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Exclusive: Risking Beijing's ire, Vietnam begins dredging on South China Sea reef

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎22 minutes agoGo to full article
Vietnamese-held Ladd Reef, in the Spratly Island group in the South China SeaBy Lincoln Feast and Greg Torode SYDNEY/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Vietnam has begun dredging work on a disputed reef in the South China Sea, satellite imagery shows, the latest move by the Communist state to bolster its claims in the strategic waterway. Activity visible on Ladd Reef in the Spratly Islands could anger Hanoi's main South China Sea rival, Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the group and most of the resource-rich sea. Ladd Reef, on the south-western fringe of the Spratlys, is completely submerged at high tide but has a lighthouse and an outpost housing a small contingent of Vietnamese soldiers.

48-team World Cup proposal gets thumbs up at FIFA meeting

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
FILE- In this Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 file photo, FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during a news briefing ahead of the draw for the soccer Confederations Cup 2017, in Kazan, Russia. Infantino has suggested having 16 three-team groups if the World Cup expands to 48 countries, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)SINGAPORE (AP) — FIFA president Gianni Infantino said a proposal to expand the World Cup finals to 48 teams, with 16 groups of three teams, received enthusiastic backing at a meeting of national federations on Thursday.

Philippines says it won't help US patrols in South China Sea

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, center, answers questions from reporters after attending a conference in Makati, south of Manila, Philippines on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Lorenzana said it is highly unlikely the Philippines will allow the U.S. military to use the country as a springboard for its freedom of navigation patrols in the disputed South China Sea to avoid antagonizing China. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine defense secretary said Thursday it's highly unlikely his country will allow the U.S. military to use it as a springboard for freedom of navigation patrols in the disputed South China Sea to avoid antagonizing China.

WWII sacrifice of 'Free French' defending Hong Kong

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
A French flag is draped over a memorial at the Stanley Military Cemetery, dedicated to French civilians who died fighting with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps against the 1941 Japanese invasion of the territorySeventy-five years ago, a handful of idealistic "Free French" took up arms to defend the British colony of Hong Kong in a futile battle against Japanese invaders. There are six names on the worn stele that pays tribute to them in a corner of the British military cemetery in Stanley, on a hill in the south of Hong Kong island. "I do not see why these people should be forgotten," says Francois Dremeaux, chairman of the Hong Kong committee of French Remembrances of China.

Quake of magnitude 6.2 strikes China's Xinjiang, no reports of casualties

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 hit China's far western region of Xinjiang on Thursday, the China Earthquake Administration said, with tremors shaking buildings near the epicenter about 100 km (60 miles) west of the regional capital of Urumqi. A receptionist at a hotel about 2 km (a mile) from the epicenter, reached by Reuters, said the tremors were intense though no buildings had collapsed. Images posted on the microblog of the state-run China Earthquake Networks Center showed goods had fallen off shelves at a supermarket and students lined up in rows on a sports field near their school.

Egyptian mummies virtually unwrapped in Australia

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
A young visitor looks at a 3D image of a CT scan of an Egyptian mummy, during a preview for a joint British-Australian exhibition in SydneyThe hidden secrets of Egyptian mummies up to 3,000 years old have been virtually unwrapped and reconstructed for the first time using cutting-edge scanning technology in a joint British-Australian exhibition. Three-dimensional images of six mummies aged between 900BC and 140-180AD from ancient Egypt, which have been held at the British Museum but never physically unwrapped, give an insight into what it was like to live along the Nile river thousands of years ago. "We are revealing details of all their physical remains as well as the embalming material used by the embalmers like never before," the British Museum's physical anthropology curator Daniel Antoine told AFP at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney Thursday.

HIV alert for male-to-male sex in Philippines

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Activists carry signs during a protest march marking World AIDS Day, in ManilaHIV infections among men having sex with men in the Philippines have surged 10-fold in five years, with authorities largely ignoring the problem, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Thursday. The Catholic country has one of the fastest-growing epidemics of HIV in the Asia-Pacific because successive governments have failed to promote contraceptives and give sex education to gay or bisexual men, it said. "National education on effective HIV prevention methods is non-existent, and laws prohibit condom access and HIV testing to people under 18 without parental consent," the report said.

Rights group, worried about HIV, urges Philippines action

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎7 hours agoGo to full article
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A human rights watchdog says the Philippines is facing one of the fastest growing epidemics of HIV in the Asia Pacific, fueled by government policies that restrict intervention, including access to condoms by men who have sex with men.

More survivors found in Yemen shipwreck

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎7:50:45 PMGo to full article
About 20 people were still missing and 42 were rescued after a shipwreck in the Indian Ocean off the Yemeni island of Socotra, seen in 2008More than 40 people were rescued off the Yemeni island of Socotra on Wednesday after a cargo vessel carrying islanders home from the mainland sank in the Indian Ocean, authorities said. Several others were still missing after a major search operation in the early hours, President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi said in a statement on the official website. The ship sank northwest of Socotra -- around 350 kilometres (220 miles) from Yemen's south coast -- which has been hit by rare tropical cyclones in recent months.

Trump defends Boeing tweet, says companies shouldn't worry

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:43:02 PMGo to full article
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a USA Thank You Tour event at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North CarolinaU.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his direct interventions with companies, including making statements on Twitter, saying businesses will benefit from his actions and his upcoming term in office. One day after criticizing one of Boeing Co's high-profile projects in a tweet, Trump told NBC that he anticipated "tremendous" economic growth under his administration but reiterated his warning that companies shifting U.S. jobs overseas would have to pay. "I don't know ... how people are unnerved," Trump told NBC's "Today" program.

Global stocks mostly higher on telecoms news, stimulus hopes

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:21:22 PMGo to full article
FILE - This July 15, 2013, file photo, shows the New York Stock Exchange. Stock markets pushed higher on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, as investors cheered another record day on Wall Street and looked past the political and economic uncertainty buffeting Europe. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)TOKYO (AP) — Global stock markets rose Wednesday amid optimism about the telecommunications industry and as investors expect more central bank stimulus in the eurozone.

Survey finds Afghans more pessimistic on security, future

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎1:47:34 PMGo to full article
In this Monday, Dec. 5, 2016 photo, Afghan women walk on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghans are increasingly uncertain about their future, less confident in their government and more pessimistic than before on issues such as security, corruption, and rising unemployment, according to the annual survey by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation released on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans are increasingly uncertain about their future, less confident in their government and more pessimistic than before on issues such as security, corruption, and rising unemployment, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

South Korea's Park digs in, as tycoons deny seeking favors

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎5:12:17 AMGo to full article
By Ju-min Park and Se Young Lee SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Park Geun-hye, engulfed in an influence peddling scandal, said if she was impeached she would wait for a court to uphold the decision, a party official said on Tuesday, a sign a political crisis could drag on for months. Park's embattled presidency faces a critical juncture, with parliament expected to hold an impeachment vote on Friday. Separately, South Korea's most prominent corporate chiefs told a parliamentary panel they had not sought favors when they made contributions to two foundations at the heart of the scandal, even as one of them acknowledged it was hard to say "no" to the government.

Indonesia takes new step to combat loss of forests, fires

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:39:16 AMGo to full article
In this Friday, Jan. 8, 2016 photo, a boat sails on a river at a peat land forest recently burned in a wildfire in Sungai Mangkutub, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Indonesia has strengthened its moratorium on converting peat swamps to plantations in a move a conservation research group says would prevent annual fires and substantially cut the country's carbon emissions if properly implemented. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia has strengthened its moratorium on converting peat swamps to plantations in a move a conservation research group says will help prevent annual fires and substantially cut the country's carbon emissions if properly implemented.

OSCE calls for release of journalist arrested in Turkmenistan

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:15:28 AMGo to full article
Organization for Security and Co-operation Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic, seen in Budapest in 2011, said Turkmenistan must "ensure journalists' safety" and immediately release Khudayberdy Allashov from custodyThe Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Tuesday criticised authorities in repressive Turkmenistan following reports that an independent journalist was arrested for possessing chewing tobacco. The security body's media watchdog Dunja Mijatovic said Turkmenistan must "ensure journalists' safety" and immediately release Khudayberdy Allashov, whose family says he was arrested December 3. Allashov was working as a contributor for the Turkmen-language service of Radio Free Europe, which is funded by the United States congress, at the time of his arrest.

Trump on Boeing's Air Force One contract: 'Cancel order!'

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎12:01:07 AMGo to full article
AIr Force One at Joint Base Andrews in WashingtonBy Phil Stewart and Amy Tennery WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump urged the government on Tuesday to cancel an order with Boeing Co for a revamped Air Force One - a prominent symbol of the U.S. presidency - complaining that costs were out of control. It was the latest example of Trump using his podium, often via brief Twitter messages, to rattle companies and foreign countries as he seeks to shake up business as usual in Washington. Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, took aim at what he called cost overruns even though the plane is only in development stages.

Forum: Congress must help Hawaii fishermen confined to boats

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎11:36:27 PMGo to full article
From left, National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly; Mark Lagon, Centennial Fellow and Distinguished Senior Scholar at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery; and moderator Paul Greenberg, participate in a forum to improve conditions for hundreds of foreign fishermen working in Hawaii's commercial fleet, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Matthew Daly)WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress should act immediately to improve slave-like conditions for hundreds of foreign fishermen working in Hawaii's commercial fleet, speakers at a congressional forum said Tuesday.

Math a concern for US teens; science, reading flat on test

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:09:08 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2016 file photo, Education Secretary John King speaks at the White House in Washington. American students have a math problem. The latest global snapshot of student performance shows declining math scores in the U.S. and stagnant performance in science and reading. King says: "we're losing ground, a troubling prospect when, in today's knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — American students have a math problem.

Lego replaces long-time CEO with first foreign boss in organizational shake-up

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎6:40:20 PMGo to full article
Lego group CEO Knudstorp poses after annual results news conference at headquarters in BillundDanish toymaker Lego is to appoint its first foreign CEO and give its family owners a bigger role in developing the Lego brand under an organizational shake-up that will see incumbent Jorgen Vig Knudstorp step down by the end of the year. Briton Bali Padda, currently chief operations officer, will replace Knudstorp, who was the first chief executive from outside the Kristiansen clan, Denmark's richest family. The change comes after more than a decade of impressive growth under Knudstorp, during which the company overtook My Little Pony producer Hasbro to become the world's second-largest toy maker and is now vying with Barbie doll maker Mattel to become the world's biggest.

Cambodia PM wants official protest venue moved out of town

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:48:28 PMGo to full article
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's leader has taken a poke at pro-democracy activists and a slap at the United States, suggesting that if the capital's designated political protest venue is not moved out of town, it might be situated in front of the U.S. Embassy.

Indonesia pledges to protect peatlands to fight climate change, haze

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:45:00 PMGo to full article
By Coco Liu HONG KONG (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Environmental activists hailed on Tuesday Indonesia's ban on converting peatlands into plantations but said enforcement was critical to reducing annual fires that shroud parts of Southeast Asia in choking haze. Indonesia announced on Monday that companies were banned from turning peatlands into palm oil and other types of plantations, and must restore peatlands they have degraded. When peatlands are drained or cleared by fire to make way for plantations, the carbon is released into the atmosphere.

Google meets renewable energy goal for global operations

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎4:03:30 PMGo to full article
Google logo adorns entrance of Google Germany headquarters in HamburgAlphabet’s Google is on track to purchase enough renewable energy to cover all its global electricity consumption next year, the company said on Tuesday. Google expects its purchases of wind and solar energy will be enough to cover its data centers and offices worldwide starting in 2017. Google began with a global target because companies often cannot specify what type of power utilities supply to their facilities, and renewable energy is unavailable in some key markets where it operates, particularly in Asia.

South Korea's Park digs in, as tycoons deny seeking favors

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎3:36:15 PMGo to full article
Group chairmen take an oath during a parliamentary probe into a scandal engulfing President Park Geun-Hye at the National Assembly in SeoulBy Ju-min Park and Se Young Lee SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Park Geun-hye, engulfed in an influence peddling scandal, said if she was impeached she would wait for a court to uphold the decision, a party official said on Tuesday, a sign a political crisis could drag on for months. Park's embattled presidency faces a critical juncture, with parliament expected to hold an impeachment vote on Friday. Separately, South Korea's most prominent corporate chiefs told a parliamentary panel they had not sought favors when they made contributions to two foundations at the heart of the scandal, even as one of them acknowledged it was hard to say "no" to the government.

