was shot dead early on Sunday at a home in another part of the city. Police have not said whether the incidents could be connected.

Also on Sunday, thousands of people held a candlelight vigil to remember two students shot and killed by a classmate at his Southern California high school as investigators try to determine what prompted the deadly attack that left three other teens wounded.

The brother of one of the two dead students told people at the vigil in Central Park, Santa Clarita, that his sister, 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger, "was the best sister ever. You always put a smile on my face".

Riley Muehlberger shared fond memories of his sister's birthday party and how she would talk to him about her life at school in the Los Angeles suburb.

"I watched you grow up more and more every day. You said you looked up to me when I graduated from Saugus," he said, referring to the school where the shootings took place.

Angie Davidson, an aunt of 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell, said his death has devastated the family. Davidson was surrounded by other family members, several who were crying, as she spoke.

"He's gone forever. We are broken," Davidson said. "Please remember the two precious lives that we lost."

Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean touched on the theme of the vigil in her remarks. "Tonight and every day we are Saugus strong," she said.

Saugus High School will remain closed until Dec 2, but counselors are available to help students cope with their grief, said school district officials of Santa Clarita.

Detectives were searching for a motive for the killings carried out by Nathaniel T. Berhow on Thursday, his 16th birthday. The teenager pulled a .45-caliber handgun from his backpack and shot five students at random before shooting himself in the head. He died the next day.

A 14-year-old girl wounded in that attack was discharged from the hospital late on Friday. A 15-year-old girl remained hospitalized in a satisfactory condition. A 14-year-old boy was treated and released on Thursday.

 

Mayra Cervantes lights a candle at a vigil held for shooting victims on Sunday in Santa Clarita, California. Nathaniel T. Berhow, 16, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after killing two people and injuring three others in the Nov 14 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita. Apu Gomes / Getty Images

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2019-11-19 07:47:27
<![CDATA[Italy's white truffle hunters worry about climate change]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524039.htm ALBA, Italy - Rising global temperatures are worrying truffle hunters around the Italian town of Alba, where the most prized specimens can fetch twice the price of gold.

During a particularly warm October, eight out of 10 white truffles unearthed by Carlo Olivero with his trusty 3-year-old dog Steel were dark, withered and dried out.

"They are clearly signs of the temperatures," Olivero said, holding one truffle that he kept in his pocket from last month's foraging. The rest he consigned to the soil, allowing the spores to spread and hopefully replenish future production.

Alba, in the northwestern region of Piedmont, has earned the moniker "white truffle capital of the world" for its particularly fragrant variety of truffle, its truffle fair each fall and its annual charity auction, which pushes prices of the tuber magnatum pico up into the stratosphere.

A truffle weighing 1,005 grams fetched $133,000 - more than twice the price of gold - from a Hong Kong buyer at this year's auction.

The longer-term impact of rising temperatures on the highly prized white truffles is still being studied, but they, like other fungi, grow best in cool, rainy conditions. Climate change has in effect delayed peak production from October into November.

"It has been a few years that we have been worrying about truffle production," said Antonio Degiacomi, president of Italy's national center for truffle studies. "We have had over the last three seasons one terrible year, one excellent season and one that is decent."

To stave off the longer-term climate change impact on the production of the highly prized white truffle, experts have launched initiatives to better preserve the territory where they grow. The goal is to safeguard the symbiosis between the truffle and the host plant by encouraging symbiosis between the truffle hunter and the land owner - whose interests often conflict.

Olivero recalled a maker of the region's famed Barolo red wine who wanted to cut down two oaks - trees that are perfect hosts for truffles - that were shading his vines.

"I told him, 'The day you take all the oaks, only you will drink your wine,'" Olivero said. "Because the truffle and the Barolo are two formidable components. It is a system that works on the table, but needs to go together first in nature."

Unlike the more common black truffle, delicate white truffles cannot so far be cultivated, which makes preservation of their environment critical.

Incentives include a program paying property owners to maintain host trees they might otherwise remove.

After an unusually hot and long summer, this November's damp, foggy weather has proved perfect for truffle hunting.

"In these days, the quality is especially high," said truffle judge Stefano Cometti.

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2019-11-19 07:47:27
<![CDATA[Fresh wave of violence causes losses in Gaza]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524038.htm GAZA STRIP, Middle East - Hamouda Abu Amra, a Palestinian man in his 60s, was forced to race with death last week after he received a phone call from a self-claimed Israeli security officer who asked him to evacuate his house immediately.

The short phone call, made in poor Arabic, came during a new wave of violence between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

"Hurry up, leave the house. It will be bombed," warned a voice in the phone call that turned Abu Amra's life upside down.

At first, the old Palestinian man, who lives east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, took it as a friend's joke, but soon he came around when the self-identified Israeli officer gave him the names of his neighbors who were also told to leave home because of the upcoming bombing.

"We only had seven minutes to run away from our house, and then we watched Israeli aircraft destroying it with bombs," Abu Amra said as he stood in front of the debris of his house.

It's not the first time that Abu Amra'a house has been bombed by Israeli aircraft. His house was destroyed three times during the large-scale Israeli military offensives waged on the Gaza Strip in 2009, 2012 and 2014, respectively.

"This is the fourth time that our house is destroyed. I can't rebuild it again," he said with despair and sadness.

"Around 20 people have become homeless, and we don't have the money to rebuild the house," the old man added.

In parallel with what happened to Abu Amra, Israeli aircraft destroyed a carpentry workshop belonging to Ayman Abdulaal's family in eastern Gaza - yet without warning.

The Israeli airstrike killed his three children who were at the shop, the only source of living for the family of 19.

"I was working with my children at the workplace and then I left. After two hours, I received a phone call at home saying the carpentry (shop) was bombed while my children were there," said Abdulaal, father of the three killed brothers.

"So far, I still don't know why they (Israeli aircraft) bombed my workplace and killed my three children," he said with deep sadness.

"The Israeli occupation is criminal. It doesn't abide by any laws and doesn't differentiate between a civilian and a militant," the father said.

Last week, a new wave of violence broke out between Israel and militant groups in the Palestinian territory after Israel bombed the house of Baha Abu al-Atta, a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, killing him and his wife.

Israeli retaliation

In response, the militant group fired barrages of rockets into Israel, before Israeli war aircraft retaliated by launching airstrikes on Gaza, killing 35 Palestinians including women and children.

Naji Serhan, a director general in the Palestinian ministry of housing and public works, estimated the Palestinian losses during the Israeli bombings on Gaza at $3 million.

"A total of 500 housing units were partially damaged and 30 housing units were completely or partially destroyed," Serhan said in an emailed news statement.

Farms, irrigation networks and fishermen's boats were also damaged, he added.

"The last Israeli aggression has deepened the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip caused by the Israeli siege that has been imposed for 13 years, which is considered one of the toughest collective punishments," the Palestinian official noted.

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2019-11-19 07:47:27
<![CDATA[US draws fewer new foreign students for 3rd straight year, report finds]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524037.htm WASHINGTON - The number of foreign students enrolling in US colleges and universities continued to fall last year, according to a new report, but the administration of US President Donald Trump blamed the drop on high tuition costs.

An annual report from the Institute of International Education found that the number of newly enrolled international students dipped by 1 percent in fall 2018 compared to the year before. It follows decreases of 7 percent and 3 percent in the previous two years. Those were the first downturns in more than a decade.

The drop is a worry for universities that have come to rely on tuition from foreign students, who typically pay higher rates. Some schools have blamed Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric for driving students away, but officials at the US State Department, which pays for the annual report, dismissed the idea.

Caroline Casagrande, deputy assistant secretary for academic programs at the department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said students are deterred by the high tuition cost to attend US schools. She said the downturn is tied to students who were applying to college during the Barack Obama administration, and that the numbers appear to be rebounding under Trump.

"What we've seen today is a dramatically better picture compared to last year's declines," Casagrande said during a phone call with reporters. "The Trump administration has dedicated more resources than ever to international student mobility."

While fewer new students came this year, the study found that more are staying for professional training after they graduate. More than 220,000 were granted permission to stay for temporary work through a federal program, an increase of about 10 percent over fall 2017.

China continued to send more students than any other country, followed by India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. But booming years of growth from China have leveled off. The number of overall Chinese students in the country ticked up by less than 2 percent, and some campuses have seen major decreases in Chinese enrollment.

The number of Chinese students at the University of Alabama has decreased by 43 percent over the past two years, to 266, according to the university's annual enrollment report. At the University of Iowa and Kansas State University, Chinese enrollments fell by about a third in that time span.

Declines from China have been attributed to several factors. Chinese students have reported difficulty getting US visas amid a trade war between the two nations. Universities in Australia and Canada have worked harder to attract Chinese students. And some scholars say concerns over academic espionage have fueled anti-China sentiment on US campuses.

Recent pitch

US State Department officials said they're working to ease tensions and encourage Chinese students to study in the US. The department recently sent a delegation to China to promote academic exchanges, and US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad recently wrote an op-ed in a Chinese youth publication inviting students to study at US schools.

"The State Department has been working hard to make sure Chinese students know they're welcome in the United States," Casagrande said. "We want these Chinese students here."

The report also found that far fewer students are coming from Saudi Arabia, a shift that began in 2017 after the Gulf nation scaled back a scholarship program for global study. There were also dips in students coming from South Korea, Japan and Mexico.

Meanwhile, the US attracted growing numbers of students from Asia, Latin America and Africa. Numbers from Brazil and Bangladesh jumped 10 percent last year, the report found, while Nigeria ticked up 6 percent. Many universities have shifted their recruiting efforts to those areas in recent years as they look to offset losses from China.

"More institutions are expanding their outreach in more regions," said Mirka Martel, the head of research, evaluation and learning at the Institute of International Education, which is based in New York. "This growth demonstrates how attractive a US education is for students around the world."

The academic subjects students study are also starting to shift. The number of students studying business, an area that has long been a draw for Chinese students, fell by 7 percent last year, the report found. Meanwhile, math and computer science each saw a 9 percent increase and surpassed business as the number two subject behind engineering.

While the report focuses on data from 2018, it also included early findings for this year. Among more than 500 schools surveyed, the number of newly enrolled foreign students fell by 1 percent again in 2019, while the number of total international students fell by about 2 percent.

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2019-11-19 07:47:27
<![CDATA[Rajapaksa win reshapes political scene]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524036.htm Sri Lanka has undergone a major change in its political landscape with the swearing-in on Monday of a new president who won a closely fought election in the South Asian island nation.

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Victory in Sri Lankan presidential poll ushers in major change, experts say

Sri Lanka has undergone a major change in its political landscape with the swearing-in on Monday of a new president who won a closely fought election in the South Asian island nation.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the presidential candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, or SLPP, took the oath of office at the Ruwanweli Seya Buddhist temple that was part of the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura in north-central Sri Lanka.

In an address to the nation, Rajapaksa pledged to make national security a priority and to follow a neutral foreign policy. Analysts said economic issues may also be high up on the agenda of Rajapaksa, whose brother Mahinda Rajapaksa also served as president.

"There's a strong anti-incumbency vote," said Ahilan Kadirgamar, a political economist and senior lecturer at the University of Jaffna. The slowing economy and the Easter terrorist attacks of this year had combined to push the Sri Lankan electorate to vote for the opposition SLPP, Kadirgamar said.

Political commentator and senior journalist Kusal Perera said there was now a total change in the political landscape with the presidential election. "The equation at the apex of the new political regime seems to have reversed," he said.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a retired lieutenant colonel, secured 52.25 percent out of the votes cast in the Saturday election, which delivered the country's seventh executive president. He becomes the first former military officer to attain that office.

On Saturday, he took 115 of the 160 electorates on the island.

Sajith Premadasa, a candidate from the National Democratic Front, or NDF, gained 41.99 percent of the vote. Drifting in a distant third place was Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the candidate of Jathika Jana Balavegaya, also known as National People's Power; Balavegaya took only 3.16 percent of the vote.

Kadirgamar expects the new president to have a strong policy on national security. "What we have to watch out for is the result of the parliamentary elections," he added. "It's the parliamentary elections that will determine the strength of the government. The opposition SLPP has the momentum. But it remains to be seen if the opposition will dominate the parliamentary elections."

Chulanee Attanayake, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, told China Daily: "Promoting national security is his key policy. Because that's what he promised during his campaign.

"This is a personal challenge for Rajapaksa. He is known for being a doer, who can deliver what he promised. He has a reputation for thinking out of the box."

Born in 1949, he is one of the nine Rajapaksa brothers who came to dominate Sri Lankan politics for more than a decade. Their father was also a politician, serving as an MP and cabinet minister.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa joined the army in 1971 and throughout his 20-year military career fought in several major offensives in the Sri Lankan civil war. He led the defeat of the Tamil Tigers and ended the 25-year conflict.

After retiring in 1992, he stayed in the United States for more than a decade but returned in 2005 to assist Mahinda's presidential campaign. Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as defense secretary from that year until 2015.

"Terrorism is a global problem and Sri Lanka suffered from (nearly) three decades of terrorism," Attanayake said. "The Easter Sunday attack was a wake-up call not only for Sri Lanka but for the rest of the world. Terrorism has changed form and it will (remain a) challenge for Sri Lanka."

Perera said the election has left in its wake a heavily polarized society. The poll results leave the main minority groups, Tamils and Muslims, as outsiders in a Sinhala Buddhist-dominated Sri Lanka.

 

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2019-11-19 07:47:27
<![CDATA[100 shows, 130 countries, British TV presenter keeps on globe trotting]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524035.htm "Nothing of comparable scale has happened on this planet or to our species," says Simon Reeve when commenting on the dramatic change in China in recent years.

Reeve, a popular BBC documentary presenter who has traveled to more than 130 countries, is currently on a theater tour called An Audience with Simon Reeve. He said his journey along the Yangtze River in 2014, during which he explored religious faith in China as part of the Sacred Rivers series, was filled with surprises.

He said his experience showed him that real Chinese people are not at all like the stereotypes in Western media that show them focusing on production lines and industry output.

"I remember I met so many people in China who were big personalities and characters, and they were so much more than just units of production," Reeve said. "They are generally as eccentric as the British or the Russians, very funny and outspoken as well. I think that's a surprise for a lot of people who go to China."

He compared his understanding of China to looking at a beautiful picture.

"Initially, you just see a tiny section of the picture, the more you travel, the more you talk to people, the more questions you ask, the more food you eat and the more stories you read, you start to see more of the picture emerge and that's how it feels to me," he said.

The main thing he noticed in China was that "a country that large is much more interesting, complicated, and beautiful in every sense than people outside think". He said "people have said to me since, 'Oh you must have been followed everywhere, and you must have been stopped from filming endlessly' but we had nothing like that."

Despite being one of the most popular presenters on British television, Reeve's early life was not without trouble. At the age of 17, he left school with no qualifications but with a drinking problem. He admits to being confused and lost for several years, without any direction or inspiration in life.

Reeve, 47, said he suffered from depression in his early teens and even came close to suicide.

"I found myself on the edge of a bridge, the darkest moment, in many ways, of my life. I didn't consciously choose to survive. It was just a bit of luck. It wasn't a deliberate decision not to die. But I stepped back, went home, and carried on."

Following that fateful night, Reeve decided to take a trip to Scotland's Lost Valley and hiked up a mountain in the Scottish Highlands. With each step, he found the desire to keep going grew and he realized that the best way to address mental health issues was to find meaning in life.

"For me, the depression and the darkness came from the lack of purpose. I think it's a big problem in wealthy countries where our sense of identity has been eroded," Reeve said. "Luckily for me, I have had it ever since. From soon after that moment, I started to find a path in life and started working. Work gave me a purpose, a meaning and satisfaction."

After a period of unemployment, he ran charity shops, worked in a supermarket, and eventually found a job in delivery at a British newspaper. He quickly graduated to research and writing, and then spent years working on investigations into international terrorism. His 1998 investigative book, The New Jackals, was one of the first in the world to report on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

Following the terrorist plane attacks against the United States on Sept 11, 2001, Reeve, as an authority on the subject, was in demand as a TV commentator. That led to discussions with production companies about making documentaries.

After more than a decade spent making such programs, he has featured in more than 100 shows, has journeyed across epic landscapes, dodged bullets on frontlines, and walked through minefields. He is now seen by many as British television's most adventurous traveler, with his programs regularly getting more than 5 million viewers.

He says the key qualities needed to become a good presenter are empathy and sympathy while remaining true to oneself.

"I think making the programs over the length of time I do, I could try to keep up a professional appearance over that time, but you have to become yourself, otherwise you are going mad," he said.

In his current BBC series, The Americas with Simon Reeve, he travels the length of the two continents that together make up a quarter of the Earth's land space, starting from the icy wilderness of Alaska down through the tropical heat of South America.

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2019-11-19 07:47:27
<![CDATA[Pressure kept on Seoul for intelligence pact with Japan]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524034.htm

Tokyo and Washington continued to exert pressure on Seoul to keep an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan that is set to expire this weekend, with the top defense officials of the two countries stressing the pact's importance during a meeting on Monday.

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono and United States Defense Secretary Mark Esper reaffirmed the value of the intelligence arrangement when they met in Bangkok on the sidelines of the annual ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus. The event is part of the framework promoting practical defense cooperation between the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other countries including China, Japan and the US.

"We discussed a wide range of issues," Esper told reporters after the meeting.

During the one-hour meeting, Kono and Esper "agreed that the military cooperation between Japan and South Korea is vital for regional security, including their intelligence-sharing pact", an unidentified Japanese Defense Ministry official was quoted by Kyodo News as saying.

Tokyo and Washington had publicly made known their position one day after a tripartite meeting involving their defense officials and South Korea's defense chief Jeong Kyeong-doo. The meeting failed to narrow divisions over how to maintain the General Security of Military Information Agreement, also known as GSOMIA, which Seoul has been refusing to renew with the deadline on Saturday.

"There is an ongoing extremely tough situation between defense officials of the two nations, but I ask for a wise response from South Korea to improve the situation," Kono said.

In response, Jeong demanded that Japan first re-examine its tightening of controls on the export of high-tech materials to South Korea and emphasized that the country's decision to withdraw from GSOMIA was inevitable after Japan imposed the restrictions on exports.

"As Washington thinks maintaining the GSOMIA is important for trilateral security cooperation, the United States is pressuring not just Seoul but Japan as well to renew the pact," Jeong told reporters after the tripartite meeting.

Despite the lack of an agreement on the pact, the three countries released a joint statement on Sunday that they "shared the recognition that defense-related confidence-building among countries in the region is important, and committed to strengthening cooperation to institutionalize such efforts".

On Monday, Kono and Esper also discussed safety issues regarding the operations of US forces stationed in Japan following recent incidents, including parachute drop training at the US Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Japan says these incidents are in breach of a bilateral agreement.

No mention was made of a reported US demand for Japan to quadruple annual payments for US forces stationed there to around $8 billion.

On Sunday, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the report was incorrect.

However, on Friday Esper called on the South Korean government to increase its share of the cost to support 28,500 US troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula.

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2019-11-19 07:47:27
<![CDATA[10 African entrepreneurs earn prizes from Alibaba]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/19/content_37524033.htm

Temie Giwa-Tubosum's observations of mothers giving birth under hazardous circumstances, along with her own traumatic delivery experience five years go, planted an idea for reducing maternal deaths. She founded Life Bank Nigeria, a medical logistics company shortly afterward.

The company helps hospitals find critical medical supplies such as blood products, oxygen and vaccines and to receive them on time and in good condition. The company said it has so far saved almost 6,000 lives.

She plans to use the money to expand the business to save thousands of lives in several cities across Nigeria.

Giwa-Tubosum's dream to save more lives got a shot in the arm last week when her company received a $250,000 prize. Life Bank Nigeria surfaced as the top startup in the Africa Netpreneur Initiative during the Africa Business Heroes show held in Ghana's capital Accra.

Omar Shoukry Sakr, the founder of Nawah Scientific, an Egyptian multidisciplinary research center serving the natural and medical sciences, was the second-placed prizewinner, walking away with $150,000.

Christelle Kwazera, at 25, the youngest finalist, was awarded $100,000. Kwazera runs Water Access Rwanda, a social enterprise committed to eradicating water scarcity by providing technologies for easier access to water.

The other seven finalists each went home with $65,000 which they said they will use to scale their businesses.

Kwazera thanked Jack Ma, the founder of the African Netprenuer Prize, for not only providing a platform for African entrepreneurs to grow their business but also for letting them use his name to build their credibility.

Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, said in choosing the top winner, judges looked for a business that was simple, had impact and was profitable.

Ma said the business models of the winners could serve as model startups for others.

He challenged the winners to stay focused, noting that entrepreneurs often tend to get distracted when they are successful.

"Don't worry about competitors, it's not the way you run but the way you stay good. Entrepreneurs don't cry. They make competitors cry," he said.

The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative is Ma's flagship entrepreneur program in Africa, led by the Jack Ma Foundation. The competition aims to award $10 million to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next 10 years.

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2019-11-19 07:47:27
<![CDATA[St. Mark's Square reopens after floods]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523991.htm But Venice remains on edge due to high tidal waters over the weekend

VENICE, Italy - Tourists and residents were allowed back into St. Mark's Square in Venice on Saturday, a day after it was closed due to exceptionally high tidal waters that swept through most of the lagoon city's already devastated center.

Despite sunny skies, the city remained on edge due to more wind-propelled high tidal waters over the weekend. The city was struck last Tuesday by the worst floods in decades.

Water rose up again in St. Mark's Square on Saturday and the forecast for Sunday was worse. The tide peaked at 1.1 meters above sea level on Saturday at noon, leaving St. Mark's inundated once again in more than 20 centimeters of water.

 

Volunteers try to save ancient music books by placing them to dry on the first floor of the Venice Conservatory on Saturday after recovering them from the ground floor. Luca Bruno / Associated Press

The tide could reach 1.6 meters just after midday on Sunday, according to Venice's center for forecast on tides.

"It will be a tough day tomorrow, but we are ready," Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said on Saturday during a news conference.

Late on Nov 12, water levels in Venice reached 1.87 meters above sea level, the highest flooding since 1966. The forecast for Sunday was for the high-water mark to reach 1.6 meters above sea level.

On Saturday, tourists sloshed through St. Mark's Square and strolled across it on raised walkways. Many snapped photos of themselves standing in shallow water in front of St. Mark's Square to document their presence during this exceptional season. Museums filled up again with tourists and the city's gondolas were back in business. But the city's museums were expected to shut down on Sunday due to the threat of high water.

Brugnaro estimated damages from the flooding would reach at least 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). He said a final tally of the damage to homes, businesses, stores and the city's rich cultural heritage would be done once the city dries out, according to Italian media.

"Venice is once again being watched by the world and it needs to show that it can succeed and pick itself back up," the mayor said in an interview with the Gazzettino and Messaggero newspapers.

Brugnaro said Venice was setting up programs to help cover damages sustained by individuals and businesses, noting that families could expect up to 5,000 euros each and businesses up to 20,000 euros in aid. He said businesses and individuals suffering even more serious losses could possibly qualify for aid covering up to 70 percent of damages.

Among those recovering from Tuesday's devastating high waters was Sabrina Laggia and her husband. She was blowing dry stone jewelry made by her husband, Alfredo, in their workshop near St. Mark's Square. She was dreading forecasts for more high water on Sunday.

"We have been here 30 years and we have never seen anything like this," she said. "Lots of acqua alta, but never this high." "Acqua alta" ("high water") is the term Venetians use to describe flooding from wind-driven high tides.

The couple lost an air conditioner and a small soldering gun in the store and a washing machine at their nearby home.

On Thursday, the government declared a state of emergency, approving 20 million euros to help Venice repair the most urgent damage.

The flooding has left Italians exasperated that the city's long-delayed Moses flood defense project is still incomplete. Moses consists of a series of movable barriers in the lagoon that can be raised when high winds and high tides combine to threaten to send "acqua alta" rushing across the city.

Completion of the multibillion-euro project, under construction since 2003, has been delayed by corruption scandals, cost overruns and opposition from environmentalists worried about its effects on Venice's delicate lagoon ecosystem.

"They need to finish the Moses tomorrow," said Sabrina Laggia. "Not next year."

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[10,000 dogs needed for study of aging]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523990.htm SEATTLE, Washington - Can old dogs teach us new tricks? Scientists are looking for 10,000 pets for the largest-ever study of aging in canines. They hope to shed light on human longevity too.

The project will collect a pile of pooch data: vet records, DNA samples, gut microbes and information on food and walks. Five hundred dogs will test a pill that could slow the aging process.

"What we learn will potentially be good for dogs and has great potential to translate to human health," said project co-director Daniel Promislow of the University of Washington School of Medicine.

If scientists find a genetic marker for a type of cancer in dogs, for instance, that could be explored in humans.

For the study, the participating dogs will live at home and follow their usual routine. All ages and sizes, purebreds and mutts are welcome.

Owners will complete periodic online surveys and take their dogs to the vet once a year, with the possibility of extra visits for certain tests. Their welfare will be monitored by a bioethicist and a panel of animal welfare advisers.

To nominate a pet, owners must visit the Dog Aging Project's website.

The five-year study was formally launched on Thursday at a science meeting in Austin, Texas. The US National Institute on Aging is paying for the $23 million project because dogs and humans share the same environment, get the same diseases and dogs' shorter life spans allow quicker research results, said deputy director, Marie Bernard. The data collected will be available to all scientists.

Leslie Lambert of Parkville, Maryland, enrolled her 11-year-old rescue dog, Oscar, in an early phase.

"I would selfishly like to have him around forever," said the 33-year-old veterinarian. "Unfortunately, he ages much, much faster than I do."

But she's torn by the prospect of an anti-aging pill because so many abandoned dogs go without care. "Just because we can, should we?"

Compared to farm dogs in the past, today's pampered pups live longer and get more geriatric diseases, said veterinarian Kate Creevy of Texas A&M University, the project's chief scientific officer.

Yet no standard measures exist for frailty or prognosis in sick, aged dogs, Creevy said. The project will develop those tools.

Human devotion to dogs drives projects like this, the scientists said. Owners will gladly fill out surveys, send records and submit a pup's poop for analysis if they think it will help all dogs live longer, even if it won't help their pet.

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[British student develops fish waste 'plastic']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523989.htm BRIGHTON, United Kingdom - A 23-year-old Briton has cooked up a compostable compound she hopes will one day replace much single-use plastic - and byproducts of the fishing industry are the main ingredient.

Lucy Hughes created Marina-Tex for her final-year project in product design at the University of Sussex. It's also edible and, she says, intended as an alternative to plastic typically used in bakery bags, sandwich packs and tissue boxes.

Her project began as an investigation into ways of reducing fish waste, around 50 millions metric tons of which are produced globally each year, the United Nations estimates.

"It was me trying to work out how I could use that waste stream and add value to that waste," Hughes says.

"When I felt the skins and the scales in my hands, I could see that there was potential locked up in it. It was so flexible, yet pliable and strong."

Her subsequent research won her this year's international James Dyson Award, funded by the eponymous British inventor whose bag-free vacuum cleaner also bears his name. She plans to use the 32,000 pounds ($41,000) of prize money to further develop the product and build a strategy for mass production.

"Why do we need to have hundreds of man-made polymers when nature has so many already available?" she added.

The world produced about 242 million tons of plastic waste in 2016, according to the World Bank. The UN estimates about 100 million tons have been dumped in the oceans to date.

In August, tiny pieces of plastic known as microplastics were even found in ice cores drilled in the Arctic.

"It's not necessarily plastic that's the problem. ... It's our overuse of, for example, single-use plastics that might be used for only 10 to 15 seconds before we then have to throw that away," Hughes said.

To create a strong and stable compound, she added the molecules chitosan from crustaceans and agar from red algae to her scales-and-skin mixture.

Several months of subsequent testing culminated in the production of a flexible translucent sheet that forms at temperatures below 100 C. James Dyson concluded it was stronger than its plastic alternative, low-density polyethylene.

MarinaTex also biodegrades in four to six weeks in a home compost and does not contaminate soil. An alternative, bioplastic polylactic acid is also derived from renewable resources but must be composted industrially.

"Further research and development will ensure that Marina-Tex evolves further, and I hope it becomes part of a global answer to the abundance of single use plastic waste," Dyson said.

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[Heritage city Havana celebrates 500th anniversary]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523988.htm HAVANA - As Cuba's capital celebrates the 500th anniversary of its founding on Nov 16, 1519, residents and visitors alike are reflecting on what makes Havana unique.

"It has a captivating beauty in what can be seen and what cannot," said Havana historian Eusebio Leal.

Leal has been instrumental in the renovation of the city and its numerous colonial-era monuments, including the Morro Castle of the Three Kings, which dominates the entrance to the bay.

"It's not for nothing that visitors come from all over the world. They come because we have a beautiful city," said Yamile Delgado, who works for a state-run company working on the renovation of the historic old quarter.

Anette Acosta came to Havana to study history at the University of Havana, but stayed on after completing her degree and now works at the House of Asia.

"Living in Havana has changed me," said Acosta, who used to live in the town of, southeast of the capital, in the nearby province of Mayabeque.

First-time visitor Marta Lopez, traveling from her native city Barcelona with a friend on a two-week vacation, underscored "the hospitality and joy of the people in Havana".

Katherine Bonner, a French tourist who had arrived in Cuba two days earlier for the first time, said she was "a little overwhelmed by the heat, but very eager to see everything and try the specialties of local cuisine".

Havana's renovation began in December 1982, when the Historic Center of the city was selected as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.

But restoration work, designed to rescue the historical and cultural landmarks that draw visitors from around the globe, was kicked into high gear as the city's quincentennial celebrations came near.

On a smaller scale, each year on Nov 16 residents gather to mark the anniversary, centering on the legend of the first council meeting and Catholic Mass held at the foot of a mahogany tree. A memorial building was erected at the site in 1828.

Thousands of Havana residents gather to walk around the tree counterclockwise and, as tradition dictates, make three wishes.

Renovation work has been critical to a city that has suffered decades of acute economic crisis following the fall of the Soviet Union and the resurgence of US hostility.

One of the iconic features to benefit from the restoration programs is the malecon, or seafront promenade. It hugs the city's coastline for 8 kilometers, drawing Cubans and foreigners, especially at sunset, to enjoy the view and sea breeze.

"Havana is a wonder city for so many reasons, for its people, for its buildings, for its great history, for how hospitable it is," said tour guide Alejandro Gonzalez.

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[Dutch tulips arrive in China via Air Silk Road]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523987.htm

BEIJING - Dutch farmer Erik van Dam was a bit tied up directing the plowing and sowing machines in a greenhouse of his Triflor tulip farm in the Netherlands. Other people were busy harvesting the full-blown specimens before dawn.

The farm owner didn't want to miss the planting season for tulip bulbs. The small bulbs will be separated and preserved for planting next year, while the bigger ones will be allowed to grow into flowers. Van Dam has to be well prepared with a large supply for the Chinese market.

Triflor's fresh-cut tulips have been exported to China through the so-called Air Silk Road, linking Luxembourg with Zhengzhou, capital of the inland province of Henan in central China.

Henan residents finally have the chance to see the Dutch national flower and the peony, an indigenous floral variety well-recognized across China, vie with each other in beauty.

As the Belt and Road construction has made a dent in recent years, the inland Chinese province can enjoy various kinds of goods airfreighted from Europe, not only the Dutch tulips, but Germanmade auto parts, Norwegian salmon, French saddle ponies and more.

The Zhengzhou-Luxembourg airfreight service offers 18 round trips every week, in a bid to meet the growing domestic demand for time-sensitive cargo like fresh foods and flowers.

"Zhengzhou airport has realized 24-hour customs clearance all year round, and inspections can be conducted at any time whenever the goods arrive," said Guo Limin, who is in charge of the air logistics firm that carries the tulips.

Triflor's tulips have been exported to Zhengzhou twice a week, up to one ton each time via the Air Silk Road, by Hilverda De Boer, a century-old Dutch wholesaler and exporter of cut flowers.

After being cleared at the airport, the Dutch tulips are loaded onto trucks and delivered to the Shuangqiao flower market in the northern suburb of Zhengzhou, one of China's major distribution centers of domestic and imported cut flowers.

Zang Jingjing, a sales clerk at a florist's shop in the market, has never been to the Netherlands but is quick to utter the word "tulip" when she imagines the distant nation thousands of miles away.

"The air-freighted tulips are of high quality and in good condition, so we can sell them quickly to customers across Henan and coastal provinces in the east," Zang said.

Song Xiaochen, general manager of the flower importer, said the company has witnessed its annual air cargo traffic grow by more than 20 percent, with 10 tons of Dutch flowers imported every week during peak seasons.

"After Zang Jingjing places an order online, it takes no more than 24 hours for the Dutch tulips to be delivered into her hands from Erik's farm," Song said.

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[Wang Yang wraps up Oman, Egypt visits]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523986.htm China ready to work with two countries to enhance coordination in various areas

MUSCAT, Oman - China and Oman have agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership and carry out mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas following the visit of China's top political adviser Wang Yang to the Gulf country from Wednesday to Saturday.

During his stay in Oman, Wang, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, met with Omani Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers Fahad Bin Mahmoud al-Said.

Wang conveyed Chinese President Xi Jinping's cordial greetings and best wishes to Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said, saying that friendship and cooperation have always been the main theme of Sino-Omani relations.

In 2018, the two heads of state announced the establishment of China-Oman strategic partnership, injecting strong impetus into cooperation between the two countries in various fields, Wang said.

He said China is ready to work with Oman to enhance the synergy of the Belt and Road Initiative and Oman's 2040 vision to explore more cooperation growth points and improve the quality and efficiency of bilateral practical cooperation.

"We appreciate Oman's position on issues concerning China's core interests," said Wang, adding that China supports Oman's efforts in safeguarding its sovereignty, security and development interests and stands by Oman in playing a greater role in regional affairs.

For his part, Fahad asked Wang to convey Sultan Qaboos' cordial regards to Xi.

Oman attaches great importance to advancing relations with China and admires China's development achievements, Fahad said, expressing his expectation for a more robust BRI cooperation.

Fahad said both Oman and China uphold the principle of noninterference in other countries' internal affairs and seeking solutions to conflicts through dialogue, and the two countries hold similar positions on major regional and international issues.

Oman appreciates China's efforts to maintain world peace and development and supports the measures taken by China to safeguard its national sovereignty and security, he said.

Earlier, Wang paid a visit to Egypt from Nov 10 to 13, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and the two sides also agreed to enhance cooperation and further promote bilateral ties.

Wang said China stands ready to work with Egypt to increase high-level exchanges, deepen political mutual trust, actively promote practical cooperation under the framework of the BRI, enhance coordination over regional and global affairs, strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation and push the Sino-Egyptian comprehensive strategic partnership for greater development.

Wang said that the just-concluded fourth plenary session of the 19th Communist Party of China Central Committee has constructed a reliable mechanism for the modernization of China's national governance system and capacity, as well as realization of national rejuvenation, which also provides Chinese wisdom and solutions to the institutional civilization of humanity.

For his part, Sisi expressed his congratulations to China on its great achievements made in the past 70 years.

Applauding the unprecedented level and depth of Sino-Egyptian relations, Sisi said Egypt supports the BRI and welcomes Chinese enterprises to increase investment in Egypt.

At his meeting with Egyptian Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, Wang said that mutual trust is the foundation of Sino-Egyptian relations and the BRI has become the new focus of cooperation between the two countries.

Wang appreciated Egypt's firm support on the issues concerning China's core interests, adding that China is ready to work with Egypt to enhance coordination on development strategies, implement major cooperation projects, and boost cooperation in tourism and people-to-people exchanges.

The Chinese top political adviser is also scheduled to visit Laos from Saturday to Tuesday following an invitation from a member of the political bureau of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party Central Committee and President of the Lao Front for National Construction Saysomphone Phomvihane.

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[Seoul and Washington postpone joint air drills]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523985.htm Seoul and Washington decided to delay their wintertime joint air exercises to support diplomacy with Pyongyang, the two allies said on Sunday, which is seen by an analyst as a way to increase US' bargaining position in upcoming nuclear talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and the Republic of Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo announced the decision at a joint news conference on Sunday.

The joint drills were scheduled to begin in the next few days.

"We made this decision as an act of goodwill to contribute to an environment conducive to diplomacy and the advancement of peace," Esper said.

"We encourage Pyongyang to demonstrate the same goodwill as the considerate decision on conduct of training, exercise and testing," he said, urging Pyongyang to "return to the negotiating table without precondition or hesitation".

The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and the ROK, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month, a senior diplomat from the DPRK blamed the joint air drill for "throwing cold water" over talks with Washington.

It was unclear whether the decision by Washington and Seoul would kick-start talks with Pyongyang, but according to Li Chengri, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the decision came as the US hopes to increase its negotiating leverage in preparations of possible talks with the DPRK before the end of the year.

On Thursday, the DPRK said the US had proposed a resumption in December of stalled talks but did not say whether it would accept the offer.

"The delay of the exercises is to create a friendly atmosphere to invite the DPRK back to the negotiation table. But it won't fundamentally solve the nuclear issue as the ROK and the US could also resume exercises at any time," Li said.

Asked when the US and ROK would hold the postponed drills, the ROK's Jeong declined to offer any sense of timing.

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[Analysts suggest dropping out of RCEP may hurt Indian exports]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523984.htm

Uncomfortable questions are cropping up following India's last-minute decision to withdraw from the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP. Is India overly circumspect? Is it committing another historic blunder?

India, which had been party to the talks to create an enormous Asia-Pacific free trade area, pulled out of RCEP talks on Nov 4 amid fears of its lingering trade deficits and worries that opening its economy would undermine its already fragile domestic manufacturing base.

However, an Indian economist told China Daily that India's decision to back out of the RCEP - touted as the world's most wide-ranging free trade agreement - may signal that it lacks all interest in free trade agreements, or FTAs.

"It is surprising that India pulled out at the last minute after being in RCEP talks for seven years and 29 rounds. It shows India's limited interest in FTAs, and that, too, being purely defensive," said Amitendu Palit, senior research fellow and research lead at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

The ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a party to the RCEP talks along with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

"India's nonparticipation in the RCEP is something which might turn out to be similar to the country's historic blunder - out of deliberate policy choice - of following an ideologically isolationist policy after World War II and the Cold War," Palit said, adding that India is losing out on an important economic and geostrategic opportunity.

As it now stands, the RCEP would cover almost 30 percent of the global economy. If India were to be included, it would cover about 32 percent.

Formerly on the staff of the Indian finance ministry, Palit said India had already lost a chance to be part of the Asian growth story by not taking other steps to better integrate with the Asia-Pacific region. "India might again commit a mistake of similar proportions now," he said.

But all is not lost, according to Bibek Ray Chaudhuri, associate professor at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. He noted that India has not shut the door on all RCEP negotiations, nor has it closed its options.

Given the potential of the RCEP market, India cannot afford to remain outside the trade bloc for too long, said Ray Chaudhuri.

However, Sugata Marjit, a professor at the autonomous India Institute of Foreign Trade, said the agreement held risks for India because the country has huge adverse trade balances with China, Japan and also ASEAN.

He said India's economy is poised for a slowdown and it was natural for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold back from joining RCEP at this stage.

According to Ray Chaudhuri, it is a tough call for India to join the free trade bandwagon. "A negotiated entry by addressing its concerns is the best way forward for India," he said.

Palit of the Singapore institute said India has been one of the highest users of anti-dumping duties, mostly levied on Chinese imports. "Even then, however, India's imports from China remain high," he said.

"This is because India does not produce enough of either intermediate goods for production or final goods for consumption. This import dependence is going to continue. If not China, then it will be some other country," Palit said.

The author is an India-based freelancer for China Daily.

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[Family suicides highlight economic strains]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/18/content_37523983.htm ANKARA - Two family suicides in Turkey have made headlines, shedding a spotlight on the country's social anxiety amid the economic hardships that worsened in the past year.

In one case, four siblings, ranging in age from 45 to 60, killed themselves in a flat in the popular Fatih district in Istanbul on Nov 7 with cyanide. The news shocked the whole country.

The two women and two men allegedly faced severe financial difficulties, coupled with possible psychological problems, as their household electricity had been cut off due to unpaid bills in the previous two months.

Close friends of the family said that the siblings refused to apply for state benefits because they were "too proud" to do so.

Several days after the incident, another tragedy occurred in the southern town of Antalya, where a family of four was found dead in what appeared to be a collective suicide, also by cyanide poisoning, local media reported.

The father, Selim Simsek, a computer technician, reportedly left a heartbreaking note describing the severe financial difficulties he was going through. He and his two children were found dead in the living room, holding hands together, while the mother was found dead in the bathroom, the reports said.

Simesek said in the note that he had been jobless for the past nine months and couldn't go on. "I apologize for everyone, but there's nothing else to do. We are ending our lives," he wrote.

The suicides followed more than a year of economic tumult amid a slide in the value of the Turkish lira. Many companies and individuals have struggled very hard to repay debts amid the bankruptcies of companies that left tens of thousands unemployed.

Inflation and unemployment have soared during the past year but the government insists that after a series of drastic measures, a recovery process is currently underway with better economic output for this year.

Turkey's official unemployment rate stands at 13.9 percent, with roughly 4.6 million jobless people, while the monthly minimum wage is around 2,000 liras ($346).

Yet the poverty threshold for a four-person household stands at 6,705 liras per month, according to a survey by the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions.

Experts have said that while poverty seemed to be the main cause of the two family suicides, other social factors were also to blame.

"It is known that economic hardships trigger anxiety and depression, and this state of mind is generally one of despair, hopelessness and loneliness. And this state of mind, at the end, is a cause for suicide," said Ayhan Akcan, a psychiatrist in Istanbul.

Akcan, also a scholar from the Halic University, said that, though the Turkish suicide rate is lower than that in many European countries, there are up to 1 million people with suicidal tendencies in the country.

"Besides poverty, there are social factors to be taken into account in these incidents, and the authorities should make cyanide less reachable for people with mental health issues who might emulate collective suicides," he said.

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2019-11-18 07:35:43
<![CDATA[Impeachment inquiry goes public on TV]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/17/content_37523598.htm Trump slams 'witch hunt', 'hoax' as battle lines with Democrats harden

The top US diplomat in Ukraine revealed new information about the events at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as the House Intelligence Committee held its first open hearing on Wednesday.

The televised hearing gave the US public its first look at impeachment proceedings that have taken place behind closed doors for two months.

Over five-and-a-half hours, the committee heard testimony and then questioned William Taylor, charge d'affaires and acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Both had testified in the closed hearings.

Taylor said in his opening statement that he had only learned last Friday about a phone conversation a member of his staff overheard between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.

He said the conversation took place on July 26, the day after Trump's call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Trump has called "perfect". He insists it shows he set no quid pro quo for US aid to Ukraine: That military aid would be released to the Ukrainian government in exchange for investigating former Democratic vice-president Joe Biden and his son and the 2016 election.

Taylor said the aide overheard Trump ask Sondland about "the investigations". "Sondland responded that President Trump cared more about the investigation of Biden, which Guiliani was pressing for," than about US policy toward Ukraine, Taylor said. Taylor was referring to Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolf Giuliani.

"At the time I gave my deposition on Oct 22, I was not aware of this information," Taylor added.

Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said at the close of the hearing that Taylor's new disclosure showed "instructions" for the Ukraine pressure campaign came directly from Trump.

Taylor is one of the most important witnesses for the Democrats. He testified behind closed doors last month that he was told Trump held up US security aid and refused a one-on-one meeting with the Ukrainian president unless Zelensky announced a probe into the Bidens.

Republicans have argued that Taylor's charges against the president are based on second- and third-hand information.

Kent testified that Trump, Giuliani and their allies "undermined" US interests by launching a smear campaign against the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. He said the coordinated and Trump-endorsed campaign was "most unfortunate".

More witnesses to testify

The televised public impeachment hearings will continue on Friday with testimony from Yovanovitch. The Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives has scheduled eight more witnesses to testify at public hearings next week.

Schiff opened Wednesday's hearing by presenting the case against Trump, saying the inquiry will "affect not only the future of this presidency, but the future of the presidency itself".

California Representative Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the committee, accused Democrats of undertaking a "scorched-earth war against President Trump", saying they were using a "carefully orchestrated media smear campaign" to impeach the president.

"What we will witness today is the theatrical performance", Nunes said.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office after welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House, "It's a witch hunt, it's a hoax. I'm too busy to watch it." Trump also charged that the hearing was being run by "television lawyers".

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump had posted at least 18 tweets and retweets criticizing the hearing.

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2019-11-17 09:44:30
<![CDATA[Consensus eludes Trump, Erdogan]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/17/content_37523597.htm US President Donald Trump and visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to arrive at a consensus on security issues at a meeting on Wednesday.

However, even as major differences remain, relations between the two countries are seen as resilient and likely to pick up after recent strains.

After the much-anticipated meeting at the White House to address a crisis in the bilateral relationship, Trump said he was "a great fan" of the Turkish leader and that they had a "productive" encounter.

But they fell short of explaining in concrete terms how they would overcome the mounting differences on numerous issues, from Erdogan's incursion in Syria against the United States' Kurdish allies to Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

In a joint news conference, Trump said Turkey's purchase of the missile system from Russia "creates some very serious challenges".

"We are talking about it constantly, we talked about it today, we're talking about it in the future," Trump said, indicating that the United States had failed to persuade Turkey - a member of the US-led NATO alliance - to drop its purchase of the system.

Erdogan said the two countries could overcome their differences only through dialogue. "We are in agreement to further Turkish-American ties on a healthy ground. We have agreed to open a new page in our relationship," he said.

Relations between the US and Turkey have been under severe strain since October when Erdogan ordered the offensive against Kurds in northern Syria, following Trump's announcement that US troops would be withdrawn from there.

Trump threatened to impose sanctions if Turkey went too far in its campaign against the Kurds and caused excessive bloodshed.

However, the ties between the US and Turkey have never been broken over the years, said Zhang Bo, a researcher from the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Zhang said the two countries have maintained what he characterized as a relationship of mutual use.

"Under Trump's 'America First' policy, the US wants its Middle East allies, including Turkey, to shoulder more responsibility in anti-terrorism actions so that the US can step away from the battlefield. Thus, Trump will keep drawing Turkey to his side," he said.

In turn, Zhang said, Turkey relies on Washington's support to deal with the tough issues the country is facing, such as the masses of Syrian refugees it is hosting, the Kurdish presence on the Syrian border and anti-terrorism operations.

Xinhua and Reuters contributed to this story.

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and US President Donald Trump arrive at a news conference on Wednesday at the White House in Washington.Patrick Semansky/associated Press

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2019-11-17 09:44:30
<![CDATA[Network to confront tech challenges]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/17/content_37523596.htm UK-China research aims to help inform policy on artificial intelligence, gene editing

Academics in China and the United Kingdom have formed a new network that will help inform government policy on emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and gene editing.

The Sino-UK Innovation Strategy and Policy Research Network will be led by Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Tsinghua University in China has joined the initiative, as have departments and professors from Cambridge, Manchester, Northumbria, Edinburgh and Birmingham universities in the UK.

The network aims to contribute evidence-based research that will help address challenges brought on by emerging technology.

"Collaboration is good for higher quality research, and in this case it is about research on policy, to support evidence-based policymaking," network co-founder Fu Xiaolan told China Daily.

Fu, who is the director of the Technology and Management Centre for Development at Oxford University, said the network will aim to support technological development in Africa and Southeast Asia.

She said that the network will also provide evidence-based research for policymakers faced with emerging and transformative technologies that carry inherent risk, including "artificial intelligence, gene editing and industrial robotics".

"This research network will provide hard evidence to support policymaking at the country level, and at the level of the firm," Fu said. "And the implications of this research will go beyond China and the UK."

Network co-founder Pan Jiaofeng, who is president of the Institutes of Science and Development at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that more than 20 universities and institutions have shown interest in joining the network.

Pan said that the UK is "one of China's most important scientific partners".

"We hope that this research network will deepen collaboration between China and the UK," Pan said. "I believe we will generate more sparks of thought and produce more fruitful results so that policymakers, scholars and business leaders of our two countries will benefit from them."

The network was announced this week at the 4th Oxford Sino-UK Innovation Forum, an annual meeting among academics, politicians and business leaders from both countries.

At the forum, John Loughhead, who is the chief scientific adviser for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, highlighted the work both countries have done since signing the UK-China Joint Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation in 2017. This includes investment in renewable energy resources, research into hydrogen fuel, and other measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.

"We have several hundred projects already underway," said Loughhead.

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2019-11-17 09:44:30
<![CDATA[Clashes rock Bolivia as interim leader aims to end power vacuum]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/17/content_37523595.htm LA PAZ, Bolivia - Renewed clashes rocked Bolivia's capital on Wednesday as the woman who claimed the presidency, a secondtier lawmaker thrust into the post because of a power vacuum, faced challenges to her leadership from supporters of the ousted Evo Morales.

A day after Senator Jeanine Anez assumed power, violent clashes broke out between rock-throwing Morales backers and police in riot gear, who fired volleys of tear gas to disperse the large crowd of protesters as fighter jets flew low overhead in a show of force.

Opposition was also building in Congress, where lawmakers loyal to Morales were mounting a challenge to Anez's legitimacy by trying to hold new sessions that would undermine her claim to the presidency. A little-known deputy senate speaker, she stepped in after all the other officials in line to act as interim president resigned following Morales' lead.

The sessions - dismissed as invalid by Anez's faction - added to the political uncertainty following the resignation of Morales, the nation's first indigenous leader, after nearly 14 years in power. He has been granted asylum in Mexico.

In the streets, angry demonstrators tore off corrugated sheets of metal and wooden planks from construction sites to use as weapons, and some set off sticks of dynamite. Many flooded the streets of the capital and its sister city of El Alto, a Morales stronghold, waving the multicolored indigenous flag and chanting, "Now, civil war!"

"We're going to fight with our brothers and sisters until Evo Morales is back. We ask for his return. He needs to put the house in order," Paulina Luchampe said.

The 60-year-old Morales has vowed to remain active in politics and said he would be willing to go back home. "If the people ask me, we are willing to return," he said at a news conference on Wednesday in Mexico City.

90 days until new poll

According to the Constitution, an interim president has 90 days to organize an election, The disputed accession of Anez was one example of the long list of obstacles the former opposition senator faces. Morales' backers, who hold a two-thirds majority in the Congress, boycotted the session she called on Tuesday night to formalize her claim to the presidency, preventing a quorum.

The 52-year-old Anez claimed power anyway, saying the constitution did not specifically require congressional approval.

"My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country," she said. "They can never again steal our vote."

Bolivia's top constitutional court issued a statement late on Tuesday, laying out the legal justification for Anez's assumption of the interim presidency - without mentioning her by name.

But other legal experts challenged the legal technicalities that led to her claim, saying at least some of the steps required Congress to meet.

The lingering questions could affect her ability to govern.

Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivian and professor of political science at Florida International University, said the Constitution clearly states that Anez doesn't need a congressional vote to assume the presidency. Even so, "the next two months are going to be extraordinarily difficult for President Anez", he said.

Jennifer Cyr, an associate professor of political science and Latin American studies at the University of Arizona, said it "doesn't seem likely" that Morales' party will accept Anez as president".

"So the question of what happens next remains - still quite unclear and extremely worrying," she said.

Anez will need to form a new electoral court, find nonpartisan staff for the electoral tribunal and get Congress, which is controlled by Morales' Movement for Socialism Party, to vote on a new election.

Morales resigned on Sunday following weeks of violent protests fed by allegations of electoral fraud in the Oct 20 election, which he claimed to have won.

But his resignation came only after General Williams Kaliman, the armed forces commander, urged him to step down "for the good of Bolivia" - a move that Morales and his backers have branded a coup d'etat.

Ten people have died since the protests began, Bolivia's prosecutor office said Wednesday.

Agencies

 

A demonstrator pushes a member of the security forces during a protest in La Paz, Bolivia, on Wednesday.Carlos Garcia Rawlins/reuters

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2019-11-17 09:44:30
<![CDATA[Tenuous calm in Gaza as Islamic Jihad says truce reached with Israel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/17/content_37523594.htm GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israel and the militant Islamic Jihad group in Gaza appeared to have reached a cease-fire on Thursday to end two days of heavy fighting that killed at least 34 Palestinians and paralyzed parts of Israel.

Islamic Jihad group spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 am. There was no immediate confirmation from Israel, which rarely acknowledges deals with Gaza militant groups, but some restrictions were lifted on residents of the south, despite the continued firing of several rockets.

Berim said the cease-fire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late on Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group's leaders. The fighting broke out early on Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group who was said to be behind a string of the rocket attacks.

The rare targeted killing by Israel sparked the heaviest fighting with Gaza militants since May. Islamic Jihad fired nearly 400 rockets toward Israel, while Israel responded with scores of airstrikes.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the policy of targeted killings had "proved itself" to be effective and that it would continue, despite word of the cease-fire.

"Everyone who was a top military official, who was set to carry out and was involved in terror or rocket firing against Israel was eliminated," he told Israeli Army Radio. "And we intend to continue with this."

Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group, which is much larger and more powerful than Islamic Jihad, stayed out of the fighting, indicating it would be brief.

Palestinian officials reported 34 deaths, including those of a 7-year-old boy and six members of a single family. At least 16 of the dead were militants.

The rocket fire crippled life across southern Israel and, on Tuesday, also in the country's heartland in and around Tel Aviv, as nonstop airraid sirens canceled school classes and forced people to remain indoors. At least three people were lightly wounded from shrapnel or shattered glass. Most rockets landed in open areas or were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome military defense system.

Much of Gaza resembled a ghost-town, with almost no vehicles on the roads except for ambulances evacuating the wounded.

Shortly after Berim's announcement, at least two rockets were fired from Gaza, setting off sirens in southern Israel. It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets or whether the launches were intentional or misfires caused by electronic timers.

But Islamic Jihad said it was committed to ending the fighting, saying the fire was likely because word hadn't spread to all members about the halt to violence.

While Israel didn't publicly confirm the deal, UN and Islamic Jihad officials were in touch on Wednesday with Egyptian mediators. The Egyptians typically broker deals to end fighting in Gaza, and Israel did not respond to the rocket launches.

Also, the Israeli military's Home Front command tweeted that it was lifting restrictions in certain areas but leaving them in place in the areas surrounding Gaza. In Gaza, cars could be heard back on the streets as the territory appeared to be springing back to life. Israeli military drones could still be heard buzzing overhead.

Late on Wednesday, Islamic Jihad's leader, Ziad al-Nakhalah, announced three conditions for an end to the fighting. Aside from an end to targeted killings, the group demanded a halt to Israeli shootings of protesters at weekly demonstrations along the Israeli border and the easing of a 12-year-old Israeli blockade that has devastated Gaza's economy.

Agencies

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2019-11-17 09:44:30
<![CDATA[DPRK warns US against new drills]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/17/content_37523593.htm As Pyongyang issued a fresh warning against military drills by Washington and Seoul, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday said his country is open to altering military activity with its allies if it helps diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Esper made the remark to reporters accompanying him on a flight to Seoul, where he is due to hold annual defense talks with the Republic of Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.

"We will adjust our exercise posture, either more or less, depending on what diplomacy may require," Esper said, according to the ROK's Yonhap News Agency, referring to US-ROK combined military exercises that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea condemns as an invasion rehearsal.

Washington and Seoul are scheduled to hold a joint air exercise later this month. Esper said the drill's scope has been reduced from the Vigilant Ace exercises that were conducted before US-DPRK diplomacy got under way last year.

Earlier on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the DPRK's State Affairs Commission, which is headed by the country's top leader Kim Jong-un, warned of a "greater threat" to the US should the drills go ahead as planned.

The spokesperson said the US should suspend the drills "at a sensitive time when the situation on the Korean Peninsula could go back to the starting point due to the joint military drills between the US and ROK," according to the state media Korean Central News Agency.

China urges de-escalation

China on Thursday called on all parties concerned to cherish the hard-won momentum of dialogue and de-escalation on the peninsula and do more to promote mutual trust.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news conference that China hopes the relevant parties are firmly committed to dialogue and consultation, showing flexibility to each other and making constructive efforts for denuclearization and long-lasting peace in the peninsula.

He emphasized that dialogue has always been the only effective way to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue in a political manner.

Nuclear diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang has been in limbo after their working-level talks held in Sweden collapsed in October.

How to find a balance between the denuclearization of Pyongyang and the sanctions relief by Washington is the key point to solve the nuclear issue, according to Wang Junsheng, an associate researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Wang said since the collapse of the summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim earlier this year, the two sides have used diplomatic and military tactics to put pressure on each other and have not shown sincere attempts to resume peace talks. Neither approach is conducive to the fundamental solution of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

"Although the DPRK has constantly expressed dissatisfaction with the joint military exercises between the US and the ROK, and the US side did make a gesture to reduce the scale of the exercises, without a deal on the extent between denuclearization and sanctions relief, I am afraid that there will be no substantial progress in the denuclearization process of the peninsula for a period of time," Wang added.

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2019-11-17 09:44:30
<![CDATA[School shooting reopens gun debate]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523509.htm Copycat phenomenon highlighted after teen kills 2 students in California

The national debate on gun violence was rekindled once more in the United States on Thursday when another fatal shooting took place - this time at a high school in California.

At least two students died and three were injured when a student pulled a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun from his backpack at a Southern California high school and began shooting before the start of classes.

Authorities said the first 911 calls of shots being fired came in at 7:38 am at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, a suburb about 60 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles.

The first units arrived on the scene within two minutes. They also found the 16-year-old shooter, identified in various reports as Nathaniel Berhow, with a gunshot wound to the head.

The deceased were a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, authorities said. Two female students, aged 14 and 15, and another male student, aged 14, were being treated at a hospital. The alleged shooter was listed in a grave condition.

Of the two students killed, the news of the second fatality came in the middle of a news conference at which officers were providing updates on the shooting.

"We just received word that one of the 14-year-old victims at the hospital has also passed away, just moments ago," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

"Our fatalities now are two. With heavy hearts, we are going to move on with the investigation and figure out what went wrong," he said.

Captain Kent Wegener of the Sheriff's Department said the entire incident, captured on videotape, took 16 seconds as the suspect stood in one spot and fired on one student after another.

"From right where he was standing, he doesn't chase anybody; he fires from where he is until he shoots himself," Wegener said.

"I hate to have Saugus be added to the names of Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook, but it's a reality that affects us all throughout the nation, something that we are going to have to deal with," the sheriff added in referencing past shootings at US schools that claimed scores of victims.

Adam Winkler, a specialist in constitutional law and a law professor at University of California, Los Angeles, said one thing that seems to be contributing to the increase in mass shootings in schools is the copycat phenomenon.

"It's very difficult to prevent mass shootings in a country where guns are easy to get a hold of," said Winkler.

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. It bans most assault weapons and .50 caliber rifles. It also restricts the sale, transfer, manufacture, and possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.

In October, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a package of 15 bills aimed at strengthening gun-violence prevention.

Winkler, however, said California's laws are not relatively very strict because they "don't prevent dangerous people from getting their hands on guns, apparently", he said.

The William S. Hart Union High School District, which includes Saugus High School, said it is offering counseling for students and community members.

"The gun violence experienced across our nation, and all too often on school campuses, has prompted our district, like others, to conduct staff and student trainings for these unthinkable events," Deputy Superintendent Mike Kuhlman wrote on the district website.

"We take the training seriously; we prayed that we would never need it. Yet today, our brilliant staff bravely and vigilantly went into action."

Senator Dianne Feinstein posted to her Twitter account: "Today we're confronted with yet another heartbreaking school shooting. Once again I ask, when will enough be enough? Congress has the ability to reduce these mass shootings. What is lacking is courage among Senate Republicans and the president to actually take action."

The hashtags #GunControlNow and #EnoughIsEnough became some of the most popular on Twitter shortly after the shooting on Thursday.

US Vice-President Mike Pence expressed his condolences and conveyed a message on behalf of President Donald Trump.

"I spoke to President Trump not long ago, and he asked me to convey his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and the entire Santa Clarita community," he said.

As of Nov 14, the US has sustained 366 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

There have been 85 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2019, according to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks incidents of gun violence in the US.

 

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2019-11-16 06:53:37
<![CDATA[Hacking fears raised over Brexit app for EU citizens]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523508.htm An app designed by Britain's Home Office to assist European Union citizens looking to stay in the United Kingdom after Brexit has been revealed to have serious weaknesses that could allow the theft of users' private data, the Financial Times has reported.

The app, EU Exit: ID Document Check, was introduced earlier this year to replace the 85-page written application form and so far has been downloaded by more than one million of the 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK.

It allows users to submit photographs of their documentation, and the biometric chips in EU passports allow Home Office officials to check their validity, with facial recognition technology from a company called iProov ensuring that names and faces match up.

 

But when experts from Norwegian cybersecurity company Promon tested out the Android phone version of the app, they found flaws allowing them to see and potentially alter data as it was typed in, and to view passport information.

The first iPhone version of the app was not launched until the middle of October, shortly before the supposed Brexit deadline, which was then delayed for the third time. Even that version was only usable on the most recent iPhone 8 model, launched in autumn 2017. Older phones would be able to use it following the next iPhone software update, the Home Office said.

A grassroots movement for European citizens in the UK called the Three Million said the iPhone app still left many potential users "out of the loop", as just under 50 percent of UK smartphones are from Apple, but of that number, only one in three models are iPhone 8 or newer.

"Very personal and sensitive information is being handled, and millions of people are using it so you would expect stringent protection measures, similar to banking apps," said Promon's Chief Technology Officer Tom Lysemose Hansen.

"The tools we used are typically very easily accessible and require very little technical skill to use. It means any type of bad actor could perform this attack, without sophisticated technical knowledge.

"There is very little the end user can do, since this is a government app. There is a lot of responsibility on the app makers to provide security measures here, because of this level of trust," he said.

No previous security problems had been reported since the app was launched in March, after a period of testing, and it is billed as "safe and secure" on the Google Play Store. Its last external security test was carried out in September.

"Over a million people have used the app safely and we continually review our systems to ensure that it is kept safe," said a spokesperson for the Home Office.

"We take the security and protection of personal information extremely seriously. The EU Exit: ID Document Check app is regularly tested by independent security firms against all known and emerging threats and adheres to industry best practice on security, performance and accessibility."

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2019-11-16 06:53:37
<![CDATA[Kite-surfers fly high above Western Sahara's troubled past]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523507.htm DAKHLA, Western Sahara - In the heart of Western Sahara, a former garrison town has become an unlikely tourist magnet after kite-surfers discovered the windswept desert coast was perfect for their sport.

In Dakhla, an Atlantic seaport town punctuated with military buildings in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, swarms of kite-surfers now sail in the lagoon daily.

"Here there is nothing other than sun, wind and waves. We turned the adversity of the elements to our advantage: that's the very principle of kite-surfing," said Rachid Roussafi.

After an international career in wind-surfing and kite-surfing, Roussafi founded the first tourist camp at the lagoon at the start of the 2000s.

"At the time, a single flight a week landed in Dakhla," the 49-year-old Moroccan said.

Today, there are 25 a week, including direct flights to Europe.

"Dakhla has become a world destination for kite-surfing," said Mohamed Cherif, a regional politician.

Tourist numbers have jumped from 25,000 in 2010 to 100,000 this year, he said, adding they hoped to reach 200,000 annual visitors.

The former Spanish garrison is booming today with the visitor influx adding to fishing and trade revenue.

Kite-surfing requires pricey gear - including a board, harness and kite - and the niche tourism spot attracts well-off visitors of all nationalities.

Peyo Camillade came from France "to extend the summer season", with a week's holiday costing about 1,500 euros ($1,660).

Only the names of certain sites, like PK 25 (kilometer point 25), ruined forts in the dunes and the imposing and still in-use military buildings in Dakhla, remind tourists of the region's history of conflict.

In the 1970s, Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, and fought a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front from 1975 to 1991, when a cease-fire deal was agreed.

A United Nations mission was deployed to monitor the truce and prepare a referendum on Western Sahara's independence from Morocco, but it never materialized.

Without waiting for the political compromise that the UN has been negotiating for decades, hotels have sprouted from the sand along the coast, and rows of streetlights on vacant lots announce future subdivisions.

"The secret to success is to develop kite-surfing with good communication focused on the organization of nonpolitical events," said Driss Senoussi, head of the Dakhla Attitude hotel group.

Accordingly, the exploits of kite-surfing champions like Brazilian Mikaili Sol and the Cape Verdian Airton Cozzolino were widely shared online during the World Kiteboarding Championships in Dakhla last month.

The competition seemed to hold little interest for Dakhla's inhabitants, however.

Only a few young people with nothing to do and strolling families found themselves on the beach for the finals.

Just as rare are the foreign tourists who venture into the town of 100,000 residents to shop.

Environmental concerns

Like her friends, Alexandra Paterek prefers to stay at her hotel, some 30 kilometers from downtown.

"Here is the best place in the world for learning kite-surfing," said the 31-year-old Polish stewardess.

On her understanding of the broader regional context, she said: "It's an old Spanish colony and they have good seafood, for sure."

Moroccan authorities are looking actively for investors for their development projects on the west coast, the most ambitious being the Dakhla Atlantique megaport with a budget of about $1 billion to promote fishing.

On the lagoon, surrounded by white sand and with its holiday bungalows, "there is a struggle between developing aquaculture and tourism", said a senior regional representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"One has less impact on the environment, but the other generates more revenue and jobs," said the representative, adding that "pressure from real estate investors is very high".

With the influx of tourists, the protection of the environment has become a major concern.

"Everything is developing so quickly,... we need to recycle plastic waste and resolve the issue of wastewater," said Roussafi.

Daniel Bellocq, a retired French doctor, worries for the future of this lagoon, which was "once so wild", where he has kite-surfed for 20 years.

"There is green algae that wasn't there before. It's becoming a septic tank," he said.

Regional councilor Cherif, though, insists the bay is clean, saying: "All the hotels are equipped with wastewater management systems."

For him, the real threat is from plastic waste, whether it is dropped by tourists or brought by sea currents.

 

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2019-11-16 06:53:37
<![CDATA[Venice faces more flood misery as emergency declared]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523506.htm

VENICE, Italy - Flood-hit Venice was bracing for another exceptional high tide on Friday, as Italy declared a state of emergency for the UNESCO city where perilous deluges have caused millions of euros worth of damage.

Churches, shops and homes in the city of canals have been inundated by unusually intense "acqua alta", or high waters, which on Tuesday hit their highest level in half a century.

The crisis, driven by bad weather, has prompted the government to release $22 million in funds to tackle the devastation.

The water was expected to reach 1.5 meters on Friday as strong storms and winds batter the region - lower than Tuesday's peak but still dangerous, local officials said.

Undeterred, tourists have been larking around in the flooded St Mark's Square in the sunshine during breaks from the rain, snapping selfies in neon plastic boots.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has called the flooding "a blow to the heart of our country", said late on Thursday that a state of emergency had been approved.

Earlier that day he met Venice's mayor and emergency services officials before jumping in a speed boat to visit businesses and locals affected by the tide.

Residents whose houses had been hit would immediately get up to $5,500 in government aid, while restaurant and shop owners could receive up to $22,000 and apply for more later, he said.

Several museums remained closed to the public on Thursday.

As authorities assessed the extent of the damage to Venice's cultural treasures, such as St Mark's Basilica where water invaded the crypt, locals were defiant.

Many stopped for their usual coffees at flooded bars, drinking espresso while standing in several inches of water.

Austrian tourist Cornelia Litschauer, 28, said she felt mixed emotions seeing Venice's famous square half-submerged.

