EU firms want ’concrete action’ from China on access

BEIJING — European companies suffer from "promise fatigue" over China’s failure to follow through on pledges to open its market, the EU Chamber of Commerce in China said Tuesday.

The chamber issued an annual 400-page report detailing the regulatory barriers that continue to hinder investment in the world’s second-largest economy.

European businesses are "suffering from accumulated ’promise fatigue’, having witnessed a litany of assurances over recent years that never quite materialised," the position paper said.

The chamber urged the country to "supplant words with concrete actions and provide reciprocal access to its market".

The restrictions imposed on foreign investments force companies from abroad to partner with local firms and often share vital technology -- if they are not barred altogether from accessing a certain market, the chamber said.

Chinese firms face no such restrictions in EU markets, Chamber president Mats Harborn told reporters prior to the report’s release.

"We are now calling for the abolition of foreign investment laws," he said, stating that they made China’s investment climate too complex, unpredictable and opaque to attract foreign capital.

"The numbers speak for themselves: Chinese investments in Europe rose 77 per cent last year, while EU investments in China fell by a quarter," Harborn said. 

EU investment fell a further 23 per cent in the first quarter of 2017.

A May survey published by the Chamber showed 54 per cent of EU companies operating in China felt they were treated worse than local counterparts.

A study in January by the American Chamber of Commerce in China found more than four in five US companies feel the country is less welcoming to foreign businesses than in the past.

The lack of access belies the rhetoric of Chinese leaders.

In January, President Xi Jinping hailed globalisation at the World Economic Forum in Davos and insisted that China was committed to "opening up".

Later that month a government circular pledged to "create an environment of fair competition" and "strengthen efforts to attract foreign investment". — AFP

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France leads push to urge Trump to save Iran deal

UNITED NATIONS, United States — France stepped up global efforts to convince US President Donald Trump not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal on Monday, suggesting a way could be found to prolong its effects. 

Trump has signalled he is ready to declare Iran in breach of its side of the 2015 accord -- which he has branded the "worst deal ever" -- as early as next month.

And if the White House "decertifies" Iran’s compliance, this would open the way to the US Congress reimposing sanctions and perhaps provoke Iran to itself pull out.

The other world powers -- France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia -- who signed the accord continue to see it as the best way to prevent Iran from building a bomb.

But Washington argues that by pursuing a banned missile programme and fomenting militant violence in its region, Iran is in breach of the spirit of a weak deal.

Not all US officials share Trump’s total antipathy to the pact, but they want stronger controls on Iran’s ability to resume weapons development when it begins to expire.

Sunset clause

America’s European allies are desperate to save the deal and -- as world leaders gathered on Monday in New York for the UN General Assembly -- France spoke out.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that scrapping the "essential" agreement would launch a regional arms race between "neighbouring countries".

But he also said: "France will try to persuade President Trump of the importance of this choice, even if it can be completed by work for after 2025."

Le Drian was speaking ahead of a meeting between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, who also suggested in a speech last month that the accord could be improved.

Under the deal, limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment will begin to expire in 2025 under "sunset clauses" and critics have said this is the weakest part of the deal.

"It’s essential to maintain (the agreement) to prevent a spiral of proliferation that would encourage hardliners in Iran to pursue nuclear weapons," Le Drian said.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran surrendered much of its enriched uranium, dismantled a reactor and submitted nuclear sites to UN inspection.

For their part, Washington and Europe lifted some sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, while retaining others tied to its "destabilising" actions.

Hawks in Washington, with winks from Trump and some in his inner circle, are calling for tougher sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

These, they argue, would not breach their side of the nuclear-only deal.

Meanwhile, Trump’s top foreign policy officials, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have upped their rhetoric.

Haley went to Washington this month to deliver a speech laying out the case for Trump to find Iran in breach of the deal when he reports to Congress on October 15.