Former U.N. head Annan urges rule of law amid Myanmar's Rohingya crisis

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎2:39:58 PMGo to full article
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan talks to reporters as Myanmar government-appointed Chairman of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, during his press conference, at a hotel in YangonFormer U.N. chief Kofi Annan on Tuesday urged Myanmar security forces to act within the rule of law in the country's northwest, where an army crackdown has killed at least 86 people and sent 10,000 fleeing over the border to Bangladesh. The violence is the biggest challenge faced by Aung San Suu Kyi's eight-month-old government and has prompted calls for the Nobel Peace laureate to do more to help the Rohingya minority, who are denied citizenship and access to basic services. Security operations must not compromise citizens' civil rights, said Annan, who heads a government-appointed panel tasked with finding solutions to the conflict between Myanmar's Buddhists and the Muslim Rohingyas.

Stocks track higher after Wall Street hit another record

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎2:23:23 PMGo to full article
Stocks track higher after Wall Street hit another recordHONG KONG (AP) — Stock markets pushed higher on Tuesday as investors cheered another record day on Wall Street and looked past the political and economic uncertainty buffeting Europe.

UN says dairy a potential ally in Asian nutrition challenges

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎1:10:34 PMGo to full article
Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO's Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific addresses a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Asia has halved hunger rates in the past quarter century, but because of westernized lifestyles, obesity is skyrocketing and people aren't getting enough vitamins and minerals, according to a new UN report.(AP Photo/Dake Kang)BANGKOK (AP) — Even as Asia makes clear strides in taming hunger and famine, the rapidly modernizing continent needs to focus more on diversifying its diet or risk failing to quell malnutrition, with milk having the potential to help, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report Tuesday.

South Korea's Park would leave economy mired in challenges

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎12:03:46 PMGo to full article
Lee Jae-yong, a vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. arrives for hearing at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. South Korea's most powerful business leaders from Samsung, Hyundai Motor and six other companies face grilling as lawmakers probe their links to a corruption scandal involving South Korea's president and her confidante. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The heir to the Samsung empire and other tycoons took a public drubbing by lawmakers Tuesday over deep-rooted ties between politics and business that helped drive South Korea's economic ascent but are central to its political crisis.

Transgender women in India face bias despite laws, says activist

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎10:44:39 AMGo to full article
By Rina Chandran MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Transgender women in India face persistent bias that denies them education and jobs despite India having progressive laws for transgender people, according to a leading activist. In a landmark judgment in 2014, India's Supreme Court ruled that transgender people had equal rights under the law, and granted legal status to the third gender.

South Korean industry titans harangued in scandal probe

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎8:52:35 AMGo to full article
Samsung Group's heir-apparent Lee Jae-Yong (L) answers a question as Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-Bin listens during a parliamentary probe into a scandal engulfing President Park Geun-Hye, at the National Assembly in Seoul, on December 6, 2016South Korea's most powerful tycoons, including de facto Samsung chief Lee Jae-Yong, stammered and squirmed Tuesday under a verbal assault from a parliamentary committee probing a corruption scandal that has riveted the nation. Millions watched in astonishment as the televised hearing showed the heads of the country's eight largest conglomerates being publicly harangued over donations their companies made to dubious foundations controlled by Choi Soo-Sil, a close friend of President Park Geun-Hye. "Do you know anything?" one legislator chided Lee as he repeatedly claimed ignorance of who in Samsung authorised cash transfers to a foundation in Germany that funded the equestrian training of Choi's daughter.

Music therapist, teacher, teens among warehouse fire victims

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎7:21:19 AMGo to full article
CORRECTS NAME TO FERAL PINES AFTER CLARIFICATION FROM CORONERS OFFICE - This undated photo provided by Edwin Fallwell shows Feral Pines. Pines, a transgender musician and artist, was killed in the warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. (Courtesy Edwin Fallwell via AP)OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A therapist who used music to help kids cope with trauma. A woman who taught at a Montessori school. An energetic artist who could make friends with anyone.

Rohingya who fled Myanmar recount killings, rapes, burnings

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎6:54:45 AMGo to full article
In this Dec. 2, 2016 photo, Mohsena Begum, a Rohingya who escaped to Bangladesh from Myanmar, holds her child and sits at the entrance of a room of an unregistered refugee camp in Teknaf, near Cox's Bazar, a southern coastal district about, 296 kilometers (183 miles) south of Dhaka, Bangladesh. “They drove us out of our houses, men and women in separate lines, ordering us to keep our hands folded on the back of our heads,” says 20-year-old Mohsena Begum, her voice choking as she described what happened to the little village of Caira Fara, which had long been home to hundreds of members of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya community. In refugee camps in Bangladesh, survivors of a wave of violence that has swept Myanmar in recent weeks say government forces have targeted minority Rohingya villages, burning many to the ground, killing the innocent and raping women. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — The Myanmar soldiers came in the morning, the young mother says. They set fire to the concrete-and-thatch homes, forcing the villagers to cluster together. When some of her neighbors tried to escape into the fields, they were shot. After that, she says, most people stopped running away.

UN says dairy a potential ally in Asia nutrition challenges

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:56:20 AMGo to full article
BANGKOK (AP) — An apple a day kept the doctor away — but now in Asia, a cup of milk might do the trick.

Factbox: Trump fills top jobs for his administration

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎4:41:32 AMGo to full article
(Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Monday he would name retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The following is a list of Republican Trump's selections for top jobs in his administration. All the posts but that of national security adviser require Senate confirmation: DEFENSE SECRETARY: JAMES MATTIS Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general known for his tough talk, distrust of Iran and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trump fires opening salvo in risky test of wills with Beijing

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎4:13:05 AMGo to full article
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a rally as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016" in CincinnatiBy David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump indicated a tougher U.S. approach to China by speaking to Taiwan's president last week, but how far he will push a risky test of wills to wring concessions from Beijing on issues from trade to North Korea is unclear. The call between Trump and Tsai Ing-wen was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president with a Taiwanese leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979.

Carter's Asia trip spotlights issues for next Pentagon head

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎8:18:14 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2016 file photo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Ash Carter’s final swing across Asia as Pentagon chief shines a spotlight on tough issues to be inherited by his successor, from concern in Tokyo and Seoul about being forced to pay more for U.S. military protection to worry across the region that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions could spark war. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)TOKYO (AP) — Ash Carter's final swing across Asia as Pentagon chief shines a spotlight on tough issues to be inherited by his successor, from concern in Tokyo and Seoul about being forced to pay more for U.S. military protection to worry across the region about North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Uzbekistan's acting president wins election overwhelmingly

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎5:29:02 PMGo to full article
Uzbek acting President Shavkat Mirziyoyev casts his ballot during presidential election in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Mirziyoyev, who spent 13 years as Karimov's prime minister, is expected to easily win a five-year term. Karimov led Uzbekistan since before the Soviet collapse, first as its communist boss and then as president. (AP Photo/Anvar Ilyasov, Pool)MOSCOW (AP) — Uzbekistan's acting president has overwhelmingly won a tightly controlled presidential election, the Central Asian country's first vote since the death of authoritarian leader Islam Karimov, election officials said Monday.

South Korean tycoons to take center stage in political scandal

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎5:22:31 PMGo to full article
Protesters gather and occupy major streets in the city center for a rally against South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, South KoreaBy Se Young Lee and Hyunjoo Jin SEOUL (Reuters) - The heads of nine of South Korea's top conglomerates controlling revenue equivalent to half the country's economy face an unprecedented televised grilling by lawmakers on Tuesday, as the glare from a widening political scandal falls on Korea Inc. A parliamentary panel is investigating whether the so-called chaebol, which include the heavyweight Samsung and Hyundai Motor Groups, were pressured by President Park Geun-hye or her friend and aide to give money to two non-profit foundations backing Park's policy initiatives in exchange for special treatment. Samsung heir apparent Jay Y. Lee is expected to take center stage at the hearing, after prosecutors raided the group's offices last month. Samsung donated 20.4 billion won ($17.42 million) to the two foundations, the most of any group.

Uzbekistan PM wins presidential vote panned by Western monitors

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎3:46:04 PMGo to full article
Uzbekistan's Prime Minister and interim President Shavkat Mirziyoyev leaves a voting booth at a polling station during a presidential election in Tashkent, UzbekistanShavkat Mirziyoyev, long-serving prime minister of Uzbekistan, has become its second president, winning 88.61 percent of the vote in an election on Sunday criticized by Western observers. "This shows that we are going along the path outlined by the late president (Islam Karimov)," Mirziyoyev told thousands of supporters at a rally. Mirziyoyev, 59, was prime minister from 2003 under Karimov, who died of a stroke in September having run Central Asia's most populous nation with an iron fist for 27 years.

Uzbek interim leader scores landslide election win

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎3:22:41 PMGo to full article
Shavkat Mirziyoyev scored a comfortable victory in presidential electionsUzbekistan's interim leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev has won a crushing presidential election victory to succeed the late strongman Islam Karimov,official results showed Monday. Mirziyoyev's massive margin over rivals for the five-year term echoed the past successes of predecessor Karimov, who died of a stroke in September after 27 years at the helm of the commodity-rich country. "The dominant position of state actors and limits on fundamental freedoms undermined political pluralism and led to a campaign devoid of genuine competition," mission head Peter Tejler said at a press conference broadcast online from the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

Adani secures milestone in planned $16 billion Australian coal project

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎12:28:54 PMGo to full article
File photo of Indian billionaire Adani speaking during an interview with Reuters at his office in AhmedabadIndia's Adani Enterprises Ltd reached a milestone on Monday in its bid to build a controversial $16 billion coal project in northern Australia, winning approval for part of a rail link to service the planned mine. The mine has now secured all major state and federal government approvals, said the Queensland state government, whose premier will meet with chairman and founder Gautam Adani in the northern city of Townsville on Tuesday. Adani was also expected to meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday, amid local media speculation the federal government could contribute A$1 billion (583.55 million pounds)in rail funding.

China urges India not to 'complicate' border dispute as Tibetan figure visits

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎12:13:13 PMGo to full article
File photo: Karmapa Lama alights from a car before his departure to Mumbai, at the airport on the outskirts of the northern Indian hilltown of DharamsalaChina called on India on Monday not to do anything to complicate their border dispute after a senior exiled Tibetan religious leader visited a sensitive border region controlled by India but claimed by China. The Karmapa Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's third-most-senior figure who fled into exile in India in 2000, last week went to Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, in the remote eastern Himalayas. China disputes the entire territory of Arunachal Pradesh, calling it south Tibet.

New cross-border stock link widens access to China's Nasdaq

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎10:15:29 AMGo to full article
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. Chairman Chow Chung-kong, left, and Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, right, smile after beating a gong during a ceremony to launch the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect in Hong Kong, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Trading began Monday on a new cross-border stock trading link between Hong Kong and the neighboring Chinese city of Shenzhen, the latest step to widen access to China's markets for global investors. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)HONG KONG (AP) — Trading began Monday on a new cross-border stock link between Hong Kong and the neighboring Chinese city of Shenzhen, widening access to China's markets for global investors.

AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from the past week in Asia

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎6:54:57 AMGo to full article
In this Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 photo released by Bureau of the Royal Household, Thailand's new king Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun pays his respects to a portrait of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit at the Dusit Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand has a new king, with the country's crown prince formally taking the throne to succeed his much-revered late father, who reigned for 70 years. (Bureau of the Royal Household via AP, File)At least 200,000 conservative Muslims rallied peacefully in Indonesia's capital last week in the second major protest against Jakarta's minority Christian governor, who is being prosecuted for alleged blasphemy. The blasphemy controversy has challenged the image of tolerance associated with Islam in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

U.S. reshaping budget to account for Russian military threat

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎6:45:57 AMGo to full article
FILE PHOTO - Secretary of the Air Force James talks to members of the 341st Missile Wing during a visit to Malmstrom Air Force Base, MontanaBy Andrea Shalal SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (Reuters) - Russia's increasing military activities around the world have unsettled top U.S. military officials, who say they are reshaping their budget plans to better address what they now consider to be the most pressing threat to U.S. security. "Russia is the No. 1 threat to the United States. James, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson and Pentagon chief arms buyer Frank Kendall, all voiced growing concern about Russia's increasingly aggressive behavior in interviews late on Saturday.