"For the tourists it's amazing, it's something to see. But for the people who live here it's a real problem," Litschauer said, cradling her white chihuahua Pablo.

"It's strange. Tourists are taking pictures but the city is suffering."

'An adventure'

The Locanda Al Leon hotel said its bookings had suffered from the international media coverage of the flood, with some guests canceling their rooms after seeing images of Venice underwater.

Under the arches of the Ducal Palace, a couple from Hong Kong posed for photos in the chilly morning sun.

"This (trip) was planned a long time ago, so we couldn't change it," groom Jay Wong, 34, said. "Actually this is a good experience. It's an adventure."

Tuesday's high waters submerged around 80 percent of the city, officials said.

Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 meters in 1966.

French tourist Manon Gaudre, 22, said seeing Venice submerged was a "unique experience".

"The damage it's causing to monuments and the people is worrying," she said, wondering if climate change was to blame.

Many, including Venice's mayor Luigi Brugnaro, have blamed the disaster on global warming and warned that Italy - a country prone to natural disasters - must wake up to the risks posed by ever more volatile seasons.

Brugnaro has estimated the damage to Venice at hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Serenissima, as the floating city is called, is home to a mere 50,000 residents but receives 36 million global visitors each year.

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2019-11-16 06:53:37
<![CDATA[US-China progress urged for world's sake]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523505.htm The future of the world depends on how the top two economies work out solutions and prevent their conflict from escalating into a permanent one, said Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, on Thursday.

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Solutions to trade conflict must be found, Kissinger says at New York event

The future of the world depends on how the top two economies work out solutions and prevent their conflict from escalating into a permanent one, said Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, on Thursday.

"I am confident that the leaders on both sides will come to realize that the future of the world depends on their capacity to analyze the challenges together, to work out solutions, and to manage the inevitable difficulties," the 96-year-old said at an annual gala dinner of the National Committee on US-China Relations, or NCUSCR, in New York City.

China and the United States have been locked in a trade dispute since early last year, with tensions only starting to ease following "substantial progress" in their latest round of talks early last month.

"There may not be a complete agreement. What is imperative is that both countries understand that a permanent conflict between them cannot be won," Kissinger told a packed room. "There will be a catastrophic outcome if it leads to permanent conflict."

Kissinger, whose secret visit to China in the early 1970s paved the way for the normalization of Sino-US relations, is still actively involved with the relationship. He is expected to attend the New Economy Forum, launched by US media mogul Michael Bloomberg's company, next week in Beijing.

NCUSCR Chair Carla A. Hills also said the fact that last month the negotiating teams took a small first step toward reaching agreement is a good sign.

"Hopefully in the coming months we can achieve positive outcomes on the range of issues that divide us," she said. "I am more optimistic. I believe that we can and must, in our own national interests, work together to ensure prosperity and peace."

Hills, also chairwoman and CEO of Hills & Co, a Washington-based advisory firm on trade and investment, noted that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"The gains made in the intervening four decades have been hugely beneficial to both sides," she said.

Also speaking at the gala, Stephen A. Orlins, president of the NCUSCR, said the bilateral relationship at times seems "very dark".

"Yet I am often uplifted by the words of one of my heroes, Dr Martin Luther King. In the final speech of his life he said, 'I have been to the mountaintop. Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.'" Orlins said.

The darkness has given the National Committee a clear purpose, Orlins said.

"It has shone a bright light on what needs to be done. It has shone a bright light on the importance of our mission," he said.

"We have seen limitations on Chinese students coming to the United States that hurt America's ability to attract the top talent in the world. We have even seen threats to limit Chinese companies to list (on financial markets) in the United States," Orlins said. "As fiction takes root, we focus on facts. As our governments tear down bridges, we build them."

Evan G. Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Switzerland-based insurance company Chubb, said that China-US cooperation and engagement have benefited both nations.

"The US business community wants engagement, not decoupling," he said. "We don't support the trade war as a strategy. We want to compete but insist we do so on a leveled playing field."

"We seek cooperation and healthy competition while we each defend our respective national interests. We want negotiations that lead to substantive agreements and outcomes, not tariffs."

The 2019 NCUSCR annual event honored Ray Dalio, founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates LP, who has retained a personal and business relationship with China for more than three decades and helped the country establish its first stock exchange. "I have great admiration for the Chinese," Dalio said.

He said he hoped both countries could handle the bilateral relationship with mutual understanding, that "instead of wars, which means lose-lose relationships, we approach this with win-win relationships, by seeing each other through each other's eyes and not expecting the others to be like us in all respects as we evolve through time".

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2019-11-16 06:53:37
<![CDATA[DPRK says US offered to resume talks in December]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523504.htm

PYONGYANG/SEOUL - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea said on Thursday that the United States had proposed a resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations in December as they approach an end-of-year deadline set by top leader Kim Jong-un for the Trump administration to offer an acceptable deal to salvage the talks.

In a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, Kim Myong-gil, roving ambassador of the DPRK Foreign Ministry, didn't clearly say whether Pyongyang would accept the US offer.

He said Pyongyang has no interest in talks if they are aimed at buying time without discussing solutions. The DPRK isn't willing to make a deal over "matters of secondary importance", such as possible US offers to formally declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War - which was halted by a cease-fire - or establish liaison offices in each country, he said.

"If the negotiated solution of issues is possible, we are ready to meet with the US at any place and any time," said the ambassador, who called for Washington to present a fundamental solution for discarding its "hostile policy" toward Pyongyang.

"If the US still seeks a sinister aim of appeasing us in a bid to pass the time limit - the end of this year - with ease as it did during the DPRK-US working-level negotiations in Sweden early in October, we have no willingness to have such negotiations."

Kim Myong-gil, who was the DPRK's lead negotiator at the Stockholm talks, confirmed that Stephen Biegun, Trump's special envoy for the DPRK issue, proposed via an unspecified third country to hold another round of talks in December.

"I cannot understand why he spreads the so-called idea of DPRK-US relations through the third party, not thinking of candidly making a direct contact with me, his dialogue partner, if he has any suggestions or any idea over the DPRK-US dialogue," he said of Biegun. "His behavior only amplifies doubts about the US."

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2019-11-16 06:53:37
<![CDATA[Laid-back approach to naming frenzy]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523503.htm The twin giant panda cubs at Pairi Daiza zoo clearly had no idea why, when their keepers carried them out into their yard on Thursday, they were greeted with the clicks of dozens of cameras.

The youngsters, which were born on Aug 8 at the zoo nearly 60 kilometers from Brussels, could not have known they will be turning 100 days old on Saturday and that the milestone is traditionally the time when captive pandas get their names.

In this case, their new monikers were picked in a public vote in which 73,000 people took part.

Henceforth, the male panda will be known as Bao Di and his sister will be called Bao Mei. The names mean little brother and little sister and refer to their relationship with another of the zoo's giant pandas, Tian Bao, a male who was born in 2016.

Their parents, Hao Hao and Xing Hui, are on a 15-year loan to the Belgian zoo.

Their home, the giant panda garden at Pairi Daiza in Brugelette, was inaugurated by President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan, along with Belgium's King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, on March 30, 2014.

In October, Xi and Philippe exchanged congratulatory messages about the births of the pandas in which Xi said that the two cubs' arrival deserves joint celebrations. He added that he was confident they would become a beautiful new part of the China-Belgium friendship.

Pairi Daiza is the only European animal park to house five giant pandas.

Eric Domb, president and founder of the zoo, said at Thursday's naming ceremony: "The fact that the cubs are in good health means that the relationship between Belgium and China is excellent. The cubs are a symbol for the relationship."

He said the success would not have been possible without the support of China.

Li Guo, an expert from the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda, has been working closely with his Belgian colleagues. "There has been a lot of work these past three months, since the births. It's a very special 100 days, a time for celebration," he said.

He said his work at the zoo is almost over and that he will soon return to China.

The cubs weigh 5.5 kilograms each, in stark contrast to the 150 grams that Bao Mei was at birth and the 160 grams Bao Di initially weighed.

"I sincerely hope the giant pandas will become ambassadors to help the Belgian public better understand China," said Cao Zhongming, China's ambassador to Belgium.

The public will not get to see the pandas for another month, though, because the zoo is closed for the winter season. It will reopen for Christmas between Dec 14 and Jan 5.

 

Giant panda cubs Bao Di (left) and Bao Mei are shown during their presentation at Pairi Daiza zoo in Brugelette, Belgium, on Thursday.Olivier Matthys/associated Press

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2019-11-16 06:53:37
<![CDATA[Tit-for-tat strikes after Gaza cease-fire sees violence return]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523502.htm GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories - Israel launched fresh strikes against Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, the Israeli army said on Friday, weakening a cease-fire put in place after fighting this week killed 34 Palestinians in exchanges of fire.

The cease-fire began on Thursday morning following two days of deadly violence in the Gaza Strip triggered by an Israeli strike on an Islamic Jihad commander.

The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, told reporters that new overnight strikes were underway on Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful Palestinian militant group in Gaza after Hamas.

The strikes came after five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza - also after the cease-fire came into effect - with two of them intercepted by air defenses, according to the army.

"The IDF views the violation of the cease-fire and rockets directed at Israel with great severity," the army said in a news release.

Israel's military was prepared to "continue operating as necessary against all attempts to harm Israel civilians", it said.

Two injured citizens were being treated in hospital in the southern part of the territory, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

The cease-fire brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, the usual mediators between Gaza and Israel, was agreed as the flare-up raised fears of a new all-out conflict.

During the day on Thursday, normal life had resumed quietly in Israeli regions near the Gaza border, while in Gaza, citizens had also embraced the return of relative calm.

"We hope for peace; we don't want war," said Mahmoud Jarda, an inhabitant of the enclave.

Bomb shelters

The escalation began early on Tuesday with Israel's targeted killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, whom it accused of being behind rocket fire and other attacks.

The violence also came at a politically sensitive time for Israel, with no new government in place since a September election ended in deadlock.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Ata "was killed alongside dozens of terrorists" after the strike on his home, adding: "Our enemies got the message: We can reach anyone, even in their bed."

That strike triggered almost immediate retaliatory rocket fire from Islamic Jihad at Israel, setting off air-raid sirens and sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters in the country's south and central regions.

Israel's military said nearly 450 rockets had been fired at its territory since Tuesday morning and air defenses had intercepted dozens of them in fireballs high in the sky.

No Israelis were killed. Israeli medics said they had treated some 63 people as of Wednesday night for mild injuries and stress.

Violent escalation

Islamic Jihad has said several more of its members were among those killed in the fighting this week.

Palestinian officials said eight members of the same family, including five children, were killed in an Israeli strike in the central Gaza Strip.

Israel's military said the man targeted and killed in that strike was an Islamic Jihad rocket unit commander.

Relatives, neighbors and an Islamic Jihad spokesman disputed that he belonged to the militia, with some saying he had previously worked as a Palestinian Authority military police officer.

"This is a war crime," said neighbor Adan Abu Abdallah. "You are killing innocent children, sleeping at home."

 

Palestinian women inspect a house destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday.Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/reuters

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2019-11-16 06:53:37
<![CDATA[Homemade treats keep customers coming back]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523501.htm Delicatessen at Metropark Lido a favorite of local people and guests, Xu Lin reports.

It's 7:30 pm and Shao Xue and her husband have waited 20 minutes for this moment to arrive - when they can enjoy the "buy one, get one free" deal for their favorite Western-style pastry.

She has been a regular customer of the Delicatessen Shop, a popular purveyor of fresh food in Metropark Lido Hotel Beijing for five years.

"I like the freshly made bread very much," said Shao in a maternity dress. She lives nearby and visits at least twice a week.

The German-style diner is known for its homemade dishes, snacks and pastries, which are easy to take away or be enjoyed on-site.

Visitors can buy pretzels and croissants for breakfast, stop for a coffee, enjoy desserts like tiramisu, or grab a panini and salad.

The delicatessen is located at the commercial area of the hotel, allowing for a leisurely stroll around nearby stores for some exercise after a big meal.

It's not uncommon for those who live in Beijing's hutong, or alleyways, to frequent a nearby grocery store to buy their daily necessities and rub shoulders with neighbors.

Likewise, a similar human touch at the delicatessen can be felt. It has drawn many regular customers who live or work nearby, both Chinese and expats, due to its good reputation established over the years.

Many of the delicatessen's regulars describe it as a little slice of heaven within a bustling metropolis. As shoppers and revelers buzz up and down the streets outside on evenings, within the shop, customers can relax with a coffee, or nibble on some European meats and cheeses.

The most popular dish at the Delicatessen Shop is roast chicken. Customers must order it four hours in advance as daily supply is limited.

Marinated for two hours in over a dozen imported spices, the chicken is roasted slowly at a low temperature for one and a half hours. It makes mouths water with its crispy skin and juicy meat. Customers can order a drumstick or half a chicken.

The delicatessen's cooks make more than 40 kinds of Western-style sausages using imported spices. They manage to keep the flavor of the high-quality meat without any starch, food coloring, flavoring essence or preservatives.

They begin making sausages at 8 am every day out of 100 to 150 kilograms of ingredients. Supply always falls short of demand. There are many varieties to choose from, such as salami, Vienna and Nuremberg.

They have also added new dishes in recent years - Chinese-style spiced beef shank, pig's feet and duck's gizzard, to satisfy local customers.

The Delicatessen Shop is a place where you can spend some quality time with a friend or romantic partner to share happiness and delicious food. Or you can have a moment of solitude, enjoying the cozy atmosphere.

 

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2019-11-16 06:52:49
<![CDATA[Wanda, WeChat work together on deposit-free check-ins, other services]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523500.htm Guests at Wanda Hotels & Resorts can now check in without paying a deposit at the front desk if their WeChat Pay points have surpassed 600.

The move comes after Wanda Group and WeChat Pay parent company Tencent Holdings recently announced the signing of a strategic cooperation agreement to introduce WeChat Pay points and a range of intelligent technologies to Wanda's hotels in Beijing.

WeChat Pay Point is a new credit-scoring system from Tencent, which gives scores based on WeChat Pay data assessing user consumption, compliance and other behaviors. Users can use the system to exchange points for more services.

"Customer experience has long been the focus of Wanda, and this is in accord with Tencent's philosophy of highlighting user value," said Ning Qifeng, president of Wanda Hotels & Resorts. "The development of technologies and the changing demands of users require us to be inclusive and to keep pace with the times."

In mid-October, Wanda Moments in Shanghai, one of Wanda's premium mid-range brands for business travelers, began offering services such as booking, self-service check-in and check-out via WeChat. It was the first among Wanda hotels to use WeChat Pay scores to replace conventional check-in deposits, according to the hotel.

Founded in 2007, Wanda Hotels & Resorts has six hotel brands and manages 79 hotels in 60 cities around the world.

The company said it will introduce WeChat Pay Point to all of its hotels in November.

According to the agreement, the two sides will cooperate on image recognition, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and big data, as part of efforts to promote more cutting-edge intelligent solutions in the hospitality industry.

Geng Zhijun, vice-president of WeChat's business department at Tencent, said the collaboration aims to provide guests and users with better tech services through more technological applications.

The two parties plan to launch more specific measures covering big data and business operation, and thus to meet consumers' requirements, Geng said.

 

Executives from Wanda Hotels & Resorts and Tencent attend a launch ceremony of the cooperation.Provided To China Daily

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2019-11-16 06:52:49
<![CDATA[Visitors from China to Greece increase 20 percent]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/16/content_37523499.htm

ATHENS - Tourism cooperation between China and Greece is booming as the cradle of Western civilization is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Chinese travelers.

Between 150,000 and 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Greece last year, marking a growth of more than 20 percent from the year before, according to the Beijing Office of the Greek National Tourism Organization.

During his recent visit to Shanghai, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country aims to bring that number to 500,000 by 2021.

Spokesman of the Athens International Airport, Ioakim Tsimpidis, said that traffic in 2018, both direct and indirect, from the Chinese market to the airport went up by 65 percent. Incoming passengers from Beijing more than doubled in a year, with an increase of 161 percent from 2017.

The upward trend is continuing in 2019, Tsimpidis said in a recent interview with Xinhua, adding that the numbers have been "spectacular". Direct flights from Shanghai to Athens are expected to be launched in 2020. The tourism industry is a pillar of the Greek economy, accounting for 20.6 percent of the country's gross domestic product and a quarter of employment in 2018, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The growing importance of the Chinese market is clearly reflected in comparative data. "China last year entered our top 20 international markets, being No 20 in 2018, while in the first nine months of 2019, it reached the 16th position, demonstrating a very fast and dynamic growth," Tsimpidis said.

Nina Kalampogia from Athens Silk Road International Travel, one of the earliest Chinese travel agencies in Greece, said the number of Chinese visitors is rising, and more Chinese people are choosing to book their holiday through online platforms.

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2019-11-16 06:52:49
<![CDATA[Impeachment inquiry goes public on TV]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/15/content_37523345.htm

Trump slams 'witch hunt', 'hoax' as battle lines with Democrats harden

The top US diplomat in Ukraine revealed new information about the events at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as the House Intelligence Committee held its first open hearing on Wednesday.

The televised hearing gave the US public its first look at impeachment proceedings that have taken place behind closed doors for two months.

Over five-and-a-half hours, the committee heard testimony and then questioned William Taylor, charge d'affaires and acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Both had testified in the closed hearings.

Taylor said in his opening statement that he had only learned last Friday about a phone conversation a member of his staff overheard between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.

He said the conversation took place on July 26, the day after Trump's call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Trump has called "perfect". He insists it shows he set no quid pro quo for US aid to Ukraine: That military aid would be released to the Ukrainian government in exchange for investigating former Democratic vice-president Joe Biden and his son and the 2016 election.

Taylor said the aide overheard Trump ask Sondland about "the investigations". "Sondland responded that President Trump cared more about the investigation of Biden, which Guiliani was pressing for," than about US policy toward Ukraine, Taylor said. Taylor was referring to Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolf Giuliani.

"At the time I gave my deposition on Oct 22, I was not aware of this information," Taylor added.

Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said at the close of the hearing that Taylor's new disclosure showed "instructions" for the Ukraine pressure campaign came directly from Trump.

Taylor is one of the most important witnesses for the Democrats. He testified behind closed doors last month that he was told Trump held up US security aid and refused a one-on-one meeting with the Ukrainian president unless Zelensky announced a probe into the Bidens.

Republicans have argued that Taylor's charges against the president are based on second- and third-hand information.

Kent testified that Trump, Giuliani and their allies "undermined" US interests by launching a smear campaign against the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. He said the coordinated and Trump-endorsed campaign was "most unfortunate".

More witnesses to testify

The televised public impeachment hearings will continue on Friday with testimony from Yovanovitch. The Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives has scheduled eight more witnesses to testify at public hearings next week.

Schiff opened Wednesday's hearing by presenting the case against Trump, saying the inquiry will "affect not only the future of this presidency, but the future of the presidency itself".

California Representative Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the committee, accused Democrats of undertaking a "scorched-earth war against President Trump", saying they were using a "carefully orchestrated media smear campaign" to impeach the president.

"What we will witness today is the theatrical performance", Nunes said.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office after welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House, "It's a witch hunt, it's a hoax. I'm too busy to watch it." Trump also charged that the hearing was being run by "television lawyers".

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump had posted at least 18 tweets and retweets criticizing the hearing.

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2019-11-15 07:37:45
<![CDATA[EU citizens warned over missing Brexit residency deadline in 2020]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/15/content_37523344.htm

European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom who fail to secure permission to remain after Brexit will be summarily deported after 2020, according to people who claim to have seen draft government papers on the issue.

Reuters reported on Thursday that the UK will only be lenient in "exceptional circumstances", with exemptions possible for people with physical and mental impairments and children whose parents failed to apply on their behalf.

Reuters said it had learned about the deportation plan from immigration lawyers who read the government's draft immigration guidelines a few months ago.

One of the lawyers told the news agency: "We are looking at a fairly high threshold, saying 'I forgot' won't be good enough. If someone fails to apply before the deadline, they will have no lawful residence. Then, the process to deport them will kick in."

According to UK government statistics, around half of the estimated 3.5 million EU citizens residing in Britain have already sought permission to remain after Dec 31, 2020, the date on which they lose their automatic right to stay simply because they are EU citizens.

The draft guidelines indicate there could be a massive shake-up of the UK's immigration system, ending the generally favorable treatment of all EU citizens. The new system would prioritize people with specific skills.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement: "We will reduce immigration overall while being more open and flexible to the highly skilled people we need, such as scientists and doctors."

The BBC reported that the opposition Labour Party's shadow business minister, Laura Pidcock, had noted that the ruling Conservative Party had made similar claims in the past and "broken every single commitment (it has) ever given" on immigration.

Christine Jardine, the home affairs spokesperson for the pro-EU Liberal Democrats party, said the Conservative Party's anti-immigration stance is "an insult to the millions who have come to the UK and made it their home".

The latest government figures show net migration into the UK totaled 226,000 in the year ending March 2019. The total population of the UK is 66.5 million.

European Council President Donald Tusk, meanwhile, has reminded Britons, who will choose a new government in a general election on Dec 12, that they can still decide to remain in the EU.

He said on Wednesday that leaving the bloc would mark the "real end of the British Empire".

"Can things still be turned around?" Tusk asked in a speech. "The only words that come to my mind today are simply: Don't give up."

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2019-11-15 07:37:45
<![CDATA[Consensus eludes Trump, Erdogan]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/15/content_37523343.htm US President Donald Trump and visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to arrive at a consensus on security issues at a meeting on Wednesday.

However, even as major differences remain, relations between the two countries are seen as resilient and likely to pick up after recent strains.

After the much-anticipated meeting at the White House to address a crisis in the bilateral relationship, Trump said he was "a great fan" of the Turkish leader and that they had a "productive" encounter.

But they fell short of explaining in concrete terms how they would overcome the mounting differences on numerous issues, from Erdogan's incursion in Syria against the United States' Kurdish allies to Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

In a joint news conference, Trump said Turkey's purchase of the missile system from Russia "creates some very serious challenges".

"We are talking about it constantly, we talked about it today, we're talking about it in the future," Trump said, indicating that the United States had failed to persuade Turkey - a member of the US-led NATO alliance - to drop its purchase of the system.

Erdogan said the two countries could overcome their differences only through dialogue. "We are in agreement to further Turkish-American ties on a healthy ground. We have agreed to open a new page in our relationship," he said.

Relations between the US and Turkey have been under severe strain since October when Erdogan ordered the offensive against Kurds in northern Syria, following Trump's announcement that US troops would be withdrawn from there.

Trump threatened to impose sanctions if Turkey went too far in its campaign against the Kurds and caused excessive bloodshed.

However, the ties between the US and Turkey have never been broken over the years, said Zhang Bo, a researcher from the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Zhang said the two countries have maintained what he characterized as a relationship of mutual use.

"Under Trump's 'America First' policy, the US wants its Middle East allies, including Turkey, to shoulder more responsibility in anti-terrorism actions so that the US can step away from the battlefield. Thus, Trump will keep drawing Turkey to his side," he said.

In turn, Zhang said, Turkey relies on Washington's support to deal with the tough issues the country is facing, such as the masses of Syrian refugees it is hosting, the Kurdish presence on the Syrian border and anti-terrorism operations.

Xinhua and Reuters contributed to this story. liuxuan@chinadaily.com.cn

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and US President Donald Trump arrive at a news conference on Wednesday at the White House in Washington.Patrick Semansky/associated Press

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2019-11-15 07:37:45
<![CDATA[IN BRIEF]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/15/content_37523342.htm BRAZIL

State media groups vow to cooperate

China Media Group, or CMG, has reached a cooperation agreement with Brazilian state media group Empresa Brasil de Comunicacao, also known as EBC, in Brasilia. The agreement was announced on Wednesday during a visit to Brazil by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Under the agreement, the two media groups will work together in a number of areas including the sharing of audio-visual content and programs for radio and television, as well as 5G new media technology. CMG President Shen Haixiong said the deal will inject new energy into efforts to deepen the relations between the two countries and peoples.

INDIA

Smog ends classes, but not children's race

About 1,000 children ran a race in thick smog in the Indian capital New Delhi early on Thursday, although the authorities declared the air quality was hazardous and the city government ordered schools to be shut as an emergency measure. Reuters partner ANI tweeted pictures of several children running without protective masks as part of the annual Run for Children organized by not-for-profit group Prayas, which runs programs for child protection, juvenile justice and education. The annual event was held to mark the birth anniversary of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, which is celebrated as Children's Day. "The children did not run a long distance. It was a short run," Prayas' general-secretary, Amod K. Kanth, said.

RUSSIA

Teen kills student, wounds 3 in shooting

Russian police said a teenager killed a fellow student and wounded three more in a shooting at a college before taking his own life. Russia's state Investigative Committee said the 19-year-old brought a hunting rifle to class in Blagoveshchensk on Thursday and opened fire on the students. It wasn't immediately clear what prompted the attack. The attacker shot himself soon after the police arrived. While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks by students in recent years. The college has been evacuated and classes suspended. Police are continuing their investigations.

China Daily - Reuters

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2019-11-15 07:37:45
<![CDATA[Network to confront tech challenges]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/15/content_37523341.htm

UK-China research aims to help inform policy on artificial intelligence, gene editing

Academics in China and the United Kingdom have formed a new network that will help inform government policy on emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and gene editing.

The Sino-UK Innovation Strategy and Policy Research Network will be led by Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Tsinghua University in China has joined the initiative, as have departments and professors from Cambridge, Manchester, Northumbria, Edinburgh and Birmingham universities in the UK.

The network aims to contribute evidence-based research that will help address challenges brought on by emerging technology.

"Collaboration is good for higher quality research, and in this case it is about research on policy, to support evidence-based policymaking," network co-founder Fu Xiaolan told China Daily.

Fu, who is the director of the Technology and Management Centre for Development at Oxford University, said the network will aim to support technological development in Africa and Southeast Asia.

She said that the network will also provide evidence-based research for policymakers faced with emerging and transformative technologies that carry inherent risk, including "artificial intelligence, gene editing and industrial robotics".

"This research network will provide hard evidence to support policymaking at the country level, and at the level of the firm," Fu said. "And the implications of this research will go beyond China and the UK."

Network co-founder Pan Jiaofeng, who is president of the Institutes of Science and Development at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that more than 20 universities and institutions have shown interest in joining the network.

Pan said that the UK is "one of China's most important scientific partners".

"We hope that this research network will deepen collaboration between China and the UK," Pan said. "I believe we will generate more sparks of thought and produce more fruitful results so that policymakers, scholars and business leaders of our two countries will benefit from them."

The network was announced this week at the 4th Oxford Sino-UK Innovation Forum, an annual meeting among academics, politicians and business leaders from both countries.

At the forum, John Loughhead, who is the chief scientific adviser for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, highlighted the work both countries have done since signing the UK-China Joint Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation in 2017. This includes investment in renewable energy resources, research into hydrogen fuel, and other measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.

"We have several hundred projects already underway," said Loughhead.

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2019-11-15 07:36:18
<![CDATA[Clashes rock Bolivia as interim leader aims to end power vacuum]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/15/content_37523340.htm LA PAZ, Bolivia - Renewed clashes rocked Bolivia's capital on Wednesday as the woman who claimed the presidency, a secondtier lawmaker thrust into the post because of a power vacuum, faced challenges to her leadership from supporters of the ousted Evo Morales.

A day after Senator Jeanine Anez assumed power, violent clashes broke out between rock-throwing Morales backers and police in riot gear, who fired volleys of tear gas to disperse the large crowd of protesters as fighter jets flew low overhead in a show of force.

Opposition was also building in Congress, where lawmakers loyal to Morales were mounting a challenge to Anez's legitimacy by trying to hold new sessions that would undermine her claim to the presidency. A little-known deputy senate speaker, she stepped in after all the other officials in line to act as interim president resigned following Morales' lead.

The sessions - dismissed as invalid by Anez's faction - added to the political uncertainty following the resignation of Morales, the nation's first indigenous leader, after nearly 14 years in power. He has been granted asylum in Mexico.

In the streets, angry demonstrators tore off corrugated sheets of metal and wooden planks from construction sites to use as weapons, and some set off sticks of dynamite. Many flooded the streets of the capital and its sister city of El Alto, a Morales stronghold, waving the multicolored indigenous flag and chanting, "Now, civil war!"

"We're going to fight with our brothers and sisters until Evo Morales is back. We ask for his return. He needs to put the house in order," Paulina Luchampe said.

The 60-year-old Morales has vowed to remain active in politics and said he would be willing to go back home. "If the people ask me, we are willing to return," he said at a news conference on Wednesday in Mexico City.

90 days until new poll

According to the Constitution, an interim president has 90 days to organize an election, The disputed accession of Anez was one example of the long list of obstacles the former opposition senator faces. Morales' backers, who hold a two-thirds majority in the Congress, boycotted the session she called on Tuesday night to formalize her claim to the presidency, preventing a quorum.

The 52-year-old Anez claimed power anyway, saying the constitution did not specifically require congressional approval.

"My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country," she said. "They can never again steal our vote."

Bolivia's top constitutional court issued a statement late on Tuesday, laying out the legal justification for Anez's assumption of the interim presidency - without mentioning her by name.

But other legal experts challenged the legal technicalities that led to her claim, saying at least some of the steps required Congress to meet.

The lingering questions could affect her ability to govern.

Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivian and professor of political science at Florida International University, said the Constitution clearly states that Anez doesn't need a congressional vote to assume the presidency. Even so, "the next two months are going to be extraordinarily difficult for President Anez", he said.

Jennifer Cyr, an associate professor of political science and Latin American studies at the University of Arizona, said it "doesn't seem likely" that Morales' party will accept Anez as president".

"So the question of what happens next remains - still quite unclear and extremely worrying," she said.

Anez will need to form a new electoral court, find nonpartisan staff for the electoral tribunal and get Congress, which is controlled by Morales' Movement for Socialism Party, to vote on a new election.

Morales resigned on Sunday following weeks of violent protests fed by allegations of electoral fraud in the Oct 20 election, which he claimed to have won.

But his resignation came only after General Williams Kaliman, the armed forces commander, urged him to step down "for the good of Bolivia" - a move that Morales and his backers have branded a coup d'etat.

Ten people have died since the protests began, Bolivia's prosecutor office said Wednesday.

Agencies

 

A demonstrator pushes a member of the security forces during a protest in La Paz, Bolivia, on Wednesday.Carlos Garcia Rawlins/reuters

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2019-11-15 07:36:18
<![CDATA[Tenuous calm in Gaza as Islamic Jihad says truce reached with Israel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/15/content_37523339.htm

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israel and the militant Islamic Jihad group in Gaza appeared to have reached a cease-fire on Thursday to end two days of heavy fighting that killed at least 34 Palestinians and paralyzed parts of Israel.

Islamic Jihad group spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 am. There was no immediate confirmation from Israel, which rarely acknowledges deals with Gaza militant groups, but some restrictions were lifted on residents of the south, despite the continued firing of several rockets.

Berim said the cease-fire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late on Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group's leaders. The fighting broke out early on Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group who was said to be behind a string of the rocket attacks.

The rare targeted killing by Israel sparked the heaviest fighting with Gaza militants since May. Islamic Jihad fired nearly 400 rockets toward Israel, while Israel responded with scores of airstrikes.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the policy of targeted killings had "proved itself" to be effective and that it would continue, despite word of the cease-fire.

"Everyone who was a top military official, who was set to carry out and was involved in terror or rocket firing against Israel was eliminated," he told Israeli Army Radio. "And we intend to continue with this."

Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group, which is much larger and more powerful than Islamic Jihad, stayed out of the fighting, indicating it would be brief.

Palestinian officials reported 34 deaths, including those of a 7-year-old boy and six members of a single family. At least 16 of the dead were militants.

The rocket fire crippled life across southern Israel and, on Tuesday, also in the country's heartland in and around Tel Aviv, as nonstop airraid sirens canceled school classes and forced people to remain indoors. At least three people were lightly wounded from shrapnel or shattered glass. Most rockets landed in open areas or were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome military defense system.

Much of Gaza resembled a ghost-town, with almost no vehicles on the roads except for ambulances evacuating the wounded.

Shortly after Berim's announcement, at least two rockets were fired from Gaza, setting off sirens in southern Israel. It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets or whether the launches were intentional or misfires caused by electronic timers.

But Islamic Jihad said it was committed to ending the fighting, saying the fire was likely because word hadn't spread to all members about the halt to violence.

While Israel didn't publicly confirm the deal, UN and Islamic Jihad officials were in touch on Wednesday with Egyptian mediators. The Egyptians typically broker deals to end fighting in Gaza, and Israel did not respond to the rocket launches.

Also, the Israeli military's Home Front command tweeted that it was lifting restrictions in certain areas but leaving them in place in the areas surrounding Gaza. In Gaza, cars could be heard back on the streets as the territory appeared to be springing back to life. Israeli military drones could still be heard buzzing overhead.

Late on Wednesday, Islamic Jihad's leader, Ziad al-Nakhalah, announced three conditions for an end to the fighting. Aside from an end to targeted killings, the group demanded a halt to Israeli shootings of protesters at weekly demonstrations along the Israeli border and the easing of a 12-year-old Israeli blockade that has devastated Gaza's economy.

Agencies

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2019-11-15 07:36:18
<![CDATA[DPRK warns US against new drills]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/15/content_37523338.htm

As Pyongyang issued a fresh warning against military drills by Washington and Seoul, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday said his country is open to altering military activity with its allies if it helps diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Esper made the remark to reporters accompanying him on a flight to Seoul, where he is due to hold annual defense talks with the Republic of Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.

"We will adjust our exercise posture, either more or less, depending on what diplomacy may require," Esper said, according to the ROK's Yonhap News Agency, referring to US-ROK combined military exercises that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea condemns as an invasion rehearsal.

Washington and Seoul are scheduled to hold a joint air exercise later this month. Esper said the drill's scope has been reduced from the Vigilant Ace exercises that were conducted before US-DPRK diplomacy got under way last year.

Earlier on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the DPRK's State Affairs Commission, which is headed by the country's top leader Kim Jong-un, warned of a "greater threat" to the US should the drills go ahead as planned.

The spokesperson said the US should suspend the drills "at a sensitive time when the situation on the Korean Peninsula could go back to the starting point due to the joint military drills between the US and ROK," according to the state media Korean Central News Agency.

China urges de-escalation

China on Thursday called on all parties concerned to cherish the hard-won momentum of dialogue and de-escalation on the peninsula and do more to promote mutual trust.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news conference that China hopes the relevant parties are firmly committed to dialogue and consultation, showing flexibility to each other and making constructive efforts for denuclearization and long-lasting peace in the peninsula.

He emphasized that dialogue has always been the only effective way to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue in a political manner.

Nuclear diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang has been in limbo after their working-level talks held in Sweden collapsed in October.

How to find a balance between the denuclearization of Pyongyang and the sanctions relief by Washington is the key point to solve the nuclear issue, according to Wang Junsheng, an associate researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Wang said since the collapse of the summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim earlier this year, the two sides have used diplomatic and military tactics to put pressure on each other and have not shown sincere attempts to resume peace talks. Neither approach is conducive to the fundamental solution of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

"Although the DPRK has constantly expressed dissatisfaction with the joint military exercises between the US and the ROK, and the US side did make a gesture to reduce the scale of the exercises, without a deal on the extent between denuclearization and sanctions relief, I am afraid that there will be no substantial progress in the denuclearization process of the peninsula for a period of time," Wang added.

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2019-11-15 07:36:18
<![CDATA[Growth engine falters when needed most]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522876.htm Bolivia's economic outlook took a turn for the worse this week when a political crisis delivered yet more drama.

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With gas boom fading, new Bolivian govt faces tough task as unrest persists

Bolivia's economic outlook took a turn for the worse this week when a political crisis delivered yet more drama.

Former president Evo Morales took up asylum in Mexico and Senator Jeanine Anez Chavez, a leading lawmaker, assumed the presidency. The courts backed her move.

With a leadership vacuum seemingly filled, but unrest continuing, a new government will have to grapple with the economic fallout of the crisis for this country of 11 million. Last year, the economy grew 4.2 percent, mostly on the back of natural gas exports.

The political crisis has stirred up doubts about the country's future growth prospects and how it will service almost $15 billion in external debt, said Luis Angel Vasquez, a former Bolivian minister of justice and diplomat.

"So far, Bolivia has benefited from the boom in commodity prices, from the boom in gas exports to Argentina and Brazil, but that boom is coming to an end," said Vasquez.

"Gas reserves in Bolivia have been significantly reduced. No exploration has been done, and all of this has contributed to the fact that the gas revenues are becoming more and more depleted.

" (As a result,) Bolivia is turning to international credit with the idea of using that credit to solve the problems it has with the budget. That being the case, Bolivia's economic outlook and its export status are seriously threatened."

Vasquez said the boom began when Morales entered office - "from projects that had a maturity period of 20 to 30 years". They produced lucrative sales, especially for the Sao Paulo gas market in Brazil.

"This generated exceptional income in Bolivia, and it can be said that those 14 years have been the 14 years of greatest economic income growth in the history of Bolivia," he said.

But over the years the government dismissed any plans for natural gas exploration, the former minister said. "We have been losing export capacity, deposits are running low, and at the same time Brazil has been developing its own fields in much less expensive conditions than those offered by Bolivia," he said.

"The perspective is worrisome, as the gas sales contract with Brazil is about to expire, and the elaboration of a new contract is being conducted, but gas reserves must be certified (and we are running out of them)," Vasquez said.

For now, the country is managing to keep exports of natural gas stable.

"We have to have the police and army guarding the facilities, because in the end the national finances are the ones affected," said Alvaro Rios, managing partner at Gas Energy Latin America and a former minister of oil and gas, referring to the unrest in the country. "Bolivia has 55 million cubic meters of gas production. It can cover the summer demand, but not the winter demand.

"Bolivia's reserves and production are declining. There is exploration to come but that may not amount to much. Argentina has new gas. Brazil has new gas. We have moved from a sellers' market to a buyers' market in natural gas."

Gabriel Espinoza, an economist and adviser to the National Chamber of Commerce of Bolivia, said: "There is a rather complicated situation beyond the political situation, because now the government will be paralyzed for some time. Many of the reforms that were needed in the short term will not be possible, given that what is expected is only a transition government."

The country had a boom decade from the exploitation of gas, supported by exports of minerals and soybeans, but has now recorded five years of deficits, Espinoza told China Daily. This year, the fiscal deficit is expected to be at least 8 percent of GDP, or about $3.5 billion.

"The trade balance will be in deficit and, in addition to that, we must add the political problems of this last semester," Espinoza said.

He said a key issue facing Bolivia is the investment climate. "It is very likely that within the next six or eight months this climate will not improve and, rather the opposite, we will have serious problems in attracting investment," Espinoza said.

What's worse is that prices for raw materials have dropped and competition for natural gas exports has increased, particularly from Argentina, which recently discovered a massive deposit.

"Most of the deposits that have been exploited in Bolivia are reaching a level of depletion," Espinoza said.

"Bolivia is not able to sustain exports with increases in volumes - something that we did between 2008 and 2011 - because the deposits have been depleted and they are increasingly unfeasible, economically speaking," he added.

"The future situation for Bolivia is quite complex. We need to attract private, national and foreign investment, but the macroeconomic climate is deteriorating and the climate to attract investment, and the institutional issues, are not the best we can achieve."

The writers are freelance journalists for China Daily.

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2019-11-14 07:07:38
<![CDATA[Former US president Carter out of surgery]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522875.htm

Jimmy Carter, the oldest living former US president at age 95, was recovering on Tuesday from surgery to relieve pressure from bleeding on the brain caused by several recent falls, the Carter Center said in a statement.

"There are no complications from the surgery," said Deanna Congileo, a spokesperson at the Carter Center. "President Carter will remain in the hospital as long as advisable for observation. We do not anticipate any further statements until he is released from the hospital."

Carter, the 39th US president, who served between 1977 and 1981, was admitted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Monday evening for a procedure to relieve pressure on his brain from a sub-dural hematoma, or blood on the brain's surface.

News about Carter's health has sparked an outpouring of good wishes from people in the United States and beyond.

Barbara Malmet, an artist in New York, said on Twitter on Tuesday: "I will keep sending prayers up for President Carter. He has been through so much. May his healing be without incident. Our country is a better place for having him with us."

His health also has made headlines in China, where people remember him as the president who normalized diplomatic relations between the US and the People's Republic of China in 1979.

"I wish the senior man will recover very soon," Beijingfangcun, a user of Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging website, posted about Carter's surgery.

Congileo said the Carters thank everyone for the many well-wishes they have received.

Carter's first fall this year was in early May, when he broke his hip at his home in Plains, Georgia. That injury and the ensuing surgery prevented him from attending a ceremony the following month at the Carter Center, where the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations presented him with a statesmanship award.

The award was in recognition of his "monumental and enduring contributions" to the advancement of US-China relations.

Then early last month, he hit his head falling again at home and received 14 stitches above his brow, but still went to attend an opening ceremony for a Habitat for Humanity project in Nashville, Tennessee.

About two weeks later, he received treatment for a minor pelvic fracture from another fall at home.

Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter volunteer for one week a year with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps needy people in the US and in other countries renovate and build homes for themselves, according to the Carter Center.

Despite his age and frail health, Carter teaches Sunday school at Marantha Baptist Church in his hometown.

The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate marked his 95th birthday on Oct 1, becoming the first former US president to reach that milestone.

"I share the same birthday with your great nation, though I am 25 years older," Carter said in his congratulations to Chinese President Xi Jinping on the eve of China's National Day.

Carter said that he had witnessed how the Chinese people suffered during much of the early 20th century and how China's transformation into the world's second-largest economy lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty in the past four decades, according to a Xinhua News Agency report.

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2019-11-14 07:07:38
<![CDATA[Relatives struggle to bring victims home]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522874.htm

Grieving families in Vietnam are struggling to bring home the bodies of loved ones who perished in a refrigerated truck while trying to illegally enter the United Kingdom on Oct 23.

Many of the relatives of the 39 people who died in the freezing, airless vehicle cannot afford to pay to transport the bodies back to Vietnam.

Ten of the victims were from the Can Loc district of Ha Tinh Province, where Bui Huy Cuong is deputy chairman of the people's committee.

He told The Guardian newspaper that local officials have visited bereaved families to encourage them to accept the cheaper choice of the victims' ashes, instead of bodies. But, he said, families want the bodies so they can be honored in traditional funerals and are hoping government authorities will pay.

"At the moment, we are not sure if the British or the Vietnamese government will take responsibility for bringing victims back to Vietnam," he said. "Families know nothing about it. It should be clear soon (which government if any) will take responsibility... how much can British and Vietnamese governments pay, and how much will Vietnamese families need to contribute."

The brother of 26-year-old Pham Thi Tra My told the paper her family does not want ashes.

Pham Manh Cuong said: "My family wishes to bring my older sister's body back home because we all agreed we want to see her for the last time. If they do not pay for the transportation fee, and we have to pay the fee, we have to accept my sister's ashes in Vietnam, because we are in a very difficult position."

Pham Thi Tra My was the victim whose final text home was made public. She wrote: "I'm sorry, Mum. My journey abroad has not succeeded. Mum, I love you so much. I'm dying because I can't breathe."

Nguyen Dinh Gia, the father of another victim, Nguyen Dinh Luong from Nghe An Province, said his family also wants the body returned home.

He said villagers have been visited by local authorities but do not understand their options.

"They did not tell me how much the transport fee is, but told us it's costly, ... so it's easier to bring back ashes instead of the body," he said. "I said we are asking for help from two governments. ... We've had to wait for many days now and are falling into depression."

The Vietnamese government has not commented on the repatriations and the British government is dissolved pending a general election on Dec 12.

Police in the UK and in Vietnam have made several arrests in connection with the incident that claimed the lives of 31 male and eight female victims, of whom 10 were teenagers.

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2019-11-14 07:07:38
<![CDATA[Egypt, Russia seek solutions to crises]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522873.htm

CAIRO - Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu highlighted on Tuesday political solutions to crises in the Middle East.

At a meeting in Cairo, Sisi and Shoygu also underlined the need for the unity and territorial integrity of countries experiencing crises to be maintained, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement, with particular reference to Syria and Libya.

They reaffirmed the necessity for the national institutions of these countries to be maintained in order for the aspirations of their people to be met and for security and stability to be restored.

Sisi and Shoygu also emphasized the need to strengthen channels of consultation and coordination on various regional issues of common interest, especially in light of those challenges in the Middle East that have implications beyond the region.

In the meeting, they discussed ways of enhancing military cooperation between Egypt and Russia, including with joint training programs, the statement said.

In the statement, Sisi highlighted his country's keenness to strengthen bilateral relations with Russia at various levels within the framework of the strategic partnership between the two countries, especially in the military field.

For his part, the Russian minister stressed the need for stronger military and security cooperation between Cairo and Moscow to combat terrorism and extremist ideologies.

Over the past few years, political, military and economic ties between Russia and Egypt have grown significantly. The two sides have signed contracts relating to giant projects in Egypt as well as for a number of deals for Egyptian purchases of weapons from Russia.

Xinhua

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2019-11-14 07:07:38
<![CDATA[IN BRIEF]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522872.htm Peru

19 dead after bus falls into ravine

A bus plunged into a ravine on Tuesday in the northern region of La Libertad, killing at least 19 people and injuring 25, according to Peruvian National Police. The bus crashed into a ravine measuring about 300 meters deep as it was heading toward the city of Trujillo, 550 kilometers to the north of Lima, said national police officer Luis Convenas. He told Radio Programs of Peru that the accident was probably due to the dense morning fog in the area. Peru's highways are scenes of frequent accidents due to the conditions and characteristics of the Andes Mountains, which are between 2,000 and 3,000 meters above sea level.

Middle East

2 more killed amid tension with Israel

Two more Palestinians were killed on Wednesday in two separate Israeli airstrikes on central and eastern Gaza amid tension between Israel and the Hamas-ruled territory, medics said. The Gaza Health Ministry said in statements that two Palestinian young men were killed in the airstrikes, one in central Gaza Strip and the other in eastern Gaza City. The statement said that since the start of the wave of tension on Tuesday, 12 Palestinians were killed and more than 50 injured during the series of intensive Israeli airstrikes waged on the coastal Palestinian enclave.

India

No relief in sight from heavy smog

Cooler temperatures and lighter wind trapped heavy smog over New Delhi on Wednesday, pushing pollution to "severe" levels in many places with no immediate relief in sight, government agencies said. The overall air quality index in the city soared to 494, according to the monitoring agency SAFAR. The index measures the levels of airborne PM 2.5 - particles that can reach deep into the lungs. Anything above 60 is considered unhealthy. With the cool season setting in, the city was likely to suffer for weeks. The Central Pollution Control Board said pollution levels had touched 500 in some parts of the city, putting even healthy people at risk. Farmers burning stubble in their fields in areas around the city have been generating clouds of acrid smoke, SAFAR said, and the smog could get even worse.

Canada

Billionaire held for growing cannabis

The billionaire founder of global acrobatic troupe Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, has been detained on charges of growing cannabis on his private island in the South Pacific, authorities said. The Canadian entrepreneur was arrested after exiting his plane in French Polynesia and was due to appear before a judge later on Wednesday, prosecutors and reports said. In a statement, his company, Lune Rouge, said Laliberte uses cannabis for "medical" and "strictly personal" purposes and denied that he was growing the drug on his private island of Nukutepipi for commercial gain.

United States

John Legend named 'Sexiest Man Alive'

R&B crooner John Legend has been named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. The Grammy-winning singer known for his silky-smooth vocals was announced as this year's winner on Tuesday on NBC TV program The Voice. He serves as a coach on the singing competition series with singers Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton. Shelton, who was named Sexiest Man Alive in 2017, announced Legend's honor on show. The country singer then handed Legend some short shorts with bedazzled letters "EGOTSMA" to signify the singer's many honors: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and now, Sexiest Man Alive.

Xinhua - Agencies

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2019-11-14 07:07:38
<![CDATA[Fake horn aims to ruin illegal market]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522871.htm Chinese research scientists have teamed up with zoologists at Oxford University to create a technique for making fake rhino horn, which they hope will disrupt the market for illegal poached items.

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Scientists hope rhino alternative will disrupt trade in poached items

Chinese research scientists have teamed up with zoologists at Oxford University to create a technique for making fake rhino horn, which they hope will disrupt the market for illegal poached items.

A team at Fudan University in Shanghai helped create an alternative made from horse hair, and it is hoped that flooding the market with this will confuse the trade in rhino horn, which is driving the endangered African animal to the verge of extinction.

Rhino horn is considered particularly desirable as a status symbol in some cultures and is used in traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicine for relieving fever and other purposes.

"It appears from our investigation that it is rather easy as well as cheap to make a bio-inspired horn-like material that mimics the rhino's extravagantly expensive tuft of nose hair," said Fritz Vollrath, from the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology, adding that he hoped its introduction would "confuse the trade, depress prices and thus support rhino conservation".

The study's co-author, Mi Ruixin, from the Department of Macromolecular Science at Fudan University, added: "Our study demonstrates that materials science can contribute to fundamental issues in biology and conservation.

"The fundamental structure of the rhino horn is a highly evolved and tough fiber reinforced biocomposite and we hope that our attempts to copy it will not only undermine the trade in rhino horn but might also find uses as a novel bio-inspired material."

The researchers note that genuine rhino horn is formed from compressed tufts of hair, held together by secretions from the animal. The Oxford and Fudan horse hair version continues to resemble rhino horn even when cut up.

However, wildlife campaigners have said that despite its good intentions, the new product could potentially make the situation worse.

"Pushing a synthetic alternative could help to reinforce the perception that rhino horn is a desirable commodity, thus perpetuating existing demand," said Richard Thomas from the wildlife organization Traffic, "while presenting consumers with a synthetic alternative may actually stimulate demand for the real thing, thus exacerbating the existing situation."

John Taylor, deputy director of Save the Rhino International, said he was not sure how the synthetic horn would manage to infiltrate the market, and the best solution remained to end the rhino horn trade altogether.

"There is no substitute for anti-poaching measures at one end and reducing demand at the other," he added.

There have been other attempts to perfect a fake alternative to rhino horn before, but cheap mass production has been the stumbling block.

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2019-11-14 07:07:00
<![CDATA[Cannabis-based drugs gain health cover in UK]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522870.htm

Two cannabis-based medicines for patients with severe epilepsy or multiple sclerosis have been approved for use by the National Health Service, or NHS, in England.

The United Kingdom's drugs advisory body, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, or NICE, issued new guidelines recommending that the two medicines receive reimbursement by NHS England.

Doctors will now be allowed to prescribe Epidyolex for patients older than two years who suffer from severe forms of treatment-resistant epilepsy.

A second drug - Sativex, which is a tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol spray - was recommended to treat moderate to severe spasticity, or muscle stiffness and spasms, in adult multiple sclerosis patients.

Epidyolex is based on cannabidiol, also known as CBD, making it similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but nonpsychoactive, according to the World Health Organization.

CBD is the second-most prevalent ingredient in marijuana but is derived from hemp, a cousin of marijuana. Epidyolex treatment would be for seizures associated with two rare types of epilepsy - Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Epidyolex has been reported as reducing seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, considered the most difficult to treat, by up to 40 percent in some cases.

The UK law was changed in November 2018 to allow specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis medicines, but this has happened in only a handful of cases, the BBC reported. Each country within the UK makes its own decision on drug approval, and NICE guidance should also apply in Wales and Northern Ireland, while Scotland could follow suit next year, it added.

Professor Helen Cross, a consultant in pediatric neurology at Great Ormond Street Hospital who led the UK trials of Epidyolex, told the BBC it was "great news".

"Dravet and Lennox Gastaut syndromes are both complex, difficult epilepsies with limited effective treatment options and this gives patients another option ...that could make a difference to care," she said.

However, some charity campaigners who have been fighting for access to the drugs have said it does not go far enough.

"It is particularly devastating there is no positive recommendation that the NHS should allow prescribing of whole-plant medical cannabis containing both CBD and THC in appropriate cases of intractable childhood epilepsy," said Millie Hinton, from the campaign group End Our Pain.

"A number of the families we represent met senior NICE representatives in person only a few weeks ago.

"They explained first-hand they were paying thousands of pounds every month for private prescriptions of whole-plant extract medical cannabis and their children were showing dramatic reductions in seizure rates and equally dramatic improvements in quality of life," said Hinton.

Sativex has been available in Wales on the NHS since 2014, making it the first cannabis-based drug to be licensed in the UK following clinical trials. Manufactured by GW Pharma, it costs around 2,000 pounds ($2,530) per patient a year.

Regulators in England initially said it was not cost-effective. However, they have since reversed their stance. The approval decision means Sativex can be prescribed only for spasticity, not pain.

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2019-11-14 07:07:00
<![CDATA[S. Africa pledges to create more jobs]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522869.htm

A total of $24.2 billion in investments pledged at a Johannesburg conference last week is expected to create 412,000 jobs in South Africa, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The investments will support 31 projects, announced in 2018, in the auto, mining, energy and agro-processing industries. Seventeen projects are already under construction or at an implementation stage, involving $15.9 billion of investment.

Ramaphosa said this year's investments exceeded the amount pledged at last year's South Africa Investment Conference, where $20 billion was pledged.

South African companies accounted for $17.6 billion of the total pledges at this year's conference, compared to only $10.6 billion last year.

Ramaphosa hailed the increase in investment as a vote of confidence in the country's economy.

"It's a real achievement to realize this success at a time when our economy is struggling. After a prolonged period of stagnation, uncertainty and upheaval, we are firmly on the road to recovery," Ramaphosa said.

The president said that over $5.3 billion in investment pledges not disclosed at the conference are awaiting regulatory and board approvals.

Last year, Ramaphosa launched an ambitious plan to raise $100 billion in new investment over five years, aimed at boosting the rate of investment in the economy, which has been declining.

The South African economy is expected to grow by 0.5 percent this year, Ramaphosa said.

"Not surprisingly, there was a fair amount of skepticism about our ability to succeed in raising this amount of investment. Now, with the success of the second South Africa Investment Conference ... those doubts are giving way to a sense of realism and optimism," he said.

Ramaphosa said in his weekly TV address last week that the total value of investment commitments made this year vastly exceeded expectations.

"The benefit of increased investment extends far beyond raising capital to fund key projects. It is about the creation of a good and decent job for every South African, enabling them to feed their families, to own or build a home, and to save for their children's education and for retirement," he said.

The president called on domestic businesses to continue reinvesting in the economy. "By far, the most exciting development at the investment conference was the increase in the commitments from South African businesses," he said.

Hamilton Ratshefola, general manager of IBM Southern Africa, said the government should upgrade the infrastructure as well as improve water and the electricity supply to attract more investments.

"There have to be quicker licensing, permits and visa approvals for workers," Ratshefola said.

He said the country has the advantage of "endless natural resources" and a huge young population that can be equipped with the right skills for development of the country.

Tshifhiwa Tshivenga, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, expressed gratitude that tourism is part of the government's priorities in the next five years.

He called on the government to speed up the "world class e-visa" program and remove hurdles which frustrate potential tourists, such as the need for unabridged birth certificates for minors.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to the story.

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2019-11-14 07:07:00
<![CDATA[Venice underwater as exceptional tide sweeps through canal city]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522868.htm VENICE, Italy - Venice was hit by the highest tide in more than 50 years on Tuesday, with tourists wading through flooded streets to seek shelter as a fierce wind whipped up waves in St Mark's Square.

The exceptionally intense "acqua alta", or "high waters", peaked at 1.87 meters as the flood alarm sounded across the Italian city of canals, the tide monitoring center said.

"We're currently facing an exceptionally high tide. Everyone has been mobilized to cope with the emergency," Venice's Mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted.

Only once since records began in 1923 has the water crept even higher, reaching 1.94 meters in 1966.

As emergency services took to the canals to survey the damage, Italian media reported that a 78-year-old local had been killed by electric shock as the waters poured into his home.

The coast guard laid on extra boats to serve as water ambulances.

Tables and chairs set out for aperitifs bobbed along alleyways in the dark, as locals and tourists alike waved aloft inside-out umbrellas, the water slopping over the top of even the highest waders and wellies.

Water taxis attempting to drop people off at the glamorous and historic hotels along the Grand Canal discovered the gangways had been washed away, and had to help passengers clamber through windows.

"It will be a long night," Brugnaro tweeted, saying that as the water level began to drop again "the fears of a few hours ago are now being replaced by an assessment of the damage done".

He said he would declare a state of disaster for the city.

The exceptional flood, which he blamed on climate change, was "a wound that will leave a permanent mark".

At the sumptuous Gritti Palace, which has played host to royals and celebrities over the decades, including Ernest Hemingway, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the decadent bar was largely underwater.

Rich tapestries were piled onto tables, while the waters lapped around velvet sofas and leather-bound books.

'Swimming'

A couple of French tourists caught out said they had "effectively swum" after some of the wooden platforms placed around the city in areas prone to flooding overturned.

Since 2003, a massive infrastructure project has been underway to protect the city, but it has been plagued by cost overruns, scandals and delays.

The plan calls for the construction of 78 floating gates to protect Venice's lagoon during high tides.

St Mark's Square is always affected by the high tides, as it is located in one of the lowest parts of the city. This time, the vestibule of the basilica was inundated with water, and authorities planned to watch the building overnight.

Pierpaolo Campostrini, a member of St Mark's council, said the scale of the flooding on Tuesday had only been seen five times in the long history of the basilica, where construction began in AD 828 and which was rebuilt after a fire in 1063.

Most worryingly, Campostrini said, three of those five episodes occurred in the past 20 years, most recently in 2018.

The Italian Cultural Ministry said it would help fund improvements to the basilica's flood defenses.

Venice was not alone: powerful rainstorms swept through Italy on Tuesday, hitting the south hard as well.

The heavy rainfall closed schools in several southern cities including Taranto, Brindisi, and Matera, as well as the Sicilian cities of Pozzallo and Noto, according to the National Weather Service.

In Matera, this year's European Capital of Culture, a tornado caused trees and lamp posts to fall, damaging numerous roofs and buildings. No injuries were reported.

Agence France-presse

 

People crowd on to walkways set up to cope with a high tide in a flooded Venice, Italy, on Tuesday.Luca Bruno/associated Press

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2019-11-14 07:07:00
<![CDATA[Juul to cut staff, slash spending by $1b]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/14/content_37522867.htm

Juul Labs, the biggest marketer of e-cigarettes, said on Tuesday that it will eliminate about 650 jobs, or about 16 percent of its global workforce, and slash spending by about $1 billion, as the US government prepares regulations to curb the use of e-cigarettes.

Earlier, San Francisco-based Juul said it expected to reduce its workforce by 400 to 600 employees. The company had hired about 300 employees each month as its staff increased to about 4,000.

The deeper job cuts suggest the negative publicity surrounding lung injury cases has hit sales harder than anticipated, or the company expects future sales to decline sharply.

Besides the job cuts, Juul will trim spending by nearly $1 billion, including significant cuts in marketing and lobbying efforts. Juul has agreed to pause its marketing effort as regulators claim the company was trying to push its products on teenagers.

In Detroit, doctors at Henry Ford Hospital performed a double-lung transplant on a person with a severe vaping-related injury, believed to be the first procedure related to e-cigarette use in the US.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said 2,051 cases of lung injury have been reported in 49 states and the District of Columbia through Nov 5. Only Alaska has not reported a case. Thirty-one deaths in 24 states and the District of Columbia have been reported.

Juul expects a further reduction in sales after ending mint-flavored refill pods that account for about 70 percent of its US sales. Last year, the company voluntarily ended the retail sale of sweet and fruity flavors but continued to offer the flavors on its website until last month.

The company has been blamed for a 47 percent increase in teenage vaping. There are now about 5.3 million high school and middle school students who use e-cigarettes, compared with 3.6 million student users last year, two surveys published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

Last week, US President Donald Trump said he planned to announce regulatory changes for e-cigarettes but gave no details. "We have to take care of our kids," he told reporters at the White House.

The new regulations may ban all e-cigarette products except those that taste like tobacco and menthol, a revision of an initial plan to remove all flavored vaping products from the market.

Initially, vaping was believed to be less hazardous than cigarettes because the flavor pod is heated and not burned. That avoided the toxins created by burning tobacco and the paper wrapping in cigarettes. Health officials have not identified the cause of the lung injuries, but the only common thread is that patients reported the use of e-cigarettes.

The causes of the injuries and deaths aren't known, but the CDC said both appear to be related to THC-infused products and not tobacco or flavored vaping products. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that gives users a "high".

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2019-11-14 07:07:00
<![CDATA[Turkey starts deporting IS terrorists]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522649.htm Move could complicate situation as Ankara holds 1,200 foreign fighters

Turkey on Monday began repatriating Western prisoners who fought for the Islamic State group, thereby complicating the situation in the Middle East.

A US citizen and a Dane were the first to be deported and a German was scheduled to be sent home later in the day, according to state-run Anadolu Agency, citing Turkey's Interior Ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli. Seven more Germans were slated to leave the country on Thursday, the report said.

Danish authorities said their citizen was arrested upon arrival in Copenhagen on Monday and faces terror charges in Denmark.

Danish Justice Minister Nick Hakkerup told Danish broadcaster TV2 that any Danes who fought for the IS group, and are repatriated to the country "must be punished as severely as possible".

There was some confusion about the fate of the US citizen deported on Monday. Greek police said that Turkey had attempted to deport him over their shared land border, but Greek authorities rejected the man and sent him back to Turkey.

Stavros Tziamalides, an official from the border town of Kastanies, Greece, said the border gate was shut on the Greek side and there was a greater presence of Greek police and border guards from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

A US State Department official said that US authorities "are aware of reports of the detainment of a US citizen by Turkish authorities" but could not comment further because of privacy rules.

Two more Germans as well as two Irish nationals and 11 French nationals, all captured in Syria, were also to be transferred to their home countries soon, Catakli said. German officials said they will not refuse entry to German citizens.

The move came a week after Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Turkey was not a "hotel" for former IS fighters, and criticized Western nations that were reluctant to take back citizens who had joined the ranks of the IS as it sought to establish a "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria.

Soylu said about 1,200 foreign IS fighters were in Turkish prisons and 287 members, including women and children, were recaptured in northeastern Syria during Turkey's offensive there last month.

Zhang Bo, a researcher from the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Turkey's move could make the anti-terrorism action in the Middle East area even more complicated.

It remains a question whether some Western countries will accept the return of former IS fighters, Zhang said. "If not, Turkey may release the prisoners, who may flee to other countries, form new terrorist groups, and thus bring more threats and become a hidden danger," Zhang said.

"Even if the Western countries accept their deported citizens, it is still doubtful whether such countries will be able to eliminate the prisoners' extremist thoughts."

Dissatisfaction expressed

He added that Turkey's actions were also indicators of Ankara's dissatisfaction with criticisms from the United States and European countries over Turkey's military presence in northern Syria and its policy toward the Syrian Kurds.

The stepped-up effort to deport foreign extremists follows Turkey's offensive against Kurdish forces who were holding thousands of IS fighters and their families.

Turkey said it would take control of captured IS fighters in areas that it seized from Kurdish groups, but demanded greater assistance from Europe.

It remains unclear, however, whether Turkey will be able to repatriate those who have been striped of their citizenship. Britain has revoked the citizenship of some IS fighters to prevent their return.

AP and AFP contributed to this story.

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[Palestinian killed in clashes with Israel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522648.htm HEBRON, Palestinian Territories - Clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces on Monday during demonstrations in the occupied West Bank marking the 15th anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death. A Palestinian was shot dead and dozens of others were injured.

The UN envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nickolay Mladenov, said a "shocking" video purportedly of the shooting by Israeli forces being shared online "would seem to indicate that he (the victim) posed no threat to anyone".

Demonstrations were held in Ramallah and the Hebron area of the West Bank to commemorate the legacy of Arafat, the former chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization revered as a hero by Palestinians.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Arafat, laid a wreath at his tomb at a ceremony in Ramallah.

"Israel says the martyrs are criminals, terrorists and murderers," Abbas said, referring to Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. "We will never agree to give up on our martyrs, our most sacred martyrs."

Sporadic clashes erupted with Israeli forces, including in the Hebron area, where the Palestinian was shot dead, the Palestinian health ministry and medics said.

Palestinian medical sources identified the man as 22-year-old Omar al-Badawi, who was hit in the chest with live fire at Al-Arroub Refugee Camp before being taken to hospital in Hebron where he was pronounced dead.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said a large number of Palestinians threw stones and firebombs at soldiers, who responded with "riot-dispersal means and live fire".

Mladenov, however, called for an investigation and offered his condolences to Badawi's family.

Palestinians pointed to purported video of the shooting being shared on social media in which Badawi appeared to be shot while not posing any immediate threat.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the shooting, and hundreds of mourners attended Badawi's funeral.

Medics also reported Israeli use of live fire in clashes at Fawwar, south of Hebron, one of the most tense cities in the West Bank.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society reported at least 49 injuries in total, including two from live fire.

Arafat died on Nov 11, 2004, at a hospital near Paris from unknown causes at the age of 75.

Palestinians have long accused Israel of poisoning him, charges the Israeli government firmly denies.

Arafat's body was exhumed in 2012 for tests, but an investigation found no proof of poisoning.

Agencies

 

Palestinians gather with pictures and flags before the tomb of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, West Bank, on Monday. They were marking the 15th anniversary of Arafat's death.Xinhua

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[Saudi stabbings highlight social rifts]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522647.htm

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A Yemeni man stabbed three performers during a play in the Saudi capital on Monday, police said, in the first such attack since the kingdom began easing decades-old restrictions on entertainment.

The assailant was arrested after state television footage showed him stomping on to the stage in Riyadh's King Abdullah Park during a musical performance by what appeared to be a foreign theater troupe.

Police said the man arrested was a 33-year-old Yemeni expatriate and that a knife was seized.

But police offered no information about the nationality of the victims or the motivation of the assailant.

The King Abdullah Park is one of the venues hosting the two-month "Riyadh Season" entertainment festival, part of a government push to open up the kingdom to tourists and diversify its economy away from oil.

The country's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms including allowing concerts, reopening cinemas and lifting a ban on women driving as part of a contentious liberalization drive.

In scenes that were unimaginable just two years ago, Saudi Arabia has staged glitzy performances by a host of international artists, from South Korean boy band BTS to pop icon Janet Jackson and rapper 50 Cent.

But some Saudi officials warn that introducing such reforms is fraught with peril.

While they are wildly popular among the young population, the reforms risk angering archconservatives, including hardline clerics and the religious police whose powers have been clipped in recent years.

Agencies

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[Portuguese versions of Xi titles launched]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522646.htm

The Portuguese versions of the TV series Xi Jinping's Classical Literary Quotes and the Historic Journey documentary series have been launched on prime-time slots in Brazil as well as on new media platforms in the country.

The two productions were launched in the country by Brazil's Bandeirantes Communication Group on Monday.

Officials including Shen Haixiong, president of China Media Group, and Governor of Sao Paulo Joao Doria attended the premiere of Historic Journey in Brazil.

Shen believes the Portuguese version of the documentary series will give Brazilians insights into China, allowing audiences there to understand more about the changes China has undergone and enabling a deepening of cultural exchanges between the two peoples.

"This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Brazil. The China-Brazil comprehensive strategic partnership has been deepening under the guidance of the two heads of state and has become a model of South-South cooperation," said Shen.