Tillerson is reportedly not convinced that destroying the accord is the best way forward, but tougher measures from allies would help him make this case to Trump. — AFP

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Protesters back on St Louis streets after violence, arrests

CHICAGO — Protests simmered for the fourth straight day Monday in St Louis, Missouri amid outrage over the acquittal of a white former police officer in the shooting death of a black man.

Dozens marched peacefully, some carrying "Black Lives Matter" signs, through the Midwestern city’s downtown streets and in front of city hall, while some 250 high school students also briefly marched out of school.

After dark, a large crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the St Louis City Justice Center, a prison.

Police said there were no arrests or incidents, after a weekend in which dozens were arrested as largely peaceful protests turned violent three days running. On Sunday alone, police booked 123 demonstrators.

"The days have been calm and the nights have been destructive," Mayor Lyda Krewson said at an early morning news conference.

"After the demonstration, organisers announced that the daytime protest was over. But a group of agitators stayed behind, apparently intent on breaking windows and destroying property. This is not acceptable."

The public outcry is over a judge’s ruling Friday that there was not enough evidence to convict former police officer Jason Stockley of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man, following a 2011 car chase.

Protesters have marched through city streets, clashed with police, thrown bricks through the windows of businesses and overturned trash cans.

Protesters broke a window and splattered paint on the mayor’s home as well.

The violence led to the cancellations of several cultural events over the weekend -- including concerts by rock giants U2 and pop star Ed Sheeran.

Police suffered minor injuries and responded with force, appearing in riot gear and arresting protesters.

Journalist arrested

"Once again, a group of criminals set out to break windows and destroy property. Tonight, those criminals are in jail," acting police chief Lawrence O’Toole said.

"Some criminals assaulted law enforcement officers and threw chemicals and rocks at them."

But activists and observers fired back on social media, claiming police had been excessively aggressive toward protesters.

They also challenged reports of confiscated chemicals, claiming the substances were merely apple cider vinegar used to counteract weapons such as pepper spray.

Among those arrested Sunday was a journalist for the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, who was caught up with a crowd as police corralled about 100 people who they said had not complied with orders to disperse.

"We are closed in on all four sides now I have no idea where people are supposed to go. People freaking out," Mike Faulk wrote in one of his final dispatches on Twitter prior to his arrest. He was released more than 13 hours later Monday afternoon.

In an account published by the newspaper, Faulk said several officers knocked him down and a foot pushed his head into the pavement before an office squirted pepper spray in his face.

It cited other witnesses as saying police hit and roughed up people who would not obey orders to keep their hands behind their backs.

The police union, meanwhile, was taking donations for officers working long shifts during the turbulence.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the St Louis police response, saying officers have at times acted illegally.

"From eyewitness and filmed accounts, we continue to see the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department engage in unacceptable, unlawful and unconstitutional behavior," the civil rights group said.


The ACLU claimed an officer dangerously drove a police car backwards into a crowd, and that other officers used excessive force and unlawfully detained people.

"We urge everyone to ask themselves a bigger question: Why are these protests happening?" the rights group said.

Stockley’s acquittal was the latest example of the difficulty US prosecutors face in charging law enforcement officers following controversial deaths of citizens.

A number of cases brought against officers in various US cities have failed to send officers to jail -- including in the nearby states of Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

St Louis has a history of tension between police and its black communities.

The city and its suburb Ferguson became the focus of national attention following the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown, which sparked protests and disturbances.

Brown, an 18-year-old African American, was shot to death by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Wilson was not charged by local or federal prosecutors, but the incident led to a Justice Department investigation that found a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson police.

Eric Holder, president Barack Obama’s attorney general, concluded that Ferguson police "routinely violate" constitutional rights, including unjustified arrests and unreasonable use of force. — AFP

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Japan deploys missile defence to northern island: official

Viet Nam News

TOKYO — Japan will Tuesday deploy an additional missile defence system on its northern island of Hokkaido, a defence ministry spokesman said, days after North Korea launched a missile over the island.

"We are deploying a PAC-3 system at about noon" to a base of the nation’s Ground Self-Defense Force in the southern tip of Hokkaido, said Kensaku Mizuseki.