Asian shares tumble after Italy rejects constitution changes

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎6:17:13 AMGo to full article
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. Chairman Chow Chung-kong, bottom, makes a speech while Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, top, is shown on a TV screen during a ceremony to launch the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect in Hong Kong, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Trading began Monday on a new cross-border stock trading link between Hong Kong and the neighboring Chinese city of Shenzhen, the latest step to widen access to China's markets for global investors. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)BEIJING (AP) — Asian shares tumbled Monday after Italian voters' rejected constitutional changes, raising questions over whether Italy will stay in the European Union and keep using the euro.

Italy's Renzi quits after crushing referendum defeat

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎4:33:52 AMGo to full article
Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gives a press conference at the Palazzo Chigi on December 4, 2016 in RomeItalian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation on Monday, hours after it was confirmed he had suffered a crushing defeat in a referendum on constitutional reform. "My experience of government finishes here," Renzi told a press conference, acknowledging that the No campaign had won an "extraordinarily clear" victory in a vote on which he had staked his future. Interior Ministry projections suggested the No camp, led by the populist Five Star Movement, had carried the vote by a margin of almost 60-40 with a near 70 percent turnout underlining the high stakes and the intensity of the debate.

Trump continues to defend his call with Taiwan's leader

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎2:56:29 AMGo to full article
FILE - This combination of two photos shows U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, left, speaking during a "USA Thank You" tour event in Cincinatti Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, and Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, delivering a speech during National Day celebrations in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. Trump spoke Friday, Dec. 2, with Tsai, a move that will be sure to anger China. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Chinag Ying-ying, File)NEW YORK (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump continued to use Twitter Sunday to defend his engagement with the leader of Taiwan, a breach of diplomatic protocol as the U.S. shifted recognition from Taiwan to China nearly 40 years ago.

Qatar 2022 attacks 'malicious': organiser

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎2:27:33 AMGo to full article
Qatar will host the football World Cup in 2022Qatar's much-criticised 2022 World Cup has been the victim of "malicious and unwarranted attacks", a senior tournament official in the Gulf said on Monday. Nasser Al-Khater, assistant secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body overseeing the organisation of the tournament in Qatar, also claimed that many of the country's critics had not "set foot in the country". Since being controversially chosen to host football's biggest event almost exactly six years ago, Qatar has received a barrage of international criticism.

Euro dives as Italy votes 'No' on reform, shares slip

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎1:54:30 AMGo to full article
Pedestrians and investors are reflected in a window displaying boards showing stock prices at the Australian Securities Exchange in SydneyThe euro sank to 20-months lows in Asia on Monday after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he would resign in the wake of a stinging defeat on constitutional reform that could destabilize the country's shaky banking system. Markets had earlier taken some encouragement when Austria's far-right presidential candidate was soundly defeated by a pro-European contender, confounding forecasts of a tight election.

Matsuyama holds off Stenson to win World Challenge

‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎1:10:47 AMGo to full article
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan hits a shot from a greenside bunker on the third hole during the final round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on December 4, 2016Hideki Matsuyama captured his fourth title in the past two months Sunday by holding off reigning British Open champion Henrik Stenson to win the Hero World Challenge by two strokes. The 24-year-old Japanese star served notice that he will be a contender to become his homeland's first male major golf champion by taking the 18-man invitational event hosted by 14-time major winner Tiger Woods. "He's going to be one of the top guys to beat for a very long time," said Woods, who made his comeback this week from a 16-month back injury layoff.


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Sweden joins dash to host EU drugs agency instead of London after Brexit

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎12 minutes agoGo to full article
STOCKHOLM: The Swedish government on Thursday launched a campaign to become the new host of the London-based European drugs agency after Britain's vote to leave the European Union and compete with offers from other EU members including Spain, France and Poland.

The tussle over the future location of nearly 900-strong European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to form part of complex political horse-trading around Brexit. Italy, Denmark and Ireland have also put themselves forward as hosts.

Pharmaceutical tablets and capsules are arranged on a table in this picture illustration

"With one of Europe's top national medicines agencies, an excellent climate for research and life science as well as good conditions for an efficient relocation, Sweden is a good future home for the EMA," Health Care Minister Gabriel Wikstrom said in a statement.

Having EMA headquartered in or near Stockholm would boost its drugs and life science sector, the government said. Sweden took a hit when AstraZeneca moved its headquarters to Britain but still has a cluster of medtech firms and the health sector has a vibrant start-up scene.

It already hosts the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), another argument for placing EMA in the country, the government said.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has previously expressed interest in EMA, but Thursday's launch of an active campaign is the first formal step and includes a secretariat tasked with planning and organizing Sweden's candidacy.

(Reporting by Daniel Dickson; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)


‘The noose is getting tighter’: Singapore ‘kelong king’ Wilson Raj Perumal’s fate to be decided in 2017

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎13 minutes agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Wilson Raj Perumal, the man dubbed the most notorious football match-fixer in the world, could be released from house arrest in Hungary and sent home to Singapore in 2017, Channel NewsAsia has learned.

The 51-year-old, believed to have rigged up to 100 matches globally, has been based in Budapest since 2012 under a witness protection programme while aiding investigations into widespread corruption in football.

wilson raj perumal 3

“The trial is still ongoing… It is likely to end next year,” Perumal said via Facebook messages. “After that, the decision is on Hungary to give me a status to stay or deport me back to Singapore.”

He is a wanted man in his homeland after fleeing abroad to escape a five-year jail term for running over an auxiliary policeman in 2009. But should he be returned to Singapore, Perumal could also face the prospect of detention - a fate met by fellow match-fixer Dan Tan Seet Eng, who has been held since October 2013 under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Little wonder then, that Perumal hopes to remain in Hungary with his Norwegian wife, three daughters and a son due in December. His children attend a local nursery and his spouse is studying for a psychology degree. Meanwhile Perumal “survives with limited funds” after gambling away nearly S$8 million he has claimed to have earned from his illicit activities.

“I am unemployed. I don’t speak Hungarian,” Perumal added. “I do some online jobs to get some funds - they are not permanent.”

What are these online jobs? “Studying irregular betting patterns for a company I cannot disclose,” he replied.

Perumal said another source of income was his 2014 autobiography, titled “Kelong Kings: Confessions of the world's most prolific match-fixer”. Kelong is a colloquial term used to suggest cheating in sport.

Last year, the authors announced that film rights to the book had been optioned by Hollywood Gang Productions, the company behind movies like 300 and Immortals. Perumal said he hoped this would translate into some form of financial payoff.

Asked if he would consider a new career for the sake of his family, he said: “Maybe I am planning some business...The noose is getting tighter.”

wilson raj perumal 2

Perumal presenting the Hungarian edition of his book "Kelong Kings" in Budapest in 2014 (Photo: AP/MTI/Tamas Kovacs)


Perumal’s first brush with the law stretches back more than thirty years. Between 1983 and 1992, he was jailed and fined for a slew of offences including theft, forgery, housebreaking and impersonation.

His maiden foray into match-fixing came in 1994, when he gave over S$2,000 to a team captain to throw a local match. Perumal was punished with a year of imprisonment. Five years later he was back behind bars - this time for attacking local league footballers Max Nicholson and Ivica Raguz with a hockey stick to prevent them from playing the next day. In 2003, he was sentenced to 16 months jail for bribing a referee in Singapore - his final incarceration on these shores before going overseas.

Between 2007 and 2009, he paid off Zimbabwean players and officials to fix friendlies in Asia on a massive scandal, from which the country’s football fraternity has yet to recover. One of these was a match against Singapore played in August 2007: 




And in 2010, Perumal brokered a friendly game between Bahrain and a phoney Togolese side comprising imposters. In his memoir, he claims he took Nigeria and Honduras to the final rounds of the 2010 FIFA World Cup by rigging their qualifying matches, as well as having fixed football matches at the Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008 Olympics.

In 2011, Perumal was finally arrested in Finland, allegedly on a tip-off by a Singaporean who was a fellow member of a match-fixing syndicate. Possibly realising he had been double-crossed, Perumal outed Dan Tan as the boss of a worldwide match-fixing network based in Singapore. He served half of a two-year sentence before being extradited to Hungary to assist as an informant in a global match-fixing probe.

Even under house arrest, Perumal managed to make headlines when he was re-apprehended by Finnish police in 2014 under an international arrest warrant, after travelling to at least four countries in Europe. Singaporean authorities made a move to take Perumal into custody, but the effort failed due to the lack of an extradition treaty with either Finland or Hungary.

Earlier this year, Singapore media reported that Perumal had reached out to former Zimbabwean football chief Henrietta Rushwaya, asking her to fix matches in the South African league as well as at Rio 2016.

“Rushwaya’s story has no credibility,” Perumal told Channel NewsAsia. He declined to elaborate.

wilson raj perumal 1

Perumal in a Finnish courtroom in 2011 (Photo: AFP/KAISA SIREN/LEHTIKUVA)


Perumal had plenty to say, however, about recent comments made by renowned match-fixing investigator Chris Eaton - who was FIFA security head when the Singaporean was brought to justice in 2011.

Eaton told an international conference in November that Singapore - which he once labelled an “academy for match-fixers” - had cleared its name with the capture of Tan. Malaysia is now the “epicentre” of match-fixing in Southeast Asia, a region which continues to perpetuate widespread illegal betting, added Eaton.

“I cannot understand why Mr. Eaton never fought against match-fixing when he was the head of security with FIFA,” said Perumal. “It's only now Mr. Eaton is vigorously campaigning against match-fixing.”

In two years at FIFA, Eaton successfully investigated multiple match-fixing instances across South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. He also introduced numerous initiatives such as enhanced intelligence gathering; greater protection for whistleblowers and a partnership with Interpol.

“Match-fixing is not only taking place in Southeast Asia,” Perumal argued. “It is also rife in Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. The FAs (football associations) are busy cleaning the mess.”

“Right now, I think Malaysian football is at its best. It is very clean; the movement of the odds in the M.League is stable. Eaton will have to substantiate his accusations against these countries and not make baseless accusations.”

“Singapore was never a hub like what Chris said,” he continued. “Dan Tan was stationed in Slovenia for a good one year and doing all the bets for fixed matches. Only in 2010 he stationed himself in Singapore because he was afraid to go to Europe after his friends got arrested in Croatia.”

“I came from Singapore; so were some of my colleagues. That does not make Singapore a hub. There are others in Malaysia, Europe and Indonesia.”

“If you look at the Sapina brothers, they were prolific as well,” said Perumal, referring to the notorious Croatian match-fixing trio of Ante, Milan and Filip. “Eaton never once mentioned Germany where the brothers operated from.”

“Singapore football, in my opinion, is clean.”


Chelsea's success under Conte does not surprise Buffon

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎17 minutes agoGo to full article
REUTERS: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte "doesn't do second" and the club's rise to the top of the Premier League standings under the Italian is hardly surprising, Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has said.

The 38-year-old has played under Conte both in Juventus, who won three consecutive Serie A titles under the manager, and the Italian national team, who made it to the quarter finals of the Euro earlier this year.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates their third goal scored by Eden Hazard

"It doesn't surprise me at all that Chelsea are top of the Premier League," Buffon told Fox Sports.

"He is a winner, he doesn't do second place. I am sure behind the scenes he has privately been getting players into line."

"They have a great chance in the league. Not only do they have one of the best coaches in Europe - but not competing in Europe they have a week between games which is going to help them a lot as the season goes on."

Chelsea have 34 points, three more than Arsenal, and they host seventh-placed West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

(Reporting by Debanjan Bose in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)


Britton wary of old friend Defoe ahead of relegation-zone battle

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎37 minutes agoGo to full article
REUTERS: Swansea City skipper Leon Britton believes foiling old friend Jermain Defoe will be key to his team's hopes of overcoming Sunderland in Saturday's Premier League relegation zone battle.

"If you give Jermain a chance, you know he is likely to take it. That means we have to work to cut off the supply line to him," Britton told the club website.

Swansea City v Manchester City - Premier League

"We know we are going to have to work hard to stop Jermain."

"I met him when we were both 14. He was a goalscorer then and he has been ever since."

The duo first met the Lilleshall Hall sports centre and then played together for West Ham United, before Britton arrived at Swansea in 2002.

"He works hard every day on his game and he also lives his life in the right way. He is a great professional," Britton said of Defoe who has scored five times in his three games for Sunderland against the Swans.

"He is getting rewards... because he still looks as sharp now as he did when he was 24."

Bottom-placed Swansea City are on nine points, two less than 18th placed Sunderland, who will travel to the Liberty Stadium.

