February 16, 2019

Asia

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Burning smell detected in northeast Singapore ‘likely’ related to Johor landfill fire: NEA

Asia
SINGAPORE: A burning smell detected in the northeast of Singapore over the last two days was likely related to a fire at a landfill in Johor, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Saturday. This is the second such incident in two weeks. In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, NEA said it received nine feedback cases between the evening of Feb 15 and 11pm on Feb 16 regarding the burning smell. “Eight of the nine feedback cases were received after 6pm on Feb 16. During the last smell episode on Feb 8, NEA had received 31 feedback cases,” the agency said. On Feb 8 and 9, a fire at the Bandar Tenggara landfill in Johor also resulted in a smoky smell in the eastern parts of Singapore....
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Bollywood's first major LGBTQ film

Asia
A new Bollywood film, the first to focus on LGBTQ relationships, has been released in India.'How I Felt When I Saw That Girl' is the first major Indian film with a star cast is focus on the issue.The film's director Shelly Chopra Dhar spoke to the BBC about the significance of this film for India's LGBTQ community....
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Bleak future for Jakarta cyclists as cars dominate the city's roads

Asia
JAKARTA: Indonesia's capital city is counting down to a transportation revolution next month, when it will have its own Mass Rapid Transit system (MRT). But as Jakarta looks towards some relief from its horrendous traffic problem, there are still residents who see other options as offering the potential to get the city moving.Cycling is one of them. While most commuters in the city rely on motorised vehicles, some want to use bikes to avoid causing pollution and worsening the already slow-moving traffic. Okka Wiranata used to be one of these cyclists. He had a big dream of making Jakarta friendlier to cycling and, in the process, less congested. So when he heard of the Jakarta Urban Challenge in 2015, he teamed up with two of his friends to try to save the city from its notorious traffic woes. ...
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New Zealand bans Huawei, China has message for New Zealand

Asia
From offering mobile payment services such as WePay and Alipay to hiring front-desk staff proficient in Mandarin, the New Zealand Chinese Travel and Tourism Association was not short of advice for Kiwi tourism operators on how to benefit from an influx of mainland Chinese visitors to New Zealand this year.“Chinese tourists enjoy spontaneous travel so there are a lot of last minute bookings. For businesses who’d like to attract Chinese tourists, this is the major challenge for them,” association chairman Simon Cheung said in a promotional video.But preparations for the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism – a campaign by both governments to strengthen economic and bilateral ties – were cast in doubt when China postponed the launch event, which was expected to take place in Wellington next week....
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Li Rui: The old guard Communist who was able to criticise Xi Jinping

Asia
"We are not allowed to talk about past mistakes."Li Rui said this in 2013, while reflecting on the similarities between China's then-new leader Xi Jinping and the founding father of Communist China, Mao Zedong. Mr Xi, he warned, was echoing Mao's suppression of individual thought, and was trying to build a similar cult of personality - both things he had experienced at first hand.Li Rui joined the Communist Party in 1937, at the start of the brutal Sino-Japanese war, and 12 years before the party won the civil war that established the People's Republic. He was hand-picked by Mao to become his personal secretary in 1958.But he was also imprisoned soon afterwards for criticising Mao's Great Leap Forward, the failed modernisation programme now thought to have killed between 30 and 60 million people through torture and starvation. ...
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Pulwama attack: India mourns Kashmir dead

Asia
Thousands of mourners have been attending funerals across India for some of the security force personnel killed by a suicide bomber in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday.At least 40 paramilitary police died in the attack near Srinagar.The militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad said it carried out the attack.India has imposed a swathe of economic measures on Pakistan after the attack, including revoking Most Favoured Nation trading status and raising customs duty to 200%.Although Jaish-e-Mohammad is based in Pakistan, Islamabad has denied any role in the attack.Both India and Pakistan claim all of Muslim-majority Kashmir but control only parts of it.Relatives of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldier Sukhjinder Singh mourn as his coffin is taken to his cremation ceremony at the village of Gandiwind in the Tarn Taran district of India's Punjab state....
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Disarmament efforts must include China as well as US, Russia: Merkel

Asia
MUNICH, Germany: China must be involved in international disarmament efforts, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday (Feb 16), amid rising concern about Beijing's missile arsenal and the suspension of a key US-Russia arms treaty.Fears that the web of agreements limiting the proliferation of nuclear warheads and other weapons could be in jeopardy have grown since Washington and Moscow announced their withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.But Merkel's call to launch a fresh push for disarmament and to include rising military power China met with a brisk rebuff from a top Beijing official - and was simply ignored by senior US and Russian figures."Disarmament is something that concerns us all and we would of course be glad if such talks were held not just between the United States, Europe and Russia but also with China," Merkel told the Munich Security Conference....
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Sri Lanka's last-wicket win stuns SA

Asia
Kusal Perera hit an unbeaten 153 as Sri Lanka chased 304 to claim a stunning one-wicket win over South Africa in the first Test in Durban.He and Vishwa Fernando, who made six not out, added an unbroken 78 to rescue Sri Lanka from 229-9 on the fourth day.It was the highest last-wicket stand in a successful fourth-innings chase in first-class cricket."It was a superman effort," said South Africa captain Faf du Plessis. "He (Perera) deserves all the accolades."Perera said: "I'm a little tired now. I don't know what to say.""I knew we couldn't win this match by just scoring singles. When the time felt right for me, I took my chances."Vishwa told me, 'I'll hit the ball with my body, if nothing else. You do what you can.' I took a lot of strength from that. He did a huge job."...
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Amphibious assault craft take beach in US-Thai war drills

Asia
SATTAHIP, Thailand: With weapons drawn camouflaged troops leapt out of amphibious assault craft while explosions sounded and parachutists glided in from above as the annual Cobra Gold war games took over a placid Thai beach Saturday (Feb 16).Now in its 38th year, Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia, bringing thousands of forces from the United States, Thailand and other countries together for 11 days of training on Thai shores.This year's drill includes some 2,000 US Marines, 1,000 US soldiers and hundreds from the country's Navy and Air Force.US, Thai and South Korean forces on Saturday descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intented to simulate securing the territory....
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Former Mao Zedong secretary and party critic dies at 101

Asia
BEIJING: Mao Zedong's former secretary Li Rui, a bold critic of China's ruling Communist Party who spent a lifetime near the centre of elite politics, died Saturday (Feb 16) at the age of 101, his family said.Li was admitted to a Beijing hospital for a pulmonary infection last year and died of organ failure in Beijing, his daughter said in an email to AFP.Li earned a position alongside China's paramount leader in the mid-1950s, focusing on industrial development.But then he spoke up on the failures of Mao's Great Leap Forward policy - which intended to boost China's economic output but instead unleashed havoc and famine across the country.The Communist Party expelled Li and during the Cultural Revolution he was imprisoned for eight years in the infamous Qincheng prison near Beijing....
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Explained: Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal

Asia
1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is a state investment fund that came under investigation for a multibillion-dollar global corruption scandal.The US Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges US$4.5 billion was siphoned from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014. The scandal has been described as the world’s most extensive financial con.Who are the central figures in the 1MDB scandal?Fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, is accused of masterminding the fraud. Low and two former Goldman Sachs bankers have been charged by the DOJ with money laundering in connection with misappropriation of 1MDB funds.Low is wanted by several countries and subject to a global manhunt. He denies any wrongdoing and is widely speculated to be in China....
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Explained: the CPTPP trade deal

Asia
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was an ambitious trade agreement involving 12 countries that encompassed 40 per cent of the world’s economy and over 800 million consumers. The member countries were Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, Mexico, Peru and Chile.The deal was signed in 2016 but it was never ratified by the US Congress. The pact became a target of criticism from both right-wing and left-wing pundits and US President Donald Trump withdrew from it on his first day in office, in January 2017.However, the rest of member states of the TPP agreed to stick to a revised version of the deal, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)....
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Kim Jong Un to arrive in Vietnam on Feb 25 ahead of Trump summit

Asia
HANOI: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will arrive in Vietnam on Feb 25 ahead of a planned second summit with US President Donald Trump, three sources with direct knowledge of Kim's schedule told Reuters on Saturday (Feb 16).Trump and Kim will meet in the Vietnamese capital on Feb 27 and 28 for the second summit between the two leaders since their historic first meeting in Singapore last June.Kim Jong Un will meet with Vietnamese officials when he arrives in Hanoi, said the sources, who requested anonymity citing the sensitivity and secrecy surrounding the movements of the North Korean leader.Kim will visit the Vietnamese manufacturing base of Bac Ninh, and the industrial port town of Hai Phong, one source said....
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Kashmir attack: is terror group JeM pushing India and Pakistan to the brink of war?

