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Updated: 47 min 37 sec ago

Emotional Paris Ceremony Near Notre Dame for Assumption Day

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 18:01

Catholic pilgrims have held an emotional procession past fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral, singing and parading with a statue of the Virgin Mary rescued from the flames.

Hundreds gathered on a bridge near the cordoned-off cathedral for Thursday's Assumption Day procession. They wound along nearby embankments toward Saint Sulpice Church on the Left Bank for a service led by Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit.

The procession would have started in the forecourt of Notre Dame, but the entire area and some nearby streets are now fenced off and under strict security. As the ceremony began, workers cleared debris from benches around the cathedral as part of decontamination efforts amid fears of residual lead poisoning from April's fire.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Assumption Day is when Mary was taken bodily into heaven.

Trump Offers 'Personal Meeting' with Chinese Counterpart Over Hong Kong Crisis

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 17:43

State Department correspondent Cindy Saine and a reporter for VOA Cantonese contributed to this report.

With Chinese security forces spotted conducting exercises across the border with Hong Kong, U.S. President Donald Trump says a trade agreement with China could be delayed until it reaches a humane resolution with Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators, even suggesting he could personally broker an agreement between Beijing and the dissidents.

Trump went on Twitter late Wednesday night to boast about his administration's upper hand against Beijing in the ongoing negotiations to end the two countries' trade war.  After writing that "thousands of companies" are leaving China, the president said "Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them deal humanely with Hong Kong first!"

..deferral to December. It actually helps China more than us, but will be reciprocated. Millions of jobs are being lost in China to other non-Tariffed countries. Thousands of companies are leaving. Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2019FILE - President Donald Trump poses for a photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019.

Trump then said Xi Jingping, his Chinese counterpart, "very much has the respect of his people," and that he had " ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?"

I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a “tough business.” I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2019

The president's tweets were his most extensive about the crisis in the Chinese territory since the demonstrations broke out 10 weeks ago.  In comments to reporters Tuesday, Trump, who last week took a hands-off stance on the protests, said the Hong Kong situation "is a very tough situation, very tough. We'll see what happens, but I'm sure it will work out." He expressed the hope that no one would get hurt and "for liberty."

Protesters react to tear gas from Shum Shui Po police station in Hong Kong, Aug. 14, 2019.

The situation took an ominous turn Thursday, with reporters from both Reuters and AFP (Agence France-Presse) observing hundreds of members of China's People's Armed Police conducting exercises in a sports stadium in the southern city of Shenzhen, which sits across the border from Hong Kong.  Dozens of trucks, armored personnel carriers and  other military vehicles were spotted outside the stadium.  

The deployment of the PAP forces confirms earlier reports published by Chinese state-run media claiming the forces was already assembling in Shenzhen.

US concerns

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said Wednesday the United States is "deeply concerned" by reports of Chinese paramilitary movement along the border with Hong Kong.

"We encourage China and all parties in Hong Kong to pursue a solution that respects the liberty of Hongkongers and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration," said a State Department spokesperson. "It is important for the Hong Kong Government to respect the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly, as enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and for China to respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy."

Medical staffs and protesters carry an injured man as they confront with policemen near the Shum Shui Po police station in Hong Kong on Aug. 14, 2019.

On Wednesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton warned China to show restraint in its handling of the protests in Hong Kong.

"Something like 60% of the investment in mainland China goes through Hong Kong. Why? Because it has a judicial system that's trustworthy, based on the English model that we know in this country, the courts are thought to be impartial," Bolton told VOA Contributor Greta Van Susteren. "If Hong Kong loses that reputation because of a bad decision by the Chinese government, they'll have significant economic consequences in China this time, and I can tell you from what I've heard, just in the past few weeks, the mood in Congress is very volatile at this point, and a misstep by the Chinese government I think would cause an explosion on Capitol Hill.”