According to local officials, Japan has already deployed the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defence system to another part of Hokkaido.

But Mizuseki declined to confirm where in Japan other PAC-3 systems were deployed, citing the sensitive nature of defence information.

The move comes with tensions on the Korean peninsula at fever-pitch after Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test and fired two missiles over Japan in the space of less than a month, sparking emergency warnings to take cover.

North Korea has threatened to "sink" Japan into the sea and said Saturday that it sought military "equilibrium" with arch-enemy the United States by developing a full nuclear arsenal.

For his part, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he would "never tolerate" the North’s "dangerous provocative action" and has urged the international community to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang.

The UN Security Council, which condemned the launch as "highly provocative," will hold a new ministerial-level meeting Thursday on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, focused on enforcing sanctions on the North Korean regime.

US’ military options

The United States has "many" military options against North Korea, including some that don’t put Seoul at risk, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday.

His comments come after President Donald Trump’s administration ramped up pressure on North Korea on Sunday, warning Pyongyang will be "destroyed" if it refuses to end its "reckless" nuclear and ballistic missile drive.

"There are many military options, in concert with our allies, that we will take to defend our allies and our own interests," Mattis told Pentagon reporters.

He did not provide details, but he responded affirmatively when asked if these included options that would not put Seoul at grave risk.

Mattis also confirmed that the US and Seoul had discussed the option of sending limited-size "tactical" nuclear weapons to South Korea.

North Korea’s weapons drive is set to dominate Trump’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and his meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders this week.

Tensions flared when North Korea tested what it termed a hydrogen bomb many times more powerful than its previous device.

The North also fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific on Friday, responding to fresh new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its longest-ever missile flight.

Amid calls for the United States and Japan to shoot down such missiles, Mattis said there was no need to do so because they were not a direct threat.

"The bottom line is that in the missiles, were they to be a threat, whether it be the US territory Guam, obviously Japan, Japan’s territory, that would elicit a different response from us," he said. — AFP

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Hurricane Maria bears down on battered Caribbean

Viet Nam News

POINTE-À-PITRE — Hurricane Maria strengthened into a "potentially catastrophic" Category Five storm as it barrelled into eastern Caribbean islands still reeling from Irma, forcing residents to evacuate in powerful winds and lashing rain.

The maximum-strength storm packed winds of 257 kilometres per hour as it bore down on the Caribbean island of Dominica Tuesday, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

"Dangerous" storm surges, destructive waves, flash floods and mudslides threatened the Leeward Islands -- the island group that includes Martinique, Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin islands -- the NHC said.

"The eye and the intense inner core is nearing Dominica," the center warned in its midnight GMT bulletin, saying "preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion".

Guadeloupe -- the bridgehead for aid for Irma-hit French territories -- ordered all residents to take shelter in a maximum-level "violet alert" effective from 8:00 pm as powerful rains drenched the French Caribbean island.

St Kitts, Nevis, the British island of Montserrat, Culebra and Vieques were also on alert.

On Martinique, which is also part of France, energy supplier EDF said power had been cut off from 16,000 homes, although a hurricane warning on the island was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

In rain-lashed St Lucia, which also faced a tropical storm warning, flooding, mudslides and power outages were reported in parts of the island.

In Pointe-a-Pitre, Elodie Corte, the boss of a metalworking company, said there had been frantic preparations to limit the damage from the storm.

"We spent the morning strapping down the aluminium to stop it from flying away if the winds are strong," she said.

But she worried that the torrential rains forecast could flood her home.

"We’ll seal everything as tightly as we can and then we’ll certainly go and stay with friends for the night," she said.

In Dominica meanwhile residents flocked to supermarkets to stock up on essentials as officials opened all the island’s shelters and warned people living in low-lying areas or along rivers to move to high ground.

School teacher Dominica Leandra Lander, a former Miss Dominica, said she had collected water, charged her electronic devices and ensured her important documents were safe.

"Just ready to ride out storm at best. With a little prayer on the side," she said.