Asia
Thursday’s attack on Indian troops in the Kashmir Valley by the Pakistan-based Jaish e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group seems to have been strategically timed and meant to convey a message, ostensibly on behalf of Pakistan.The Trump administration has been bent on a military withdrawal from Afghanistan and leaning on Pakistan to pressure the Taliban in peace talks. Pakistan is hosting a meeting next week in Islamabad between the Taliban and the United States before the next round of negotiations in Qatar at the end of the month.It is likely Pakistan may use this opportunity to convey a subtle message, as it has done in the past, that it can get away with periodic attacks in Kashmir.JeM has for years sought to end India’s sovereign hold on Jammu and Kashmir....
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Delhi policeman holds up mirror to motorbike law-breakers

Asia
NEW DELHI: Traffic cop Sandeep Shahi used to gift helmets to those riding motorbikes on some of the world's most dangerous streets with their head unprotected - but on reflection, he found a better approach.By flashing a mirror at violators, Shahi has been able to shame riders into reflecting on the thin line between life and death on New Delhi's notorious roads.Although the law mandates proper headgear for bikers in the Indian capital, it is common to see youngsters zip past either without a helmet or with one dangling from their arms, undaunted by the threat of a 1,000-rupee (US$14) fine.Women riding pillion also often give the helmet a miss - sometimes just for fear of ruining their hairstyle....
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Stunned Japan swimmers back stricken Olympic pin-up Ikee

Asia
TOKYO: Japanese swimmers have vowed to step up their efforts in support of Rikako Ikee, the poster girl for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics who has announced she is suffering from leukaemia.Earlier this week, the 18-year-old swim queen tweeted that she had cut short a training camp in Australia after feeling unwell and had been diagnosed with the illness on her return to Japan.The news sent shockwaves around the sport and well-wishes have flooded in for Ikee, a genuine title contender at the 2020 Olympics in her home city."I was shocked," two-time world champion Daiya Seto said at the Konami Open in Tokyo on Saturday."With the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, people will no doubt be urging her to get well and compete....
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North Korea has secret base with intermediate-range missiles capable of hitting Japan’s Okinawa: US study

Asia
North Korea has a clandestine base that houses intermediate-range missiles capable of hitting Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture, a US think tank said on Friday.The Sangnam-ni missile operating base, 250km north of the border with South Korea, is one of an estimated 20 undeclared missile bases in North Korea, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said in a report.The deployment of the Hwasong-10, with a range of more than 3,000km, at Sangnam-ni is “a component of North Korea’s presumed offensive ballistic missile strategy that provides a strategic-level first strike capability against targets located throughout East Asia as far as US forces in Okinawa and Guam”, the report said.However, the base does not appear to be part of denuclearisation negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, according to the report, which will continue at a meeting of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam later this month....
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UK minister's visit to China not going ahead

Asia
A visit to China by Chancellor Phillip Hammond has been called off amid reports a speech by the UK's defence secretary angered Beijing. There were plans for trade talks between Mr Hammond and senior Chinese government figures during the brief visit next week.But a Treasury spokesperson said: "No trip was ever announced or confirmed."Earlier this week, Gavin Williamson had indicated the UK's intention to send an aircraft carrier to the Pacific.Unconfirmed newspaper reports claimed the Chinese government was unhappy about Mr Williamson's speech on Monday.In it he announced the HMS Queen Elizabeth would be deployed to the region, as well as the Middle East and the Mediterranean, on its maiden voyage. ...
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India's semi high-speed train breaks down a day after its launch

Asia
NEW DELHI: India's first locally built, semi high-speed train broke down early on Saturday (Feb 16) on its way back to New Delhi from Varanasi in northern Uttar Pradesh.The incident took place a day after its inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The Vande Bharat Express can run up to a maximum speed of 160km per hour. "There seems to be disruption due to a possible cattle run over. It wasn't a scheduled commercial run," Reuters partner ANI said in a tweet citing the railway's ministry.The train eventually reached New Delhi and will resume a commercial run from Sunday, said the tweet....
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Explained: Shinzo Abe

Asia
Shinzo Abe, the current prime minister of Japan, has led the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) since 2012. Abe has become best known for his push to revitalise the country’s economy and for his plan to reform Japan’s pacifist constitution.His views on Japan’s wartime past have often put him at odds with South Korea and China.Rise, fall and returnAbe was born in 1954 in Tokyo to a political family. His grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, was imprisoned as a suspected war criminal before serving as prime minister between 1957 and 1960. His great-uncle, Eisaku Sato, held the same position between 1964 to 1972.Abe studied political science in the 1970s in the US. He joined the LDP and in 1982 became the secretary to his father, Abe Shintaro, who was serving as foreign minister....
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India high speed train breaks down on first trip

Asia
India's fastest train has broken down on its first trip, a day after it was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi.The Indian-built semi high-speed Vande Bharat Express was returning to the capital Delhi from the city of Varanasi after its first outing when brakes in a carriage reportedly jammed.Indian media quoted a railways spokesperson as saying the train may have struck cattle on the line. The train reached a speed of 180km/hr (110mph) during trials.Soon after the brakes failed, the drivers noticed smoke in the last four coaches and power was lost in all compartments. Those on board, mostly railway officials and journalists, had to take another train to get back to Delhi. Despite the railway ministry's suggestion that the train may have hit a cow, NDTV reported that there were no signs of damage on the front of the train after the incident....
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Explained: the legacy of war in Asia

Asia
The second world war left deep scars on Asia – they are still visible in the fraught ties between various countries today.As Japan seeks to strengthen its military, South Korea and China are determined its wartime atrocities not be forgotten.What happened in the Asian theatre during the second world war?Although Japan sided with the Axis powers in Europe during the second world war, the Japanese militaristic expansion across Asia started before the war in Europe.In 1910, Japan annexed the Korean peninsula. In 1931, the country orchestrated a military attack on its own forces as a pretext to invade Manchuria, China’s northeastern region. The war officially started in 1937, when Japan launched an invasion on the rest of China, quickly seizing control of the major Chinese coastal cities....
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Lion Air plane skids off runway at Indonesian airport

Asia
JAKARTA: A Lion Air passenger plane skidded off a runway outside a city on the Indonesian island of Borneo on Saturday (Feb 16) during heavy rain, the airline said, adding no one was injured.The aircraft was operating a Jakarta-Pontianak service, with 182 passengers and seven crew members onboard, Lion Air spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantoro said in a statement.The Boeing 737-800NG plane skidded off the runway as it was trying to land at Supadio International Airport, a regional hub airport that services a small number of international flights.Local media reported the accident led to the closure of the runway. Representatives for Supadio airport as well as Indonesian air traffic control provider AirNav did not immediately respond to requests for comment....
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North Korea marks birthday of late leader Kim Jong-il ahead of summit with US