He said China needs to learn from its past. "The Chinese have to look very carefully at the steps they take because people in America remember Tiananmen Square," Bolton said. "They remember the picture of the man standing in front of the line of tanks, they remember the statue of Lady Liberty, they remember voices of the Chinese people asking for freedom and democracy, and they remember the repression of the Chinese government in 1989, it would be a big mistake to create a new memory like that in Hong Kong.”

Border build-up

As protests have escalated in recent days, China's state-run media have showed videos of security forces gathering across the border in mainland China. Chinese police have also been accused of infiltrating the protest in an effort to stir up trouble.

“I don’t see any reason for the authority to send the mainland Chinese police or undercover cops come to the airport mixed into the demonstration," one protester who was at a recent demonstration at Hong Kong's airport told VOA.  

FILE - Protesters use luggage trolleys to block the walkway to the departure gates during a demonstration at the Airport in Hong Kong, Aug. 13, 2019.

There have been fierce clashes between demonstrators and police on Hong Kong's streets. Violence also erupted at the international airport late Tuesday as riot police clashed with pro-democracy demonstrators who had taken over the airport for two straight days.

"We condemn violence and urge all sides to exercise restraint, but remain staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong," the State Department spokesperson said.

Hong Kong residents have been protesting over their perceived erosion of freedom and lack of autonomy under Chinese control of the territory. The protests present the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of the semi-autonomous territory since its 1997 handover from Britain.



Government Lawyer: US Asks Gibraltar to Hold Iranian Tanker in Detention

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 16:57

The United States requested Thursday that Gibraltar hold in detention an Iranian supertanker at the center of a stand-off between Tehran and London that sparked tensions in the oil-rich Gulf.

The British overseas territory's Supreme Court was set to release the Grace 1, which is suspected of smuggling oil to Syria, when the US Justice department applied for the vessel to be seized.

The move was announced by attorney Joseph Triay and delayed the court decision on the vessel's fate.

Triay did not detail the basis for the US request other than as "mutual legal assistance."

"The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered," a government spokesman said.

Chief Justice Anthony Dudley made clear that were it not for the US move, "the ship would have sailed".

The Gibraltar Supreme Court decision on the fate of the ship was adjourned until after four pm (14:00 GMT).

The captain and three officers from Grace 1, had their police bail lifted and were formally released without any charges, a Gibraltar government spokesman said.

The supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil, was seized by Gibraltar police and British special forces, provoking a diplomatic crisis.

It was suspected of carrying oil to war-torn Syria in violation of separate EU and US sanctions.


Iranian authorities believe Britain detained the ship at the behest of the Trump administration.

Iran described Britain's actions as "piracy" and hit back seizing a British tanker, the Stena Impero, on July 19 in the strategic Strait of Hormuz — the conduit for much of the world's crude — for breaking "international maritime rules".

Tehran repeatedly called for the release of Grace 1, insisting it had been in international waters and not headed to Syria.

The capture of the tankers heightened frictions just as European nations scramble to try to save a landmark nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic after the US pulled out of the accord in May last year and started imposing sanctions on Iran.

Iran responded by suspending some of its commitments under the nuclear deal.

The situation threatened to spiral out of control with ships attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized.

At the height of the crisis, Trump called off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after its forces shot down a U.S. drone.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran favors talks with the U.S. if it lifts sanctions against the Islamic republic.

"Peace for peace and oil for oil," he said. "You cannot say that you won't allow our oil to be exported.

"It cannot be that the Strait of Hormuz is free for you and the Strait of Gibraltar is not free for us."




Five Years After Ferguson, States Rein in Punishment of the Poor

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 16:20

Criminal justice activists have long complained that in the United States, routine traffic violations can turn poor people into criminals. The inability to pay fines leads to more fines and penalties, often turning communities against law enforcement. In Ferguson, Missouri, the unrelated shooting death of an unarmed black man five years ago led the community and the police to reassess these practices, sparking a national conversation.  Masood Farivar reports.

Biden Still Leads Democratic Pack Despite Doubts

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 15:57

According to the polls, former Vice President Joe Biden continues to hold a lead over the large pack of Democratic presidential contenders for next year’s election.