Joao Doria said: "The Brazil-China friendship is not limited to the economy and trade. The Brazilian people want to know more about China. We believe the two feature films will better promote the mutual understanding and lasting friendship between the two peoples."

Xi Jinping's Classical Literary Quotes features carefully selected famous sayings and historical stories from ancient Chinese classics, quoted by the president in his speeches, articles and talks. The series is opening a window for billions of people around the world to understand how Xi has successfully brought China, the world's largest developing country, into a new era. Viewers can learn how the Chinese people are marching toward the Chinese Dream of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Historic Journey details achievements made over the 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

CGTN contributed to this story.

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[Delhi still choking despite brief respite after winds]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522645.htm NEW DELHI - A thick haze of polluted air hung over India's capital on Tuesday, with authorities trying to tackle the problem by sprinkling water to settle dust and banning some construction.

The air quality index in New Delhi exceeded 400, about eight times the recommended maximum, according to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board.

Health officials said severe air pollution affects healthy people and seriously harms people suffering from diseases.

Favorable winds had briefly halved that measure of pollutants, but winds blowing from the northwest carried emissions from burning crops in Punjab and Haryana states to New Delhi, leading to high levels of pollution, according to the government's air quality monitoring system SAFAR.

Air pollution in northern India peaks in the winter due to smoke from agricultural fires. Farmers say they are unfairly criticized and have no choice but to burn stubble to prepare their fields for the next crop.

Stringent pollution controls have been imposed, such as sprinkling water from high-rises and banning some construction to settle or avoid dust.

'Odd-even' formula

Under the arrangement known as the "odd-even" traffic formula, private cars with odd registration numbers are allowed to run on odd dates while even-numbered cars are limited to even dates.

But the worsening air quality in New Delhi has persisted.

Restrictions on private vehicles meant to reduce emissions were relaxed on Monday and Tuesday for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.

The pollution crisis affecting 20 million residents is also piling public pressure on the government to tackle the root causes of the persistent haze.

Doctors in the capital say many of their patients these days are complaining of ailments that stem from the filthy air they breathe.

New Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been making fervent appeals on Twitter and through newspaper advertisements, asking residents to do their bit in tackling the pollution problem.

World Health Organization data released last year showed India had the world's 10 most polluted cities.

Ap - Xinhua

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[The words creating a buzz in Japan]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522644.htm

Natural disasters, women in the workplace, cashless payment and bubble tea - the one thing they all have in common is that they have inspired plenty of nominations for an event showcasing the buzzwords of 2019 in Japan.

In an attempt to offer insights into Japan's evolving culture and the concerns of its people over the year, nearly 30 words and phrases have become candidates for the 2019 U-Can New Words and Buzzword Awards. It's an annual selection of the hottest hashtags, snappy words and catchy phrases put together by Japanese publishers U-Can and Jiyu Kokuminsha.

The list will be whittled down to the top 10 words that will be declared the winners on Dec 2.

"Take action to protect your life" was selected because officials and broadcasters used the phrase to stress the dangers when Japan was slammed by back-to-back typhoons this year. Hagibis, the country's deadliest storm in decades, took at least 90 lives and caused vast damage as 71 rivers overflowed their banks and flooded tens of thousands of homes in October.

"Planned suspension of service" got on the list, as authorities knew in advance of Hagibis' strength, resulting in the JR East and other railway companies shutting their services over the storm period. Rail services in Tokyo did not resume in full until 2pm the day after Hagibis passed through.

In 2019, a social media campaign known as #KuToo went viral as thousands of people showed their disapproval with societal dress codes for women, including expectations in many quarters that women wear high heels at work.

The campaign was started by Japanese actress Yumi Ishikawa.

In a country that ranks 110 out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum's gender-equality ranking, #KuToo brought greater awareness about gender discrimination in Japan. As a result, Ishikawa won a place on the BBC's Influential Women of the Year list for her activism.

Perhaps the most interesting candidate for this year's buzzwords top list is "tapiru", a word conveying the idea of "going out to drink tapioca bubble tea". Bubble tea, as a Chinese lifestyle import, at times has had people queuing for hours at railway stations and shopping malls across Japan.

The word mimics neologisms that attach Japanese verb inflections to English loan words, partly because "drinking tapioca" became so popular in the country that people felt like they needed a verb for it.

According to Osaka Customs, tapioca imports in the Kinki region of western Japan for the first half of this year increased 21.4 times over the same period last year.

"Tapioca is something you can choose for yourself by selecting the base tea, sweetness level, quantity of ice, and toppings. I guess that's why people like it so much," Keiya Takeshita, a tapioca-drink store owner in Tokyo told China Daily.

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[NATO critic Macron plans to meet Trump]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522643.htm

After 'brain death' comment on alliance, he will get the US leader's ear

Just days after Emmanuel Macron raised eyebrows when he declared that NATO is suffering "brain death", the French president on Monday said he plans to meet the man he apparently holds most to blame for that state - Donald Trump.

Macron said he would meet with the US president ahead of a NATO summit on Dec 3-4 in London.

On Thursday, Macron said a lack of leadership from the United States, as well as poor coordination among treaty partners more broadly, is causing the "brain death" of the transatlantic security alliance.

But on Monday, Macron tweeted he had an "excellent phone conversation" with Trump in which they talked about Syria, Iran and NATO and that "many convergences were underlined".

Macron is setting a friendly tone before the meeting, but no visible positive results are likely to be achieved, as both sides are unlikely to change their established policies and views, analysts said.

The meeting signals that Trump would like to ease strained relations with Europe, as the reconstruction of ties is in Trump's interest as he gears up for his reelection campaign.

An improvement in relations could also increase France's position and influence in Europe, said Cui Hongjian, director of the department for European studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

"But the US' Middle East policy has an established direction, which will put the interest of the United States and its allies in the region first, and won't take much of Europe's interests into account," he said.

Macron expressed doubt about the alliance in an interview with British weekly The Economist. In the article, published on Nov 7, he said the European Union must step up and start acting as a strategic world power.

Cui said that Macron's dissatisfaction with the US must have accumulated over a series of moves that could diminish Europe's security and which went against France's values.

"Both the recent US move to pull troops out of northeast Syria without notice and its earlier step in exiting from the 2015 nuclear deal (with Iran) would increase insecurity around Europe," he said.

In another action that troubled Macron, the US early this month began the process of pulling out of the Paris Agreement, becoming the first country to exit the global pact to fight climate change. Macron has signaled that countering climate change is important to his agenda.

Since becoming France's president in 2017, Macron has called for the establishment of a European army for shared procurement and command and operations activities as a means of better defending Europe and to reduce the region's dependence on the US and NATO.

Adding to transatlantic tensions, the US has adopted an "America first" doctrine, and Trump has also threatened to reduce US its alliance commitments. He points to NATO members, especially its European allies, as not paying enough for their military.

He Yun, an assistant professor at Hunan University's School of Public Management, said that the sudden withdrawal of US troops from Syria leaves many in Europe to doubt whether the US and NATO can be counted on in times of crisis.

"Macron, who has for years advocated that Europe should develop independent armed forces to best provide a guarantee for its security, seized the opportunity to criticize NATO to garner support for his security visions," she said.

Sven Biscop, director of Europe in the World Program at the Egmont-Royal Institute for International Relations, a think tank, said as the global situation changes and the focus of US strategy shifts, it is important for Europe to "strengthen its own defense capabilities and integrate its defense efforts" to solve some of the region's own security problems.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[US ex-president Carter enters hospital for surgery]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522642.htm ATLANTA - Former US president Jimmy Carter was admitted to an Atlanta hospital on Monday for a procedure to relieve brain pressure from bleeding caused by recent falls, the Carter Center said in a statement.

Carter, 95, the United States' oldest living former president, was admitted to Emory University Hospital three weeks after suffering a minor pelvic fracture in a fall at his home in Plains, Georgia. He was released from the hospital a few days after that accident.

A fall earlier in October required stitches to Carter's face, but he resumed work soon after on a homebuilding project for the nonprofit group Habitat for Humanity.

In May, the former Democratic president broke his hip, also at home, requiring him to undergo surgery. He was admitted to hospital briefly in 2017 for dehydration and was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2015.

No information was immediately provided about the circumstances leading to his latest hospital admission.

The procedure to relieve pressure on his brain was scheduled for Tuesday morning, the Carter Center said, adding that he was "resting comfortably", and that his wife, Rosalynn, 92, was with him.

Carter, a former peanut farmer and Georgia governor, defeated Republican president Gerald Ford in 1976 to become the nation's 39th president, serving a single four-year term in the White House.

His presidency was overshadowed by an economic recession and an energy crisis, but he also played a leading role in brokering the Camp David Accords that led to a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

He lost his 1980 reelection bid to Republican Ronald Reagan.

After leaving office in 1981, Carter went on to become an international fixture and a noted humanitarian. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts toward finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts, advancing democracy and human rights and promoting economic and social development.

He and Rosalynn founded the Carter Center in 1982 to carry on their international and humanitarian work.

Carter has lived longer after leaving the White House than any other former president in US history.

Reuters - Ap

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[Democrats, Republicans to vie for impeachment narrative on TV]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522641.htm

WASHINGTON - Impeachable or not?

Both Democrats and Republicans see the televised impeachment hearings starting this week as their best opportunity to shape public opinion about US President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Democrats believe the testimony will paint a vivid picture of presidential misconduct. Republicans say it will demonstrate that the evidence is insufficient for impeachment.

The stakes are high and historic. Trump faces the prospect of being just the third US president impeached by the House of Representatives, a dubious distinction for a commander in chief facing reelection. Yet Democrats are privately uncertain about how the public will view the proceedings, particularly if Trump is impeached along party lines.

In the hearings beginning on Wednesday, Democrats plan a narrow focus and a narrative retelling of Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate a Democratic rival while his administration withheld essential military aid to an Eastern European ally on Russia's border.

All three witnesses this week - top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch - have already expressed concerns about Trump's efforts in closed-door depositions last month.

This time they'll be on live TV and newscasts for days afterward for all Americans to see and hear.

The Democrats see all three witnesses as highly credible, detail oriented and well positioned to tell that story to the US public.

"This is a very simple, straightforward act," said California Representative Jackie Speier, a member of the House intelligence committee that is conducting the hearings. "The president broke the law. He went on a telephone call with the president of Ukraine and said I have a favor, though, and then proceeded to ask for an investigation of his rival," she said.

Democrats say their best evidence isn't even from the witnesses themselves, but from the rough transcript of that July call between Trump himself and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump asked for the "favor" of the investigation of Joe Biden and his son when Zelensky mentioned the military aid.

The witnesses have added detail on the circumstances of the call and have told investigators of concerns swirling in different corners of the administration as Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pushed for the probes into the Bidens and into a possible Ukraine role in the 2016 US presidential election.

Taylor and Kent will testify on Wednesday, Yovanovitch on Friday. Yovanovitch plays a central role in the inquiry, as her ouster at Trump and Giuliani's direction in May raised questions throughout the US diplomatic community. Taylor, a former ambassador to Ukraine, was brought in to replace her and navigated Trump's demands throughout the summer as the president brought his requests directly to Zelensky.

Kent is a senior State Department official overseeing Ukraine. He told House investigators in a closed-door hearing that he understood, as other witnesses did, the military aid to be in exchange for the investigations - the quid pro quo that is at the heart of the Democratic probe.

Trump, who will surely be watching at the White House, has strongly denied any quid pro quo, and has bashed the diplomats by saying that none of them had firsthand knowledge of his thinking.

"It seems that nobody has any firsthand knowledge," the president said last week.

Republicans' questions to the witnesses at the public hearings is expected to turn on that point.

None of the witnesses so far has testified to relevant conversations that they had with Trump himself, and several of the accounts involve conversations witnesses heard about from other people.

Agencies

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[Morales heads for Mexican exile]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522640.htm Evo Morales, who resigned as Bolivia's president on Sunday, flew to Mexico on Monday evening while the senator expected to succeed him pledged to call fresh elections.

Morales' government collapsed on Sunday after ruling party allies quit and the army urged him to step down in the wake of a disputed general election.

Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said he had received a call from Morales "to verbally and formally request asylum in our country" and that the request had been granted.

Ebrard said Morales' life was in danger and the decision to grant him asylum was in Mexico's long tradition of sheltering exiles.

Jeanine Anez, 52, a vice president and the deputy Senate speaker, is constitutionally in line to become Bolivia's interim president. According to local media reports, the parliament was expected on Tuesday to appoint her to oversee fresh elections and manage the transition to a new government by Jan 22.

Morales, 43, who had been in office for almost 14 years, boarded a Mexican government plane late on Monday night from the central Bolivian town of Chimore. In a tweet, he confirmed he was departing for Mexico, but pledged to return with more "strength and energy".

Ebrard said his government viewed the events in Bolivia as a "coup" because the military broke with the constitutional order by pressing Morales to resign.

Observers said the former president's departure has added to a sense of crisis in Latin America, which has been hit by weeks of unrest in Ecuador and Chile, where protesters urged governments to reverse hikes on fuel and transport prices.

Following Morales' lead, at least 50 officials from his Movement for Socialism party have resigned in the past several days following protests that led some to set ablaze the homes of officials. The protesters claimed Morales' reelection last month was "illegal" as an international monitor questioned the validity of his victory.

The Organization of American States, or OAS, which monitored the elections, agreed, concluding there was "clear manipulation" in ballot counting and called for the results to be annulled.

But Xu Shicheng, a fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the OAS was backed by the United States, whose intervention has been the driving force behind most of the unrest in Latin America.

In an interview, US President Donald Trump hailed Morales' resignation as a "significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere", and praised the role of the country's military.

"These events send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail," Trump said, referring to two other Latin American nations targeted by his administration. Venezuela and Cuba meanwhile denounced what they called a coup.

Xu said although Bolivia's economy has grown rapidly under Morales' governance, some of the country's residents had grown dissatisfied with the government, mainly instigated by foreign forces' intervention in the country's politics.

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[IN BRIEF]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522639.htm BANGLADESH

At least 15 killed in train collision

Two trains collided in eastern Bangladesh, killing at least 15 people and injuring scores on Tuesday, officials said. Local Police Chief Shayamal Kanti Das said the collision took place early on Tuesday when the Udayan Express and Turna Nishita trains approached on the same track from opposite directions in Brahmanbaria district. The area is 82 kilometers east of the capital Dhaka. Das said authorities were trying to ascertain how many were injured. Local government administrator Hayat Ud Dowlah Khan said at least 40 of the injured were being treated in hospitals, but the United News of Bangladesh agency said the number of the hurt would top 100. Train accidents are frequent in Bangladesh, many of them at unsupervised railway crossings. Poor signaling systems and the bad condition of tracks are among the factors often cited.

UKRAINE

Forces pullback in the east completed

The Ukrainian military and militia forces have completed a withdrawal of troops and weapons from an area in eastern Ukraine embroiled in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people, officials said on Monday. The disengagement near Petrivske that began on Saturday followed a recent similar withdrawal in another section of the frontline, where the two sides have been fighting since 2014. The disengagement of forces in eastern Ukraine was seen as a key step to pave the way for a summit of leaders from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany aimed at ending the conflict.

UNITED KINGDOM

Unemployment rate dips to 45-year low

British unemployment has hit a fresh 45-year low, official data showed on Tuesday in a mixed labor market snapshot before a UK general election and Brexit. The unemployment rate declined to 3.8 percent in the three months to September, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. That was the lowest level since the final quarter of 1974, and compared with 3.9 percent in the three months to August 2019.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban trio to go free in apparent swap

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced on Tuesday that three high-ranking Taliban prisoners would be released, in an apparent exchange for two Western hostages who were kidnapped by the insurgents in 2016. The three Taliban prisoners include Anas Haqqani, who was seized in 2014 and whose older brother is the deputy Taliban leader and head of the Haqqani network, a notorious Taliban affiliate. He did not specify the fate of the Western hostages and it was not clear when or where they would be freed. But Ghani noted in his speech that "their health has been deteriorating while in the custody of the terrorists".

JAPAN

Hayabusa-2 probe heads for Earth

Japan's Hayabusa-2 probe left its orbit around a distant asteroid and headed for Earth on Wednesday after an unprecedented mission, carrying samples that could shed light on the origins of the Solar System. The long voyage home began at 01:05 GMT, with the probe expected to drop off its precious samples some time in late 2020, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said. "We expect Hayabusa-2 will provide new scientific knowledge to us," project manager Yuichi Tsuda said. The probe will bring back to Earth carbon and organic matter that will provide data as to "how the matter is scattered around the solar system, why it exists on the asteroid and how it is related to Earth", said Tsuda.

Agencies

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2019-11-13 07:22:26
<![CDATA[Debates on climate intensified]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522638.htm Australian PM among harshest critics of those linking blazes with global warming

What part has climate change played in the deadly wildfires that have ravaged California and the Amazon, and the bushfires now burning along Australia's eastern coast? It is a question taking on greater significance as the intensity and frequency of fires increase.

Grant Wardell-Johnson, an adjunct associate professor with the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University in Western Australia, said the link between climate change and fires' impact is "complex but unequivocal".

"Climate change causes more intense weather and the increasing likelihood of catastrophic fire conditions. Weather is the overriding factor affecting fire behavior under catastrophic conditions, when everything burns," he said.

The government has declared a state of emergency in the state of New South Wales, where more than 1 million hectares of land have been burned and hundreds of homes destroyed in the past few months. In Queensland, one-third of that northern state has been designated in a state of emergency.

Around Australia, the debate over climate change and its impact on the environment is intensifying and polarizing the nation.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his deputy Michael McCormack have been highly critical of those drawing a link between climate change and the current spate of bushfires.

McCormack has come in for the greatest criticism, due to his attacks on Australian Greens politicians and environmentalists in general.

On Monday he said remarks blaming climate change for causing the fires were "the ravings of some pure enlightened and 'woke' capital city greenies".

Scientists, however, have so far generally avoided getting involved in the political arguments. They say climate change does not create bushfires, but it can make them worse. Several factors contribute to bushfire risk, including temperature, fuel load, dryness, wind speed and humidity, they point out.

The recent string of devastating wildfires in California has caused billions of dollars of property in damage and displaced thousands from their communities.

Wildfires have gotten bigger and more destructive in the US state, with 10 of California's worst fires occurring in the past decade alone, analysts say.

According to the US Fourth National Climate Assessment, climate change doubled the area of forest burned in the western US between 1984 and 2015.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has said "climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia".

"The long-term changes in Australia's climate, identified by climate scientists as resulting from global warming, mean intense fires have become frequent, and they are now occurring in areas which were previously very low bushfire risk areas," Jim McLennan, bushfire safety researcher and adjunct professor with the School of Psychology and Public Health at Melbourne's La Trobe University, told China Daily.

He said over the previous five years or more, average temperatures across Australia have risen, and there have been more frequent very hot days, especially during summer months.

During the last two years, annual rainfalls have been well below long-term averages.

In addition, annual rainfall patterns have changed, leading to drought conditions in many parts of Australia.

The result is that soil moisture levels are low and vegetation is drier, McLennan said. "This means that bushfires are more frequent, the bushfire high-risk period is longer, and fires are more intense and thus more dangerous to life and property and harder for fire agencies to control.

"In my opinion it is quite sensible to view the present disastrous bushfire situation as resulting from climate change," he added.

Mayors from fire-ravaged areas of northern New South Wales have said there is no doubt in their minds that the devastating blazes tearing through their communities are a result of climate change.

Carol Sparks, the mayor of Glen Innes, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that politicians need to believe the scientific evidence on climate change. "These fires are not a political thing,... it is a scientific fact that we are going through climate change," she said.

The current rash of fires along the eastern Australian coast presents a "critical linkage" in understanding how climate change will transform bushfire behavior, frequency and ecological impacts, said David Bowman, professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science and director of the Fire Centre Research Hub in the School of Natural Sciences at the University of Tasmania.

"What I mean is, we are clearly transiting away from the stage of 'what climate models tell us' about the possible effects of climate change on bushfires to 'observing and experiencing' extreme, unusual, and ecologically and economically damaging bushfires driven by anomalous climate conditions," Bowman said.

He said a much larger and more informed discussion about bushfire adaptation is needed, grounded in scientific reality. "As a society we are running out of time to adapt to climate-change-driven bushfires, and policy failure will lead to escalating disasters that have the capacity to eclipse the worst disasters we have experienced."

 

A fire crew member fights part of the Hillville bushfire south of Taree in New South Wales, Australia, on Tuesday.Darren Pateman/aap Image/reuters

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2019-11-13 07:21:49
<![CDATA[Poultry king Poland hatches 2 billion chicks a year]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522637.htm KONDRAJEC PANSKI, Poland - In what looks like a Niagara Falls of yellow feathers, thousands of chicks cascade down a conveyor belt in central Poland.

A day old, they only have 41 days of life left. Their fate is sealed: Once grown, they will wind up on a plate.

Nonetheless, the conditions during their brief lives should be better, according to animal welfare activists, ever more active and influential in Poland as elsewhere.

The city of New York voted last month to ban the sale of foie gras, which is made from the livers of force-fed ducks and geese.

Also last month, the French government announced that the culling of male chicks by a macerator - a high-speed grinder - would be outlawed by the end of 2021.

For the day-old Polish chicks, their next stop is a chicken coop the size of a hangar.

It houses 54,000 chickens - hopping, pecking, clucking and raising their heads to drink from suspended water bowls.

Chicken over pork

"After six weeks, the chickens grow to between 2.7 and 2.8 kilograms" after weighing 40 grams on day one, said Andrzej Gontarski, head of the farm comprising a dozen such warehouses in the village of Kondrajec Panski.

Poland's poultry industry has come a long way over the past decade.

The country is now Europe's top chicken producer and exporter, having raised more than a billion chickens for meat last year, according to Statistics Poland. That's 10 times more than in 2009.

Chicken was the natural choice over pork: The sky is the limit for the poultry export market, whereas many countries, especially Muslim ones, do not allow pork imports.

The production cycle is also shorter, and the invested funds are recouped faster, after a mere dozen weeks or so.

Growing industry

Every year, 1.8 billion chicks are born in Poland, according to Mariusz Paweska, an official from a large hatchery in the area, in the village of Skarzynek.

Many are exported almost immediately, notably to Belarus and Ukraine, but more than half are raised in Poland for consumption at home or future export.

Germany is the biggest export market, followed by the Netherlands and Britain, with Ukraine, South Africa and Hong Kong the main ones outside of the European Union bloc.

The industry continues to grow.

"Just this year we've seen six new slaughterhouses open up. They can process more than 1.4 million chickens a day," said Piotr Tarkowski, whose employer Agraimpex exports $24 million worth of poultry every year.

Poland's main asset is its prices. They are much lower than those of Western poultry farmers, according to Mariusz Szymyslik, a co-director of the national chamber of poultry and animal feed.

He said trade barriers still exist in the EU, especially protecting the French and German markets: "If the European market were totally free, Polish poultry would have swept the Western competition".

Agence France-presse

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2019-11-13 07:21:49
<![CDATA[Fires reshape market for home insurance]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522636.htm

Vida Hamadani felt the impact of the wildfires in California when she had to flee her Brentwood home two weeks ago.

Although she and her family escaped the Getty Fire and their house wasn't damaged, Hamadani is worried about a potential increase in home insurance premiums that could affect many homeowners, including an insurance agent such as herself.

"Many policies have become twice as expensive, more than triple with the premium, and, of course, I see a lot of unhappy clients dealing with this high premium, and my understanding and belief is that due to this recent fire, it's going to make it even more expensive," said Hamadani, who owns a namesake insurance company in Los Angeles.

Amid the growing frequency and severity of California's wildfires, insurance companies are facing huge payouts. To avoid catastrophic losses, some are increasing prices and canceling policies, especially in fire-prone areas, leaving many homeowners without adequate coverage.

Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes up and down the state as blazes such as the Getty, Kincade and Saddle Ridge outbreaks, fanned by violent Santa Ana winds, ripped through communities.

Wildfires have become a common occurrence in the state in the past few years. The most recent ones scorched more than 250,000 acres (101,170 hectares) and resulted in three fatalities and billions of dollars in damages.

Insurance companies fielded nearly 45,000 claims totaling nearly $11.79 billion in losses from wildfires between October and December 2017, the California Department of Insurance, or CDI, reported.

Insured losses from 2018 topped $13 billion, according to the agency. The main drivers of the claims were the Camp Fire in Paradise and Butte County, and the Woolsey and Hill fires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, all of which started in November 2018 - described as the most destructive wildfire month in California's history.

In an email to China Daily, the CDI said it doesn't have insurance loss numbers for 2019, "but the scale of losses does not approach last year's record losses".

Many insurance companies reeling from massive payouts of the recent fires are dropping homeowners who live in or near an area where a major fire occurred.

Many homeowners in fire-prone areas often must scramble for replacement policies because their insurance companies send them a nonrenewal letter sometimes just 60 days before the renewal date of their existing policies, Hamadani said.

From 2015 to 2018, the number of new and renewed homeowners' policies fell by 8,700 in 10 counties with the most homes in high or very high-risk areas, CDI data showed.

Those counties saw a 177 percent growth in new FAIR Plan (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) policies, compared with only a 4 percent increase for the five counties with the lowest risk.

The California FAIR Plan is an insurance pool of all licensed property insurers established in the 1960s to ensure the availability of basic property insurance for those who can't get insurance on the standard market.

"We have a lot of customers that are unable to get homeowners insurance, because the insurance carriers have become so strict as to what they are willing to accept," said Tim Gaspar, CEO of Gaspar Insurance Services in Woodland Hills, California.

He said home insurance rates have been steadily increasing over the past two years, in part because the companies must pay for claims they previously didn't have to pay.

Courts and lawmakers have become more liberal in what they are asking insurance companies to pay, he said. For example, many insurance companies excluded damages from mudslides. But after wildfires triggered mudslides in Montecito in 2018, the CDI issued a formal statement reminding insurers to cover damage from a mudslide if an insured danger, such as fire, was the cause.

"The reality is these wildfire claims don't affect just the people living in wildfire areas, they have an impact on the entire homeowner marketplace in California. Regardless of where you live, you are probably going to see some sort of an increase," Gaspar said.

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2019-11-13 07:21:49
<![CDATA[Boeing wants to deliver new Max jets next month]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/13/content_37522635.htm Boeing, facing a shortage of storage space as undelivered 737 Max jets remain parked near one of its manufacturing plants, hopes to start delivering new planes to airlines before Dec 31, even if regulators haven't approved pilot training for the plane's updated flight control system by then.

The planes wouldn't be used in commercial service, but could be readied by airlines pending final approval by the US Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA.

"It's becoming a logistics problem," Robert Mann, president of R.W. Mann & Co, an aviation consulting firm in Port Washington, New York, told China Daily. "The logistics of reintroducing the aircraft to service are becoming the long lead-time item, replacing recertification. Operators can get ferry permits to move the planes before all pilot training is completed. It then becomes a question of servicing aircraft that have been stored for eight or nine months."

In a statement, Boeing said: "While the FAA and other regulatory authorities will determine the timing of certification and return to commercial service, Boeing continues to target FAA certification of the Max flight control software updates during this quarter. Based on this schedule, it is possible that the resumption of Max deliveries to airline customers could begin in December."

The 737 Max, Boeing's top-selling airplane, has been grounded since March after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 passengers and crew on board. Investigators believe the Max's automated anti-stall device, called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, erroneously pointed the nose of the planes down to avoid a midair stall and into a fatal plunge.

Boeing has updated the anti-stall software, but the FAA hasn't yet approved it. The European Aviation Safety Agency, or EASA, the European Union's counterpart to the FAA, may require pilots to undergo flight simulator training rather than a short online course before recertifying the Max for commercial service. If so, that would mean a staggered return of the plane, and all planes may not return to service worldwide until 2021.

Despite the worldwide grounding, Boeing has continued to produce the 737 Max at the rate of 42 planes per month at its plant in Renton, Washington, near Seattle. Before April, Boeing produced its top-selling plane at the rate of 52 a month.

In a related matter, The New York Times reported that Boeing is seeking to move pending civil cases out of US courts, so they could be heard by judges in Indonesia and Ethiopia, where the crashes occurred. The moves would make it more convenient for surviving family members to attend court sessions in lieu of traveling to the United States.

However, the newspaper reported that "such a move would most likely save Boeing many millions of dollars in damages and limit how much information about the crash the company has to make public".

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2019-11-13 07:21:49
<![CDATA[Bolivia in power void as Morales quits]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/12/content_37522363.htm Departing president lashes out at 'coup' after losing backing of security forces

The sudden resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales may exacerbate divisions in the South American country and create further political uncertainty, analysts said.

In a televised address on Sunday, Morales announced his resignation after nearly 14 years in power. Morales said he was leaving to help protect the families of political allies whose homes were burned down.

Media reports said the Bolivian army chief, General Williams Kaliman, had called on Morales to resign after weeks of domestic protests over his election win after "auditors found irregularities with the poll". Morales said he had been the "victim of a coup".

 

Bolivian President Evo Morales (left) meets supporters on Sunday at the presidential hangar in the Bolivian Air Force terminal in El Alto, where he announced his resignation in a news conference. Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Morales urged protesters to "stop attacking the brothers and sisters, stop burning and attacking". He also accused his opponents of destroying the rule of law, and said his home was attacked by "violent groups".

Morales said he will return to his coca leaf producers union and continue to work with his colleagues in the production of the plant.

"I don't have to escape from the country, I haven't stolen anything. My assets are there and they can be proven," Morales said.

Hearing of Morales' resignation, Bolivia's main opposition candidate in the election, former president Carlos Mesa, claimed a victory, saying that Bolivians "have taught the world a lesson. Tomorrow Bolivia will be a new country."

Morales was the first indigenous Bolivian to become president. Observers said he brought stability and economic progress, helping to cut poverty and inequality. He remains deeply popular among many Bolivians. Backers of the president have clashed with opposition demonstrators in disturbances that have followed the October vote, in which Morales claimed victory for his fourth term.

Tang Jun, a Latin America expert at Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, said the alleged fraud in the election has undoubtedly weakened the political authority of Morales' party and created political unrest in Bolivia. "Morales's resignation might at some point ease the opposition's anger, but will intensify the domestic unrest in the long run," Tang said.

Wang Huizhi, an assistant researcher in the Latin American and Caribbean Department of China Institute of International Studies, said that Morales' departure along with the resignations of his vice president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, and several other state leaders might create a "vacuum of state power", aggravating social management and order.

According to Wang, Morales' resignation is a result of a "political struggle".

"His resignation announcement shows that the opposition party as well as the army and police who took part in the domestic protests put pressure on Morales to resign. And that is why Morales has described it as a 'coup'," Wang said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday voiced his deep concern about the situation in Bolivia following weeks of unrest. The UN chief urged all concerned in Bolivia to refrain from violence, reduce tension and exercise maximum restraint, said Stephane Dujarric, Guterres' spokesman, in a statement.

The secretary-general appealed to all actors to commit to a peaceful resolution of the current crisis to ensure transparent and credible conditions during the run-up to a new general election, it said.

Cuba and Venezuela, as well as Brazil's former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, accused Bolivia's opposition of staging a "coup".

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2019-11-12 07:19:14
<![CDATA[Teheran starts building work at second reactor]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/12/content_37522362.htm

Iran began pouring concrete on Sunday for a second nuclear reactor at its Bushehr power plant after saying the day before that it had enriched uranium to five percent. The sequence of actions, analysts said, is thought to be in retaliation against a tightening of sanctions by the United States.

Teheran and Moscow inaugurated a new phase of construction for another reactor at Iran's sole nuclear power plant in Bushehr on the Gulf coast, a facility Teheran points to as its reason to break the enrichment limit set by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The reactor is one of two officially under construction since 2017 at the Bushehr site, around 750 kilometers south of Teheran.

The moves are the latest taken by Iran in defiance of the toughened sanctions from the US, said Niu Song, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University.

"The series of actions are a response to the US' increasing pressures, such as expanding sanctions to cover nine individuals who, as the US claimed, have close ties to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei," he said.

Niu said Iran's actions are not meant to undermine the nuclear deal, but to safeguard the existence of the deal with extreme measures.

"Iran said it wants to maintain close interactions with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will continue to carry out inspection work in Iran. When the right time comes, such as after some agreements are achieved, Iran's actions can be reversed."

On Nov 5, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced the country's fourth step to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal, including its work to start injecting uranium hexafluoride gas at its Fordow reactor.

Despite the quickened pace of Iran's work in its capabilities for centrifuge technology and enriched uranium, Niu said it is hard to say that the activities are related to nuclear weapons research.

"Iran itself has the right to use nuclear energy in a peaceful way, and Europe will tend to continue its dialogues with Iran to mediate in the situation," Niu said.

The 2015 nuclear deal placed restrictions on the sort of nuclear reactor Teheran could develop and on its production of nuclear fuel. But it did not require Iran to halt its use of nuclear energy for power generation.

Niu said the US may step up its criticism of Iran and even extend sanctions to more Iranian high-ranking officials.

The US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in May 2018.

AP contributed to this story.

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2019-11-12 07:19:14
<![CDATA[Spain faces more uncertainty after poll]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/12/content_37522361.htm

The Spanish Socialist Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez claimed a victory in the national election on Sunday, although the large gains made by the far-right Vox party seem likely to deepen the political fragmentation in the country.

With more than 99 percent of the votes counted, the left-wing Socialists won 120 seats in the national parliament, three seats fewer than in the last election seven months ago. A party needs an absolute majority of 176 seats to form a government alone.

The conservative People's Party won 88 seats, an increase from the 66 seats in the election in April. The Vox party gained 52 seats, more than doubling its number of 24 lawmakers in the country's fourth national election in four years.

"Eleven months ago, we were not in any regional legislature in Spain. Today we are the third-largest party in Spain and the party that has grown the most in votes and seats," said Vox leader Santiago Abascal.

The election was held in the shadow of violent disturbances in the Catalan region of northeast Spain, which broke out after nine leaders of a separatist movement were sentenced to prison for an attempt to break the region away from Spain two years ago.

Sanchez has called on all political parties to be "responsible" and "generous" to help the Socialists to form a government to end the political deadlock that has lasted for months.

"Our project is to form a stable government and to carry out politics for the Spanish people so I want to call on all the political parties to act responsibly to unblock the political situation in Spain," he said.

Zhao Junjie, a researcher in European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Sunday's election results mean that the persistent political fragmentation will make the negotiations to form a government more difficult, and the stalemate will not end soon.

"Frankly speaking, it is still unknown whether the Socialists will be able to form a government, as the gaming among political parties could be very fierce," he said.

He added that the surge of the farright party was partly due to Spain's high unemployment rate and sluggish economic development over the past few years, including the slowdown in its important manufacturing and tourism industries.

"As some voters think that they cannot expect left-wing or conservative parties to bring some changes to their lives, they will be likely to make a change in their votes and turn to the far-right party," he said.

However, as in most countries of the European Union, Zhao said Spain's far-right parties are unlikely to play a dominant role.

Xinhua and AP contributed to this story.

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2019-11-12 07:19:14
<![CDATA[Suez Canal, the 'lifeline' for Egypt]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/12/content_37522360.htm

ISMAILIA, Egypt - One hundred and fifty years after the Suez Canal opened, the international waterway is hugely significant to the economy of modern-day Egypt, which famously nationalized it in 1956, sparking an occupation by French, British and Israeli troops.

The canal, which links the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, was opened to navigation on Nov 17 in 1869 and was expanded in 2015 to accommodate larger ships.

Dug in the 19th century using "rudimentary tools", the canal has today become "a lifeline for Egypt and countries around the world", Admiral Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said in an interview.

"We give credit to Ferdinand de Lesseps for putting forward the idea," he said, referring to the French diplomat who masterminded the waterway dug over a decade between 1859 and 1869.

In Egypt and France, stamps bearing images resembling de Lesseps have been printed to mark the anniversary. And a conference, The Suez Canal: A Place of Memories, is to be held in Egypt's famed Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Wednesday.

Rabie insisted it was the "genius" of the Egyptian people that enabled the project to really come to life.

"It was a miracle by all accounts to excavate a 164-kilometer-long canal in 10 years with rudimentary tools," he said. "A quarter of Egyptians took part in the excavations. That was about a million citizens out of the population of 4.5 million people at that time."

"Between 100,000 and 120,000 people died," Rabie added, highlighting that many succumbed to disease. Experts, however, dispute those figures, saying the fatalities were poorly documented.

In 2015, Egyptians threw their support behind President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's project to expand the canal, "purchasing 64 billion Egyptian pounds ($3.8 million) of investment certificates within eight days".

Thanks to that project, the transit time has now been cut from 22 to 11 hours, and the number of vessels crossing has increased from an average of 40 to 45 daily up to 60-65, he said.

Nowadays, container ships account for more than half of the canal's total traffic. Some of them are among the largest in the world, reaching a capacity of up to 23,000 TEU(twenty-foot equivalent unit).

Giant oil tankers carrying more than 200,000 tons can now transit through the canal as well.

Authorities have also sought to develop the Sinai Peninsula, which lies on the eastern edge of the canal.

"We have also dug six tunnels under the Suez Canal to facilitate movement crossing to and from the Sinai," Rabie said.

"Before we used to talk about developing the Sinai Peninsula without any serious decisions having been taken. Now access is easy for people and investors."

Egypt is also developing a free-trade Suez Canal Economic Zone, which will span 461 square km.

"Many projects exist along the banks," said Rabie, citing ship supply zones, pharmaceutical factories and car assembly plants.

He maintained also that the canal "is perfectly secured" under the command of the Egyptian armed forces.

Egypt has also dedicated a museum, currently under construction, to the canal in the city of Ismailia at the historic premises of the Suez Canal Company. But no opening date has yet been set.

Agence France-Presse

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2019-11-12 07:19:14
<![CDATA[Sydney faces 'catastrophic' bushfire threat]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/12/content_37522359.htm New South Wales declares a state of emergency as 1 million hectares engulfed

The government of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, on Monday declared a state of emergency as the Sydney region braced for unprecedented fire conditions.

More than 350 schools and colleges will be closed on Tuesday in Sydney and surrounding regions.

Since Friday, fires have destroyed nearly 1 million hectares of bush and agricultural land in the north of the state. More than 200 homes have been lost, three people killed, dozens injured, and millions of dollars of infrastructure and farm machinery destroyed.

 

Hoping to return home, Wytaliba resident Storm Sparks holds her son Zeke Bacon as she waits at a roadblock near Glen Innes in New South Wales, Australia, on Monday. Dan Peled / AAP Image via Reuters

It is a similar story in the northern state of Queensland as dozens of unseasonal fires burn out of control. On Saturday, the Queensland government declared a "state of fire emergency" across many parts of the state as firefighters battled multiple fires in "tinderbox-like conditions".

The declaration, which came into effect on Saturday, bans the lighting of all types of outdoor fires across 42 local government areas spread throughout the southeast, southwest, central, north and far north of Queensland.

The focus has now shifted to New South Wales' capital Sydney and surrounding regions where the state's Rural Fire Service, or RFS, warned on Monday that the Sydney region will face "catastrophic" fire conditions on Tuesday.

It is the first time the region has been rated at that fire level since new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009.

The RFS said "lives and homes will be at risk" as high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity combine to create a deadly mix.

More than 1,000 firefighters, water-dousing aircraft and volunteers from New Zealand are involved in the massive operations in both Queensland and New South Wales, or NSW.

Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the RFS, told the media that not only will Tuesday's weather conditions be worse than those on Friday, "they will be concentrated much further than just the northeastern area of NSW".

He said firefighters in Canada and the United States, where California has recently experienced some of its worst blazes on record, are standing by, ready to fly to Australia should the situation deteriorate.

The Australian Defence Force is also on standby.

Professor Ross Bradstock from the Centre for Environmental Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong, south of Sydney, said: "What we are seeing right now is a tragic conjunction of circumstances that reflects decades of encroachment of urban and periurban development along the coast and hinterlands.

"The result is that more and more people and property are being exposed to greater fire risks," he told China Daily.

Bradstock noted that building and development codes in NSW are "very strict" in fire-prone areas. "The current regime has been in place for about 15 years," he said.

"Fires such as these will provide a critical test of the standards that are now imposed. The big problem is that we have inherited a legacy of past development where standards were much looser or nonexistent, leaving a great deal of property exposed to fires.

"We can't ban people from living in these areas, but we may need to reassess our current standards and even consider retrofitting property that is vulnerable."

Bradstock said bushfires will only get worse as "our forests continue to dry due to climate change".

"Sadly, given the weather forecast for the coming week, the crisis may worsen and extend southward into landscapes primed to burn via extreme dryness," he said.

Paul Read, a senior research fellow at the Monash Sustainability Institute at Monash University and co-director of the National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, said: "Seemingly unquenchable fires down the eastern coast of Australia are feeling increasingly unprecedented and reminiscent of some of Australia's worst, described by survivors as 'apocalyptic beasts'."

He said many of the fires have been burning since October, which is early in the fire season, and will get worse as summer gets closer.

"I also think it will expand northward and southward across the whole of the eastern seaboard.

"Sadly, I expect more deaths by dint of sheer size and, despite their best efforts, the stretching of emergency service capabilities. ... We might need help this summer," he said.

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2019-11-12 07:18:58
<![CDATA[Delivery rivals elbow their way to Grubhub's table]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/12/content_37522358.htm It's never been easier to get a meal delivered to a front door in the United States with restaurant delivery services like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates and Deliveroo on hand.

But competition is heating up in the online food delivery market as customers put low prices ahead of loyalty.

Grubhub, which also owns the service Seamless, learned that last month when it suffered a big third-quarter earnings miss. Its shares lost more than 40 percent, and analysts downgraded the stock.

Online diners are becoming "more promiscuous", is how CEO Matthew Maloney and president and Chief Financial Officer Adam DeWitt explained the loss to shareholders.

There are hundreds of food-delivery companies in North America, but Chicago-based Grubhub had been the largest in the US. Grubhub has had at least a third of the market for years, but it lost the No 1 sales slot to private company DoorDash in May.

"The food delivery space is getting increasingly crowded as new entrants gain traction," according to an exclusive report shared with China Daily by tech research firm CB Insights.

It noted that five food-delivery platforms have raised more than $1.5 billion, including DoorDash (nearly $2 billion in funding), the United Kingdom's Deliveroo ($1.5 billion), Germany's Delivery Hero ($1.7 billion) and China's Ele.me ($3.3 billion).

In a letter to investors before its share-price drop, Grubhub touted its "highly lucrative relationship" with small-and medium-sized restaurants as its winning formula because they generated 80 percent of its orders. However, those ties have led to problems.

"Reduction in market share ... forced the company to look for new ways to cut costs and keep net income up, including by squeezing more money out of restaurants, which has caused a backlash against the company," CB Insights said.

"Grubhub got into trouble for allegedly ... setting up restaurant websites that appear to be hosted by restaurants themselves, but instead are directed through Grubhub - and restaurants are charged up to 20 percent in additional fees for these site orders, on top of the company's normal charges of 3-15 percent," CB Insights said.

At least 30 New York City Council members wrote a letter to Maloney asking him to address the accusations. Grubhub is also facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in Philadelphia over "unfair" fees.

Grubhub has denied the allegations.

Restaurants are increasingly working with third-party food delivery services. They pay to list their menus on the services' apps. If they want to rank higher, they must pay more.

The expenses have led some restaurants to drop exclusive partnerships with a single platform in favor of working with a few. Now Grubhub plans to work with unpartnered restaurants.

A spokesman for the National Restaurant Association told China Daily: "The rapid acceleration of technology in the restaurant space has increased the number of options available to consumers wanting to enjoy a restaurant meal at home.

"In 2013, digital orders accounted for 2 percent of all restaurant orders, today that number has jumped to more than 7 percent and will continue to rise."

A National Restaurant Association survey showed that "38 percent of adults reported they are more likely to have restaurant food delivered today than they were two years ago. Most operators offering delivery reported using a third-party delivery provider to help meet customer demand."

Restaurants in New York City can face an ordering and delivery commission as high as 30 percent. The state liquor authority wants to replace that with a 10 percent commission cap.

One of Grubhub's main US rivals is Uber Eats, worth an estimated $20 billion with revenue of $1.4 billion a year. It was launched in 2014 by Uber, the ride-sharing company, and delivers almost 1 billion meals a year in 670 cities on six continents.

Food-delivery services are a massive global industry. In Europe, larger companies are acquiring smaller ones. In the Netherlands, Takeaway.com bought Delivery Hero in Germany for $1.1 billion in 2018. Takeaway also owns delivery services in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece.

Last month, Takeaway signaled that it was interested in merging with Just Eat in the UK, which could create a company worth $11 billion with access to 40 million people.

In China, the food delivery services market is worth $37 billion, according to a report from iimedia. More than 256 million people in China used the services in 2017; today that number is 355 million, the report said.

Low-cost services are available in 1,300 cities. The two biggest companies are Meituan Dianping, backed by Tencent, and Ele.me, backed by Alibaba.

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2019-11-12 07:18:58
<![CDATA[Tens of thousands of Cambodians cheer for centuries-old boat races]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/12/content_37522357.htm PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Tens of thousands of spectators flocked to the riverside in Phnom Penh on Sunday for an 838-year-old boat racing tradition, held to celebrate the annual three-day Water Festival.

Viewers, mostly from the countryside, gathered on both sides of the Tonle Sap River to cheer on boatmen, dressed in T-shirts, as they raced their dragon boats along a 1.7-kilometer stretch of the river that passes by the front of the royal palace.

Lonh Davan, 18, a native of southeastern Tboung Khmum Province, said she has never lost her excitement watching boat racing, although she has seen it many times.

"I feel very happy to see people from everywhere come to see the Water Festival," she said. "Moreover, this event has brought me to an ancient time when our marine forces used boats to wage war against the invading enemies."

Bou Chumserey, vice-chairman of the boat-racing technical control committee, said a total of 291 dragon boats with 19,218 oarsmen from various provinces are participating in the Water Festival.

He said boats are competing in different categories depending on the number of boatmen.

"The festival is to remember the strength of the powerful Khmer marine forces during the ancient Khmer Empire in the late 11th century," he said.

He said during the reign of Angkorian King Jayavarman VII, the king had used naval forces, with boats as transport means, to fight against the invading Chams and defeated them in 1181.

The event is also to mark the end of the annual rainy season and the rare reversal of flow of the Tonle Sap River that connects the Tonle Sap Lake with the Mekong River.

"The Water Festival is also to express our gratitude to the Mekong River for providing us with water, fertile land and abundant fish," he said.

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, along with Prime Minister Hun Sen, presided over the opening ceremony of the festival on Sunday afternoon. The king will again attend the closing ceremony on Tuesday evening.

A team leader of a racing boat from Central Kampong Thom Province, Lun Chhon, 55, said his boat has 73 rowers.

"The Water Festival is to remember the powerful naval forces in the ancient time who used boats to chase away the enemies," he said. "Our participation is to preserve our age-old tradition."

Chea Chhuon, a team minder of a 44-man dragon boat from southern Kandal Province, said: "We celebrate this festival to show our thanks to the Mekong River for providing water for animals, plants and humans," the 44-year-old man said.

The Water Festival is one of the largest annual festivals celebrated in the Southeast Asian nation. Apart from viewing the races during the day, festival-goers can enjoy the procession of illuminated floats and fireworks as well as concerts at night.

Xinhua

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2019-11-12 07:18:58
<![CDATA[Bridges built on climate partnership]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/12/content_37522356.htm

Former California governor Jerry Brown believes he has found a way to forge a greater understanding between China and the United States at time of conflict between the world's two largest economies.

He has championed the California-China Climate Change Institute, which leverages the educational resources of two top universities - the University of California, Berkeley and Tsinghua University in Beijing. They will work closely with experts and policymakers from both countries to "accelerate climate action", Brown said.

Brown aims to "keep the door of communication open" between the two countries amid their trade dispute.

"China and California are leading states, both in their emissions of carbon, greenhouse gases and in their effort to curb those emissions," Brown said in a recent interview.

Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate official, said in a statement: "Climate change is a common threat faced by human society. I deeply appreciate Governor Brown's great contribution and leadership in addressing climate change during his tenure as governor.

"I hope the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development of Tsinghua University can continue deep collaboration with Governor Brown's team."

Brown, who announced the initiative in September alongside Xie, has been building a partnership with China on climate during and after his term as governor.

The 81-year-old Brown, who left office in January, visited China in 2013 and 2017. The institute was put together after he met President Xi Jinping during a 2017 trip to Beijing.

"All of that led to the idea that there's this special relationship between California and China, and we can build on that special relationship, and take steps to reduce our carbon emissions, and work together in a way that could foster, not only greater climate action, but greater understanding and collaboration between China and California, and ultimately the US, at a time of rising tension," he said.

Although China is the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, it has been making strides in recent years in combating climate change.

In 2018, the country announced that it will have achieved the goal of reducing carbon intensity per unit of GDP from 2005 by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, two years ahead of schedule.

It also has invested heavily in renewable energy solutions, including solar and wind technology, as well as battery storage.

In the US, California has been at the forefront of reducing carbon emissions.

California said its statewide carbon emissions fell to 429 million metric tons in 2016, a decrease of 12 million tons from the previous year. The state has adopted aggressive environmental policies and initiatives such as cap-and-trade, a program that requires big industrial companies to pay to obtain their rights to emit carbon.

However, California's efforts have faced heightened opposition from US President Donald Trump, who has called global warming a hoax. In addition to pulling out of the Paris climate accord, the administration has focused on dismantling climate policies in the state.

Brown said that he recognized that California "couldn't do it alone".

"If we don't have the parallel effort, along the same objectives, then California's rules will be taken over by the federal government, and those rules won't exist, and they will be preemptive, and rendered invalid, that's the functional reason, the functional utility of California and (China) joining together," Brown said.

As an example, Brown pointed to the US automobile industry. California alone couldn't impose rules to get car companies to automatically reduce their carbon emissions. But if California and China, with its huge car market, work together to adopt similar standards, they could require companies to produce a higher percentage of zero-emission cars, he said.

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2019-11-12 07:18:58
<![CDATA[UNDP senior official hails China' efforts]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522130.htm China has made tremendous achievements in dealing with two main challenges for the world: poverty reduction and climate change, a senior official from the United Nations said.

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Wahba praises Beijing's work on poverty reduction and climate change

China has made tremendous achievements in dealing with two main challenges for the world: poverty reduction and climate change, a senior official from the United Nations said.

Mourad Wahba, associate administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said that to realize the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, by 2030, the world needs to work together to deal with various key challenges, including poverty reduction and climate change.

Poverty relief is a major challenge for realizing the SDGs, and China has taken the lead in releasing the implementation plan, he said.

According to the World Bank, China has lifted more than 800 million of its citizens out of poverty over the past few decades. That accounts for more than 70 percent of global poverty reduction.

"China has been a model of development, and it has developed very fast," he said. "The growth in China is due to the work of the Chinese people, and the wisdom of its leadership."

From his perspective, the world could learn from China's successful poverty relief in three steps. The first is for the government to have a strong will to eliminate poverty. Afterward, to transfer the will into development policies that could help realize a reduction in poverty, for example, to have richer areas of the country to mentor and support the poorest villages in how to reduce poverty. The third is to seek rapid economic growth.

Wahba said that climate change is "an existential challenge for the world" and asked for a common effort to counter it, noting that the world has witnessed rising temperature records during the past five years.

The rising temperatures would bring over many risks. For example, they will result in rising sea levels, which will then endanger the existence of coastal cities. Higher temperatures or humidity could produce more insects, which could trigger higher incidence of diseases such as malaria, he said.

Wahba said that China's path toward a low-carbon and even a de-carbon economy is extremely impressive.

"In terms of the use of renewable resources and renewable energy sources, I think China is on a scale that we haven't seen elsewhere in the world," he said, adding that China's promotion of electric vehicles and restrictions on purchasing gasoline automobiles are models for the development of a green economy.

Wahba added that China should share its experiences with the world.

To him, China is always a global power and its frequent connection with the rest of the world dates back to thousands of years ago.

He highly appreciated that China reaffirmed its opening-up commitment during the second China International Import Expo, or CIIE, held in Shanghai from Nov 5 to 10, saying it will have a "positive impact" on the world.

"The more open our societies, the more open the world trade, the more everybody will benefit," he said.

Suthiphand Chirathivat, executive director of ASEAN Studies Center at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, said that China's emphasis on "an open world economy" during the CIIE sends a positive message to the world, especially with the uncertainties in today's global economy.

"China's support for an open global economy can show the world the way forward, not just in trade, but also investment and technology," he said, adding that China's experience will be conducive for a new model of global economic governance.

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2019-11-11 07:44:23
<![CDATA[Germany celebrates 30th anniversary of Berlin Wall's fall]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522129.htm BERLIN - Germany on Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall that separated East and West Germany, with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier thanking Eastern European neighbors for enabling a peaceful revolution.

The toppling of the wall, which had divided the Communist-ruled East and the capitalist West in Berlin for nearly three decades and became a potent symbol of the Cold War, was followed a year later by the reunification of Germany in 1990.

"Together with our friends, we remember with deep gratitude the events 30 years ago," Steinmeier said during a ceremony at the Bernauer Strasse Berlin Wall Memorial, which was also attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and heads of state from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

"Without the courage and the will to freedom of the Poles and Hungarians, the Czechs and Slovaks, the peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe and Germany's reunification would not have been possible," Steinmeier said.

During the ceremony, Steinmeier and the presidents of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic placed roses in a small gap in the remains of the wall at the memorial.

In August 1989, Hungarian border guards for the first time allowed people from East Germany to cross freely into Austria, paving the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall three months later and with it the end of the so-called Iron Curtain.

Steinmeier pointed out, however, that the historic event did not mark the "end of history" as US political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote shortly after. The struggle of political systems had continued and the future was more uncertain than ever before, he added.

"Liberal democracy is being challenged and questioned," Steinmeier said. That's why Germany and its European allies had to fight every day for a peaceful and united Europe with each country having to do its part to overcome differences, he added.

His message was echoed in a brief speech by Merkel, a former East German, during a commemorative service at the memorial's chapel.

"The values on which Europe is founded - freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, respect for human rights - are anything but self-evident. And they have to be filled with live and must be defended again and again," she said.

US President Donald Trump congratulated Germany on its anniversary in a statement issued by his office, saying that "courageous men and women from both East and West Germany united to tear down a wall that stood as a symbol of oppression and failed socialism for more than a quarter of a century".

Agencies

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2019-11-11 07:44:23
<![CDATA[Experts: Seoul-Tokyo ties may fray further]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522128.htm Any signs of a thaw in Japan and South Korea's latest feud have now disappeared with Seoul's reiteration of its intent to end an intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, observers say. They suggest the dispute could get worse before the two countries reach an understanding on their historical issues.

"Nearly 75 years after World War II ended, the relationship between Japan and South Korea remains unusually fraught because the Koreans never had the psychological closure of the war to settle accounts with Japan. The two sides never reached mutual understanding over the past," Yuzo Tanaka, a professor of economics at Ryukoku University in Kyoto told China Daily, adding that the current dispute, like many others in the past, is merely a reflection of that.

Many hoped that last Monday's one-on-one meeting between South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the sign of warming relation. Their 11-minute on the sidelines of a conference in Bangkok was the first time they had met in more than a year.

"With Prime Minister Abe, I held a meaningful meeting that could be the start of dialogue," Moon said on Twitter on Tuesday, expressing optimism and implying an encouraging atmosphere for improvement since Seoul's Supreme Court ruled twice in late 2018 that several Japanese companies must compensate a group of elderly South Koreans or their descendants who were forced to work for the companies during Japan's occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, however, offered a note of caution last week: "We shouldn't give too high an evaluation of this 10-minute conversation," he said.

Motegi's caution had been proved right as Bloomberg reported on Saturday that South Korea had confirmed that it would terminate a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan on Nov 23. Both Japan and South Korea are long-standing US allies.

"Our position on the termination of General Security of Military Information Agreement hasn't changed. We don't think the termination would weaken the alliance with the US," a Blue House official was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

"Despite Abe and Moon having had a 'friendly and serious' talk, substantial improvement in deeply frayed bilateral ties is unlikely as no one would want to run the risk of compromising because it will provoke a backlash at home," said Yu Qiang, an associate professor at the University of International Relations in Beijing.

According to Yu, although compromise would be a profitable solution for both countries, it is hard to reach as politicians in Japan and South Korea "can only listen to their voters not the right opinion".

"The Japanese can't understand why a new generation of South Koreans are so determined to hold young Japanese responsible for the war that their great-grandparents did," Tanaka in Kyoto said, "They also can't understand why South Koreans don't accept the critical 1965 treaty which normalized relations between Tokyo and Seoul."

As a trigger of the escalated dispute, Japan argued that South Korea's compensation claims were settled by a 1965 treaty between the two sides. Seoul disagrees, arguing that agreement didn't cover emotional pain and suffering.

"Moon's action is reasonable for many Koreans because the 1965 deal never had their consent and thus lack legitimacy," Tanaka said.

The 1965 deal was signed by ROK's authoritarian ruler Park Chung-hee and sparked public outrage in that year.

"This means a certain number of South Koreans didn't agree with the treaty. They just didn't have the power to fight back at that time," Tanaka said.

Tanaka said from Japan's perspective, Moon's request is unacceptable because "how can we negotiate and give more and more to a country that ignores past agreements" and that's why the bilateral situation hit a "dead-end".

As a result, an increasing number of Japanese and South Koreans have negative impressions of each other. An annual poll conducted by Genron NPO, a think tank in Japan, showed that in 2019 the top reason Japanese hate South Koreans was "South Korea's continued criticism against Japan on historical issues" while South Koreans hated Japanese people for having "no remorse over Japan's past wartime aggression".

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2019-11-11 07:44:23
<![CDATA[Greece welcomes Xi with TV series and film launched]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522127.htm

A TV series of Xi Jinping's Classical Literary Quotes and a broadcast of China's National Day military parade were launched in Greek media outlets, as Chinese President Xi Jinping started his state visit to Greece on Sunday.

Produced by China Media Group, or CMG, the Greek version of TV feature series Xi Jinping's Classical Literary Quotes was simultaneously broadcast on the website of Skai TV, Greece's largest commercial TV network, and CMG's Greek-language website and social media platforms since Sunday.

The series carefully selected famous sayings and historical stories from ancient Chinese classics quoted by President Xi in his speeches, articles, and talks. The series opened a window for billions of people around the world to understand how President Xi successfully brought China, the world's largest developing country, into a new era and marched toward the Chinese Dream of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Xi Jinping's Classical Literary Quotes has been translated into English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Italian and other languages, receiving wide attention and comments from audiences in various countries.

Greece participates in the Belt and Road Initiative that was proposed by President Xi in 2013. Local people said that the launch of the Greek version of Xi Jinping's Classical Literary Quotes will let the Greek people better understand the initiative.

"The Greeks also quote ancient Greek philosophers," Yiannis Adamidis, head of News at Skai TV said, adding that "the Skai Group launched the series on the occasion of President Xi's visit to Greece, hoping to show the true China to the Greek audience".

Meanwhile, another CMG production, a 4K film of China's National Day military parade, was also released at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens on Friday. it was global premier of the film's Greek version.

The film presents the mega-celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It demonstrates the extraordinary achievements and the spirit of national unity of the open and confident China in the past 70 years.

Konstantinos Grivas, who teaches at the Department of Turkish and Modern Asian Studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, said China has led the world in many fields, and has become an important country with world influence. "China's military strength is conducive to maintaining world peace," he said after watching the film.

CGTN contributed to this story.

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2019-11-11 07:44:23
<![CDATA[IN BRIEF]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522126.htm India

5 dead from cyclone in India, Bangladesh

At least five people in India and Bangladesh were killed in the accidents or rains triggered by Cyclone Bulbul, which barreled into southwestern parts of Bangladesh on Sunday, according to local media. At least three people were reportedly killed by falling trees in three southwestern Bangladesh districts. Also one death each has been reported from the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha due to heavy rain triggered by the "very severe" cyclonic storm. The storm made landfall near Sagar Islands in West Bengal with its status downgraded to "severe" from "very severe" on Saturday night as the gale wind speed dropped to about 115-125 kilometers per hour. In Bangladesh, it damaged houses, uprooted trees, snapped power and communication lines, disrupted rail, road and air traffic. Hundreds of thousands of people were moved into storm shelters.

Japan

Emperor greets public in parade

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako waved and smiled from an open car in a motorcade marking his enthronement on Sunday before hundreds of thousands of delighted well-wishers who cheered, waved small flags and took photos from both sides of packed sidewalks. Security was extremely tight with police setting up 40 checkpoints leading to the area. Selfie sticks, bottles and banners - and even shouting - were not allowed inside the restricted zone. Residents in high-rise apartments along the road were advised not to look down from their windows or balconies. Naruhito succeeded his father Akihito on May 1 following his abdication, and formally ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in a palace ceremony last month.

United Nations

70 nations pledge to reduce food waste

More than 70 countries have pledged to do more to cut down on the amount of food lost due to poor refrigeration. The countries signed the pledge on Saturday at an annual meeting of the Montreal Protocol where ministers, government officials and experts work on regulating man-made chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems that are harmful to the ozone layer. The meeting took place at the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome. About one-third of the world's food is lost or wasted and the hope is that developing better methods to keep food cold while it's stored and transported will reduce waste.

Agencies - Xinhua

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2019-11-11 07:44:23
<![CDATA[Conference puts focus on AI supervision]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522125.htm Artificial intelligence, the revolutionary and diffuse technology, which has been sparking controversy and awe since its inception more than 50 years ago, has entered a stage that requires the global community to agree on regulations to serve the common good.

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Potential of technology shouldn't obscure its dangers and experts call for regulation

Artificial intelligence, the revolutionary and diffuse technology, which has been sparking controversy and awe since its inception more than 50 years ago, has entered a stage that requires the global community to agree on regulations to serve the common good.

Hundreds of experts from around the world gathered in October to attend a conference on AI ethics, policy and governance at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, or HAI. They discussed how major stakeholders can work together to supervise AI research, minimize risks and prohibit unethical AI-enhanced practices.

The attendees agreed that AI has transformed the society profoundly, noting major progress stemming from the availability of massive data, powerful computing architectures and machine learning advancement. AI is playing an increasing role in healthcare, education, mobility and smart homes.

However, AI has also raised concerns and complaints from all over the world, due to the disregard for ethics and individual's privacy, notably in the application of facial recognition technology.

Problems and concerns

Joy Buolamwini, a computer scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, presented research on intersectional accuracy disparities in commercial gender classifications, the bias in algorithms. In one of her studies, Buolamwini used the facial recognition systems developed by tech companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google is identify the genders of 1,000 faces. The algorithms misidentified Michelle Obama, TV mogul Oprah Winfrey and tennis player Serena Williams as male.

Bias in code can lead to discrimination against underrepresented groups and the most vulnerable individuals, Buolamwini noted. "One in two American adults is in a law enforcement face recognition network used in unregulated searches employing algorithms with unaudited accuracy", she emphasized.

Most attendees agreed that the regulation of big tech companies is a major concern.

This "nascent technology will help us build powerful new materials, understand the climate in new ways and generate far more efficient energy - it could even cure cancer," said Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and current technical adviser to Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc.

He emphasized, "I don't want us, in these complicated debates about what we are doing, to forget that the scientists here at Stanford (University) and other places are making progress on problems which were thought to be unsolvable ... because (without AI) they couldn't do the math at scale."

However, Marietje Schaake, a HAI International Policy Fellow, argued that AI's potential shouldn't obscure its potential harms, which the law can help mitigate. A Dutch former member of the European Parliament, she worked to pass the European Union's General Data Protection Regulations, or GDPR.

Government on AI ethics

The European Commission in April released its own guidelines calling for "trustworthy AI". AI should adhere to the basic ethical principles of respect for human autonomy, prevention of harm, fairness and accountability, the guidelines said.

In Feb, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order outlining a cohesive plan for leadership in AI development.

Meanwhile, the US House introduced a nonbinding resolution calling on the executive branch to work with stakeholders to ensure that AI is developed in a "safe, responsible, and democratic" fashion.

In China, the National New Generation Artificial Intelligence Governance Committee, which is under the Ministry of Science and Technology, in June released the New Generation AI Governance Principles - Developing Responsible AI.

This it the first official document issued in China on AI governance ethics.

"We want to ensure the reliability and safety of AI while promoting economic, social and ecological sustainable development," said Zhang Xu, deputy director of the strategic planning department under the science ministry.

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA[In bear country Romania, cohabitation grows strenuous]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522124.htm CUSMA, Romania - When Maria Lacatus' son opened the barn door, it was already too late. "The bear had one of the pigs in its claws," the sobbing 86-year-old says.

After losing a horse a few days later, Lacatus now agrees with many of her neighbors in the northern Romanian village of Cusma that hunting the protected species is the only answer.

The bear had fled through an opening it had made in some of the barn's wooden planks, Lacatus says, unable to shake the vision of the animal she "almost bumped into".

She lives with her son, daughter-in-law - both take whatever daily work they can find - and their seven children in a house protected by a wooden fence opening onto a muddy yard.

The pigs are a vital source of income.

Romania has Europe's highest number of brown bears. They are a common sight in Cusma, which has a population about 600 and lies about eight hours by road from the capital Bucharest.

But residents say that the bears didn't used to venture into farms to take animals. Around 15 cows and pigs have been killed by bears in the last two years, says deputy mayor Florin Griga.

In other parts of the country, humans have been attacked. In October alone, a bear killed a 47-year-old who was picking mushrooms and a 61-year-old died due to an attack while fishing.

Thirty-two people were attacked, two of them fatally, in 2017 and 2018, according to government data.

Authorities have suggested that communities erect electric fences and use specialized dogs to keep bears away.

But with very few exceptions, such as the central town of Baile Tusnad, the measures have not been carried out.

In response to calls from some in rural areas, senators voted in September to allow brown bears to be hunted over the next five years, citing a problem of overpopulation.

The controversial bill, which still needs approval by deputies, has mobilized several environmental associations into trying to get it blocked.

About 100,000 people have signed an online petition by the WWF-Romania asking MPs to reject the bill.

European Union member Romania also risks sanctions as the brown bear is among 1,200 species protected by the bloc's habitats directive.

"Man has always intervened to maintain a balance. Stopping this intervention results in the bear population getting out of hand," says senator Tanczos Barna, a supporter of the draft law.

But environmentalists say the government doesn't even come close to knowing the actual number.

"The methodology used by the authorities has not changed over the last few decades," said Viorel Popescu, assistant biology professor at Ohio University in the United States, who wrote a study on the overestimation of Romania's bear population.

"It consists of counting tracks on snow or mud."

Agence France - presse

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA[Climbing ban at Uluru ends a chapter, but there may be more underway]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522123.htm Indigenous activists and traditional owners of Australian land, encouraged by the recent closure of Uluru rock to tourists, are calling for similar bans on more sites considered "home" or sacred by indigenous people.

Among a growing list of places Australia's indigenous people want closed are popular walking sites such as Mount Warning in northern New South Wales, Mount Beerwah in the iconic Glass House Mountains on Queensland's Sunshine Coast and St. Mary Peak in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

The climbing ban on Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, took effect on Oct 26. In its wake there have been renewed calls by the local indigenous people to close access to Mount Warning.

Mount Warning in the Tweed Range, also known to the local aboriginal community as Wollumbin, attracts an estimated 100,000 visitors annually. But to the traditional owners, the Bundjalung people, it has been a sacred site for thousands of years.