Asia
North Korea on Saturday marked the birthday of late leader Kim Jong-il with no outward provocation against the United States, in the run-up to a second summit between the two countries later this month.National flags and placards have been placed along major thoroughfares of Pyongyang in celebration of the father of the current leader Kim Jong-un, who has recently pledged to revitalise the nation’s economy hit hard by international sanctions.Ahead of Kim Jong-un’s planned summit with US President Donald Trump on February 27-28 in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, political slogans in public spaces made no mention of the country’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes.To commemorate the anniversary, known as “the Day of the Shining Star” in North Korea, various cultural and sports events, including a flower festival, a figure skating show and an artistic swimming performance, have taken place in Pyongyang....
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Cobra Gold: US troops join one of Asia’s largest war drills in Thailand

Asia
With weapons drawn camouflaged troops leapt out of amphibious assault craft while explosions sounded and parachutists glided in from above as the annual Cobra Gold war games took over a placid Thai beach on Saturday.Now in its 38th year, Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia, bringing thousands of forces from the United States, Thailand and other countries together for 11 days of training on Thai shores.This year’s drill includes some 2,000 US Marines, 1,000 US soldiers and hundreds from the country’s Navy and Air Force.On Saturday US, Thai and South Korean forces descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intended to simulate securing the territory....
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Explained: South China Sea dispute

Asia
The South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest waterways, is subject to several overlapping territorial disputes involving China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.The conflict has remained unresolved for decades but has emerged as a flashpoint in China-US relations in Asia.What is the conflict about?The Philippines, Vietnam, China, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia hold different, sometimes overlapping, territorial claims over the sea, based on various accounts of history and geography.China claims more than 80 per cent, while Vietnam claims sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands.The Philippines asserts ownership of the Spratly archipelago and the Scarborough Shoal, while Brunei and Malaysia have claimed sovereignty over southern parts of the sea and some of Spratly Islands....
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Indians and Pakistanis bond over cricket in Uruguay, but rue lack of permanent ground

Asia
Every Sunday, close to a statue of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, a group of Indian expats take over a patch of land in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo for a game of cricket.Tucked in between the Rio de la Plata estuary and the long promenade known as the “rambla” that stretches from one side of Montevideo to the other, Avijit Mukherjee prepares to bat, watched eagerly by his Uruguayan girlfriend.“I played in my country but with a lot more infrastructure,” said the 28-year-old Mukherjee.“There are stadiums and many places to play in India, whereas here we only have one.”Although cricket was first played in Montevideo by British expat workers even before the foundation of the independent republic in 1828, its practice died out in the 1980s....
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Winx: Australian mare wins 30th straight race in track record time at Randwick

Asia
Australian racehorse Winx made history by extending her record of consecutive wins with a 30th straight victory.The mare, trained by Chris Waller, broke the track record in winning the Apollo Stakes at Royal Randwick in Sydney by two lengths from Happy Clapper in front of a bumper crowd.Jockey Hugh Bowman said the seven-year-old, who is starting her farewell season, had performed as well as ever."It's something we'll look back on in years to come," he said.Winx, recently named 2018 Horse of the Year alongside Cracksman, holds the record for most successive victories for an Australian racehorse, with Black Caviar next best on 25....
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Woman battered, robbed by man in lift at Malaysia MRT station

Asia
KUALA LUMPUR: A 48-year-old woman suffered a brutal attack after she was punched and kicked several times during a robbery in a lift at the Taman Mutiara MRT station in Cheras on Thursday (Feb 14).Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department head SAC Rusdi Mohd Isa, in a statement on Friday, said the incident occurred about 6.45am when the woman went into the lift alone before the suspect, believed to be a local and on the run, entered. The woman, who was injured on the head and other parts of the body, lost her identity card, bank cards and RM400 in the incident, he said, adding that the police had recorded statements from three witnesses to facilitate investigation.A recording of a closed-circuit television camera (CCTV)) showing the woman being assaulted in the lift went viral on social media....
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South Korean mothers are parenting at island resorts – while their children pick up English

Asia
Three years ago, Lee Eun-kyung wanted to run away from her job as a schoolteacher. South Korea has high expectations for children in classrooms; in 2018, for the fifth year in a row, the country topped the NJ MED’s World Top 20 Education Poll in terms of standardised testing and college graduation rates.This means the pressure is not just on students but on teachers and mothers as well, as mothers are traditionally placed in charge of children’s education.Lee’s trip to the island of Saipan, an American territory in the Pacific Ocean, with her sister and both their children was meant to be a one-time break from the pressures of teaching. For about a month, the children – who were around seven to eight years old – enrolled in the local private school as exchange students while their mothers relaxed, spending long days on the beach and evenings filled with leisure....
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4-cornered contest in Malaysia's Semenyih by-election

Asia
SELANGOR: It is a four-cornered contest in the Semenyih state by-election on Mar 2, among candidates from the ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH), opposition Barisan Nasional (BN), Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) and an independent.Semenyih state by-election returning officer Mohd Sayuthi Bakar announced the names of the candidates around 10.25am on Saturday (Feb 16), after the close of nomination at the Kajang Municipal Council. PH, which is defending the seat in the Malaysian state of Selangor, has fielded engineer Muhammad Aiman Zainali, 30, who is the treasurer of the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) Hulu Langat Division.BN has nominated Zakaria Hanafi, 58, the permanent chairman of the Kampung Sesepan Kelubi UMNO Branch and PSM, its youth wing central committee member Nik Aziz Afiq Abdul, 25. ...
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Singapore’s giant reserves: a taxing question for its next prime minister, Heng Swee Keat

Asia
‘NIRC’ – it’s a uniquely Singaporean economic abbreviation that stands for net investment returns contribution.It’s a mouthful, but in the coming weeks the term is likely to be on the lips of many of the Lion City’s lawmakers as they debate the national budget Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will unveil on Monday. The NIRC is the amount of Singapore government revenue that comes from interest earned on its outsize reserves.The city state has elaborate rules on how much a sitting government can rely on past reserves. Among them are requirements that the administration is not mired in net debt, and that only up to 50 per cent of long-term expected returns can be used each year.The NIRC is computed based on long-term expected returns from net assets invested by three entities as well as investment income....
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman suddenly postpones Malaysia and Indonesia visits

Asia
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has postponed trips to Indonesia and Malaysia, the foreign ministries for both Southeast Asian countries confirmed on Saturday. No new dates have been set.No reasons were given for the postponement of the trips, during which he was expected to sign several agreements. Saudi Arabia and Indonesia will continue to communicate on a new schedule for a visit and better outcomes, the ministry in Jakarta said on its website.The prince – the kingdom’s de facto ruler – is also scheduled to visit China, India and Pakistan as part of an Asian tour where he is expected to sign a slew of bilateral investment agreements.Pakistani officials said on Saturday the prince’s visit has been delayed by a day....
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Princess to Prayuth: who’s who in Thai election’s Game of Thrones

Asia
KING MAHA VAJIRALONGKORN Asked in a 1980 BBC interview what being a royal was like, Maha Vajiralongkorn, then 28, said he knew no other life.“I have been born, from the first second of my life, as a prince,” he said. “It is difficult to say what it’s like to be a fish when you are a fish. Or what it’s like to be a bird when you are a bird.”Today, the king splits his time between Germany – where he lives in relative privacy – and Thailand, where he is accorded near-deity status.When he took the reins in 2016 he faced questions about his lifestyle, and whether he could fill his father Bhumibol Adulyadej’s shoes.Does King Vajiralongkorn hold all the cards in Thai politics?Bhumibol was venerated for the stabilising role he played during his record-breaking 70-year reign....
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In brief: Didi targets new South American markets

Asia
It acquired Brazil's 99 - a fellow member of SoftBank's venture portfolio - in January last year.
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Spy case heads to UN court as India-Pakistan ties spiral downwards

Asia
India will ask the UN’s top court Monday to order Pakistan to take an alleged Indian spy off death row, in a case that could stoke fresh tensions after a deadly attack in Kashmir.Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav was arrested in the restive southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan in March 2016 on charges of espionage and sentenced to death by a military court.The International Court of Justice urgently ordered Pakistan in 2017 to stay the execution of Jadhav, pending hearings on the broader Indian case that take place this week in The Hague.The rare foray into the international courts for the nuclear-armed rivals could be another flashpoint after Thursday’s suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir that killed 41 troops....
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Forget the junta: does King Vajiralongkorn hold all the cards in Thai politics?