Despite his standing in the polls, concerns linger about Biden’s age and his habit of making verbal gaffes, and that has some Democrats questioning whether he is the best candidate to go up against President Donald Trump next year.

Like most of his rivals, Biden has focused his campaign efforts in the early voting state of Iowa in recent weeks. Iowa will kick off the primary voting process with its caucus votes Feb. 3.

President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Aug. 13, 2019.

Targeting Trump

In speaking to Democratic voters, Biden often makes the desire to defeat President Trump his primary campaign focus.

“If we give him eight years, and I really believe this from the bottom of my heart, he will forever change the character and the nature of who we are,” Biden told a rally in Boone, Iowa, last week. “That is why we have to defeat Donald Trump in 2020. Period.”

Biden remains atop national and key state polls for now but faces strong competition from a large field of rivals that includes Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“2020 is our chance. We can make this government work for all of America. Let’s do this, Democrats! Dream big! Fight hard! Let’s win!” Warren urged Iowa voters last week.

Warren has been surging in the polls in recent weeks and has moved into a slight lead for second place behind Biden in an average of national polls, according to the nonpartisan political website, RealClear Politics.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a campaign event, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in Franconia, N.H.

Atop the polls

The RealClear average of polls shows Biden atop the field with 30%, followed by Warren at 18%, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 17%, California Senator Kamala Harris with 8% and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 6%. The rest of the Democratic field is at less than 3%.

Biden also retains smaller leads over the Democratic field in the key early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Biden leads in Iowa by an average of 9 points, but in New Hampshire, his edge has come down to less than 3 points over Sanders and Warren.

Even at age 76, Biden remains an energetic campaigner. But he has also drawn scrutiny in recent weeks for a series of verbal gaffes that have sent shudders of nervousness through some Democratic voters.

Biden got confused about the locations of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, at one point referring to shootings in Houston and Michigan.

He told a crowd in Iowa that he had met as vice president with students from Parkland, Florida, after the mass shooting there in February 2018, even though he had left office in early 2017.

And Biden seemed to inject an element of race into comments he made about education and the poor during a campaign speech in Iowa.

“Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids, wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids,” he said.

Biden Still Leads Democratic Pack, Despite Doubts video player. Embed" />CopyWATCH: Biden Still Leads Democratic Pack, Despite Doubts

On Trump’s radar

Among those taking note of both Biden’s lead in the polls and his recent gaffes is the man he would like to beat in next year’s election, President Trump.

“Joe is not playing with a full deck,” Trump told reporters outside the White House last Friday. “This is not somebody you can have as your president. But if he got the nomination, I’d be thrilled.”

Democrats may also be anxious over Biden’s past campaign failures. He dropped out early of the 1988 and 2008 presidential campaigns and never came close to being the frontrunner as he is now.

Biden has vowed to push on despite the criticism.

“So look, this is a marathon. You are going to see these numbers go up and down and up and down,” he told voters as a forum on guns in Iowa last week. “So all I can do is just continue to do what I have done during my career and this time I have more of a platform on which to do it, and that is try to be as authentic as I can and let people know who I am, and they are going to make a choice.”

On defense

Biden took some hits in the first two debates from some of his rivals. But Vanderbilt University political scientist Vanessa Beasley said the former vice president has also demonstrated some resiliency.

“There is still some good evidence that people in the Democratic Party think that he is the person with the best chance of beating Trump. I think there is a lot of forgiveness in that crowd right now because they want him to maintain that status of the most name recognition and the highest chance of beating Trump,” Beasley said.

But with months to go until the first votes are cast in the Democratic primary and several more rounds of debate ahead, there is still plenty of time for Biden’s rivals to gain ground.

“I think if Biden is still leading as we get into September and October after a few (more) debates, that will prove that he is a more durable frontrunner,” University of Virginia analyst Kyle Kondik told VOA. “But it is also possible that under this heightened amount of scrutiny that some of his support may go to some of these other candidates and then maybe it will really turn into a truly wide open race.”

Public opinion surveys in recent months have shown Biden doing well in head-to-head matchups with Trump next year, though several of his rivals also posted narrow leads.

