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Trade tensions fuel poverty

Amid the uncertainty, investments have declined, which undermines growth, especially in poor regions like Africa.

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WASHINGTON (AFP) — As global trade tensions persist, investments are put on hold and without that cash to boost economic growth, poverty could surge, the World Bank’s chief economist warned Tuesday.

Without growth “inevitably, people will struggle,” Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg said in an interview with AFP.

The US-China trade war — involving hundreds of billions of dollars in two-way trade — is at the center of global disputes that also include Washington’s friction with the European Union, changing rules over US trade with Canada and Mexico, and Brexit.

Amid the uncertainty, investments have declined, which undermines growth, especially in poor regions like Africa.

“This means that some countries will never manage to get out of poverty,” said Koujianou Goldberg, who has joint US-Greek nationality.

“But it also means countries that have managed to lift themselves out of poverty, that have become middle income countries by now, they may revert, they may go backwards.”

Koujianou Goldberg said it is a particular concern for Africa, where poverty is concentrated and economies are more fragile — but also where debt levels are “higher than ever,” increasing the risk of a financial crisis.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are among forecasters who have cut projections for growth this year and next, and the trade wars have continued and even worsened in recent months.

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NASA plans for return to Moon to cost $28 billion

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NASA on Monday revealed its latest plan to return astronauts to the Moon in 2024, and estimated the cost of meeting that deadline at $28 billion, $16 billion of which would be spent on the lunar landing module.

Congress, which faces elections on November 3, will have to sign off on the financing for a project that has been set by President Donald Trump as a top priority. The $28 billion would cover the budgetary years of 2021-25.

In a phone briefing with journalists Monday on the Artemis mission to return human beings to the Moon, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine noted that “political risks” were often the biggest threat to NASA’s work, especially before such a crucial election.

Barack Obama cancelled plans for a manned Mars mission, after his predecessor spent billions of dollars on the project.

If Congress approves the first tranche of $3.2 billion by Christmas, “we’re still on track for a 2024 moon landing,” Bridenstine said.

“To be clear, we’re going to the South Pole,” he said, ruling out the sites of the Apollo landings on the Moon’s equator between 1969 and 1972. “There’s no discussion of anything other than that.”

Three different projects are in competition to build the lunar lander that will carry two astronauts — one of them a woman — to the Moon from their vessel Orion.

The first one is being developed by Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. The other two projects are being undertaken by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and by the company Dynetics.

The first flight, Artemis I, scheduled for November of 2021, will be unmanned: the new giant rocket SLS, currently in its test phase, will take off for the first time with the Orion capsule.

Artemis II, in 2023, will take astronauts around the Moon but will not land.

Finally, Artemis III will be the equivalent of Apollo 11 in 1969, but the stay on the Moon will last longer — for a week — and will include two to five “extravehicular activities.”

“The science that we would be doing is really very different than anything we’ve done before,” said Bridenstine. “We have to remember during the Apollo era, we thought the moon was bone dry. Now we know that there’s lots of water ice and we know that it’s at the South Pole.”

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New York police officer charged with spying for China

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US authorities have charged a New York police officer with espionage, accusing him of gathering information about the city’s Tibetan community for the Chinese government.

The officer, who worked at a station in the Queens section of the city, was directed by members of the Chinese consulate in New York, according to the indictment released Monday.

Born in China, the man had been granted political asylum in the US, claiming he was tortured by Chinese authorities because of his Tibetan ethnicity.

Through his contacts with the Tibetan community, the 33-year-old man gathered information between 2018 and 2020 on the community’s activities, as well as identifying potential information sources.

According to the indictment, the man — who is also an officer in the US Army Reserve — allowed members of the Chinese consulate to attend events organized by the New York Police Department.

The Chinese authorities allegedly paid him tens of thousands of dollars for his service.

The officer has been charged with four counts, including enlisting in the service of a foreign country on US soil, misrepresentation and obstructing the operation of a public service.

New York City police commissioner Dermot Shea said the officer “violated every oath he took in this country. One to the United States, another to the US Army, and a third to this Police Department”.