Asia
THE THAI DRAMA lasted ostensibly less than a day. But the shock waves of the February 8 political earthquake triggered by Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya’s abortive prime ministerial candidacy – vetoed by her younger brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn within hours – are still being felt as the Thai public grapples with the meaning of that moment.The motivation behind the monarch’s edict remains opaque, as do its consequences. Some say his decision was more a rebuke than a reminder, while others hint that he could be pulling the ruling junta’s strings – or stacking his deck against them.Never since the end of absolute monarchic rule in 1932 had members of the ruling Chakri dynasty fashioned themselves as politicians....
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Cash-strapped Pakistan rolls out red carpet for Saudis

Asia
For a country running out of foreign reserves, facing a yawning current account deficit and fighting to secure its financial future, Pakistan is putting on quite a show for Saudi Arabia's most powerful man - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.And it's easy to see why: Prime Minister Imran Khan needs money, and he needs it fast.MBS, as he's known, is coming to town promising billions - with Pakistan the first stop on a four-country Asian tour that also includes Malaysia, Indonesia and India.But money is just one dimension of a relationship that goes much deeper. The last time a Saudi royal visit was marked with this much fanfare was in 2006, when then Saudi ruler King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz toured the nuclear-armed nation....
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China’s stance on Kashmir attack will test ties with India

Asia
The terror attack in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, killing over 40 Indian paramilitary policemen, is by far the deadliest assault since the proxy war between India and Pakistan began about three decades ago.This attack claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a terror group banned by the United Nations, was carried out by a suicide bomber, who drove a car laden with more than 300kg of high explosives into a bus that was ferrying paramilitary personnel towards Srinagar along the main national highway.Kashmir is divided and separately administered by India and Pakistan but both claim the entire state as their territory, and many people who live there want either independence or to be part of Pakistan....
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How could a sharp slowdown in China affect growth prospects for the rest of Asia?

Asia
The threat of a sharper-than-expected economic slowdown in China could damage Asia’s growth prospects, according to analysts.While optimism is rising over continuing trade talks between the United States and China, they have yet to reach a deal and remain far apart on key structural issues. If the conflict were to intensify, China’s challenge would be to cushion its economy from a fall.China’s latest data on foreign trade, GDP growth and the purchasing managers’ index suggests the economy will continue to slow, at least for the next month or so, meaning a hard landing is not anticipated for now.A sudden shock to the economy would add to challenges from increasing protectionist tensions in the Asia-Pacific, a region which is highly dependent on global demand. As companies and manufacturers shift supply chains to lower cost countries, that may make the markets most reliant on Chinese demand more sensitive to a slowing Chinese economy....
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Jakarta takes first step on journey to end traffic nightmare with new MRT

Asia
JAKARTA: Anyone who's visited Jakarta will know just how horrific its traffic congestion can be, with a simple journey from the airport to downtown potentially taking hours on a bad day. While this may be no more than a temporary frustration for the occasional visitor, for many people working in Indonesia's capital it's a daily nightmare. A short journey in terms of distance from the outskirts of the city to the centre through congested and polluted roads can take a couple of hours. When the traffic jams hit hard, the daily commute can take even longer.  But now, help is at hand. From next month, Jakarta will have its own Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system which the government hopes will be the first step on the road towards relieving the Indonesian capital's traffic congestion nightmare. ...
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Commentary: Mahathir’s ‘Game of Thrones’ grand plan is almost complete

Asia
TASMANIA: Last Tuesday (Feb 12), something very important happened in Malaysia, yet it only received coverage for one day. Bersatu, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s party, and arguably the most important party in the Pakatan Harapan coalition admitted seven ex-UMNO MPs into the party.By the next day, the entire media coverage on Malaysia turned their full attention to the aborted corruption trial of Najib Razak. The Bersatu episode was, more or less, forgotten.This is the nature of political news in Malaysia now, in the new social media age and a 24/7 news cycle.THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL EVENT THIS YEAR YETWhat happened last Tuesday was, however, probably the most significant event politically this year thus far....
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US-China trade talks to resume next week, Trump hints at extension

Asia
BEIJING/WASHINGTON: The United States and China will resume trade talks next week in Washington with time running short to ease their bruising trade war, but U.S. President Donald Trump repeated on Friday that he may extend a March 1 deadline for a deal and keep tariffs on Chinese goods from rising.Both the United States and China reported progress in five days of negotiations in Beijing this week.Trump, speaking at a White House news conference, said the United States was closer than ever before to "having a real trade deal" with China and said he would be "honored" to remove tariffs if an agreement can be reached.But he added that the talks were "very complicated."White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Friday the two economic superpowers "will continue working on all outstanding issues in advance of the March 1, 2019, deadline....
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Trump says could extend China tariff deadline

Asia
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said on Friday (Feb 15) that trade negotiations with China were going "extremely well" and again offered the possibility of extending the Mar 1 deadline for a sharp rise in punitive tariffs.Senior officials completed two days of high-stakes talks in Beijing on Friday as they try to avert the US threat to more than double tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese goods, which would be an unwelcome shock to the world's second largest economy as it already has shown signs of slowing."It is going extremely well," Trump said of the talks."The tariffs are hurting China very badly. They don't want them and frankly if we can make the deal it would be my honour to remove them," he told reporters at the White House....
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Trump hails China's use of death penalty for drug dealers

Asia
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday (Feb 15) praised China's use of capital punishment for drug dealers, suggesting that the United States would deal better with narcotics trafficking if it put offenders to death.In China, drug dealers get "a thing called the death penalty. Our criminal drug dealer gets a thing called 'how about a fine?'" Trump told reporters at the White House."So if we want to get smart, we can get smart. You can end the drug problem. You can end it a lot faster than you think."It is not the first time that Trump has advocated capital punishment for drug related crimes.Last March, he suggested the United States could bring in the death penalty for drug dealers.Officials indicated there would be no attempt to change the law to make the death penalty mandatory for trafficking alone, a move that would could well run afoul of Supreme Court rulings on proportional punishment....
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Hong Kong seizes $1m worth of rhino horn at airport

Asia
Airport authorities in Hong Kong have arrested two men smuggling a record number of suspected rhino horns worth $1m (£780,000) on Thursday.Some 24 severed rhino horns weighing 40kg (88lb) were found in the bust - Hong Kong's largest ever seizure.The alleged smugglers were in transit to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam from Johannesburg in South Africa.Customs officials said the illegal haul was brazenly transported through the terminal in two cardboard boxes.The airport incident comes just two weeks after Hong Kong seized a record eight tonnes of pangolin scales and more than 1,000 elephant tusks.A local environmental group said Thursday's rhino horns accounted for 20% of the total amount of Hong Kong's seizures since 2013....
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Trump hails North Korea's 'tremendous' economic potential

Asia
WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Friday (Feb 15) hailed Pyongyang's "tremendous" economic potential and his "great relationship" with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un ahead of a second scheduled summit between the two leaders.Speaking to reporters at the White House, the US president also took a dig at Barack Obama, suggesting his predecessor had been close to going to war with the nuclear-armed state.Pyongyang has yet to provide any official confirmation of the Feb 27-28 summit, which will be the second time the pair come together following their Singapore meeting on Jun 12 last year.But Trump held out the prospect of growth and prosperity for the impoverished and isolated country should it follow a path of peace....
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Malaysian judiciary lodges police report over allegations of misconduct and interference