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to supporters as he arrives at a rally at Santa Monica High School Memorial Greek Amphitheater in Santa Monica, Calif., July 26, 2019.

Biden continues to emphasize the argument that he would be the strongest nominee to take on Trump, while key rivals Warren and Sanders emphasize a broader agenda of reform on the economy and social issues.

This split within the Democratic Party over whether to focus primarily on Trump or push for broader political change remains vibrant, said Brookings Institution analyst Darrell West.

“A lot of the current debate among the Democrats is, do we need small changes and basically bring America back to what it was like before Trump, or do we need much more substantial changes?” he said.

That dilemma will be on display again when Democrats gather for a third debate in Houston next month.

Biden Still Leads Democratic Pack, Despite Doubts

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 15:40

Opinion polls show that former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the large pack of Democratic presidential contenders for 2020. But concerns about Biden's age and his habit of making verbal gaffes have some Democrats questioning whether he would be the best candidate to go up against President Donald Trump next year. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington on Biden's status as the Democratic Party frontrunner.

London Teen Lost in Malaysia Died from Starvation, Stress

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 15:25

Malaysian police said Thursday there were no signs of foul play in the death of a 15-year-old London girl who mysteriously disappeared from a nature resort, with an autopsy showing she succumbed to intestinal bleeding because of starvation and stress.

Nora Anne Quoirin’s body was discovered Tuesday beside a small stream about 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) from the Dusun eco-resort after she disappeared from her family’s resort cottage Aug. 4.

Negeri Sembilan state police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop said the autopsy found no evidence the teenager had been abducted or raped. She was estimated to have been dead two or three days and not more than four when her naked body was found, he said.

“For the time being, there is no element of abduction or kidnapping,” he told a news conference at a police station.

“The cause of death was upper gastrointestinal bleeding due to duodenal ulcer, complicated with perforation ... it could be due to a lack of food for a long period of time and due to prolonged stress,” he said.

Mohamad said there were also some bruises on the girl’s legs but wouldn’t cause her death. Samples taken from her body will be sent to the chemistry department for further analysis, he said.

The girl’s family can take her body back to their country if they wish, he added.

Family members arrive to see the body of 15-year-old Irish girl Nora Anne Quoirin at Tuanku Jaafar Hospital in Seremban, Malaysia, Aug. 13, 2019.

Quoirin’s family has said she wasn’t independent and wouldn’t wander off alone because she had learning and physical disabilities. Police believe she climbed out through an open window in the living room of the cottage but said they were investigated all aspects including possible criminal elements.

Police from Ireland, France and the U.K. are in Malaysia to assist in the investigation. The girl’s mother is from Ireland and her father is French, but the family has lived in London for 20 years.

The Paris prosecutor’s office Wednesday said it has opened a preliminary investigation into the girl’s death, on potential charges of kidnapping and sequestration. The prosecutor’s office wouldn’t elaborate. French authorities often open such investigations when French citizens are victims or otherwise involved in suspected crimes abroad.

Quoirin’s family arrived Aug. 3 for a two-week stay at the Dusun, a small resort located in a durian orchard next to a forest reserve 63 kilometers (39 miles) south of Kuala Lumpur.

Her family Wednesday thanked the more than 350 people who helped search for the girl and said that their hearts were broken.

Guatemala's President-Elect Seeks Changes to Immigration Agreement with US

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 14:11

Guatemala's President-elect Alejandro Giammattei says he wants to change an immigration agreement between his country and the United States because Guatemala does not have the resources to care for asylum-seekers from other countries. The deal made in July between the outgoing administration of President Jimmy Morales and U.S. President Donald Trump would require migrants from other countries who cross into Guatemala to apply for asylum from there. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.

Few Employers Held Accountable in U.S. Immigration Raids

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 13:54

Immigration raids in the U.S. led to the apprehension of more than 1,500 undocumented immigrants at job sites last year. They are among about 250,000 immigrants deported in 2018 by the Trump administration. On average about 15 employers per year face criminal charges for hiring undocumented workers. As VOA's Brian Padden reports, advocates and opponents of tighter immigration restrictions argue that raids do little to deter illegal immigration as long as employers are not held accountable. 