He was brought before a judge Monday and taken into custody, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn federal prosecutor told AFP.

According to the NYPD, he is currently suspended without pay.

Despite the man’s claims he was tortured in China because of his ethnicity, the investigation allegedly revealed that both of his parents were members of the Chinese Communist Party.

“If confirmed by the courts,” the espionage operation “shows that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in malign operations to suppress dissent, not only in Tibet… but any place in the world,” said the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group that promotes Tibetans’ freedoms and rights.

After allowing Tibet to function autonomously from 1912-1950, Beijing retook control of the territory in 1951. The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has lived in exile since 1959.

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Building collapses

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Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed three-story residential building in Bhiwandi. Ten people were killed and up to 25 were feared trapped. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BHIWANDI, India (AFP) — Ten people were killed and up to 25 were feared trapped after a three-story residential building collapsed before dawn on Monday in western India, officials said.

The accident in the city of Bhiwandi, which neighbours India’s financial capital Mumbai, occurred around 3:40 a.m. (2210 GMT Sunday), local authorities said.

“Ten people have died, we have rescued 11 people alive,” an official at the Thane city authority, which oversees Bhiwandi, told AFP.

More than 40 emergency workers had arrived at the scene, the official said, including a team of 30 rescuers from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

NDRF director general Satya Narayan Pradhan tweeted that teams armed with specialised equipment and sniffer dogs were trying to rescue some “20-25 feared trapped.”

Images broadcast on the NDRF’s official Twitter page showed emergency workers combing through concrete and brick rubble with electrical wires hanging over their heads.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, but building collapses are common during India’s June-September monsoon, with old and rickety structures buckling after days of non-stop rain.

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TikTok averts U.S. shutdown

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TIKTOK Global has averted a shutdown in the United States. Above, a man drops by the TikTok office in Culver City, California. MARIO TAMA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING, China (AFP) — TikTok Global plans to hold a public listing, its Chinese parent company ByteDance said Monday, after announcing a deal over the weekend that would avert a shutdown of the popular app in the US.

The agreement, which has been approved by Donald Trump, sees Silicon Valley giant Oracle become the data partner for the video-sharing platform while Walmart becomes a commercial partner, creating a new US company called TikTok Global.

On Monday, ByteDance said in a statement on social media that TikTok Global plans to launch a “small round of pre-IPO financing,” after which it would become an 80 percent-owned subsidiary of ByteDance.

The company added that the board of directors of TikTok Global includes ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming, along with its current directors and the CEO of Walmart.

“TikTok Global will also launch a listing plan to further enhance its corporate governance structure and transparency,” the statement said. It did not say how much it intended to raise or where it plans to list.

Bloomberg News reported that Bytedance was seeking a valuation of $60 billion for TikTok, citing a person familiar with the matter.

TikTok — which became a global phenomenon with its brand of short, addictive phone videos — has come under fire in recent months as tensions escalate between China and the west.

Trump has claimed TikTok is collecting user data for Beijing, without providing evidence, and in early August gave ByteDance until 20 September to hand over TikTok’s US operations to an American company.

ByteDance, under pressure in China not to give in to US demands, set out to clarify “rumors” on Monday after details of the deal were announced. It said the current plan “does not involve the transfer of any algorithms and technologies.”

While Oracle has the authority to check the source code of TikTok in the US, ByteDance said displaying the source code is a way for multinationals to allay local data security concerns.

ByteDance added that a “so-called tax payment of $5 billion to the US Treasury” was a forecast of corporate income tax and other operating taxes TikTok would need to pay for business development.

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Biden slams Trump’s moves to fill up High Court vacancy

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PHILADELPHIA (AFP) — White House hopeful Joe Biden on Sunday branded Donald Trump’s moves to fill a Supreme Court vacancy less than two months before the US presidential election an “abuse of power,” as some of the president’s own party also objected.

The prospect of an expedited Senate confirmation vote has sparked furious pushback from Democrats desperate to stop Trump moving the court lastingly to the right.

Two Republican senators have also registered their opposition to any rushed vote to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the popular liberal justice who died Friday at 87.