The island’s airport and ports have been closed, and the local water company shut down its systems to protect its intake valves from debris churned up by the storm.

’Worst-case scenario’

Criticised for the pace of relief efforts in their overseas territories devastated by Irma, Britain, France and the Netherlands said they were boosting resources for the Caribbean as Maria approaches.

"We are planning for the unexpected, we are planning for the worst," said Chris Austin, head of a UK military task force set up to deal with Irma, as the British Virgin Islands readied for the storm.

On the island of St Martin, which is split between France and the Netherlands, authorities announced a red alert ahead of Maria’s arrival.

"We’re watching its trajectory very closely, and we’re preparing for the worst-case scenario," said local official Anne Laubies.

The Dutch navy tweeted that troops were heading to the two tiny neighbouring islands of Saba and St Eustatius to ensure security following widespread complaints of looting and lawlessness on St Martin after the first hurricane.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said 110 more soldiers would be deployed to the region to reinforce about 3,000 people already there shoring up security, rebuilding infrastructure and distributing aid.

But he warned of "major difficulties" if Guadeloupe is hard hit, noting the territory was "the logistical centre from where we could supply St Martin and organise all the airlifts".

Maria was due to sweep over the south of Sint Maarten -- as the Dutch side of St Martin is called -- on Tuesday. The island was among the worst hit by Irma, with 14 killed.

Air France, Air Caraibes and Corsair have cancelled flights in and out of Martinique and Guadeloupe. 

Hurricane series

Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, left around 40 people dead in the Caribbean before churning west and pounding Florida, where the death toll stood at 50 Monday.

Irma broke weather records when it whipped up winds of 295 kilometres per hour for more than 33 hours straight.

Another hurricane, Jose, is also active in the Atlantic and has triggered tropical storm warnings for the northeastern United States.

Many scientists are convinced that megastorms such as Irma, and Harvey before it, are intensified by the greater energy they can draw from oceans that are warming as a result of climate change. — AFP

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5,000 'Dieselgate' deaths in Europe per year: study

PARIS — Emissions from diesel cars rigged to appear eco-friendly may be responsible for 5,000 air pollution deaths per year in Europe alone, according to a study published on Monday.

The numbers are in line with previous assessments of deaths due to the so-called "Dieselgate" scandal, which erupted when carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on vehicle emissions tests.

Many other carmakers have since fallen under suspicion.

In May this year, a study in the journal Nature said "excess" emissions from diesel vehicles exceeding certification limits were associated with about 38,000 "premature" deaths globally in 2015.

The new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, focuses on the perils for Europe.

The researchers from Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands calculated that about 10,000 deaths in Europe per year can be attributed to small particle pollution from light duty diesel vehicles (LDDVs).

Almost half of these would have been avoided if emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel cars on the road had matched levels measured in the lab.

Volkswagen admitted installing illegal software devices in cars that reduced emissions only for the duration of tests.

If diesel cars emitted as little NOx as petrol ones, almost 4,000 of the 5,000 premature deaths would have been avoided, said the authors.

The countries with the heaviest burden are Italy, Germany, and France, the team added, "resulting from their large populations and high share of diesel cars in their national fleets".

Touted as less polluting, the share of diesel cars in Europe rose fast compared to petrol since the 1990s, and now comprise about half the fleet.

There are more than 100 million diesel cars in Europe today, twice as many as in the rest of the world together, said the study authors.

Diesel engines emit less planet-warming carbon dioxide than petrol ones, but significantly more NOx.

Road transport, said the study authors, contributed about 40 per cent of NOx emissions in the countries of the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland.

Composed of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, NOx gases contribute to acid rain and suffocating smog.

Through long-term exposure, they can cause breathing problems, eye irritation, loss of appetite, corroded teeth, headaches, and chronically reduced lung function.

"Excessive premature deaths will continue into the future until LDDVs with high on-road NOx emissions have been replaced," said the study authors.