A spokesperson for the Tweed Shire Council said: "There have been a number of calls over the years to close Mount Warning to walkers, but nothing has ever come from it.... I expect now we will probably see a greater effort on the back of the Uluru closure to follow suit."

In South Australia, visitors to the Flinders Ranges, 200 kilometers north of Adelaide, are being asked by the traditional owners not to climb St. Mary Peak.

St. Mary Peak is central to the local Adnyamathanha people's creation story, which involves two serpents entwined to form a huge natural amphitheater in the foothills of the ranges where rock art can be traced back 5,000 years.

"All we want to do is to stop people walking up the peak. You get the same views of the area from other places," Adnyamathanha Traditional Landowners Association chairman Michael Anderson told China Daily.

"We would rather educate people about the importance of the site, rather than ban them altogether."

From midnight on Oct 25, the climbing track on Uluru was officially closed - something the Anangu, the original occupants of the area, had long advocated.

A new sign was erected at the base of the rock to inform visitors of the new policy. It read "This is our home" and "Please don't climb".

The Anangu people celebrated the closure at the base of the rock to signify to new visitors that it was no longer available or lawful. The ban was a contentious issue, winning global headlines.

'Delicate balancing act'

Professor Jakelin Troy, director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney, said walking on Uluru was "disrespectful" to the "country" of the Anangu people.

"In disrespecting country, we disrespect its people," said Troy, who is an aboriginal Australian himself.

"This is exactly the same reason why people are not allowed to walk on places that are sacred and highly respected in all cultures," he said.

Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, a senior lecturer in tourism management at the University of South Australia, said: "As a non-indigenous person, it is incredibly important for us to understand just how important sites like Uluru are to the Anangu people.

"Aboriginal people in this country today have a voice and they are using that voice to have their sacred sites respected."

In March, the Victorian state government announced a climbing ban in much of the Grampians National Park, west of Melbourne.

Covering more than 165,000 hectares, the park is home to around 90 percent of southeastern Australia's aboriginal rock art. But over the years it has also become a popular rock-climbing area, not only for locals but also international climbers.

The government took the decision following complaints from indigenous elders that climbers were causing environmental and cultural damage.

They said many climbers ignored marked tracks, cut their own paths to climbing sites, defaced rock walls with climbing bolts, covered rock paintings with climbing chalk, and even defecated in sacred areas.

"It is a very delicate balancing act," a spokesperson for Parks Victoria told China Daily.

"It's not just cultural sites that need protecting, but plant and animal life as well. At the same time, the Grampians have become popular for climbing - some of the best in the world."

 

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is seen just before sunrise at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia, on Oct 26. Lukas Coch / EPA

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA[A new invention to fight plastic pollution]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522122.htm

AMSTERDAM - An invention to tackle canal plastics pollution was one of the highlights of the recent Amsterdam International Water Week.

The instrument, dubbed "the Great Bubble Barrier", is a bubble screen that will remove plastic trash from the canals and therefore prevent it from flowing through to the river IJ and the North Sea. It was made possible by an Amsterdam startup, The Great Bubble Barrier, on behalf of the regional water board and the municipality of Amsterdam.

The first bubbles of the Barrier were visible on Thursday in the Westerdok Canal. A choir sang about bubbles and tens of guests drank alcohol-free bubbles to celebrate the opening.

"This is a very important step in reducing the amount of plastic in the oceans," co-inventor Philip Ehrhorn said. "It is a lot easier to stop it at an earlier stage instead of in the ocean."

The tool works as follows. By pumping air through a tube with holes in it, which is located on the bottom of a waterway, a bubble barrier appears. This creates an upward thrust, which brings waste to the surface of the water.

By placing it diagonally in the waterway, the barrier uses the natural current to guide the plastic to the catchment system at the riverside. Both ships and fish can pass through the Bubble Barrier, but plastic will be stopped.

The invention's origins go back around four years, when Dutch students Saskia Studer, Anne Marieke Eveleens and Francis Zoet looked at the bubbles of a beer glass in a bar and thought they should do something similar. Ehrhorn, a German student, had the same idea. After he found out about the plans of the three Dutch women, they decided to join forces in Amsterdam.

"It is the first step of many," Ehrhorn continued on the project. "First, the different rivers and canals in the Netherlands - cities, industrial areas, ports. In the following years, we will go to the rest of Europe, Asia and elsewhere."

According to Bianca Nijhof, managing director of the Netherlands Water Partnership, the network of Dutch organizations in the water sector is a first point of call for anyone seeking Dutch water expertise, so it was no coincidence that this invention and development started in the Netherlands.

"The Netherlands has to deal with the water for centuries, because of course part of the country lies below the sea level," Nijhof said.

"We have learned to live with water and have built a thriving society."

Xinhua

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA[Iran enriching uranium to five percent]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522121.htm TEHERAN - Iran said on Saturday it is now enriching uranium to five percent, in another step back from its commitments under a troubled 2015 accord with major powers.

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Atomic agency spokesman defends canceling UN nuclear inspection

TEHERAN - Iran said on Saturday it is now enriching uranium to five percent, in another step back from its commitments under a troubled 2015 accord with major powers.

That deal set a 3.67 percent ceiling for uranium enrichment, but Iran announced it would no longer respect it after Washington unilaterally abandoned the agreement last year and reimposed crippling sanctions.

"Based on our needs and what we have been ordered, we are currently producing five percent," Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told a news conference.

He said Iran has the "capacity to produce five percent, twenty percent, sixty percent, or any percentage" of enriched uranium, a claim often repeated by Teheran.

Uranium enrichment is the sensitive process that produces fuel for nuclear power plants but also, in highly extended form, the fissile core for a warhead.

The current five percent level exceeds the limit set by the accord but is less than the 20 percent Iran had previously operated and far less than the 90 percent level required for a warhead.

Kamalvandi also defended Iran's decision to block a United Nations inspector from a nuclear site.

On Thursday, Iran said it had canceled the inspector's accreditation after she triggered an alarm last week at the entrance to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

The alarm during a check at the entrance to the plant in central Iran had raised concerns that she could be carrying a "suspect product" on her, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said in a statement posted online.

As a result, she was denied entry, it added, without specifying whether anything had been found in her possession.

The Iranian atomic organization said on Thursday that her treatment was "not acceptable".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday rejected Teheran's treatment of the inspector as "an outrageous and unwarranted act of intimidation".

A senior United Arab Emirates official said on Sunday that Iran should come to the negotiating table with world powers and Gulf countries to seek a new deal that would de-escalate regional tensions and revive its economy.

New oilfield found

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday announced a discovery of a new oilfield in the country's south with more than 50 billion barrels of crude oil, a find that could boost the country's proven reserves by one-third as it struggles to sell energy abroad over US sanctions.

The announcement came as Iran faces crushing US sanctions after the United States pulled out of its nuclear deal with world powers last year.

Rouhani made the announcement on Sunday in a speech in the desert city of Yazd. He said the field was located in Iran's southern Khuzestan Province, home to its crucial oil industry.

About 53 billion barrels would be added to Iran's proven reserves of some 150 billion, he said.

"I am telling the White House that in the days when you sanctioned the sale of Iranian oil, the country's workers and engineers were able to discover 53 billion barrels of oil," Rouhani said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Oil reserves refer to crude that's economically feasible to extract. Figures can vary wildly by country due to differing standards, though it remains a yardstick of comparison among oil-producing nations.

Iran currently has the world's fourth-largest proven deposits of crude oil and the world's second-largest deposits of natural gas. It shares a massive offshore field in the Persian Gulf with Qatar.

The new oilfield could become Iran's second-largest field after one containing 65 billion barrels in Ahvaz. The field is 2,400 square kilometers, with the deposit some 80 meters deep, according to the semiofficial Tasnim News Agency.

Agencies

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA[Australia battles bush fires as three dead and dozens injured]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522120.htm MELBOURNE - Australian firefighters raced on Sunday to contain widespread bush fires that have left three people dead, and warned of "catastrophic" fire conditions ahead, including around the country's biggest city of Sydney.

Fires have killed three people and razed more than 150 homes since Friday, but cooler weather overnight provided a welcome reprieve for firefighters and residents.

Authorities were assessing the damage on Sunday, with more than 100 fires still burning across the states of New South Wales and Queensland, including several blazes that remained out of control.

Wider swaths of the states - including greater Sydney - are now bracing for perilous fire conditions predicted for the coming days, as is Western Australia state.

Authorities upgraded the forecast for the greater Sydney region to catastrophic fire danger on Tuesday, the first time the city has been rated at that level since new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009.

Massive fires tore through several towns on Friday and Saturday.

The mayor of Glen Innes, where two people died, said residents were traumatized and still coming to terms with their losses.

"The fire was as high as six meters and raging with 80 kilometers-anhour winds," Carol Sparks told national broadcaster ABC.

Five people reported missing have since been found, but the unpredictable nature of the disaster means officials have not ruled out the possibility that others could still be missing, said NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Allan.

In Old Bar, which was spared the worst when the wind changed direction, hectares of bushland had turned to charcoal and small pockets of flames continued to smolder.

Peter McKellar, 75, was clearing debris from his property as his neighbor's home sat in ruins.

"The firies (firefighters) saved ours," he said. "They are doing a wonderful job. They're angels."

High temperatures, low humidity and strong winds forecast from the middle of the week are predicted to fuel blazes that authorities have warned they will be unable to contain ahead of time.

"We are ramping up for probably another 50 trucks full of crews to be deployed into New South Wales on Monday night ahead of conditions on Tuesday," NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shan Fitzsimmons told reporters in Taree, one of the worst-hit areas.

"We have seen the gravity of the situation unfold. ... What we can expect is those sorts of conditions to prevail across a much broader geographic area as we head into Tuesday."

With thousands of people forced to flee their homes, Australia's government was offering immediate emergency assistance payments of up to A$1,000($685) to those affected and extended financial support for anyone unable to work as a result.

Agencies

 

A fire-dousing helicopter works to contain a bush fire along Old Bar Road in Old Bar, New South Wales, Australia, on Sunday. Shane Chalker / Reuters

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA[Bloomberg takes steps to 2020 race]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522119.htm CONCORD, New Hampshire - New York business tycoon Michael Bloomberg has paved the way for a shot at the US presidency, registering as a candidate in the Alabama Democratic primary race before Friday's filing deadline.

Although the 77-year-old billionaire and former New York mayor has not publicly announced his run, his inclusion in a crowded field kept his options open for mounting a concerted bid to topple a fellow New Yorker, US President Donald Trump.

Analysts say a Bloomberg candidacy could do the most damage to the prospects of front-runner Joe Biden, but the former vice-president put on a brave face on Friday and said he was not worried Bloomberg would draw away centrist voters.

Bloomberg's name was posted among 17 candidates on the Alabama Democratic Party's website only hours before registration closed.

Alabama is not one of the early primaries but it has the earliest deadline to register.

Biden, who will turn 77 on November 20, has placed himself in the political center along with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are running to his left.

"Michael's a solid guy," Biden told reporters in Concord, New Hampshire, while registering to take part in the February primary in the northeastern state.

"I have no, no problem with him getting in the race," Biden said. "And in terms of he's running because of me, last polls I looked at I'm pretty far ahead.

"If I'm not mistaken I'm doing pretty well, both relative to Trump and relative to all the people running," he said.

Jason Mollica of American University said the entry of Bloomberg in the race could be "an indication that he believes the Democrats do not have a strong candidate that can defeat President Trump".

"Mr Biden's campaign isn't the strength it was at the start and if Mr Bloomberg gains the support of the centrists in the Democratic Party, that is a big sign for Mr Biden the party doesn't feel he's the right candidate, either," Mollica said.

Trump weighed in on Friday on a potential Bloomberg bid.

"Little Michael will fail," Trump said. "He doesn't have the magic to do well."

Bloomberg, co-founder and CEO of the media and financial information company that bears his name, is one of the richest people in the United States according to Forbes, worth $52.4 billion.

His huge personal wealth would likely shake up the contest at a time when Biden's fundraising is sagging.

Bloomberg, who was elected mayor of the Big Apple as a Republican in 2001 and served until 2013, is seen as close to Wall Street and opposed to some of the policies espoused by the more liberal Warren and Sanders.

His entry would bloat an already crowded field of contenders, with 17 candidates still vying for the right to take on Trump in November 2020 as the Democratic nominee.

Bloomberg considered running for president as an independent in 2016 but eventually opted not to for fear of splitting the Democratic vote.

Agence France - presse

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA[Kenyan leaders vow to end female genital mutilation by 2022]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522118.htm NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenyan community elders and religious leaders resolved on Friday to end female genital mutilation, or FGM, in the country by 2022.

The leaders, who made the commitment during a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta and first lady Margaret Kenyatta in Nairobi, committed to collaborate with national and county governments and other stakeholders to promote public education about girls' health and well-being.

"We appreciate the efforts of the government of Kenya to end Female Genital Mutilation through creating and implementing progressive policies and legislative frameworks and programs toward its eradication," they said in a joint declaration. FGM refers to the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia with the aim of inhibiting a woman's sexual feelings.

The declaration by the opinion leaders drawn from 22 counties, most affected by FGM supports Kenyatta's declaration by Kenyatta to end the illegal practice by 2022.

He tasked government officials in the line ministries of gender, education, health and public administration to take the lead in championing government efforts aimed to end FGM in all parts of the country.

Kenyatta said: "FGM is a retrogressive practice whose continued existence in our country in actual fact assaults our individual and our national consciousness. The practice is inimical to our shared fundamental values as enshrined in our very own constitution that we as Kenyans passed."

He called on Kenyans to embrace progressive cultural activities that promote the honor and dignity of women and girls.

"It is time therefore for all of us to discard retrogressive cultures for the benefit of the nation," Kenyatta said.

"If you get any government official either the chief or assistant chief who supports this retrogressive culture, inform relevant offices and they will be dealt with firmly," warned Kenyatta.

He cautioned members of cross-border communities not escape to neighboring countries to have FGM performed on young girls, adding that he has talked with neighboring heads of state to ensure that offenders are dealt with even in those jurisdictions.

Xinhua

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA[Suicides of veterans increase in US]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/11/content_37522117.htm As the United States salutes its war veterans on Monday with parades and speeches, the country faces a rising suicide rate among veterans of all ages, despite suicide prevention being the veterans department's top priority.

More veterans committed suicide in 2017 than in previous years, according to a report released in September by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA. That includes the most recent analysis of veteran suicide data from 2005 to 2017.

Although the population of veterans declined by 18 percent from 2005 to 2017, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

A total of 6,319 veterans died by suicide, an increase of 129 or 2 percent over 2016, and a total increase of 6 percent since 2008, the report found.

Women veterans' suicide counts decreased from 283 deaths in 2015 to 257 in 2016.

Overall in 2017, the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults, after adjusting for population differences in age and sex, the report said.

In 2017, the annual National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report changed how it calculates suicide deaths. It removed former National Guard and Reserve members in its count. As a result, the daily average of veteran suicides was brought down from 20 to 17 per day.

Veteran suicide rates are 50 percent higher than the rest of the US population, according to the report. The highest suicide rate was among veterans aged 18 to 34: approximately 44.5 suicides for every 100,000 veterans in that age group.

Older veterans, 55 to 74, had the greatest number of suicides in 2017, accounting for 38 percent of the total.

The report and an accompanying statement by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie emphasized that the veteran suicide situation went beyond the VA's capacity to address, and must be targeted in a coordinated approach with local, state and private partners.

"VA is working to prevent suicide among all veterans whether they are enrolled in VA healthcare or not," Wilkie said.

"That's why the department has adopted a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention, using bundled strategies that cut across various sectors - faith communities, employers, schools and healthcare organizations, for example - to reach veterans where they live and thrive."

The new approach was meant "to reach all veterans, even those who do not and may never come to us for care", Wilkie said.

In early March, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to "mobilize every level of American society" to tackle the issue. Under the initiative, private and public sectors will work together to determine the underlying factors of suicide and take appropriate actions.

Democratic presidential candidates also have vowed to tackle suicide among veterans. Elizabeth Warren has pledged to cut the suicide rate in half during her first term if she elected. The US senator from Massachusetts has proposed diving into the cause of suicides, raising pay for military personnel and making sexual harassment a crime under military law.

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2019-11-11 07:44:01
<![CDATA['Untold suffering' awaits with global warming]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/10/content_37521896.htm Scientists' warning comes hot on the heels of formal US steps to exit Paris deal

One day after the United States officially announced it was withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries warned of "untold human suffering" caused by global warming.

The scientists signed a study published on Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal BioScience that addressed the urgency of acting on climate change.

"We declare, clearly and unequivocally, that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency," their statement said, adding that global leaders had failed to address the predicament "despite 40 years of global climate negotiations".

The study laid out six key areas in which governments, businesses and the public can make changes, including replacing fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy, reducing emissions of short-lived pollutants, restoring the Earth's ecosystem, consuming more plant-based foods and reducing the world's population.

Phoebe Barnard, one of the lead authors of the report and the chief science and policy officer at the Conservation Biology Institute, a nonprofit science group, told CNN that the changes should be seen as a way of "transforming things that we have found stressful", instead of "sacrifices".

On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the official withdrawal notifications had been sent to the United Nations.

"Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement," he later wrote on Twitter. "The US is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens."

US President Donald Trump, who has described climate change as a "hoax", had promised to leave the treaty when he was a candidate for the White House. The announcement on Monday means the US will officially leave the pact on Nov 4, 2020, and if it were to re-enter, there would be a 30-day waiting period.

"I was concerned that we are now making the environment a political issue, and the environment should not be seen as a partisan issue," Leslie Duram, a professor of geography and environmental resources at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, told NBC News.

As the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, the US now is the only country that has quit the 2015 Paris Agreement, a global effort to combat climate change ushered in during the presidency of Barack Obama. Trump's predecessor in the White House had pledged to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

In another report, The Truth Behind the Climate Pledges, published by the Universal Ecological Fund on Tuesday, researchers warned that of the 184 countries and regions that signed the pact, only 36 were deemed to be making sufficient efforts in cutting emissions by 40 percent by 2030. A further 12 countries were considered partially sufficient in meeting the goal of cutting emissions by between 20 percent and 40 percent by 2030.

"With few exceptions, the pledges of rich, middle-income and poor nations are insufficient to address climate change," said Robert Watson, co-author of the report and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Simply, the pledges are far too little, too late."

Last month was the hottest October recorded globally, said the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service, an organization that analyzes global temperatures.

Meanwhile, New Zealand lawmakers on Thursday joined forces across the parliamentary aisle to pass a bill aimed at combating climate change.

The Zero Carbon bill aims to make New Zealand reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to the point the country becomes mostly carbon neutral by 2050. It gives some leeway to farmers, however, who bring in much of the country's foreign income.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she sometimes despairs at the pace at which other countries are making changes to fight global warming and vowed that New Zealand would be a leader.

"We're here because our world is warming. Undeniably it is warming," she said. "And so therefore the question for all of us is what side of history will we choose to sit on."

AFP contributed to this story.

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2019-11-10 09:36:03
<![CDATA[IN BRIEF]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/10/content_37521895.htm United States

Trump confirms he will host Erdogan

US President Donald Trump confirmed on Wednesday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Washington next week, ending speculation that the Turkish president might call off the trip given the delicate bilateral ties. Trump tweeted that he had "a very good call" with Erdogan, saying he looks forward to meeting his Turkish counterpart on Nov 13 at the White House. "Also talked about their Border with Syria, the eradication of terrorism, the ending of hostilities with the Kurds, and many other topics," Trump added. Erdogan's upcoming visit comes amid tension in the bilateral ties.

Mexico

Murders pinned on La Linea cartel

Mexico alleged on Wednesday that a drug cartel called La Linea massacred nine Mormon women and children in a case of mistaken identity, but devastated relatives insisted their loved ones were deliberately targeted. The three women and six children, who had dual US-Mexican citizenship, were killed in a hail of bullets on Monday as they drove on a rural road between Sonora and Chihuahua states, which border the United States. Eight other children managed to escape, with six of them wounded. The case has caused shock on both sides of the border and prompted US President Donald Trump to call for a "war" on Mexican cartels.

Vietnam

All 39 UK truck victims confirmed as Vietnamese

Vietnamese police said on Thursday all 39 migrants found dead in the back of a truck near London last month were all Vietnamese. The victims came from six Vietnamese provinces: Haiphong, Hai Duong, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Hue, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. "As of 20:00 pm on November 7, Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security and British authorities had been able to confirm that all of the 39 victims found dead in Essex on October 23 were Vietnamese," the ministry said in a statement.

Agencies

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2019-11-10 09:36:03
<![CDATA[Ambush on convoy kills 37 in Burkina Faso]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/10/content_37521894.htm Deadliest attack in five years underscores rapidly deteriorating security situation

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso - An ambush on a convoy transporting employees of a Canadian mining company in Burkina Faso killed 37 people on Wednesday, the deadliest attack in nearly five years of extremist violence in the West African country.

The impoverished Sahel country has been struggling to quell a rising extremist revolt that has claimed hundreds of lives since early 2015.

On Wednesday morning, "unidentified armed individuals" ambushed five buses carrying local employees, contractors and suppliers of the mining company Semafo Inc, said Saidou Sanou, the governor of the country's Est region.

As well as the 37 civilians killed, 60 were wounded, he added.

That toll does not include an unknown number of the security forces who may have been killed in the attack. The toll was likely to rise as there are a large number of people still unaccounted for, according to a local security source.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but extremists have staged dozens of attacks on churches and public officials across the north of Burkina Faso in the past few years.

Sylvain Leclerc, spokeswoman for the Canadian Foreign Ministry, said there were no reports of Canadian citizens among the casualties. She added that the Canadian government condemns the attack and supports efforts to bring peace to Burkina Faso.

In a statement, mine owner Semafo said the five buses being escorted by the military were approximately 40 kilometers from the Boungou gold mine in Tapoa Province when they were ambushed.

A security source said "a military vehicle that was escorting the convoy hit an explosive device".

"Two buses carrying workers were then fired upon," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Burkina Faso's government said the gunmen had conducted a "complex attack", adding that defense and security forces had launched a relief operation and were searching the area.

It was the third deadly attack on Canadian firm Semafo, which operates two mines in Burkina Faso, in 15 months.

"We are actively working with all levels of authorities to ensure the ongoing safety and security of our employees, contractors and suppliers," Semafo said in a statement, offering condolences to the families of the victims.

The mine itself, it added, remains secure and its operations had not been affected.

Two attacks on convoys carrying Boungou mine employees in August and December last year killed 11 people.

The company blamed "armed bandits" for last year's attacks, and subsequently reinforced its armed escorts.

The Burkina Faso government this year asked mining companies to make their own arrangements to transport their employees, according to sources close to the miners.

Burkina Faso's northern provinces have been battling a nearly five-year wave of extremist violence that originates from neighboring Mali.

The attacks - typically hit-and-run raids on villages, road mines and suicide bombings - have claimed nearly 700 lives across the country since early 2015, according to an AFP count. Almost 500,000 people have also been forced to flee their homes.

The attacks have been claimed by a range of extremist groups, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Afflicted by violence

The country's badly equipped, poorly trained and underfunded security forces have been unable to stem the violence, which has intensified throughout 2019 to become almost daily.

The Sahel region, including Burkina Faso's neighbors Mali and Niger, has been afflicted by the violence despite the presence of the regional G5 Sahel force as well as troops from France and the United States.

Burkina Faso's previous deadliest attack was in January 2016, when extremists raided the Splendid Hotel and a cafe in the capital Ouagadougou, killing 30 people, around half of them foreign nationals.

In August this year, the army suffered its worst attack with 24 soldiers killed in an assault on a base in Koutougou, near the Mali border.

On Monday, an attack on a base in northern Burkina Faso killed at least five armed police officers and five civilians.

The country serves as a southern gateway into coastal West Africa, and regional leaders worry the extremists could be moving into Togo and Benin.

Agencies

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2019-11-10 09:36:03
<![CDATA[UK pro-remain parties form electoral pact]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/10/content_37521893.htm The three anti-Brexit parties standing in Britain's upcoming general election have formed an electoral pact, agreeing not to run against each other in 60 seats across England and Wales.

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) and the Green Party - all of whom favor the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union - want to give British voters another chance to choose whether to remain or leave the EU in a second national referendum.

The three-party pact means that, in Wales, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens will agree not to field candidates, boosting Plaid Cymru's chances of picking up the so-called remain vote in the Dec 12 election. In England, the pact is simply a two-way agreement between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

Former MP and chair of the Unite to Remain group, Heidi Allen, has been involved in setting up the alliance, and she told the BBC it was "an opportunity to tip the balance of power".

"We are facing that real danger of a no-deal or hard Brexit and that sense of a common or shared purpose really focused minds," she said. "Local parties and candidates have been incredible, and this is about country first, not about them and them winning, and it's been tough at times, but I'm pleased we've managed it."

Students will play a major role in the election result, with research showing that for 53 percent of the electorate, Brexit will be the key factor in their voting decision.

The analysis from the Higher Education Policy Institute shows that more than half of student voters are ready to vote tactically. In 2017, 47 percent of this group was ready to vote tactically. Tactical voting means voting for the candidate more likely to win, even when that candidate is not a voter's first choice.

A sample of more than 1,000 undergraduates, using data from the polling company YouthSight, indicates 74 percent oppose Brexit.

Meanwhile, days after his decadelong stint as speaker of the House of Commons ended, John Bercow has described Brexit as the biggest mistake Britain has made since World War II.

"I don't think it helps the UK. Brexit is the biggest mistake of this country after the war. I respect Prime Minister Johnson, but Brexit doesn't help us. It's better to be part of the (EU) power bloc," Bercow said, in a valedictory speech given to the Foreign Press Association.

Bercow was persistently accused of bias by Brexit-supporting MPs during his term as speaker, but he rejected the idea he had blocked Brexit, insisting "it was Parliament" that had prevented Britain from leaving before now, "not me".

He added: "My job was to stand up for the rights of the House of Commons. No apology for championing the rights of Parliament. Parliament is no disgrace at all and did its job well."

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2019-11-10 09:36:03
<![CDATA[Public hearings in impeachment inquiry to begin]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/10/content_37521892.htm WASHINGTON - US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on Wednesday that the panel's first open hearings as part of an impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump will begin next week.

Schiff said in a tweet that the panel will hear on Nov 13 from William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, an expert on Ukraine and Russia who serves as a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department.

Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify on Nov 15, Schiff added.

Trump didn't take questions from reporters at the White House on Wednesday afternoon before leaving for a rally in Louisiana.

Schiff's announcement came after several weeks of closed-door depositions before House of Representatives panels by former and current Trump administration officials, including Taylor and Yovanovitch, as partisan battles escalated.

"Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses," Schiff told reporters at Capitol Hill.

The impeachment inquiry, launched in late September, is looking into whether Trump attempted to get the president of Ukraine to investigate former US vice-president Joe Biden in return for the release of US military aid to the country. Biden is a top-tier Democratic contender in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and Republicans largely dismiss the impeachment inquiry, now into its second month, as a sham. The White House has called the impeachment inquiry unfair and illegitimate.

House committees on Wednesday afternoon released a transcript from the testimony by Taylor, who testified behind closed doors on Oct 22.

According to the transcript, Taylor told impeachment investigators that it was his "clear understanding" that the "security assistance money would not come until" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky committed to pursue the investigation.

Taylor, who was an ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009, also said Ukraine was not aware of a hold on the military aid until the end of August, over one month after a phone call between Trump and Zelensky. The phone call is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, prompting Republicans to argue that there was no "quid pro quo" ("this for that").

Xinhua - AP

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2019-11-10 09:36:03
<![CDATA[Japan's English struggles reignite exam debate]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/10/content_37521891.htm A recent survey has found that Japanese lag Chinese in English skills, as Japanese policymakers are having rows over moves to reform the country's English exam for university admissions.

For a fourth-straight year, Japan's ranking in a measure of English proficiency remains low this year. The country was handed 53rd place in the survey by EF Education First. The Switzerland-based language training company evaluates the English skills of people in 100 countries and regions.

On the 2019 list, the Chinese mainland moved up to the bracket of moderate proficiency in general for the first time, with a score of 40. Hong Kong came in at 33, with Taiwan at 38, and Macao 41.

Minh Tran, a co-author of a report accompanying the survey findings, credited curriculum revisions on the Chinese mainland for the improvement. These reforms put a priority on communicating in English; in contrast, Japan was noted as having an education system that didn't prioritize real-life communication skills.

Testing communication skills "has proved essential in increasing a nation's fluency", Tran said.

The report said: "Forty years after China opened itself to foreign investment and private business, the country's transformation has been remarkable. Two-thirds of the world's decline in poverty since 1990 occurred in China."

China was a replicable model for other countries, the report said, in the way it moved from "memorization-driven to communication-driven teaching", transforming universities into world-class research institutions that publish in top English-language journals.

"Few political leaders can exercise this kind of long-term planning and control over their countries, but the pillars of China's strategy offer a replicable model for how policy reform and targeted investment can raise a country's English proficiency level," it said.

The 2019 rankings are based on the results of a free online proficiency exam taken by 2.3 million people in non-English speaking countries worldwide. As a result, the Netherlands gained first place, while Singapore topped the Asian rankings.

Wednesday's report came out soon after a decision by the Japanese government to delay the planned introduction of private-sector English proficiency tests as part of standardized university entrance exams in April next year. That decision has been linked to a controversy surrounding comments by the country's education minister.

On a TV program in late October, Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda triggered an outcry when he said students should compete for university spots "in accordance with their (financial) standing". He made the comment in response to a question about the fairness of using private English tests, given the concerns over the cost of exam fees and travel costs for ordinary students, as well as teachers.

His comments drew criticism from both the ruling and opposition parties in Japan. Hagiuda was forced to retract his comment and apologize to the students and their parents, as well as the businesses involved.

He said the ministry will spend a year looking into the problems with the exam system, including whether private-sector tests should be used at all, and will aim to introduce a new system for the 2024 school year.

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2019-11-10 09:36:03
<![CDATA[Chinese medicine drafted in drug battle]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521845.htm TCM part of new approach to combat antibiotic resistance in joint efforts

The United Kingdom is backing research into novel ways to combat antibiotic resistance, including treatments derived from traditional Chinese medicine and the design of new drugs for farm animals.

The UK's Department of Health and Social Care has invested 800,000 pounds ($1.03 million) into British pharmaceutical company Oxford Drug Design, which is collaborating with partners in China on research into antimicrobial resistance, or AMR.

Oxford Drug Design received an additional 1.4 million pounds from other investors in a recent round of funding, bringing total funding raised this year to 9 million pounds.

The company is working with the University of Portsmouth in the UK and two Chinese partners - Huazhong Agricultural University and Wuhan HVSEN Biotechnology - on an AMR project with two main aims. One of the aims is to design a drug that will specifically target bacterial pathogens that cause infections in pigs.

Currently, antibiotics administered to pigs and other farm animals are the same as those used to treat people. The overuse of antibiotics in the farming industry is a major contributor to the drug resistance that affects humans.

"We would develop a narrow-spectrum agent that will be focused on pig pathogens, but not human pathogens," Paul Finn, chief executive of Oxford Drug Design, told China Daily. "So, if any resistance did emerge then there would be no potential to transfer and impact adversely on any antibiotics that were used for humans."

700,000 deaths a year

Globally, around 700,000 deaths a year stem from antibiotic resistance, according to a report commissioned by the UK government. If left unchecked, drug resistance could lead to 10 million deaths a year worldwide by 2050, which is more than the number of people who now die from cancer annually.

Finn said the pig antibiotic will work by targeting bacterial proteins that act as sensors. These sensors detect environmental changes, such as temperature or the availability of nutrients, allowing the bacteria to adapt to its surroundings. By disturbing these sensors, the antibiotic can kill bacteria, or make them less virulent.

Oxford Drug Design will also work with Huazhong Agricultural University and Wuhan HVSEN Biotechnology on potential applications of traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, in the treatment of pigs. Finn said the team will ascertain if certain types of TCM could be used in place of antibiotics for growth promotion in swine.

For decades, healthy farm animals around the world have been administered low doses of antibiotics because it makes them grow more quickly. The practice compounds the resistance problem and the European Union banned antibiotic growth promoters in 2006.

Finn said Oxford Drug Design will also perform chemical and computational analysis on certain TCMs.

"We are working to understand and identify the active constituents of TCMs, and to see if they could be the starting point of developing a more traditional drug approach," said Finn, who added that international collaboration among scientists is essential in the fight against AMR.

"Bacteria have continued to evolve and become resistant and we have taken our foot off the accelerator in terms of developing new agents in the arms race with them," he said. "The world has now woken up to the fact that this has got to change."

In 2015, the UK and China established the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Innovation Fund, which assists scientists in the search for new remedies for infectious diseases.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA[Scientists tune in to secrets of top songs]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521844.htm

WASHINGTON - What makes some music so enjoyable, and can science help us engineer the perfect pop song?

A group of researchers who statistically analyzed tens of thousands of chord progressions in classic US Billboard hits say they have found the answer, and it lies in the right combination of uncertainty and surprise.

Vincent Cheung, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science in Germany, said the data could even assist songwriters trying to craft the next chart topper.

"It is fascinating that humans can derive pleasure from a piece of music just by how sounds are ordered over time," said Cheung, who led the study.

Composers know intuitively that expectancy plays a big part in how much pleasure we derive from music, but the exact relationship has remained hazy.

Writing in the journal Current Biology on Thursday, Cheung and co-authors selected 745 classic US Billboard pop songs from 1958 to 1991, including Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da by The Beatles, UB40's Red red wine and ABBA's Knowing me, knowing you.

They then used a machine-learning model to mathematically quantify the level of uncertainty and surprise of 80,000 chord progressions relative to one another, and played a small selection to around 80 human test subjects connected to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scanners.

The scientists found that when the test subjects were relatively certain about what chord to expect next, they found it pleasant when they were instead surprised.

Conversely, when individuals were uncertain about what to expect next, they found it pleasurable when subsequent chords weren't surprising.

Musical pleasure itself was reflected in the brain's amygdala, hippocampus and auditory cortex - regions associated with processing emotions, learning and memory, and processing sound, respectively.

Contrary to previous research, the team found that the nucleus accumbens - a region that processes reward expectations and had been thought to play a role in musical pleasure - only reflected uncertainty.

Cheung explained that he and colleagues decided to strip the music down to just chords because lyrics and melody might remind listeners of associations attached to songs, and so contaminate the experiment.

But, he added, the technique could equally be applied to investigate melodies, and he is also interested in understanding whether the findings remain similar for other genres like jazz and for non-Western musical traditions such as those from China and Africa.

Nor does future research need to be confined to music: "When we look at somebody doing a very cool dance move, that's also linked to expectancy," said Cheung, as is joke-telling.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA[Farmers hit back after being blamed for smog woes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521843.htm AMRITSAR, India - Indian farmers said they're being unfairly criticized for causing the worst air pollution in the capital because of the burning of crop stubbles in their fields.

The air quality index stood at 273 on Thursday after authorities declared a health emergency last weekend when the index crossed 500 - 10 times the level considered healthy by World Health Organization standards.

Despite a ban on stubble burning, farmers say they have no choice but to set fire to the crop residue.

Farmers in Haryana and Punjab states, bordering New Delhi, traditionally resort to stubble burning in October and November as a cheap way of clearing their fields after harvesting the crops. This year's record pollution has also been aggravated by smog from festival fireworks.

In an effort to tackle the high pollution levels, the New Delhi government is experimenting at limiting the number of cars on the road and halting construction activity. New Delhi's top elected official, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, said his government had played its part and blamed farmers for setting the fires.

"We are helpless," said Balwinder Singh Chabba, a farmer in northern Punjab state.

He said he cannot afford any delay in getting his fields clear of stubble from the previous crop before sowing the next one.

The farmers, reluctant to stop stubble burning, also criticized the government for blaming them.

"Why doesn't Delhi's air quality improve during the other 11 months when there is no stubble burning," said Gurbhajan Singh, as plumes of acrid smoke rose up from fields.

Punjab on Tuesday reported the season's highest farm fire count at 6,668, as farmers continued to defy the ban, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

The Punjab government offers subsidies for farm equipment to dispose of the crop residue but farmers say the pricy machines have remained out of reach for most.

"The government should either give us a bonus of $2.80 per quintal of our produce or provide us $84.50 per acre so that we can clear our residue without burning it," said Singh.

The state and central governments, often led by rival political parties, have continued to blame each other for the pollution crisis.

"There is passing of the buck," India's Supreme Court observed on Monday, calling out both the central and state authorities. "People are dying and it can't happen in a civilized country," the court said.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA[Million UK students face havoc in national strikes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521842.htm

Around 1 million students at 60 universities in the United Kingdom will have their studies interrupted in the coming weeks as a dispute between the institutions and their staff over pay and pensions boils down to strike action.

The strikes will last eight days, between Nov 25 and Dec 4 and see university lecturers and support staff who are members of the University and College Union walk off the job.

The union is also planning to take other industrial action, including working strictly to the terms of contracts, not covering for absent colleagues, and refusing to reschedule lectures that did not happen because of the strikes.

Jo Grady, general-secretary of the University and College Union, said: "The first wave of strikes will hit universities later this month unless the employers start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions."

The union claims more than half of academics are on temporary contracts and insists pay has fallen in real terms by 17 percent since 2009. It says changes made to the Universities Superannuation Scheme after 2011 mean university staff now pay more into their pensions but stand to receive less. The union says staff will end up contributing an extra 40,000 pounds ($51,000) to their pension pots but receive 200,000 pounds less than they would have done under the old pension plan.

But Universities UK, an umbrella group that lobbies on behalf of 136 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, still hopes the strikes will be called off. It says plans are in place to ensure disruption to students is minimized if the strike action does go ahead.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which represents the institutions in talks with the union, expressed dismay that the University and College Union planned to take "such extensive and damaging strike action over its national pay demands".

A spokesperson for the association told the BBC: "Action of this kind will be damaging to students, lose UCU members' money, and risk undermining the collective bargaining arrangements."

Universities set to be hit by the strikes include Oxford, University College London, Cardiff University, and the University of Manchester.

The UK's Department for Education said it hopes "a solution to the dispute can be found that will result in a positive outcome for providers, staff, and students".

The last time British universities were hit by strikes on this scale came two years ago when tens of thousands of lecturers, librarians, researchers, and other academic staff members went on strike for 14 days at 65 institutions.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA[Rock-solid ties nurtured in Texas city]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521841.htm When it comes to honoring a friendship, a rock weighing 6.5 tons might just be the most solid way to symbolize that, according to Chinese and United States officials during a sister-city event in Texas.

The 3.66-meter tall, 1.83-meter wide Taihu rock was officially dedicated to the San Antonio Museum of Arts, or SAMA, on Wednesday night on the bank of the city's renowned Riverwalk by officials from both San Antonio and Wuxi in East China's Jiangsu province.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Consul General of China in Houston Cai Wei agreed that the rock is a fitting symbol of the friendship between the cities.

SAMA Art Director Katherine Luber recounted how SAMA assistant curator Shawn Yuan whispered in her ear, "Ask for a rock", when she was discussing possible collaboration with Wuxi Vice-Mayor Liu Xia last year. Liu was leading a delegation to participate in San Antonio's Tricentennial Celebration.

The words eventually led Luber and Yuan to a quarry by Taihu Lake in Wuxi, where they picked out the rock that they wanted to become part of the SAMA collection. After a monthlong sea voyage, the rock finally arrived in San Antonio early this year and was installed.

Wuxi and San Antonio became sister cities in 2012. With a canal running through both cities, the two also became sister canals last year.

Nirenberg had visited Wuxi when he was a City Council member.

"Our vibrant sister-city relationship with Wuxi has featured a number of exchanges increasing the global diplomacy of residents in both cities," Nirenberg said. "As chairman of Sister Cities International, the importance of cultural activities and exchanges is all the more relevant at a time like this. Culture is the glue that holds everything together and through which we celebrate our shared humanity."

Cai called the installation of the Taihu rock in San Antonio a milestone for friendly exchanges between the two cities and a symbol of the drive to build more connections.

"We are glad to see the precious Taihu rock be placed along the lovely and tranquil riverside as a unique decoration of the city and a symbol of long-lasting friendship," Cai said.

Sun Guoxiang, vice-secretary-general of the Standing Committee of Wuxi Municipal People's Congress, led a delegation of seven at the dedication ceremony.

"We have had extensive exchanges with city officials and museum staff to learn about their cultural event ideas in the last two days. We are amazed to learn that the annual Fiesta San Antonio has had 120 years of history. We could learn something from that," Sun said.

Porous rock is an important aesthetic symbol in Chinese tradition and is especially appreciated among Chinese scholars. In order to help Americans to better understand this Chinese art form, Wuxi Museum brought 30 art objects primarily from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to showcase the art and lifestyle of ancient Chinese scholars. The exhibition will last until Feb 9, 2020, at SAMA.

Art patrons Barbara and George Williams and Rose and John Hendra have made major contributions to ensure the success of the project.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA[NATO now 'brain dead', says Macron]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521840.htm French president takes swipe at lack of coordination and US unpredictability

BERLIN/PARIS - France's president warned fellow European leaders on Thursday that NATO was dying, citing a lack of coordination and US unpredictability under President Donald Trump. The comments were quickly rejected as "drastic" by the German chancellor.

In an interview with British weekly The Economist, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed doubt about US-led NATO's security maxim that an attack on one ally is an attack on all. It has underpinned transatlantic ties since the alliance's foundation in 1949.

"What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO," Macron said. Asked whether he still believed in the Article Five collective defense guarantee of NATO's treaty, Macron answered: "I don't know", although he said the United States would remain an ally.

Macron has said there is a lack of strategic coordination between European allies on the one hand and the United States and Turkey, with NATO's second-largest military, on the other.

While France has traditionally had an ambivalent role in NATO, taking no part in its strategic military planning from 1966 to 2009 despite being a founding member, Macron's comments - a month before NATO's Dec 4 summit in London - were unexpected.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said he was overreacting.

"The French president has found rather drastic words to express his views. This is not how I see the state of cooperation at NATO," she told a news conference in Berlin alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg said NATO had overcome differences in the past, citing the 1956 Suez Crisis and the 2003 Iraq War.

The secretary-general and many allies want to project an image of unity at the summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in Leipzig, Germany, ahead of the 30th anniversary on Saturday of the fall of the Berlin Wall that is seen by many as NATO's crowning achievement through its four-decade role, said the alliance was perhaps one of the most important "in all recorded history."

In Russia, Macron's comments were hailed as an accurate depiction of NATO's state.

"Golden words ... an exact definition of the current state of NATO," Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman of Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote on her Facebook page.

The alliance was shaken by Trump's portrayal of it as being in crisis at the last summit in Brussels in July, and its image of unity took a hit when Turkey defied its allies to launch a military incursion into Syria on Oct 9.

Macron had earlier decried NATO's inability to react to what he called Turkey's "crazy" offensive and said it was time Europe stopped acting like a junior ally when it came to the Middle East.

Cold War relic?

In his interview, he also said the United States was showing signs of "turning its back on us", as demonstrated by Trump's sudden decision last month to pull troops out of northeastern Syria without consulting the allies.

Once seen by some as a Cold War relic until Russia incorporated Crimea in 2014 following a referendum, the 29-member alliance is confronting militant attacks in Europe and seeking to defend against the perceived threat of ballistic missiles from Iran.

Macron lauded nascent European defense integration initiatives independent of the US. His so-called European Intervention Initiative has so far brought together the military forces of nine members ready to react to crises near Europe's borders without NATO or the US.

The European Union also recently launched its own multibillion-dollar defense plans to develop and deploy military assets together after years of spending cuts that have left European military forces without vital capabilities and reliant on Washington.

"The European Union cannot defend Europe," Stoltenberg said in a speech in Berlin.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has accused European NATO allies of not shouldering their fair share of the cost of defending Europe. He has demanded they double NATO's military spending goal of 2 percent of economic output, set in 2014.

They retorted that security was not just about spending targets, but have all since raised their defense outlays, although some remain short of the 2 percent objective.

In a change of policy, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Thursday that Berlin would spend 2 percent of its economic output on defense by 2031.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA[Bloomberg opens door to 2020 race]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521839.htm WASHINGTON - Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, is opening the door to a 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, warning that the current field of candidates is ill-equipped to defeat US President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg, who initially ruled out a 2020 run, has not made a final decision on whether to jump into the race. If he were to launch a campaign, it could dramatically reshape the Democratic contest less than three months before primary voting begins.

The 77-year-old has spent the past few weeks talking with prominent Democrats about the state of the 2020 field, expressing concerns about the steadiness of former vice-president Joe Biden's campaign and the rise of liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, according to people with knowledge of those discussions. In recent days, he took steps to keep his options open, including moving to get on to the primary ballot in Alabama ahead of the state's filing deadline on Friday.

In a statement on Thursday, Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson said the former mayor believes Trump "represents an unprecedented threat to our nation" and must be defeated.

"But Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that," Wolfson said.

Bloomberg's moves came as the Democratic race enters a crucial phase. Biden's front-runner status has been vigorously challenged by Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who are flush with cash from small-dollar donors. But both are viewed by some Democrats as too liberal to win in a general election faceoff with Trump.

Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent who registered as a Democrat last year, has flirted with a presidential run before but ultimately backed down, including in 2016. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in that race and, in a speech at the Democratic Party convention, pummeled Trump as a con who has oversold his business successes.

Bloomberg plunged his efforts - and his money - into gun control advocacy and climate change initiatives. He again looked seriously at a presidential bid earlier this year, traveling to early-voting states and conducting extensive polling, but decided not to run in part because of Biden's perceived strength.

Currently, Forbes is placing Bloomberg's net worth at $52 billion, which means he is one of the world's wealthiest individuals.

With immense personal wealth, Bloomberg could quickly build out a robust campaign operation across the country. Still, his advisers acknowledge that a late entry to the race could make competing in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which have been blanketed by candidates for nearly a year, difficult. Instead, they previewed a strategy that would focus more heavily on the March 3 "Super Tuesday" contests, including in delegate-rich California.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA[Sorrow expressed for truck victims]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521838.htm

HANOI/LONDON - Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has extended his condolences to families of the 39 Vietnamese people found dead in a truck in England in a people-smuggling tragedy.

In a statement, he called on the Vietnamese authorities and people nationwide to support the families to overcome their great loss.

The British authorities said on Thursday that they had worked with Vietnamese police and formally identified the bodies that were found on Oct 23 in the back of the truck in the English town of Grays.

"This is an important step in the investigation and enables us to work with our Vietnamese police colleagues to support the families of those victims," said Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith. "It is only right that we provide an opportunity for family members to take in the news confirming the death of their loved ones before releasing any further information."

Police last week said all of the victims were Vietnamese citizens. DNA samples were taken from families in Vietnam who suspected their missing relatives may have been on that truck. Essex police had previously stated that the victims were from China.

British police have charged 25-year-old Maurice Robinson from Northern Ireland with 39 counts of manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people. They say he drove the cab of the truck to the English port of Purfleet, where it picked up the container, which had arrived by ferry from the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Three other people have been released on bail pending further investigations in the case.

In Ireland, a 22-year-old man was arrested on a British warrant. Essex Police said they have started extradition proceedings to bring him to the United Kingdom to face charges of manslaughter in the case.

Several other suspects have been arrested in Vietnam.

In a separate incident on Wednesday, British police arrested 15 people found in a truck near Wiltshire. The men were detained on suspicion of entering the UK illegally. The driver, a man from Ireland, was arrested on suspicion of assisting illegal entry.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA[UN hears overwhelming support for Cuba]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/09/content_37521837.htm

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.

Some 187 United Nations member states voted in favor of the resolution, while Brazil and Israel joined the US in vetoing it. Colombia and Ukraine abstained. The same resolution has been adopted for 28 years in a row.

The vote was preceded by presentations and group debates, which began on Tuesday.

Palestine, which is chairing the Group of 77 developing nations this year, said it regretted that the US has strengthened the embargo.

Riyad Mansour, ambassador and permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, said that from April 2018 to March this year, the impact of the US embargo on Cuba's foreign trade amounted to more than $4 billion.

"Limited foreign investment and difficult access to development credits translate directly into economic hardship and humanitarian impacts for the people of Cuba. The country's socioeconomic reforms have also been hampered by the embargo."

Ambassador Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, on Wednesday said China, which voted in favor of the draft resolution submitted by Cuba, allied itself with the statement by Palestine.

The embargo, which dates to 1960, was imposed after Fidel Castro and his fellow revolutionaries seized power on the island in 1959. Tensions with the US only eased more than a half-century later when the administration of US president Barack Obama established diplomatic relations with Cuba. Under the former president, several aspects of the embargo were modified, such as the lifting of some travel restrictions.

As the resolution states, these policies "contrast" with measures implemented by US President Donald Trump in 2017, UN News said.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla reported that in recent months, Washington has begun to "escalate aggression", including by preventing international fuel shipments to the island, scaling down consular services, and attacking national programs that support other developing countries.

"The blockade has caused incalculable humanitarian damages. It is a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of human rights," he said.

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2019-11-09 07:36:27
<![CDATA['Untold suffering' awaits with global warming]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/08/content_37521627.htm

Scientists' warning comes hot on the heels of formal US steps to exit Paris deal

One day after the United States officially announced it was withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries warned of "untold human suffering" caused by global warming.

The scientists signed a study published on Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal BioScience that addressed the urgency of acting on climate change.

"We declare, clearly and unequivocally, that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency," their statement said, adding that global leaders had failed to address the predicament "despite 40 years of global climate negotiations".

The study laid out six key areas in which governments, businesses and the public can make changes, including replacing fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy, reducing emissions of short-lived pollutants, restoring the Earth's ecosystem, consuming more plant-based foods and reducing the world's population.

Phoebe Barnard, one of the lead authors of the report and the chief science and policy officer at the Conservation Biology Institute, a nonprofit science group, told CNN that the changes should be seen as a way of "transforming things that we have found stressful", instead of "sacrifices".

On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the official withdrawal notifications had been sent to the United Nations.

"Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement," he later wrote on Twitter. "The US is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens."

US President Donald Trump, who has described climate change as a "hoax", had promised to leave the treaty when he was a candidate for the White House. The announcement on Monday means the US will officially leave the pact on Nov 4, 2020, and if it were to re-enter, there would be a 30-day waiting period.

"I was concerned that we are now making the environment a political issue, and the environment should not be seen as a partisan issue," Leslie Duram, a professor of geography and environmental resources at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, told NBC News.

As the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, the US now is the only country that has quit the 2015 Paris Agreement, a global effort to combat climate change ushered in during the presidency of Barack Obama. Trump's predecessor in the White House had pledged to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

In another report, The Truth Behind the Climate Pledges, published by the Universal Ecological Fund on Tuesday, researchers warned that of the 184 countries and regions that signed the pact, only 36 were deemed to be making sufficient efforts in cutting emissions by 40 percent by 2030. A further 12 countries were considered partially sufficient in meeting the goal of cutting emissions by between 20 percent and 40 percent by 2030.

"With few exceptions, the pledges of rich, middle-income and poor nations are insufficient to address climate change," said Robert Watson, co-author of the report and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Simply, the pledges are far too little, too late."

Last month was the hottest October recorded globally, said the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service, an organization that analyzes global temperatures.

Meanwhile, New Zealand lawmakers on Thursday joined forces across the parliamentary aisle to pass a bill aimed at combating climate change.

The Zero Carbon bill aims to make New Zealand reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to the point the country becomes mostly carbon neutral by 2050. It gives some leeway to farmers, however, who bring in much of the country's foreign income.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she sometimes despairs at the pace at which other countries are making changes to fight global warming and vowed that New Zealand would be a leader.

"We're here because our world is warming. Undeniably it is warming," she said. "And so therefore the question for all of us is what side of history will we choose to sit on."

AFP contributed to this story.

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2019-11-08 07:49:05
<![CDATA[Ford puts iconic models, technologies on show at import expo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/08/content_37521626.htm United States-based carmaker Ford Motor is showcasing its signature models and cutting-edge technologies at the China International Import Expo running from Nov 5 to Nov 10 in Shanghai, demonstrating its commitment to further tapping into the potential of the world's largest car market.

"We appreciate the CIIE as the key platform for us to showcase our best products and customer experiences to our customers in China," said Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett.

"The products and technologies we are preparing under our vision of 'Smart Vehicle for a Smart World' will be the right offer for the new generation of mainstream Chinese customers."

Two signature Ford models are being shown at its booth at the expo, which it has participated in for two years in a row: its best-seller in North America for 42 years - the F-150 and the iconic sports car - the Mustang.

 

Clockwise from top: Two signature Ford models, the F-150 and the Mustang, are being shown at its booth at the second China International Import Expo in Shanghai. The Ford booth at the expo. Visitors could experience Ford's latest driver assist technology - the Co-Pilot 360 system during the event. Photos Provided to China Daily

An icon in US culture, the F-series pickups have accumulated sales of over 27 million while the Mustang, with accumulated sales exceeding 10 million, has been the most popular sports car in China for three years in a row.

Ford's premium arm Lincoln is showcasing a stellar lineup of models as well, ranging from the full-sized SUV Navigator to its flagship Continental sedan. Besides the models, visitors can also experience Ford's latest driver assist technology - the Co-Pilot 360 system, which offers its vehicles Level 2 autonomous functions as defined in the five-level hierarchy created by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Ford said most of its models available in China will feature the system starting from 2019.

This is the second time that Ford has participated in the expo in an effort to seize the opportunities provided by China's new round of high-level opening-up strategies.

Hackett said the expo is a significant move for the Chinese government to support trade cooperation and economic globalization and to open the Chinese market to the world. "It serves as a window for all participating companies to further build the trade relations with the China market," he said.

During the expo, Ford signed a deal with China South Industries Group, parent company of its partner Changan Automobile, to export components in 2020.

The deal came after Ford and Changan announced plans in September to deepen their cooperation by tapping into respective strengths and capabilities to achieve strategic transformation and upgrades in the partnership. The two are also expected to localize production of Lincoln models in Chongqing, where the joint venture Changan Ford is located.

Ford was one of the first international brands to do business in China. It started to sell its Model T cars in 1913. In 1979, Ford exported 750 F-series pickup trucks to the country, which were the first imports of US-made vehicles since the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Anning Chen, vice-president of Ford and president and CEO of its China operations, said Ford is the largest US car exporter to China, with vehicles and components shipped to the country from 2014 to 2018 totaling almost 85 billion yuan.

"Ford will make the most of the expo to focus on the China market, deepen cooperation with the country and bring together the 'Best of Ford' and the 'Best of China' to achieve mutual progress and prosperity," Chen said.

As part of the commitment, Ford will introduce at least 30 models into China in three years and many of them will be specifically designed for the Chinese market.

To facilitate this, Ford is establishing a China Innovation Center and a China Design Center to promote the marriage of Chinese design and Ford DNA to provide Chinese drivers with distinctive, high-quality vehicles.

Ford's Nanjing Research and Engineering Center and Nanjing Test Center are the core of the company's product development operations in China.

Joseph Liu, vice-president of product innovation at Ford China, said the company is also working closely with a number of China's leading technology companies such as Alibaba, Baidu and China Unicom.

Its SYNC+, a new in-vehicle infotainment system powered by Baidu's artificial intelligence technology, is featured in many China-made Ford models. It is expected to bring Chinese consumers a new level of connectivity, making their lives easier and more enjoyable.

Liu said Ford is planning to equip new vehicles in China with C-V2X in 2021, becoming the first market that it offers the technology in. It will enhance the vehicle's perception of its surroundings, helping to improve road safety and traffic efficiency, and promote the development of autonomous driving. China has been the world's largest car market since 2015, but the fast-evolving customer trends in the country in past three years have been presenting both challenges and opportunities, Hackett said.

"Our global transformation and the change we made in China are the exact move to put ourselves in better position to help China economy and customers to experience a better future as a smart world," he said.

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2019-11-08 07:49:05
<![CDATA[Ambush on convoy kills 37 in Burkina Faso]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/08/content_37521625.htm Deadliest attack in five years underscores rapidly deteriorating security situation

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso - An ambush on a convoy transporting employees of a Canadian mining company in Burkina Faso killed 37 people on Wednesday, the deadliest attack in nearly five years of extremist violence in the West African country.

The impoverished Sahel country has been struggling to quell a rising extremist revolt that has claimed hundreds of lives since early 2015.

On Wednesday morning, "unidentified armed individuals" ambushed five buses carrying local employees, contractors and suppliers of the mining company Semafo Inc, said Saidou Sanou, the governor of the country's Est region.

As well as the 37 civilians killed, 60 were wounded, he added.

That toll does not include an unknown number of the security forces who may have been killed in the attack. The toll was likely to rise as there are a large number of people still unaccounted for, according to a local security source.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but extremists have staged dozens of attacks on churches and public officials across the north of Burkina Faso in the past few years.

Sylvain Leclerc, spokeswoman for the Canadian Foreign Ministry, said there were no reports of Canadian citizens among the casualties. She added that the Canadian government condemns the attack and supports efforts to bring peace to Burkina Faso.

In a statement, mine owner Semafo said the five buses being escorted by the military were approximately 40 kilometers from the Boungou gold mine in Tapoa Province when they were ambushed.

A security source said "a military vehicle that was escorting the convoy hit an explosive device".

"Two buses carrying workers were then fired upon," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Burkina Faso's government said the gunmen had conducted a "complex attack", adding that defense and security forces had launched a relief operation and were searching the area.

It was the third deadly attack on Canadian firm Semafo, which operates two mines in Burkina Faso, in 15 months.

"We are actively working with all levels of authorities to ensure the ongoing safety and security of our employees, contractors and suppliers," Semafo said in a statement, offering condolences to the families of the victims.

The mine itself, it added, remains secure and its operations had not been affected.

Two attacks on convoys carrying Boungou mine employees in August and December last year killed 11 people.

The company blamed "armed bandits" for last year's attacks, and subsequently reinforced its armed escorts.

The Burkina Faso government this year asked mining companies to make their own arrangements to transport their employees, according to sources close to the miners.

Burkina Faso's northern provinces have been battling a nearly five-year wave of extremist violence that originates from neighboring Mali.

The attacks - typically hit-and-run raids on villages, road mines and suicide bombings - have claimed nearly 700 lives across the country since early 2015, according to an AFP count. Almost 500,000 people have also been forced to flee their homes.

The attacks have been claimed by a range of extremist groups, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Afflicted by violence

The country's badly equipped, poorly trained and underfunded security forces have been unable to stem the violence, which has intensified throughout 2019 to become almost daily.

The Sahel region, including Burkina Faso's neighbors Mali and Niger, has been afflicted by the violence despite the presence of the regional G5 Sahel force as well as troops from France and the United States.

Burkina Faso's previous deadliest attack was in January 2016, when extremists raided the Splendid Hotel and a cafe in the capital Ouagadougou, killing 30 people, around half of them foreign nationals.

In August this year, the army suffered its worst attack with 24 soldiers killed in an assault on a base in Koutougou, near the Mali border.

On Monday, an attack on a base in northern Burkina Faso killed at least five armed police officers and five civilians.

The country serves as a southern gateway into coastal West Africa, and regional leaders worry the extremists could be moving into Togo and Benin.

Agencies

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2019-11-08 07:48:48
<![CDATA[UK pro-remain parties form electoral pact]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/08/content_37521624.htm

The three anti-Brexit parties standing in Britain's upcoming general election have formed an electoral pact, agreeing not to run against each other in 60 seats across England and Wales.

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) and the Green Party - all of whom favor the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union - want to give British voters another chance to choose whether to remain or leave the EU in a second national referendum.

The three-party pact means that, in Wales, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens will agree not to field candidates, boosting Plaid Cymru's chances of picking up the so-called remain vote in the Dec 12 election. In England, the pact is simply a two-way agreement between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

Former MP and chair of the Unite to Remain group, Heidi Allen, has been involved in setting up the alliance, and she told the BBC it was "an opportunity to tip the balance of power".

"We are facing that real danger of a no-deal or hard Brexit and that sense of a common or shared purpose really focused minds," she said. "Local parties and candidates have been incredible, and this is about country first, not about them and them winning, and it's been tough at times, but I'm pleased we've managed it."

Students will play a major role in the election result, with research showing that for 53 percent of the electorate, Brexit will be the key factor in their voting decision.

The analysis from the Higher Education Policy Institute shows that more than half of student voters are ready to vote tactically. In 2017, 47 percent of this group was ready to vote tactically. Tactical voting means voting for the candidate more likely to win, even when that candidate is not a voter's first choice.

A sample of more than 1,000 undergraduates, using data from the polling company YouthSight, indicates 74 percent oppose Brexit.

Meanwhile, days after his decadelong stint as speaker of the House of Commons ended, John Bercow has described Brexit as the biggest mistake Britain has made since World War II.

"I don't think it helps the UK. Brexit is the biggest mistake of this country after the war. I respect Prime Minister Johnson, but Brexit doesn't help us. It's better to be part of the (EU) power bloc," Bercow said, in a valedictory speech given to the Foreign Press Association.

Bercow was persistently accused of bias by Brexit-supporting MPs during his term as speaker, but he rejected the idea he had blocked Brexit, insisting "it was Parliament" that had prevented Britain from leaving before now, "not me".

He added: "My job was to stand up for the rights of the House of Commons. No apology for championing the rights of Parliament. Parliament is no disgrace at all and did its job well."

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2019-11-08 07:48:48
<![CDATA[Public hearings in impeachment inquiry to begin]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/08/content_37521623.htm WASHINGTON - US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on Wednesday that the panel's first open hearings as part of an impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump will begin next week.

Schiff said in a tweet that the panel will hear on Nov 13 from William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, an expert on Ukraine and Russia who serves as a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department.

Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify on Nov 15, Schiff added.

Trump didn't take questions from reporters at the White House on Wednesday afternoon before leaving for a rally in Louisiana.

Schiff's announcement came after several weeks of closed-door depositions before House of Representatives panels by former and current Trump administration officials, including Taylor and Yovanovitch, as partisan battles escalated.

"Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses," Schiff told reporters at Capitol Hill.

The impeachment inquiry, launched in late September, is looking into whether Trump attempted to get the president of Ukraine to investigate former US vice-president Joe Biden in return for the release of US military aid to the country. Biden is a top-tier Democratic contender in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and Republicans largely dismiss the impeachment inquiry, now into its second month, as a sham. The White House has called the impeachment inquiry unfair and illegitimate.

House committees on Wednesday afternoon released a transcript from the testimony by Taylor, who testified behind closed doors on Oct 22.

According to the transcript, Taylor told impeachment investigators that it was his "clear understanding" that the "security assistance money would not come until" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky committed to pursue the investigation.

Taylor, who was an ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009, also said Ukraine was not aware of a hold on the military aid until the end of August, over one month after a phone call between Trump and Zelensky. The phone call is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, prompting Republicans to argue that there was no "quid pro quo" ("this for that").

Xinhua - AP

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2019-11-08 07:48:48
<![CDATA[Japan's English struggles reignite exam debate]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/08/content_37521622.htm

A recent survey has found that Japanese lag Chinese in English skills, as Japanese policymakers are having rows over moves to reform the country's English exam for university admissions.

For a fourth-straight year, Japan's ranking in a measure of English proficiency remains low this year. The country was handed 53rd place in the survey by EF Education First. The Switzerland-based language training company evaluates the English skills of people in 100 countries and regions.

On the 2019 list, the Chinese mainland moved up to the bracket of moderate proficiency in general for the first time, with a score of 40. Hong Kong came in at 33, with Taiwan at 38, and Macao 41.

Minh Tran, a co-author of a report accompanying the survey findings, credited curriculum revisions on the Chinese mainland for the improvement. These reforms put a priority on communicating in English; in contrast, Japan was noted as having an education system that didn't prioritize real-life communication skills.

Testing communication skills "has proved essential in increasing a nation's fluency", Tran said.

The report said: "Forty years after China opened itself to foreign investment and private business, the country's transformation has been remarkable. Two-thirds of the world's decline in poverty since 1990 occurred in China."

China was a replicable model for other countries, the report said, in the way it moved from "memorization-driven to communication-driven teaching", transforming universities into world-class research institutions that publish in top English-language journals.

"Few political leaders can exercise this kind of long-term planning and control over their countries, but the pillars of China's strategy offer a replicable model for how policy reform and targeted investment can raise a country's English proficiency level," it said.

The 2019 rankings are based on the results of a free online proficiency exam taken by 2.3 million people in non-English speaking countries worldwide. As a result, the Netherlands gained first place, while Singapore topped the Asian rankings.

Wednesday's report came out soon after a decision by the Japanese government to delay the planned introduction of private-sector English proficiency tests as part of standardized university entrance exams in April next year. That decision has been linked to a controversy surrounding comments by the country's education minister.

On a TV program in late October, Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda triggered an outcry when he said students should compete for university spots "in accordance with their (financial) standing". He made the comment in response to a question about the fairness of using private English tests, given the concerns over the cost of exam fees and travel costs for ordinary students, as well as teachers.

His comments drew criticism from both the ruling and opposition parties in Japan. Hagiuda was forced to retract his comment and apologize to the students and their parents, as well as the businesses involved.

He said the ministry will spend a year looking into the problems with the exam system, including whether private-sector tests should be used at all, and will aim to introduce a new system for the 2024 school year.

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2019-11-08 07:48:48
<![CDATA[Gunmen kill 9 US citizens in Mexico]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/07/content_37521414.htm MEXICO CITY/NEW YORK - Gunmen killed nine women and children in the bloodiest attack on US citizens in Mexico in years, prompting US President Donald Trump to offer to help the neighboring country wipe out drug cartels believed to be behind the ambush.

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Trump urges joint war on drug cartels, but Lopez Obrador wary of intervention

MEXICO CITY/NEW YORK - Gunmen killed nine women and children in the bloodiest attack on US citizens in Mexico in years, prompting US President Donald Trump to offer to help the neighboring country wipe out drug cartels believed to be behind the ambush.

The victims in Monday's daytime attack at the border of Chihuahua and Sonora states belonged to the Mexican-American LeBaron, Langford, Miller and Johnson families, members of breakaway Mormon communities that settled in northern Mexico's hills and plains decades ago.

Six children and three women were killed. Family members said one child was gunned down while running away. Two of the children killed were less than a year old, they said. The car they were in with their mother was set ablaze.

"When you know there are babies tied in a car seat that are burning because of some twisted evil that's in this world, it's just hard to cope with that," a cousin of the three dead women, Kenny LeBaron, told The New York Times.

David Langford, whose sister Christina died in the attack, said that eight children had survived, including his sister's 7-month-old infant. Several of the children survived after hiding by a tree, and one, about 12 years old, hiked several kilometers to get help, he said.

One of the children who got away had been shot in the leg and the face and was in critical condition, Langford said. He blamed drug cartels in the area for the attack, calling their members "some of the most wicked men on the face of the planet".

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said during a Tuesday morning news conference that the region where the attack took place "has been a very violent area for many years".

Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the nine, traveling in several SUVs, could have been victims of mistaken identity, given the high number of violent confrontations among warring drug gangs in the area.

All of the dead were US citizens, said Alex LeBaron, a relative, and most also held dual citizenship with Mexico. They were attacked while driving on back roads in a convoy of cars containing the women along with 14 children, he said. Some were headed for Tucson airport to collect relatives.

More needed to be done

Trump has praised Lopez Obrador for combating cartel violence but said more needed to be done.

"This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth," Trump said in a tweet reacting to the massacre.

Later, he and Lopez Obrador spoke by phone, with the US president offering help to ensure the perpetrators face justice.