Ugandan Online Publishers Criticize Registration as Political Control

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 13:30

Uganda's Communication Commission announced, Aug. 8, 2019, that all commercial online publishers must register with the government. The commission says the publishers have to be watched to ensure they are posting appropriate content.  Ugandan social media influencers and news organizations see the requirement as a step toward limiting freedom of speech and the press. Halima Athumani reports from Kampala.

Worth of a Girl: VOA Looks at Devastating Effects of Child Marriage

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 13:16

About 650 million girls worldwide were married before age 18. That is about 17% of the world's female population, according to UNICEF. These marriages often keep girls from completing their education and can lead to devastating psychological and physical consequences. In a yearlong project, Voice of America met with child brides from Albania to Pakistan to Tanzania.Jesusemen Oni has more.

Israeli Volunteers Bring Palestinians for Their First Beach Experience

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 12:45

A group of Israeli volunteers recently brought some Palestinian families and their children to the beach, offering a chance for many of the kids to see the ocean for the first time. The trip to the beach was a way of making peace, one child at a time. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA News.

American Football Team Holds Unique Place in the NFL

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 12:26

Next month, the National Football League, America's professional football league, will open its 100th season with a game featuring its oldest rivalry, Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers, teams that first faced off in 1921. The Green Bay Packers, based in a city of just more than 100,000 in the state of Wisconsin, hold a number of distinctions, among them: they play in the smallest market for any major U.S. sports franchise, and they are publicly owned. VOA's Jeff Custer has more from Green Bay.

Source: John Hickenlooper to End 2020 Presidential Bid

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:59

John Hickenlooper will drop out of the Democratic presidential primary Thursday, according to a Democrat close to him.

The two-term former Colorado governor, who ran as a moderate warning of the perils of extreme partisanship, struggled with fundraising and low polling numbers. His planned departure from the 2020 race was confirmed Wednesday night by a Democrat who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly before the announcement and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Hickenlooper, 67, is not expected to announce a decision Thursday on whether he will run for Senate in Colorado, though he has been discussing the possibility with advisers.

He became a political giant in Colorado for his quirky, consensus-driven and unscripted approach to politics. He once jumped out of a plane to sell a ballot measure to increase state spending and won two statewide elections in a purple state during Republican wave years. He was previously the mayor of Denver.

Longshot bid

He launched his longshot White House bid in March, promising to unite the country. Instead, he quickly became a political punch line.

Shortly before taking his first trip to Iowa as a candidate, Hickenlooper, who became a multimillionaire founding a series of brewpubs, balked at calling himself a capitalist on national television. Then, at a CNN town hall, he recounted how he once took his mother to see a pornographic movie. With the campaign struggling to raise money, his staff urged Hickenlooper to instead challenge Colorado’s Republican senator, Cory Gardner. But Hickenlooper stayed in and hired another group of staffers in a last-ditch effort to turn around his campaign.

Positioning himself as a common-sense candidate who couldn’t be labeled a socialist by Republicans, Hickenlooper couldn’t make his voice heard in the crowded Democratic presidential field, which includes nearly two dozen candidates. It didn’t help that, by Hickenlooper’s own admission, he’s a mediocre debater and erratic public speaker. In the end, he couldn’t even scrape together enough money for many of his trademark quirky ads, only launching one in which avid beer drinkers toast Hickenlooper by comparing him to favorite brews.

Will he challenge Gardner

It’s unclear whether Hickenlooper plans to run against Gardner, whom national Democrats have urged him to take on since last year. He’s repeatedly said he’s not interested in the Senate and prefers an executive position.

Gardner, 44, is widely considered one of the most vulnerable Republican senators in the country because of Colorado’s shift to the left. If Hickenlooper wanted to run against him, he’d first have to get through another crowded Democratic primary field. Numerous Colorado Democrats have launched races against Gardner and many have indicated they’d stay in, even if Hickenlooper enters the contest.

