China sanctions Pelosi over ‘provocative’ visit to Taiwan

Update China sanctions Pelosi over ‘provocative’ visit to Taiwan
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China launched the drills following a visit by Pelosi to Taiwan that infuriated Beijing, which claims the self-governed island as its own territory. (File/AFP)
Update China sanctions Pelosi over ‘provocative’ visit to Taiwan
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In recent years Beijing has ramped up incursions against Taipei. (AFP)
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Updated 06 August 2022

China sanctions Pelosi over ‘provocative’ visit to Taiwan

China sanctions Pelosi over ‘provocative’ visit to Taiwan
  • China has been holding huge drills encircling Taiwan since Thursday to protest this week’s visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

China has decided to sanction US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her immediate family in response to her "vicious" and "provocative" actions, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday.
"Despite China's serious concerns and firm opposition, Pelosi insisted on visiting Taiwan, seriously interfering in China's internal affairs, undermining China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, trampling on the one-China policy, and threatening the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait," a ministry spokesperson said in a statement. 

“Significant escalation”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that China's military exercises aimed at Taiwan including missiles fired into Japan's exclusive economic zone represent a “significant escalation” and that he has urged Beijing to back down.
China launched the drills following a visit by Pelosi to Taiwan that infuriated Beijing, which claims the self-governed island as its own territory.
Blinken told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia, however, that Pelosi's visit was peaceful and did not represent a change in American policy toward Taiwan, accusing China of using it as a "pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait."
He said the situation had led to a “vigorous communication” during East Asia Summit meetings in Phnom Penh in which both he and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi took part along with the ASEAN nations, Russia and others.
“I reiterated the points that we made publicly as well as directly to Chinese counterparts in recent days, again, about the fact that they should not use the visit as a pretext for war, escalation, for provocative actions, that there is no possible justification for what they’ve done and urge them to cease these actions,” he said.
Blinken did not sit down one-on-one with Wang but said he had spoken with the Chinese foreign minister already about the possibility of a Pelosi visit to Taiwan before it had taken place during meetings in Bali, and had made the U.S. position clear.

In the wake of the Chinese missile launches into Japan's economic zone, Blinken said the U.S. stands in “strong solidarity” with Japan following the “dangerous actions China has taken.”

Military drills

Taiwan blasted its "evil neighbour next door" on Friday after China encircled the island with a series of huge military drills that were condemned by the United States and other Western allies.
During military exercises on Thursday and Friday, China fired ballistic missiles and deployed both fighter jets and warships around Taiwan.
The People's Liberation Army declared multiple no-go danger zones around Taiwan, straddling major shipping lanes in the world and at some points coming within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the island's shores.
Beijing has said the exercises will continue until midday Sunday, and Taipei reported that Chinese fighter jets and ships crossed the "median line" that runs down the Taiwan Strait on Friday morning.
"As of 11 am, multiple batches of Chinese warplanes and warships conducted exercises around the Taiwan Strait and crossed the median line of the strait," Taipei's defence ministry said in a statement.
The median line is an unofficial but once largely adhered-to border that runs down the middle of the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan and China.


Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger
Updated 17 sec ago

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger
  • Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, are already serving life sentences after being found guilty in a state trial for the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery

WASHINGTON: A Georgia man and his father convicted of federal hate crimes for the murder of a Black man who was shot dead while jogging were sentenced to life in prison on Monday.
Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, are already serving life sentences after being found guilty in a state trial for the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced both men to life in prison on separate hate crimes charges and denied their requests that they be allowed to serve out their sentences in a federal prison instead of a state facility.
The McMichaels, who are white, chased Arbery in a pickup truck on February 23, 2020 as he jogged through their neighborhood near the town of Brunswick, Georgia.
Travis McMichael confronted the 25-year-old Arbery as he passed by their truck and shot and killed him.
The racially-charged case added fuel to nationwide protests over police killings of African Americans sparked initially by the murder in May 2020 of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A third man who was involved in the chase, William Bryan, who had a less direct role in the murder and cooperated with investigators, was given life with the possibility of parole on the state charges.
He received a sentence of 35 years in prison on the federal charges.
During the federal hate crimes trial, prosecutors recounted the three men’s alleged use of vulgar racial slurs and history of racism.
“The Justice Department’s prosecution of this case and the court’s sentences today make clear that hate crimes have no place in our country,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“Protecting civil rights and combatting white supremacist violence was a founding purpose of the Justice Department, and one that we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”
FBI director Christopher Wray said that hate crimes strike “at the very heart of our society.”
“This is why combatting hate crimes and protecting civil rights are top priorities for the FBI,” he said in the statement.