Before the call, however, Lopez Obrador rejected what he called any foreign government intervention.

Mexico has used its military in a war on drug cartels since 2006.Despite the arrest or killings of leading traffickers, the campaign has not succeeded in reducing drug violence and has led to more killings as criminal groups fight among themselves.

Falko Ernst, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Mexico, said Trump's tweet suggests he may be gearing up to pressure Mexico over security, especially with his campaign under way for reelection in November 2020.

"If he throws in his whole leverage, as we've seen with migration, then there is very little the Mexican government can do to hold its ground," Ernst said.

Northwestern Mexico has been home to small Mormon and Mormon-linked communities of US origin since the late 19th century. The early Mormon settlers in Mexico fled the threat of arrest in the US for practicing polygamy. The practice is observed by a shrinking number of Mormons in Mexico.

Agencies - China Daily

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2019-11-07 08:04:45
<![CDATA[Celebration of Chinese culture wows Greeks]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/07/content_37521413.htm ATHENS - An artistic spectacle inspired by China's remarkable cultural gifts developed over thousands of years was presented for the first time in Greece on Tuesday.

The Millennium Meeting was staged in the Pallas Theater in Athens as part of the Cultural Exchanges on the Silk Road program. It was organized by China's State Council Information Office and the Chinese embassy in Greece.

The magic and mystery of Chinese culture were brought to life by leading artists of China's national cultural institutions in a performance that included choreography, melodies from ancient musical instruments and a celebration of songs and classic figures in Chinese culture. Many of the choreographies were inspired by renowned murals and statues.

"I believe that Chinese culture is great, maybe older than the Greek one, and it would be very interesting to unite our forces now in the context of globalization. That is why I came to see the show today, and I think it will be very interesting," said Panayotis Kafatsakis, a member of the audience.

"I would like to see more performances of Chinese art in Greece, such as theater offerings and acrobatics. I think it is very nice for everyone to see them, especially for people who do not have the opportunity to go to China."

The audience was also treated to a performance with drums and other percussion instruments, along with a dance troupe who fired up imaginations with a depiction of fairies on the moon and musicians presenting ethnic Mongolian folk songs.

A representation of a traditional ethnic wedding and a song dedicated to the jasmine flower, beloved for its beauty in both China and Greece, were also in the mix.

"It was very nice, very impressive, the costumes and the music - I really liked all of it," said Evi Athanasiou, another member of the audience won over to Chinese culture.

"We would love to see a lot more Chinese shows here in Greece, because Chinese culture is very different from ours - in music, costumes and expression. It is always impressive to see different things. I think there are similarities between the Chinese and Greek cultures."

The show will next be staged in Thessaloniki on Thursday in the city's Radio City venue.

Xinhua

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2019-11-07 08:04:45
<![CDATA[Riyadh in talks with Yemen rebels]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/07/content_37521412.htm RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Riyadh is in talks with Yemen's Houthi rebels in a bid to end the country's civil war, a Saudi official said on Wednesday, in the first official confirmation of dialogue between the two sides.

The comment came after Saudi Arabia brokered a power-sharing agreement between Yemen's internationally-recognized government and southern Houthi separatists. Observers say it could pave the way for a wider peace deal.

"We have had an open channel with the Houthis since 2016. We are continuing these communications to support peace in Yemen," a senior Saudi official told reporters.

"We don't close our doors with the Houthis."

The official, who declined to be named, gave no further details on the talks but the development came after the rebels' missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities spiked over the summer, followed by a lull in recent weeks.

There was no immediate comment from the Houthi rebels, who seized Yemen's capital Sanaa and much of the country's north in 2014, sparking a Saudi-led military intervention in March 2015.

Washington too is in talks with the Houthis, US Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said during a visit to Saudi Arabia in September.

He did not say whether Washington was holding talks separately with the rebels, but analysts say it was likely happening in consultation with Saudi Arabia, a key ally in the Middle East.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 as the Houthis closed in on second city Aden, prompting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh had reportedly hoped for a quick win against the Houthis, but instead waded into a quagmire that has cost it billions of dollars and hurt its reputation, while devastating the Arab world's poorest country.

The confirmation of talks also came amid the slow implementation of a landmark cease-fire deal in rebel-held Hodeida, which was reached by the Yemeni government and the Houthis in Sweden late last year.

The deal was hailed as Yemen's best chance so far to end the four-year conflict, but it appears to be hanging by a thread with breaches reported by both sides.

"If the Houthis (are) serious to de-escalate and accept to come to the table, Saudi Arabia will support their demand and support all political parties to reach a political solution," the Saudi official said.

The Houthis, on their part, have offered to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia as part of a wider peace initiative, later repeating their proposal despite continued airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

The offer came after the Houthis claimed responsibility for attacks on Sept 14 against two key Saudi oil installations that temporarily knocked out half of the OPEC giant's production.

AFP - Xinhua

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2019-11-07 08:04:45
<![CDATA[Hammond is latest big name to walk away as election campaign starts]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/07/content_37521411.htm

As campaigning for December's British general election finally got under way, Philip Hammond, chancellor under former prime minister Theresa May, announced he wouldn't seek reelection to Parliament after a series of clashes with Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the issue of Brexit.

Hammond, who had represented the seat of Runnymede and Weybridge for 22 years and won almost 61 percent of the vote in the 2017 last election, had his post as the Conservative whip withdrawn in October after he opposed leaving the European Union without a deal.

He said he was "saddened" at being forced to stand down but he would have his party membership taken away if he stood against an official Conservative candidate.

"I will remain as a party member and I will continue to make the case for doing whatever is necessary to deliver a negotiated close future trade and security partnership between the UK and the EU," he wrote in a letter to constituents.

The announcement came as Johnson went to Buckingham Palace to officially inform Queen Elizabeth of the upcoming election, the country's first December election in almost 100 years. Hammond was just the latest Conservative to announce he or she would not seek reelection. Notably, several female Conservative MPs are quitting with plenty of time left in their careers.

Former British education secretary Justine Greening, another Brexit rebel, has walked away from her seat at age 50, saying she can "achieve more positive change outside Parliament".

Amber Rudd, home secretary in May's government, is quitting at age 56. Also retiring, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, 47, cited "the other sacrifices involved in and the abuse for doing the job of a modern MP".

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2019-11-07 08:04:45
<![CDATA[Odds favor migrants on boats for UK]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/07/content_37521410.htm The number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel illegally in small boats has risen sharply this year compared with 2018, with almost five times more efforts being successful.

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More than half of those crossing channel illegally make it, figures show

The number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel illegally in small boats has risen sharply this year compared with 2018, with almost five times more efforts being successful.

In the first 10 months of 2019, nearly 1,500 people crossed the channel to reach the United Kingdom illegally, according to information released by the French authorities.

The figures show that an average of more than five small boats carrying migrants have set sail for England each week this year.

More than 1,460 people completed the crossing, with 1,105 stopped in France, according to the Pas-de-Calais Prefecture.

In May, UK Home Office figures showed 562 migrants were recorded as trying to cross in 2018. Of these, 297 arrived in the UK.

Experts in the UK are now asking if more could be done to prevent people risking their lives by crossing one of the world's busiest sea routes in small boats.

Governments on both sides of the channel have pledged to make crossings an "infrequent phenomenon "by the spring, but a former British coast guard member told the BBC it was likely crossings would rise again when conditions improved.

Of the 237 boats that were intercepted in the first 10 months of this year, 99 were stopped by the French authorities. In October more than 70 people made the journey successfully - mainly via Kent - despite the introduction of an "enhanced action plan" on both sides of the channel.

Fishing boat skipper Matthew Coker told the BBC he has rescued migrants and believes the French could do more. "I've seen, more than a couple of times now, French warships escorting the migrant vessels through the northeast shipping lane, which is the shipping lane on the French side," said Coker.

Former British coast guard member Andy Roberts told the BBC he believes the French may be letting some of the migrants travel across.

"It's going to continue, I think right through to the summer when it will spike again and there will be an increase in numbers," said Roberts.

Calais MP Pierre-Henri Dumont denies French warships are escorting boats into UK waters.

Dumont, who chairs the French Parliament's Brexit committee, said between five and 10 boats were being prevented from leaving France every night. "We stop maybe 90 percent of the total of all the boats leaving the French coast," he said.

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2019-11-07 08:04:26
<![CDATA[Berlin bans snapshot 'soldiers' at Checkpoint Charlie]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/07/content_37521409.htm Authorities in the German capital have outlawed the wearing of fake United States Army uniforms at a popular tourist attraction in a bid to protect people from hustlers demanding cash for photo opportunities and souvenir "border stamps".

The move came after it emerged that a group claiming to be performance artists had demanded money while dressed as US soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie, the iconic Cold War gate of the Berlin Wall that linked the Soviet-controlled eastern part of the city with the western section overseen by the US, Britain and France.

The ban coincides with the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall that divided the city from August 1961 to November 1989.Checkpoint Charlie was the site of one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, as the US and Soviet tanks faced off in October 1961.

Bild newspaper reported on Monday that the authorities in the Mitte district of central Berlin revoked the license of a group of actors calling themselves Dance Factory because the performers were not limiting themselves to accepting voluntary donations but were demanding cash and allegedly threatening those who did not pay up.

The activity was uncovered by police officers posing as tourists.

Bild said people were being asked to pay $4.50 for a photo and it said "actors" could make $5,500 on a good day.

Berlin carefully controls street performers who charge money. Performers are required to obtain a special permit.

The BBC said the authorities took action in response to many Berliners' discomfort with the city's past being exploited. It said items on sale around Checkpoint Charlie include fake Soviet Red Army fur hats, gas masks, and chunks of rock that are said to be remnants of the Berlin Wall.

'An eyesore'

The Guardian newspaper reported that street performers had been posing as US soldiers at the site for the past 17 years and said around 10 actors were working the location in rotation.

Burkhard Kieker, the head of the city's tourism agency Visit Berlin, in an interview with Tagesspiegel daily called the tourist sight "an eyesore".

Tom Luszeit, who claimed to be the leader of the group of performers, said he did not understand the decision.

"I am faced with having to let six of my colleagues go," the Guardian quoted him as saying. "I don't understand the sudden decision to ban us, but we won't give up, we want to return."

He insisted tourists who refused to pay the voluntary charge were not verbally abused or pushed away from the site.

Checkpoint Charlie was one of three Cold War crossing points in Berlin. The others were Alpha and Bravo but Charlie was by far the best known and featured in countless movies set during the Cold War era.

AFP contributed to this story.

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2019-11-07 08:04:26
<![CDATA[Audi commits to staying 'consistently electric' in world's largest car market]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/07/content_37521408.htm Electrified vehicles are taking center stage at Audi's booth at the second China International Import Expo, a clear signal of the German premium brand's new energy vehicle strategy in its largest market worldwide.

One of them shown at the event, which began on Nov 5, is Audi's first fully electric model, the e-tron, which arrives in China this month as an import.

Just days before the expo, the model was added to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's list of new energy vehicles that are exempt from the 10 percent purchase tax, which will mean savings for Chinese consumers.

Starting in 2020, the e-tron will be locally produced with partner FAW in Changchun, capital of Northeast China's Jilin province.

Another heavyweight model the German carmaker is showing is the Q7 TFSIe. It is the first plug-in hybrid SUV Audi offers globally.

Taken together, the two models are representative of the German premium brand's comprehensive "consistently electric" strategy, which includes both fully electric and hybrid models.

"We are convinced and committed the future is electric," said Audi China President Gaby-Luise Wuest.

"We as Audi have the vision to unleash the beauty of sustainable mobility. 'Consistently electric' is Audi's attitude toward future mobility," Wuest said.

The brand already has an extensive model portfolio in the pipeline.

By 2025 Audi will have launched 30 electrified models, and electric models will account for 40 percent of its worldwide sales.

In China, together with FAW-Volkswagen, Audi will have launched nine new energy models by 2021, and more than half of them will be electric.

The first two - the e-tron and the Q2 L e-tron - are scheduled to be launched later this month, said Wuest.

While the e-tron is the brand's first step in e-mobility, Audi is also further expanding its model portfolio of hybrid models with plug-in hybrid drive, in which a TFSI engine works together with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery.

Such models feature sophisticated drive management for distinct electric stretches in cities and residential areas.

In 2019 alone, Audi is presenting four new plug-in hybrids in the A7 Sportback, A8, Q5 and Q7 product lines.

Further such models will round off the extensive offerings in 2020.

The company is also promoting its electrification strategy in the areas of brand strategy, sales, production and personnel.

Making use of group-wide synergies, the Four Rings company is building up the production of electric cars on four modular assemblies, with the e-tron SUV being based on an adapted version of the MLB evo platform.

As the second model, the e-tron GT concept sports car will be built on the J1 performance platform in close cooperation with Porsche in 2020.

In 2021, Audi will launch the Q4 e-tron concept via the MEB platform, which is dedicated to pure electric vehicles, as an introduction to the electric world of the Four Rings.

Audi will launch various compact and medium-size class models on the MEB platform, which Volkswagen designed for the entire group.

For its full-size electric models, Audi is using the PPE architecture whose segment-specific technical layout allows numerous high technologies to be realized.

To promote sustainable mobility and further fields of innovation, Audi will be investing around 14 billion euros ($15.5 billion) in electric mobility by the end of 2023.

In addition to developing and producing new electric models, the money will also go toward personnel and sales.

Audi has set itself the goal to gradually make the entire life cycle of its models CO2-neutral: from raw materials, production and use all the way to utilization and conversion to renewable energy.

This is part of Audi's goal to be "consistently sustainable". It plans to bring CO2 emissions of its Chinese production sites to zero by 2030 together with its partners, to do its part to limit climate change.

 

Wuest said Audi also wants to be consistently connected, which includes its R&D activities such as V2X connectivity and digital services, like the new generation of Audi connect.

Most importantly, she said the "consistently Audi" strategy focuses on customers.

"We create unique moments for our Audi fans," said Wuest, adding Audi China polls more than 15,000 car owners a year, whose feedback helps the brand to offer vehicles that customers want.

As a pioneer in China's premium mobility more than 30 years, Audi will continue its efforts to introduce models into the country.

Audi has more than tripled its sales volume in China in the last 10 years and plans to accelerate this growth in the electric era through its "In China, For China" strategy.

The brand will increase its local R&D focus in China to develop fascinating products and services that exceed the expectations of its Chinese customers, the company said.

Together with its Chinese partner FAW, by 2022 it plans to increase its locally produced portfolio to 12 models. And in early 2020, the six-millionth Audi will be sold in China.

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2019-11-07 08:04:26
<![CDATA[US begins Paris climate accord exit]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/06/content_37521120.htm

Washington's isolation from global efforts to battle warming condemned

The United States started the process of pulling out from the Paris Agreement on Monday, the first formal step in what will take a year to exit the global pact to fight climate change. Its actions will undermine the international solidarity in coping with the threat from global warming, analysts said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that he had filed a formal notice to the United Nations, starting the process.

In a statement, Pompeo said the accord would have imposed intolerable burdens on the US economy, echoing US President Donald Trump's long-held view that the agreement would cripple growth and intrude on US sovereignty.

"In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model - backed by a record of real-world results - showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions and more secure sources of energy," Pompeo said.

Nearly 200 countries have signed the climate deal, with each country setting a target to curb emissions that cause climate change. Once it exits, the US - the top historic greenhouse gas emitter and leading oil and gas producer - will become the only country outside the accord, Reuters said.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that the world body will work out procedural details for what happens next.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday that climate change is a common challenge to all mankind, and all members of the international community should join hands in cooperation and make their own contribution to a solution. "We felt regret that the US started the formal process to exit from the Paris Agreement," Geng said.

He said China hopes the US can become more responsible and make more of a contribution to pushing forward with multilateral cooperation, instead of bringing more negative factors.

As the largest developing country, China firmly upholds multilateralism, supports the Paris Agreement, actively undertakes international responsibilities in accordance with its own development stage and conditions, and adopts practical policies and actions to address climate change, he said.

Geng said China will continue in all its efforts to fight climate change, actively participate in related multilateral processes, and firmly safeguard the global governance process.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based environmental NGO, said that the coming US exit from the pact is "a huge setback" in the global efforts to fight climate change.

"While the world is working together to face the challenges of climate change, the US' exit is shortsighted and irresponsible. This could undermine the global solidarity in coping with climate change, bring negative influences to some other countries' resolutions to combat climate change and give them an excuse not to act," he said.

Diao Daming, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said Washington's withdrawal would damage the United States' credibility and leadership globally.

"Over the past two years, there have been various polls showing that the US credibility globally is decreasing, and the exit from the Paris Agreement will surely aggravate the process," he said.

He said that the need to combat climate change is founded on an international consensus and is backed by science. But the common sense that underpins this understanding has been distorted by factional squabbling within the US, which resulted in "a decision that goes against the mainstream international values", Diao said.

The US withdrawal from the agreement will not be completed until Nov 4, 2020, the day after the presidential election. If a Democrat wins the White House, the US could re-enter the agreement after a 30-day waiting period.

Against this backdrop, whether the US will ultimately exit the pact is not yet settled, Diao added.

Mo Jingxi, AP and Reuters contributed to this story.

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2019-11-06 07:52:09
<![CDATA[Kenyan population rises to 47.6m, census finds]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/06/content_37521119.htm

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya on Monday announced the results of a national census carried out in August, which indicated the country's population stood at 47.6 million, up from 37.7 million in 2009.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the 2019 Kenya population and housing census results will guide policy formulation and distribution of resources in the country.

"The numbers released today will go a long way in guiding the successful planning and implementation of government development initiatives, including the Big Four Agenda, for the benefit of all Kenyans," Kenyatta said.

In its eighth such national exercise since Kenya gained independence from Britain, the authorities gathered biometric information on citizens alongside critical information such as household income, levels of education, employment and health.

Kenyatta said that timely release of census results will facilitate evidence-based planning as the government hastens implementation of a socioeconomic transformation agenda.

"These results now provide us with a unique opportunity to realign our development strategies, policies and programs," he said.

He said state agencies will utilize census results to facilitate allocation of resources toward programs that uplift living standards.

The results indicated that out of the 47,564,296 people that were counted, 23,548,056 were male, 24,014,716 were female and 1,524 were intersex. The statistics recorded the number of intersex people for the first time.

However, the overall population growth rate declined from 2.9 percent in 2009 to 2.2 percent in 2019 while the average household size declined from 4.2 people in 2009 to 3.9 people in 2019.

Xinhua

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2019-11-06 07:52:09
<![CDATA[Iran ramps up nuclear capacity]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/06/content_37521118.htm TEHERAN/WASHINGTON - Iran announced on Monday a more than tenfold increase in enriched uranium production, thus further stepping back from commitments it made under a landmark 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by the United States.

The Islamic republic has also developed two advanced centrifuges, one of which is undergoing testing, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

Enriched uranium production has reached five kilograms per day, Salehi told reporters at the Natanz facility in central Iran in remarks broadcast by state television.

That compares with the level of 450 grams two months ago.

Teheran decided in May to suspend certain nuclear commitments, a year after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal between world powers and Iran and reimposed sanctions on the country.

Teheran has so far hit back with three packages of countermeasures and threatened to go even further if the remaining partners to the deal - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union - fail to help it circumvent US sanctions.

After the latest announcement, the EU warned that its support for the nuclear deal depends on Teheran fulfilling its commitments.

"We have continued to urge Iran to reverse such steps without delay and to refrain from other measures that would undermine the nuclear deal," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

Although the EU "remained committed" to the accord, "we have also been consistent in saying that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran", she told reporters in Brussels.

On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond a 300-kg maximum set by the deal. And a week later, it announced it had exceeded a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.

It fired up advanced centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles on Sept 7.

Salehi said Iranian engineers "have successfully built a prototype of IR-9, which is our newest machine, and also a model of a new machine called IR-s ... all these in two months".

Teheran denies a US claim that it aims to develop a nuclear bomb, saying its enrichment is only to generate energy for civilian uses.

Mass demonstrations

The announcement also came as Iranians held demonstrations nationwide to mark the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the US embassy in Teheran, while the Iranian officials continued to defy the escalating US pressures.

In Teheran, demonstrators gathered outside the former US embassy, now called a "den of espionage", carrying placards condemning US policies against Iran.

The embassy was stormed by Iranian students on Nov 4, 1979, and its staff were held hostage for 444 days. The US broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 and the ties between the two countries have since remained severed.

On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: "The US government has realized that its pressures, including those of sanctions, against the Islamic republic have been a failed policy."

Washington marked the anniversary by slapping sanctions on nine aides to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Today the Treasury Department is targeting the unelected officials who surround Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and implement his destabilizing policies," said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.

The action, which targets Khamenei's appointees in the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Expediency Council, the Armed Forces General Staff, and the Judiciary, seeks to block funds from flowing to a network of Khamenei's military and foreign affairs advisers, the statement said.

Separately, the US State Department announced a new reward of up to $20 million for information that leads to the location, recovery and return of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who was last seen in Iran in 2007.

Agencies - Xinhua

 

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, speaks during a visit to the Natanz enrichment facility in central Iran on Monday.Atomic Energy Organization Of Iran/associated Press

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2019-11-06 07:52:09
<![CDATA[Juncker: 'Many lies' told in UK referendum]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/06/content_37521117.htm The outgoing president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of being one of the people telling "so many lies" during the build-up to the June 2016 referendum which set in train the Brexit process that has dominated European Union politics ever since.

The veteran Luxembourg politician, who will be succeeded by Germany's Urusula von der Leyen next month, has previously expressed his regret at how much of his five-year term has been occupied by the still unresolved issue of how Britain is to disengage from the bloc.

"So many lies were told, including by current prime minister, Boris Johnson, that there needed to be a voice to counter them," he said in an interview for German magazine Der Spiegel. He also revealed that he had wanted to speak out for the "Remain" cause during the Brexit referendum, but was advised against it by then-prime minister David Cameron.

"Cameron made it clear that he didn't have any use for me," he said. "The European Commission is even less popular in Britain than it is on the Continent. I decided not to get involved. Looking at it today, I think that was a big mistake."

Juncker said he knew from very early on that the Remain option would lose the national vote, and had a one-pound ($1.28) bet with one of the British commissioners. He has kept his winning coin.

Even among Remain-supporting figures in British politics such as former British prime minister Tony Blair, Juncker said, the repeated message that the EU was an economic project, not a political one, fundamentally undermined the Remain campaign's chances.

But he firmly rejected the suggestion that a unified European political state was the long-term goal, saying: "Even highly enthusiastic Europeans are against our union becoming a European melting pot."

Meanwhile, as the focus of British politics turns toward more domestic concerns in the run-up to the general election on Dec 12, the House of Commons has appointed Lindsay Hoyle as its next speaker. He will take over from the retiring John Bercow, whose colorful oratorical style has been one of the most eye-catching features of coverage of the Brexit debate.

Hoyle, an MP since 1997, has served as one of Bercow's deputies since 2010. He won the House vote to be speaker after four rounds of voting eliminated six other candidates.

While he continues to represent his constituency in Parliament, the speaker is the highest authority in the House and makes rules on an impartial basis. It is the tradition that no other candidate stands against the speaker if an election is called.

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2019-11-06 07:52:09
<![CDATA[UK migration policy blasted]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/06/content_37521116.htm A British Parliament committee report issued on Monday has found the government's immigration policies may be driving people to use risky smuggling routes.

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Report says govt border strategy drives people to criminal routes

A British Parliament committee report issued on Monday has found the government's immigration policies may be driving people to use risky smuggling routes.

The Foreign Affairs Committee said the deaths of 39 people in a truck discovered in Essex last month must act as a "wake-up call", forcing ministers to reconsider their approach.

The report warned that the United Kingdom's focus on closing borders "serves to drive migrants to take more dangerous routes and pushes them into the hands of criminal groups".

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative member of Parliament who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the UK should "lead by example" on the issue.

"Today, hundreds of families across the world are losing loved ones who felt driven to take the fatal gamble to entrust their lives to smugglers.

"The UK has been relatively isolated from the different migrant crises in recent years - but it's wrong to assume that we are protected from their impact," Tugendhat said.

The report criticized ministers for allowing "dire conditions" suffered by migrants in northern French camps to continue, while instead pumping money into improving security along the French coast.

It cited research that said clampdowns at French ports had caused an increase in small boat crossings over the English Channel, which the UK is now trying to stop.

Tugendhat urged the government to remain in European Union forums on the migration issue even after Brexit. "It's crucial that we plan our response to irregular migration together," he said.

The committee urged the British government to improve conditions in migrant camps and process asylum requests faster for those with relatives living in Britain.

Meanwhile, Catholic services have been held for the 39 Vietnamese victims found dead in a sealed truck container in Essex on Oct 23.

Members of the UK Vietnamese community gathered for a service on Saturday at two churches, Church of the Holy Name and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, in East London. The Rev Simon Nguyen, who led the service, said the 39 died "seeking freedom, dignity and happiness".

After the service, Nguyen said the incident had affected the Vietnamese community worldwide.

"We couldn't believe such tragedy could happen and the pain these people had to suffer before they died," he said. "The whole community is in shock. It is shocking every single day because of more news and more information about the tragedy."

At Mass at the same church on Sunday, Bishop Nicholas Hudson asked for prayers for traffickers.

Post-mortem examinations are still being carried out on the 31 men and eight women to establish the causes of their deaths.

Last week, the driver of the truck, Maurice Robinson, 25, appeared in court on manslaughter charges. Prosecutors alleged that Robinson was part of a "global ring" of people smugglers.

Meanwhile, Greek authorities said on Monday that 41 men and boys have been found in a refrigerated truck stopped by police on a highway in northeastern Greece after it was believed to have crossed into the country from neighboring Turkey.

Police said all but two - an Iranian and a Syrian - were from Afghanistan, while six were minors. Eight were treated in a hospital for breathing problems, while the others weren't found to be suffering from health issues. Authorities said the refrigeration on the truck hadn't been switched on.

Police arrested the 40-year-old Georgian driver of the truck.

AP contributed to this story.

 

Police officers take care of 41 migrants who were found alive in a sealed truck near Xanthi, Greece, on Monday.Stavros Karitidis/agence France-presse

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2019-11-06 07:52:09
<![CDATA[PR groundwork laid for Boeing 737 Max return]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/06/content_37521115.htm US airlines using the Boeing 737 Max aircraft will conduct demonstration flights with company officials on board as part of an effort to convince customers the plane is safe.

American, United and Southwest airlines will make the flights as part of a public-relations campaign to rebuild confidence in the Max after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 passengers and crew. The airlines haven't yet set a date for the flights.

The flights are a variation on a theme struck by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, Administrator Stephen Dickson. Muilenburg said the company has conducted 500 test flights. He was on board for at least two and said other Boeing employees were "eager to do the same".

Dickson, a former US Air Force pilot and executive at Delta Airlines, said he would test the Max's new flight control software by climbing into a flight simulator. The FAA has been criticized for lax oversight in its approval of Boeing's top-selling plane.

Max jets were grounded in March following crashes on Oct 29,2018, of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia and March 30 of an Ethiopian Airlines flight in Africa. Investigators have focused on the Max's automated anti-stall system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, that may have erroneously pointed the nose of the plane down to gain speed to avoid a midair stall and into a fatal plunge. China was the first to ground the planes, and the United States was the last.

Boeing's software update hasn't yet been approved by the FAA, and it's unclear what additional pilot training will be required before the agency approves the Max's return to commercial service. European and other regulators may impose different requirements at different times that could lead to a staggered return of the jet to service.

"It's really important for our customers to see the plane is flying again," Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for American Airlines Group, told The Wall Street Journal.

Other top executives, members of the media and possibly corporate clients may board the early flights, the newspaper said.

WestJet, a Canadian carrier, said its market research found that 59 percent of Canadian fliers are uncomfortable flying on a Max.

American and United airlines have scratched the Boeing Max from their schedules until January, and Southwest doesn't expect the plane to return to service until February.

The union representing flight attendants for American Airlines said its 28,000 members "refuse to walk on a plane that may not be safe".

In a letter issued in response to Muilenburg's congressional testimony, the union said his testimony showed "there were serious breakdowns in the supervision of the 737 Max".

"It is important to recognize that many questions and the fear of working on this aircraft is an ongoing conversation," Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said in a statement. "Our workforce should not and will not come to work afraid for their safety."

Meanwhile, Ryanair, Europe's biggest budget carrier, said it doesn't expect to fly the Max before summer next year. In July, Ryanair said it would rename the Max the "8200".

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2019-11-06 07:52:09
<![CDATA[USST strengthens its ties with peers, industry to foster more global talent]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/06/content_37521114.htm The University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, or USST, a well-known educational institution for engineering, has succeeded in cultivating international talent by strengthening its connections to industry.

The Sino-German College, a cooperatively run school established in 1998, is another example of such practice. The college sees its close relationship with industry and enterprises as a key part of its development strategy.

According to the college, its cooperation with enterprises is used as an important path to strengthen the curriculum and faculty development. A comprehensive, multilevel cooperation model has been formed, which combines a business advisory committee, enterprise partners, an enterprise practice base and a joint laboratory. This provides broader support for improving students' innovative ability, the curriculum and talent training.

The business advisory committee for the Sino-German College, officially established in 2006, aims to strengthen the cooperation between the college and enterprises in the fields of teaching and research, construction of practice bases as well as college students' employment.

Focusing on market trends, the college has innovated to cultivate talent with the curriculum adjusted to industry demand. At the same time, cooperating enterprises also meet the college's requirements of practical training, professional laboratory construction, teaching and scientific research. This has resulted in resources sharing between the college and enterprises.

Over the years, the college has formed strategic partnerships with a number of multinationals and organizations, such as Shanghai Volkswagen, Continental, Schneider Electric, ZF, Siemens, German Centre Shanghai German Chamber of Commerce, Hamburg Liaison Office Shanghai and German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD.

The talent training base set up in cooperation with German auto parts maker ZF was listed as a city-level key project by local education authorities in 2015.

Other achievements include the industrial digital joint training base, which, in cooperation with Schneider Electric, was evaluated as a national-level project by the Ministry of Education in 2018. In the project, the college and enterprise jointly built an intelligent manufacturing industry 4.0 experimental platform. It introduced the new technologies of artificial intelligence and intelligent manufacturing into teaching and allowed Chinese and German students to research together. Students' interdisciplinary and teamwork abilities have been significantly improved as a result.

In addition to carrying out cooperation with outside enterprises and organizations, the college also pays attention to its own development. A Career Center was established in 2014 with the support of the DAAD and German company, Constellations. It functions as a bridge between the college and enterprises and provides individual support for students' future employment.

In 2019, another career workshop in the college was approved by local education authorities as a student development and education base. Together with the Career Center, the workshop helps form an organic pathway for students' career planning and development, according to the college.

The Sino-German College said it will step up efforts to strengthen cooperation with enterprises and promote the cultivation of high-level international talent.

The college will refer to the model and academic standard of Germany to cultivate graduates with Chinese and German master's degrees, it said.

In cooperation with the University of Stuttgart, the college's tool technology laboratory of computerized numerical control machines is under construction. Cooperative master's programs with Kaiserslautern University of Technology, HAW Hamburg and affiliated enterprises are also being prepared. On top of that, exchanges and cooperation with HAW Hamburg will be expanded.

Cai Yonglian, vice-president of the USST, said the Sino-German College is an example of the USST's pursuit of international education.

Since its establishment in 1998, the college has cultivated a large number of excellent graduates with a high level of expertise and an international perspective, Cai said.

Miao Pengpeng contributed to the story.

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2019-11-06 07:52:09
<![CDATA[Indian capital gasps under choking smog]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520831.htm New Delhi's 'unbearable' air pollution turns into the worst in three years

NEW DELHI - Millions of people in India's capital started the week on Monday choking through "eye-burning" smog. In response, schools have been closed, cars ordered off roads and construction halted.

A poisonous haze envelops New Delhi every winter, the product of vehicle fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from agricultural burning in neighboring states.

But the current crisis has turned into the worst in three years. New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called for a range of measures to fight what he described as "unbearable pollution".

"There is smoke everywhere and people, including youngsters, kids, elderly are finding it difficult to breathe," Kejriwal said in a Twitter video on Sunday.

"Eyes are burning. Pollution is that bad."

Kejriwal's government ordered half the city's private cars to be taken off the road for the next two weeks, based on an odd-even license plate system.

The system will restrict private vehicles with odd-number license plates to driving on odd dates while even-numbered plates are allowed on even-numbered dates. The restrictions were implemented twice in 2016 but remain controversial as critics have debated whether they were effective.

The state-run Central Pollution Control Board's air quality index for New Delhi was "severe" at 436, about nine times the recommended maximum.

Traffic police officers, wearing protective masks, signaled cars to stop if they were not following the temporary rule. Kejriwal appealed for residents to follow the rule and for private taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers to support it.

Authorities said almost 1.2 million registered vehicles in Delhi will be off-road every day during the two-week restrictions. Kejriwal said authorities were also distributing face masks to schoolchildren.

Schools, which were closed last Friday, remained shut on Monday. Citywide construction was halted until Tuesday in Delhi and surrounding areas.

Delhi residents had a mixed response to the emergency rules. Many outdoors were not wearing protective masks.

"I don't think this odd-even scheme will do anything. It's mostly the stubble burning in the states of Punjab and Haryana which contributes to the pollution, and industrial pollution is also high," said Ajay Jasra, a Delhi resident.

Some distraught over the pollution say they wanted to leave the city of more than 20 million people due to its poor air quality.

"I feel like moving out as well because I'm young and I'm still on a stage of building up my life and my career," Delhi resident Divyam Mathur said.

Other parts of the country have also been choked by smog, the government's Central Pollution Control Board said on Sunday.

Authorities brought a van with an air purifier to the Taj Mahal, the country's top tourist site 250 kilometers south of Delhi. They feared the pollution was damaging the 17th-century marble mausoleum, the Press Trust of India reported.

A group of environmentalists wrote to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, urging him to "take leadership" in the crisis.

Experts warn that both state and national governments need to go beyond short-term remedies and tackle major pollution sources if air quality is to improve in the long term.

Stopgap solutions "can't be a substitute for addressing the major long-term chronic sources of air pollution", said Daniel Cass, senior vice-president for environmental health of global nonprofit Vital Strategies.

He said emissions restrictions should be imposed on motorbikes and scooters, which are heavily used in Delhi but exempted from the odd-even system, and called for more public transport investment.

Changing agricultural practices, switching sources of electricity generation and accelerating the conversion of home-heating fuel from charcoal to natural gas are also key measures in the pollution fight, Cass said.

Afp - Ap

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2019-11-05 07:36:08
<![CDATA[Moscow readies cyber defenses under web law]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520830.htm Russia has begun implementing a law that critics have said can enable the government to cut off the country's internet links with the rest of the word.

Officials counter that the measures under the sovereign internet law, which went into effect last Friday, will protect against cyberattacks.

The law requires Russian internet service providers, or ISPs, to install "deep package inspection "tools within the country to enable the providers to locate the source of web traffic, and to reroute and block them when needed.

It also requires ISPs to route the country's web traffic and information through state-controlled exchange points, thus creating its own directory of web domains and addresses.

Under the law, the government will also have the power to switch off all internet connections to other countries in an emergency, the BBC reported, citing the law's text.

Aleksandr Zharov, the head of the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, has said all Russian internet providers have agreed to comply with the law and install the hardware, which is being tested in one of the Russian regions.

The law was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year, though it didn't come into force until late last week. It has drawn criticism from Western media.

US TV network CNN reported that it's not entirely clear how the authorities plan to implement the legislation. Russian officials have described it as a work in progress that requires multiple testings and additional regulations.

The Russian government has justified the law by saying it is needed to prevent cyberattacks, especially those from the United States.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected the idea the law could be used to cut off Russia from the rest of the world. "No one is suggesting cutting the internet," he said.

Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta said the legislation is part of efforts to protect Russia by creating the ability to sustain a fenced-off national network, in the event that a foreign power interferes with Russian cyberspace.

The law should not affect internet users, the newspaper said.

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2019-11-05 07:36:08
<![CDATA[Corbyn pledges energy-efficient housing]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520829.htm

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has hinted at a possible green battleground in the country's upcoming general election by announcing plans to introduce new carbon emissions regulations for all houses built in the country.

On Dec 12, the country faces its third general election in five years. Last week the Conservative government announced a halt to shale-gas extraction, known as fracking. The move indicates that the political parties could fight the election on more wide-ranging topics, and not just the all-encompassing issue of Brexit.

In 2006, when serving as chancellor in Tony Blair's government, Gordon Brown announced measures for new houses to produce zero carbon emissions by 2016. Following the 2015 election, when Conservative leader David Cameron replaced Brown as prime minister, those plans were dropped.

That decision drew a furious reaction, with the Chief Executive of UK Green Building Council Julie Hirigoyen calling it "shortsighted, unnecessary, retrograde and damaging to the house-building industry". Edward Davey, who had served as secretary of state for energy and climate change in Cameron's first-term coalition government and is now deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said "Cameron may as well hug a coal power station".

Labour leaders hope their latest proposals could reduce domestic energy bills by as much as 200 pounds ($258) per year, although they have not yet gone into specific detail on how this would be achieved.

"Homes should be safe and warm for families and not damage the environment for future generations, but our housing currently contributes a massive 14 percent of the United Kingdom's greenhouse gas emissions," said Corbyn.

"We will tackle the housing and climate crises at the same time by building warm and energy-efficient homes," he said.

In addition to this plan's green impact, the party contends an additional nationwide energy-efficient home improvement policy would create 450,000 jobs, with almost all homes entitled to funding either through grants or interest-free loans. These would be repaid through reduced energy bills.

The announcement came as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government revealed its own plans to review his predecessor Theresa May's pledge to get the country down to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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2019-11-05 07:36:08
<![CDATA[Ethiopia PM vows justice awaits rioters as deaths rise]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520828.htm

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has vowed that the rioters responsible for a wave of violence that has engulfed restive regions of the country will be pursued and brought to justice.

In a statement on Sunday, Ahmed said the death toll from the riots had risen to 86, with four women among the victims. The protests in the East African country have swept across the regions of Oromia, Harari and Dire Dawa.

Fifty of those killed came from the Oromo community, followed by the Amharas with 20 and the Gammo community with eight. The rest were from the Guruga, Hadiya and Araboba ethnic communities.

"We have to stop those forces who are trying to pull us two steps backwards while we are going one step forward," said Ahmed, in comments reported by national broadcaster Fana Broadcasting Corporation.

Ahmed said the government will seek to press on with correcting mistakes made in the past and will take all legal measures to ensure peace and security in the country.

The violence broke out on October 23 in Addis Ababa before spreading to the Oromia region. It was sparked by comments from Jawar Mohammed, an activist and media entrepreneur, who accused the security forces of planning an attack against him.

Mohammed, who is said to have almost 2 million Facebook followers, said in a post on the social network that police had surrounded his home.

Hundreds of his followers then showed up at his compound to support him, and launched anti-Ahmed protests that led to the wide-scale destruction of properties in addition to the deaths reported over the following two days.

On Thursday, Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for the prime minister, said that 409 people had been arrested during the riots.

Seyoum told a press briefing that investigations were continuing with the aim of bringing all the perpetrators to book.

"Rest assured that the ongoing investigations will ensure that all the people who have committed these crimes, and the agents behind them, will be held accountable," she said.

Seyoum said reconciliation efforts, which she described as the foundation for peace and stability, were being made across the country.

"High-level government officials, including the prime minister, have visited the affected locations and engaged with the local communities to understand their challenges in an effort to address them," she said.

Ahmed, who took office in 2018, was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his political reforms aimed at uniting the country and for making peace with neighboring Eritrea.

Ahmed faces the challenge of staging elections next year, as promised, while ensuring they will be fair.

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2019-11-05 07:36:08
<![CDATA[Teheran marks US embassy siege]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520827.htm

TEHERAN - Tens of thousands of Iranians held demonstrations nationwide on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the US embassy in Teheran.

In the capital city of Iran, the demonstrators gathered outside the former US embassy, calling it a "den of espionage" and carrying placards condemning US policies against Iran. They also chanted slogans against the United States and Israel and set flags of the two countries on fire.

Rallies were also reported in the cities of Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan, among others. The Mehr News Agency, owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, estimated that "millions of people" attended rallies across the country, though it was not possible to verify that claim.

State TV aired segments of a Canadian documentary, The Fire Breather, showing Donald Trump on the campaign trail in the 2016 presidential election. The segments carried biting comments about his past alongside images of the rallies that helped put him in the White House.

On Nov 4, 1979, the US embassy was stormed by Iranian students and its staff were held hostage for 444 days. The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 and the ties between the two countries have since remained severed.

The 40th anniversary came at a time of escalating tensions between Teheran and Washington, and the mounting sanction pressures of Trump's administration against the Islamic republic.

New centrifuges move

Later on Monday, Iran announced its latest violations of the nuclear deal with world powers, saying that it now operates twice as many advanced centrifuges banned by the 2015 accord and is working on a prototype that's 50 times faster than those allowed by the deal, according to The Associated Press.

By starting up these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cuts into the one year that experts had estimated Teheran would need to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon - if it chose to pursue one.

The comments by Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, came ahead of an expected announcement by Teheran of the new ways it would break the accord.

Already, Iran has broken through its stockpile and enrichment limitations, trying to pressure Europe to offer it a new deal, more than a year after Trump unilaterally took the country out of the accord.

Speaking to state TV, Salehi said Teheran is now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges - twice as many as before. Such a centrifuge can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as the first-generation IR-1s allowed under the accord.

Agencies - Xinhua

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2019-11-05 07:36:08
<![CDATA[Whistleblower willing to answer questions]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520826.htm Trump's accuser offers to give written responses to Republican lawmakers

WASHINGTON - The anonymous whistleblower whose complaint triggered an impeachment investigation into US President Donald Trump is willing to answer written questions submitted by Republican lawmakers, the person's lawyer said.

The offer made over the weekend to Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee, was aimed in part at fending off escalating attacks by Trump and his GOP allies who are demanding the whistleblower's identity be revealed.

The offer would allow Republicans to ask questions of the whistleblower without having to go through the committee's chairman, Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California.

"Being a whistleblower is not a partisan job nor is impeachment an objective. That is not our role," Mark Zaid, the whistleblower's attorney, tweeted on Sunday.

"We will ensure timely answers," he said.

Zaid said the whistleblower would answer questions directly from Republican members "in writing, under oath& penalty of perjury." Only queries seeking the person's identity won't be answered, he said.

Nunes' office did not have an immediate comment.

The surprise proposal came as Trump stepped up attacks on the whistleblower as lacking credibility, tweeting on Sunday that the person "must come forward".

In an anonymous complaint this summer, the whistleblower raised concerns about the White House's interactions with Ukraine, including a July 25 phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to initiate the impeachment inquiry in late September.

Trump was alleged to have abused his power by using military aid to pressure Zelensky into investigating former US vice-president Joe Biden, a top-tier 2020 Democratic presidential contender. The White House allegedly tried to cover it up.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing or a "quid pro quo".

The White House has dismissed those allegations and made clear that it will not cooperate with House investigators by providing documents or witnesses because it considers the impeachment inquiry unfair and illegitimate.

Democrats are heading into a crucial phase of their impeachment inquiry as they aim to move toward public impeachment hearings later this month. In the coming week, they invited 11 witnesses, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former national security adviser John Bolton for closed-door interviews.

"Reveal the Whistleblower and end the Impeachment Hoax!" Trump tweeted on Sunday.

Trump later pushed the news media to divulge the whistleblower's identity, asserting that the person's accounting of events is incorrect. The whistleblower's complaint has been corroborated by people with firsthand knowledge of the events and who have appeared at House hearings.

"They know who it is. You know who it is. You just don't want to report it," Trump told reporters at the White House. "And you know you'd be doing the public a service if you did."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday suggested that written testimony would not satisfy Republicans.

"When you're talking about the removal of the president of the United States, undoing democracy, undoing what the American public had voted for, I think that individual should come before the committee," the California Republican said on CBS's Face the Nation.

Since the start of the inquiry, House investigators have spoken to roughly a dozen former and current Trump administration officials behind closed committee doors.

The Democratic-controlled House approved a resolution last week that establishes procedures for public hearings in the impeachment inquiry and the release of deposition transcripts, among other things, signaling that the next phase of proceedings could start soon.

Jackie Speier, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday that transcripts of the depositions will probably be released in the coming week.

Ap - Xinhua

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2019-11-05 07:36:08
<![CDATA[California's 'new normal' stirs backlash]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520825.htm While firefighters battle the flames, the blame game heats up in US state

Utility company Pacific Gas &Electric, or PG&E, regularly shuts down household and commercial power. Cities ban firecrackers on a celebrated ethnic holiday. Schools and workplaces close due to blackouts and hazardous air quality, and residents are forced to evacuate to shelters for weeks or even months.

Sounds surreal?

The doomsday-like episodes are not only real, but are repeating themselves yearly as Californians wage a war against regular firestorms, a phenomenon they call "the new normal".

Since early October, dozens of large wildfires - Kincade Fire, the Easy Fire, Getty Fire and Hillside Fire, for instance - have engulfed the Golden State from Sonoma County in the north to San Bernardino in the south.

Aside from causing considerable loss of life and property, the infernos cannot be extinguished quickly.

Vidvat Masipeddi, 11, observed Diwali, a ritual to celebrate the Hindu festival of lights, without being able to set off firecrackers on Oct 27. San Jose, the city where Masipeddi and a considerable number of people of Indian ancestry live, banned firecrackers due to possible fire hazards.

The Maria Fire began on Thursday during what had been expected to be the tail end of Santa Ana winds that fanned destructively across Southern California.

Frustrated residents

The annual catastrophes have left many Californians frustrated. They live in a state with the fifth-largest economy in the world, with roughly $3 trillion in GDP in 2018, one that is home to the world's most valuable companies, revolutionary technology and innovation, and diverse cultures and ethnic groups.

"What has gone wrong?" asked Summeet Badwal, tech lead at a Silicon Valley startup. "Isn't it a shame that the California government collects hefty taxes from us but fails on everything from management, planning and protecting its people, us?"

Badwal is not alone. Many residents are venting their resentment against the government, the ruling Democrats in California's case, and Governor Gavin Newsom, and are pressing them for solutions.

Badwal and like-minded citizens suspect that inefficient forestry governance in the US state and aggressive environmental advocates who fiercely oppose the thinning and clearing of trees and plants, are major contributors to the yearly fire outbreaks.

California's increasingly dry forests are large tinderboxes in disguise, as some researchers noted.

According to a 2018 study released by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent agency, forests in California "are reaching a breaking point". The study concluded that controlled burning and more government efforts and funding are needed to address the problem.

To the public's dismay, former governor Jerry Brown in 2016 vetoed a bipartisan wildfire management bill that would have legalized "prescribed burns", saying his administration had already taken similar actions.

Apparently, Brown's vow of action was not enough. In November 2018, the town of Paradise was ravaged by a sweeping fire that killed more than 80 people and damaged over 10,000 properties.

In one of his blunt tweets about the California fires, US President Donald Trump wrote: "There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor."

Trump visited the devastated town of Paradise in late November. He told Brown and then governor-elect Newsom, who escorted him, to "remedy now or no more fed payments!"

The then-interior secretary Ryan Zinke echoed Trump by detailing obstruction by environmentalists. Zinke pointed out that whenever "we try to thin forests of dead and dying timber, or we try to sustainably harvest timber from dense and fire-prone areas, we are attacked with frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists, who would rather see forests and communities burn than see a logger in the woods".

The remarks by Trump and Zinke were criticized by firefighters, local politicians and green organizations.

A spokesperson for Brown called Trump "uninformed", saying that more than 60 percent of California's 33 million acres (13.3 million hectares) of forests are administered by the federal government, therefore rendering Trump's accusation groundless.

Newsom, who took office in January, and supporters from environmental advocacy groups reiterated that climate change was the ultimate cause of California's fires.

It's the climate change that causes more frequent and destructive fires, environmentalists insist, citing rising temperatures, drought and seasonal gusty winds as major fire factors.

According to recent research published in the Earth's Future journal, the "extremely large and destructive" wildfires in California have increased fivefold since the 1970s.

"This trend was mainly due to an eightfold increase in summertime forest fire area and was very likely driven by drying of fuels promoted by human-induced warming," it said.

Newsom also scolded PG&E's preemptive shutdown of power that affected about 1.5 million residents.

In January, San Francisco-headquartered PG&E announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to financial challenges associated with the catastrophic wildfires in Northern California in 2017 and 2018.

 

A firefighter pauses while mopping up at a leveled home as the Hillside Fire burns on Oct 31 in San Bernardino, California.Noah Berger/ap

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2019-11-05 07:35:40
<![CDATA[Fast food boss shown door over conduct]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520824.htm NEW YORK - McDonald's chief executive officer has been pushed out of the company after violating internal policy by engaging in a relationship with an employee, the corporation said on Sunday.

The fast food giant said former president and CEO Steve Easterbrook demonstrated poor judgment, and that McDonald's forbids managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect subordinates.

In an email to employees, Easterbrook acknowledged he had a relationship with an employee and said it was a mistake.

"Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on," Easterbrook said in the email.

McDonald's board of directors voted on Easterbrook's departure on Friday after conducting a thorough review. Details of Easterbrook's separation package will be released on Monday in a federal filing, according to a company spokesman. He will also be leaving the company's board. Easterbrook had been CEO since 2015.

McDonald's would not provide details about the employee with whom Easterbrook was involved, and an attorney for Easterbrook declined to answer questions.

The board of directors named Chris Kempczinski, who recently served as president of McDonald's USA, as its new president and CEO.

Two weeks ago, McDonald's reported a 2 percent drop in net income for the third quarter as it spent heavily on store remodeling and expanded delivery services. The company's share price has dropped 7.5 percent since, though it's still up 9.2 percent for the year. The burger chain also has been plagued by declining restaurant traffic.

The leadership transition is unrelated to the company's operational or financial performance, the company said in a news release.

The company's decision to act may be a sign of progress on workplace issues that have come to light in the #MeToo era, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

"Other companies don't always act on that kind of information or fire their CEO for that, and so it seems like they are trying to enforce a pretty strict policy in this situation," Tobias said.

Among other challenges at its restaurants, McDonald's has faced workplace harassment charges. In May, McDonald's said it was enhancing training and offering a new hotline for workers after a labor group filed dozens of sexual harassment charges against the company.

Fight for $15, the group which filed the charges, said McDonald's response to its sexual harassment complaints has been inadequate, and "the company needs to be completely transparent about Easterbrook's firing and any other executive departures related to these issues".

Kempczinski joined McDonald's in 2015. He was responsible for about 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the US. He was instrumental in the development of its strategic plan and oversaw the most comprehensive transformation of the US business in the company's history, said Enrique Hernandez, chairman of the McDonald's board, in a statement.

Kempczinski described Easterbrook as a mentor.

Associated Press

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2019-11-05 07:35:40
<![CDATA[Security teams kept pace with marathon runners in New York]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520823.htm As more than 50,000 runners competed in the world's largest marathon on Sunday, the New York Police Department, or NYPD, was out in full force to keep the event safe.

Thousands of police officers were on duty to safeguard the runners and the more than 1 million spectators at the 49th annual TCS New York City Marathon.

The police force covered the ground, sky and waters along the 42-kilometer route, which traverses the city's five boroughs. Nothing was left to chance for the event, which came a week after a US military mission led to the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"Together with our agency partners, we have extensive safety and security measures in place, both visible and behind the scenes," said Chris Weiller, senior vice-president of public relations at marathon organizer New York Road Runners.

With the security teams at work, the runners did what they do best. Two Kenyans - Geoffrey Kamworor, 26, and Joyciline Jepkosgei, 25, - won the men's and women's titles, respectively.

Blocker cars and sand trucks were deployed at intersections; helicopters, drones and observation posts on buildings monitored the action from above; and police boats patrolled the waterways, according to Terence A. Monahan, the NYPD's chief of department.

NYPD Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters said more than 500 blocker cars, 100 sand trucks and 500 cameras secured the course's perimeter, which was monitored by counterterrorism officers.

Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives teams were deployed, along with radiological detection boats and a bomb squad.

Every runner was screened at the start of the race in Staten Island by school safety agents, Waters said.

"They will give them that sense of security that they will be safe throughout the entire day," he said.

Waters said that Critical Response Command members were out on the streets and in subways, equipped with long guns, explosive-detection devices and security dogs.

"The marathon, what makes it so cool is we're running through neighborhoods," said NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker. "It's a signature event in New York City, like the ball drop in Times Square."

Chen Yangyang, a New Yorker who was attending her first New York marathon, said: "The concerns of safety will flash through my mind occasionally, but overall I'm not very worried. Layers of securities are deployed from the start to the finish line, and I have faith in the NYPD."

Cheng Jun, a runner from Chongqing in Southwest China, said: "As a runner, safety is less of a concern for me."

Cheng, who is in his 50s, traveled more than 7,000 miles for his first New York Marathon and his second of the Marathon Majors - the six largest and best-known marathons in the world.

John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism of the NYPD, said the special forces raid in Syria that resulted in Baghdadi's death would not have had an impact "in that we are already at our highest levels".

Chen said: "There are evil forces in the world, but the terrorism out there should not result in us common people yielding our pursuit for the good things."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

A spectator is searched by a police officer at a security checkpoint before the start of the New York City Marathon on Sunday.Lucas Jackson/reuters

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2019-11-05 07:35:40
<![CDATA[Egypt backs China in battle over artifacts]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/05/content_37520822.htm

Egypt's minister for antiquities has told China Daily his country supports China's efforts to repatriate its historical artifacts from around the world because countries with a rich cultural heritage have a duty to future generations to safeguard these items.

Khaled El-Enany was speaking at the launch of the exhibition Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, which will run at London's Saatchi Gallery until May. The exhibition coincides with the 97th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb on November 1922, by an expedition led by British historian Howard Carter.

The discovery made the boy pharaoh a household name around the world, a status that Tutankhamun still enjoys nearly 100 years later. It also generated a global market for Egyptian artifacts, putting the country in a similar position to China, which has also seen pieces of its heritage sold to the highest bidder. An economically resurgent China has recently become extremely active in putting right this historical wrong, and El-Enany said Egypt fully sympathized.

"Nothing makes me more sad than watching auction houses selling antiquities, be they Chinese, Egyptian or from any other ancient civilization," he said, because usually scholars, historians and tourists are then deprived of seeing them.

"This is very dangerous, so we will work hand-in-hand with China and other countries who have great civilizations. We want to defend that heritage and fight the illicit trade. Recently, I was invited by the Chinese authorities for a ministerial-level congress in Beijing later this month to discuss how we can work together to preserve international heritage and fight the illicit traffic in antiquities."

November also marks the first anniversary of the start of a cooperative archaeological dig by Chinese and Egyptian experts at the Luxor site in Egypt. World-renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, the author of 16 books about Tutankhamun, echoed the minister's comments about Egypt and China having a shared mission.

"I have a great admiration for the history of China," he told China Daily. "I met the vice-president of China inside Luxor temple and told him. Egypt is like China in that we suffer from a trade in illicit artifacts. I have had big fights with museums and individuals around the world, and have managed to bring back around 6,000 artifacts, but I still believe items like the bust of Queen Nefertiti in Berlin, the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum in London, and the carved zodiac at the Louvre in Paris should come home to Egypt."

That is not to say, however, that Egypt is possessive about its artifacts and its heritage. Its ancient past is in fact its greatest modern asset, he said: "Egyptian monuments belong to people all over the world, which is why we send this exhibition to London and around the world - it will bring tourists to Egypt."

"This exhibition will continue to travel until around 2024, but after that, the boy king will never travel again. That is when the Grand Museum in Egypt, which I started building in 2005, will be complete. It is the most important cultural project in the world - but until then, we will let him go around the world so people who can never come to Egypt can witness it."

The traveling Tutankhamun exhibition displays around 150 items from the almost 5,000 articles Carter found in the tomb's legendary treasure trove. They took nearly 10 years to remove and catalog. Many have never previously been lent overseas, and the task of designing the exhibition to tell the story of Egypt's most famous king falls to curator Tarek El Awady.

He told China Daily that to bring Tutankhamun to the land of Carter, particularly at the time of the anniversary of the discovery, was a special thrill. With 250,000 tickets having been sold before the exhibition opened, it is clear that Britain's fascination with the pharaoh remains as strong as ever.

"What we, and countries like China, Greece and Italy have, is our own great heritage, but it is also human heritage, so all countries should stand together and fight the illicit trade," he said.

"These are not pieces of merchandise, something that it is OK to find on sale in a market. We believe these wonderful pieces are part of all our history and should not be in private collections in darkness, only for the enjoyment of the owner and their family. The only place for artifacts is in museums, to be accessible to everyone, and to add something to history," El Awady said.

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2019-11-05 07:35:40
<![CDATA[Bolsonaro wants Brazil to join OPEC]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520541.htm The gesture indicates 'determination to make reforms in the energy sector'

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's wish for his country to join the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, could signal that Brazil is willing to make its energy industry better integrated with the global industrial chain, analysts said.

Bolsonaro said that he would "personally like Brazil to become a member of OPEC" and that the partnership between Brazil and the OPEC could help stabilize global energy prices.

"I think the potential is there. We have vast oil reserves," he said at an investment conference on Wednesday in Riyadh, adding that he had got an informal invitation from Saudi officials to join OPEC, but he would have to consult with economy and energy ministers before making a decision.

There was no immediate public comment from Saudi authorities. But Saudi state media said Bolsonaro and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "discussed ways to enhance bilateral investments between the two countries".

The 14 current members of OPEC are primarily in the Middle East and Africa but include Venezuela and Ecuador. The latter plans to exit the group next year.

Whether or not Brazil joins OPEC, Bolsonaro's words could indicate his determination to make reforms in the energy sector, as he had already done in some other sectors, and to create a more open environment for the industry, said Zhou Zhiwei, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"If Brazil is to join OPEC, it will be a great boost for the reforms in its domestic energy industry," he said.

Brazil's oil output from its offshore fields has increased greatly. According to its oil regulator, ANP, Brazil's oil production reached a record high of about 3 million barrels per day in August, an increase of 18.5 percent from the same period in 2018.

This week, a dozen companies are expected to take part an big oil rights auction for a zone off Brazil's southeastern coast. It is expected to reap a record-high windfall of more than $25 billion to the country, according to ANP. Participants of the auction include global oil companies and Brazil's state-run Petrobras.

Zhou said that the bidding is also a signal that Brazil is further opening its energy industry to the global market.

"More than 90 percent of Brazil's oil reserves are offshore, whose exploitation requires a large amount of capital and high-end technology," he said. "The coming of overseas capital and companies could also boost reforms in Brazil's own oil companies and industry."

Rights auction conflict

He Yun, an assistant professor at Hunan University's School of Public Management, said that Bolsonaro wants to better integrate its energy industry with the global market, but doubts that his wish to bring Brazil into OPEC will be realized soon, as OPEC would likely ask Brazil to limit oil production. That would conflict with the goal of the upcoming oil rights auction to greatly boost oil output.

OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia as the top exporter, has tried to persuade several non-member oil states to limit oil supply in order to boost global prices.

"Joining OPEC means Brazil would be obliged to reduce supply and follow other restrictions, which might hurt some related parties' interest," He said.

She said that it is easy to understand Saudi Arabia's willingness to invite Brazil to the group, as Brazil is a large producer and would be the group's most significant new producer for years.

"The output of OPEC now accounts for about 40 percent of the world oil market. If Brazil joins and reduces the output, the share of the OPEC countries would increase to about 43 percent, which might help to raise the global oil price," she said.

Reuters and AFP contributed to this story.

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2019-11-04 08:05:48
<![CDATA[Militants kill 54 in deadly Mali attack; IS claims responsibility]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520540.htm BAMAKO, Mali - At least 53 soldiers and one civilian have been killed in an attack on an army post in northern Mali, the government said on Saturday, in one of the deadliest strikes against the West African country's military in recent memory.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news agency later on Saturday, without providing evidence.

"Soldiers of the caliphate attacked a military base where elements of the apostate Malian army were stationed in the village of Indelimane," the IS group said on social media.

The militant group has posted dozens of claims of responsibility for attacks in several countries since US special forces killed its previous leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, last weekend.

Malian authorities first reported the attack in Indelimane, Menaka region, on Friday, but gave a lower provisional death toll.

"Heavily armed unidentified men attacked around noon. The attack started with shellfire. ... Then they retreated toward Niger," government spokesman Yaya Sangare told Reuters on Saturday.

He added the death toll remained provisional as corpses were undergoing identification, and that the army was undertaking a combing operation on the ground with support from international forces, including French troops from the Barkhane operation and United Nations peacekeepers.

"The dispatched reinforcements found 54 bodies including one civilian, 10 survivors, and found considerable material damage," Sangare said on Twitter earlier on Saturday.

France said one of its soldiers there had died after his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, according to a statement by the French presidency.

On Saturday, French Corporal Ronan Pointeau, 24, died after an armored vehicle in which he was traveling hit an improvised explosive device near the city of Menaka, French Defence Ministry said.

Pointeau and his colleagues were escorting a convoy between the cities of Gao and Menaka.

The IS group also claimed responsibility for that, saying its fighters had "detonated an explosive device on a French army convoy in the Indelimane area".

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said she would be "visiting Mali very soon to hold discussions with Malian authorities".

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Pointeau and expressed solidarity with the French and African troops fighting in the region.

The attacks came a month after two jihadist assaults killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso. Several sources have said the real death toll was higher.

Thirty-eight Malian soldiers were killed on Sept 30 in coordinated attacks on two army bases in central Mali, which has slipped from government control despite the presence of the French army and other international forces.

Agencies

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2019-11-04 08:05:48
<![CDATA[Vietnam condemns human trafficking]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520539.htm The government of Vietnam has called on countries around the world to "step up cooperation" to combat human trafficking after British police said they believed all 39 people found dead in a truck were Vietnamese.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said British authorities are now working to identify the bodies, which were found in Essex, in the southeast of England, on Oct 23.

In response to the police update, Le Thi Thu Hang, a spokeswoman for Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement: "This is a serious humanitarian tragedy. We are deeply saddened by the incident and wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims' families".

The ministry said that British police and the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security would publish their findings "as soon as possible".

Vietnamese feature prominently among those identified as potential victims of trafficking in the United Kingdom, according to a report by Anti-Slavery International.

Hang added: "Vietnam strongly condemns human trafficking and considers it a serious crime subject to strict penalties.

"Vietnam calls upon countries in the region and around the world to step up cooperation in combating human trafficking in order to prevent the recurrence of such tragedy.

"We are grateful that the British government and other relevant authorities have actively conducted the investigation, timely provided identification information to and worked in close coordination with the Vietnamese competent authorities."

China has also been in close contact with British police during the process of verifying the identity of the victims.

In a statement, China's Foreign Ministry on Friday said, "Illegal migration and human trafficking are international problems that need to be tackled by all countries with concerted efforts. China stands ready to make vigorous efforts to address the problems with the rest of the international community."

A number of Vietnamese families have come forward fearing their loved ones are among the dead.

The BBC reported that on the night before the bodies were discovered, Pham Thi Tra My, 26, sent her family a message saying her "trip to a foreign land has failed".

The bodies of eight women and 31 men were found in a refrigerated trailer attached to a truck in an industrial park in Grays, Essex, in the early hours of Oct 23.

The update regarding the victims' nationalities comes after police started extradition proceedings to bring 22-year-old Eamon Harrison from Ireland to the UK to face charges of manslaughter. Harrison has been arrested in Dublin on a European Arrest Warrant.

Several other arrests have been made in connection with the tragedy.

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2019-11-04 08:05:48
<![CDATA[Qantas grounds 3 Boeing 737 jets]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520538.htm

After checking dozens of Boeing 737 aircraft, officials of Australian national airline Qantas said cracks found in three jets will need more "complex "repairs than first thought.

Qantas has taken the three 737s out of service for repairs and is checking dozens of others for safety.

Last week engineers for the airline found cracks in a part called the "pickle fork" used to strengthen the connection between the wing and the body of the plane.

The head of engineering for Qantas, Chris Snook, said repairs would be "complex".

"The airplane will be on the ground for a month ... Boeing have done a repair scheme trial in California," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"It's taken 11 days to do the pickle fork in-and-out, but it took about a month to do the entire process."

The US Federal Aviation Administration ordered inspections of Boeing 737 aircraft in September after the company told the agency that structural cracks had been found on heavily used planes.

Qantas said in a statement it has been liaising with Boeing and safety regulators in Australia "on an issue affecting some of the worldwide fleet of 737s".

"We would never operate an aircraft unless it was completely safe to do so. Even when a crack is present, it does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft."

The statement added: "Qantas rejects the alarmist claims made by the licensed engineers' union, which are irresponsible and completely inconsistent with advice from regulators and the manufacturer."

This was aimed at the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, which has called on the airline to ground all 75 aircraft in its 737 fleet.

Qantas's Boeing 737s are used on many domestic routes and selected overseas services to New Zealand, Indonesia and Fiji.

Qantas fleet safety captain Debbie Slade said that she understood how the word "crack" could be concerning to passengers.

"What is not clearly understood is that all mechanical devices such as cars, bridges, ships and airplanes all have structural cracks," said John Page, an aircraft designer and senior lecturer in aerospace engineering in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of New South Wales.

"The real question is how design engineers manage these phenomena," he told China Daily.

"In the case of aircraft, the engineer designs the structure to ensure a crack is detected before it becomes critical. To ensure this occurs an inspection procedure is designed to make sure the crack is found before it becomes critical."

He said the significant factor is the rate at which the crack grows.

"Usually this is easy to calculate. If the crack might grow such that it could lead to a catastrophic failure, then it has to be remediated before continued operation," he said.

"The detection of not-critical cracks means the safety system is working. What we do not want to see is a failure with no warning," he added.

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2019-11-04 08:05:48
<![CDATA[Trump may revise ban on flavored e-cigarettes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520537.htm

Rule could further devalue startup Juul, leading producer of vaping products

The Trump administration is expected to announce this week that the United States will ban all e-cigarette products except those that taste like tobacco and menthol, a revision from its previous plan to take off the market all flavored e-cigarettes, according to media reports.

The revision is the result of a pushback from conservative groups who argue the original plan could hurt US President Donald Trump's standing with voters next year because vaping is popular in key states he needs to win for reelection, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing an unidentified White House official.

Juul Labs Inc, the leading producer of vaping inhalers, sells tobacco pods as well as mint and menthol flavors. Trump announced in September that the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, would ban the sweet and fruity e-cigarette flavors popular with teenagers, leaving only those flavored like tobacco on the market.

Last week, Altria Group wrote down its investment in San Francisco-based Juul by $4.5 billion, or 35 percent, from the $12.8 billion the tobacco company invested about a year ago. It cited the Trump administration's planned ban on e-cigarette flavors, and that Juul may sustain further hits to its valuation as states look to ban e-cigarette flavors that appeal to youth and comprise about 80 percent of domestic vaping sales.

In return for the $12.8 billion investment, Altria received a 35 percent stake in Juul and entry into what it hoped would be a lucrative new market. The deal vaulted Juul into the top ranks of Silicon Valley startups.

Altria's stake was valued at $38 million last year, but is now pegged at about $24 billion because, in part, future sales growth no longer looks strong.

Through Oct 29, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reported a total of 1,888 cases of lung injury and at least seven deaths in 49 states stemming from vaping. The cause of the injuries is not yet known, but it appears to be related to THC-infused products and not to tobacco or flavored vaping products. Tetrahydroncannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in cannabis that gives users a "high "or "buzz".