(Reporting by Debanjan Bose in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)


Saudi, Iran engaging in 'proxy wars': UK foreign minister

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎39 minutes agoGo to full article
LONDON: Britain's foreign minister Boris Johnson has accused Saudi Arabia and Iran of "puppeteering" and engaging in "proxy wars" in the Middle East, a video reported on Thursday (Dec 8) shows.

In the clip, Johnson tells a conference in Rome last week it was a "tragedy" that politicians in the region were "twisting and abusing religion" to advance their political objectives.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, leaves number 10 Downing Street after a cabinet mee

Such public criticism of British ally Saudi Arabia was seen by some commentators as a diplomatic blunder by Johnson, who has been in the job less than six months.

His comments, filmed and posted on the Guardian's website, came as British Prime Minister Theresa May returned from a summit in Bahrain where she pledged to strengthen ties with Gulf states including Saudi Arabia.

"There are politicians who are twisting and abusing religion and different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives," Johnson told the Med 2 conference.

"That's one of the biggest political problems in the whole region. And the tragedy for me - and that's why you have these proxy wars being fought the whole time in that area - is that there's not strong enough leadership in the countries themselves."

Johnson said there were "not enough big characters" willing to "reach out beyond their Sunni or Shia" group.

"That's why you've got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in and puppeteering and playing proxy wars," he added.

Britain's foreign ministry stressed that Johnson had voiced support for Saudi Arabia on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

"As the Foreign Secretary made very clear on Sunday, we are allies with Saudi Arabia and support them in their efforts to secure their borders and protect their people," a spokesman said. "Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong and misinterpreting the facts."

Addressing a summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Bahrain on Wednesday, May reaffirmed British support for traditional allies in the region and said Britain would help "push back against Iran's aggressive regional actions."

In a joint statement, GCC states and Britain agreed to a "strategic partnership" and said they "oppose and will work together to counter Iran's destabilising activities".


Eagle at the last gives Cabrera Bello lead in Hong Kong

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎42 minutes agoGo to full article
HONG KONG: Rafa Cabrera Bello fired a stunning eagle at his final hole for a flawless six-under-par 64 to take a one shot lead after the opening round of the Hong Kong Open at Fanling on Thursday.

The Spaniard had already picked up four birdies when he lined up his approach shot at the par-four 10th, firing the ball a foot past the pin and watching as it spun back into the hole.

The 32-year-old launched his club into the air in celebration of a round that gave him the lead ahead of Frenchman Sebastien Gros, who was second after carding a five-birdie 65.

"That was really nice, I had perfect distance and I was surprised to see it go in," Cabrera Bello said.

"I have never really finished a round like that. I played really smart today, made very few mistakes, I hit pretty much every green, I putted really well, so it was a nice walk out there."

Ten players shared third place at the European Tour co-sanctioned event after shooting 66s.

U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett shot a 68, while his fellow Englishman Justin Rose, the defending champion and Rio Olympic gold medallist, bogeyed the last for a level par 70.

Another Englishman, former world number five Ian Poulter, also dropped a shot at the last to finish with a 68, fuming at the "mental errors" that cost him the three bogeys on his card.

"I'm rather annoyed, I'll probably have to go a padded room for about an hour and then I'll be alright," he said.

"Over the last few years, I've made way too many mental errors and I'm getting frustrated on the course, which doesn't help. I've got every right to be annoyed ... it's not like me and I need to rectify it."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)


Risking Beijing's ire, Vietnam begins dredging on South China Sea reef

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎47 minutes agoGo to full article
SYDNEY/HONG KONG: Vietnam has begun dredging work on a disputed reef in the South China Sea, satellite imagery shows, the latest move by the Communist state to bolster its claims in the strategic waterway.

Activity visible on Ladd Reef in the Spratly Islands could anger Hanoi's main South China Sea rival, Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the group and most of the resource-rich sea.

Still image from United States Navy video purportedly shows Chinese dredging vessels in the waters

Ladd Reef, on the south-western fringe of the Spratlys, is completely submerged at high tide but has a lighthouse and an outpost housing a small contingent of Vietnamese soldiers. The reef is also claimed by Taiwan.

In an image taken on Nov 30 and provided by U.S.-based satellite firm Planet Labs, several vessels can be seen in a newly dug channel between the lagoon and open sea.

While the purpose of the activity cannot be determined for certain, analysts say similar dredging work has been the precursor to more extensive construction on other reefs.

"We can see that, in this environment, Vietnam's strategic mistrust is total ... and they are rapidly improving their defences," said Trevor Hollingsbee, a retired naval intelligence analyst with Britain's defence ministry.

"They're doing everything they can to fix any vulnerabilities - and that outpost at Ladd Reef does look a vulnerability."

Reuters reported in August that Vietnam had fortified several islands with mobile rocket artillery launchers capable of striking China's holdings across the vital trade route.

Vietnam's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

The vessels at Ladd Reef cannot be identified in the images, but Vietnam would be extremely unlikely to allow another country to challenge its control of the reef.

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington's Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said it remained unclear how far the work on Ladd Reef would go. Rather than a reclamation and a base, it could be an attempt to simply boost access for supply ships and fishing boats.

Ladd could also theoretically play a role in helping to defend Vietnam's nearby holding of Spratly Island, where a runway is being improved and new hangars built, he said.

"Vietnam's knows it can't compete with China but it does want to improve its ability to keep an eye on them," Poling said.

Vietnam has long been fearful of renewed Chinese military action to drive it off its 21 holdings in the Spratlys - worries that have escalated amid Beijing's build-up and its anger at the recent Philippines legal action challenging its claims.

China occupied its first Spratlys possessions after a sea battle against Vietnam's then weak navy in 1988. Vietnam said 64 soldiers were killed as they tried to protect a flag on South Johnson reef - an incident still acutely felt in Hanoi.


The United States has repeatedly called on claimants to avoid actions that increase tensions in the South China Sea, through which some US$5 trillion in world trade is shipped every year.

Vietnam has emerged as China's main rival in the South China Sea, actively asserting sovereignty over both the Paracel and the Spratly groupings in their entirety and undergoing its own naval modernisation. Taiwan also claims both, but its position is historically aligned with Beijing's.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, run by the CSIS, says Vietnam has added about 120 acres (49 hectares) of land to its South China Sea holdings in recent years.

Regional military attaches say Vietnam's key holdings are well fortified, some with tunnels and bunkers, appearing geared to deterring easy invasion.

Vietnam's reclamation work remains modest by Chinese standards, however.

The United States, which has criticised China for militarising the waterway, estimates Beijing has added more than 3,200 acres (1,300 hectares) of land on seven features in the South China Sea over the past three years, building runways, ports, aircraft hangars and communications equipment.

Beijing says it is entitled to "limited and necessary self-defensive facilities" on its territory and has reacted angrily to "freedom of navigation" operations by U.S. warships near Chinese-held islands.


In another image provided by Planet Labs, reclamation work in the Chinese-held Paracel Island chain appears to have been damaged by recent storms.

China began dredging and land filling earlier this year at North Island, about 12 km (7 miles) north of Woody Island, where it has a large military base and this year stationed surface-to-air missiles.

Satellite images in February and March showed dredging vessels working to build a 700 metre (2,300 ft) sand bridge connecting low-lying North Island with neighbouring Middle Island.

But images taken after two powerful storms spun through the region in October show the narrow sand strip has been largely swept away.

The Paracels have been under Chinese control for more than 40 years after a battle towards the end of the Vietnam War, when Chinese forces removed the then-South Vietnamese navy. Analysts say they play a key part in protecting China's nuclear armed submarine fleet on Hainan Island, to the north.

China has not commented publicly on the work at North Island and the foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

(Additional reporting by Martin Petty and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Alex Richardson)


ThyssenKrupp secrets stolen in 'massive' cyber attack this year

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎52 minutes agoGo to full article
FRANKFURT: Technical trade secrets were stolen from ThyssenKrupp AG in a cyber attack earlier this year, the steelmaker said on Thursday.

"ThyssenKrupp has become the target of a massive cyber attack," the German company said in a statement.

The logo of German steel-to-elevators group ThyssenKrupp AG is pictured during the company's a

In attacks discovered in April and traced back to February, hackers stole project data from ThyssenKrupp's plant engineering division and from other areas yet to be determined, the company said.

(Reporting by Eric Auchard and Tom Kachenhoff; editing by Jason Neely)


Football: Asia backs 48-team World Cup, says FIFA boss

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: FIFA chief Gianni Infantino on Thursday (Dec 8) said Asian countries backed his plan to expand the World Cup to 48 teams - and added that up to three countries should be allowed to co-host the tournament.

Infantino, speaking after a three-day FIFA summit in Singapore, said Asian football associations "unanimously" supported a larger World Cup, with a "big majority" favouring 48 teams.

Infantino bored

Infantino's proposal for a 48-team World Cup in 2026, featuring 16 groups of three, will be submitted to the FIFA Council next month. A 40-team World Cup is also on the table.

"They are very supportive on expanding it. Everyone, unanimously," Infantino told reporters. "All of them were in favour of an increase and a big, big, big majority were in favour of the 48 teams with the 16 groups of three," he added.

The FIFA Council will vote in Zurich on Jan 9-10 whether to maintain the current World Cup format of 32 teams, or extend it to 40 or 48.

Under the 16-group format, every qualified team would play at least two games and the top two in each group would then go through to the last 32.

"I like 40 (and) I like 48 with the play-offs because it brings excitement before the group stage," Infantino said. "But the 16 groups of three means that every game is important. There is no dead rubber. Every game is meaningful, is important."

Asia currently has four designated World Cup berths, with a fifth available via a play-off. The Asian confederation is the world's second biggest with 46 full members.


Infantino also said he supported allowing up to three countries to co-host the World Cup, instead of expecting one bidder to provide a dozen stadiums.

Japan and South Korea co-hosted the tournament in 2002 but a World Cup spread across three countries would be unprecedented.

"If a country does need to have 12 stadiums of more than 50,000 spectators but only (has) four, then why shouldn't we allow three countries to join forces, each country four stadiums and have 12 stadiums?" Infantino said.

"That would then fit more in football development strategy ... and more countries could participate in the dream of hosting at least one part of the World Cup, so I'm very open to it."

He added that club football would not be affected by an expanded World Cup, and stressed that countries around the globe would reap the benefits of being able to participate.

"There's no downside for the clubs because the calendar is not impacted," he said.

"But there's an upside for football because it allows eight or 16 more teams and more countries and more regions in the world to participate in the competition, which is the World Cup."

Infantino also described his trip to Chapeco in Brazil as "very, very emotional" after he attended a massive funeral for the city's football team, which was all but wiped out in a plane crash.

Asked if there are plans to help rebuild the team, Chapocoense, Infantino said there will be "programmes to help them", without giving any details.


Lost and found: Japan tags dementia sufferers with barcodes

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
TOKYO: A Japanese city has introduced a novel way to keep track of senior citizens with dementia who are prone to getting lost - tagging their fingers and toes with scan-able barcodes.

A company in Iruma, north of Tokyo, developed tiny nail stickers, each of which carries a unique identity number to help concerned families find missing loved ones, according to the city's social welfare office.

Japan elderly woman

The adhesive QR-coded seals for nails - part of a free service launched this month and a first in Japan - measure just one centimetre in size.

"Being able to attach the seals on nails is a great advantage," a city worker told AFP.

"There are already ID stickers for clothes or shoes but dementia patients are not always wearing those items."

If an elderly person becomes disorientated, police will find the local city hall, its telephone number and the wearer's ID all embedded in the QR code.

The chips remain attached for an average of two weeks - even if they get wet - the official said, citing recent trials.

Japan is grappling with a rapidly ageing population with senior citizens expected to make up a whopping 40 per cent of the population around 2060.

Last month, Japanese police started offering noodle discounts at local restaurants to elderly citizens who agreed to hand in their driving licences.

The offer followed a series of deadly accidents involving elderly drivers - a growing problem in a country where 4.8 million people aged 75 or older hold a licence.


Japan's Abe may not be first sitting PM to visit Pearl Harbor - spokesman

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor this month may not be the first by a sitting Japanese premier but will be the first with a U.S. president, his top government spokesman said on Thursday, trying to clarify confusion over the trip.

Abe announced on Monday he would join President Barack Obama on a Dec. 26-27 visit to the site of the Japanese surprise attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War Two.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe gestures during a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina

A foreign ministry official said on Monday that Abe would be the first incumbent Japanese leader to visit.