Asia
PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian judiciary has lodged a police report over allegations of judicial misconduct and interference made by a sitting judge, it announced on Friday (Feb 15).In a 63-page affidavit submitted on Thursday, Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer claimed numerous incidences of alleged interference within the Malaysian judiciary, including in a sedition case involving late lawyer Karpal Singh and a case of the religious conversion of three Hindu children. The affidavit was filed in support of an originating summons put in by Singh's daughter, lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo. She had sued an unnamed "Chief Justice of Malaysia" on Jan 14, seeking a declaration that he had failed to perform his duties as head of the judiciary when he did not complete investigations relating to her late father's sedition appeal and the case of kindergarten teacher Indira Gandhi. ...
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Japanese man abducted in 1970s is alive in Pyongyang, North Korea confirms

Asia
North Korea has confirmed that a Japanese man abducted by its agents in the late 1970s is living in Pyongyang with his wife, a Japanese official said on Friday.Since 2014, North Korea has told Japan several times about the situation of the man, Minoru Tanaka, who went missing at age 28 after leaving for Europe, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.Japan has also been informed that Tatsumitsu Kaneda, who used to work with him at the same noodle shop in Kobe and disappeared at age 26, is living in North Korea, the official said.The two men, who are said to have fathered children after arriving in North Korea, do not wish to return to Japan, the official said.Japanese officials have not met with either man. A senior Foreign Ministry official declined to comment....
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Jumbo Group to open first seafood restaurant in South Korea by September

Asia
SINGAPORE: Jumbo Group is set to open a seafood restaurant in Seoul by September this year, in its first foray into the South Korean market.The new restaurant will help Jumbo, which is famous for its chili crab, expand its portfolio of brands to major cities in the region, the company said on Friday (Feb 15).Besides its six outlets in Singapore, Jumbo also has restaurants in Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh, among others.As part of the agreement, Jumbo will incorporate a 50:50 joint venture company with South Korean company TCI to establish and operate restaurants around the country.TCI  is a subsidiary of Didim, which owns about 20 brands and has more than 400 restaurants in South Korea and 34 outlets outside the country....
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Family acquitted over Italy woman's Pakistan 'honour killing'

Asia
A court in Pakistan has acquitted the father, brother and uncle of a woman who died in a suspected honour killing last year.Sana Cheema, 26, lived in Italy but died while visiting her family in Gujrat in April 2018.She was originally buried without an autopsy - but when exhumed a cause of death was identified as strangulation.It was widely reported that she had been brought back to Pakistan for an arranged marriage, but refused.Her friends also alleged Ms Cheema had wanted to marry a Pakistani-Italian man in Italy - a match her family objected to.Ms Cheema was born in Pakistan, but lived in the northern Italian city of Brescia for most of her life. After she died during a visit back to her home country, her family blamed natural causes and buried her locally....
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UN seeks US$920 million aid for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Asia
GENEVA: The United Nations on Friday (Feb 15) called for US$920 million in aid for around a million Rohingya taking shelter in Bangladesh after bloodshed in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.About 740,000 of the Muslim minority fled to Bangladesh as a result of a military crackdown in August 2017, condemned by the UN as ethnic cleansing.They joined another 300,000 Rohingya who were already living in overcrowded camps in Cox's Bazar following previous bouts of violence.In a joint statement the UN refugee agency and the International Organization of Migration said they were looking to raise US$920 million to meet "the massive needs of more than 900,000 refugees from Myanmar and over 330,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis in host communities"....
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Afghan government ‘cannot be sidelined’ in peace talks

Asia
In an interview with the BBC, President Ashraf Ghani says his government is in contact with the Taliban despite the militants' refusal to engage with them as part of formal peace talks....
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What ‘Wuhan spirit’? Kashmir suicide attack reopens Modi’s China wound

Asia
A terror strike on Indian security forces in the country’s restive Jammu and Kashmir province has raised renewed questions in India on China’s continued protection of the Pakistan-based terror outfit behind the attack, threatening to unravel a thaw between the Asian giants forged last year.In the deadliest ever attack in the region, over 40 Indian personnel were killed and many injured in the province’s Pulwama district on Thursday, when a suicide bomber targeted a convoy of 78 vehicles carrying the troops with a car bomb packed with more than 350kg of explosives.Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for the attack, has been a bone of contention between China and India for years....
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Kashmir suicide bomber radicalised after beating by troops, parents say

Asia
SRINAGAR: A suicide bomber who killed 44 paramilitary policemen in Indian-controlled Kashmir joined a militant group after having been beaten by troops three years ago, his parents told Reuters on Friday (Feb 15).Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for Thursday's car bomb attack on a security convoy, the worst in decades of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state. It comes months before a key Indian general election.Adil Ahmad Dar, 20, from the village of Lethipora in Indian Kashmir, rammed a car full of explosives into the convoy, escalating tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which both claim the rugged Himalayan region....
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Chinese protest in Madrid against mass bank account freeze

Asia
MADRID: Hundreds of Chinese citizens staged a rare protest on Friday (Feb 15) at an office of Spain's BBVA bank in Madrid, angrily denouncing that their personal accounts had been frozen without prior warning.Waving Chinese and Spanish flags, the protesters shouted "racist BBVA" and "we want justice", while carrying banners reading "stop banking racism".When contacted by AFP, BBVA, the second biggest bank in Spain, was not able to detail how many clients had been affected.In a statement, it said it had frozen accounts to comply with measures to fight money-laundering, adding it was working to resolve the problem.Protesters said other banks had also frozen accounts of citizens of Chinese origin recently, but to a lesser extent than BBVA....
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China says reached consensus on some key issues during US trade talks

Asia
BEIJING: China and the United States have reached a consensus in principle on some key issues during trade talks in Beijing, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday (Feb 15).Officials of different levels held talks in Beijing all week to try and resolve a festering trade dispute that has roiled global markets. Both sides discussed topics including technology transfers, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, services, agriculture and the trade balance, Xinhua said.The two countries also had a detailed discussion on a memorandum of understanding on trade and economic issues, the report added, without giving details.Officials from both sides will meet next week in Washington to continue working on a trade deal, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Friday....
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Malaysia's Axiata accepts offer for Singapore mobile operator M1

Asia
KUALA LUMPUR/SINGAPORE: Malaysia's Axiata Group the largest shareholder in Singapore mobile operator M1 Ltd has accepted a bid from Singapore investors that valued M1 at S$1.9 billion (US$1.4 billion).In a statement late on Friday, the telecoms group said it would book an estimated gain of 126.5 million ringgit (US$31 million) after selling its 28.7 per cent stake in M1 for about 1.65 billion ringgit.Last year, Singapore conglomerate Keppel Corp and Singapore Press Holdings launched an offer to gain majority control of M1. They offered S$2.06 for each M1 share, aiming to restructure it to better compete with sector rivals.In September, Axiata said the offer should reflect the accurate future value of M1, inclusive of an acceptable control premium and consistent with market standards....
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North Korea officials arrive in Beijing ahead of Trump-Kim summit: Yonhap

Asia
SEOUL: Twelve North Korean officials - including Kim Jong Un's de-facto chief of staff - have arrived in Beijing en-route to Vietnam ahead of a second scheduled summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Friday (Jan 15).The North Koreans were expected to board a plane bound for the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Yonhap said, with the high-stakes meeting now less than two weeks away."A group of 12 North Koreans, including Kim Chang Son, were on the boarding list" of a plane bound for Beijing, Yonhap said, citing a source in the capital.The identities of the 11 other officials were not reported. Pyongyang has yet to provide any official confirmation of the Feb 27 to 28 summit, which will be the second time the two leaders come together following their Jun 12 Singapore meeting....
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Disgraced South Korean poet Ko Un loses defamation suit