Earlier this month, tougher emissions tests came into force in Europe. — AFP

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US may close Cuba embassy after ’attacks’ on diplomats

NEW YORK — The United States may again close its embassy in Cuba, which reopened two years ago after a half-century stand-off, following a series of mystery "health attacks" on its diplomats, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday.

At least 21 members of the US mission in Havana and a smaller number of Canadians have suffered brain injuries and hearing loss in what have been reported as "acoustic attacks", although US officials say their origin remains unclear.

The incidents began last year, and the latest was recorded in August.

Some of those hurt were evacuated to Florida and some treated in place.

The mission remains open, and US officials have warned that Cuba is responsible for the safety of diplomats on its soil.

With the injury toll continuing to rise, some US lawmakers have called for the embassy to be closed down once again.

Asked about this on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Tillerson did not rule this out.

"We have it under evaluation. It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered," he said.

US officials have told reporters they believe some kind of sonic device was used to covertly undermine the health of staff members at the mission, who began reporting sick last year.

The American Foreign Service Association -- the labor union representing US diplomats -- spoke to 10 of those who received treatment and said their diagnoses included mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss.

At least five Canadian diplomats and their families were also affected by "sonic attacks", though none suffered permanent injury, public broadcaster CBC reported Friday. Canada has said Cuban officials are not suspected.

The Cuban foreign ministry has said it is cooperating with the US investigation into the "alleged incidents".

On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed the number of Americans hurt had risen to 21.

"We hope that that number will not increase. We certainly can’t count that out. We are having our people medically tested," she told reporters.

"Our folks are able to leave Havana, leave Cuba, and return back home if they wish to do so -- I think we call it compassionate curtailment or something like that -- where they’re able to switch out a job," she said.

Washington has not said whether it suspects any nation or militant group of ordering the "health attacks", and no country is known to possess the kind of acoustic weapon that could cause such apparently targeted distress. — AFP

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Fuel pipe leak disrupts flights at Auckland airport

An Air New Zealand Boeing 737 sits at a departure gate at Auckland Airport, Auckland. —AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

WELLINGTON — Thousands of airline passengers were stranded in Auckland on Monday after a pipeline leak cut jet fuel supplies to New Zealand’s largest airport, forcing planes to remain grounded, authorities said.

The pipeline operator, Refining NZ, said repairs would take at least a week, possibly two, raising the prospect of ongoing major disruption.

Air New Zealand said 2,000 passengers were affected by flight cancellations on Monday alone as it attempted to minimise fuel usage.

It said the leak meant fuel supplies at Auckland airport were down to 30 per cent of normal capacity and some long-haul flights were having to make additional refuelling stops in Brisbane and Fiji.

"Aviation is a critical transport industry and the lifeblood for tourism. We are naturally extremely disappointed with this infrastructure failure," the airline said.

Refining NZ said it believed the pipeline from its refinery to the airport was accidentally damaged by a digger and a 30-strong team was working around the clock to fix the pipe.

But the danger posed by spilled fuel was slowing progress.

"We need to be absolutely clear that it is safe to work in before we can start welding in the new section of pipe," it said.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett said it was not the government’s fault that such an important piece of infrastructure had been left so vulnerable.

"It’s a private company that owns it and you would expect them to have better contingency plans," she told Radio New Zealand.

"(It’s) a very rare occurrence, it hasn’t happened for 30 years and we don’t expect it to happen again." — AFP

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Libya, Italy net 5,000 migrants in a week

TRIPOLI — Libya’s coastguard has rescued over 3,000 migrants aiming to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the past week, while Italy picked up another 2,000 in recent days, official and reports said on Sunday.

Though the numbers attempting the dangerous journey have dropped off significantly in recent months, these new rescues indicate the route is still very much open.

The tally was the highest reported out of Libya for a one-week period since mid-July saw a dramatic fall in the number of migrants trying to reach Europe.

Six years since a revolution and NATO intervention that toppled Moamer Kadhafi, violence-wracked Libya has become a key gateway for clandestine migration to Europe with nearest European country Italy bearing the brunt of the fallout.