But media this week said that back in September 1951 then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida stopped by Pearl Harbor en route from San Francisco.

When asked about this, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters the government could not confirm exactly where Yoshida visited.

"Then-prime minister Yoshida visited Honolulu in 1951 and at that time he honoured the war dead at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific," Suga said.

"The scope of Pearl Harbor is broad and whether Prime Minister Yoshida visited there or carried out some ceremony cannot be confirmed.

"At any rate, the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor was not built then and Prime Minister Abe will be the first incumbent prime minister to pray for the war dead there," Suga said, referring to a memorial for U.S. sailors and Marines killed in the attack.

"He will also be the first to do so with an American president."

Abe's visit to Pearl Harbor will come seven months after Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in the closing days of the war in 1945.

The two leaders hope to showcase the strength of the security alliance between the two former wartime foes.

(reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg; Editing by Malcolm Foster, Robert Birsel)


Solar Impulse founder sees electric passenger plane in 10 years

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
GENEVA: The co-founder of a project that saw a solar-powered aircraft complete the first fuel-free flight around the world this year expects electric passenger planes to operate in just under 10 years.

Bertrand Piccard, who along with fellow pilot Andre Borschberg founded Solar Impulse, also shrugged off concerns that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's appointment of a fossil fuel industry defender as his top environmental official could hamper global clean technology efforts.

wiss aviator Piccard speaks with guests before the arrival of the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft for its

Since completing their historic fuel-free flight in July, Piccard and Borschberg have been working on projects to show how the technologies used in their plane can be used in other applications.

Borschberg said they were especially interested in how the technology could be used to develop small electric planes with a flying time of about 1.5 hours. The two plan to announce their next project early next year, Borschberg said.

"In 9 years and 8 months, you'll have 50 people travelling short-haul on electric planes," Piccard, founder and chairman of Solar Impulse told an IATA airlines association briefing in Geneva.

"Why 9 years and eight months? Because since four months, I've been saying it will be '10 years'. It will happen," he added.

Piccard said that it didn't matter what people thought about climate change because clean technology was getting cheaper and would help to drive growth. He cited examples of insulation making homes cheaper to live in, of LED lights reducing lighting costs.

"Five years ago everything that was clean tech was more expensive - that is not the case today. If the aim is to be profitable and create jobs, then coal is out of business," he said.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)


Ancient tradition of long-neck women fades as Myanmar develops

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
High up on the Karen Hills, the existence of an ethnic tribe is in peril. Known for their "giraffe women", the Kayan in Myanmar's remote east are struggling to keep their traditions alive after prosperity and modernisation arrived in their community.

LOIKAW, Myanmar: The sun is setting above sleepy Pekon. Parts of its old city lie submerged under the blue water that has snaked miles from Inle Lake into Kayah State in the south. On its glassy surface is a picture-perfect reflection of the Shan Hills rippling gently against the golden sky.

(pp) Longneck 1

“Our mother was a dragon,” says a man in a grey jumper. His soft voice has a hint of a British accent. "Some people say that to remember our dragon mother, they have the same sort of neck."

Pascal Khoo Thwe is referring to an ancient legend about the women of Kayan, who are known for their giraffe-like neck that looks unnaturally stretched in the clasp of brass rings. Their striking appearance has not only fascinated tourists from the world over but also made the Kayan one of the most recognisable ethnic groups in Southeast Asia.

(pp) Longneck 2

While the legends are centuries old, the practice faces an uncertain future. Some women have decided to abandon it, choosing a more modern style. And some that continue to wear the rings do so not because of any dedication to the tradition, but for pragmatic, commercial reasons instead: Big-spending tourists come to the area to take pictures of long-necked women.

Pascal is no stranger to the unusual accessories. A Kayan himself, he grew up seeing his grandmother with brass coils gleaming around her neck. “The rings were fourteen inches high and rose to her head as though they were supporting a pagoda stupa,” wrote the 49-year-old in his award-winning autobiography From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey.

The neck-rings have been part of an ancient tradition among female members of Kayan Lahwi, a sub-tribe of the Kayan ethnic group native to Kayah State. They were expensive fashion items and commonly reserved for favourite daughters in each household. Today, they are a rarity.

“Only a small handful of the women still wear them, in some parts due to economic pressure. So the number will be reduced considerably,” Pascal said.

He estimates that there are now fewer than a hundred long-neck women across the whole of Myanmar, a decline from a few decades ago when there were 300 to 400 in Shan and Kayah states alone.

(pp) Longneck 3

The gradual disappearance of the centuries-old custom is obvious in Pan Pet, a remote Kayan native village of more than 1,000 residents. For decades, armed conflicts and a heavy military presence kept it shut from the outside world, making it one of the least visited areas in the country. It was not until 2012 that Pan Pet opened its door to visitors and, seemingly, new social values.

“Most kids aren’t wearing them nowadays because of the modern culture.” Old Mu Lone makes a remark about the fading culture in the tribe, her long neck glimmering in the sun.

“In my time, women weren’t beautiful without neck-rings. But now, they think they look beautiful without them,” said the 88-year-old.


Many myths and legends surround the ancient tradition. Some people say the rings are used to imprison women. Others claim they are worn as self-protection from tiger bites. More common theories point towards beauty and wealth.

“People have an idea that having a long neck is beautiful and also to show off their wealth. The longer the neck, the more men like them,” Pascal said.

(pp) Longneck 4

That seems to be no longer the case. In Pan Pet, as the community has modernised, many Kayan females have opted for a more contemporary style, with t-shirts, blouses and trousers taking the place of traditional dress, and more discreet jewellery replacing the neck rings.

The issue for many young women is two-fold: Firstly, the influence of outside cultures is resulting in a rethink of what constitutes beauty. Perhaps more important, though, is that many women are not willing to put up with the discomfort of wearing the neck rings.

A full set comprises three spiral brass rings – one on the collarbones, another on the neck and the last one wrapped around the bottom piece. Together, they weigh about 10 kilogrammes.

“It was painful,” said 23-year-old Muu Pley. At the age of seven, she was fitted with shiny neck-rings. Thirteen years later, she took them off, partly for fear that her neck would grow too long.

"I felt so free and so light.”

(pp) Longneck 5

For many old Kayan women though, their elegance is well worth the pain.

“The rings choked me and felt too tight at first. Food would get stuck when I tried to swallow. I had to stretch my neck to eat. But I got used to it,” Mu Lone said with a smile.

She was fitted with the rings when she was nine, almost eight decades ago. With help from one of the elders, straight pieces of brass were expertly coiled around her neck, one by one. The whole process took hours to complete.


Despite the pressures, the tradition lives on. A limited number of Kayan females continue to wear the neck-rings, for various reasons. Muu Pley is one of them.

Less than a year ago, the mother-of-two put the rings back on her neck, mainly because of a tourism boom in the village. Long-necked women have never been more popular among visitors and their incomes are growing.

(pp) Longneck 6

Dust filled the air as a busload of tourists drove past her small souvenir shop. Its foreign passengers waved at the small woman and other villagers nearby. They had snapped a few photographs of her when the long-necked woman was cradling a baby in her arms. Many of them then bought bracelets, scarves and other trinkets after securing their perfect shot.

"I’ll continue wearing the neck-rings,” Muu Pley said softly.



While some women still wear the rings, there are concerns that the tradition could be under threat, especially if the main driving force is commercial gain.

Pascal is worried this could mean that the deep foundations that have sustained the practice will start to erode: “It seems to keep the culture, but it doesn’t keep the spirit of the tradition. It’s just a kind of physical appearance.”


Attempts are being made to protect the practice. Pascal (below) is the national consultant for the International Trade Centre (ITC) – a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation – devoting his time to promote trade opportunities through sustainable development in Kayah State.


(pp) Longneck 8

Part of the plan is to promote Kayan traditions in Pan Pet and use them to generate income from tourism for the villagers, while preserving their fading culture. The process is in its early stages. Villagers are being trained to operate tours around their community and a centralised accounting system is being put in place to manage incomes from tourism. 

"We’re trying to find ways to sustain tourism so that it is inclusive, everyone can take part in it," Pascal said.

(pp) Longneck 7

But the clock is ticking and the community is trying to work out how it can preserve the tradition of the long-neck women – if, indeed, it actually wants to.

In Pan Pet, the sun has already gone down and the village is bidding farewell to the last tour bus of the day. A group of small children has gathered around a campfire to keep themselves warm.

Nearby, a young girl is loitering in the street, her neck-rings rattling softly. Nobody knows how long she will keep them on. But for the likes of Mu Lone, the rings will rest on their necks for life.

“I’ll wear them until I die and have them buried with me,” the old woman says.

Follow Pichayada Promchertchoo on Twitter @PichayadaCNA 


Asia markets build on global rally with ECB in focus

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
HONG KONG: A global stocks rally extended into Asia on Thursday (Dec 8), with investors betting the European Central Bank will prolong its stimulus programme, while the positive mood helped lift riskier currencies.

With the economic outlook in Europe still looking fragile and political uncertainty gripping world markets, analysts expect the ECB will wind up its latest policy meeting with a pledge to continue its cash-pumping measures for another six months.

Shenzhen trading stock prices

The speculation has helped refresh a waning global assets rally that began after Donald Trump's US election win, which traders predict will usher in a time of huge spending, tax cutting and deregulation.

Such positive sentiment has propelled the Dow on Wall Street to successive records - and put it on course to hit 20,000 for the first time - while the S&P 500 also clocked up an all-time high Wednesday.

Hong Kong added 0.3 per cent and Tokyo ended 1.5 per cent up.

Seoul surged two per cent, while Sydney, Taipei and Manila piled on more than one per cent.

However, Shanghai dipped 0.2 per cent despite Chinese trade data showing a forecast-beating jump in imports and exports that indicate the world's number two economy continues to stabilise.

"The market is optimistic that the ECB will extend its quantitative easing programme at current levels for a further six months," Sharon Zollner, a senior economist in Auckland at ANZ Bank New Zealand, told Bloomberg News.

However, she also said: "There is a real risk of unpleasantness in European bond, equity and currency markets if (ECB head Mario) Draghi doesn't at least meet expectations."


Japanese traders brushed off data showing the world's number three economy grew slower than initially thought, with the government offering a glimmer of hope by revising up its forecasts for the first and second quarter of 2017.

On currency markets the dollar dipped against most of its peers, although expectations the Federal Reserve will ramp up interest rates next week are keeping it buoyant.

The greenback retreated more than one per cent against the New Zealand dollar after an upbeat economic reading by the country's central bank chief, who also said he did not foresee any fresh interest rate cuts.

Most other regional currencies - which have been hammered by the dollar in recent weeks - also performed well. The Australian dollar added 0.5 per cent, South Korea's won gained 0.9 per cent and the Indonesian rupiah was 0.3 per cent higher.

Oil prices were slightly lower, extending recent losses as investors fret over OPEC's ability to implement an output cut agreed last week.

Both main contracts sank Wednesday as a drop in US stockpiles was overshadowed by worries about implementation of the deal with Russia, which sent prices rocketing about 15 per cent.

"Market sentiment seems to have reversed as participants question how meaningful the deal is and whether producers will actually stick to proposed cuts," said Alex Furber, a sales trader with CMC Markets.

In early European trade London was flat while Frankfurt gained 0.5 per cent and Paris put on 0.3 per cent.

- Key figures around 0800 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.5 per cent at 18,765.47 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.3 per cent at 22,861.84 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 per cent at 3,215.37 (close)

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 6,904.71

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.0770 from US$1.0755 on Wednesday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at ¥113.60 from ¥113.74

Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.2651 from US$1.2623

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN one cent at US$49.76 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN five cents at US$52.95 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 1.6 per cent at 19,549.62 (close)


Russian foreign minister says no plans to meet with one-time Trump adviser - Ifax

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
MOSCOW: Russia's foreign ministry has no plans to meet with Carter Page who was previously described as a foreign-policy adviser to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.

"As things stand this morning, there are no plans in the foreign ministry to hold a meeting with him," Interfax quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.

RIA news agency reported earlier on Thursday that Page had arrived in Moscow to meet with businessmen and politicians.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; writing by Maria Kiselyova; editing by Jack Stubbs)


Philippines' Duterte says no plot to unseat vice president

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday vowed to retain the country's vice president until her term ends, just days after she resigned from the cabinet, complaining of a "plot to steal" her position.