Asia
SEOUL: A South Korean poet, once tipped for the Nobel Prize for Literature, lost a defamation suit on Friday (Feb 15) against a fellow writer.Ko Un, an 85-year-old former Buddhist monk, was one of the country's most respected contemporary poets until allegations of sexual misconduct towards junior writers surfaced last year amid the #MeToo movement.One of those young writers was Choi Young-mi, who suggested the revered poet had a dark side, in a poem titled Monster, published in December 2017.In it, Choi described the sexual harassment she suffered at the hands of a poet named "En"."Don't sit next to En/the poet 'K' advised me, a literary novice/He touches young women whenever he sees one," Choi's poem begins....
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India vows 'heavy price' after deadly Kashmir attack

Asia
NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan's troubled ties risked taking a dangerous new turn on Friday (Feb 15) as New Delhi accused Islamabad of harbouring militants behind the deadliest bombing in three decades of bloodshed in Indian-administered Kashmir.At least 41 paramilitary troops were killed on Thursday as explosives packed in a van ripped through a convoy bringing 2,500 troopers back from leave not far from the main city Srinagar.Local media reported that the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group claimed responsibility, with the vehicles driven by a known local militant, Aadil Ahmad alias Waqas Commando. Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947 with both nuclear-armed countries, which have fought three wars, claiming it as their own....
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Malaysia ‘values China’: Mahathir signs up to Xi’s second belt and road summit

Asia
Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad has become the first world leader to confirm his attendance at China’s second Belt and Road Initiative summit this April, in a move analysts say is aimed at reassuring Beijing of his commitment to the project.They say the Malaysian prime minister’s second visit to the country since coming to power in May 2018 will do much to assuage any doubts about the bilateral relationship that have crept in since his newly minted administration cancelled a series of Beijing-backed multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects agreed under his predecessor Najib Razak.At a press conference on Friday to announce his attendance at the summit, Mahathir stressed that Malaysia “valued” its relationship with China....
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China bans non-climbers from Mount Everest base camp

Asia
BEIJING: China has banned tourists from accessing its Mount Everest base camp in Tibet amid an ongoing campaign to clean up trash in the mountainous region, said state media Friday (Feb 15).The ban applies to "ordinary tourists", not those with climbing permits, reported official news agency Xinhua.Access will be closed from areas above the Rongpo Monastery, which is about 5,000 meters above sea level, said the report, citing remarks from Kelsang, the deputy director at the nature reserve.A new camp for visitors will be set up about two kilometres from the original one, reported Xinhua.The Everest region, part of which belongs to neighbouring Nepal, has seen a growing number of tourists and mountaineers in recent years....
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Myanmar army chief denies systematic persecution of Rohingya

Asia
TOKYO: Myanmar's army chief, who is facing international calls to be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, has denied any systematic army persecution and said such accusations were an insult to his country's honour.In his first detailed interview since the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in 2017, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing cast doubt on UN estimates about 730,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh, and on their accounts of abuses by his forces, saying the refugees had been told what to say."Criticism without any certain proof hurts the nation's dignity," Min Aung Hlaing told Japan's Asahi Shimbun daily in an interview published on Friday (Feb 15).Myanmar forces launched their offensive in Rakhine State in 2017 in response to a series of attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts near the Bangladesh border....
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Singapore detains businessman who sponsored Malaysian Islamic State fighter

Asia
A Singaporean man, who gave financial support to a Syria-based Islamic State (IS) militant from Malaysia, has been detained under the city state’s tough internal security laws, authorities said on Friday.The 48-year-old businessman, Mohamed Kazali Salleh, was among seven men nabbed by Singapore and Malaysian authorities for suspected involvement in terrorism-related activities.The arrest highlights the continued influence of Southeast Asian militants fighting with IS in Iraq and Syria in radicalising people back home, even as the jihadists face defeat in the Middle East.Kazali is suspected of being a “close associate” of Mohamad Aquil bin Wan Zainal Abidin, also known as Akel Zainal. Akel is believed to be the most senior Malaysian IS fighter in Syria, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)....
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Viewpoint: How far might India go to 'punish' Pakistan?

Asia
A suicide attack killed more than 40 members of the Indian security forces in restive Indian-administered Kashmir on 14 February. Threats from Indian leaders, who face a tricky general election before May, raise the spectre of Indian military retaliation against Pakistan for alleged "state-sponsored terrorism", writes Indian defence analyst Ajai Shukla.Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi has pledged to give security forces free rein to respond to the militant attack - the deadliest in the region in three decades. "Terrorist organisations and their backers", he said, will pay a "heavy price". Home Minister Rajnath Singh blamed Pakistan for the attack and threatened a "strong reply". Influential Indian television networks are baying for revenge....
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'Very difficult issues' remain after US-China trade talks: US negotiator

Asia
BEIJING: Top US trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer told Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday (Feb 15) that "very difficult issues" remained after two days of US-China trade talks wrapped up in Beijing."We have had two very good days of negotiations," US Trade Representative Lighthizer told Xi at the beginning of a meeting attended by top American and Chinese negotiators."We feel that we have to make headway on some very, very important and very difficult issues. We have additional work to do but we are hopeful," Lighthizer said.Top officials from the world's two biggest economies held two days of talks hoping to make progress to stave off an escalation of their tariff war."We all believe that China-US relations have broad common interests in safeguarding world peace and stability and promoting global economic prosperity and development. This is a common interest of us both," Xi told the US negotiators at the start of the meeting....
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Vietnamese airlines granted access to US market for first time

Asia
WASHINGTON: Vietnamese airlines will be able to fly to the United States and codeshare with American carriers after the US Federal Aviation Administration declared the Southeast Asian country complies with international safety standards.The U.S. aviation safety agency said in a statement late on Thursday (Feb 15) that it was awarding Vietnam a "Category 1" rating, two weeks after Reuters reported the decision was expected."It's recognition by a very developed aviation authority which requires a very high standard of safety and security," Vietnamese Deputy Transportation Minister Nguyen Ngoc Dong told Reuters on Friday.There are currently no non-stop flights between Vietnam and the United States, despite a large market catering to tourism and visits by friends and relatives. Vietnam Airlines JSC , Bamboo Airways and VietJet Aviation JSC desire to fly to the United States....
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Fire alarms 'faulty' at Delhi blaze hotel, prompting mass reinspections

Asia
NEW DELHI: A hotel that caught fire in the Indian capital on Tuesday, killing 17 people, passed safety checks 14 months ago, but an investigation has revealed breaches of regulations, such as faulty alarms, prompting a mass reinspection of other hotels.Poorly enforced regulations lead to thousands of deaths in fires across India every year and officials in New Delhi say an overstretched fire service is hampering safety efforts.The Hotel Arpit Palace passed a fire safety check in December 2017, but a copy of the initial police investigation seen by Reuters showed several breaches of fire regulations, including a lack of signs to guide guests to exits and fire alarms that did not work.Delhi's fire service, which is responsible for safety inspections as well as fighting fires, is now reviewing certificates issued to more than 1,500 hotels in one of India's tourist hubs, a senior fire official told Reuters....
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French victory ends long asylum battle of Afghan interpreters

Asia
PARIS: They served the French army on the frontlines in Afghanistan, sometimes bearing arms during operations by international forces against the Taliban.But for years after the French troops pulled out, many Afghan interpreters were left exposed to revenge attacks by Islamist fundamentalists and denied asylum by the country for which they worked.Their long fight for protection from France ended on Feb 1 when a top French court ordered the state to give immediate protection to all those who had been previously turned away.As Afghanistan sinks further into violence, those who serve or have served foreign militaries are particularly at risk from the Taliban, who view them as traitors.Zainullah Oryakhail, 30, served as an interpreter for a French battalion from 2009 to 2013 - a role for which he was occasionally armed with a French assault rifle to use in the event of an ambush....
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Hong Kong's 'Long Hair' lawmaker fails to overturn legislature ban