Hickenlooper isn’t the first Democratic hopeful to end his 2020 presidential bid. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California announced his departure in July.

Activists Describe Life Under Lockdown in Kashmir as 'Grim'

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:58

On the eve of India’s Independence Day, a team of activists and scholars released a report that paints a bleak picture of Indian-administered Kashmir, challenging official government accounts that life is returning to normal amid an indefinite curfew and communications blackout imposed just before the restive region’s special status was stripped by Parliament on Aug. 6. 
The report, presented Wednesday in New Delhi, found that people living under the security lockdown expressed “enormous anger and anguish” in response to the surprise move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to revoke a constitutional provision that gave the predominantly Muslim population some degree of autonomy and prevented outsiders from buying land in the pristine Himalayan region.

It said protests have occurred daily, though the constraints on movement and communication mean that the response has been largely subdued. 
The report’s authors, including economist Jean Dreze, described the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir as “grim” and said the clampdown had “crippled economic life” there. The team said it traveled to towns and villages the length of the Kashmir Valley between Aug. 9 and Aug. 13, including southern areas that have been recent hotbeds of rebel activity.

Maimoona Mollah, an activist on the fact-finding team, likened the situation in the region to Israel’s security protocol in the Palestinian territories. 
“Kashmir is like an open jail,” said Vimal Bhai, another activist on the team. 
Although the 4 million residents of the Kashmir Valley, where an insurgency has simmered for decades, are used to blockades, residents have told The Associated Press that what they’re experiencing is unprecedented . 
Since independence from British rule and partition in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought two wars over their rival claims to Kashmir, with each left controlling part of the region.

The Indian side has seen several uprisings, including a bloody armed rebellion launched in 1989 to demand independence or a merger with Pakistan. About 70,000 people have been killed in that uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown that left Kashmiris exhausted, traumatized and broken.

Even before India’s Parliament voted Aug. 5 to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and split it into two federal territories, the central government imposed a curfew, suspended telephone and internet services and deployed tens of thousands of additional soldiers to the region - already one of the world’s most militarized zones.

In one of several videos and photos the activists showed reporters, a boy can be heard saying he was released one day before Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that was celebrated on Monday. In the video, which doesn’t show his face, the boy, who says on camera that he is 11 years old, describes being held in police custody and beaten up. He says he encountered younger children in police custody.

Other people in the activists’ videos who were filmed with the camera pointed away from their faces said the region witnessed sporadic protests, some of which were met with force by Indian paramilitary forces. 
The Associated Press could not independently verify the claims. 
The activists said their report and images cast doubt on government and some Indian media accounts depicting Kashmir as calm. 
A spokesman for India’s home ministry tweeted on Wednesday that law enforcement in the portion of Kashmir controlled by India had “showed restraint,” and that no bullets had been fired in the region. 

S. Korea's Moon Calls for Talks to End Trade Row with Japan

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:49

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday offered an olive branch to Japan to end a tense trade dispute, saying Seoul will “gladly join hands” if Tokyo to accepts calls to resolve it through dialogue. 
Moon in a nationally televised speech also downplayed the threat posed by North Korea's recent short-range ballistic launches and expressed hope that Washington and Pyongyang would soon resume nuclear negotiations.

Moon's speech at a ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II come amid heightened public anger over Tokyo's recent moves to impose trade curbs on South Korea, which triggered a full-blown diplomatic row. 
Tens of thousands of South Koreans are expected to march in anti-Japan protests planned throughout Thursday. 
Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to target its export-dependent economy and retaliate against South Korean court rulings calling for Japanese companies to offer reparations for aging South Korean plaintiffs for their World War II forced labor. Tokyo's measures struck a nerve in South Korea, where many people still harbor strong resentment over Japan's ruthless colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. 
After threatening stern countermeasures and declaring that South Korea would “never lose” to Japan again, Moon had taken a more conciliatory tone over the past week amid relief in Seoul that the impact of Japan's trade measures may not be as bad as initially thought.