Vice President Leni Robredo resigned from the cabinet on Monday, saying she would lead the opposition and challenge Duterte's policies, such as his deadly war on drugs and moves to reinstate the death penalty.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during the change of command for the new Armed Forces c

"I will assure Leni and the rest of the Bicol region that you will have her until the very end of this term," Duterte told reporters after a ceremony to break ground for an airport in the central region of Bicol.

"And there is no such thing as removing a vice president."

Robredo was a one-term congresswoman from Naga City, located in Bicol.

In earlier speeches, Duterte has accused the opposition of using street protests against the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a heroes' cemetery as a pretext to force him out of office and make way for Robredo.

Robredo was elected vice president in May in a separate contest and was not Duterte's running mate. She has warned of a plot taking shape to remove her from the number two post after she was barred from attending regular cabinet meetings.

The 52 year-old social activist and human rights lawyer won by a narrow margin over former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, whose father was overthrown in a 1986 revolt. He has filed an election protest.

Robredo did not give details of the alleged plot to "steal" the vice presidency, but said it was telling that Marcos had accompanied Duterte on an official visit to China in October.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


Nearly 150 patients evacuated from east Aleppo - ICRC

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
GENEVA: Nearly 150 civilians, most disabled or in need of urgent medical care, were evacuated overnight from a hospital in Aleppo's Old City, the first major evacuation from the eastern sector, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.

They had been trapped there for days by nearby fighting and as the front line moved closer. Eleven patients had died from lack of medication or been killed in crossfire before ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams could reach them, it said.

An injured woman walks at a site hit by an airstrike in the rebel-held al-Ansari neighbourhood of A

The head of the ICRC delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser, who is in the city, said in a statement on the evacuees: "Many of them cannot move and need special attention and care."

Of the evacuated disabled, mental health patients and wounded from Dar Al-Safaa hospital in the Old City late on Wednesday, 118 patients were taken to three hospitals in the government-controlled west of Aleppo.

Trauma and emergency cases were taken to Al-Razi surgical hospital and University Hospital, ICRC spokeswoman Krista Armstrong told Reuters, and Ibn Khaldoun hospital took the mental health and elderly patients, she said.

Thirty other men, women and children were taken to shelters, also in the west of the city, the ICRC statement said.

As heavy fighting continues in eastern Aleppo, the humanitarian situation is "known to be catastrophic", the ICRC said. The agency called on all warring sides to allow a humanitarian pause to be able to deliver aid supplies in the besieged sector which has been inaccessible since April.

The Syrian army has gained control of all parts of the Old City, a war monitoring group said on Wednesday, part of an advance which has seen insurgents lose about two thirds of their main urban stronghold over the past two weeks.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)


Iheanacho boosted by encouragement from suspended Aguero

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 hour agoGo to full article
REUTERS: Sergio Aguero's words of encouragement are ringing in Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho's ears as the 20-year-old striker prepares to fill the massive boots of the suspended Argentina international.

Aguero was shown a straight red card in the stoppage time of City's 3-1 Premier League defeat by Chelsea on Saturday for a two-footed lunge on David Luiz and was later handed a four-batch domestic ban for violent conduct.

Manchester City's Kelechi Iheanacho reacts after a missed chance

"I have a responsibility to be the striker for the team, replacing Sergio when he is not around," Iheanacho, who scored the equaliser in Tuesday's 1-1 Champions League draw against Celtic, told the club website (

"Before we played Celtic, (Aguero said) that it's up to me now to fill that gap, to carry the team along."

"He's telling me I should do very well and they are words of encouragement from him. So, I'm going to do it."

The Nigerian has played nine Premier League games this season, scoring three goals and supplying as many assists.

"I have to prove myself, give my best and work hard for the team and make sure we get the wins we need," he added.

Man City, fourth in the league with 30 points, travel to 16th placed Leicester City on Saturday.

(Reporting by Debanjan Bose in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)


Assad confident of Aleppo victory, ignores ceasefire appeals

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
DAMASCUS: President Bashar al-Assad said victory in Aleppo would be a "huge step" towards ending Syria's five-year civil war, ignoring pleas for a truce as rebels in the city lose more ground.

In a blistering three-week offensive, Syrian government forces have seized about 80 percent of east Aleppo, a stronghold for rebel groups since 2012, with increasingly cornered opposition factions calling for an "immediate five-day humanitarian ceasefire".

Syrian residents fleeing the violence in the eastern rebel-held parts of Aleppo evacuate from their(Photo:AFP)

The United States, Britain and France have also called for a truce, warning of a "humanitarian catastrophe".

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov were set to meet Thursday in Germany's Hamburg after talks the previous day failed to achieve a breakthrough on efforts to halt the fighting in the devastated city.

Asked at the start of the session about Russia's position on a ceasefire, Lavrov said: "I am in agreement, and I confirm support for the American proposal of December 2", referring to a meeting with Kerry in Rome at which they were believed to have agreed on a plan to evacuate civilians and rebels from east Aleppo and to work towards a new ceasefire.

Tens of thousands of children in Aleppo are "sitting targets" in the ongoing fighting, according to Save the Children Syria Director Sonia Khush.

"It defies belief that after nearly six years of suffering through this war, the international community is still willing to stand by as civilians are bombed with seeming impunity," she added.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 19 civilians were killed in the regime bombardment of east Aleppo on Wednesday.

In an interview with Syrian daily Al-Watan, published on Thursday, Assad said defeating the beleaguered rebels in Aleppo "will be a win for us, but let's be realistic - it won't mean the end of the war in Syria".

"But it will be a huge step towards this end."

When asked about the possibility of a truce in Aleppo, Assad said, "it's practically non-existent, of course".

Assad said a rebel loss in Aleppo "will mean the transformation of the course of the war across Syria" and would leave opposition factions and their backers with "no cards left to play".

Aleppo was once known as the beating heart of culture and commerce in Syria, but the outbreak of fighting there four years ago left it divided between rebels in the east and government forces in the west.

In his wide-ranging interview, Assad pledged to fight rebels even beyond Aleppo, because "the war in Syria will not end until after the complete elimination of terrorism".

"Terrorists are present elsewhere - even if we finish with Aleppo, we will continue our war against them," he said.


Assad touted local agreements between his government and rebel groups as the best way to resolve Syria's complex conflict.

Such deals have seen opposition fighters quit a string of towns around Damascus in recent months, often in exchange for an end to regime bombardment.

"It is the only available solution, in parallel with striking the terrorists. Its success has been proven over the past two to three years, and is now speeding up," Assad told Al-Watan.

He said these agreements had protected Syrian civilians and infrastructure and allowed former rebels to "return to the bosom of the state. What more could we want?"

Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with widespread demonstrations but has since turned into a brutal multi-front war drawing in world powers.

Many Western countries cut ties with Damascus in 2011 and have imposed crippling economic sanctions, but Assad said he remained open to better relations with them.

"We really do want ties with every country in the world, including the West, despite our previous knowledge of their hypocrisy."


Ghana opposition party calls on Mahama to concede election defeat

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
ACCRA: Ghana's main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) said on Thursday its tabulation of results from an election showed it held a strong lead and called on President John Mahama to concede defeat.

Mahama's campaign said the NPP's comments on Wednesday's election were "treasonable" and an irresponsible act that could threaten peace in the West African country.

Ghanaian presidential candidate Akufo-Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party talks next to his

(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Louise Ireland)


Japanese robotics startup ZMP to delay Tokyo listing

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
TOKYO: Japanese robotics startup ZMP Inc will delay its listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, originally set for Dec. 19, the company said on Thursday, after it found client information had leaked on to the Internet.

The leaked information has already been deleted and the company has found no new leaks, it said in a news release.

The company logo of ZMP Inc. is seen on the body of a Robot Taxi Inc.'s Robot taxi, a self-dri

ZMP had received approval for an initial public offering worth up to US$82 million as it seeks funds to speed development of autonomous driving technology.

(Reporting by Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


US, UK spies targeted airline passengers' mobiles: Report

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
PARIS: American and British spy agencies have tried to intercept data from passengers' mobile phones on commercial airlines including Air France, French media has reported, citing documents from US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The French flag-carrier was an early target of the US National Security Agency and its British counterpart GCHQ as it was seen as a terrorist target and it carried out tests in 2007 on allowing the use of mobile phones on its aircraft.

American and British spy agencies have tried to intercept data from passengers' mobile phones(Photo:AFP)

"The use of mobile phones with internet connections in the sky gave rise to the creation of specific programs at the NSA and GCHQ," said Le Monde, which has access to Snowden's archive in partnership with news website The Intercept.

While it is not normally possible to make phone calls on planes, some carriers allow passengers to connect to a cabin wifi, allowing them to use internet-based functions on their handsets.

In 2012, at least 27 airlines allowed passengers to use mobile phones on board, including British Airways, Aeroflot, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

But Air France was "such a symbol of the surveillance of communications on board airlines that the British spy agency used a drawing of one of their planes to illustrate how the interception worked."

Asked about the British and American surveillance claims, Air France told Le Monde: "We are visibly not the only ones to have been targeted and we know absolutely nothing about these practices."

According to the report, internal documents from the two agencies describe the results of the "impressive" programmes - codenamed "Thieving Magpie" and "Homing Pigeon" - which allowed data to be collected "almost in real time".

In order to spy on a telephone, all that was needed was that the aircraft be cruising at an altitude above 10,000 feet, the report said.

Secret aerial stations on the ground could intercept the signal as it transited through a satellite.

"The simple fact that the telephone was switched on was enough to give away its position, the interception could then be cross-referenced with the list of known passengers on the flight, the flight number, and the airline code to determine the name of the smartphone user," the report said.

The mobile phone's function could also be disrupted, it said, forcing the user to input their access codes and thereby allowing the British spy agency to intercept the information.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, leaked thousands of classified documents to the press in 2013 which revealed the vast scope of US surveillance of private data that was put in place after the 9/11 attacks.

After fleeing his home in Hawaii, he now lives in exile in Russia where he has sought asylum.

Should he ever return to the United States, Snowden would be tried for espionage and other charges carrying up to 30 years in prison.


From refugee to poetry: Meet Lang Leav, literature’s online sensation

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: Reality television star Khloe Kardashian once posted one of the poet's works on Instagram. Singaporean satirist Mr Brown recently did a tongue-in-cheek Facebook video of him reading Singlish versions of her poems. And whenever she goes on one of her book tours, chances are there will be long, snaking queues, fans camping overnight and even the occasional armed escort.

Welcome to the world of Lang Leav, poet and social media star.

Lang Leav book tour

Lang Leav

(Photo: Lang Leav)

The 30-something Australian, who is back in Singapore on a three-day tour beginning Friday (Dec 9), is considered a modern-day literary phenomenon.

Not only does she have four bestselling poetry books under her belt, Leav - pronounced “lee-yav” - is also a bonafide Internet celebrity. Around 1.2 million fans regularly keep tabs on her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, where she posts her short, lyrical pieces about love.

“Growing up, I fell in love with classic poets such as Sara Teasdale and Robert Frost. As far as writing poetry, ever since I could pick up a pencil, I wrote something. The written word has always been my first love,” said Leav, in an email interview with Channel NewsAsia.




It’s been quite the journey for the poet, who was born in a Thai refugee camp, after her Cambodian parents fled from the terrors of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

“My mother once told me a story that is etched in my memory. She, along with my father and two brothers were on the run from the Khmer Rouge. Exhausted, they found a place to rest for a few hours. She woke up to find she had been sleeping in cow dung. When they finally crossed the border into Thailand, my father swapped what little gold they had for candy,” she said.

Lang Leav refugee photo

Lang Leav's family at the Thai refugee camp. (Photo: Lang Leav)

Leav’s family moved to Australia when she was 11 months old. But it wasn’t without its challenges — her mother worked as a seamstress, under unfair conditions.

“They would falsely accuse my mother of stealing garments in order to withhold the meagre payment from her. If she didn’t get paid, we would go hungry. It was criminal. I believe these early experiences have shaped me and made me stronger as a result. One day, I would love to write my mother’s story,” she said.

Leav has yet to delve into her family’s history, but she would slowly carve a niche for herself in the creative scene, in the fields of visual art and fashion, with her label Akina.


Creative writing eventually beckoned - and she would turn to Tumblr, where she began building up solid online following thanks to her poetry posts. Eventually, she decided to self-publish her first book, Love & Misadventure, in 2013. In the first couple of months, 10,000 copies were snatched up.