Asia
HONG KONG: A veteran former Hong Kong lawmaker known for his long hair, Che Guevara t-shirts and colourful protest stunts failed on Friday (Feb 15) to overturn a ban on him standing for the city's legislature.Leung Kwok-hung - known by the nickname Long Hair - was one of four lawmakers disqualified in 2017 for altering their swearing-in oaths to reflect their frustrations with Beijing's increased political control over the city.One lawmaker quoted Gandhi while another deliberately read her oath at a snail's pace.Leung, 62, read his oath properly, but held aloft a yellow umbrella - symbolising his support for the city's pro-democracy protest movement.Their antics helped spark an unprecedented legal intervention from Beijing demanding oaths be taken in a "solemn and sincere" manner. The High Court ruled they had not been....
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Myanmar court sentences two to death for lawyer Ko Ni's murder

Asia
A Myanmar court on Friday sentenced two people to death for the murder of a Muslim lawyer and Aung San Suu Kyi adviser, after a drawn-out trial backlit by allegations of impunity with a main suspect still at large.Ko Ni, whose work and faith made him a target of hate speech online by Buddhist nationalists, was shot in the head at point blank range outside Yangon airport in January 2017, while holding his infant grandson.The brazen, daytime murder shocked the country and came about eight months after civilian leader Suu Kyi’s administration entered office.Ko Ni was a legal adviser to her National League for Democracy and had been working on plans to amend the 2008 military-drafted constitution, which gifts the armed forces control of defence and a quarter of parliamentary seats....
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Lost in China: Thai with dementia returns home after 640km detour

Asia
BANGKOK: A 59-year-old Thai woman with dementia who left home eight months ago to see her son nearby, only to apparently walk 640km, arrived back in the kingdom Friday (Feb 15).Kaeomanee Arjaw, who is from the ethnic Akha hill-tribe, was reported missing on Jun 12 from her house in the Thai province of Chiang Rai, part of the mountainous "Golden Triangle" zone which borders Laos and Myanmar.She was found in the southern Chinese city of Kunming in late January carrying a Thai identity card, helping officials swiftly contact the local consulate.China borders both Laos and Myanmar and it was not immediately clear which route she took across the remote frontiers or how long her journey took."She told officials she went there by foot, she kept walking, asking for food from stalls along the way," Colonel Aekkorn Butsabarbodin, of Chiang Rai immigration police told AFP....
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Saudi crown prince to visit China

Asia
BEIJING: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit China next week, Beijing's foreign ministry said on Friday (Feb 15), as part of a swing through Asia in which the monarch is expected to sign an investment package with cash-strapped Pakistan.The Saudi Arabian leader, who has come under suspicion over an alleged role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, will visit next Thursday and Friday and will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Han Zheng.The visit will seek to "promote the greater development of Sino-Saudi relations" and "deepen cooperation" on China's "Belt and Road" economic and trade diplomacy initiative, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing....
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Hong Kong company sorry after 'vacuum cleaner for her' HSBC Valentine offer

Asia
LONDON: Hong Kong telecoms company HKT apologised after a Valentine's day deal it sent to HSBC staff offering discounted laptops "for him" but vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances "for her" angered employees over its sexist implications.The multi-page advertisement, described as an "HSBC Staff Offer" was produced and sent to employees of the bank this week by HKT, a telecommunications company owned by Hong Kong conglomerate PCCW.HSBC staff in Hong Kong and London sharply criticised the offer, according to a source who shared images of it with Reuters, at a time when the bank is battling to reduce a gender pay disparity that is the worst among big British firms. "We have heard the feedback and offer our heartfelt apologies for any offense caused," a spokesman for HKT said on Friday....
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Indonesian firms owe US$1.3 billion in forest damage fines: Greenpeace

Asia
JAKARTA: Indonesian firms owe at least US$1.3 billion in unpaid fines for environmental damage caused by widespread forest clearing and deadly fires linked to tens of thousands of premature deaths, a Greenpeace study said Friday (Feb 15).Citing government data, the environmental group said it examined 11 civil court cases between 2012 and 2018 where palm oil and pulp-and-paper companies were ordered to pay fines to Jakarta."However, not one of these forest cases has resulted in compensation being paid," Greenpeace said.The cases were mostly linked to damage from fires that tore through Indonesia in 2015, causing as much as US$16 billion in damages to forestry and agriculture, as well as to tourism and other industry, it added, citing World Bank figures....
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Maldives president suspends ministers as corruption scandal spreads

Asia
MALE: Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih suspended two government ministers over financial transactions conducted with a company implicated in a US$90 million corruption scandal.The investigation relates to a deal to lease tropical islands for hotel development, that has already implicated a former president and several other leading politicians and businessmen.Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof and State Minister for Infrastructure Akram Kamaludeen both allegedly accepted money from SOF Private Limited, a company allegedly used to siphon cash from the islands' tourism board, according to a nearly 800-page-long report released by the Maldives Anti-Corruption Commission late on Thursday (Feb 14)....
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North Korea, China in ice dance to the music of diplomacy

Asia
PYONGYANG: At the climax of a festival on ice to celebrate late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on Friday (Feb 15), Olympic skaters from the host nation and neighbouring China swapped partners to dance together.The moment symbolised the markedly improved relations between Beijing and nuclear-armed Pyongyang amid a flurry of diplomacy on and around the peninsula.The four skaters - Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik of the North, who qualified for last year's Winter Olympics in the South, and Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who took the ice dance silver in Pyeongchang - were the star attractions of the pageant.With portraits of Kim - father and predecessor of current leader Kim Jong Un - and his own father Kim Il Sung looking down on the arena, they smiled and waved together to the crowd at the end of the closing sequence....
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From comrades to assassins, North Korea and Vietnam eye new chapter with Trump-Kim summit

Asia
HANOI/SEOUL: In 1966, Ahn Hak-soo was one of more than 300,000 South Korean soldiers fighting alongside U.S. forces during the Vietnam War when he was captured by the North Vietnamese army and handed over to Hanoi's key ally, North Korea.North Korea, having fought the U.S.-backed South to a standstill in another brutal Cold War conflict a decade earlier, used Ahn in propaganda broadcasts, but he was never seen by his family again.Now, relations between Vietnam, South Korea and the United States are cosy and economic ties are crucial. North Korea remains isolated and impoverished.The upcoming summit between U.S President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Vietnamese capital represents a new chapter the countries' complex relations, but is also a painful reminder for some....
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Prayut's bid for PM intact after whirlwind week in Thai politics

Asia
LOPBURI, Thailand: Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha's grip on power was tossed into doubt by the political cameo of a princess, but a week later his ambitions to rebrand as a civilian leader appear back on track, a survivor - for now - of Thailand's treacherous politics.Princess Ubolratana's candidacy for premier for a party aligned with billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, appeared to have kicked over a totem of Thai politics: that the military alone is the unassailable partner of the monarchy.Minutes later Prayut, a former army chief who seized power in 2014, accepted the nomination for prime minister by a military-linked party, threatening to put him on an electoral collision course with a royal....
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Indonesian plantation firms dodge US$220 million in unpaid fines years after disastrous land fires

Asia
Indonesian plantation companies fined for burning huge areas of land since 2009 have failed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties meant to hold them accountable for actions that took a devastating environmental and human toll.The palm oil and pulp wood companies involved in fires owe more than US$220 million in fines and the figure for unpaid penalties for environmental destruction swells to US$1.3 billion when an illegal logging case from 2013 is included, according to separate summaries of the cases compiled by Greenpeace and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.Indonesia’s annual dry season fires were particularly disastrous in 2015, burning 2.6 million hectares (10,000 square miles) of land and spreading health-damaging haze across Indonesia, Singapore, southern Thailand and Malaysia. The World Bank estimated the fires cost Indonesia US$16 billion and a Harvard and Columbia study estimated the haze hastened 100,000 deaths in the region....
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3 former national athletes to lead Team Singapore at 2019 SEA Games