Most of the latest rescue operations in Libyan waters were staged off the cities of Zawiya and Sabratha, Libyan navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem said in a statement.

He added the Libyan coast guard rescued 2,082 migrants in nine operations from Monday-Friday -- adding one woman had died -- while Saturday saw a further 1,047 people picked up.

Italy, the closest and main destination, has recorded 6,500 arrivals since mid-July, barely 15 percent of the figure for the same period in the past three years.

Even so, the past week alone has seen around 2,000 rescues according to NGOs and media reports.

Italian daily La Stampa on Sunday reported the arrival in Sicily of 589 migrants on a boat chartered by British charity Save the Children, which could not be immediately reached for comment.

A further 200 people were picked up off the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Sicilian coast.

One Irish patrol vessel, the William Butler Yeats, disembarked on Sunday some 550 migrants at the eastern Sicilian port of Augusta as well as three dead bodies, two women and a child, who the Red Cross said was a three-year-old Cameroonian.

That group had been drifting off the Libyan coast in inflatable dinghies although the Irish naval service said on their Facebook page several had been picked up from the sea as their makeshift craft disintegrated.

Italian vessel Zeffiro meanwhile said it had picked up 135 African migrants off Messina and the SOS Mediterranean NGO had Saturday brought 371 people to port at Trapani, northwestern Sicily.

In July, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti proposed a pact to combat human trafficking during a visit to Tripoli to meet mayors of cities affected by the waves of arrivals.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Sunday welcomed the overall recent falloff in arrivals.

"The Italian experience of the past few months shows what can be done.

There are fewer arrivals and also fewer deaths at sea," said Gentiloni, despite the spike over the past week. — AFP

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Powerful wind storm kills eight in Romania

BUCHAREST — A storm packing powerful winds ripped off roofs and toppled trees in Romania on Sunday, killing eight people and injuring dozens more, authorities and witnesses said.

With gusts that reached nearly 100 kilometres an hour, the storm pounded the area around the western city of Timisoara before heading north toward Ukraine.

Most of the victims were outside when the winds swept in. One man was hit by a falling tree, another by a billboard. Two children were in hospital in critical condition.

The interior ministry reported that 67 people were injured in the unexpected storm.

"Trees and roofs were torn off. Trucks were flipped over, water and electricity were cut off," Timisoara’s mayor Nicolae Robu told TV channel Digi 24.

"We weren’t warned about this. The weather report only called for rain," he added.

Teodora Cumpanasu of Romania’s national meteorology agency, classified the storm as having a "rare intensity" and being "unexpected".

In particular Cumpanasu blamed an abnormal, several-day long accumulation of hot air that stagnated in the atmosphere. Temperatures were above 30 degrees Celsius in Romania on Sunday.

The storm killed five around Timisoara before travelling 400 kilometres north and striking other areas along the way.

"Everything happened very fast," Romania’s interior minister Carmen Dan said. — AFP

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Canada, China, EU and partners push forward on Paris climate accord

MONTREAL  Some 30 environment ministers will push forward on the Paris climate accord at a meeting on Saturday requested by Canada, China and the European Union.

With more than half of G20 members attending -- representing most of the world’s largest economies -- "this first gathering of its kind aims to further galvanise global momentum for the implementation of the Paris Agreement," the European Commission said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who will make a brief appearance at the Montreal talks, will again stand apart from US President Donald Trump on this issue and resolutely commit Canada to reduce its carbon footprint, Canadian officials have said.

When Trump chose to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord, Canada, China and the European Union immediately reaffirmed their respective commitments to the climate pact, and in July the G20 called the accord "irreversible."

Nearly 200 countries agreed in Paris at the end of 2015 to limit or reduce carbon dioxide emissions with the aim of keeping the rise in average global temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, compared to preindustrial levels.

On the eve of the Montreal conference, Europe’s top climate official Miguel Arias Canete said the EU continues to press for "full and swift implementation" of the accord, noting that progress has been made toward finalising details of its plan to reduce European emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Despite being the world’s sixth-largest oil producer, Canada is "committed to its international climate obligations," said the environment ministry.