"The success took me by surprise and I attracted the attention of literary agents in New York,” said Leav. She signed with Writers House, whose stable includes the likes of Ken Follett and Stephenie Meyer from the Twilight series. Eventually, she landed a publishing deal.

Lang Leav fan

A very happy fan at a recent book signing session in Malaysia. (Photo: Lang Leav's Facebook page)

Extremely popular books (a combined 78,000 copies sold to date in Singapore alone), coupled with an enthusiastic online following has meant that wherever she goes, it’s bound to get interesting.  

“When I’m on tour, I’m always accompanied by several minders and, in some parts of Asia, armed guards, too,” said Leav, who added that she receives hundreds of messages, letters, gifts and artwork from her devoted followers.

“The nicest thing (that has happened) was in the Philippines, where I had fans camping overnight. In fact, my signings there had to have a limit of 500 people as bookstores and shopping centres were becoming overwhelmed.”


And many of these fans are of a younger generation, which suits her just fine. “I like to take the complex themes of love and loss, and explore them in a way that is relatable to a young audience.”

She pointed out how, when Love & Misadventure was released in the United States, it attracted new readers. “The way I look upon it, if someone is attracted to the poetry section because of my books, and in the process, discover other poets, I think that’s a wonderful thing.”

Lang Leav books

Four books and counting... (Photo: Lang Leav's Facebook page)

Leav isn’t resting on her laurels. She is currently working on her fifth poetry collection, which is slated for next year, and her novel, Sad Girls, is also slated for release that same year. Also in the works are possible tours to the Philippines, Indonesia, India, the US and Canada.

But even with what’s shaping up to be a busy 2017, it seems she still has enough energy for one more. “I’m working on a new, secret project, which has me jumping out of bed at 5am in the morning,” she teased. “Creatively, I am in a wonderful place.”


China exports snap losing streak on weaker yuan

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
BEIJING: Chinese exports beat expectations in November, a positive sign for the global economy, but analysts warned on Thursday (Dec 8) of an uncertain outlook as US President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office, with Beijing's trade policy in his sights.

The advance broke a seven-month losing streak and marks a sharp turnaround from the previous month helped by a plunging yuan, which made the country's goods cheaper for overseas buyers.

A cargo ship waits to be loaded with shipping containers at a port in Qingdao

Imports also beat forecasts, suggesting the world's number two economy continues to stabilise after years of slowing growth and providing some welcome news for the country's leaders.

Exports increased 0.1 per cent year-on-year to US$196.8 billion, beating a Bloomberg News survey of economists predicting a median five per cent drop.

Rising commodity prices also lifted imports 6.7 per cent to US$152.2 billion, compared with expectations of a 1.9 per cent fall. The trade surplus slipped to US$44.6 billion in the month.

China is the world's biggest trader in goods, and its performance affects partners from Australia to Zambia, which have been battered as its expansion has slowed to levels not seen in a quarter of a century.

However, it has suffered years of slowing growth and last year expanded at its weakest rate in a quarter of a century.

The readings were a massive improvement on the previous month, when exports dived 7.3 per cent and imports fell 1.4 per cent.

Stable overseas demand and a weaker Chinese currency helped, with the yuan sliding against the dollar to eight-year lows in recent weeks.

But analysts with ANZ warned that the "upside surprise" in exports reflected a delay in shipments from the previous two months.

"Despite today's positive surprise, the medium-term outlook for Chinese trade remains challenging," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a note.


A broadly sluggish outlook for global growth will weigh on exports, he said, while the cooling of China's red-hot property market will suppress demand for imported commodities.

China also faces possible roadbumps as Trump - who has blasted Beijing as a protectionist and has threatened to tear up global trade deals - takes office on January 20.

The billionaire-businessman-turned-politician has promised to declare China a currency manipulator and threatened to slap 45 per cent punitive tariffs on imports from the country to protect jobs.

As a warm up, he fired off two tweets Sunday blasting the country's policies.

"Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the US doesn't tax them)," he demanded. "I don't think so!"

China, which tightly controls the yuan's movement, has in recent months steadily weakened the rate around which the currency is allowed to trade.

Last month it put it beyond 6.9 to the dollar for the first time in more than eight years as the greenback soars on expectations Trump's plans for big spending and tax cuts could force the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates.

Beijing is struggling to prop up the yuan as capital flows out of China's flagging economy in search of better investments in the United States.

To combat the outflows, authorities indicated this week they are looking at relaxing restrictions on foreign investment in sectors including automotive electronics, mining, agricultural and chemical production and some service industries.

China's foreign exchange reserves plunged US$69 billion to a five-year low in November, according to data on Wednesday, as the central People's Bank of China tried to support the yuan.

Earlier Customs released figures in yuan terms that showed exports expanding 5.9 per cent on-year, and imports rising 13.0 per cent.


Former Cabinet Minister Lim Chee Onn Appointed Pro-Chancellor of SMU

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
SINGAPORE: The Singapore Management University (SMU) announced on Thursday (Dec 8) that former Cabinet Minister Lim Chee Onn has been appointed Pro-Chancellor of the university.

This took effect on Nov 18 and the appointment will be for a term of three years.

Lim Chee Onn

Together with the Chancellor, Mr J Y Pillay, Mr Lim will share the role of presiding over all major formal university ceremonies as well as officiate at the university’s convocation and commencement ceremonies.

Mr Lim started his career in the civil service and was elected Member of Parliament from 1977 to 1992. He was a Minister at the Prime Minister's Office from 1980 to 1983, and served as NTUC's secretary-general from 1979 to 1983. 

He is currently the senior international adviser to the Ascendas-Singbridge Group and his other appointments include being a board member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, chair of the Singapore-Suzhou Township Development, an alternate member in the Council of Presidential Advisers and honorary chairman of the National Heritage Board.

President of SMU, Professor Armoud De Meyer, said the university is honoured to have a former Cabinet Minister and an influential advisor to many enterprises and partnerships.

"He brings with him visionary leadership and a wealth of knowledge and experiences from both the private and public sectors that will help in our efforts to develop SMU as a great and iconic global-city university in Asia," said Prof De Meyer. 


EU unblocks visa-free travel for Ukraine, Georgia

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
BRUSSELS: The European Union will soon let Ukrainians and Georgians visit the bloc without needing a visa after officials said a deal had been struck on Thursday to end an internal EU dispute that had been holding up the promised measures.

Late-night talks involving EU member states and the European Parliament had reached a compromise on the terms of a mechanism that can be used to suspend the visa-free schemes in emergencies.

The two former Soviet republics are seeking to move further away from their former master Moscow and closer to the West but have grown frustrated that the EU was failing to deliver. After last year's migration crisis, EU governments had grown nervous of popular reaction against a move to make visits easier for 45 million Ukrainians, as well as 5 million Georgians.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)


Basketball: James's Cavs silence Knicks, Warriors clobber Clippers

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
LOS ANGELES: LeBron James let his game do the talking on Wednesday (Dec 7) as his NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers humbled the New York Knicks 126-94 at Madison Square Garden.

While the Cavs were dismantling the Knicks, Western Conference powerhouse Golden State were producing another dominant win of their own, routing the Clippers 115-98 in Los Angeles.

James drives to the basket

The Warriors launched a five-game road trip in emphatic style against the third-ranked team in the West.

Cleveland's trip to New York was the Cavaliers' first since last month's comments by Phil Jackson in which the Knicks president described James's business associates as a "posse" in an interview with ESPN.

James found the term offensive, but insisted it didn't give him extra motivation.

"I'm motivated for the love of the game," he said. "I'm motivated by the process. I'm motivated knowing my kids are watching me tonight on national television.

"So I don't need more," James said, adding that he had no plans to talk to Jackson about the matter while in New York.

His performance on the floor, however, spoke volumes. He scored 25 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds.

Kyrie Irving scored 20 points and dished out six assists. Tristan Thompson pulled down a season-high 20 rebounds and Kevin Love had 16 points for the Cavaliers, who notched their sixth straight win at Madison Square Garden and their eight win in a row over the Knicks.

Cleveland led all the way and were never really threatened.

"We were getting stops and we were able to get out in transition," said Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, whose efforts to get his team back to step up their defensive efforts have paid off with two straight victories after a rare three-game slump.

While offense "comes easy" Lue said, defensive effort remains key in the quest for a championship.

"When it comes easy we tend to get caught up in the just back-and-forth instead of getting stops and taking on that tough grind-it-out game," Lue said. "When you've got guys like Kyrie, Bron and Kevin who can score so easy, sometimes that just (becomes), 'Oh, you scored, but we know we can score the basketball.'

"So now we've got to get back to playing Cavaliers basketball on the defensive end."


Defense was also key in Los Angeles, where the Warriors raced to a 37-19 first-quarter lead -- holding the Clippers to just 33 percent shooting in the opening period.

"I really never thought that we got our spirit back after the beginning," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.

Klay Thompson scored 24 points and Draymond Green contributed 22 as the Warriors beat the Clippers for the seventh straight time.

Stephen Curry chipped in 19 points and six assists. He missed all eight of his three-point attempts but he came up with seven steals to help keep the Clippers out of synch.

Kevin Durant added 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Warriors, who held Clippers forward Blake Griffin to just 12 points on five-of-20 shooting.

Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 21 points while point guard Chris Paul notched 15 points with six rebounds and five assists.

Up 62-49 at halftime, Golden State had stretched their lead to 91-75 going into the fourth. They out-scored the Clippers 58-38 in the paint and handed out more than twice as many assists.

"When we don't turn the ball over and we play great defense we can move the ball, create more possessions," Curry said. "Obviously to keep a team like that under 100 -- that's pretty special."

While the Clippers were getting beaten up at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers were taking a pounding in Houston, falling 134-95 to the Rockets.

Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 26 points and James Harden added 25 and eight assists as the Rockets blew out the Los Angeles Lakers 134-95.

The Rockets drained 15 three-pointers, extending their NBA-record streak of games with at least 10 treys to 21.


Thailand to resume peace talks with Muslim separatists in Malaysia

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
BANGKOK: Thailand on Thursday said peace talks with Muslim separatists would resume in Malaysia next week after a round in September ended without progress.

Separatists waging a decades-old insurgency in the Muslim-majority southern Thai provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat have stepped up attacks since 2004 with more than 6,500 people killed, according to an independent monitoring group.

A peace effort began in 2013 under a civilian government and was picked up again by a military government set up after a 2014 coup.

Talks on Sept. 2 between the Thai government and separatists in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, ended with no breakthrough. Mostly Muslim Malaysia has been trying to nudge the process forward.

"Next week a small team will travel to Malaysia to talk to groups who have different opinions in order to discuss 'safety zones'," General Aksara Kerdpol, the Thai government's lead negotiator, told Reuters.

"Our goals is to minimize losses and violence. Talks right now are at the trust-building stage and these safety zones are one way of building this trust," he said.

The safety zones would be an area where insurgency-related fighting is off-limits, according to the Thai military, but details about the zones have not been made clear.

Six people were shot dead on Wednesday and Thursday in predominantly Buddhist Thailand's far south, though four of the deaths were thought to have been linked to personal disputes, the Thai military's Internal Security Operations Command said.

A string of bombings killed four Thais and wounded dozens of people, including foreigners, in tourist towns in August, raising fears that insurgent violence was spilling out of the far south.

No group claimed the bombings and the government gave mixed signals as to whether the Muslim rebels were believed to have been responsible, though police did link the coordinated attacks to the insurgents.

The government of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra responded to the flare up in southern violence in 2004 with force and imposed emergency laws that give broad powers to security forces.

Muslims in the far south complain of decades of neglect by the Bangkok-based establishment and bureaucracy.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)


Basketball: Howard shines as Hawks halt skid

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
LOS ANGELES: Dwight Howard scored 23 points and pulled down 17 rebounds to help the Atlanta Hawks end their seven-game NBA losing streak with a 103-95 victory over the Miami Heat.

"It was good to get the monkey off our backs, but we've got to keep working," said Howard, who connected on nine of 11 shots from the floor and made five of six from the free-throw line.

Dwight Howard of the Atlanta Hawks grabs a rebound against Willie Reed of the Miami Heat at Philips(Photo:AFP)

Seven of his rebounds came on the offensive glass, and he added four assists and two blocked shots for good measure.

Defensively, Howard helped limit Miami's Hassan Whiteside to just eight points - 10 fewer than his season average.