Asia
SINGAPORE: Team Singapore will be led by former athletes Juliana Seow, Valerie Teo and Chung Pei Ming at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines, said the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Friday (Feb 15). The three athletes were appointed by SNOC, said the sports organisation in a news release.Seow, a former national fencer, will be making her chef de mission debut at the upcoming SEA Games and will be assisted by Teo and Chung.Teo, a bowler, and Chung, a sailor, have represented Singapore at previous Asian and SEA Games.On the appointments, SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan said: “We have received positive feedback from the athletes and officials on the appointments of former athletes as chefs de mission at recent major Games. We are glad that they all played a positive role in the team."...
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Mnuchin says US had 'productive' trade meetings with China

Asia
BEIJING: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a tweet on Friday (Feb 15) that he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had "productive meetings" with China's Vice Premier Liu He.Mnuchin made the comment on Twitter after two days of high-level trade talks in Beijing aimed at resolving the two countries' trade war, but he did not elaborate. Negotiators from the two sides are pushing to de-escalate a tariff war that has dimmed global growth forecasts, roiled financial markets and disrupted manufacturing supply chains.US tariffs on US$200 billion worth of imports from China are scheduled to rise to 25 per cent from 10 per cent if the two sides do not reach a deal by Mar 1, increasing pressure and costs in sectors from consumer electronics to agriculture....
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Malaysia PM Mahathir’s Bersatu party expanding to Sabah

Asia
KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) is expanding its wings to the eastern state of Sabah, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday (Feb 15), in a move that will not sit well with the local Warisan party.This comes on the back of an increase in the number of federal parliamentary seats held by Bersatu, after it accepted seven defectors from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) earlier in the week.Dr Mahathir, who is Bersatu chairman, said having a Sabah chapter of the party would allow former Sabah UMNO members to join Bersatu.“A problem arose when the UMNO leaders quit their party and Sabah UMNO was dissolved. They did not wish to join Warisan and wanted to join Bersatu,” Dr Mahathir said after chairing a meeting of the Bersatu supreme council....
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Electric shocks: Trainer Ben Currie charged over 'serious welfare breaches'

Asia
Australian trainer Ben Currie has been charged with several "serious welfare breaches" including giving electric shocks to horses.It follows compatriot Darren Weir being banned for four years for possessing Taser-type devices, known as "jiggers".Currie is accused of using a jigger on two occasions and unauthorised "shockwave" treatments.He is also charged with failing to report bleeding horses to stewards and race-day treatment breaches.Currie, who trains at Toowoomba, 80 miles west of Brisbane, is one of Queensland's leading trainers.Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett said an investigation into him began on 7 April last year.Jiggers can cause horses to run faster in conjunction with a jockey using their whip....
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Myanmar court sentences two to death for Muslim lawyer's murder

Asia
YANGON: A Myanmar court Friday (Feb 15) sentenced two people to death for the murder of Aung San Suu Kyi's legal advisor, after a drawn-out trial backlit by allegations of impunity with a main suspect still at large.Ko Ni, whose work and Muslim faith made him a target of hate speech online by Buddhist nationalists, was shot in the head at point blank range outside Yangon airport in January 2017, while holding his infant grandson.The brazen, daytime murder shocked the country and came about eight months after civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi's administration entered office.Ko Ni was a legal advisor to her National League for Democracy and had been working on plans to amend the 2008 military-drafted constitution, which gifts the armed forces control of defence and a quarter of parliamentary seats....
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Alibaba takes stake in Chinese video platform Bilibili

Asia
BEIJING: Alibaba has bought an eight per cent stake in Chinese online video sharing and entertainment service Bilibili for an undisclosed amount, state news agency Xinhua reported.Alibaba's e-commerce arm Taobao will reportedly own 24 million shares in Nasdaq-listed Bilibili, which claims tens of millions of regular users, mainly among young anime, comic and computer game fans in China.Chen Rui, Bilibili's CEO and chairman, said he hoped the collaboration would help Bilibili to attract yet more users by tapping into Taobao's huge platform, the Xinhua report said late Thursday.The two sides had announced a partnership in December which allows Bilibili users to create videos and other content to promote merchandise sold on Taobao....
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Indonesia to postpone halal label deadline amid industry concerns

Asia
JAKARTA: Indonesia will push back by as much as seven years an October deadline for halal labels on food, drugs and cosmetics, after industry voiced fears the move could bring chaos and threaten supplies of life-saving vaccines and other products.In 2014, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country adopted a measure for labels certifying whether products are halal, or suitable for consumption in line with Islamic laws. If not labeled, they would face sale bans.A presidential decree giving industries a transition period of several years to comply with the law now awaits President Joko Widodo's signature, said Sukoso, the head of the panel overseeing the process along with Muslim clerics."We're preparing the infrastructure now, for example a halal information system," added Sukoso, who goes by one name. "We hope the process can run smoothly and we can reach every corner of Indonesia."...
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Australia's left in blunt warning to Asian boat migrants

Asia
SYDNEY: Australia's centre-left Labor party has warned would-be migrants considering the boat journey from Indonesia they will be forcibly returned if it wins May's election, embracing hardline policies of the current government.As right and left fight in Europe and the United States brawl over Mediterranean rescues and border walls, Australia's bickering political factions head to elections in lock-step on one of most contentious issues in modern politics.The conservative government has been pilloried worldwide for its policy of intercepting boats and leaving would-be refugees to languish in remote Pacific detention camps for years in conditions that have been roundly condemned by human rights organisations....
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South Korean TV station apologises over ‘spycam’ controversy after rapper San E appeared to endorse secretly filmed pornography

Asia
A major South Korean TV station was forced to apologise after airing a performance by a well-known rapper in which he appeared to endorse secretly filmed pornography, as the country battles a growing epidemic of so-called spycam videos.The show by San E, who performed at the Pyeongchang Olympics last year, sparked outrage when the words “I love spycam” flashed up on a screen that was part of his background set.The 34-year-old rapper – who has a track record of controversial remarks – has refused to respond to the criticism, while broadcaster MBC has taken two weeks to say sorry following the January 31 broadcast.“We apologise for having aired the concerned segment without proper filtering,” MBC said in a statement Thursday....
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South Korea TV station apologises over 'spycam' controversy

Asia
SEOUL: A major South Korean TV station was forced to apologise after airing a performance by a well-known rapper in which he appeared to endorse secretly-filmed pornography, as the country battles a growing epidemic of so-called spycam videos.The show by San E, who performed at the Pyeongchang Olympics last year, sparked outrage when the words "I love spycam" flashed up on a screen that was part of his background set.The 34-year-old rapper - who has a track record of controversial remarks - has refused to respond to the criticism, while broadcaster MBC has taken two weeks to say sorry following the Jan 31 broadcast."We apologise for having aired the concerned segment without proper filtering," MBC said in a statement Thursday (Feb 14)....
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China ride-hailing giant Didi to lay off 15% staff this year: Source

Asia
SHANGHAI: Didi Chuxing will lay off 15 per cent of its staff or about 2,000 people this year, a source said, marking the ride-hailing firm's first major cut back as it grapples with regulatory scrutiny and public backlash over the murder of two of its users.Didi CEO Cheng Wei said at a meeting with management that the firm would focus on core mobility services and cut business units considered not critical to its main ride-hailing business in 2019, according to the source familiar with the matter.But the Chinese ride-hailing giant will aim to hire more than 2,000 employees to focus on safety technology, product engineering and international expansion with the goal of maintaining its overall employee count, the source added on condition of anonymity as the information is not public yet....

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