"The latest national and state finding suggest products containing THC are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak," the CDC said. "At this time, the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC have not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries in these cases, and the only commonality among all cases is that patients report the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping products."

Altria's third-quarter earnings grew 0.3 percent from the same period a year to $6.9 billion "primarily due to higher net revenue in the smokeless products segment", the company reported. Altria is best known for Marlboro cigarettes, but also markets smokeless products branded as Copenhagen and Skoal.

Due to changing market conditions, Altria, parent company of Philip Morris USA, lowered its three-year growth forecast to 5-to-8 percent from 7-to-9 percent.

Vaping products are important to Altria's future because tobacco sales in the US continue to decline. Cigarette smoking among US adults aged 18 and above fell to 15.5 percent of the population in 2016 from 20.9 percent in 2005. Still, the CDC said about 38 million US citizens smoked cigarettes "every day" or on "some days".

The US Surgeon General first warned of the dangers of smoking in 1964. Since then, smoking has been linked to 87 percent of lung cancer deaths in the US and 32 percent of coronary heart disease deaths and 79 percent of all cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Initially, vaping was viewed as a less dangerous alternative to smoking because nicotine can be delivered without burning tobacco and the paper wrapping of cigarettes.

A research paper led by David Levy, a professor of oncology at Georgetown University, said Altria's investment in Juul benefited both companies: Juul gained Altria's marketing clout and legal prowess in defending patent infringement and consumer health claims while the tobacco company gained entry into what it hoped would be a lucrative new market.

"From a public health perspective, the impact of the deal will depend on whether it leads to increased cigarette use (through increased initiation or less cessation) or less cigarette use (as a means of cessation or initiation into e-cigarette or no use rather than cigarettes) than would have occurred in the absence of e-cigarettes," the researchers said. "The future public health impact of the Altria-Juul Labs deal ... will likely depend on how the deal affects market competition and future FDA regulation."

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2019-11-04 08:05:30
<![CDATA[Airbnb bans 'party houses' after shooting]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520536.htm

ORINDA, California - Airbnb says it will take action to prevent unauthorized parties in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Halloween party held at an Airbnb rental home in northern California.

"What happened on Thursday night in Orinda, California was horrible. I feel for the families and neighbors impacted by this tragedy," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said.

In a series of tweets, Chesky also said on Saturday the San Francisco-based company is expanding manual screening of "high risk "reservations and will remove guests who fail to comply with policies banning parties at Airbnb rentals.

He also said the company is forming a "rapid response team "when it receives complaints of unauthorized.

"We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable," he tweeted.

Five people died after a Thursday night shooting that sent about 100 terrified partygoers running for their lives in the San Francisco suburb of Orinda.

The four-bedroom home had been rented on Airbnb by a woman who told the owner her dozen family members had asthma and needed to escape smoke from a wildfire, the person with knowledge of the transaction told The Associated Press. A fire burning in Sonoma County about 97 kilometers north of Orinda earlier in the week fouled the air over a wide area.

The house owner, Michael Wang, said his wife contacted the renter on Thursday night after neighbors contacted them about the party. The renter said there were only a dozen people at the home but Wang said he could see more people on video from his doorbell camera.

"We called the police. They were on the way to go there to stop them, but before we got there the neighbor already sent us a message saying there was a shooting," he said.

The couple was suspicious of a one-night rental on Thursday, Oct 31, the Halloween holiday. Before agreeing, they reminded the renter that no parties were allowed, said a person with knowledge of the transaction, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

No arrests had been made and there was no immediate word on a motive for the attack. Two guns were found at the property, authorities said.

AP - Xinhua

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2019-11-04 08:05:30
<![CDATA[Nanchang military music festival strides in rhythm with people's passions]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520535.htm An ongoing international military music festival, held in Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province, has attracted military bands and troupes of musicians and artists from 11 countries to perform a symphony concerto.

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, the sixth Nanchang International Military Tattoo, running from Saturday to Wednesday, is being hosted by the Nanchang government and the China Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles.

The musical extravaganza features some 3,000 performers who will take part in the opening and closing ceremonies, a parading performance, a special feature concert and military culture shows.

According to the local government, the NIMT, as a unique cultural brand of the historical city of Nanchang, has become an important exchange platform for international military music, portraying admiration for local heroes and the world's desire for enduring peace.

 

Clockwise from top: The sixth Nanchang International Military Tattoo opens in Jiangxi province on Saturday. The military music groups that took part in this year's National Day parade join the tattoo in Nanchang. The event attracts 10 renowned troupes from abroad to stage performances. Photos by Ma Yue / For China Daily

Yu Hai, chairman of the China Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, has taken part in preparing every session of the NIMT.

According to him, the participating groups at this year's event represent the highest level of international military music performers.

In addition to well-known domestic troupes, 10 world-renowned military music groups, including a Russian royal guard orchestra, British-Scottish bagpipe orchestra, French armored cavalry orchestra and orchestras from Poland, Egypt, Singapore and New Zealand, will stage performances at Nanchang landmarks, such as the Pavilion of Prince Teng and the Zijin Square.

This year's NIMT also features an Irish tap dance troupe, a Croatian troupe, a Colombian national dance troupe and other unique groups providing a diverse array of shows for audiences.

Jiang Siwen, vice-chairman of the China Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, said the military music groups that took part in the National Day parade in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China staged their performances at a special concert before the NIMT opening ceremony on Nov 2.

The Navy Orchestra, Air Force Orchestra, Army Orchestra and PLA Military Orchestra trumpeted loudly the grandeur of military music at the concert.

"We chose 14 representative songs from the background music list of the National Day parade, including the popular March of the Tide of Iron. The chief conductor of the united military orchestra of the National Day parade Zhang Haifeng also acted as the chief conductor of the concert," Jiang said.

To showcase the style and image of people's armies, a united military orchestra attached great importance to every detail, including posture, pitch, rhythm, timbre and movements to ensure performances of the highest standard, according to the local government.

As the NIMT's signature program after the opening ceremony, a military bands parade down two kilometers of main road attracted hundreds of millions of locals, according to Jiang.

"This shows that the NIMT is widely welcomed and appreciated by Nanchang people," Jiang said.

To highlight Nanchang culture, local choirs, orchestras and flag waving groups joined the performances.

A brass band made up of 500 primary school students performed the well-known song We are the Communist Successors and formed themselves in a group with the shape of the number 70 at the opening ceremony.

Some 2,000 students from universities, high schools and primary schools are also actively involved in the sixth NIMT. Among them are more than 500 students from Nanchang Normal University's affiliated experimental primary school.

Chen Lu, general counselor of the school, said that it's a huge challenge for them to organize 500 students for a performance - even though it's the second time for them to participate in the NIMT.

"Having practiced, students from four campuses of our school gathered together to receive training in a bid to foster a tacit understanding," Chen said. "With the efforts of students and teachers, I believe the performance will be good."

The youngest among the group is from the third grade. She said that participating in the NIMT is a good exercise for students and will give them a precious memory.

This year's NIMT is aimed at inspiring people's interest in military music, so organizers offered tickets online and free of charge, to attract more audiences to watch the performances.

Deng Yufeng, a local resident, said: "The NIMT is a cultural calling card of Nanchang.

"My family and I watched the grand scene of Chinese and foreign military orchestras playing the Ode to Joy in 2017. I learned that the official website would give out limited free tickets this year and will get one as soon as possible."

On-site staff member Yang Xiaolan said: "I can feel Nanchang people's enthusiasm for the sixth NIMT and many locals look forward to it ahead of the event."

Since its inception in 2006, the NIMT has attracted 7,300 performers from 23 domestic military bands, 30 overseas performance groups and 35 local participating groups.

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2019-11-04 08:05:30
<![CDATA[Resignations may slow Abe's agenda]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520534.htm

But Japanese PM unlikely to suffer long-term damage, analysts say

The resignations of two cabinet members within a week have again cast doubts on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's appointments and may affect his agenda including constitutional reform but they are unlikely to cause lasting damage due to a lack of strong rivals and a weak opposition, analysts said.

On Thursday, Abe accepted the resignation of Japan's Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who was accused by Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine of violating the Public Offices Election Law in the election campaign for his wife, Anri Kawai.

The article said Anri Kawai, who was elected to Japan's Upper House for the first time from the Hiroshima district in July, paid staff members who chanted her name and slogans from campaign vehicles 30,000 yen ($248) each per day. That amount exceeded the legal limit of 15,000 yen, but receipts for payments were forged in an apparent accounting gimmick to avoid violating the law, according to the Shukan Bunshun article.

"The current Japanese Cabinet had raised eyebrows since it was formed in September. Kawai's quick resignation allowed him to avoid grilling by opposition lawmakers in parliament, but cast more doubts on Abe's Cabinet appointments," said Dai Erbiao, vice-president of the Asian Growth Research Institute in Fukuoka.

Kawai's resignation came in less than a week after Isshu Sugawara tendered his resignation as trade and industry minister over allegations of giving gifts of melons and crabs to voters in his Tokyo constituency.

On Kawai's resignation, Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said: "Resigning automatically because of a weekly magazine report on a matter that is strongly suspicious of illegality is, in a sense, tantamount to admitting it."

"This should have been a matter worth a general resignation of the Cabinet members," he said.

"The ministers have to resign quickly not only because the suspected law violations could be true, but also because Abe is concerned of possible influences on Diet (parliament) debate of his long-cherished constitutional reform," Masanari Koike, a former member of Japan's House of Representatives told China Daily.

Koike said although similar cases had happened before, the latest resignations could be more damaging.

"Together with the current bribery scandal of a former local government official and Kansai Electric Power Corporation and the already raised taxes, people will have a deep sense of distrust of the administration and politics itself," Koike added.

In October, 20 executives of Kansai Electric Power were reported to have been given cash and gifts, including shopping coupons and gold coins, worth 318.45 million yen over a number of years by the late deputy mayor of Takahama.

Although scandals keep occurring in Abe's administration, setting off harsh criticism from the opposition parties, Dai in Fukuoka said Abe is likely to survive.

"With the opposition parties still too weak to pose much threat, and would-be successors inside the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are not yet circling in anticipation of Abe's downfall, I think the resignations will not bring lasting damage to his administration," Dai said. He noted that when two ministers quit within hours in 2014 over political funds scandals, Abe himself was not harmed.

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2019-11-04 08:05:30
<![CDATA[Greek and Italian cultural events boost China ties and cooperation]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520533.htm ATHENS - Athens this week held a series of cultural events, highlighting the deepening friendship and cooperation between China and Greece.

The cultural exchange activities in the Greek capital started with the opening of the exhibition, Traveling Comics from China to Greece, on Thursday, which put more than 100 works of Chinese animation on display.

Eleni Fotiou, a Greek journalist and travel consultant was among the guests of the exhibition with her husband Panos Dimitrakopoulos, a musician who has worked with Chinese artists.

"I am very interested in the civilization of China because it is as ancient as Greece's and I always follow this kind of exhibitions. It gave me the chance to meet the Chinese way of thinking," Fotiou said.

Fotiou's remark was echoed by her husband, who believes that Greece and China are connected by many elements, including music.

"I don't actually see anything dividing us. And music is a bridge, arts overall, which helps peoples getting closer," Dimitrakopoulos said.

During the event, 15 young Greek students from the Athens School of Fine Arts painted their own versions of Panda-inspired works on rice paper as presents for the guests. Nikitas Oikonomidis was one of them. He painted a panda as an ancient warrior from Sparta.

"In arts in this case, there is interaction. We are sharing ideas to work on," he said.

This kind of sharing of ideas continued during the inauguration of an exhibition of Chinese books under the theme "From the Silk Road to the Belt and Road" on Friday and the opening ceremony of an exhibition on Chinese calligraphy on Saturday.

"The organization of such events helps to further deepen the acquaintance between peoples, between peoples' culture. In this way there is more understanding," said Efthemios Tsiknis, a Greek photojournalist who has visited China six times.

In the meantime, in the Italian capital Rome, a cultural exchange activity featuring the culture of the Silk Road was also held with an artistic performance on Friday.

The opening ceremony of the cultural exchange event, themed "Meeting Across Millennia: Cultural Interactions Along the Enchanting Silk Road", was attended by more than 700 guests from all walks of Italian life.

Lu Guangjin, director general of the Department of Human Rights of China's State Council Information Office, delivered a speech at the opening ceremony, saying the friendship between the Chinese and Italian people becomes even firmer as time goes by.

The ancient Silk Road, once connecting Chang'an, an ancient Chinese capital, and Rome, is regaining its vitality in the new era, said Lu. He believes that this cultural exchange activity will further boost mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples and promote the joint construction of the Belt and Road.

Chinese Ambassador to Italy Li Junhua said that next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Italy, and the two sides will hold the Year of Culture and Tourism to further cement the people-to-people bonds.

Xinhua

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2019-11-04 08:05:30
<![CDATA[Exhibition links ancient civilizations]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520532.htm

Learning Chinese and working at a Chinese company are "prestigious" for many Greek young people, a Greek student who has been learning Chinese for three years said at a Chinese cultural exhibition in Athens, Greece, on Saturday.

The exhibition, aiming to introduce the origin and evolution of Chinese characters to Greeks, as well as connections between Chinese characters and Greek letters, attracted around 400 people, including scholars and students from Greek universities, overseas Chinese and local Greeks interested in Chinese culture.

Also present were Guo Weimin, deputy head of China's State Council Information Office; Wang Qiang, political counselor of the Chinese embassy in Greece; and Adonis Georgiadis, minister for Development and Investment in Greece.

In his keynote speech, Guo said ancient Greece is a key birthplace of Western civilization and enjoys a high reputation among Chinese people. Both Chinese and Greek are great languages with a long history.

"Promoting Chinese and Greek jointly has a great meaning, which is a good example of exchanges and mutual learning between Eastern and Western civilizations," he said. "The communication between the two ancient civilizations will lead the trend in the efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind."

"More and more Greeks want to learn Chinese," Xue Jianhong said. She is the founder of one of the largest Chinese-language school in Greece, which was established seven years ago with only 30 students. Now the number is 130 and still increases.

"Half of them are students who study marine engineering, which has long been a major occupation in Greece because of the country's profound relations with the ocean," she said.

She added that these young people's "dream" is to work for China Ocean Shipping Company in the port of Piraeus, referring to COSCO's "integrity", "well-paid jobs", and "potential" as a Chinese company.

According to Xu Lirong, chairman of China COSCO Shipping, the company has created more than 8,000 jobs for the local economy since 2009. And it is expected that the Piraeus port project by 2025 will increase Greece's revenue by 474.7 million euros ($531.3 million), creating 31,000 jobs and boosting Greek GDP by 0.8 percent.

At the exhibition, people also enjoyed a rare opportunity to experience Chinese woodblock printing. One of the four great inventions of ancient China, it produced the world's first print culture.

"This event is the best opportunity to experience Chinese culture. It not only makes me know more about Chinese characters, but also have a better understanding of China," one of the participants said.

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2019-11-04 08:05:30
<![CDATA[Thai cave reopens for visitors after rescue]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520531.htm CHIANG RAI, Thailand - The famous Tham Luang cave was reopened to the public on Friday following removal of equipment that was used in last year's dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped underground for weeks.

The northern Thailand cave, where the Wild Boar Academy team was rescued in July 2018, drew about 2,000 tourists in a single day, according to a local conservation official.

"We have allowed visitors to see the mouth of the cave," said Kamolchai Kotcha, director of the local conservation organization that overseas the cave.

Some of the rescue equipment left behind - including telephone wires, hoses and zip lines - may be exhibited inside the cave for visitors to view in the future, Kamolchai said.

Photos from the opening on Friday showed tourists at the site's entrance. Last year bikes and backpacks were found at the entrance-alerting local police that the boys were likely inside.

The visitors created so much traffic that authorities allowed only about 30 people to enter at a time.

Duangporn Sookawong, 75, who came all the way from southern Songkhla Province, said she believed that the rescue was a miracle and the boys were lucky that they were able to survive despite being stuck in the dark, complex network of caves for almost three weeks.

The Wild Boars went into Tham Luang in June 2018 for a routine hike after soccer practice, but became trapped after heavy rains blocked the only route out.

Hundreds of people descended on the remote site to help save the boys, who were found by divers - emaciated but alive - on a muddy perch deep inside the cave after nine excruciating days of waiting.

The boys were sedated and fitted out in full-face breathing masks before being pulled to safety through a hazardous underwater labyrinth.

Several books deals about the drama have been inked, and the first film about the rescue premiered this month at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

About 1.5 million people visited the outside of the cave in the past year, despite not being allowed to enter the cave as the area was still being restored.

Agencies - Xinhua

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2019-11-04 08:05:30
<![CDATA[Elephant departs but roams in spirit with researchers]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/04/content_37520530.htm Early October marked the end of the road for one of North Kenya's largest tuskers, a celebrated African savanna elephant named Matt. But the road continues for researchers.

Measuring 10 feet (3.05 meters) tall at the shoulder and weighing more than 6 tons, Matt died from natural causes, aged 52, said Save the Elephants, a British-registered charity based in Kenya. The elephant's body was found by an anti-poaching unit on Oct 7.

While Matt will roam no more, he has left researchers with a wealth of knowledge about elephants' behavior. He had been fitted with a GPS tracking collar in 2002 by Save the Elephants. This was done in order to make it easier for researchers to monitor the elephant's behavior as well as to help rangers protect him from poachers.

Matt, thanks to his tracking collar, appeared in numerous nature documentary series including the BBC's This Wild Life and Secret Lives of Elephants and Nature's Epic Journeys, intensifying his high popularity.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save the Elephants, said that by studying Matt, the researchers found that male elephants have a habit of migrating hundreds of kilometers in search of females in estrus - or in heat - to mate with, besides looking for food.

"This is evolutionarily a great way of maintaining a healthy gene pool in the vast landscapes that elephant families occupy. As we saw with Matt, a single elephant's range can be quite large; some hundreds of thousands of square kilometers," he said.

Matt had roamed farther than any other elephant in Kenya tracked by Save the Elephants, nearly circumventing Mount Kenya from Meru all the way to Laikipa, a continuous east to west loop of about 245 kilometers. His travels also took him northward across Samburu for a stretch of 220 kilometers.

"Matt's movements were highly original, and taught us that far separated protected areas could be linked by night-time dashes through dangerous territory," he said. "This ability to make large movements under cover of darkness revealed previously unknown corridors."

Douglas-Hamilton said that when Matt was in his prime, the elephant dominated matings so his genes were spread far and wide in the elephant population through the many calves he sired.

"When he grew old, he moved less and he was peaceful toward human beings. He became well known by the Samburu people living in the village of Serolipi," he said.

Despite his size and spectacular tusks, Matt survived and thrived during the height of the poaching epidemic a decade ago - a testament to his adaptation and local knowledge.

The crisis killed an estimated 100,000 elephants across Africa in just three years from 2010.

In 2017, Douglas-Hamilton recorded a dramatic scene with Matt after he went to investigate a confrontation between the celebrated savanna elephant and another elephant called Edison and found himself stuck in the middle.

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2019-11-04 08:05:30
<![CDATA[Trade talks 'will help Asia-Pacific']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/03/content_37520336.htm Progress in trade negotiations between the United States and China will benefit both countries as well as countries in the Asia-Pacific region which are closely bound together in the global supply chain, according to speakers at an international forum in Singapore.

Countries look up to the major world powers to engage in positive competition and win-win cooperation in the provision of global public services instead of resorting to zerosum rivalry, Zhang Xiaoqiang, executive vice-chairman and CEO of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, or CCIEE, said at a news conference at the forum.

Experts from the US and China, as well as Singapore, India, Indonesia. Thailand, other nations and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China exchanged views on the prospects for China-US relations at the forum jointly organized on Wednesday and Thursday by the CCIEE, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and the US research group Brookings Institution.

There is optimism that the US-China bilateral trade talks will make progress toward the first phase of a trade deal, he said, adding that the two economies can subsequently resolve other issues by observing the basic principles of a trade deal.

The other Asian economies do not want any frictions between the major powers such as the US and China, Zhang said.

Wei Jianguo, vice-chairman and deputy executive officer of the CCIEE, said that achieving progress in the first phase of the trade talks can be hard, adding that it is important both the US and China gain a good understanding of each other's core concerns and red lines in order to be better prepared for further negotiations.

"The haze is gone, but the sky is not fully clear, so more efforts are needed," Wei said.

He said China, like many other developing nations, merely seeks to reform and improve the global economic institutions such as the World Trade Organization.

Tarun Das, chairman of the Institute of Economic Growth, a New Delhi-based think tank, said the world is eager to see China and the US jointly tackling global challenges including climate change.

"What are the choices before the US and China: competition, conflict, or collaboration? We need to avoid conflict for everyone's sake. Can we see a picture of competition plus collaboration?" he asked, adding that the world has a shared future.

"There is this increasing coming together of technology in the US, China and the rest of the world," Charles Freeman, senior vice-president of the US Chamber of Commerce, told China Daily. But the challenge is to reconcile the views of various governments that may have their own concerns on security issues.

Wei said the concerns for Chinese investments in the US include the US tendency to often cite strange grounds to pour cold water on Chinese investors' plans. For instance, a processed meat producer from China was barred from buying land in the US for the purpose of raising pigs due to "national security concerns".

On the other hand, US investors are set to occupy the largest number of booths at China's import fair in November, while small and mediumsized US businesses are eyeing opportunities in the world's largest market.

Das said China and the US need to work together, noting that breaking the global supply chain "is bad for everybody".

He said the conflict will disrupt the global supply chain, which in turn can hold back innovation and technological development. This is because "other nations will be forced to make choices. This is not good overall".

"Innovation depends on openness," Das said, adding that all technological developments have relied on the sharing of knowledge among nations.

Contact the writers at prime@chinadailyapac.com.

 

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2019-11-03 15:13:14
<![CDATA[England truck deaths highlight smuggling routes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/03/content_37520335.htm Details are emerging about some of the 39 people found dead in a refrigerated truck in England on Oct 23 and their journeys through France and Belgium prior to the tragedy.

British media is suggesting that those who died may have been migrants trying to enter the United Kingdom illegally, though it is not yet clear whether they froze or suffocated to death.

The eight female and 31 male victims were carrying very few identity documents, leaving authorities to rely on fingerprints, DNA and distinguishing features such as tattoos or scars.

The driver of the vehicle, which had arrived in England via the Belgian ferry port of Zeebrugge early on Oct 23, has been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter.

According to a BBC report, people smugglers view France as a springboard to London. But while it is easy to get to France from Germany, Belgium or even Poland, it is much harder - and more expensive - to secretly transport people from France to the United Kingdom.

The broadcaster spoke to a Vietnamese man who last week had taken the same illegal journey from Zeebrugge to London. The man said he knew 12 of those thought to have died.

The man originally posted anonymously via Facebook from the UK: "I left for the UK a day before the 39 people who died. There were seven people in my lorry (truck). It was not refrigerated so breathing wasn't a problem."

He said he had traveled from Vietnam via Russia, where he lived in a warehouse for a month, before crossing woodland, arriving in Germany, and then in France.

One of the missing who may be among the victims, Nguyen Van Hung, was last seen leaving Marseille for Paris. Another, Nguyen Dinh Luong, had been living in France for the past 18 months, working in a Paris restaurant.

Thi Hiep Nguyen, one of France's leading experts on Vietnamese illegal migrant networks told BBC: "The boarding places change all the time. It's quicker if they can find a truck that's going directly from Belgium or Germany, and they can avoid Paris. But only the richest can afford to go that way."

Hiep's report into the networks in France quotes a smuggler, arrested in France in 2012, who said the money went to a "big boss" in Paris.

"They're not just in Paris, they're everywhere," said Hiep. "There are bosses in every country in Europe."

Every year, thousands of migrants attempt to enter the UK illegally via European ferry ports, typically hiding in vehicles.

Refrigerated trucks are often targeted because they can more easily bypass heat scanners, a spokeswoman for Belgian transport federation Febetra said.

jonathan@mail.chinadailyuk.com

 

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2019-11-03 15:13:14
<![CDATA[Shuri Castle lost to flames as shock felt across Japan]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/03/content_37520342.htm Complex's wooden structures no match for inferno that raged for over 10 hours

All the main structures of Japan's 600-year-old Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the nation's southern prefecture of Okinawa, were burned to the ground in a predawn fire on Thursday. The blaze lasted for more than 10 hours.

The fire started just before 2:20 am, in the castle's main hall, which is one of Okinawa's major tourist spots in the prefectural capital of Naha, according to witness reports, including a nearby security guard who rushed to the scene.

"It (the fire) started at the main temple and spread quickly to all the other main structures," an official of the Okinawa prefectural fire department told China Daily.

"However, the cause of the fire has not yet been determined," he said.

Television footage showed large orange flames engulfing the castle. Seven of its buildings were razed, including the main hall and the north and south halls.

The fire department said it sent more than 10 fire engines to the scene. With the castle's wooden structures, an area of more than 4,000 square meters at the site was damaged; the fire was put out about 11 hours after it started.

There were no reports of injuries, police and fire officials said, but about 30 nearby residents were temporarily evacuated.

Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma told a news conference that she was "extremely sorry" and shocked to hear the news.

"We have lost our symbol," Shiroma said.

"It is a World Heritage site that represents Okinawa. More than anything, I am very worried. ...Naha city will make our greatest possible efforts to do everything in our power to deal with the fire and its aftermath."

Built on a hill and surrounded by walls, the Shuri Castle served as the royal palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom and its administrative office. It is believed to have been in use since the 1400s.

The castle was largely destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, but it was extensively restored and reopened as a national park in 1992.

In 2000, remnants of the original castle, together with the ruins of other castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

"I feel so sad that the castle has now gone after being restored," said Ritsuko Shiratori, a 70-year-old resident who witnessed the fire from the highest floor of a condominium building.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay expressed "deep emotion and sincere solidarity with the Japanese people".

"This is a loss for all humanity," she tweeted.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that "Shuri Castle is an extremely important symbol for Okinawa" and the government will do its best to reconstruct it.

Kyodo News contributed to this story.

wangxu@chinadaily.com.cn

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2019-11-03 15:09:57
<![CDATA[Fire on train kills at least 74 in Pakistan]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/03/content_37520341.htm MULTAN, Pakistan - A massive fire caused by a gas stove erupted on Thursday on a train traveling in Pakistan's eastern Punjab Province, killing at least 74 passengers, officials said.

Flames roared through the train cars as the train approached the town of Liaquatpur in Punjab, they said. It is the latest tragedy to hit Pakistan's poorly maintained rail system. The fire destroyed three of the train's carriages near the town of Rahim Yar Khan.

Jamil Ahmed, a deputy commissioner of Rahim Yar Khan, said the death toll had risen steadily since the early morning. The fire broke out when a gas stove exploded as breakfast was being prepared on board, he added.

Several of the injured had jumped off the train - many to their deaths - after the fire broke out, said Ahmed. The train eventually screeched to a halt.

Poor passengers often bring their own small gas stoves on the trains to cook their meals, despite rules to the contrary, according to Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Safety regulations are often ignored in the overcrowded trains.

Through the morning hours, rescue workers and inspectors sifted through the charred wreckage, looking for survivors and aiding the injured. Local Pakistani TV footage from the scene showed a huge blaze raging as firefighters struggled to get it under control.

Authorities said they were still trying to identify the victims and that the lists of fatalities and those injured were not ready yet. Another train had been dispatched to bring the survivors to the city of Rawalpindi, they said.

Yasmin Rashid, a provincial minister in Punjab, told reporters that the medical staff were providing the best possible treatment for the injured at a hospital in Liaquatpur.

Those critically injured will be taken by ambulance to Multan, the nearest big city.

The train was on its way from the southern port city of Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh Province, to the garrison city of Rawalpindi when the blaze erupted, said Ahmed, the deputy commissioner.

Pakistan's military said troops had also participated in the rescue operation. President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan issued statements expressing grief over the tragedy.

Train accidents in Pakistan are often the result of poor railway infrastructure and official negligence. Media reports on Thursday suggest that railways officials did not notice when passengers boarded the train with gas stoves.

Agencies

 

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2019-11-03 15:09:57
<![CDATA[Missile test highlights Russia nuclear upgrade]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/03/content_37520340.htm Russia launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from one of its new nuclear-powered submarines in a test to hit a target hundreds of kilometers away, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

The Bulava missile was fired from the submarine in the White Sea, off the northwest coast of Russia, toward its target in the Kura missile-testing range in the Kamchatka peninsula, the ministry said.

The country's Tass News Agency said the Borei-class submarine was submerged during the missile launch. "For the first time, the ...strategic submarine test-launched the sea-based Bulava ballistic missile," Tass reported.

The report of the missile test coincided with a report by Russia newspaper Vedomosti in which an anonymous source close to the Defense Ministry was quoted as saying a test of the latest liquid-fueled, heavy thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28, will be carried out in early 2020.

In the Vedomosti report, the plan for the RS-28 was confirmed by an executive in the defense industry.

At least five launches are reported to be planned. "If it fits the required characteristics, this missile system will be fielded in 2021," the source told Vedomosti.

Konstantin Makienko, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said the development process of the RS-28 was fraught with problems.

The BBC said the test-firing of the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile from the submerged Borei-class submarine, as well as the planned testing of the RS-28, is a powerful reminder of the pace and scale of Russia's nuclear modernization.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who has been nominated for the position of US ambassador to Russia, said on Wednesday that the United States and Russia must discuss conditions for prolonging the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty without delay. The treaty is due to expire in 2021.

renqi@chinadaily.com.cn

 

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2019-11-03 15:09:57
<![CDATA[Africa requires $100b for quality internet]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/03/content_37520339.htm Africa requires $100 billion in investment to achieve universal and affordable internet access by 2030, according to a recent report by the World Bank.

The report said the continent will be required to bring about 1.1 billion more people online to achieve universal broadband coverage.

While the number of broadband connections in Africa crossed the 400-million mark in 2018, the report found that the average broadband penetration rate for the region was 25 percent.

Additionally, only 70 percent of the population have access to mobile broadband.

The World Bank has called for urgent action to close the internet access gap while providing a roadmap to reach the goal.

Makhtar Diop, the World Bank's vice-president for infrastructure, said the digital agenda is first and foremost a growth and jobs agenda.

"Broadening internet access means creating millions of job opportunities," he said.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, executive director of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, said: "In large parts of Africa, we are witnessing a lack of progress in extending access and network coverage. Affordability is also declining in many nations. Promoting greater digital inclusion is going to require more effective and innovative collaboration."

She said governments can help with policies enabling new technologies, new business models and investment.

Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank's vice-president for the Africa region, called for partnerships between all the stakeholders to realize Africa's 2030 target and share the burden of the $100 billion investment funding.

edithmutethya@chinadaily.co.cn

 

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2019-11-03 15:09:57
<![CDATA[US businesses seek relief as tariffs bite]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/03/content_37520338.htm Sorghum, minerals, copper among exports affected in trade dispute

Earl Roemer had high hopes when he sent the first container of sorghum grain to China two years ago, but now exports have completely stopped.

"The trade situations kill it," said Roemer, founder and president of Nu Life Market, a sorghum producer in Scott City, Kansas.

China had long been a major importer of US sorghum for livestock feed, but Roemer's grains had a higher-value application - as an ingredient of baijiu, a Chinese liquor.

To meet the demand from Chinese baijiu producers, Roemer's company developed a special type of grain with characteristics similar to the ancient grain that was used to produce baijiu thousands of years ago. Nu Life Market had established relationships with six baijiu companies in China before the tariff dispute started.

Roemer canceled plans to visit those Chinese partners in November. "Right now we're just waiting for the normalization of trade. When that happens, then all at once we're going to have a great opportunity to be able to export those grains again," he said.

The trade tensions are harming working families as well.

"These new tariffs have created challenges for all of our residents by threatening good-paying jobs, increasing the price of goods and filling us all with a bit of a sense of uncertainty," Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine told an audience of businesspeople, officials and experts during a recent meeting on China in Las Vegas.

Through his own experience of running a company, Conine said he believes in the value of trust and the importance of finding common ground, but the tensions between the two countries have damaged that trust, which threatens the state's pillar industries of tourism, mining and renewable energy.

"Of the 56 million visitors that came to Nevada last year, more than 250,000 visited from China, which represents a 30 percent increase from the previous five years," he said."A third of our residents rely on jobs created by the tourism economy."

The mining and mineral resources sector has been hit by the trade disputes."Nevada's mining companies produce $7.8 billion worth of revenue and are responsible for providing jobs to more than 14,000 people, according to the treasurer.

However, more than $510 million in Nevada exports have been affected by new tariffs; nearly half relate to copper and mineral reserves, he said.

Green energy

The tariffs also impact the development of green energy and the state's commitment to reducing dependence on fossil fuels, since the Trump administration imposed a 30 percent tariff on Chinese made solar energy products last year.

Nevada installed more than 3,500 megawatts of solar power, and more than 60 percent of the photovoltaic cells that Nevada homes and businesses depend on came from China, said Conine.

The US administration should commit to fostering a robust exchange of ideas and culture and solve the challenges through finding common ground, said Conine.

In the business community, the No 1 impact of the trade tensions is uncertainty, said David K. Young, CEO of Oxford Analytica, a consulting firm headquartered in UK.

"It is this idea and concept of uncertainty that makes decision-makers, executives, public, private organizations very nervous. And when you're very nervous, it's very hard to make informed, long-term decisions," said Young. "If you speak to people in the markets and financial institutions, it's very hard to commit significant amounts of capital to long term initiatives."

Saruhan Hatipoglu, CEO of the US consultancy Business Environment Risk Intelligence, echoed Young's remarks.

"If you talk to anybody in the financing or investment business, they will tell you that they like risk, but what they hate is uncertainty. I think both countries, especially from the US side, need to understand that this is a global economy and the two countries need to cooperate," said Hatipoglu.

liazhu@chinadailyusa.com

 

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2019-11-03 15:09:57
<![CDATA[Russia, Cuba keen to rebuild relations forged during Cold War]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/03/content_37520337.htm Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation from Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to visit the island nation in a sign to Russian experts of Havana's increased importance for Moscow as a political ally and a gateway to Latin America.

The invitation was extended by Diaz-Canel when he met Putin for talks in Moscow on Tuesday.

The Cuban leader's first trip to Russia as president followed that by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Havana earlier this month.

Diaz-Canel's visit came against the backdrop of a significant warming of bilateral ties, prompted in part by the United States' reversal of the policy of engagement with Cuba that was initiated by Barack Obama during his presidency.

Moscow is Diaz-Canel's first stop of on a visit to Europe, and he said it showed that Cuba prioritizes relations with Russia.

During their meeting on Tuesday, Putin told Diaz-Canel that Russia has always remained supportive of Cuba.

"It's not easy to solve economic and social issues in the conditions that Cuba finds itself in, but you have done it successfully," he said. "We are glad to see the strengthening of the Cuban state."

According to The Associated Press, Russian-Cuban ties are still far from the Cold War era of near-total Cuban dependence on the Soviet bloc, which saw the island as a forward operating base in the Americas, before Moscow largely abandoned it in the 1990s.

But observers of Cuban and Russian foreign policy say there has been a significant warming between the old partners, prompted in part by US President Donald Trump's more hostile policies toward Cuba.

Tatiana Mashkova, deputy chairman of the Russia-Cuba Business Council, said Russia may benefit from the canceled "reset" of US relations with Cuba that had begun during Obama's presidency.

Mashkova said when the US announced that diplomatic relations with Havana were being re-established, Cubans were euphoric as they hoped that this would bring about the removal of sanctions and a huge influx of US tourists.

"At first that was true, but now hotels are empty, and their agricultural products, contrary to expectations, are still not in demand in the US," Mashkova added.

Meanwhile, trade between Russian and Cuba is on track to more than double since 2013 to an expected $500 million this year, mostly with Russian exports flowing to Cuba, government figures showed.

Over the past year, Russia has sent Cuba 1,000 minibuses, 50 locomotives, tens of thousands of tourists and a promise to upgrade the island's power grid with a multimillion-dollar improvement plan.

"Russian-Cuban economic relations are now at a level that both parties can afford," said Nikolai Kalashnikov, deputy director of the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

renqi@chinadaily.com.cn

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets his Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel (left) in Moscow on Tuesday.Alexander Nemenov/reuters

 

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2019-11-03 15:09:57
<![CDATA[Brexit: So near, yet so far]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/02/content_37520302.htm Over recent years, all roads in British politics have led to one thing, Brexit - the issue that has dominated the political landscape since summer 2016.

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Just when or how Britain leaves the EU comes down to another PM's big gamble

Over recent years, all roads in British politics have led to one thing, Brexit - the issue that has dominated the political landscape since summer 2016.

But for all the sound and fury and careers that have risen and fallen in its shadow, Britain's exit from the European Union has still not happened.

According to Boris Johnson, the third prime minister to have had to wrestle with the issue, do or die, come what may, Oct 31 would be Brexit Day. But it was not, as the date for Britain's departure was put back to January, stretching it out into a fifth calendar year.

So what is the pathway that has led British politics to where it finds itself now, and where, depending on the outcome of the coming election, it may or may not remain for some time yet?

Britain's future in the EU became a live political issue in January 2013, when, having lost two MPs to the Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party, then-prime minister David Cameron promised a referendum on the question by the end of 2017 if his ruling Conservative Party won the 2015 general election, which it duly did.

In December 2015 assent was granted to a parliamentary bill for a referendum on June 23, 2016, with politicians free to pick sides. Leading campaigners for Remain included Cameron and then-home secretary Theresa May.

Prominent supporters of Leave included Michael Gove and Johnson, who said he reached his decision "after a great deal of heartache". It was later revealed that he had also written a lengthy newspaper article advocating the benefits of remaining, as he considered his options.

When the referendum came, out of a potential electorate of 46,501,241, turnout was 72.2 percent, and of that number, 51.9 percent had voted to leave.

Johnson and Gove declined to fill the leadership gap left by the departing Cameron. Unexpectedly, former Remain supporter May found herself tasked with the next stage of the process.

Leave's big guns not putting themselves forward was significant, because it revealed the problem that has dogged Brexit ever since; the lack of a plan for what Brexit actually meant.

In November 2016, the High Court ruled that the government was not free to enact the legislative procedure called Article 50, which begins the process of leaving the EU. It must involve the Parliament, the court ruled.

After parliamentary consultation, in March 2017 May triggered Article 50 and weeks later called a snap general election on June 8, hoping a new Parliament would prove more obliging and sort out Brexit more quickly.

It backfired disastrously, with the Conservatives winning fewer seats, and only staying in charge with the support of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP.

Over subsequent months, then Brexit secretary David Davis made tentative progress in his negotiations with the EU, but in July 2018 he quit the Cabinet, saying he was "unpersuaded" that London's approach "will not just lead to further demands for concessions" from Brussels.

Days later, he was followed out of Cabinet by Johnson, then the foreign secretary, who said May's plans would mean Britain having "the status of a colony".

In November 2018, there was a breakthrough as May said that Cabinet had agreed a draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, which she called "the best that could be negotiated".

But her relief was short-lived as Dominic Raab, Davis's successor as Brexit secretary, resigned, saying he "cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed", and prominent Brexit-supporting backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg submitted a letter of no confidence in May's leadership.

The ballot on May's party leadership in December saw the parliamentary vote on her deal postponed until the new year, and although she survived the leadership vote by 200 votes to 117, so many MPs voting against her was damaging.

May's Brexit deal went before Parliament in January 2019, when it lost by 432 votes to 202, the largest margin of defeat for a sitting government in history, and again in February and March, by smaller but still significant numbers of votes.

At a subsequent European Council summit, European Council President Donald Tusk said the UK had agreed to a "flexible extension" to Brexit until Oct 31. But following a poor performance by the Conservatives at the European Parliament elections in May, the prime minister announced she would step down.

Johnson, chosen as the new party leader, promptly suffered a string of defeats in Parliament, and for all his "do or die, come what may" rhetoric about Brexit happening on Oct 31, the deadline day has passed again.

Johnson has secured a new deal with the EU, but it is utterly acceptable to the DUP, and his desire to rush it through Parliament provoked wider resistance. He called a general election - the third in four years - to try to clear the political blockage. Just like May gambled on doing. That poll is on December 12.

The government hopes a change of Parliament might produce more positive results. The Brexit saga continues.

julian@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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2019-11-02 06:20:54
<![CDATA[Plenty of life in Mexico's Day of the Dead party]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/02/content_37520301.htm MEXICO CITY - Death can be a morbid and solemn subject in many cultures, but in Mexico, it's a cause for celebration - at least for two nights a year.

On Nov 1-2, people throughout the country deck their homes, streets and relatives' graves with flowers, candles, confetti and colorful skulls for the Day of the Dead.

The traditional festival honoring the deceased centers around the belief that the living and the dead can commune during the brief period.

Known for its bright colors and elaborate, cartoonish skeleton costumes, the festival has become a popular symbol of Mexican culture around the world.

"We're all afraid of death, and in Mexico, it's part of a celebration, a ritual of color. It's amazing," said Alejandra Diaz.

The 30-year-old traveled from Colombia to Mexico City for a week just to take part in the festivities.

The Day of the Dead, which is widely considered to be Mexico's most important festival, is rooted in the indigenous Mexica culture, mixed with Christian superstition brought by Spanish colonizers.

The Mexica were the dominant indigenous population in pre-Hispanic Mexico.

The modern celebration is based on a Mexica legend that after death, people travel through the nine regions of the underworld, known as Mictlan.

According to Octavio Murillo, heritage director at the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, a person's "final destination was determined by how they behaved in life".

The ancient tradition has since developed into a modern festival.

"It's a celebration with many years of history, to which indigenous peoples have incorporated new religious elements from Christian tradition, such as the gathering of offerings," said Murillo.

Millions of Mexican families set up altars on which they place the personal belongings of the dead and adorn them with the intensely orange Mexican marigold flower and confetti in the shape of skulls.

'Part of our identity'

The Mexico City government organizes activities for the festival, which in 2003 was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

This year, the festival began with a massive parade of "Calavera Catrinas" - the iconic cartoon skeleton wearing a European-style hat - and ended with an offering at the Chapultepec Forest.

Catrina, who was created by cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1910, was a satirical dig at indigenous people who tried to mimic colonial culture.

She has since been adopted as the embodiment of the Day of the Dead.

"Mexico views death as something normal and makes the most of it," said Yamile Nino, a 15-year-old student whose face was painted like Catrina. "It's part of our identity."

In his book The Labyrinth of Solitude, Mexican author Octavio Paz, who won the 1990 Nobel Prize in literature, wrote: "The Mexican is familiar with death, jokes with it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it."

For sociologist Jonathan Juarez, the Day of the Dead is "in itself an expression of Mexican multiculturalism".

"All cultures are modifiable," said Juarez, an academic from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

"On the other hand, life and death are highly striking phenomena for humans and produce great fervor," he said, noting that communities in other countries also share the Mexican view of death.

Susana Rodriguez, a 44-year-old housewife, has fond childhood memories of the celebration and is passing on that enthusiasm to her children.

"The dead wake up from their eternal dream to share life with us," she said.

Agence France-presse

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2019-11-02 06:20:54
<![CDATA[BRICS media plan to work together]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/02/content_37520300.htm News organizations that participated in the Fourth BRICS Media Forum in Sao Paulo, Brazil, agree that BRICS media should deepen cooperation in information sharing, and enhance understanding and mutual trust among people of the five countries through objective, impartial, comprehensive and timely news reports.

After in-depth discussions on Wednesday and Thursday, participants formulated a plan to achieve that goal.

According to He Ping, editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Agency, the BRICS countries have become an important engine for stimulating growth of the world economy, as their economic aggregates account for 23 percent of the world's total and contribute to half of global economic growth.

"BRICS media organizations should earnestly undertake the social responsibility of the media, uphold the concept of comprehensive, objective and impartial reporting and fully demonstrate the development achievements and prospects of the BRICS countries," He added.

The news organizations from the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - agreed to strengthen cooperation and work together to gain a voice compatible with the status of the countries in the international mainstream public opinion field and effectively safeguard the development rights and interests of BRICS countries.

The plan called for creating a unified digital platform for BRICS countries to verify the authenticity of the news reports.

"Nowadays, some Western media still have a bias against BRICS countries, and a very recent example is Western media's report of the death of 39 people whose bodies were found in the back of a truck in Britain," according to Wang Hao, deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily.

"We feel sorry for those people who passed away. But what is worrisome is why some Western media assume that they were Chinese without enough evidence to verify that," Wang said.

"BRICS countries' media should work together to curb the spread of fake information, including misrepresentations of BRICS countries by international media," he added.

Dimitri Gornostaev, deputy editor-in-chief of Sputnik News Agency and Radio, also proposed a practical measure.

"In order to have balanced and impartial news of BRICS countries, BRICS media outlets should increase the reports of our own, but not rely on the reports from the 'third party' like CNN, BBC or Reuters," he suggested.

The participating BRICS media also noticed the impact of the application of new technologies on media.

"BRICS media outlets will continue to deepen exchanges and cooperation and strengthen cooperation in the field of new media," said Jose Juan Sanchez, president of Brazil CMA Group.

The forum, held with the theme of "Strengthening Media Cooperation in Building the BRICS Community With a Shared Future", included some 100 representatives of 55 media outlets from BRICS countries to share their in-depth thinking.

The event also is part of the calendar of the upcoming 11th BRICS Summit to be held in November.

During the forum, a BRICS media joint photo exhibition was held to showcase the development and cooperation achievements of BRICS. It included nearly 100 pictures selected by media outlets from the five countries.

hena@chinadaily.com.cn

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2019-11-02 06:20:54
<![CDATA[Greeks get taste of Ne Zha's powers in cartoon expo]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/02/content_37520299.htm

The hero from the blockbuster Chinese animated film Ne Zha is taking a starring role in an exhibition in Greece that celebrates Chinese cartoons.

The exhibition, which also features images from Xiaolin Comics among other cartoon and animated works, opened on Thursday in Athens. It is being billed as the largest Chinese cartoon exhibition to be held in Greece.

In all, more than 100 works representative of Chinese modern comics are on show at the exhibition. Collectively, the works have been called "the hope of Chinese national comics" by Chinese internet users. Greeks can get acquainted with China's leading cartoon and animation output until the middle of November.

Guo Weimin, vice-minister of the State Council Information Office of China, said in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony for the event that it would enhance positive exchanges and mutual learning between the Chinese and Greek civilizations, and will also deepen the mutual understanding between the two peoples.

"Both China and Greece are ancient civilizations with a long history and profound cultural heritage. The two peoples are currently shouldering the responsibility of national rejuvenation," Guo said. "So the two countries have broad prospects for cooperation and a bright future."

Lydia Koniordou, a former minister for culture in Greece, said the works from China provide opportunities for Greeks to understand Chinese culture even though the two peoples speak different languages.

"Culture can break barriers, break prejudices," she said. "We need to understand each other and to accept each other's differences - not to be afraid of the differences, but to coexist in harmony on this diversity, which is the richness of our globe."

Ne Zha, a character in ancient Chinese mythology, has supernatural powers and is famous for his rebellious temper. He has appeared in more than 20 Chinese dramas over the past 70 years, and many have come to believe that his image and spirit have accompanied the progress that the country has experienced over that time.

The latest animated film version broke Chinese box-office records in August with a take of almost 5 billion yuan ($710 million). It has been released in English-speaking countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The film now has Greek subtitles and was released in Athens on Thursday as part of the exhibition.

Xiaolin Comics, as another big name of Chinese comics, is reaching a European audience at the event. Lin Dihuan, the creator of the artworks, is famous on the Chinese Twitter-like social media platform Weibo for the Xiaolin series. Each features images in the style of Chinese traditional ink paintings and is accompanied by inspirational messages. His works are reposted by thousands of internet users.

"Both China and Greece are famous for their philosophies. And the ideas of the two peoples have something in common. They are good at thinking. Painting as a form of philosophy can help the communication and exchange of ideas between the two peoples," Lin said.

hanbaoyi@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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2019-11-02 06:20:54
<![CDATA[Iraqi poll pledged to end unrest]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/02/content_37520298.htm BAGHDAD - Iraq's president vowed on Thursday to hold early elections in response to a month of deadly protests, but demonstrators said the move fell far short of their demands for a political overhaul.

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But president's promise fails to ease anger on the streets after deadly protests

BAGHDAD - Iraq's president vowed on Thursday to hold early elections in response to a month of deadly protests, but demonstrators said the move fell far short of their demands for a political overhaul.

In his first televised address in weeks, President Barham Saleh said the country's embattled Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi was ready to step down, but there was so far no one to take his place.

"The prime minister expressed his willingness to submit his resignation, asking the political parties to reach an agreement on an acceptable alternative," said Saleh.

He pledged to hold early elections as soon as a new voting law and oversight commission was agreed, but his speech did not appear to impress demonstrators.

"Abdel Mahdi's resignation isn't a solution, it's part of the solution. The problem is with the ruling parties, not with Abdel Mahdi," said Haydar Kazem, 49, a protester.

Iraqi leaders have scrambled to respond to massive protests that erupted on Oct 1 over unemployment and corruption, ballooning into demands for "the downfall of the government".

Saleh has held closed-door talks with top figures over Abdel Mahdi's ouster and Parliament has called on the premier to come in for questioning. Abdel Mahdi has so far resisted, saying he would only appear if the session was aired on television.

Lawmakers met on Thursday for a fourth consecutive day and agreed to broadcast any session live, with MPs from the Saeroon political alliance chanting: "Adel must come! Adel must come!"

Abdel Mahdi, 77, came to power a year ago through a tenuous partnership between populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and paramilitary leader Hadi al-Ameri.

The kingmakers' alliance has frayed in recent months, as Sadr threw his weight behind the protests while Ameri and his allies backed the government.

A rapprochement built on Abdel Mahdi's ouster appeared close on Tuesday night, but disagreements over who could replace him seemed to have slowed down the process.

The United Nations' top representative in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, called for a national dialogue to draw a roadmap out of the crisis.

"Today Iraq stands at a crossroads. Progress through dialogue, or divisive inaction," she said. "Full access to all information, facts and figures will prove key. Window dressing will only feed anger and resentment."

Since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq's political system has been gripped by clientelism, corruption and sectarianism.

One in five Iraqis live below the poverty line and youth unemployment stands at 25 percent, despite the vast oil wealth of OPEC's second-largest crude producer.

That inequality has been a rallying cry for the protests.

"Because of these politicians, there are now two classes in Iraq: those with huge salaries and those killed demanding their rights," said Sabah Kazem, a protester in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

Nearby, Diwaniyah saw its largest rallies yet: Students, teachers, farmers and health workers hit the streets as government offices remained closed.

In Basra, demonstrators cut off a main road leading to the Umm Qasr port, one of the main conduits for imports into Iraq, authorities said.

In Baghdad, demonstrators packed onto two bridges leading to the Green Zone, where government buildings and foreign embassies are based, setting up barricades to face off against riot police trying to hold them off with tear gas.

On Thursday, paramilitary fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi group, which had backed the government, held their own demonstration near Tahrir Square.

At least 257 people have died and 10,000 have been wounded since protests broke out on Oct 1, with 100 people losing their lives in the last week, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission said.

Agencies

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2019-11-02 06:20:54
<![CDATA[Islamic State announces successor to Baghdadi, vows revenge against US]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/02/content_37520297.htm

BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Islamic State group declared a new leader on Thursday after it confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi days earlier in a US raid in Syria.

In its audio release by the IS central media arm, al-Furqan Foundation, a new spokesman for IS identifies the successor as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi - tracing his lineage, like Baghdadi, to the Prophet Muhammad's Quraysh tribe.

It provided no other details about Qurayshi and it was not immediately clear who the name was in reference to. The group typically identifies its leaders using noms de guerre that refer to their tribal affiliation and lineage. Those names often change.

The speaker in the audio also confirmed the death of Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, a spokesman for the terror group since 2016.

Muhajir was killed in the joint US operation with Kurdish forces in Jarablus in northern Syria on Sunday, hours after Baghdadi blew himself up during a US raid in Syria's northwestern Idlib Province.

The killings were a double blow to the IS, nearly seven months after its territorial defeat in Syria.

The new spokesman, named Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, urged followers to pledge allegiance to the new "caliph" and addressed the US, saying: "Don't rejoice."

The new IS leader is identified as a scholar, a well-known warrior and "emir of war" who has battled US forces and knows "its wars".

"So don't rejoice America for the death of Sheik Baghdadi," the speaker said. "Don't you know that the state (the IS) today is at the doorstep of Europe and is in Central Africa? It is also expanding and remaining from east to west."

The speaker was referencing the slogan IS used at the height of its successes: "Remaining and expanding."

Associated Press

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2019-11-02 06:20:54
<![CDATA[How a stolen car sparked another California blaze and more lost homes]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/02/content_37520296.htm JURUPA VALLEY, California - A stolen car sparked a wildfire in a bone-dry field on Thursday as two of Southern California's quintessential themes - car chases and gusty Santa Ana winds - collided with potentially devastating consequences.

The hot car ignited dry grass in a field in the city of Jurupa Valley east of Los Angeles and strong winds that have menaced the region quickly spread the flames, burning homes and forcing residents to flee.

The frightening scenario was among the latest to erupt as exceptionally dry conditions and vicious gusts have contributed to destructive fires that forced tens of thousands of evacuations across the state while other Californians endured dayslong deliberate power outages aimed at preventing electric lines from sparking fires.

Several blazes broke out in the heavily populated inland region east of Los Angeles as the strong, seasonal Santa Ana winds continued to gust at speeds of up to 96 km/h. They were predicted to last until the evening before they fade away.

Riverside police were chasing suspected car thieves after midnight when the driver tried to shake them by plowing through fields and lots, Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback said. The damaged vehicle pulled to a stop in a field in Jurupa Valley, where the driver and passenger bolted.

The two men, both wanted on outstanding warrants, were caught as heat from the vehicle caused grass to combust. Authorities plan to charge them with arson.

"We put that burden on the crooks," Railsback said, explaining the criminal charge. "They're the ones leading this chase."

The blaze spread to 121 hectares and destroyed three homes and two outbuildings, the Riverside County Fire Department said. Evacuations were ordered.

The fire came as another broke out in neighboring San Bernardino County and the day after several other blazes forced evacuations in the region, including one that circled the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley and another in Jurupa Valley that forced the evacuation of two mobile home parks and a psychiatric nursing care facility.

Elderly patients wearing breathing masks and wrapped in blankets were taken out of the Riverside Heights Healthcare Center in wheelchairs and gurneys as smoke swirled overhead. The blaze grew to 80 hectares in size before it was stopped.

"There was one moment when I could see nothing but dark smoke and I was like, 'We're going to die'," said Qiana McCracken, assistant director of nursing.

California has been under a fire siege for several weeks as strong, dry winds out of the desert have fanned flames at both ends of the state and prompted widespread power outages to prevent electric lines from sparking infernos.

Electrical equipment has caused some of California's worst wildfires, including last year's fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

More than 350,000 Californians statewide remained without power as part of an effort by utility companies to prevent trees and vegetation from blowing into power lines and causing fires.

As winds died down in Northern California, the utilities were inspecting power lines and working to restore power following a fire that forced the evacuation of 180,000 but is now mostly contained. Many children fretted as the wildfires threw their trick-or-treating plans for Halloween into disarray.

Some families who live in and around wine country north of San Francisco have no neighborhood to bring their children to collect candy because they're coming home to destruction, are still under evacuation orders or face the lingering power outages.

Ap - Afp

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2019-11-02 06:20:54
<![CDATA[Madrid offered as host of UN meeting amid Chile strife]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/02/content_37520295.htm

MADRID - Spain's interim leader has offered to have Madrid host an international United Nations climate conference next month that was originally scheduled to be held in riot-struck Chile.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Wednesday canceled plans to host the Dec 2-13 climate gathering, as well as a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, to focus on restoring security in his country, where at least a dozen people have died.

A statement on Thursday from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's office said he offered the space because he understands why the Chilean government needs to prioritize its "national social agenda" and how pressed organizers of the COP25 meeting are, given the last-minute switch.

Sanchez is trying to stay in power as Spain holds a general election on Nov 10.

Spain said UN officials will consider Spain's proposal next week at their meeting in Bonn, Germany. It wasn't immediately clear on what scale the conference would be held if Madrid is chosen as an alternative. Last year's climate conference in Katowice, Poland, was attended by more than 20,000 people.

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said Spain's offer would allow organizers to host the summit on its original timetable.

"It is encouraging to see countries working together in the spirit of multilateralism to address climate change, the biggest challenge facing this and future generations," Espinosa said.

Other options could be shifting the UN conference to a different month. Other possible host sites include major UN venues in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Bonn or Nairobi, Kenya.

The annual Conference of the Parties meeting is a key event which allows representatives from around 200 nations to monitor and discuss the world's warming climate and the event usually attracts thousands of delegates along with journalists and climate activists.

The COP25 conference aims to work out some of the unresolved rules for countries on climate efforts, smoothing the way for a bigger climate effort at the 2020 summit to encourage countries to increase commitments to cutting their climate-changing emissions.

Speaking on Thursday in Santiago, Pinera called Sanchez's offer "generous" and said it would allow climate experts to put together "all the progress that had been achieved".

Agencies - Xinhua

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2019-11-02 06:20:54
<![CDATA[Shuri Castle lost to flames as shock felt across Japan]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520122.htm Complex's wooden structures no match for inferno that raged for over 10 hours

All the main structures of Japan's 600-year-old Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the nation's southern prefecture of Okinawa, were burned to the ground in a predawn fire on Thursday. The blaze lasted for more than 10 hours.

The fire started just before 2:20 am, in the castle's main hall, which is one of Okinawa's major tourist spots in the prefectural capital of Naha, according to witness reports, including a nearby security guard who rushed to the scene.

"It (the fire) started at the main temple and spread quickly to all the other main structures," an official of the Okinawa prefectural fire department told China Daily.

"However, the cause of the fire has not yet been determined," he said.

Television footage showed large orange flames engulfing the castle. Seven of its buildings were razed, including the main hall and the north and south halls.

The fire department said it sent more than 10 fire engines to the scene. With the castle's wooden structures, an area of more than 4,000 square meters at the site was damaged; the fire was put out about 11 hours after it started.

There were no reports of injuries, police and fire officials said, but about 30 nearby residents were temporarily evacuated.

Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma told a news conference that she was "extremely sorry" and shocked to hear the news.

"We have lost our symbol," Shiroma said.

"It is a World Heritage site that represents Okinawa. More than anything, I am very worried. ...Naha city will make our greatest possible efforts to do everything in our power to deal with the fire and its aftermath."

Built on a hill and surrounded by walls, the Shuri Castle served as the royal palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom and its administrative office. It is believed to have been in use since the 1400s.

The castle was largely destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, but it was extensively restored and reopened as a national park in 1992.

In 2000, remnants of the original castle, together with the ruins of other castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

"I feel so sad that the castle has now gone after being restored," said Ritsuko Shiratori, a 70-year-old resident who witnessed the fire from the highest floor of a condominium building.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay expressed "deep emotion and sincere solidarity with the Japanese people".

"This is a loss for all humanity," she tweeted.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that "Shuri Castle is an extremely important symbol for Okinawa" and the government will do its best to reconstruct it.

 

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2019-11-01 07:44:31
<![CDATA[Fire on train kills at least 74 in Pakistan]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520121.htm MULTAN, Pakistan - A massive fire caused by a gas stove erupted on Thursday on a train traveling in Pakistan's eastern Punjab Province, killing at least 74 passengers, officials said.

Flames roared through the train cars as the train approached the town of Liaquatpur in Punjab, they said. It is the latest tragedy to hit Pakistan's poorly maintained rail system. The fire destroyed three of the train's carriages near the town of Rahim Yar Khan.

Jamil Ahmed, a deputy commissioner of Rahim Yar Khan, said the death toll had risen steadily since the early morning. The fire broke out when a gas stove exploded as breakfast was being prepared on board, he added.

Several of the injured had jumped off the train - many to their deaths - after the fire broke out, said Ahmed. The train eventually screeched to a halt.

Poor passengers often bring their own small gas stoves on the trains to cook their meals, despite rules to the contrary, according to Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. Safety regulations are often ignored in the overcrowded trains.

Through the morning hours, rescue workers and inspectors sifted through the charred wreckage, looking for survivors and aiding the injured. Local Pakistani TV footage from the scene showed a huge blaze raging as firefighters struggled to get it under control.

Authorities said they were still trying to identify the victims and that the lists of fatalities and those injured were not ready yet. Another train had been dispatched to bring the survivors to the city of Rawalpindi, they said.

Yasmin Rashid, a provincial minister in Punjab, told reporters that the medical staff were providing the best possible treatment for the injured at a hospital in Liaquatpur.

Those critically injured will be taken by ambulance to Multan, the nearest big city.

The train was on its way from the southern port city of Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh Province, to the garrison city of Rawalpindi when the blaze erupted, said Ahmed, the deputy commissioner.

Pakistan's military said troops had also participated in the rescue operation. President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan issued statements expressing grief over the tragedy.

Train accidents in Pakistan are often the result of poor railway infrastructure and official negligence. Media reports on Thursday suggest that railways officials did not notice when passengers boarded the train with gas stoves.

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2019-11-01 07:44:31
<![CDATA[Missile test highlights Russia nuclear upgrade]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520120.htm

Russia launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from one of its new nuclear-powered submarines in a test to hit a target hundreds of kilometers away, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

The Bulava missile was fired from the submarine in the White Sea, off the northwest coast of Russia, toward its target in the Kura missile-testing range in the Kamchatka peninsula, the ministry said.

The country's Tass News Agency said the Borei-class submarine was submerged during the missile launch. "For the first time, the ...strategic submarine test-launched the sea-based Bulava ballistic missile," Tass reported.

The report of the missile test coincided with a report by Russia newspaper Vedomosti in which an anonymous source close to the Defense Ministry was quoted as saying a test of the latest liquid-fueled, heavy thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28, will be carried out in early 2020.

In the Vedomosti report, the plan for the RS-28 was confirmed by an executive in the defense industry.

At least five launches are reported to be planned. "If it fits the required characteristics, this missile system will be fielded in 2021," the source told Vedomosti.

Konstantin Makienko, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said the development process of the RS-28 was fraught with problems.

The BBC said the test-firing of the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile from the submerged Borei-class submarine, as well as the planned testing of the RS-28, is a powerful reminder of the pace and scale of Russia's nuclear modernization.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who has been nominated for the position of US ambassador to Russia, said on Wednesday that the United States and Russia must discuss conditions for prolonging the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty without delay. The treaty is due to expire in 2021.

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2019-11-01 07:44:31
<![CDATA[Africa requires $100b for quality internet]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520119.htm

Africa requires $100 billion in investment to achieve universal and affordable internet access by 2030, according to a recent report by the World Bank.

The report said the continent will be required to bring about 1.1 billion more people online to achieve universal broadband coverage.

While the number of broadband connections in Africa crossed the 400-million mark in 2018, the report found that the average broadband penetration rate for the region was 25 percent.

Additionally, only 70 percent of the population have access to mobile broadband.

The World Bank has called for urgent action to close the internet access gap while providing a roadmap to reach the goal.

Makhtar Diop, the World Bank's vice-president for infrastructure, said the digital agenda is first and foremost a growth and jobs agenda.

"Broadening internet access means creating millions of job opportunities," he said.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, executive director of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, said: "In large parts of Africa, we are witnessing a lack of progress in extending access and network coverage. Affordability is also declining in many nations. Promoting greater digital inclusion is going to require more effective and innovative collaboration."

She said governments can help with policies enabling new technologies, new business models and investment.

Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank's vice-president for the Africa region, called for partnerships between all the stakeholders to realize Africa's 2030 target and share the burden of the $100 billion investment funding.

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2019-11-01 07:44:31
<![CDATA[US businesses seek relief as tariffs bite]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520118.htm

Sorghum, minerals, copper among exports affected in trade dispute

Earl Roemer had high hopes when he sent the first container of sorghum grain to China two years ago, but now exports have completely stopped.

"The trade situations kill it," said Roemer, founder and president of Nu Life Market, a sorghum producer in Scott City, Kansas.

China had long been a major importer of US sorghum for livestock feed, but Roemer's grains had a higher-value application - as an ingredient of baijiu, a Chinese liquor.

To meet the demand from Chinese baijiu producers, Roemer's company developed a special type of grain with characteristics similar to the ancient grain that was used to produce baijiu thousands of years ago. Nu Life Market had established relationships with six baijiu companies in China before the tariff dispute started.

Roemer canceled plans to visit those Chinese partners in November. "Right now we're just waiting for the normalization of trade. When that happens, then all at once we're going to have a great opportunity to be able to export those grains again," he said.

The trade tensions are harming working families as well.

"These new tariffs have created challenges for all of our residents by threatening good-paying jobs, increasing the price of goods and filling us all with a bit of a sense of uncertainty," Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine told an audience of businesspeople, officials and experts during a recent meeting on China in Las Vegas.

Through his own experience of running a company, Conine said he believes in the value of trust and the importance of finding common ground, but the tensions between the two countries have damaged that trust, which threatens the state's pillar industries of tourism, mining and renewable energy.

"Of the 56 million visitors that came to Nevada last year, more than 250,000 visited from China, which represents a 30 percent increase from the previous five years," he said."A third of our residents rely on jobs created by the tourism economy."

The mining and mineral resources sector has been hit by the trade disputes."Nevada's mining companies produce $7.8 billion worth of revenue and are responsible for providing jobs to more than 14,000 people, according to the treasurer.

However, more than $510 million in Nevada exports have been affected by new tariffs; nearly half relate to copper and mineral reserves, he said.

Green energy

The tariffs also impact the development of green energy and the state's commitment to reducing dependence on fossil fuels, since the Trump administration imposed a 30 percent tariff on Chinese made solar energy products last year.

Nevada installed more than 3,500 megawatts of solar power, and more than 60 percent of the photovoltaic cells that Nevada homes and businesses depend on came from China, said Conine.

The US administration should commit to fostering a robust exchange of ideas and culture and solve the challenges through finding common ground, said Conine.

In the business community, the No 1 impact of the trade tensions is uncertainty, said David K. Young, CEO of Oxford Analytica, a consulting firm headquartered in UK.

"It is this idea and concept of uncertainty that makes decision-makers, executives, public, private organizations very nervous. And when you're very nervous, it's very hard to make informed, long-term decisions," said Young. "If you speak to people in the markets and financial institutions, it's very hard to commit significant amounts of capital to long term initiatives."

Saruhan Hatipoglu, CEO of the US consultancy Business Environment Risk Intelligence, echoed Young's remarks.

"If you talk to anybody in the financing or investment business, they will tell you that they like risk, but what they hate is uncertainty. I think both countries, especially from the US side, need to understand that this is a global economy and the two countries need to cooperate," said Hatipoglu.

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2019-11-01 07:44:31
<![CDATA[House drafts rules for Trump probe]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520117.htm Legal framework proposed by Democrats is aimed at formalizing steps for impeachment case against president

Democrats laid out a formal road map on Thursday for US President Donald Trump's impeachment as they accumulated more evidence to support charges that he improperly pushed Ukraine to boost his own 2020 electoral prospects.

One day after a decorated army officer told congressional investigators he witnessed Trump and a senior diplomat pressure Ukraine, three other US State Department officials on Wednesday offered more evidence in testimony that supported the allegations against the US leader.