The Hawks also got 21 points and nine rebounds from forward Paul Millsap and 17 points and seven assists from Dennis Schroder.

Thabo Sefolosha contributed 10 points, five rebounds and five assists.

The victory stopped the rot, at least temporarily, for a team that started strong this season but had lost 10 of their last 11 games.

"It's not fun," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "This group has a lot of pride and you need to win a game at some point. I still feel like we can get better."

Howard, a three-time defensive player of the year who was acquired in the offseason by his hometown team, said the Hawks have plenty of time to recover their losses this season.

"Every team has that bump in the road. I'd rather have that bump now than later in the season. Now we've got a chance to get some good wins."


Ericsson says Swedish staff cuts running ahead of plan

‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
STOCKHOLM: Struggling telecom equipment maker Ericsson said on Thursday sweeping staff cuts in its Nordic home market were running ahead of plan, resulting in higher restructuring costs this year than previously forecast.

The company said in October it was cutting about a fifth of its Swedish workforce and hundreds of consultants as it grappled with shrinking markets and competition from China's Huawei and Finland's Nokia .

A general view of an office of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson is seen in Lund

There has been some speculation among analysts and staff at Ericsson about whether the company might need to implement further cost savings to deal with tough market conditions.

The company said on Thursday it expected restructuring costs this year of 5.5-6.5 billion Swedish crowns (US$606-717 million), higher than a previous estimate of 4-5 billion.

"Restructuring charges for 2017 are expected to somewhat decrease as a consequence of faster implementation of the Swedish reduction activities," the company said.

A precise estimate will be announced in January.

The company said as part of its October plan to shed 3,000 jobs in production, research and development and sales in Sweden and 900 consultancy positions, 1,600 employees had volunteered to leave and that no further forced staff reductions in the country were planned.

Founded in 1876 as a maker of telegraph equipment, Ericsson is one of Sweden's biggest employers with a global staff of 115,000 in 180 countries.

It said in July it would step up efficiency measures, having already announced a 9 billion Swedish crown (US$1.1 billion) cost-cutting program in 2014.

(US$1 = 9.0711 Swedish crowns)

(Reporting by Mia Shanley; editing by Alistair Scrutton/Keith Weir)


South Korea to slap Volkswagen with record fine, pursue execs over emissions ads

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎7:00:12 AMGo to full article
SEOUL: South Korea said it will file criminal complaints against five former and current executives at Volkswagen AG's South Korean unit and fine the company a record 37.3 billion won (US$31.87 million) for false advertising on vehicle emissions.

The fine, a record for false advertising in the Asian country, indicates South Korean authorities are in no mood to soften their tough line on the German carmaker's emissions-test cheating, having already suspended most of its sales in the country since August.

Volkswagen logo is pictured at the newly opened Volkswagen factory in Wrzesnia

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said on Wednesday it would ask prosecutors to investigate Volkswagen's headquarters, its South Korean unit and five former and current executives including André Konsbruck, currently vice president of sales for the Americas at Volkswagen unit Audi, and Audi's Head of Sales Overseas Terence Bryce Johnsson.

It alledged Volkswagen made "false, exaggerated or deceptive" claims in the advertisements, with punishments ranging from jail terms of up to two years or fines of up to 150 million won, an FTC official told reporters.

Volkswagen advertised its cars as environmentally friendly vehicles that met pollution standards although they were equipped with devices designed to deceive government tests, the regulator said.

Audi Volkswagen Korea (AVK) said it had not been formally notified of the regulator's decision.

"AVK is committed to rebuilding trust with the authorities and with customers and other stakeholders in Korea," it said in a statement.

South Korea has already fined Volkswagen 17.8 billion won for emissions-cheating, and arrested one local Volkswagen executive on accusations including fabrication of documents and violation air quality laws.

The sales suspension imposed in August slammed the brakes on the German automaker's breakneck growth in South Korea, a market dominated by homegrown rivals like Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors.

While South Korea is a relatively small market for Volkswagen, it is significant for its luxury marques Audi and Bentley and one of the fastest-growing markets for all brands.

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to using software to falsify pollution tests on some diesel cars, spurring legal action in the United States, Germany, South Korea and elsewhere.

In the United States, Volkswagen has already agreed to spend up to US$16.5 billion to date to resolve diesel emissions cheating allegations, and still may face billions more in fines.

(US$1 = 1,170.4300 won)

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Stephen Coates)


Ford makes contingency plans in case of China year-end tax surprise

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎6:40:16 AMGo to full article
BEIJING: Ford Motor Co expects China to wait until the last possible moment to announce whether it will extend a tax cut on small engine cars set to expire at year's end and is making contingency plans for various outcomes, an executive said on Wednesday.

China's auto industry association, executives and analysts have warned of a potentially steep drop off in sales growth next year if the policy, which halves the purchase tax on cars with engines of 1.6 litres or below, expires as planned at the end of 2016.

Ford Taurus cars are seen during a presentation at the 16th Shanghai International Automobile Indus

A government official said in October that the country is considering extending the tax, originally instituted in late 2015 to stimulate the market as vehicle sales flat lined amid a weakening economy.

"If there is an announcement about a continuation, I would not be surprised if that announcement is made on literally the last day of year," Peter Fleet, Ford's head of sales and marketing for Asia Pacific, told Reuters in an interview.

In the face of such uncertainty, the U.S. automaker is planning for three different scenarios, he said: the tax cut expires, it is extended at a reduced rate, or continues in full.

"We're proceeding on the basis that the purchase tax incentive ends at the end of the year," Fleet said.

"We'll adjust our plans as quickly as we need to in the new year if there is a different set of assumptions."

Fundamental demand for cars will continue to be strong and the tax cut will only result in a marginal change in demand, he said, declining to give exact predictions for 2017 auto sales.

Ford is set to announce November sales results for China at later on Wednesday.

The tax cut spurred a strong rebound in the world's largest auto market this year with sales for January to October growing 13.8 percent compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Analysts predict flat or negative growth in 2017 if the tax cut expires as planned.

(Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu)


Apple says iPhone 6 battery fires in China likely caused by external factors

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎6:25:33 AMGo to full article
BEIJING: Apple Inc said external factors were the likely cause of iPhone 6 battery fires detailed in a Chinese consumer protection report that featured widely in state media earlier this week and created a buzz on social media.

The Shanghai Consumer Council released a report on Friday detailing battery fires in eight iPhone 6 handsets. It also detailed iPhone 6 handsets powering down before their batteries are depleted - handsets outside of a global iPhone 6 recall range that Apple announced on Nov. 20 to address the issue.

iPhones sit on display during a preview event at the new Apple Store Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New

"The units we've analyzed so far have clearly shown that external physical damage happened to them which led to the thermal event," an Apple spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters late on Tuesday. She also said Apple was widening its investigation into the power-down issue.

The U.S. tech firm has seen Chinese sales fall over the past three quarters as domestic smartphone makers compete with high-spec handsets at low price points. It is hoping to bounce back in the first quarter of next year with its iPhone 7.

But domestic handset makers also likely received a boost after South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd recalled 2.5 million Note 7 handsets globally following a series of battery fires, raising distrust of foreign smartphone brands, according to users, analysts and consumer groups.

The Shanghai Consumer Council in its report said that during Samsung's recall in October-November, complaints involving Apple products jumped, accounting for almost half the year-to-date total of 2763 - itself a nearly two-fold increase from 2015.

"The Samsung case did make (Chinese smartphone users) start to think an international brand doesn't necessarily equal a safe product," said Nicole Peng, Asia-Pacific director at researcher Canalys.

State media outlets featuring the Shanghai council's report on Monday garnered tens of thousands of comments on social media. While many doubted the iPhone 6 was at fault, top-ranking comments expressed frustration that foreign brands could set high prices and yet not guarantee safety.

"I still worry about the iPhone in case there is indeed a problem, but it's not investigated," said Mr. Liu, a 21-year-old student in Beijing.

"The news did make me change my Apple habits," he told Reuters. "For example, I don't dare play with the phone in bed and if it heats up I quickly throw it aside."

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Christopher Cushing)


Scriptwriting programme launched to nurture new generation of storytellers

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎6:22:36 AMGo to full article
SINGAPORE: To bring the standard of local television and online scriptwriting to the next level, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and LASALLE College of the Arts introduced a new intensive scriptwriting programme on Wednesday (Dec 7). 

The 10-week WritersLab is led by Project Director and Emmy-nominated writer Shari Goodhartz – who penned episodes for TV shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Disney’s Raw Toonage and cult hit Aeon Flux, among others. 

Chee Hong Tat at WritersLab launch

Participants will receive personalised guidance to sharpen their writing skills and gain knowledge of international best practices. They will also receive script development supervision, workshops and tutorials with international visiting experts Sophia Wellington and Cynthia Hsiung.

By the end of the programme, they will complete a production-ready script for TV and online platform which they can then pitch for production. Three of these scripts will premiere on Mediacorp’s Toggle platform, organisers said. 

The pilot run of WritersLab will run from Jan 9 to Mar 17 next year at LASALLE’s McNally Campus with eight participants selected by an appointed panel of industry experts. The participants will receive S$2,000 to cover expenses incurred and opportunity costs for attending the programme, IMDA and LASALLE said. 

Once completed, the programme will be reviewed for subsequent runs and may be expanded to other mediums such as film and games, the organisers added. 

IMDA also launched a programme for writers interested in joining the games industry on Wednesday. Participants of the Professional Conversion Programme 2017, a partnership with the Screenwriters Association of Singapore and Workforce Singapore, will undergo training with industry practitioners such as Ian Gregory of local games start-up Witching Hour Studios and Alex Hilton, a game writer at Ubisoft Singapore.


Speaking at the launch of the programme, Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat said the programme was part of IMDA’s Story Lab Initiative under the Infocomm Media 2025 Masterplan, which aimed to encourage new story ideas that are currently lacking in Singapore. 

“Our accomplished storytellers have done us proud; works such as Pop Aye by Kirsten Tan and Spelling Armadillo by Oak 3 Films have shone on the international stage and flown our Singapore flag high,” Mr Chee said.

“But there is more we can do together to support and nurture future generations of storytellers, so that they can stand on the shoulders of our veterans, and take Singapore’s media industry to an even higher level.”

Nurturing a new generation of such storytellers would require not only connection to the rest of the world, but openness to collaboration with others, the Minister of State said.

He added that giving Singaporeans the opportunity to work and learn from international experts would also accelerate their learning, allowing the local media industry to draw from a larger talent pool of writers.


Australia keen on sweep of New Zealand - Marsh

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎6:15:13 AMGo to full article
MELBOURNE: Australia will not be taking their collective foot off the gas in Friday's third one-day international against New Zealand in Melbourne, despite it being a dead rubber, according to all-rounder Mitchell Marsh.

Marsh clubbed an impressive 76 not out from 40 balls in the second game in Canberra on Tuesday as Steve Smith's side scored 378 for five. They then dismissed New Zealand for 262 in 47.2 overs to take a 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

Cricket - Australia v South Africa - First Test cricket match

"We're representing our country in the series and we want to win 3-0," said Marsh, who was part of the side swept 5-0 in South Africa and knows the dent in confidence that can bring.

Despite his own return to form in Canberra, Marsh felt that would not be enough to earn a recall for the test series against Pakistan.

"I'm not in a rush to get back in the test side," said the 25-year-old, who was dropped from the side after scoring 0 and 26 in the first test match against South Africa in Perth last month. "But I know that I've got to score runs to get back, so that's all I want to do."

The innings at Manuka Oval showcased how dangerous he could be as he belted seven sixes, including three in the final over from Matt Henry, and he felt an aggressive approach may help him in future.

"When you're not scoring runs, you tend to try play with things in the nets to try and make something work," he said.

"I think in red ball cricket, over the last couple of years, I probably haven't played my natural game.

"For me, I'm a hitter of the cricket ball. Probably over the next few months, I'm just going to bat like that and really back myself.

"I might get out a few ugly ways at times but I feel like it's going to give me the best chance to score runs and score big runs."

Despite his pessimism about earning a recall for the series against Pakistan, which starts with a day-night test at the Gabba in Brisbane on Dec. 15, he still held out hopes of being named for the tour of India next February.

"I've obviously got the (Twenty20) Big Bash but throughout that period, you've got a lot of time to work on your game so I'll certainly be doing that," he said.

"Hopefully in the second half of the year when I get a chance in the (Sheffield) Shield, I can perform."

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)




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