It hopes to reach its climate goal by massively investing in "clean energy" technologies, a spokeswoman added.

US stance a setback 

Key player China and its special representative Xie Zhenhua will bring to the table a potentially major advancement in transportation. China, along with Britain and France, has announced its intentions to ban petrol and diesel cars starting in 2040. This would bring a huge drop in air pollution in the world’s largest car market.

And in a speech in Strasbourg on Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reaffirmed the EU’s aim of being "at the forefront of the fight against climate change."

The US dealt that fight a major setback when Trump pulled the world’s biggest economy out of the Paris accord in June.

To bolster the EU position, Juncker promised to soon put forth a proposal to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister, will meantime press her counterparts and multinationals chief executives to develop solutions for "a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy."

Holding the meeting in Montreal is not coincidence. It is here that negotiations led to the first international agreement on the environment 30 years ago, with a ban on ozone-depleting gases.

In addition to Canada, the EU countries and China, nations including Russia, India, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey will be represented by senior ministers.

With only 50 days before the next United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP23), some of the low-lying nations hardest hit by the effects of climate change (the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Maldives) and some of the poorest (Mali and Ethiopia) will also be present. — AFP

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Astronomers bid farewell to $3.9 billion Saturn spacecraft

Viet Nam News

TAMPA  Global astronomers bid farewell on Friday to NASA’s famed Cassini spacecraft, which launched 20 years ago to circle Saturn and transformed the way we think about life elsewhere in the solar system.

Cassini, an international project that cost US$3.9 billion and included scientists from 27 nations, has run out of rocket fuel as expected after a journey of some 7.9 billion kilometres.

Its death plunge into the ringed gas giant -- the furthest planet visible from Earth with the naked eye -- is scheduled for shortly after the spacecraft’s final contact with Earth at 7:55 am (1155 GMT).

Cassini’s well-planned demise is a way of preventing any damage to Saturn’s ocean-bearing moons Titan and Enceladus, which scientists want to keep pristine for future exploration because they may contain some form of life.

"It will be sad to see Cassini go on Friday, especially as the instrument we built is still working perfectly," said Stanley Cowley, professor of solar planetary physics at the University of Leicester.

"But we recognize that it is important to bring the mission to an end in a tidy and controlled manner."

Three other spacecraft have flown by Saturn -- Pioneer 11 in 1979, followed by Voyager 1 and 2 in the 1980s.

But none have studied Saturn in such detail as Cassini, named after the French-Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who discovered in the 17th century that Saturn had several moons and a gap in between its rings.


Cassini launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1997, then spent seven years in transit followed by 13 years orbiting Saturn.

In that time, it discovered six more moons around Saturn, three-dimensional structures towering above Saturn’s rings, and a giant storm that raged across the planet for nearly a year.

The 22 by 13 foot (6.7 by four meter) spacecraft is also credited with discovering icy geysers erupting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and eerie

hydrocarbon lakes made of ethane and methane on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

In 2005, the Cassini orbiter released a lander called Huygens on Titan, marking the first and only such landing in the outer solar system, on a celestial body beyond the asteroid belt.

Huygens was a joint project of the European Space Agency, Italian Space Agency and NASA.

"The mission has changed the way we think of where life may have developed beyond our Earth," said Andrew Coates, head of the Planetary Science Group at Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London.

"As well as Mars, outer planet moons like Enceladus, Europa and even Titan are now top contenders for life elsewhere," he added.

"We’ve completely rewritten the textbooks about Saturn."

Some 4,000 scientific papers have been based on data from the mission, said Mathew Owens, professor of space physics at the University of Reading.

And its final plunge will reveal even more about the make-up of Saturn’s atmosphere before Cassini disintegrates like a meteor.

"No doubt scientists will be analyzing the information from its final, one-way trip into Saturn’s atmosphere for years to come," Owens said. — AFP

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