Biden, speaking Sunday in Philadelphia, accused Trump of exercising “raw political power” by attempting to “ram” through his court choice amidst a bitterly fought election campaign.

“I believe voters will make it clear — they will not stand for this abuse of power, this constitutional abuse,” said Biden, who urged the Senate not to act until after the 3 November election.

“If Donald Trump wins the election, then the Senate should move on his selection — and weigh that nominee fairly. But if I win the election, President Trump’s nomination should be withdrawn.”

The president said Saturday that he is going to “move quickly” and that he expected to announce his nominee in the coming week and that it “will be a woman — a very talented, very brilliant woman.”

Biden urged a handful of wavering Republican senators to “follow your conscience.”

The timing of a Senate vote — before the election or in the lame-duck session immediately afterward — remains unclear.

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said no vote should take place before the election, and Susan Collins of Maine asserted that the choice should be left to whoever is elected in November.

With Republicans holding 53 of the 100 Senate seats, Democrats face an uphill battle in blocking a Trump nominee.

Either way, politicians in both parties are bracing for a seismic battle in a year that has already seen an impeachment vote, the Covid-19 pandemic and a bruising economic collapse.

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Thai protesters’ plaque removed

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BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) — A plaque installed by activists in Bangkok declaring Thailand “belongs to the people” had been removed Monday, after a weekend show of force by protesters calling for the royal family to stay out of the kingdom’s politics.

Thailand has seen near-daily protests for the past two months led by students demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army chief who masterminded a 2014 coup.

Some 30,000 demonstrators rallied Saturday close to Bangkok’s Grand Palace — where organisers took a stronger line on monarchical reform — before installing a commemorative “People’s Plaque” the morning after.

But by Monday the plaque had vanished.

“I heard it’s missing and we’re investigating the case,” Bangkok’s deputy police chief Piya Tawichai told AFP.

AFP journalists confirmed the removal.

The commemorative “People’s Plaque,” placed in historic Sanam Luang field, had read: “The people have expressed the intention that this country belongs to the people, and not the king.”

At its installation during Saturday’s protest, prominent activist Parit Chiwarak shouted “Down with feudalism, long live the people,” as the crowd cheered.

The newly installed medallion referenced the original brass one embedded for decades in the grounds of Bangkok’s Royal Plaza.

It commemorated the end of royal absolutism in 1932 after a revolution that transitioned the kingdom into a constitutional monarchy.

But it mysteriously disappeared in 2017 — after King Maha Vajiralongkorn took power following the death of his father —- replaced with one bearing a reminder for Thais to remain loyal to the “nation, religion, king.”

The leaderless youth-organised movement, partly inspired by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, is calling for Prayut’s government to be dissolved, a rewrite of the 2017 military-scripted constitution, and for authorities to stop “harassing” political opponents.

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‘Watchmen’ wins big at Emmys

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Workers prepare the stage for the 71st Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on September 22, 2019. Photo: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — “Watchmen,” a dark superhero series that tackles US racism, triumphed at the Emmys on Sunday as the stars beamed in live to an empty Los Angeles theater for Hollywood’s first major Covid-era awards show.

Fellow HBO show “Succession” — the saga of a powerful, backstabbing family — won big in the prestigious drama categories, while offbeat Canadian hit “Schitt’s Creek” performed a clean sweep of the night’s comedy prizes.

With four victories in major categories, “Watchmen” ended up with a total of 11 Emmys — television’s equivalent of the Oscars. Its creators dedicated their win for best limited series to African-American victims of the 1921 Tulsa massacre.

“The only way to put the fires out is to fight them together,” said showrunner Damon Lindelof.

Its 11 wins left it two short of the all-time record of 13 held by historic mini-series “John Adams.”

‘Succession’ and ‘Schitt’s Creek’
Nominees and winners for the 72nd Emmys beamed in remotely from their homes and socially distanced gatherings via video call, as Los Angeles is still under tough coronavirus-related restrictions.