Trump says FBI agents raided his Florida home

Trump says FBI agents raided his Florida home
Updated 13 min 49 sec ago

Trump says FBI agents raided his Florida home

Trump says FBI agents raided his Florida home

Former US President Donald Trump said on Monday his home in Palm Beach, Florida, has been raided by FBI agents.

“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said in a statement.

Developing 


Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant shelling amid global alarm

Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant shelling amid global alarm
Updated 21 sec ago

Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant shelling amid global alarm

Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant shelling amid global alarm
  • Ukraine blamed Russia for weekend attacks around the complex, which is still being run by Ukrainian technicians. It said three radiation sensors were damaged and two workers injured by shrapnel

KYIV: Kyiv and Moscow traded blame on Monday for the weekend shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex amid international alarm that their battle for control of the plant could trigger catastrophe.
Calling any attack on a nuclear plant “suicidal,” United Nations chief Antonio Guterres demanded UN nuclear inspectors be given access to Zaporizhzhia, the largest complex of its kind in Europe.
Russia’s invading forces seized the southern Ukrainian region containing Zaporizhzhia in March, when the site was struck without damage to its reactors. The area, including the city of Kherson, is now the target of a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Ukraine appealed for the area around the complex to be demilitarised and for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, to be let in. Russia said it too favored an IAEA visit, which it accused Ukraine of blocking while trying to “take Europe hostage” by shelling the plant.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Kyiv warns of Chornobyl-style disaster unless area secured

• Both sides say in favour of visit by nuclear inspectors

• UN's Guterres says any attack on a nuclear plant is 'suicidal'

• UK scientist says risk of major nuclear incident is small

Ukraine blamed Russia for weekend attacks around the complex, which is still being run by Ukrainian technicians. It said three radiation sensors were damaged and two workers injured by shrapnel.
As of Monday morning, the plant appeared to still be running, said Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom. He said 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy machinery, including tanks, trucks and armored infantry vehicles were at the site.
The Ukrainian staff at the plant had nowhere to shelter, he added.
Reuters could not independently verify either side’s account.
Kotin called for peacekeepers to run the Zaporizhzhia site, flagging the risk of shells hitting its six containers of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. In an evening video shared online, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for new Western sanctions on Russia’s nuclear industry “for creating the threat of a nuclear disaster.”
Dr. Mark Wenman, a nuclear expert at Imperial College London, played down the risk of a major incident, saying the Zaporizhzhia reactors were relatively robust and the spent fuel well protected.
“Although it may seem worrying, and any fighting on a nuclear site would be illegal ...the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still small,” he said in a statement.

WORKING UNDER ‘RUSSIAN GUNS’
Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the IAEA, said Zaporizhzhia staff were “working under the barrels of Russian guns.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry said Ukrainian attacks had damaged power lines servicing the plant and forced it to reduce output by two of its six reactors to “prevent disruption.”
The UN’s Guterres said IAEA personnel needed access to “create conditions for stabilization.”
“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” he told a news conference in Japan, where he attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Saturday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
The world’s worst civil nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 when a reactor at the Chornobyl complex in northwest Ukraine exploded. Soon after this year’s Feb. 24 invasion, Russian troops occupied that site, withdrawing in late March.
Ukraine has said it is planning to conduct a major counter-offensive around Kherson and that it has already retaken dozens of villages.
Its forces are also fighting to retake areas near Kharkiv in the north, where Russian forces launched artillery strikes on Monday, Ukraine’s general staff said.
In Ukraine’s Donetsk region, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014, Russia was “using all available fire power...to try and inflict maximum losses on Ukrainian units to prevent them from reinforcing other areas,” the general staff added.
Stepping up its fiscal aid and military spending on Ukraine, Washington announced it will send $4.5 billion in budgetary support and $1 billion in weapons, including long-range rocket munitions and armored medical transport vehicles. Overall, the United States has contributed more than $18 billion to Ukraine this year.
Russia’s foreign ministry meanwhile told the United States it was suspending inspection activities under their START nuclear arms control treaty, though it said Moscow remained committed to the treaty’s provisions.

GRAIN EXPORTS PICK UP
Adding weight to a rare diplomatic success since the war began, a deal to unblock Ukraine’s food exports and ease global shortages gathered pace as two grain ships carrying almost 59,000 tons of corn and soybeans sailed out of Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
That raised the total to 12 since the first vessel left a week ago.
The July 22 grain export pact, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, was further underpinned as the parties issued procedures for merchant ships carrying Ukrainian grain, including a 10-nautical-mile military exclusion zone, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports.
Russia says it is waging a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression.
The conflict has displaced millions, killed thousands of civilians and left cities, towns and villages in ruins.