Democrats proposed rules to formalize the investigation and set its next phase - which would have open evidentiary hearings that Trump or his lawyers could take part in - ahead of drawing up articles of impeachment.

On Wednesday, the House Rules Committee agreed in a party-line vote to put the resolution up for approval before the full House of Representatives on Thursday.

"These are very, very serious matters, and we need a process in place so people know how we're going to proceed. I think this is a good transparent process," said the committee's Chairman James McGovern.

Meanwhile, Republicans sought to challenge the measure on procedural points.

The GOP questioned why the House Ways and Means and House Financial Services panels were involved in the process. Those committees, along with the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight panels, will conduct the inquiry.

"To me, it is unclear why these two committees are included in the list of committees directed to continue the ongoing impeachment investigations, because the only reason for them is to access President Trump's personal business papers and his IRS papers," said Representative Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, referring to Trump's tax records.

Constitutional power

On Tuesday, Democrats released the text of the resolution, which includes the process for public hearings and the eventual participation of Trump and his lawyers.

"Directing certain committees to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, and for other purposes," the introduction to the resolution reads.

Four of the committee chairs, in a statement, said: "The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a President who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election."

"Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the President's misconduct."

The impetus of the inquiry was a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which the president sought an investigation of former vice-president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter over the latter's links with Ukraine.

As the inquiry advances, the Intelligence Committee would draft a report in consultation with the Foreign Affairs and Oversight chairs, and send it to the Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee would ultimately "report to the House of Representatives such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations as it deems proper", with the full House eventually voting on whether to impeach.

The resolution directs the Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Adam Schiff of California, to hold open hearings, with equal time for questioning granted to majority (Democrat) and minority (Republican) members of the committee or staff.

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2019-11-01 07:43:54
<![CDATA[Qantas rejects calls to ground 737NG jets]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520116.htm

SYDNEY - Australian airline Qantas on Thursday rejected calls to ground its Boeing 737s after claims that a second aircraft in its fleet was found with a crack in its wing structure.

The airline has been inspecting its aircraft following calls this month from the United States' Federal Aviation Administration for all airlines to check Boeing 737 NG planes that had completed more than 30,000 takeoff and landing cycles for cracking in a part that helps keep wings attached to the fuselage.

Qantas on Wednesday said it had found cracking in one 737 that had completed just less than 27,000 cycles, and that the plane had been removed from service and sent for repairs.

On Thursday, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, the body representing the workers who carry out the checks, said another Qantas 737 had been found with "a cracked primary wing structure," and urged the airline to ground its fleet of the planes until they are all checked.

"These aircraft should be kept safe on the ground until urgent inspections are completed," association secretary Steve Purvinas said in a statement.

However, Qantas' head of engineering Chris Snook said the call to ground the fleet was "completely irresponsible", saying the airline would never operate a plane unless it was "completely safe to do so".

"Even when a crack is present, it does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft," Snook added.

Boeing announced on Thursday that up to 50 of its popular 737NG planes had been grounded after cracks in them were detected.

Earlier this month, Brazilian carrier Gol said it had grounded 11 Boeing 737NG planes, while US-based Southwest Airlines grounded two.

The NG is a version of the popular 737 that has been produced since the 1990s. Boeing is replacing it with the 737 Max, but those planes have been grounded worldwide since March after two crashes that killed 346 people.

Qantas, which boasts a remarkable reputation as the world's safest airline since it hasn't suffered a fatal crash since the advent of jet planes, operates 75 Boeing 737 aircraft in total.

The airline said none of its 737s had reached 30,000 cycles, but said that by this Friday it will have inspected 33 aircraft with more than 22,600 cycles.

"As other airlines have done when they have found cracks, Qantas will remove aircraft from service so they can be repaired," Snook said.

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the cracking issue was a serious problem that needed a serious response.

But spokesman Peter Gibson told ABC TV there was "no evidence" to suggest the whole Qantas fleet should be grounded and the airline had responded appropriately.

"This is a problem that's been identified, a solution's been found, and we're working through that process," he added.

Purvinas said the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association wants all 75 Qantas aircraft checked "because it's unknown when these cracks are starting to develop".

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2019-11-01 07:43:54
<![CDATA[Twitter puts an end to political advertising]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520115.htm SAN FRANCISCO, California - Twitter announced an end on Wednesday to political campaign and issue advertisements on its service, calling it an important step in reducing the flow of election-related misinformation.

But some of its users might face an unintended consequence or two.

Among those potentially affected could be public-interest nonprofits eager to reach an audience larger than their official followers, challengers to incumbent officeholders, and - obviously - political consultants who make a living placing ad buys for their candidates.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a series of tweets that paid political messages in the targeted environment that social media enables can be fraught.

"While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions," he wrote.

Security and privacy researchers and some Democratic politicians hailed Twitter's decision as an important way to prevent campaigns from feeding streams of misinformation to targeted voters. The move drew a sharp contrast between Twitter and its much larger rival Facebook, which has come under fire in recent months for its policy of not fact-checking political ads.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shot back quickly, using an earnings conference call on Wednesday to offer an impassioned defense of what he called his company's deep belief "that political speech is important".

"This is complex stuff. Anyone who says the answer is simple hasn't thought about the nuances and downstream challenges," Zuckerberg said.

Google did not have an immediate comment on Twitter's policy change.

US President Donald Trump's campaign manager called Twitter's change a "very dumb decision" in a statement on Wednesday.

"This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever," campaign manager Brad Parscale said.

Political advertising makes up a small sliver of Twitter's overall revenue. The company does not break out specific figures each quarter, but said political ad spending for the 2018 midterm election was less than $3 million. It reported $824 million in third-quarter revenue.

The issue rose to the forefront earlier this fall when Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, refused to remove a misleading video ad from Trump's campaign that targeted Joe Biden.

Zuckerberg said he has also considered banning political ads, but remains wary of the move's impact. "It's hard to define where to draw the line," he said. "Would we really block ads for important political issues like climate change or women's empowerment?"

Zuckerberg's comments came a day after Facebook was under fresh criticism for its hands-off approach to political speech.

A letter from Facebook employees urged the company to crack down on "civic misinformation", saying the spread of debunked claims is a "threat" to what the company stands for.

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2019-11-01 07:43:54
<![CDATA[Wilmes named Belgium's 1st female PM]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-11/01/content_37520114.htm Sophie Wilmes has been named Belgium's first female prime minister, replacing liberal leader Charles Michel, who will become president of the European Council on Dec 1.

Belgium has had a caretaker government since last December when Michel's coalition collapsed as the Flemish nationalists quit in protest at a United Nations migration pact.

Negotiations to form a new coalition have stalled since parliamentary elections in May produced fragmented results. The caretaker government now has only 38 of the 150 seats in the Belgian Parliament.

Wilmes, 44, a member of the Reformist Movement - a liberal political party that courts French-speakers - was selected as the caretaker PM by a small ministerial committee. Her role has been described as a poisoned chalice, as linguistically divided parties struggle to form a government.

Since early October, talks between the Socialist Party and the New Flemish Alliance party to form a government have collapsed.

The parties must first bridge their differences before they can form a government and bring in other parties. The first report on their negotiations must be submitted to Belgium's King Philippe on Monday.

Belgium, which hosts NATO and the European Union, once went a record 541 days without a government in 2010-11, a world record in peacetime.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on social media:"I would like to warmly congratulate @Sophie_Wilmes on your appointment as Prime Minister of #Belgium. I am confident that you will continue to ensure the stability of your country, and maintain Belgium's unwavering pro-European stance."

Describing her appointment as a "great honor and a great responsibility", Wilmes acknowledged leading a caretaker government "does not leave us with much opportunity to act" and urged the formation of a government as soon as possible.

Wilmes has had a rapid rise in politics since joining Belgium's federal government in 2015 as budget minister. Born in Brussels to a political family, she began her career as a local councilor in the Belgian capital.

She was later elected to local government in Rhode Saint-Genese, one of six Flemish communes encircling Brussels that have large French-speaking minorities, leading to frequent disputes over language rights.

The Guardian quoted a front-page editorial in Belgium's French-language newspaper Le Soir as saying that her nomination was "an elevator to the scaffold", calling Wilmes a prime minister that hid a political vacuum. While describing her appointment as a big step forward for women in Belgium, the leader writer Beatrice Delvaux accused the country's politicians of "great hypocrisy". She pointed out that Michel's government had failed to reach gender parity.

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2019-11-01 07:43:54
<![CDATA[Turkey condemns House actions]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519812.htm ISTANBUL/WASHINGTON - Turkey's Foreign Ministry said it summoned US Ambassador David Satterfield on Wednesday over two resolutions passed by the US House of Representatives.

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US lawmakers recognize 'Armenian genocide' to counteract Trump in Syria

ISTANBUL/WASHINGTON - Turkey's Foreign Ministry said it summoned US Ambassador David Satterfield on Wednesday over two resolutions passed by the US House of Representatives.

The US House adopted a resolution on Tuesday officially recognizing the "Armenian genocide", an unprecedented move that angered Turkey on its national day amid already heightened tensions with Washington.

The bill affirms "the United States record on the Armenian Genocide", a first for the US Congress, where similar measures with such direct language have been introduced for decades but never passed. The vote was 403 to 16, with only 15 Republicans and one Democrat voting against the resolution.

Ankara reacted swiftly, rejecting the House's recognition as a "meaningless political step" and warning it risks harming ties "at an extremely fragile time" for international and regional security.

Armenians say the mass killings of nearly 1.5 million of their people by Turks beginning in 1915 amounted to genocide, a claim recognized by some 30 countries.

House lawmakers delivered a two-punch rebuke to Turkey on its national day, with the genocide measure passing alongside a bill that imposes sanctions over Ankara's assault on Kurdish-controlled territory in northeastern Syria that was made possible by the withdrawal of US troops earlier this month.

The sanctions bill, also passed by a vote of 403 to 16, is the latest House effort to display disapproval of US President Donald Trump's sudden decision to withdraw about 1,000 remaining US troops from northern Syria.

If also approved by the Senate, the sanctions bill would forbid US arms sale to Ankara for use in Syria, identify senior Turkish officials for their role in the military offensive against the Kurds and sanction foreigners providing arms to Turkish forces in Syria.

The bill also seeks to force the Trump administration to impose the previously mandated sanctions for Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

However, the bill may be stalled in the Senate, as leading Republicans in the Senate have indicated that they will not bring up such a measure for a vote at least for now.

Last week, Trump ordered US sanctions on Turkey over its offensive in northern Syria to be lifted after Turkey informed Washington of a "permanent" cease-fire in Syria. But members of Congress remains deeply concerned about the withdrawal of US troops from the region and Turkey's military offensive.

In regards to the genocide resolution, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement she was honored to join her colleagues "in solemn remembrance of one of the great atrocities of the 20th century: The systematic murder of more than 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children by the Ottoman Empire".

Turkey strongly denies the accusation of genocide and says that both Armenians and Turks died as a result of the World War I. It puts the death toll in the hundreds of thousands.

Separately, in a statement, Turkey's Foreign Ministry "strongly condemned" the House decision to approve the sanctions, saying it did "not bode well with the spirit of relations" as NATO allies and also went against the deal reached with the US over Syria.

The ministry said both bills were fashioned for "domestic consumption" in the US and would undermine relations. It said lawmakers critical of Turkey's Syria offensive would be wrong to take "vengeance" through the Armenian genocide bill.

But Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan hailed the House move, tweeting that it was a "bold step toward serving truth and historical #justice that also offers comfort to millions of descendants of the Armenian Genocide survivors".

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[Lebanese PM quits amid anti-govt protests]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519811.htm BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Lebanese prime minister submitted his government's resignation on Tuesday, bowing to nearly two weeks of unprecedented nationwide protests against corruption.

Saad Hariri's somber televised address was met by cheers from crowds of protesters who have mobilized since Oct 17, crippling the country to press their demands.

"It has become necessary for us to create a great shock to fix the crisis. I am going to the Baabda Palace to submit the government's resignation," said Hariri, who had already stepped down twice from the same post.

He said his decision came "in response to the will of many Lebanese who took to the streets to demand change".

The move, the demonstrators' most significant win yet, will trigger the complicated task of parliament forming a new government - if the president accepts it.

Hariri's announcement came after days of apparently unfruitful efforts to reshuffle posts within his uneasy coalition, as tension mounted on the ground between protesters and security forces bent on reopening the country for business.

It also followed clashes between protesters and counter-demonstrators, which sparked fears of deeper civil strife.

In his speech on Tuesday, Hariri said he had reached a dead end, urging the political class to protect the country.

"Hariri is opening the door to a solution because the resignation is the only way for a decent exit from the current crisis," said Sami Nader, director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs.

After Hariri's announcement, protestors across the country erupted in applause.

Hundreds gathered in the northern city of Tripoli - a stronghold of the Sunni prime minister - as well as the southern city of Sidon, from where his family hails.

In Tripoli, home to festive protest raves, large crowds gathered in the main al-Nour Square waving the Lebanese flag.

"This resignation is welcome but it is not enough," said Tima Samir, a 35-year-old mother of two. "We want the entire system to change."

In Sidon's central square, people sang and danced, as stores gave away free sweets.

Ahed Madi, a demonstrator, said the festive scenes were especially symbolic. "Saad Hariri is from this city and this city has always embraced him. But today, the people want change," he said.

Protesters have insisted on a complete overhaul of the country's sectarian-based governance and celebrated the emergence of a national civic identity.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday warned against violence in Lebanon following Hariri's resignation. "The secretary-general calls on all sides to maintain peace and avoid violence, and security forces to show restraint and to protect civilians, including peaceful protesters," said Farhan Haq, his deputy spokesman.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday called for Lebanese political leaders to "urgently" form a new government.

While France, one of Hariri's top allies and Lebanon's key partner in a crucial $11-billion aid plan, voiced its fears that his resignation "makes the crisis even more serious".

 

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[42 perish in Cameroon landslide]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519810.htm

At least 42 people were killed after their houses were swept away on Tuesday in a landslide caused by torrential rain in the western Cameroon city of Bafoussam, state media reported, showing images of rescuers desperately sifting through rubble for survivors.

"Searches are ongoing. We fear there are further deaths," a senior local official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A total of 42 bodies were taken to the hospital in the city, according to an official statement read on Cameroon Radio Television, or CRTV.

Media reports had earlier spoken of about 30 dead, with the radio reporting that four pregnant women were among the victims.

Pictures of the tragedy in Bafouassam posted on social media showed ramshackle houses having crumbled into the ochre-colored terrain and men clad in hard hats digging away at piles of mud in the search for survivors.

Cameroon President Paul Biya offered his condolences to families of the victims in a message broadcast on CRTV.

Landslides are quite exceptional in the area although further south they are less rare in the rainy season, notably in the English-speaking southwest.

Neighboring Central African Republic, already mired in a brutal civil war, is reeling from 10 days of torrential rain which have plunged swathes of the country underwater, creating a new emergency in one of the world's poorest nations.

The region is experiencing abnormally heavy rains due to the strong positive Indian Ocean Dipole weather phenomenon, experts said.

Strong positive IOD means cooler than normal water in the east and warmer than normal water in the west, resulting in higher evaporation off the African coastline being dumped inland as rainfall.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross, by mid-October, the positive IOD index stood at more than 2 C.

This is the highest ever recorded in a season with neutral El Nino Southern Oscillation and a positive IOD. The index is notably higher than that the over 1 C recorded in 1961, which resulted in widespread flooding across east Africa.

A similar scenario recurred in 1997, when Somalia recorded 2,000 deaths, 250,000 displaced persons and 35,500 lost animals, according to a book, The East African Great Lakes: Limnology, Palaeolimnology and Biodiversity.

With this year's index being the highest ever, heavier rainfall and probably more damage are expected.

Mutai Kipkoech, a remote sensing and air pollution meteorologist, said mountainous topography, poor drainage systems and lack of an early warning system are the major causes for rain-related hazards.

"As a matter of fact, the floods reported in the urban built-up areas should strictly be referred to as "runoff", and not floods. This is because they are a sad consequence of poor urban drainage," he said.

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[Portuguese versions of Xi Jinping's books released in Brazil]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519809.htm

SAO PAULO, Brazil - The Brazilian editions of the first and second volumes of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China in Portuguese were released in Sao Paulo on Tuesday, prior to the 11th BRICS summit to be held next month in Brasilia.

More than 260 guests, including Liang Yanshun, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Chinese Consul General in Sao Paulo Chen Peijie and Sao Paulo State Governor Joao Doria, attended the release ceremony held in Palacio dos Bandeirantes, the seat of the state government.

In his address, Liang said the books, which reflect the evolution and main points of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, expounded on China's path of development and its solutions to some of the common challenges facing mankind.

The publication of the books will inject new vitality into the China-Brazil efforts to strengthen exchanges on governance and chart a new course for bilateral ties, Liang added.

The books also talk about China's approaches to keeping world peace and promoting human development, said Chen, adding that it will help Brazilian readers better understand China's ideas and stances regarding international affairs as well as its diplomatic policies and practices.

For his part, Doria said that he felt honored that the release event was held in Sao Paulo.

Noting that China has set an example in national governance and economic development, the governor suggested Brazilians study the book, so as to draw inspiration from China's experiences in facing various challenges.

The event was jointly held by the Chinese State Council Information Office, the Chinese embassy in Brazil, China International Publishing Group and the Chinese Consulate General in Sao Paulo.

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[Documentary on China's governance shown in Morocco]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519808.htm

RABAT, Morocco - A documentary on China's governance, entitled China: Time of Xi, was screened in the capital of Morocco on Tuesday.

More than 100 representatives from the governments and media organizations of Morocco and Arab states attended the presentation, including those from Morocco Chada TV; Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Also present were Guo Weimin, deputy head of China's State Council Information Office and Li Li, the Chinese ambassador to Morocco.

The documentary, jointly presented by China Intercontinental Communication Center and the Discovery Channel from the United States, expounds through vivid stories the practices and achievements in the governance of China under Chinese President Xi Jinping's leadership.

The documentary has been a hit both in China and abroad after being broadcast on several global media platforms.

During the presentation, Guo said that China and Morocco have had diplomatic relations for more than 60 years, and both sides have upheld the principles of mutual respect, equal treatment, and win-win cooperation, and their bilateral relations have seen sound development.

Guo expressed the hope that through the documentary, the stories of the Chinese leader's governance of the country, the experience of China's development and how the Chinese strive for a better life, can be shared.

He said both sides should take the advantage of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative to align their development strategies and deepen cooperation in all fields so as to continuously push forward their strategic partnership.

Representatives from various sectors of Morocco praised the documentary, which will be broadcast on Morocco's mainstream platforms, such as Chada TV.

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[Boeing chief grilled over Max flaws]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519807.htm At a heated Senate hearing on Tuesday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the grounded 737 Max jet will fly again only when "everyone is convinced it's safe".

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Muilenburg tells US senators jet will fly again only when safe to do so

At a heated Senate hearing on Tuesday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the grounded 737 Max jet will fly again only when "everyone is convinced it's safe".

Muilenburg was questioned by the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in Washington over what the company knew about its flight control software function linked to two deadly plane crashes and about delays in turning over internal 2016 messages that described erratic behavior of the software in a simulator.

The hearing put pressure on a revamped Boeing senior management team fighting to repair trust with airline customers and passengers shaken by an eight-month safety ban on its 737 Max following the crashes. The accidents on Oct 29, 2018, in Indonesia and March 30 in Ethiopia killed 346 people.

"This is not going to be timeline driven," Muilenburg testified. "We are committed to answering every question regulators have."

Investigators have focused on the jet's anti-stall device, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, which may have erroneously pointed the nose of the planes down to gain speed to prevent a mid-air stall, and into a fatal plunge.

"You have told me half-truths over and over again," Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois told Muilenburg, questioning why the manufacturer did not disclose more details about MCAS' lack of safeguards. "You have not told us the whole truth and these families are suffering because of it."

US Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state, asked if the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, and Boeing had "rushed to certify the Max". She said: "To date, we haven't gotten all those answers."

Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi and chairman of the committee, said: "Both of these accidents were entirely preventable."

He invited family members to hold up photos of relatives killed in the crashes.

Wicker questioned the Boeing CEO over the company's delay in releasing the messages in which a former test pilot described the erratic behavior of a simulator version of the MCAS software. He said the messages revealed a "disturbing level of casualness and flippancy".

Muilenburg said: "One of the things we've learned ... is we need to provide additional information on MCAS to pilots."

Senator Jon Tester of Montana noted Boeing had won approval from the FAA to avoid having to add new crew alerts because it would have been expensive.

"It wouldn't have happened if FAA would have been doing their job, and it also wouldn't have happened if you had known what the hell was going on," he said.

US airlines have canceled Max flights through January and are taking a financial hit. Returning the jet to commercial service is vital to Boeing's future because the Max, priced at about $135 million each, is Boeing's top seller.

Muilenburg testified that the company is in the "final stages" of testing the revised software and seeking recertification for the jet. His testimony before the committee was his first appearance before Congress since the crashes. He is scheduled to appear on Wednesday before the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

"We have learned and are still learning from these accidents," Muilenburg said on Tuesday. "We know we made mistakes and got some things wrong. We own that, and we are fixing them."

The updated MCAS software will compare information from both "angle of attack" sensors before activating and will respond only if data from both sensors agree. In addition, the MCAS will activate only once, and the pilot can counteract the anti-stall device by using the plane's control column alone, the CEO said.

The flight recorder, or "black box", recovered from both planes after the crashes showed that multiple alarms were activated prior to the accidents, and the automated anti-stall device sent the planes on a roller-coaster ride of steep climbs and sharp drops as the flight crews struggled to regain control.

Muilenburg said Boeing has devoted more than 100,000 hours to re-engineering and testing the anti-stall system since the crashes.

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[Get ready for tough poll, UK MPs told]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519806.htm

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Conservative members of Parliament that the upcoming general election on Dec 12 will be "a tough election and we are going to do the best we can".

His statement came at the same time as independent data was published revealing that his plans for taking the country out of the European Union will cost the country 70 billion pounds ($90.2 billion) over the next decade.

On Tuesday, MPs in Westminster voted to have an election, the third in four years, in the run-up to Christmas to try to break the political deadlock over Brexit.

Having encountered problems getting parliamentary support for his Brexit deal in the same way that his predecessor Theresa May did, Johnson is hoping that a shake-up of MPs will come off in his favor, allowing the completion of the political process that has dominated British politics since June 2016. However, some pundits predict people's opinions are so entrenched that it could result in another hung Parliament.

John McDonnell, shadow chancellor in the main opposition Labour Party, said the election will not just be about Brexit, but also issues such as austerity and public services. But with the Liberal Democrats having positioned themselves as an anti-Brexit party, and the Scottish National Party's hopes of possible independence for Scotland closely linked to Brexit, it is hard to see how it will not be the dominant issue.

At one point, it looked like the end of October might see the United Kingdom leave the 28-member EU in a so-called no-deal Brexit, without any legislative or regulatory framework to replace the Europe-wide agreements it would be leaving, but then after much speculation, Johnson did manage to strike a deal with EU leaders.

Critics said it offers the country an even worse deal than the one May negotiated, which was rejected by Parliament three times. As a consequence, Johnson's deal was never even the subject of an up-and-down vote by MPs, which seems to have exhausted Johnson's patience with the current Parliament.

As Johnson prepares to announce the election, figures published by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research have detailed the economic impact of his deal, which it concluded would see GDP reduced by 3.5 percent in 10 years' time.

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[Turkey denies plans to buy Su-35]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519805.htm

Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Tuesday denied reports that the country plans to buy Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.

Akar was quoted by Turkish news website Haberler as saying that the reports by local media that Turkish and Russian government officials are in an "advanced stage of negotiations" to finalize a potential deal on Russian-made Su-35 fighter aircraft is not true.

"We are partners with the United States on the F-35 project," Akar said.

Turkey's Daily Sabah newspaper reported on Oct 25 that Turkey and Russia were close to a deal on Turkey's purchase of 36 Russian Su-35 fighter jets.

Apart from that, the newspaper claimed, that the two countries were looking at possible production of certain components for the Russian planes in Turkey.

A United States-based website DefenseNews also reported on Tuesday that an anonymous senior Turkish procurement official said a deal between the two countries "does not appear to be too distant".

The Turkish official said that although the final numbers may change during the negotiating process, Turkey could buy two squadrons (a batch of 48) Su-35s.

However, the head of Russia's Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, said on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not discuss the deliveries of Su-35 fighter jets to Turkey at their meeting in the southern resort city of Sochi earlier this month.

Shugayev said it was too early to speak about contract negotiations between Russia and Turkey. However, in his words, consultations were still underway.

The reports that Turkey could consider purchasing Russian fighter jets intensified after Erdogan visited Moscow on Aug 27. During that visit, Erdogan was shown the Su-35 fighter jets.

Erdogan said at that time that he did not rule out Turkey's possible purchase of Russian Su-35 and Su-57 jets instead of the US-made F-35.

Meanwhile, the White House said in mid-July: "Turkey's decision to purchase the Russian S-400 air defense system renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible."

According to the DefenseNews, if the Su-35 deal is signed, it will be Turkey's second major purchase of weapons systems from Russia.

Turkey has been at odds with the US over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, which Washington says are not compatible with NATO defenses and pose a threat to Lockheed Martin's F-35 'stealth' fighter jets.

Russia's Tass news agency said that Turkey is the first NATO member state to purchase such as air-defense missile systems from Russia. The deliveries of the S-400 air defense system to Turkey began in July.

The US and NATO have been making attempts to prevent Turkey from purchasing Russia's S-400 missile system. And Washington has warned on many occasions that it may impose sanctions on Turkey, if Ankara pressed ahead with the S-400 deal.

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[White House rocked by war veteran's Ukraine testimony]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519804.htm WASHINGTON - A decorated Iraq War veteran rocked the White House on Tuesday with devastating testimony on US President Donald Trump's alleged demand for political favors from Ukraine as Democrats laid out plans for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry threatening his presidency.

The Democrat-led House of Representatives is investigating Trump over his bid to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on potential election rival Joe Biden - and accusations he made nearly $400 million in military aid conditional on the political favors.

A US National Security Council Ukraine expert, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said in written testimony for his closed-door deposition before three House committees that he witnessed Trump and a senior diplomat pressuring Ukraine for that help.

Vindman recounted listening to Trump pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the now infamous July 25 phone call that sparked the impeachment probe.

His statement on Monday offers some of the strongest evidence yet for accusations that Trump abused his office and broke election law to gain Kiev's support for his reelection.

Vindman arrived on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as Trump blasted him on Twitter as a "Never Trumper" - his label for Republicans who fundamentally oppose the president.

"How many more Never Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call," he asked. "Was he on the same call that I was? Can't be possible!"

Some Republicans mobilized to undercut Vindman's credibility, questioning his loyalty by noting he moved to the United States from the then Soviet Union at the age of three and suggesting he is part of an effort by the US national security bureaucracy to undermine Trump.

"Trump is innocent. The deep state is guilty," said Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz.

Following interviews of 10 witnesses by House panels behind closed doors over the past five weeks, Democrats have now drawn up rules for the next stage of the impeachment inquiry that will include public hearings.

"The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election," senior House Democrats said in a statement.

For the second stage, the House Intelligence Committee will take testimony in open session, with Republicans having a chance to counter with their own witnesses.

In the third stage, the compiled evidence will be sent for review to the House Judiciary Committee, where the White House will have the opportunity to challenge it and present its own evidence.

Then, if the evidence is strong enough, the committee will draw up articles of impeachment to be voted on by the whole House, where Democrats have a strong majority.

If the House approves the articles, Trump would go on trial in the Senate for removal from office. The House is expected to vote on the rules on Thursday.

The White House dismissed the process on Tuesday as a "sham", claiming that the Democrats were refusing its basic due process rights. The House vote could take place before or shortly after the New Year

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2019-10-31 07:07:45
<![CDATA[Bard's works get Chinese makeover]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519803.htm Two plays released as part of a project to translate 24 Shakespearean classics

New Mandarin-language versions of the classic plays Hamlet and Henry V have been published as part of an expansive project to bring improved translations of English playwright William Shakespeare's greatest works to Chinese audiences.

The two new texts are the first to be released as part of the Shakespeare Folio Translation Project. First announced in 2016, the initiative aims to produce 24 new translations of Shakespeare's plays through a process that includes performance-based workshops.

Translators joined actors, directors and playwrights in rehearsal rooms when coming up with the latest Mandarin versions of the first two plays to be translated.

This performance-based approach aims to produce theater-friendly translations of Shakespeare that will resonate with audiences in China. A common criticism of old Mandarin versions of the plays is that they are better suited to the page than the stage.

The plays set for translation include King Lear; The Tempest; Twelfth Night; Antony and Cleopatra; Julius Caesar; Romeo and Juliet; Troilus and Cressida; The Merry Wives of Windsor and As You Like It.

The Shakespeare Folio Translation Project is a collaboration between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Birmingham University in the United Kingdom, and Nanjing University in China.

Jiangsu-based Phoenix Publishing & Media Group is the project publisher, and company chairman Liang Yong said the new translations will "present Chinese readers with a vivid and modern Shakespeare".

"Phoenix Group is proud to forge partnerships with two global leading universities, take advantage of each party's competitive edge, and serve Chinese readers with better publications," Liang said.

Scholars in Birmingham have conducted extensive research into Shakespeare's life and works and the university heads up the Shakespeare Institute at his birthplace in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon.

"This collection of research represents a landmark for the millions of Shakespeare aficionados in China, and I am delighted that such a milestone Chinese-language publication is the product of our partnership in Nanjing," said Birmingham University vice-chancellor David Eastwood.

The project, he added, will give the Chinese "greater access to Shakespeare" and "benefit students across China".

Translating Shakespeare into Mandarin is a notoriously difficult process, according to Sun Yanna, associate professor in the department of foreign languages at Zhengzhou University.

English is a phonetic language whereas Chinese is a tonal one, so maintaining Shakespeare's rhythm in translation is tricky, according to Sun, who has published research into the Chinese translations of Shakespeare.

Sun also said that the difference between today's English and that spoken in the Elizabethan era - shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616 - and his use of wordplay adds an extra level of complexity. "The use of puns in Shakespearean plays is another real challenge facing Chinese translators as well, for the ambiguity of the puns can be easily distorted in Chinese," said Sun.

These difficulties meant that early Chinese theater productions of Shakespeare were closer to adaptations than translations.

Liang Shih-chiu was the first person to translate Shakespeare's complete works into Chinese, a feat completed in 1967. But his texts are more widely used in the classroom than on the stage.

Before his death in 1944, renowned linguist Zhu Shenghao translated a total of 31 Shakespeare plays, versions which have become among the most popular with actors and directors in China, according to Nancy Pellegrini, author of The People's Bard: How China Made Shakespeare its Own.

Zhu afforded himself some flexibility in his work, insisting that word-for-word translation meant the original meaning would often be lost, especially in passages including puns, symbology, and innuendo.

By involving actors and directors, the Shakespeare Folio Translation Project hopes the new translations will be theatrically effective for modern audiences.

Organizers aim to complete the entire project by 2023, which marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of Mr William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, commonly referred to as the First Folio.

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2019-10-31 07:06:51
<![CDATA[Publisher weighs up bid for UK's struggling Telegraph newspapers]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519802.htm

One of Britain's most politically significant stable of national newspapers could soon have a new owner after veteran editor and publisher David Montgomery reportedly expressed an interest in buying The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph.

Since 2004, the Telegraph titles have been owned by twins David and Frederick Barclay, whose business portfolio also includes The Ritz Hotel, and influential right-wing magazine The Spectator.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a former editor of The Spectator, as well as being a longtime columnist for the Telegraph group, and the papers have been very public in their high-profile backing of him and his approach to Brexit, with one Telegraph writer earlier this month comparing Johnson to the country's World War II leader Winston Churchill.

But while the Telegraph mastheads have always been sympathetic to the Conservative Party, this enthusiasm for Johnson has coincided with a slump in print sales and falling profits.

In 2018, Telegraph Media Group posted a pretax profit of just 900,000 pounds ($1.15 million), which was 94 percent less than the year before, with revenue falling by 3 percent.

The group said this was down to "structural decline" across print advertising, and has renewed its efforts to increase income from its digital offerings.

David Barclay's sons, Aidan, 63, and Howard, 59, have increasingly taken over the running of the business from the 84-year-old proprietor, and The Times, which broke the story of the papers being put up for sale, quoted an unnamed source as saying the proposed sale was down to a "generational shift" and an expanded family having a wider variety of ideas about where the business should be going.

Montgomery is a man with a major track record of involvement with British newspapers at the highest level.

He has worked closely with global media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and was previously editor of the hugely successful but now-defunct Sunday tabloid The News of the World, and a former chief executive of the Mirror Group.

In 2012, Montgomery set up Local World, a media group producing dozens of local newspapers across the United Kingdom, which was sold three years later for 220 million pounds. Now he has established a new company called National World, and the opportunity for the Telegraph titles seems to have come along at exactly the right time.

"Of course we are interested," he told the Financial Times, before adding that it is "far too early to make an estimate on what the offer might be".

The Times reported that other interested parties could be The Daily Mail and General Trust, publishers of The Daily Mail, another fiercely pro-Brexit paper, and Alexander Lebedev, owner of the London Evening Standard and The Independent. Telegraph Media has yet to comment on the matter.

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2019-10-31 07:06:51
<![CDATA[Tough jobs put focus on workers in S. Korea]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519801.htm GEOJE, South Korea - Park Cholhee was working the holiday shift at Samsung Heavy Industries' Geoje shipyard on Labor Day, 2017, when a giant crane collided with another and crashed to the ground, killing six people, including Park's younger brother.

"It was as if a bomb was dropped," Park said. "Bodies were too mutilated to describe."

Park and his brother Sung-woo were among nearly 1,500 subcontracted employees - 90 percent of the shipyard workforce that day - building an oil and gas platform for French energy giant Total.

All six killed and 25 workers who were injured were subcontractors, who receive lower pay, fewer employment protections and less training compared to full-time employees.

Samsung and other big South Korean conglomerates acknowledge they rely increasingly heavily on subcontractors and temporary workers to cut costs and increase labor flexibility, but they bear little responsibility for workplace accidents, according to interviews with about two dozen workers, subcontractor executives and experts.

And according to a 2018 government-commissioned report, lenient sentences for companies and officials are hampering attempts to reduce occupational accidents in South Korea, which has the third worst industrial safety record among countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.

More than two years after South Korea's worst shipyard accident in at least a decade, Park says he is suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder which worsened after a court in May ruled that no Samsung officials will serve jail time over the accident.

In an email response to Reuters' questions, Samsung Heavy said it regretted the casualties caused by the accident but could not elaborate further because of the appeal trial.

Samsung's email signoffs read: "Safety is the No 1 value in management."

Total and Park's direct employer Haedong both declined to comment on the story. Haedong, which remains as a subcontractor for Samsung Heavy, was not prosecuted in the criminal trial, court documents showed.

South Korean conglomerates like Samsung have been the backbone of the country's rapid economic transformation - since the devastation of the Korean War - into a global manufacturing and engineering powerhouse.

But as competition has increased and growth slowed, the groups known locally as chaebol, have increased hiring of temporary and subcontracted workers to cut costs, boost production and make it easier to dismiss staff when demand fluctuates, experts and industry officials say.

Temporary workers accounted for 21.2 percent of all workers in South Korea in 2018, nearly double the OECD average of 11.7 percent.

Workers at South Korea's subcontracted firms earned 3.4 million won ($334) per month, only 62 percent of what their peers at prime contractors made, the state-funded Korea Labor Institute said in a report last October.

"This is not just a problem of Samsung, but Korea Inc," said Lyou Sung-gyou, a labor attorney and a member of a presidential labor advisory body. "Conglomerates take profits, but they escape legal responsibility by creating a multilayered subcontractor structure."

South Korea's Ministry of Employment and Labor said it is "essential" to strengthen the responsibility of prime contractors for their subcontractors' safety measures.

" (Prime) contractors know best the risk factors at workplaces controlled or managed by them," the ministry said.

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2019-10-31 07:06:51
<![CDATA[Women on margins in UN peace missions]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/31/content_37519800.htm UNITED NATIONS - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was unusually blunt on Tuesday: Women are still excluded from many peace negotiations nearly two decades after the UN adopted a landmark resolution calling for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking and peace-building.

The UN chief told the Security Council that sexual and gender-based violence remain weapons of war, a growing number of armed groups promote male superiority and misogyny as part of their core ideology, and women and girls continue "to pay the consequences of conflict".

Zhang Jun, Chinese permanent representative to the UN, also stressed the importance of women's capacity-building and effective participation in peace processes. He underscored the need to help women achieve equal development, escape poverty and access quality education, "which constitute important conditions for their effective participation in the peace process".

He further said support should be provided for gender equality and women's empowerment in conflict-affected countries, and that special funds should be earmarked to support capacity-building projects for women.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of UN Women, told the council that "violent misogyny is on the rise", with record levels of political violence targeting women.

Guterres and Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed the stark contrast between support from the UN's 193 member states for the resolution adopted in 2000 on women, peace and security and the reality for women caught in conflict in 2019.

"The correlation between gender inequality and a society's propensity for civil or interstate conflict is now well established," the executive director of UN Women said. "And yet, we still live in a world that tolerates and excuses women's continued exclusion from peace and political processes and institutions."

Mlambo-Ngcuka said an independent assessment commissioned by UN Women at Guterres' request last year on progress in implementing recommendations from the 2000 Security Council resolution and two follow-up resolutions found only half were implemented or progressing - "and 10 percent had either gone backward or were not progressing at all".

From 1990 to 2018, she said, "less than 20 percent of peace agreements included provisions addressing women or gender, and last year none of the agreements reached in UN-led processes did".

For all ongoing peace processes, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, "fewer than 8 percent of agreements reached contained gender-related provisions, down from 39 percent in 2015."

The Security Council meeting began with the unanimous adoption of a resolution urging all countries to implement the provisions of all previous resolutions "by ensuring and promoting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of peace processes". It urges that this be done both in delegations of parties negotiating agreements.

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2019-10-31 07:06:51
<![CDATA[UK set for elections in December]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519479.htm The United Kingdom government's call for a general election in December was set to pass after opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday said his Labour Party would back an early poll because his condition of taking a no-deal Brexit off the table "has now been met".

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Corbyn ready to back Johnson's plan as possibility of no-deal Brexit is ruled out

The United Kingdom government's call for a general election in December was set to pass after opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday said his Labour Party would back an early poll because his condition of taking a no-deal Brexit off the table "has now been met".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was set to try for a fourth time to take Britain to the polls with a fresh attempt to get backing from members of Parliament later in the day.

The first three times he put forward a motion under the Fixed-term Parliament Act, which needs the support of two-thirds of all 650 MPs to pass, but cannot be amended by those wanting to add their own conditions to an election.

This time, Johnson and his government will put forward a short bill calling for an election on Dec 12 and try to pass it through all of its stages in the House of Commons in one day.

It will only need a majority of one to win, but unlike with his other attempts, MPs could table amendments - such as a proposal to lower the voting age.

On Monday, Johnson accepted a Brexit extension until Jan 31 and urged European Union leaders not to grant any further delays. It is the third time that the UK has requested a delay on Brexit since failing to meet its first deadline on March 31.

Addressing the shadow cabinet on Tuesday, Corbyn said: "I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to a no-deal Brexit being off the table.

"We have now heard from the EU that the extension of Article 50 to 31 January has been confirmed, so for the next three months, our condition of taking no-deal off the table has now been met.

"We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen."

'Up for fight'

Later, Corbyn was asked by reporters if there would be any preconditions to backing an election, and he simply said "there will be a parliamentary process".

Labour was expected to support amendments to the election bill being tabled in the Commons, and the party is understood to want to back a change to the proposed poll date of Dec 12.

The Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats were initially calling for an election on Dec 9. The two parties say it would prevent Johnson from pushing his Brexit plan through Parliament ahead of a poll.

Downing Street sources told the BBC they would accept an election on Dec 11 to get opposition parties on board.

Richard Burgon, Labour's shadow justice secretary, said: "Yes, we'll be supporting a general election because we want to get Boris Johnson out by Christmas.

"Jeremy has made it clear ...the team has decided that we'll be backing a general election.

"We're up for the fight, and we believe we're going to win it. We believe we can make Boris Johnson the shortest-serving prime minister since a guy called Viscount Goderich - he was prime minister for just 144 days in 1827.

"We want to see the prime minister writing his Christmas cards from a country retreat that's not called Chequers."

When asked whether it should be on Dec 9 or 12, or another date, Burgon said: "We just want a general election - we want them out before Christmas."

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2019-10-30 07:54:15
<![CDATA[Unrest in Ethiopia threatens growth]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519478.htm

The rioting that Ethiopian authorities are battling to contain is threatening the prospects of a country that has been touted as having the fastest growing economy in the region, experts say.

During the latest outbreak of deadly protests, at least 67 people were killed and many others injured last week in the Oromia region, which is part of the capital Addis Ababa.

Many properties were destroyed, including those of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the largest faith organization in the country. It is mostly associated with the Amhara ethnic group.

The conflict has pitted not only the demonstrators against the police but also entire communities against each other.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed issued a statement on Saturday vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice. He also warned that instability could worsen if Ethiopians failed to unite. The protests appear to have lost some steam since the weekend.

Benedict Wandeto, an expert on East African regional security, said: "It's difficult to develop a country when a large segment of the society is discontented and always rising up against the government. This has been the case with the Oromo and the Somali ethnic groups in Ethiopia."

Wandeto said that despite the conflicts, Ahmed has tried to unite the country and that his efforts to make peace with neighboring Eritrea have greatly benefited Ethiopians, bringing greater levels of peace to the Oromia, Ogaden and Amhara regions. They earned Ahmed the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

"Ahmed is the right person to resolve both the conflicts and the economic situation in Ethiopia," he said.

Macharia Gaitho, a Nairobi-based political analyst, said that unless a lasting solution to the underlying causes of the protests is found, they will continue to hurt an economy that has still managed remarkable growth over the past 10 years.

The World Bank said Ethiopia's economy experienced strong growth at an average of 9.9 percent a year from 2008 to 2018, compared with a regional average of 5.4 percent.

Through its Growth and Transformation Plan, the country has targeted annual growth of 11 percent in gross domestic product. And in line with the government's strategy to boost manufacturing, the industrial sector is set to expand by an average of 20 percent a year, the World Bank said.

Gaitho said the riots could prompt foreign investors to suspend their investment and expansion plans. The impact of the ethnic conflicts could also spill over into neighboring countries, which have provided logistics services to landlocked Ethiopia.

"One of Kenya's major development plans, the northern corridor project, involves providing road and rail networks from the Indian Ocean to Ethiopia. A destabilized Ethiopian economy thus impacts on Nairobi's plans," Gaitho said.

He said it was unfortunate that the latest round of conflicts comes weeks after Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this month. Ahmed's bridge building with Eritrea comes on top of his work to address the long-standing ethnic divisions within the country.

Gaitho said the recurring conflicts indicate deeply rooted grudges that require more than one person's efforts to be resolved.

"There is a need for serious discussions within Ethiopia that involve bringing the rival groups together with their recognized leaderships for frank discussions on what actually needs to be done," he said.

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2019-10-30 07:54:15
<![CDATA[Russia and Ukraine fail to clinch gas deal]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519477.htm Talks over the terms for the supply of Russian gas to Ukraine and the European Union ended on Monday without an agreement.

The latest round of negotiations, in the Belgian capital Brussels, involved Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, EU Energy Commissioner Maros Sefcovic and a delegation from Ukraine.

Novak said after the meeting that the talks will resume at the end of November, a month before the current supply deal expires.

Contract negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have covered the length of a new agreement, transit volumes and tariffs.

The three parties had last met on Sept 19. The EU is particularly keen to secure a long-term agreement to secure gas supplies for the coming winter. It receives Russian gas through pipelines that cross Ukraine.

Ukraine's Interfax news agency said that although the current gas transit agreement between Moscow and Kiev expires on Dec 31, the country has enough natural gas in storage to last the winter.

Ukraine hasn't bought Russian gas directly since 2015, a year after a referendum in Crimea - then part of Ukraine - endorsed the region's integration into Russia. The vote was held after separatist conflicts broke out in the easternmost regions of Ukraine: Luhansk and Donetsk.

"We discussed issues relating to gas supplies for Ukraine," said Novak, adding that Russia has noted the readiness of Ukraine to act. The Russian gas would be sent west through pipelines crossing Ukraine from 2020.

As for Russia, it is ready to ensure gas transit through Ukraine that year in accordance with European law, if the Ukrainian side enables this, but "specific figures will be discussed later", Novak said.

However, Sefcovic, who is also acting as a mediator in the talks, said Russia and Ukraine need to embrace a sense of urgency in their negotiations.

"My message today and in all our meetings ... was that the time is flying. And, given the date, there is and there must be a clear sense of urgency," Sefcovic told a news conference. "I am disappointed by today's outcome."

He said both sides lacked the political will for progress. "The parameters, which I presented have been acceptable to our Ukrainian partners... unfortunately ... the Russian delegation was not prepared to do the same," Sefcovic said.

"We all agreed that disruption of supplies is a non-option. Nevertheless, we in the EU are fully prepared for any scenario."

Andriy Kobolyev, the chief executive of Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz, said Ukraine held "pretty much the same view" as Sefcovic.

 

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2019-10-30 07:54:15
<![CDATA[US officials say Baghdadi buried at sea]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519476.htm

WASHINGTON - US officials said on Monday that the remains of Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were buried at sea, as fresh details surfaced about the US special operations forces raid that led to his death over the weekend.

The US gave Baghdadi, who committed suicide in the raid in northwestern Syria on Saturday night, a burial at sea, ABC News reported.

"His death marks a devastating blow to the remnants of (the IS group)," said US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

He praised the nearly hundred-strong force that flew in by helicopter to the rural compound in the Idlib region of Syria in a complex mission that required coordination with the Russians, the Kurds, the Turks and the Syrian government to prevent US aircraft from being fired upon.

"They executed the raid in all of its facets brilliantly," Esper said.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said no one was injured in the operation.

The team took two men prisoner, and the remains of Baghdadi's body were taken for DNA tests that would confirm his identity, Milley said.

"The disposal of his remains has been done, is complete and was handled appropriately," he added.

Another Pentagon official confirmed that Baghdadi's body was put into the sea at an unnamed location, similar to the 2011 sea burial of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after his death in a US special operations raid in Pakistan.

A Kurdish official said an inside source that Kurdish forces oversaw was responsible for leading the US forces to Baghdadi's hideout, helping to map out the interior of the compound, its staffing, as well as making it possible for them to identify Baghdadi.

"Since 15 May, we have been working together with the CIA to track Baghdadi and monitor him closely," said Polat Can, a senior adviser to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The group had an informant who was able to infiltrate Baghdadi's house.

"Baghdadi changed his places of residence very often," Polat Can said.

The inside source also "brought Baghdadi's underwear to conduct a DNA test and make sure (100 percent) that the person in question was Baghdadi himself", he said.

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2019-10-30 07:54:15
<![CDATA[ROK offers talks with DPRK over Mt Kumgang]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519475.htm

Three days after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's top leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered the removal of the Republic of Korea-built facilities at its Mount Kumgang resort, Seoul offered to hold working-level talks with Pyongyang, in a bid to retain its influence at the tourist site and keep up the momentum of inter-Korean cooperation.

The ROK's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min told a news briefing on Monday that his government and Hyundai Asan Corp, which funded the Mount Kumgang project, sent notices earlier in the day to their DPRK counterparts through the inter-Korean liaison office in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong.

In the notices, the ROK proposed working-level talks with the DPRK to discuss the halted tours to the site. The DPRK did not immediately respond to the ROK's proposal.

The tours by ROK citizens to Mount Kumgang, launched in 1998, were once a symbol of cross-border engagement amid often-fraught relations. And families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War have held several reunions there. However, the tours were suspended after a female tourist from the ROK was shot dead in 2008 by a DPRK soldier after allegedly venturing into off-limit areas, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The ROK's dialogue offer came three days after Kim ordered the destruction of the ROK-built facilities at Mount Kumgang, saying they were "shabby" and "unpleasant-looking", the DPRK's official Korean Central News Agency reported, adding that Pyongyang would propose an exchange of documents to work out the details.

Lee also said at the briefing that resolving all inter-Korean issues through dialogue and consultations was an unwavering government stance of the ROK. And he said Seoul would seek "creative ways" to resolve the Mount Kumgang issue considering the international situation, progress in inter-Korean relations and public sentiment.

Asked whether the United States was consulted on the issue, Lee said the notice was not related to DPRK-US interactions, though he said denuclearization and a lasting peace settlement should be achieved through close cooperation between Seoul and Washington. And he added that the ROK does not consult with the US on all inter-Korean issues.

Li Nan, an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said DPRK's remarks to destroy ROK's facilities at Mount Kumgang could be an expression of its frustration at the stalled inter-Korean relations and a bid to put pressure on Seoul to resume the tours.

After the breakdown of the second summit between the DPRK and the US earlier this year, Pyongyang was disappointed with Seoul's role as an intermediary, Li said, adding that Pyongyang hoped Seoul, which is seen by the DPRK as an important "courier" to send messages to Washington, could play a more important and proactive role in promoting the development of the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang has called for the restart of the tours since it entered nuclear diplomacy with Washington and Seoul last year. But Seoul cannot revive tours to the mountain or the massive stalled inter-Korean economic projects as international sanctions remain in place.

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2019-10-30 07:54:15
<![CDATA[Evacuations as wildfire threatens LA]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519474.htm Fire crews racing to contain blaze before strong winds hit region again

LOS ANGELES - More than 1,000 firefighters battled a wind-driven blaze on Monday that broke out near the renowned Getty Center museum in Los Angeles, prompting widespread evacuations as the flames destroyed several homes and forced the shutdown of schools and roads.

It was the latest outbreak in a wildfire season that has caused mass evacuations and power outages across California.

The so-called Getty Fire ignited overnight near a major freeway and quickly spread south and west toward neighborhoods, scorching nearly 240 hectares and sending people fleeing in the dark.

By Monday afternoon, fire crews had slowed the pace of the blaze and were racing to contain it before strong winds are expected to hit the region again from Tuesday evening through Thursday.

Authorities said some 1,100 firefighters were battling an inferno that threatened 10,000 structures, many of them multimillion dollar homes.

"This is a fire that quickly spread," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference with fire officials, urging residents in the mandatory evacuation zone, which encompasses more than 10,000 homes and businesses, to get out quickly.

"Get out when we say get out," the mayor said, telling homeowners they should not try to fight the fire with garden hoses, the Los Angeles Times reported. "The only thing you cannot replace is you and your family."

Among those forced to flee was Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who tweeted that he and his family had evacuated his home in the upscale neighborhood of Brentwood during the night.

"Man these LA fires aren't no joke," he said. "Had to emergency evacuate my house and I've been driving around with my family trying to get rooms. No luck so far!"

He later tweeted that he had found a place to stay.

Arnold Schwarzenegger also said on Monday that he had to flee.

"We evacuated safely at 3:30 this morning," the actor and former California governor tweeted. "If you are in an evacuation zone, don't screw around. Get out."

Monday night's red carpet premiere in Los Angeles of Terminator: Dark Fate, starring Schwarzenegger, was canceled because of the fire.

"We will be donating food intended for the after-party to the American Red Cross, which is serving those affected by the fires," Paramount said in a statement.

The Getty Center, which is home to a priceless art collection, said none of the pieces was under threat from the flames, notably because the building is designed to be fire resistant.

"Many have asked about the artit is protected by state-of-the-art technology," the museum said in a tweet.

The Getty Fire broke out as California has been dealing with a number of wildfires that have ignited throughout the state in the last week, forcing massive evacuations and power cuts.

'We are devastated'

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday as a wind-driven fire in the Sonoma wine region north of San Francisco spread out of control, forcing tens of thousands to flee.

The Kincade Fire, which erupted on Oct 23 and is the largest so far this year, had spread to more than 26,700 hectares - or more than 260 square kilometers - by Monday afternoon and was only 15 percent contained.

Firefighters have also been battling a number of additional fires fed by strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.

Residents who fled the Kincade Fire recalled hasty departures as they waited it out in the safety of a community center in Petaluma, California.

"The police came with loudspeakers. We weren't expecting it," said Kathy Amundson, who fled with her wheelchair-bound 90-year-old mother Joy.

"We smelled smoke, we couldn't see it," she said. "Looks like our home is safe but the fear is wind blowing embers and then it starts new fires."

Others were not so lucky. The fire has destroyed dozens of homes and vineyards, including the renowned 150-year-old Soda Rock Winery.

 

Firefighter Collin Bashara, outside his fire truck, takes a rest in Los Angeles on Monday.Ringo H.w. Chiu/ap

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2019-10-30 07:54:15
<![CDATA[Sports events serve up success for Zhuhai's tourism industry]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519473.htm The Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, which concluded on Sunday, not only showcased the next wave of female tennis stars, but also demonstrated host city Zhuhai's potential to become a global seaside recreation and tourism destination.

Held at the Hengqin International Tennis Center, the six-day event welcomed 11 players ranked ninth through 19th in the world rankings, plus one wildcard. German tennis legend Steffi Graf was the ambassador for the event.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus claimed the winner's trophy. Jointly organized by the Chinese Tennis Association and Zhuhai municipal government, the event offered a prize pool of $2.42 million and 700 ranking points for the singles champion.

According to Jorge Salkeld, senior vice-president at Octagon Tennis and a former WTA board member, the event with television coverage in more than 50 countries and regions, is a window for people from around the world to look into Zhuhai and learn more about the city's developments.

"My family watched it in the United States. They say, 'hey, we saw the Zhuhai matches'," Salkeld said. "That's one of the reasons that Zhuhai has decided to invest in the facilities and tennis tournament, because they know that these events are showcasing not only tennis but the facilities of Zhuhai.

"I think it's a really big plus in this vision to connect Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai," Salkeld added, referring to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, which opened to traffic in October 2018 and turns Zhuhai into the only city on the Chinese mainland with bridge links to both Hong Kong and Macao.

The 55-kilometer mega project connects the three Chinese cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and cuts the once-arduous hours-long journey from Hong Kong to Zhuhai to just a 45-minute bus ride.

Jose Miguel Garcia, tournament director of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, who has overseen the event in Zhuhai since 2017, echoed Salkeld's opinion.

He said that Zhuhai has excellent facilities for the tennis event, adding, "Every year the players who are qualified for the tournament express that they feel very comfortable when they are in Zhuhai.

"The promotion of the cities through events, especially sports, has proved to be a success over the last two decades," he said. "The WTA Elite Trophy has helped increase the awareness of Zhuhai in the world."

Garcia said Zhuhai is on the right path to building interest in tennis, and is investing in the development of the sport at both professional and amateur levels.

Hosting sports events is part of the city's strategy to grow into an international seaside recreation and tourism destination in the foreseeable future to support the Bay Area as "a quality living circle for living, working and traveling".

Sporting events on the one hand help to build up local people's interest in sports and hence the vitality of the city, on the other, they offer must-see programs for tourists, especially sports fans, explained Wu Xiangming, deputy director of the Zhuhai culture, radio, TV, tourism and sports administration, during a recent news conference.

"Sporting events are expected to give impetus to the city's endeavor to become an international seaside recreation and tourism destination by 2025," he said.

Apart from tennis events, the city hosted a Bay Area sailing championship in September and will organize an urban bike challenge in November. For the same purpose, Zhuhai has organized and will continue to hold cultural events, the official said.

The city has held a citizens' art festival, the third Zhuhai International Mozart Competition for Young Musicians and the Zhuhai Beach Musical Festival among this year's events, and will host the sixth China International Circus Festival in November.

The biennial Airshow China, one of the world's top air shows, is set to next be held in November 2020, and is expected to be an even bigger draw card.

A tourism development plan the city issued in 2017 detailed four major categories - sightseeing and touring, convention and exhibition, recreation and holiday, as well as special festivals and events - to achieve its goal.

Zhuhai's Hengqin New Area received the green light to become an international recreation and tourism island from the National Development and Reform Commission.

The recreation and tourism sector is expected to become a pillar industry of Hengqin with the added value of the tertiary industry accounting for at least 75 percent of its total GDP in 2020, while an international island traveling destination is expected to take shape there by 2020, according to the international recreation and tourism island construction plan for Hengqin, issued by the National Development and Reform Commission in April.

The city this year has also hammered out a couple of regulations for keeping the tourism industry and the development of tourism resources, particularly ocean resources, right on track.

According to Zhuhai's latest development plan for tourism released in August, the city is expecting 50 million visits to its scenic spots annually in 2020 and 75 million by 2025.

 

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus claims victory at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Sunday.Photos Provided To China Daily

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2019-10-30 07:54:15
<![CDATA['Debt trap' claims have no foundation]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519472.htm

Australian analysts say geopolitics swamps analysis in Pacific island states

Arguments for the so-called China "debt trap" by some critics are without foundation, Australian researchers have concluded, questioning the objectivity of such narratives against Beijing.

For now, Chinese investment continues to flow into the Pacific, giving the economies of some of the world's poorest nations a much-needed boost. But as a great deal of this investment is tied up in China's Belt and Road Initiative, some critics say it amounts to "debt-trap diplomacy", especially when it comes to the Pacific.

However, a new report by the Lowy Institute, an independent policy think tank in Sydney, says the "evidence to date suggests China has not been engaged in deliberate 'debt-trap' diplomacy in the Pacific".

"So what can we conclude?" asked the report's chief researchers - Roland Rajah, Alexandre Dayant and Jonathan Pryke. "Our analysis of debt in the Pacific strongly suggests that the 'debt-trap diplomacy' argument is without foundation."

Debt is a problem in the region, and one that appears to be increasing in importance. "But for most countries it is not debt to China that is of concern. Keep that in mind next time you hear that the Pacific is drowning in Chinese debt," they urged.

According to the Lowy report, titled "Oceans of debt? Belt and Road and debt diplomacy in the Pacific", China has begun exercising greater caution over the potential debt sustainability implications of the BRI and has taken steps to address this.

"China has supported an IMF training center to help improve the debt management capacity of countries involved in the BRI, and China's Ministry of Finance has agreed with major multilateral financing institutions to establish a new cooperation platform," the report said.

In 2017, China committed itself to the G20 Operational Guidelines for Sustainable Financing, and in 2019 to the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment, both of which contain debt-related provisions including complying with World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies for countries where debt sustainability is already a concern.

The report concluded China has "not been engaged in such problematic debt practices in the Pacific as to justify accusations of debt-trap diplomacy."

"In the vortex of geopolitics and the rush from larger players to win influence in the region, objective economic analysis has been missing from much of the policy discourse about China's lending activities in the Pacific," said the researchers.

Professor James Laurenceson, acting director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University Technology Sydney, said: "The very concept of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy is an odd one. If a Chinese loan goes bad, it is the Chinese lender at risk of losing its capital. The port or road can't be taken away from the host country. And the evidence that loan default to China or any other country provides coercive leverage is shallow."

According to the Asian Development Bank, the Pacific has enormous investment needs in the range of $2.8 billion a year until 2030, on top of an additional $300 million a year over the same period for climate mitigation and adaptation.

"Investment on critical infrastructure like ports, bridges, roads, and connectivity is something that the Pacific cannot meet on its own," said Emma Veve, the director of social sectors and public sector management in the ADB's Pacific Department.

"The economies of these countries are too small and too isolated. So continued grant and concessional assistance from development partners will remain absolutely critical to supporting sustainable, inclusive, and resilient development in the region," she said without naming specific countries.

It's not only analysts who are dismissive of the China debt-trap narrative, local people in the region also rejected such accusations.

"We are an independent country, and we can't wait for grants to come," Vanuatu's Prime Minister Charlot Salwai said earlier this year, citing the need for projects in hard infrastructure like roads and ports, and also telecommunications, utilities, health and education.

"Whether through grants or through loans we have to have money to build our infrastructure; we want to invest this money into economic sectors," he said, adding that funneling money into productive projects would also help it pay back its existing debt and develop the economy.

Vanuatu owes nearly $130 million to China, which accounts for roughly half its external debt and represents just over 13 percent of its annual GDP.

Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has been a strong supporter of Beijing and has described criticism of China's lending as patronizing.

He told the media in August he would not allow geopolitical fears to stifle development of much-needed infrastructure and said Samoa would "follow our own line of thought", not that of the United States and its allies.

Risk ratings from the IMF and the ADB over the past five years indicate 40 percent of Pacific island countries are now classified as being at high risk of debt distress. But is this China's fault?

Rohan Fox and Matthew Dornan of the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra say the short answer is "no".

True, China is the largest bilateral lender, but Chinese lending comprises less than half of lending in any single country apart from Tonga. In a blog post at the end of last year, the ANU academics said China held around 12 percent of the total debt by Pacific nations, or $1.3 billion out of $11.2 billion.

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2019-10-30 07:53:23
<![CDATA[Beijing couturier's gold gown awaits bid]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519471.htm Chinese designer Guo Pei, whose gold gown will be sold at auction in London on Tuesday, is described as China's "queen of couture" after bursting onto the international stage when superstar Rihanna wore one of her extravagant creations to the prestigious Met Gala 2015 in New York.

But the Beijing-based couturier remains modest, admitting she doesn't love being known as the queen of couture as she believes "there's still room for improvement".

"Maybe in the future, when people look back, they will give me that position in history, but that's not something I am pursuing," Guo told China Daily.

"But I do appreciate this title because it proves that the work I've been doing over the years, the persistence, doing what I love and my contributions have been recognized."

Guo's creations showcase traditional Chinese craftsmanship, while also incorporating contemporary innovation and Western style.

At Tuesday's auction, Guo is offering one of her couture dresses for sale as part of Sotheby's Gold: The Midas Touch auction in London.

The hand sewn, Gold Traditional Bridal Dress, was crafted with gold thread inlaid with precious metal from Guo's atelier in Beijing over the course of six years.

Guo used around 30 stitching techniques adapted from across the globe to create the piece, forming a three-dimensional effect by embroidering over sheepskin, which gives the fabric different heights.

The wedding dress is expected to fetch an estimated 700,000 pounds ($870,000) when it goes under the hammer.

Guo said she's excited to see the dress auctioned off as an art piece and hopes this will pave the way for couture to be considered an art form in the future.

"This collaboration with Sotheby's is almost defining couture as an art, and that's why it took me such a long time to select a piece for auction," Guo said. "The couture dress should be of the highest craftsmanship, but also importantly there should be a human touch to it, there should be a story, as over time, the dress should evolve with the person who wears it."

She added: "Like any art piece, the buyer should appreciate its value and it can also pass down the generations."

Meanwhile, Guo is also set to host her first fashion show in the United Kingdom at the Victoria and Albert Museum, also known as the V&A, in London as part of celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the museum's Fashion in Motion series.

"London is the center of the art world - here is where you get the most avant-garde fashion. There are a lot of young people who follow avant-garde fashion, and I'm curious how my show will be received in the city, especially by young people," she said.

 

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2019-10-30 07:53:23
<![CDATA[Sino-US tech ties need 'understanding']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519470.htm

Experts and business leaders said on Monday that people in the United States need to enhance their understanding of modern China in order to promote collaboration opportunities in technology innovation between the two countries.

The comments were made at a panel discussion at the Horasis China Meeting on Monday during which attendees from both countries discussed opportunities and challenges in technology innovation across multiple sectors in China and the United States.

"Most Chinese know a lot more about Americans than Americans know about China," said Savio S. Chan, president and CEO of US-China Partners, a cross-border business development firm based in New York.

Around 400,000 Chinese students study at some of the best schools in the US every year, Chan said, adding that most of them then return to China.

At the same time, very few US people, even those who work in the business sector, have traveled extensively in China, Chan added.

The understanding of a "modern China" is especially important in the current situation, because the country has changed so rapidly, especially in the last decade, that the old perception of China held by Americans is no longer applicable, experts said.

Liu Qing, president of Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute and a former vice-president of Chongqing University, noted that US people "know very little about China, and that is a big challenge right now".

The US university system is one of the best in the world, Liu added, but added that it needs to be open to attract young international talents.

Stacy Kenworthy, CEO of HellaStorm, a company based in Georgia which specializes in information technology and services, said sometimes doing business across the border involves some "give and take".

Although both China and the US are blessed with different styles of innovation, they are complementary to each other, Kenworthy said.

He encouraged officials and industry leaders from both sides to have more communication with each other, especially in the current situation.

"What we talked here is true, but there isn't a lot of conversations going on, particularly now," he said.

"I think the more that we can communicate the better. So we are going to know there are just some things that are going to be very delicate to discuss on both sides, for some time, and it's going to take a lot of time to figure out," Kenworthy said.

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2019-10-30 07:53:23
<![CDATA[China gives dance gift as Houston Ballet is 50]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519469.htm About 30 dancers gathered in the Houston Ballet's fifth-floor practice hall on a Friday afternoon in mid-August. Under the guidance of Zhang Disha, a Chinese dancer and choreographer, the dancers repeatedly rehearsed a segment of roughly five minutes.

It was nearing the end of Zhang's three-week session with the company. Invited to choreograph a piece for Houston Ballet's 50th anniversary celebration, Zhang was trying to perfect the performance of her new ballet, Elapse, for its Sept 19 premiere.

With translation help from Thea Liao, a former company member, by the end of one hour, the performance had markedly improved.

"This is the shortest time I have ever had to choreograph a new piece. It's has been challenging. However, this has been a wonderful opportunity and experience for me. It has improved my skills," said Zhang who usually takes at least four weeks to work out a new dance.

Elapse is based on a 16-minute piece of music that moved her, said Zhang. It expresses a sense of loss and passing-away: the passage of time, loss of loved ones.

"We are always losing something while living our lives. I believe different people will feel differently about my work, depending on their ages and personal experiences," said Zhang.

She found the music beautiful but challenging. There were only two climaxes in the music, which lacks major structural change. "However, it also means that anything is possible."

Zhang is always seeking something new. "I don't want my next piece to be an imitation of my last work. But under the pressure of time constraints here, I feel that I have improved my skill through the experience," she said.

Speaking about Zhang, Houston Ballet's artistic director Stanton Welch has followed her for some time, said: "I saw Disha's emotional heart-pounding movement, How Beautiful is Heaven, years ago in Hamburg and knew we needed to bring her here."

And the 50th anniversary seemed to be a perfect time to commission Zhang to create any piece she desired, he said: "It is an honor to be the first American company to present her work."

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2019-10-30 07:53:23
<![CDATA[Nepali climber claims new speed record for world's 14 highest peaks]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/30/content_37519468.htm KATHMANDU, Nepal - A Nepali mountaineer on Tuesday smashed the record for climbing the world's 14 highest peaks, racing up all "8000ers" in just seven months, according to a post on his social media accounts.

Nirmal Purja completed the climb of the 14 mountains, all over 8,000 meters in seven months, the post said. The previous record was almost eight years.

"MISSION ACHIEVED! says @nimsdai from the summit of #Shishapangma," read the post on Purja's Facebook page, referring to the final peak in China.

Polish climber Jerzy Kukuczka completed the same feat after seven years, 11 months and 14 days in 1987 after Italy's legendary Reinhold Messner became the first to scale the 14 peaks a year earlier.

South Korean Kim Chang-ho completed the challenge in one more month than Kukuczka - although unlike Kukuczka, who died in a climbing accident in 1989, he never used supplementary oxygen.

The 36-year-old Purja, a former member of the Gurkhas - a unit of Nepalis recruited into the British army - as well as the elite Special Boat Service, kicked off his ambitious Project Possible in April.