The creator of “Succession” — a dark portrait of a Murdoch-esque family’s wrangling for control of a dynastic media empire — sounded one of several political notes by “un-thanking” world leaders for their handling of the pandemic.

“Un-thank you to President (Donald) Trump for his crummy and uncoordinated response. Un-thank you to Boris Johnson for the same thing in our country,” said British showrunner Jesse Armstrong, accepting best drama series, the night’s final prize.

The show also won for best drama writing and directing, while star Jeremy Strong bagged best actor honors.

Former Disney child star Zendaya pulled off a surprise, youngest-ever win for best drama actress with bleak, hard-hitting “Euphoria,” in which high school students struggle with sex, drugs and crime — in explicit detail.

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China launches HY-2C ocean observation satellite

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HY-2C satellite

SHANXI, China (Global Times) — China successfully launched its HY-2C ocean-observation satellite into planned orbit on Monday afternoon via a Long March-4B carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in North China’s Shanxi Province.

The HY-2C satellite, named after the Chinese word Haiyang for “ocean” and given the “HY” designation for short, is the country’s third ocean-observation satellite, and the second space-borne infrastructure satellite to provide ocean dynamics monitoring services, according to a space authority statement sent to the Global Times on Monday.

“The HY-2 satellites will play a key role in China’s ocean resource surveys, disaster relief and environment management. The follow-up satellite network will better serve the world and China’s maritime power strategy,” said Jiang Xingwei, director of the National Ocean Satellite Application Center under the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The HY-2C satellite will team up with the HY-2B, which was launched in October 2018, and subsequent Y-2D satellites to form a network for maritime environment monitoring, enabling China to carry out 24/7 all-weather high precision monitoring of maritime data including sea surface height, wave height as well as oceanic water color.

The HY-2C satellite and the Long March-4B carrier rocket were developed by the state-owned space giant China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, and China’s Ministry of Natural Resources is in charge of its operation.

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Surfboard traveled 8,000 kms.

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BIG wave surfer Brent Bielman (left) poses with his surfboard in Hawaii in this photo taken 18 October 2015 before losing it in a wipeout in Hawaii. His best hope was for a fisherman to find it. Five years later, the surfboard turned up in Sarangani Island in the Philippines, some 8,000 kilometers away. It was recovered by Giovanne Branzuela (right) posing with the same board. The photos were provided by Bielman and Branzuela. HANDOUT PHOTOS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

When big wave surfer Doug Falter lost his board in a wipeout in Hawaii, his best hope was for a local fisherman to pick it up. He never imagined it would be found more than 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) away in the southern Philippines.

More than two years after watching his pale blue custom-shaped board disappear in the huge swell of Waimea Bay, Falter was alerted via social media that it had been found near the remote island of Sarangani.

And the new owner — local primary school teacher and aspiring surfer Giovanne Branzuela — was happy to give it back to him.

“When I saw the picture of it, I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke almost,” Falter, 35, told AFP via Zoom.

“I was certain that the board would never be found again.”

Branzuela, who bought the badly weathered surfboard from his neighbor a couple of months ago for P2,000 ($40), said fishermen had found it floating in the sea in August 2018 — six months after Falter lost sight of it.

They thought it may have fallen off a passing yacht and sold it to Branzuela’s neighbor for a few dollars.

Despite months drifting across the Pacific Ocean, the name of the board’s shaper, Hawaii-based Lyle Carlson, was still visible on the now-yellowish surface.

Curious, Branzuela looked him up on Facebook and sent him a photo of the board.

Carlson shared the picture on Instagram, tagging Falter.

“It turned out it’s a surfboard from Hawaii. I couldn’t believe it myself,” Branzuela, 38, told AFP via telephone.

“It’s been my dream to learn to surf and ride the big waves here,” he added.

“For now I can use his surfboard. I told him I will take good care of it.”

Surfing videos 
The pair have been chatting on Facebook and Falter plans to visit the small island to retrieve his board after coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted.

“That board meant so much to me because of my accomplishments on it,” said Falter, a commercial photographer who took up surfing about 15 years ago in Florida before moving to Hawaii.

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