France tweaks rules to keep nuclear plants running during heatwave

France tweaks rules to keep nuclear plants running during heatwave
Updated 08 August 2022

France tweaks rules to keep nuclear plants running during heatwave

France tweaks rules to keep nuclear plants running during heatwave
  • High river temperatures have in recent weeks threatened to reduce France’s already low nuclear output at a time when nearly half its reactors are offline because of corrosion problems and maintenance

PARIS: France’s nuclear power regulator has extended temporary waivers allowing five power stations to continue discharging hot water into rivers as the country contends with a fourth heat wave of the summer and an energy crisis.

High river temperatures have in recent weeks threatened to reduce France’s already low nuclear output at a time when nearly half its reactors are offline because of corrosion problems and maintenance.

The ASN watchdog said on Monday it had approved a government request for the waivers introduced in mid July to be prolonged at the Bugey, Saint Alban, Tricastin, Blayais and Golfech power plants.

“The government considers that it is a public necessity to ... maintain the production of these five power stations until Sept. 11 despite the exceptional weather conditions,” ASN said in a statement.

Air temperatures are expected to climb into the mid to high 30s Celsius this week across much of France, further warming rivers that nuclear operator EDF uses to cool reactors.

Regulations typically require nuclear production be limited during times of high heat to prevent the hot discharge waters re-entering the rivers from endangering wildlife.

French nuclear availability has been at its lowest in at least four years this summer, forcing France to import power when usually it would be exporting to neighboring countries.

On some of the hottest days, France has bought 8 to 10 gigawatts, equivalent to the output from about 8 nuclear reactors.

EDF late on Sunday said it was lifting output restriction warnings at the Saint Alban and Bugey nuclear plants on the Rhone river.

River temperatures at both are expected to peak on Aug. 14.


Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin victory at Commonwealth Games

Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin victory at Commonwealth Games
Updated 08 August 2022

Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin victory at Commonwealth Games

Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin victory at Commonwealth Games
  • Poor boy from Punjab wins country’s first-ever gold medal in event
  • Throw of 90.18 meters was longest at the Games by a South Asian athlete

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis celebrated on Monday a historic win by javelin athlete Arshad Nadeem as he nabbed a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, becoming the first from the South Asian country to achieve the feat.

Nadeem snatched the title in a fifth-round throw of 90.18 meters, breaking a new record at the event, where he now holds the title of the longest throw recorded by a South Asian athlete.

The 25-year-old beat world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who took silver on Sunday evening with a throw of 88.64 meters, while Kenya’s Julius Yego took the bronze with an 85.70 meter throw.

Nadeem’s victory reverberated throughout Pakistan on Monday, as people took to social media to congratulate the athlete and celebrate his win.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Nadeem’s gold win was “amazing news” that brought pride to the country.

“Arshad Nadeem has done Pakistan proud,” Sharif wrote on Twitter. “His consistency, passion and hard work hold lessons for our youth. Congratulations, Arshad, on your brilliant achievement.”

Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Nadeem had given an exceptional performance and was the “pride of the nation and our national hero.”

Nadeem, once a poor boy from Khanewal in Punjab, had beaten all odds to become the first Pakistani in history to win javelin gold at the Commonwealth Games. He is one of nine children of a daily wage laborer and had shown great versatility as an athlete from a young age while dabbling in all kinds of sports at school, from cricket to football and badminton.

Though his family lacked the financial means to encourage Nadeem’s enthusiasm for sports, the boy’s spirit earned him the support he needed, with his elder brothers working to help him build a career in sports. He caught the eye of Rasheed Ahmad Saqi when he was only 12 years old. Saqi eventually became Nadeem’s first coach and mentor, and trained him for javelin throw.

Nadeem won his first bronze medal representing Pakistan at the 2016 South Asian Games in India with a best throw of 78.33 meters. In 2019, at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal, he won a gold medal with an 86.29 meter-games record throw.

Shehzad Ghias Shaikh, a Pakistani YouTuber and comedian, called Nadeem an “absolute legend.”

He said on Twitter: “With hardly any support or resources, this man has done the impossible.”

Pakistani athletes have long complained of a lack of official support in training and infrastructure, but this year’s delegation at the ongoing Commonwealth Games has so far won eight medals.

Pakistani musician Zuliqar Khan said that Nadeem’s victory is “a story of a champion.”

He added: “A champion from Pakistan. I don’t remember a better example of perseverance in Pakistan sports.”