In the first part of his record attempt, Purja climbed Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Qomolangma (known is the West as Everest), Lhotse and Makalu - among the highest of the "8000ers" - in just one month.

A month later, he headed to Pakistan for the second part, where he first tackled the Nanga Parbat at 8,125 meters.

Battling sleep deprivation to meet his target, Purja said he was almost sprinting up and down five of Pakistan's highest peaks including Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II and K2, the second tallest in the world.

Twenty-three days later, he was standing atop Broad Peak, his fifth and final mountain of the second phase.

Purja began his final push in September, reaching the tops of Cho Oyu and Manaslu within a week.

When he first told others about his new quest, "everyone was laughing at me and saying 'how it will be possible'?" Purja said in a recent interview.

"It is about trusting your ability," he had said as he relaxed in Kathmandu waiting to ascend the final peak.

"You always need to have (a) positive mindset because sometimes things will go wrong."

He also said that he wanted to use his feats to inspire the next generation of Nepali climbers to break his records.

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2019-10-30 07:53:23
<![CDATA[US politics stuck in tunnel]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/29/content_37519208.htm Perhaps reflective of the polarization in US politics, top Democrats were not informed by US President Donald Trump of the military operation in which Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died.

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Top Democrats riled by president keeping them out of the loop on raid

Perhaps reflective of the polarization in US politics, top Democrats were not informed by US President Donald Trump of the military operation in which Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died.

However, Russia - the country consistently accused by Democrats of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election that led to the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller - was notified.

The US special operations raid into northwest Syria aimed to capture Baghdadi, 48, if possible but kill him if necessary, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday.

"We tried to call (Baghdadi) out and ask him to surrender himself. He refused and went down into a subterranean area, and in the process of trying to get him out, he detonated a suicide vest, we believe, and killed himself," Esper told CNN.

Trump said few US politicians were informed of the raid on Saturday because he was concerned about leaks.

"We notified some, others are being notified now as I speak," Trump said. "We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like nothing I've ever seen before. There is no country in the world that leaks like we do. Washington is a leaking machine. A leak could have caused the death of all of them."

Trump said North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, were told of the operation.

"I did not do that," Trump said when asked if he had informed Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump said he "wanted to make sure" the mission was kept secret.

"I don't want to have men or women lost," he said. "I don't want to have people lost."

Esper said two members of the special forces team suffered minor injuries during the operation but have since returned to duty. He said Trump authorized the operation late last week.

"The president was taking options earlier (in the last) week. ... (He) chose the option that we thought gave us the highest probability of success," Esper said.

In a statement on Sunday, Pelosi said that Baghdadi's death was "significant, but the death of this ISIS (the Islamic State) leader does not mean the death of the ISIS".

"The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top Congressional leadership were notified of in advance, and on the administration's overall strategy in the region," Pelosi said. "Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington."

Trump said: "We spoke to the Russians. We told them we are coming in. They said, 'Thank you for telling us'. We told them we thought they would be happy. They hate the ISIS as much as we do. You know what ISIS has done to Russia. They did not know the mission, but they knew we were going over an area where they had a lot of firepower."

Trump has been at odds with Pelosi, the Democrat who on Sept 24 kicked off the impeachment inquiry into Trump over his discussion with the president of Ukraine about a probe of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and in particular his son Hunter, about the latter's business dealings with a Ukrainian energy company.

"Does the president not trust the speaker of the House with sensitive national security information?" Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked US Vice-President Mike Pence.

"I don't think that was the implication at all," Pence said. "I think from the time we got actionable intelligence, the president's total focus here was on a successful mission and the safety of American troops."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat conducting the impeachment inquiry and a frequent target of Trump's criticism, said he was not told of the raid beforehand.

While Schiff praised the demise of a "ruthless killer", he said "in terms of notifying the Gang of Eight, that wasn't done".

In Washington, the "Gang of Eight" on intelligence matters includes Senate and House leaders from both parties and the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Democrats noted that former US president Barack Obama did notify the Gang of Eight about the 2011 raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the man blamed for the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US.

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2019-10-29 07:36:56
<![CDATA[Russia casts doubt on Baghdadi death despite Trump's thanks]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/29/content_37519207.htm

Russia has challenged the credibility of the United States' declaration of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death and even expressed doubt that the weekend raid by its special forces took place.

Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said the US had offered no verifiable proof of Baghdadi's death in the raid that US President Donald Trump announced on Sunday.

Over the years, Baghdadi had been reported dead on a number of occasions. In 2016, the US Department of State offered a reward of up to $25 million for information leading to his capture or death. Even if Baghdadi were killed, the Russian Defense Ministry questioned the extent to which his death would affect events in Syria.

Trump said Baghdadi, who had led the Islamic State since 2010, killed himself by detonating a suicide vest during the raid in Syria by US Special Operation Forces.

Konashenkov said that contradictory information was emerging over the details of the raid, reinforcing doubts that the operation took place.

In his announcement, Trump expressed his gratitude to Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and the Syrian Kurds, saying the mission could only have taken place with their help.

But Konashenkov said he knew nothing about the supposed US cooperation with Russia.

"We know nothing about any assistance regarding the flight of US aircraft in the airspace of the Idlib de-escalation zone in the course of this operation," he said, adding that no airstrikes by the US Air Force or by the US-led coalition had been reported from that zone on Saturday or on other recent days.

That aside, the Russian Defense Ministry said it doubted that Baghdadi could have hid in territory controlled by the Jabhat al-Nusra group in Idlib.

"This organization has always unhesitatingly killed IS fighters on the spot as key rivals for power in Syria," Konashenkov said. "Keeping this in mind, the US or other participants in the operation should at least provide direct evidence that the former Islamic State leader had been safely staying in territory controlled by the 'Syrian al-Qaida'."

The Kremlin has refused to confirm or in any way comment on the reports about Baghdadi's death. In response to media questions, Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of President Vladimir Putin, said: "See what Konashenkov said."

Meanwhile, US magazine Newsweek reported on Monday that Abdullah Qardash may be a possible successor to Baghdadi.

Russian authorities and experts agree that even if the US claim of Baghdadi's death is true, his passing will have little impact in Syria.

"After the IS was ultimately defeated by the Syrian government army with the support of the Russian air force in early 2018, yet another 'death' of Baghdadi will have no impact either on the situation in Syria or on the actions of the terrorists staying in Idlib," Konashenkov said.

Vladimir Fitin, head of the Near and Middle East Center at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, said the claimed death of Baghdadi won't put an end to the activities of IS. "The Americans have buried Baghdadi more than once. It is yet to be proved what really happened," he said.

"Anyway, as experience shows, the extermination of a leader does not mean the extermination of the corresponding organization. This has been seen in the example of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups."

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2019-10-29 07:36:56
<![CDATA[Changing African climate pushed first humans to move]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/29/content_37519206.htm The findings of a new study released on Tuesday will reignite the long-running debate on the origins of modern humans.

Despite anthropological claims mankind's origins can be traced to East Africa, the conclusions of a 10-year research project say our birthplace was in southern Africa in what was once a vast wetland area encompassing what is today Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The breakthrough research will be published in the scientific journal Nature this week.

The authors say changes in Africa's climate triggered the first human explorations, which initiated the development of humans' genetic, ethnic and cultural diversity.

The lead authors of the study, Vanessa Hayes and Eva Chan of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research at the University of Sydney, told a news conference in Sydney on Monday that the findings "provide a window" into the first 100,000 years of modern human history.

"It has been clear for some time that anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago. What has been long debated, however, is the exact location of this emergence and subsequent dispersal of our earliest ancestors," said Hayes, also a prostate cancer researcher.

The study examined mitochondrial DNA, which can be inherited only from mothers and stays the same generation after generation. It is different from our genomic DNA, which is passed down from both parents and codes just about everything in our makeup as a human being.

"Mitochondrial DNA acts like a time capsule of our ancestral mothers, accumulating changes slowly over generations," Hayes said. "Comparing the complete DNA code, or mitogenome, from different individuals provides information on how closely they are related," she said.

In the study, scientists collected blood samples to establish a comprehensive catalog of modern humans' earliest mitogenomes from the so-called "L0" lineage. L0 is one of two branches from the most recent common ancestor for the shared human maternal lineage.

Chan said the research "allowed us to refine the evolutionary tree of our earliest ancestral branches better than ever before." She is also a prostate cancer researcher

By combining the L0 lineage timeline with the linguistic, cultural and geographic distributions of different sub-lineages, the study authors revealed that 200,000 years ago, the first Homo sapiens' maternal lineage emerged in a "homeland" south of the Greater Zambezi River Basin region, which includes the entire expanse of northern Botswana into Namibia to the west and Zimbabwe to the east.

Largest lake system

Investigating existing geological, archaeological and fossil evidence for the study, geologist Andy Moore, of Rhodes University in South Africa, said the homeland region once held Africa's largest lake system, Lake Makgadikgadi.

"Prior to modern human emergence, the lake had begun to drain due to shifts in underlying tectonic plates. This would have created, a vast wetland, which is known to be one of the most productive ecosystems for sustaining life," he said.

Hayes said: "We observed significant genetic divergence in the modern humans' earliest maternal sub-lineages that indicates our ancestors migrated out of the homeland between 130,000 and 110,000 years ago."

Also working on the study was Axel Timmermann, director of the IBS Center for Climate Physics at Pusan National University in South Korea. He analyzed climate computer model simulations and geological data, which captured southern Africa's climate history of the past 250,000 years.

Addressing the changes in rainfall detected, Timmermann said: "These shifts in climate would have opened green, vegetated corridors, first 130,000 years ago to the northeast, and then around 110,000 years ago to the southwest, allowing our earliest ancestors to migrate away from the homeland for the first time."

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2019-10-29 07:36:56
<![CDATA[Argentina's Fernandez wins election]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/29/content_37519205.htm BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Peronist candidate Alberto Fernandez swept to a first-round triumph in Argentina's presidential election after President Mauricio Macri conceded defeat on Sunday evening, official results showed.

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China congratulates new leader, expects nation to see progress and development

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Peronist candidate Alberto Fernandez swept to a first-round triumph in Argentina's presidential election after President Mauricio Macri conceded defeat on Sunday evening, official results showed.

Fernandez, a 60-year-old law professor, had nearly 48 percent of the votes - crossing the threshold for outright victory - after 94 percent of the votes had been counted. Center-right Macri trailed with 40.53 percent of the vote.

China congratulates Fernandez on being elected as Argentina's president, and believes that Argentina will achieve further national development under his leadership, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Monday.

Ties between China and Argentina have been deepening since the two countries established diplomatic relations 47 years ago, and China values greatly the ties, Geng said, adding that China hopes to work with Argentina to further promote bilateral ties.

Thousands of ecstatic Fernandez supporters cheered and danced outside his Frente de Todos party headquarters in Buenos Aires on Sunday evening.

"The only thing that concerns us is that Argentines stop suffering once and for all," Fernandez said. "We're back and we're going to be better!"

Fernandez's victory also caps a remarkable political comeback for his running mate, ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who will serve as his vice-president.

Fernandez said he would need the support of Macri's administration to reconstruct what he called the inherited "ashes" of Argentina.

Earlier in the evening, Macri told disappointed supporters that he had called Alberto Fernandez to congratulate him and invited him for a breakfast chat on Monday at the presidential palace.

"We need an orderly transition that will bring tranquillity to all Argentines, because the most important thing is the well-being of all Argentines," Macri said.

Macri, 60, conceded with around 80 percent of the vote counted and pledged "a healthy and constructive opposition".

He told supporters he had invited Fernandez to breakfast "because he has to start a period of orderly transition that will bring tranquillity to Argentines".

Market fears

The return to power of Peronists comes amid a lengthy recession and a debt crunch, raising market fears of a possible default on a $57 billion IMF loan.

The peso fell 5.86 percent in the week before the elections, and the week ended with the dollar at 65 pesos.

Argentina's central bank said early on Monday that it would sharply limit the amount of dollars that people can buy amid growing worries of a rapid loss of foreign exchange following Macri's apparent loss. The bank said dollar purchases will be restricted to $200 a month by bank account and $100 cash until December. The previous amount allowed was $10,000 a month.

"The last two years have been brutal in Argentina," said Benjamin Gedan, an Argentina expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "Voters have suffered a painful recession, unimaginably high inflation and a debt crisis. No incumbent could survive in these conditions."

The World Bank forecasts that Argentina's economy will shrink 3.1 percent this year.

Nicolas Saldias, a senior researcher at the Wilson Center, said that "the markets will be negative" in their reaction to a Fernandez triumph on Monday.

"It won't be as brutal as in August (after the primary result), but people are taking their money out of the country, out of the banks," Saldias said.

Fernandez has insisted his government would not default but rather seek to renegotiate the terms of the loan, and sought to reassure voters that their bank deposits would be safe under his administration.

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2019-10-29 07:36:34
<![CDATA[Japan's ex-trade minister quizzed by lawmakers]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/29/content_37519204.htm Former Japanese trade minister Isshu Sugawara continued to be grilled as lawmakers demanded accountability and a poll showed 48 percent of voters wanted him to quit as a member of the House of Representatives as well.

The poll was conducted by Kyodo News over the weekend.

On Friday, after being in the trade post for just little more than a month, Sugawara resigned because of scandals over "condolence money", expensive melons and other gifts allegedly offered to election supporters, making him the ninth minister to step down from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet since Abe returned to power in 2012.

Meanwhile, 75 percent of voters in the poll said it was appropriate that Sugawara resigned as minister, but 17.8 percent said he should not have.

Sugawara's resignation was triggered by a magazine report that he had paid condolence money and sent expensive melons, crabs and other gifts to his election district supporters in 2006 and 2007.

A more detailed article published on Thursday said that one of his aides attended a funeral of a supporter's family, and printed a photo of the man leaving money at a reception desk.

Despite the resignation, Sugawara faced fierce criticism from opposition lawmakers who vowed not to let him off the hook without an explanation.

"He had to step down because he cannot provide a clear explanation. Now he is even more suspect," Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said.

"It's about his alleged violation of the law. He cannot just get away with quitting the Cabinet," said Yuichiro Tamaki, the head of Japan's Democratic Party of the People.

Yu Qiang, a researcher on Japan at the University of International Relations in Beijing, said Sugawara's gift scandal had again put Abe's Cabinet appointments in doubt, as most of his ministers who had stepped down were linked to money scandals or gaffes.

"Each time Abe would say he is responsible for appointing them, but these scandals don't stop. It seems that Abe believes that his rule and his long-running administration can't be shaken by minor scandals," Yu said.

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2019-10-29 07:36:34
<![CDATA[EU grants Brexit extension till Jan 31 ahead of MPs' vote on poll]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/29/content_37519203.htm

The European Union has granted the United Kingdom a new Brexit extension till Jan 31, 2020 - meaning Britain will not leave the bloc as planned on Thursday.

The agreement, announced by European Council President Donald Tusk on social media, is a so called "flextension" that means the UK could leave before the deadline if a deal is approved by Parliament.

A "flextension" will be granted and "formalized through a written procedure", Tusk tweeted.

The UK was due to leave the EU on Oct 31, but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson must accept the delay according to a law passed last month by MPs, who seek to avoid a no-deal crash-out Brexit situation. It will be the third time the government has requested the EU to delay the Brexit deadline.

Johnson had promised in his first speech back in July that "there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay - we're leaving on 31 October no ifs, no buts".

The ambassadors of the other 27 EU members decided on the delay decision after days of speculation over whether French President Emmanuel Macon would veto the idea.

The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, said the extension was "positive", and "gives time for the UK to make clear what it wants".

Meanwhile, members of Parliament in the UK were scheduled on Monday afternoon to vote on Johnson's proposals to decide whether the UK will have an early general election on Dec 12.

Johnson has told MPs that if Parliament agrees to an election on Dec 12, he would restart efforts to get his Withdrawal Agreement Bill - the legislation enacting the Brexit deal he struck with Brussels - into law.

MPs have already twice rejected a call from the prime minister to hold a general election, for which he needs two-thirds of their support.

The opposition Labour Party has repeatedly said it will not back an early general election until a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table.

The party was predicted to abstain in Monday's vote, effectively killing off the government's plans. The Scottish National Party said it would block the government's election attempt, but has broken with the Labour position and joined forces with the Liberal Democrats to push for an election on Dec 9, provided there is a Brexit extension.

The few days' difference means Johnson would not be able to get his Brexit deal through Parliament before voters head to the polls.

Labour shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, accused some opposition parties of "selling out the People's Vote campaign and the cross-party campaign to prevent a no-deal".

The SNP and the Liberal Democrats have also proposed a bill that would tweak the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 - the law which sets the time-frame for elections.

If passed, it would enable an election to take place with only a majority of one, rather than two-thirds of MPs.

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2019-10-29 07:36:34
<![CDATA[California declares emergency as wildfires rage on]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/29/content_37519202.htm

HEALDSBURG, California - California's governor declared a statewide emergency on Sunday as a huge blaze, fanned by strong winds, forced mass evacuations and power blackouts as it bore down on towns in the famed Sonoma wine region.

The so-called Kincade Fire, north of San Francisco, has spread to 12,000 hectares and was only 10 percent contained by Sunday evening, state fire authorities said.

The blaze, the largest of more than a dozen wildfires burning throughout the state, has destroyed dozens of homes and vineyards, including the renowned 150-year-old Soda Rock Winery.

"We've seen the news. We are devastated," the owners said in a Facebook message, adding that all staff at the winery - located in the town of Healdsburg, about 110 kilometers north of San Francisco - were safe.

At least two hospitals in Santa Rosa evacuated patients over the weekend to other facilities.

The Kincade Fire - the most devastating in California this year - ignited on Wednesday and spread quickly thanks to powerful gusts of up to 145 kilometers per hour.

"Over 3,000 people are working on the fire as we speak, making sure the evacuation is going smoothly and people are taking it seriously," said Governor Gavin Newsom.

An estimated 180,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders, including in parts of Santa Rosa and a large swath of Sonoma County all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

"This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff's Office can remember. Take care of each other," the Sonoma County sheriff's office tweeted.

Authorities said the area would remain under dangerous red flag conditions until Monday morning.

"Things will improve as we head into Monday and Tuesday but we need to be resilient," a spokesman for the National Weather Service told a news conference.

A fire official warned that should the flames continue spreading west and jump over a major freeway that could prove even more catastrophic, as that region hasn't had any fires since the 1940s.

"The fuels in that area are extremely dense, they are extremely old and decadent, and they are extremely dry," he said, referring to the combustible materials including shrubs and trees feeding the fire.

More than 3,000 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters were battling to control the blaze, which was not expected to be contained before Nov 7, fire officials said.

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2019-10-29 07:36:34
<![CDATA[Driver appears in British court over truck deaths]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/29/content_37519201.htm The driver arrested in connection with the deaths of 39 people found in the back of a truck in Essex in England last Wednesday has been remanded in custody and will appear at London's Old Bailey court on Nov 25.

Maurice Robinson, 25, from Craigavon in Northern Ireland, faces 39 counts of manslaughter as well as charges of people trafficking, immigration and money laundering, and made a brief appearance at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on Monday morning.

Three other people have been arrested in connection with the discovery of the bodies of 31 men and eight women and were released on bail. They are a 46-year-old man from Northern Ireland, and Joanna and Thomas Maher, both 38, from Warrington in the northwest of England.

Meanwhile, Essex Police are continuing their efforts to clarify details of what happened and to identify the victims.

The Associated Press reported that some Vietnamese families in central Vietnam believe their relatives are among the 39 victims found in the refrigerated container truck that arrived across the English Channel from Zeebrugge, Belgium last week.

The VnExpress news website said that police in central Vietnam on Sunday took tissue samples from people who fear their relatives may be among the dead. On Sunday, up to 24 families had reported members missing to local authorities.

VietHome, a website for Britain's Vietnamese community, said it had given detectives pictures of nearly 20 people reported missing, and that police are also investigating claims that the truck in question could have been one in a convoy of three, transporting a total of about 100 people.

The police said that all victims have been moved to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford for post-mortems to determine causes of death.

Essex Police said identifying the victims will the biggest mass fatality identification effort in the force's history, and would be conducted using internationally recognized Interpol disaster victim identification techniques.

According to the police statement, all 39 victims had personal belongings which may help establish their identities. More than 500 items, including mobile phones, have been recovered.

Stressing that "we remain open minded as to nationalities of those who have died," Senior Identification Manager Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore said, "We are asking anyone who may have information that may assist us in identification to come forward to us."

"If you come to us, we will do all we can to put our arm around you and take you through this process, and establish as quickly as possible whether or not we have your loved one involved in this tragic incident, and try and reunite you."

He said he was aware that people may be afraid to come forward because of revealing information about illegal immigration, but he urged them not to be scared.

"We understand some people may be frightened but I hope people will put trust in me and make that leap of faith. Essex Police will not look to take any action against you."

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2019-10-29 07:36:34
<![CDATA[BRI gaining more global recognition]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518923.htm

Analysts: Achievements in promoting growth help create positive image

There is an increasing global recognition of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, especially of its contribution to the regional and global economy, analysts said.

Yu Yunquan, president of the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies, said the BRI has been promoted pragmatically since it was proposed in 2013 and has many concrete achievements, bringing benefits to the economies and people's lives in the countries involved.

"Thus, more people overseas are aware of the BRI and hold positive views about it," he said.

The BRI aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe, Africa and beyond.

About 20 percent of people overseas know of the BRI, and 55 percent of them held positive views about the BRI's contribution to the regional and global economy, said a recent poll conducted jointly by the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies and the global consulting company Kantar, from May to July in 2018.

"The global awareness of the BRI has been growing steadily," said Lina Zhang, client director of Kantar, adding that in 2014, only 6 percent of overseas respondents had heard of both the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road", which are the main components of the BRI.

The survey asked 11,000 people, aged between 18 and 65, from 22 countries, to evaluate the BRI's significance to individuals, countries, regions and the world. Indians had the highest awareness of BRI, with 50 percent of respondents knowing about it, followed by Japan (43 percent), Italy (40 percent), and Russia (30 percent), the poll said.

Yu said that one in every five foreigners knowing about the BRI meant that the initiative had already won much higher attention than many other global initiatives.

"The BRI is an operation platform for global cooperation," he said. "And whether it is in countries that are involved in it yet or not, people have more awareness about it."

He also added that connectivity of infrastructure and trade, which could directly be connected to ordinary people's interests and bring tangible benefits to them, are the issues of most concern for respondents.

"China has helped many countries involved in the BRI build railways, roads, and bridges, which could improve transportation, offer job opportunities and gives impetus to local economic development," he said.

Moreover, trade connectivity could drive the flow of goods and people among the countries involved in the initiative, directly boosting economic development and improving people's livelihoods, Yu added.

Figures from China's Ministry of Commerce showed that from January to September this year, Chinese companies had increased investment in 56 countries along the Belt and Road, totaling $10.04 billion.

Tom Simpson, China managing director of the China-Britain Business Council, or CBBC, said that in the United Kingdom, people's awareness of the BRI is increasing, though work still needs to be done to increase their level of understanding about this initiative.

"The UK Treasury has appointed a BRI special envoy, which demonstrates the level of interest in the BRI that the British government has," he said, adding that the CBBC had also produced a series of reports on the BRI to help UK companies to better understand the opportunities to participate.

"We are seeing a growing number of UK accounting firms, law firms, banks and insurers who are working with Chinese companies on BRI projects across the world," he said.

And he added that the British people and companies are most interested in learning about what kind of business opportunities there are and what kind of projects they could get involved in, so that they could use their expertise and services in these projects.

"The BRI is a whole new front for the UK and Chinese companies to work together in global markets," he said. " It enlarges the range of ways that UK and Chinese companies can collaborate."

Hisham AbuBakr Metwally, an economics researcher with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry, said that in Egypt, China's investment has made more locals familiar with the BRI.

For example, the Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone in Egypt, which has been connected to the BRI, and has attracted dozens of Chinese companies, has "great influence in raising the awareness of Egyptians about BRI", he said.

He said that there are two important aspects about the BRI that Egyptians are interested in knowing about.

"The first is whether they will have mega infrastructure projects like those financed and implemented by China in many countries, as these mega projects have had a good impact on boosting economies and contributing to growth," he said.

The second issue is the promotion of trade between China and Egypt and how Egyptians can benefit from China's trade and financial muscle, he said.

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2019-10-28 07:57:24
<![CDATA[IS leader confirmed dead after US strike]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518922.htm WASHINGTON - The shadowy leader of the Islamic State group who presided over its global terrorist acts and became arguably the world's most wanted man is dead after being targeted by a US military raid in northern Syria, US President Donald Trump said on Sunday.

As US forces bore down on him, Trump said Baghdadi fled into a tunnel with three of his children and detonated a suicide vest. "He was a sick and depraved man, and now he's gone," Trump said.

"He died like a dog, he died like a coward."

A US official said late on Saturday that Baghdadi was targeted in Syria's northwestern Idlib Province.

Separately, Trump on late Saturday had teased about a major announcement, tweeting that "Something very big has just happened!" And by Sunday morning, he was thanking Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, as well as Kurdish fighters in Syria for their support.

The strike came amid concerns that a recent US pullback from northeastern Syria could infuse new strength into the militant group, which had been defeated in vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.

Many critics of Trump's Syria pullout had expressed worries that it would lead the IS militancy to regain strength and pose a threat to US interests. The announcement about Baghdadi's death could help blunt those concerns, Reuters said.

Baghdadi led the IS group for the last five years, presiding over its ascendancy as it cultivated a reputation for beheadings and attracted hundreds of thousands of followers to a sprawling and self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

He remained among the few IS commanders still at large despite multiple claims in recent years about his death and even as his so-called caliphate dramatically shrank, with many supporters who joined the cause either imprisoned or jailed.

His exhortations were instrumental in inspiring terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe and in the United States. Shifting away from the airline hijackings and other mass-casualty attacks that came to define al-Qaida, Baghdadi and other IS leaders supported smaller-scale acts of violence that would be harder for law enforcement to prepare for.

They encouraged terrorists who could not travel to the caliphate to kill where they were, with whatever weapon they had at their disposal. In the US, multiple extremists have pledged their allegiance to Baghdadi on social media. They included the Pakistani woman and her Pakistani-American husband who committed a 2015 massacre at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.

 

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2019-10-28 07:57:24
<![CDATA[Fed likely to cut interest rates for third time]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518921.htm

The US Federal Reserve is likely to cut interest rates for the third time since July when it meets this week, despite conflicting economic signals in the United States and what appears to be a widening internal split at the central bank.

The Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, will meet Tuesday and Wednesday. Analysts expect it to announce at the close of the second day's meeting a quarter-point cut, reducing the benchmark short-term rate to a range of 1.50 percent to 1.75 percent.

Manufacturing is stagnant and consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of the US economy, dipped slightly last month, but employment remains at near-record highs, major bank earnings are strong and inflation is low. Nevertheless, the worldwide economic slowdown and uncertainty created by the lengthy US-China trade dispute, despite tentative signs of reaching an agreement, are expected to persuade the Fed to cut rates.

The committee cut rates in July and September. The rate determines what banks charge each other for overnight lending, but also affects the cost of consumer debt and therefore influences spending.

At its September meeting, two members voted against the cut and three others weren't persuaded of the need for a cut but agreed to reduce interest rates by a quarter point.

"I'm expecting a quarter-point cut," Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, told China Daily. "My guess is that the language will set a high bar for another cut, dampening expectations for more monetary easing in December. The China trade war has quieted for the moment, so there's less pressure on the Fed to take offsetting policy measures."

In a research note to investors, Goldman Sachs Analyst Spencer Hill said: "We expect the FOMC to deliver a third and final (quarter point) rate cut at the upcoming meeting."

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2019-10-28 07:57:24
<![CDATA[Russia calls US move to protect Syrian oil 'banditry']]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518920.htm Russia's Defense Ministry on Saturday harshly criticized the US decision to send armored vehicles and combat troops into eastern Syria to protect oil fields, calling it "banditry".

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that tank trucks guarded by US military servicemen and private military companies smuggle oil from fields in eastern Syria to other countries.

Russia's state Tass News Agency reported that oil was extracted with the use of the equipment supplied by leading Western firms bypassing all US sanctions.

Konashenkov said that the contract for transporting oil was executed by the US-controlled company Sadcub created at the so-called autonomous administration of eastern Syria.

"In the event of any attack on such a convoy, US special operations forces and combat aviation are immediately used to protect it.

"Revenues from smuggling Syrian oil arrive at numbered bank accounts of US private military companies and intelligence services through brokerage firms that interact with it," he said.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, given that the cost of one barrel of oil smuggled from Syria is $38, the monthly revenue of that "private business" exceeds $30 million.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Friday that Washington would send armored vehicles and troops to the Syrian oil fields to prevent them from falling into the hands of Islamic State militants.

Konashenkov said that maintaining a US military presence in eastern Syria was "international state banditry" motivated by a desire to protect oil smugglers and not by real security concerns.

"To secure such a continuous financial flow free from control and taxes, the top officials at the Pentagon and Langley will be willing to guard and protect oil wells in Syria from the imaginary 'hidden cells of the Islamic State' indefinitely," Konashenkov added.

Konashenkov said that space intelligence images show that Syrian oil was actively extracted and transported on a mass scale by tank trunks for processing outside Syria under the reliable protection of US troops both before and after the defeat of the Islamic State

"What Washington is doing now, that is, capturing and holding oil fields in eastern Syria under its control, is, putting it bluntly, international state-sponsored gangsterism," Konashenkov said.

Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has helped him turn the tide of a civil war, has long insisted that the US military presence in Syria is illegal, Reuters reported.

Bolstered position

Moscow has further bolstered its position in Syria following the US withdrawal from the northeast of the country, negotiating a deal last week with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that allows Turkey to remove the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, militia from within a 30-kilometer strip along the Syrian-Turkish border.

The Pentagon has not responded the Russian accusation, but the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday over the Syrian situation and US-Russian bilateral relations.

"From the Russian side, the necessity was emphasized of refraining from steps undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also discussed Syria in a phone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.

The Kremlin said in a statement that during the conversation, the leaders agreed that the memorandum of understanding on the northern Syria situation signed by Russia and Turkey respects the interests of all the involved parties as well as promotes the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.

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2019-10-28 07:57:24
<![CDATA[Joko Widodo forms 'innovative' Cabinet]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518919.htm Indonesian president expected to focus on managing economy over next 5 years

Indonesian President Joko Widodo seeks to set the country on course to an advanced economy as he starts his second five-year term with a new Cabinet for development and enhancing international cooperation.

His "Onward Indonesia" new Cabinet is generally seen as strong and well balanced as he has retained his economics team from his first Cabinet and added new faces, including his erstwhile rival in the April presidential election, Prabowo Subianto, who takes over as defense minister.

The new lineup "reflects a mixture of political compromise and the need for strong economic leadership," said Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist with London-based global information firm IHS Markit.

Bringing in opposition leader Subianto into the new government will go a long way toward healing the bitter postelection political divisions that were creating unrest in the nation, he said. And on the economic front Widodo has also made some interesting appointments unveiled on Oct 23.

The president aims to speed up economic development with the appointment of young entrepreneur Nadiem Makarim, founder of Gojek, as culture and education minister and Wishnutama Kusubandio, co-founder of NET TV, as minister of tourism and creative economy.

The president's decision to retain former World Bank executive Sri Mulyani Indrawati as finance minister and his old political ally, Luhut Pandjaitan, as coordinating minister for maritime affairs, natural resources and investment give a clear signal to international investors and the business community that Indonesia will continue on its course of economic growth and stability.

Wellian Wiranto, an economist who covers Indonesia for the Singapore-based Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, or OCBC, said the reappointment of Indrawati as finance minister has "rightly assured investors of a continuation of Indonesia's orthodox fiscal policies, including measures to broaden the country's narrow tax base".

On Oct 25, the president told a media briefing that he wanted to expedite talks on a trade deal with the European Union and wrap up a review of trade with the United States. Joint works with China could also be updated.

'10 new Balis'

Over the next five years, Widodo is expected to focus on managing the economy, continue with his signature big-ticket infrastructure development policies and pro-poor initiatives.

The man who talked of creating "10 new Balis" and oversaw the completion of Jakarta's first metro line in his first five years in office, now has an ambitious $33 billion plan to establish a new capital city on the island of Borneo and further develop the transport and communication links that are crucial to an archipelago that stretches across three time zones and thousands of islands.

To realize his ambition Widodo has appointed a slew of new ministers on the economic front including coordinating minister for economic affairs Airlangga Hartarto; trade minister Agus Suparmanto; state-owned enterprises minister Erick Thohir and a new head for the investment coordinating board, Bahlil Lahadalia.

The new Cabinet also lays the foundations for shifting the country's economic reliance from resources exports to manufacturing and added-value products, so that the nation of 272 million people can move from a middle-income country to an advanced economy by around 2045.

Internationally, Widodo is expected to continue to build strong economic ties with China, notably through joint infrastructure projects.

Economic cooperation between Indonesia and China is likely to accelerate in the coming years as he continues to give high priority to development of critical infrastructure such as ports, roads and industrial parks.

China's Vice-President Wang Qishan and Widodo discussed bilateral relations in their meeting in Jakarta on Oct 21. As a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, Wang attended Widodo's inauguration ceremony on Oct 20.

Wang said Beijing appreciated Widodo's commitment to promoting the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, and his active support for and participation in synergizing the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Indonesia's development strategies, according to a Xinhua report.

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2019-10-28 07:57:06
<![CDATA[Homeless in Utah ease stress with tai chi]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518918.htm SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - On a quiet morning outside a library in Salt Lake City, about 70 people are kicking and slicing at the air as they practice the ancient martial art of tai chi.

The group moves uniformly, a silent army save for the gurgling noises of an artificial waterfall and the wind moving through blades of grass.

One man with a long, gray beard balances on his right leg with a ragged blanket draped over his shoulders. A barefoot woman wearing torn jeans does the exercises as a tiny dog circles around her legs.

This isn't a well-trained class of health enthusiasts wearing new tennis shoes and expensive leggings. Many participants are homeless.

 

Bernie Hart (center) teaches tai chi in front of the Salt Lake Police headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Oct 14. Rick Bowmer / AP

In this class, the focus is less on mastering the exercise and more on building a community for transient people. People have said the class relieves their stress, encourages them to get up in the morning, build a routine and make friends.

The free program is run by a retired couple who started the classes three years ago by approaching homeless people in tents and pushing grocery carts near the Salt Lake City Public Library to encourage them to join the classes.

Bernie and Marita Hart had one participant in their first class. Now, more than 50 people regularly attend tai chi five days a week at the downtown library and Pioneer Park, where many homeless people congregate.

Bernie Hart, a 78-year-old retired machine shop owner, says he found tai chi to be a comforting way to relax, practice balance and control movement when he became anxious before skiing. He thought the exercise could help others find stability in their lives.

'Good morning'

People gather at the library an hour before the class begins, hugging friends and chatting about their week.

The Harts arrive with coffee and rally the group to spread out and stretch.

David Christopher Coons, 54, bounces into the plaza with a cigarette hanging between his front teeth. He says "good morning" to everyone before settling into a stretching routine.

Coons, who is homeless, has been attending the classes for three years, often leading them alongside the Harts.

"It's a great way to start the morning," he says. "It helps with my memory and my balance while I try to figure out what's going on in my life."

Coons lost his job as an electrician about five years ago. He has been homeless since, sleeping in shelters or on the streets of Salt Lake City.

He says the class motivates him to take care of himself and gives him something to look forward to during the week.

"What we're doing here isn't (just) tai chi. It's a circle of friends coming together to do something for themselves, and for each other," Coons says.

As the class gets ready to start, homeless people cast away their belongings - coats, backpacks, Ziploc bags filled with toiletries - and organize themselves into neat rows.

Marita Hart, a 77-year-old retired flight attendant, weaves through the crowd, smiling and patting attendees on the back.

Bernie and David are at the front of the group, leading people through a rhythm of synchronized squats, arm raises and slow, rotating movements. Everyone is quiet.

A dozen or so birds perch on the top of the library, looking down on the group.

"Look, even the birds are mesmerized by us," someone calls out.

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2019-10-28 07:57:06
<![CDATA[Xi'an event puts 5G and AI under spotlight]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518917.htm iFlytek is honored to take part in the third Global Programmers' Festival to have technological communication and exchanges with top scientists, researchers and corporate leaders from across the world, said Fu Minglei, general manager of the company's Shaanxi branch.

iFlytek is an artificial intelligence-focused tech giant based in Hefei, Anhui province.

The event also aims to further accelerate the construction of a Digital Silk Road, which will help promote iFlytek's business layout related to the Belt and Road Initiative in Xi'an, he added.

The annual event, held from Oct 24 to 25 this year, is a top gathering in the sector as it attracts the world's leading software companies, research institutes and venture capital institutions, and creates a multi-level communication channel for information technology professionals.

 

Experts share views at a 5G technology roundtable forum during the third Global Programmers' Festival in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. Photos Provided to China Daily

This year's event had a total of 16 activities, including a main forum, a 5G technology roundtable forum, an innovation forum on Internet Plus and digital economy, a carnival for programmers and an exhibition of scientific and technological innovations from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A Xi'an declaration of the 5G industry and a three-year action plan for digital economy were released during the event.

"5G is a new engine for creating a new era of the digital economy, and also serves as a solid foundation for the development of Xi'an," said Zhong Hongjiang, Party secretary of the Xi'an Hi-tech Industries Development Zone.

The thriving of the digital economy and 5G technology is unstoppable, and Xi'an will pour more resources into emerging industries like AI, cloud computing and big data with a more active attitude, Zhong added.

Tan Jianrong, an academician from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said Xi'an, which is home to a large number of colleges and universities, should use its advantage in human resources, and develop a basic 5G research base and innovate representative products with the help of the city's software park.

During the event, 28 investment projects worth 14.7 billion yuan ($2.08 billion) were signed, covering sectors such as electronic information, AI, intelligent manufacturing and network security.

In 2018, the Internet Data Center said that there were about 18.5 million people in the world working as programmers, and 10 percent of them were in China.

"Along with the rapid development of Internet Plus, cloud computing and intelligent hardware, China has a stronger demand for programmers," Fu said.

"Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are major gathering places for programmers. They tend to be younger, as more than half of them are aged between 23 and 30, and have made large contributions to China's digital economy and GDP." About 80 percent of iFlytek's employees are programmers.

Their research results serve as the foundation of the company's core research and development platform, as well as corporate development.

Last year, the company extended its business presence to Shaanxi province by setting up a branch in Xi'an.

"The city's support for the development of the AI sector has given us huge confidence," Fu said.

In addition to the subsidiary, the company plans to establish a research institute and an innovation and entrepreneurship platform in Xi'an to carry out in-depth and extensive cooperation in fields of AI research, innovation and entrepreneurship. iFlytek will also help Xi'an build AI demonstration areas focusing on education, healthcare, government affairs, laws, and smart city development, while expanding cooperation with the city in automobile, robots, tourism and personnel training by leveraging its expertise in AI technologies.

"In the future, we hope to make Xi'an the core of our talent base and a pilot city of our latest AI technology applications," Fu said.

Xi'an, as the capital of 13 Chinese ancient dynasties, has witnessed remarkable achievements during the construction of an international metropolis for a new era, and also developed city spirit of generosity, inclusiveness, civilization and openness, said He Junli, general manager of the Xi'an branch of China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone Holdings.

The company is a unit of State-owned China Merchants Group and is dedicated to comprehensive urban development.

"As an important participant and promoter of China's BRI, CMG will move forward with Xi'an's progress of internationalization, and establish a strategic partnership with this starting point of the ancient Silk Road," He said.

Commenting on the theme of this year's event "Connecting the Digits, Coding the Future", a Shaanxi Hangwei Real Estate spokesperson said programmers are dedicated to changing people's lives and pushing the reform of the times with digits.

The Global Programmers' Festival aims to discover their stories and promote their spirit of "enthusiasm, perseverance and struggle" via programmer competitions, carnivals and awards ceremonies, the spokesperson added.

Hangwei Real Estate has launched an apartment project in the software park, a core area of the Xi'an Hi-tech Industries Development Zone.

The park enjoys a convenient geographical location and transport.

It is also home to many Fortune Global 500 companies and leading Chinese software companies. It thus has a strong demand for high-end apartments by related elites, the spokesperson said.

 

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2019-10-28 07:57:06
<![CDATA[Seoul-Tokyo spat shows no signs of easing]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518916.htm Tit-for-tat measures affect daily lives as Abe-Lee talks fail to bridge differences

Worsening relations between Seoul and Tokyo have not only affected the two neighbors' trade, security and tourism, but also dayto-day life in both countries.

South Korea and Japan have taken tit-for-tat measures since this July as the dispute widened from a long-running row over Korean labor who were taken to Japan to work in mines and factories before and during World War II.

After a South Korean court ordered Japanese companies to compensate the workers last year, the spat intensified and has now spread to trade, security cooperation, tourism and many other aspects of daily life for people in both countries.

Latest media reports show there is growing antagonism between the two peoples, with the targeting of each other's exports becoming an outlet for the expression of national sentiment. The Japanese are boycotting K-pop singers' albums and refusing to watch Korean TV dramas, while the South Koreans are campaigning against buying Japanese cars and electronics.

Last week, Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo become one of the main targets of the boycott, after its airing of a controversial TV commercial which features a 13-year-old designer asking the 98-year-old US fashion icon Iris Apfel what she wore when she was her age.

In English, Apfel responds: "I can't remember that far back" - but in Korean, it's translated as: "How can I remember things that happened more than 80 years ago?"

South Korean consumers saw that as a thinly-veiled jibe to the "comfort women" - girls and women who were forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels during World War II-reopening deep wounds from the country's colonial past.

According to figures from the Korea Customs Service, South Korean imports of Japanese beer plunged by 97 percent in August compared with last year, the Maeil Business Newspaper reported.

Japan was the largest source of imported beer in South Korea for the past 10 years - now it is ranked 13th.

Japanese cars are taking a hit too, as Yonhap news agency reported that sales of Honda, Toyota and Nissan sank by 74 percent, citing South Korean auto industry group figures. Separately, footage of a South Korean man bashing his Lexus, a luxury car manufactured by Toyota also went viral.

At convenience stores across Seoul, Japanese brands are notably absent from fridges otherwise well-stocked with foreign beverages. And in Tokyo, sales of TV dramas and movies by K-pop stars have also plummeted.

But as some people in both countries are still peddling cultural stereotypes and whipping up nationalist sentiment, last week the two governments held talks for the first time since the dispute erupted, in what appeared to be an attempt to mend the broken relationship.

On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon in Tokyo, which had initially raised the prospect of the bitter dispute showing signs of easing. Reports said Lee and Abe agreed that the two countries must not leave their strained ties as-is. And Lee called for promoting communication and exchanges to try to improve their frayed ties.

But despite the highest-level talks being held between both countries in more than a year, Japanese officials said that little progress had been made and that Japan hoped South Korea would "change its stance".

Zhou Yongsheng, a professor and deputy director of the Japanese Studies Center at China Foreign Affairs University, said as the two nations still remained apart over key issues the prospects for resolving them could still clouded for a period of time.

"The two nations share a long, complex history dating back centuries. And more recently, historical and territorial disagreements have cast a shadow over relations. If these fundamental issues are not addressed, trade conflicts will be difficult to resolve, too," he said.

Zhou added that the ongoing conflict involves not only the two countries, but also the dispute could also impact the framework of regional security.

As both Japan and South Korea are US allies and play key roles in US intervention in regional affairs, if the Tokyo-Seoul disputes become a long-term issue, the US-Japan-South Korea alliance would also be challenged and result in major security changes in the region, he said.

Ni Yueju, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, voiced worry that by using export controls to resolve political issues, the two countries' discord will hurt other countries' efforts to secure a free trade environment. "Ultimately, consumers and ordinary people will bear the brunt," Ni said.

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2019-10-28 07:57:06
<![CDATA[Biogen seeks OK for Alzheimer's drug]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518915.htm

A US company says it has created the first drug to slow Alzheimer's disease and will seek regulatory approval in 2020 from the US Food and Drug Administration, or FDA.

Biogen, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, said its drug containing the antibody aducanumab could slow the effects of early onset Alzheimer's, limiting severe memory loss.

"This could be a game-changer," said an executive scientist with the Alzheimer's Association. "We are very hopeful."

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said he is "reasonably confident" the FDA will approve the drug. Approval could take several years. Biogen also wants to sell the drug in parts of Europe.

The announcement that Biogen would push ahead with aducanumab was a surprise to the industry, as the company had said in March that it would halt developing the drug following disappointing results in seven trials. Biogen licensed the drug candidate from Swiss lab Neurimmune, which discovered the human monoclonal antibody.

Biogen said it reconsidered the drug after analysis of a larger data set showed that aducanumab "reduced clinical decline in patients with early Alzheimer's disease". It also allowed patients to "experience significant benefits on ... functions such as memory, orientation, and language."

The drug works by targeting a protein called beta-amyloid that forms abnormal deposits in the brains of those with Alzheimer's, according to the BBC.

By clearing the deposits, which scientists say are toxic to the brain, it's believed that it significantly helps people with dementia and Alzheimer's.

More than 5.8 million people in the United States live with Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association. It is the country's sixth leading cause of death among those age 65 and over.

Rebecca Edelmayer, director of Scientific Engagement at the Alzheimer's Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research in the United States, told China Daily: "From what we've learned from research so far, targeting amyloid only will not be a 'magic bullet', and this drug is not the cure."

"This is a very important moment for the Alzheimer's field - for the first time in a long time, new treatment data is being submitted to the FDA for review. This could be a game-changer. We are very hopeful."

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia (accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases). It mainly affects people's memory and cognitive abilities. There is no cure. Those aged 65 and older are at particular risk.

Around 200,000 people below age 65 in the US have the disease. The number of people affected by dementia worldwide is 50 million, according to the World Health Organization. Alzheimer's affects 9.5 million in China. More than 100 million worldwide could be affected by Alzheimer's by 2050.

In the US, Alzheimer's care is a $250 billion industry. Research into the degenerative disease is also big business. Congress appropriated $2.2 billion for Alzheimer's and dementia research in fiscal 2018.

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2019-10-28 07:57:06
<![CDATA[67 killed as anti-govt protests flare in Iraq]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518914.htm BAGHDAD - Hundreds of demonstrators continued their protests on Saturday in Baghdad and some provinces in southern and central Iraq over deteriorating living conditions, leaving up to 67 people dead and more than 2,500 others wounded.

Following Friday's protests in Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad on the eastern side of the Tigris River, dozens of the demonstrators spent their night in tents, so they could resume the protests on Saturday morning and repeat their attempts to cross the nearby al-Jumhouriyah Bridge to reach the Green Zone.

The last attempt to cross the bridge was around the sunset, when the riot police heavily fired tear-gas canisters and sound bombs to disperse the demonstrators and managed to push them back out of Tahrir Square in the surrounding neighborhoods, an Interior Ministry source said.

Afterward, the riot police dismantled the sit-in tents after clashes with the protesters, the source said.

The protests also continued in other cities in several southern and central provinces, including Dhi Qar, Maysan, Diwaniya, Basra and some other provinces, where protesters called for reform, accountability for corrupt people and job opportunities.

The Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights, or IHCHR, said in the latest statement that 2,592 people were wounded in two days of anti-government protests in Baghdad and other provinces, mainly in Baghdad.

The IHCHR said that 83 government buildings and parties' headquarters were burned or damaged in the provinces of Diwaniyah, Maysan, Wasit, Dhi Qar, Basra, Muthanna, Babil and Karbala.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament failed in the afternoon to convene for an emergency session to discuss the ongoing turmoil for lack of quorum, as only about 90 lawmakers were present out of 329.

Also on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said in a statement that security force "secured the demonstrations sites with responsibility and high restraint by not using weapons or excessive force toward the demonstrators at all".

It said that the security forces suffered from casualties as a result of attacks against the security forces with gunfire, hand grenades and stones.

The statement "strongly condemned the arson of public institutions, headquarters and citizens' homes," and confirmed that the law considers the attackers as criminal, who must severely be punished and have nothing to do with peaceful demonstrations.

The new wave of demonstrations came after Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi made a televised speech, in which he warned of chaos if the government resigns, and promised a cabinet reshuffle, more job opportunities and the establishment of a court to prosecute corrupt officials.

Earlier this month, massive protests erupted in Baghdad and other central and southern provinces for similar reasons.

The Iraqi government responded by presenting packages of reforms aimed at providing job opportunities, building housing complexes, paying stipends to the poor and scaling up the fight against corruption.

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2019-10-28 07:57:06
<![CDATA[Botswana's President Masisi vows to reform economy]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/28/content_37518913.htm Botswana's incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi's reelection has ensured stability in the diamond-rich country as the country tries to bridge income inequality, analysts say.

Final counting shows that Masisi's Botswana Democratic Party secured 29 of 57 parliamentary seats, representing 51 percent of the vote. Voting began on Oct 23.

Masisi vowed on Saturday to make the economy his top priority. "The overriding intention is to re-steer this economy in another direction," he said.

David Kikaya, an African studies researcher, said the election results indicate a departure from the past, noting that the country has had some sort of dynasty of a one - party show.

"With the onslaught of the Umbrella for Democratic Change party coming on board as well as Botswana Patriotic Front, it means the win has not been as automatic as the previous ones. Only 51 percent of the vote also means a weakening dynasty of the past," he said.

Gerrishon Ikiara, an economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, said the reelection of Masisi means extension of the continuity and stability of the country.

"Since gaining independence, Botswana has had a unique leadership in Africa in terms of objectivity and integrity. The retaining of power by the ruling party indicates that stability is guaranteed in the next five years," Ikiara said.

Botswana has been one of the world's fastest-growing economies since independence in 1966. Botswana is one of the world's biggest diamond producers, but it was hit hard by a drop in diamond prices in 2009 and a record drought in 2015.

Ikiara said Masisi's previous performance has been good, especially in fighting corruption, a move that was well received by the people.

"Unlike many other Africans, Botswana people seem to respect stability a lot, hence they see Masisi as somebody who can continue with the tradition. The economy has also been doing well, growing at 8 percent for most of the past six decades, which is a testimony of good party leadership," he said.

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2019-10-28 07:57:06
<![CDATA[Moscow revives ties with African countries]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/27/content_37518655.htm Putin sees Sochi summit as a way to boost political and economic relations

Russia's first summit with African leaders in the southern resort city of Sochi this week gives Moscow the chance to cultivate neglected ties with the continent, experts said.

Russia wants to double trade with Africa over the next five years, President Vladimir Putin said at the opening of the summit on Wednesday.

Olga Kulkova, senior researcher from the Center for Studies of Russian-African Relations at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the event should not be only seen as a tool for spreading Russia's soft power to the continent.

"The summit is largely aimed at expansion of political, economic, trade and investment cooperation with the African countries, while the work toward this goal has been carried out actively over recent years," she said, adding that trade between Russia and Africa increased from $17.4 billion in 2017to $20.4 billion in 2018.

Putin and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, current head of the African Union, jointly opened an economic forum attended by Russian and African officials and representatives of major businesses. Al-Sissi noted that Moscow has been actively working to develop international relations and assert its geopolitical status as a world power.

Kulkova said the cooperation with Egypt is important to Russia, as the projected Russian Industrial Zone in Egypt could be viewed as a successful case of Russian-African economic cooperation.

The aim of this industrial zone, which will cover 5.25 million square meters, is to become a platform for Russian companies to expand into Egypt, the rest of Africa and the Middle East.

"Russia and Africa need each other," said Denis Korkodinov from the Russian think tank Center for Strategic Analysis Political Expertise.

"On one hand, currently the African countries can be conceived as a free geopolitical niche, where Moscow is able to strengthen its position as much as possible.

"And on the other hand, for the African leaders, cooperation with Russia is also a unique opportunity to significantly increase their international status and to solve their problems.

"Moscow allows many African leaders to legitimize their own power and receive guarantees of international recognition. In turn, Africa is attractive for Russia because of the huge natural resources. This creates a basis for mutual interest between Russia and Africa," Korkodinov said.

Engin Ozer, director of the international think tank Voice of Africa, agreed with Korkodinov on the principal directions of the Russia-Africa cooperation: defense and arm supplies, oil and gas production, mining and infrastructure projects.

Russia's state-run Tass News Agency reported that leaders of all African countries who have met with Putin at the summit expressed the readiness to cooperate with Moscow in the development of nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Russia's state-owned corporation for nuclear energy development, Rusatom, and some African countries have come close to concluding contracts, the head of the corporation Alexei Likhachyov said.

Li Yonghui, a senior researcher in Russian foreign policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Russia has adhered to comprehensive diplomatic strategy and expanded its diplomatic space since the conflict with Ukraine erupted in 2014, as it had been subsequently diplomatically isolated by Western countries.

"Russia advocates multi-polarization and multilateral cooperation. So, working with the Africa continent is important to realize its vision and to highlight its influence amid the changing and complicated global situation," Li said.

Tang Xiaoyang, a researcher in Africa studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said that Africa has a fast-growing population and many developing countries, which means they have great potential.

"In the past few years, Africa has seen increasing global influence and strong economic growth, which means it cannot be neglected," he said.

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2019-10-27 07:35:39
<![CDATA[Russian forces patrol Syrian-Turkish border]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/27/content_37518654.htm Russian military police have begun to patrol the security zone in northern Syria in accordance with a memorandum of cooperation that Russia signed with Turkey, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Russia and signed the memorandum on joint actions in northeastern Syria on Tuesday.

According to the document, as of noon on Wednesday, the Russian military police and Syrian Border Guards were monitoring the withdrawal of Kurdish military forces to 30 kilometers from the border. Russia and Turkey were to begin the joint patrolling of the area 150 hours later.

United States President Donald Trump hailed the agreement as a "big success", and said his administration was lifting sanctions it had imposed on Turkey after it launched an offensive against Syrian Kurds earlier this month.

"The memorandum entered into force today at noon," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin at a news conference.

"It has no expiration date, which means that so far, the zone will function without deadlines. As for the laws active in the zone, I think that any Syrian territory must fall under national law," Vershinin said.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that Russian military police arrived at the northern Syrian city of Kobane earlier on Wednesday, and began to patrol the approved area in the border region.

The ministry said in a statement that the Russian military also met with local government officials in Kobane to discuss the detailed implementation of the memorandum.

It did not reveal details of Russia's first patrol in the border region, but published a map of the Russian patrol zone in Syria.

The map shows the positions of the Syrian Border Guards along the border, the zone of withdrawal of the Kurdish forces and the borders of Operation Peace Spring, the code name of the Turkish offensive into northeastern Syria against the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the "safe zone" area was calm on Wednesday. But explosions hit various parts of Syria's northeast, including the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli and the town of Suluk in the Tal Abyad region near Turkey's border, Agence France-Presse reported.

Yin Gang, a researcher at the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Russian mediation in the Turkish-Syrian border issue could be positive and effective.

"Russia has played a relatively fair role, and the related parties would be more willing to listen (to it) as Russia does not have interests to pursue in northern Syria," he said.

Yin said that Russia's actions would be able to prevent Turkey from making further attacks in Syria, and avoid a long-term occupation of northern Syria.

"Turkey is also willing to have someone like Russia to help it avoid a relationship with the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds turning difficult. Otherwise it may further threaten Ankara's border security."

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2019-10-27 07:35:39
<![CDATA[Girls to embrace science as weapon against FGM]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/27/content_37518653.htm A Kenyan company has joined with a United Nations agency and a research organization to offer a program aimed at inspiring African girls to take up science as part of broader efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation.

Some 3 million girls are made to endure FGM each year in Africa. Many die as result of bleeding, infections and, later, from complications during childbirth, according to the African Medical and Research Foundation, or AMREF.

The procedure involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for cultural or other non-medical reasons.

Against this backdrop, Brands and Beyond is working with the UN Population Fund and AMREF to offer what the partners present as an "FGM-to-STEM" program, referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

AMREF estimates that more than 100 million girls and women live with the consequences of the mutilating practice. Although it is banned in an increasing number of countries, the procedures are still carried out in many communities.

Francis Ngomeli, managing director of Brands and Beyond, said the initiative seeks to rescue girls from FGM, as well as from pathways leading to early marriages and teenage pregnancies. Their studies will empower girls to realize their full potential by embracing the STEM program.

The program is also aimed at "demystifying the myth that sciences are just for the boys", and will provide the education materials required to inspire girls in these fields, Ngomeli said.

"When girls undergo FGM, most likely they don't resume schooling. Among those who do return to school, more than 60 percent fail to attain the pass mark. This is why introducing the STEM program is a great motivator for these girls," Ngomeli said.

He said that as part of efforts to back the program, parents will be encouraged to see the benefits for their daughters from an education in the sciences.

"The girls will also be able to address some of the major challenges affecting their communities," Ngomeli said.

"We have already rolled out the program in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia and we plan to expand to other FGM-prone African countries."

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2019-10-27 07:35:39
<![CDATA[DPRK hopes for 'wise' US moves]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/27/content_37518652.htm The Democratic People's Republic of Korea stressed on Thursday that it hoped to see the United States act "wisely" before the end of this year. The message from Pyongyang came despite the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump continuing to have good relations.

In a statement from Kim Kyegwan, adviser to the Foreign Ministry, the DPRK urged the US to "change its attitude" in the next two months, apparently referring to the deadline Pyongyang set for Washington to come up with a new proposal in the denuclearization negotiations, the DPRK's Korean Central News Agency reported on Thursday.

In the statement, the senior DPRK official Kim criticized Washington's officials for being "hostile" to Pyongyang and preoccupied with a "Cold War mentality", despite Trump's political judgment and intentions.

"There is still a possibility of moving forward, but it depends on the actions of the US. We want to see how wise the US will be by the end of the year," Kim Kye-gwan added.

In the same statement, Kim Kyegwan also said that the relations between Kim and Trump were firm, and "the trust in each other is still there".

"When I met the chairman (Kim Jong-un) and reported to him the pending problems arising in external affairs, including the issue of relations between the DPRK and the US, a few days ago, he said that the relationship between him and President Trump is special," Kim said.

According to Li Chengri, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the latest remarks from Pyongyang appear to be aimed at pushing Washington to be more flexible in nuclear talks, while signaling Pyongyang's intention to resume negotiations that remain stalled.

By emphasizing the personal relations between the two leaders while criticizing Washington's officials, the DPRK seemed to be seeking yet another summit with the US, as it saw such a top-down approach as having a better chance of producing progress in talks with the US, Li said.

"The statement can be understood as Pyongyang's intention to push for a top-down approach in talks with Washington in the hope that summit talks could have more of a chance for Pyongyang to get what it wants rather than working-level meetings like the previous one in Sweden," Li said, while adding that Trump had also touted his "special bond" with Kim many times.

Earlier this month, the two countries held working-level meetings in Sweden's capital Stockholm for the first time since the collapse of the second summit between Kim and Trump over how to reconcile Pyongyang's demand for sanctions relief from Washington and the US position for the DPRK to further denuclearize.

The meeting, however, broke down as they failed to narrow differences.

In April, Kim Jong-un said he would wait for the US to make a "courageous" decision before the end of the year. Li said this suggested that Pyongyang could make a major shift in the country's nuclear policy next year if Washington remained reluctant to change its approach to negotiations.

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2019-10-27 07:35:39
<![CDATA[Tiger earns its stripes as a legend in Tasmania]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/27/content_37518651.htm For Australians the Tasmanian tiger holds the same fascination that Scots have for the Loch Ness monster. But unlike Scotland's mythical creature of the deep, the Tasmanian tiger did exist.

Even though the last known specimen died in Hobart Zoo in 1936, there have been persistent rumors the animal still exists, with reported sightings in the heavily forested northwestern and western regions of the island state.

A recently released report by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, under the Right to Information Act, shows there have been numerous sightings of the animal - also known as the thylacine - in the past three years. Despite the report, the department says: "There is no credible evidence to confirm the thylacine still exists."

The report contains information from eight sightings, from farmers, bushwalkers, locals and tourists, all claiming to have caught a glimpse of the mysterious creature over the past three years.

Sandy yellowish-brown to gray in color, the animal had 15 to 20 distinct dark stripes across the back from shoulder to tail and looked like a cross between a wolf, a fox, and a large cat.

A spokesperson for the department said that while there have been reports of sightings, there has been no "hard evidence to support the claims".

One of the more credible sightings noted in the report was in February 2018, outside the town of Corinna on Tasmania's northwest coast.

Two tourists from Western Australia claimed they saw the animal when it walked in front of their hire car one afternoon.

The report said they had just driven off a barge and were on a gravel road when an "animal walked slowly onto the road".

They stopped the car as the animal "walked from the right hand side of the road, ... three quarters of the way across the gravel road it turned and looked at the vehicle a couple of times, and then walked back in the same 'run' it had come out of".

"It was in clear view for 12-15 seconds. The animal had a stiff and firm tail, that was thick at the base. It had stripes down its back. It was the size of a large Kelpie (bigger than a fox, smaller than a German shepherd)," the report said.

In 2017, a driver reported seeing a possible thylacine near the Deep Gully Forest Reserve in northwestern Tasmania.

Most recently, in July, a man in southern Tasmania, near Hobart, reported seeing a paw print that seemed to match that of the Tasmanian tiger.

These reports reflect just how large the thylacine still looms in the collective imagination.

Native to Tasmania and the Australian mainland, it was the only member of the Thylacinidae family to survive into modern times, according to the Australian Museum.

European colonists killed thousands of thylacines for attacking sheep. Today, the thylacine still remains a major component of Tasmanian culture.

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2019-10-27 07:35:39
<![CDATA[China's absence at key space forum lamented]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/27/content_37518650.htm Washington urged not to 'weaponize' visas to target normal exchanges

China's absence from an important global space conference was a missed opportunity for collaboration, a US scientist said during the 2019 International Astronautical Congress, or IAC, on Wednesday.

The Chinese delegation, whose members include Wu Yanhua, vice-administrator of the China National Space Administration, was absent from the weeklong 70th IAC, which concludes on Friday in Washington.

The moderator of an opening plenary panel where Wu was expected to speak on Monday said Wu's absence was due to a "scheduling conflict".

But the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that it was because of a visa issue, and it urged Washington not to "weaponize" visas and hinder normal international cooperation.

Clive R. Neal, a planetary scientist at University of Notre Dame, said: "I think it was hoped that China would be present so that multilateral talks could be undertaken. Everyone was disappointed. I am saddened that the political situation between our two countries gives the perception that we are in opposition."

The world's top two economies have been locked in a trade war since early last year, with tensions only starting to ease following "substantial progress" in their latest round of talks earlier this month.

While observers say an increasing number of Washington insiders perceive China as a military and economic threat to be confronted, two in three people in the United States prefer friendly cooperation and engagement with China, according to the 2019 Chicago Council Survey, released in September. The annual national survey of a representative group of US people examines views on US foreign policy.

Neal, appointed by the National Academy of Sciences Executive Office in April as a new member of the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science, was in Washington to attend the annual event. He said the absence of China led to disappointment over a missed opportunity.

"I think it is critical that the scientists keep working together as best as they can so communication lines are kept open," Neal said in an interview.

He said US scientists are working hard to maintain collaboration with their Chinese peers.

"At this level, there are no strained relations. I think also at the NASA level, relations would be good. Both our countries need to solve this issue at the political level," he said.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, US Vice-President Mike Pence said that with renewed US leadership in space, the US seeks to work closely with "like-minded, freedom-loving nations".

Neal said the vice-president "was playing to an American audience".

"I am not a politician, but I think communication and dialogue are critical to stop misunderstandings," he said. "Both Chinese and American scientists need to work with their political officials to show we can cooperate."

Commenting on matters discussed at the IAC on Monday, Erwan Beauvois, a space operations engineer from Thales Alenia Space in France, tweeted: "Dodging the spicy questions :-/so many people asked about China and international cooperation. M. Pence's speech of this morning surely didn't resonate well to most of the international partners either.#IAC2019"

China hosted the 64th IAC in Beijing in 2013, and participates in the conference every year. It has always championed multilateral cooperation in space exploration, according to a white paper on China's space activities in 2016.

In an interview in January, James W. Head, a professor of geological science and planetology at Brown University, who worked on all of the Apollo space missions in the 1960s and 1970s, said he was still hopeful for greater China-US space cooperation.

"There are always political tensions between countries. But the fact that the US-Soviet Cold War ended in an international space station with American astronauts being launched on Russian rockets, and very close cooperation, gives hope for future cooperation," Head said. "Many policymakers see it as a way to reduce tensions."

As of Wednesday night, Wu of the China National Space Administration was still listed as a speaker at the annual IAC event's opening panel on the IAC website.

"I miss an important space agency in this panel. Where is China?" read the most-liked question from the site displayed on the screen, which served as a background on the stage for panel speakers on Monday.

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2019-10-27 07:35:39
<![CDATA[China looks back on 40 years of magic memories]]> http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2019-10/26/content_37518626.htm Olympic achievements celebrated on anniversary of nation's IOC return

Forty years ago, a meeting thousands of kilometers away from Chinese shores helped change the course of the nation's modern history, creating new opportunities and breakthroughs across the sporting, cultural and economic spheres, and spawning decades of glorious moments.

"I had no clue at all that a decision made four decades ago could've influenced my life so much in a positive direction," said China's first Winter Olympic gold medalist, short-track speed skater Yang Yang.

The life-changing event Yang refers to was a meeting held in the Japanese city of Nagoya on Oct 25, 1979, when the International Olympic Committee agreed to resume China's legitimate membership of the organization after a decadeslong standoff between the two parties due to political reasons.

This week, the Chinese Olympic Committee celebrates the 40th anniversary of that momentous decision, with Yang, now a member of the IOC's Marketing Commission, among over 60 sports officials, athletes and governing body chiefs, who gathered at the COC's headquarters in Beijing on Friday to reflect on the significance of that day.

The journey since then has seen China make enormous sporting and social strides, including winning 237 Olympic gold medals, launching a mass fitness national program and hosting 13 international sports events - the most notable of which, of course, was the 2008 Summer Olympics.

All these feats have motivated Yang and her peers to work harder on all fronts to inspire the next generation.

"My daughter is four years old now and I hope what we are doing today can pave the way for her future like I had 40 years ago," said Yang, who won 500m short-track speedskating gold at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Friday's event offered an intriguing insight into China's Olympic past - from the tough negotiation between China's central government and the IOC prior to the Nagoya meeting, to stories behind Beijing's failed bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics (won by Sydney) and the subsequent successes in landing the 2008 Summer and 2022 Winter Games.

National sporting heroes such as basketball legend Yao Ming and women's volleyball star Zhu Ting also entertained the assembly with humorous anecdotes from their careers.

Having experienced many ups and downs in its relationship with the IOC, China has now cemented its status as a leading advocate of the Olympic Movement and is ready to embrace a bigger role to promote sports participation and the Olympic spirit, said Gou Zhongwen, COC president.

"The past 40 years prove that China needs the Olympic Movement and it needs China too," Gou said at the meeting on Friday.

"To promote the Olympic spirit of sharing and understanding stays in line with our great initiative of building a community with a shared future for mankind."

Gou also urged all relevant departments and individuals to go all out to step up preparations for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games while accelerating the process of building the nation into a world sporting power to enhance the China's presence in the international community.

Citing the examples of Yang and IOC vice-president Yu Zaiqing, Gou wants more Chinese sportsmen and women to seek a greater say for the country in global sporting affairs.

According to the COC, until July this year, 320 Chinese sports figures have in the past served or are currently working in 474 positions across 137 va