There has also been concerns that the government's nationalistic calls for unity in face of what Moon previously described as an “unprecedented” crisis were allowing public anger toward Japan to reach dangerous levels. 
“If a country weaponizes a sector where it has a comparative advantage, the order of peaceful free trade inevitably suffers. A country that accomplished growth first must not kick the ladder away while others are following in its footsteps,” Moon said at the ceremony at the Independence Hall in the city of Cheonan.

“If Japan better late than never chooses the path of dialogue and cooperation, we will gladly join hands,” he said. 
South Korea's trade row with Japan came amid worsening bilateral relations with North Korea, which has been ignoring Seoul's calls for dialogue and in recent weeks test fired a slew of new short-range weapons that would potentially expand its ability to strike targets throughout the South, including U.S. military bases there. 
Experts say the North's recent launches are aimed at building leverage ahead of a resumption of nuclear negotiations with the United States, which have stalled in recent months, and also dialing up pressure on Seoul to coax major concessions from Washington on its behalf.

“In spite of a series of worrying actions taken by North Korea recently, the momentum for dialogue remains unshaken, which is a significant result of my government's peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said. 
“Now is the time for both Koreas and the United States to focus on resuming working-level negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at the earliest possible date.” 
South Korea said Monday that it has decided to remove Japan from a list of nations receiving preferential treatment in trade in possible retaliation for Tokyo's downgrade of Seoul's trade status. 
The impact of the tighter controls isn't clear since Seoul said some exporters to Japan could receive exceptions and continue to use a fast-track approval process rather than undergoing case-by-case inspections on sensitive shipments to nations with lower trade status.

Japan similarly allowed exemptions when it removed South Korea as a favored trade partner, which eased some of the fears in Seoul about a possible blow to its economy, where many manufacturers heavily rely on parts and materials imported from Japan.

Gunman Captured After Wounding 6 Philadelphia Officers

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:42

Police in the U.S. city of Philadelphia arrested a suspect early Thursday after an hourslong standoff that left six officers with gunshot injuries that were not life threatening.

A spokesman said after police took the suspect into custody, officers worked to clear the house in the city's Nicetown neighborhood where the gunman had barricaded himself.

The situation began Wednesday when an officer went to the address to serve a warrant.

Police are seen during an active shooter situation, where Philadelphia police officers were shot, Aug. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia.

Two police officers were trapped inside the house with the gunman for more than four hours before being safely evacuated.

Authorities attempted to communicate with the gunman, including making multiple phone calls, but said that while he did answer the calls, he did not say anything.

The police spokesman said all six officers who sustained gunshot wounds had been released from local hospitals by late Wednesday. One other officer was admitted for treatment of injuries that came in a vehicle crash related to the barricade around the scene.


The shooting prompted a lockdown at the nearby Temple University Health Sciences Center Campus, which issued a warning via Twitter:

Lockdown is in effect for Health Sciences Center Campus. Seek shelter. Secure doors. Be silent. Be still. Police are responding.

— Temple University (@TempleUniv) August 14, 2019

US Regulators Approve New Tuberculosis Drug

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:35

U.S. regulators Wednesday approved a new tuberculosis drug that when taken with two other medicines shows dramatic results.

The new drug, Pretomanid, was developed by the nonprofit TB Alliance.

A study shows that when taken with taken with two other drugs. Pretomanid cured 90% of patients suffering from a strain of TB that is resistant to other treatments.

The study shows the three-drug cocktail can cure TB in about six months and can also stop patients from spreading the disease in just a few days.

Most current TB treatments require patients to take multiple numbers of pills and months of very painful daily shots. This treatment of pills and shots can last as long as two years. Doctors say many patients either give up first or die.

Tuberculosis generally attacks the lungs and is spread when someone with the infection sneezes or coughs. It kills about 1.6 million people every year worldwide.

Hong Kong Crisis Escalating; More Protests Expected This Weekend

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:10

Hong Kong braced Thursday for more mass demonstrations through the weekend, with the weekslong crisis escalating after pro-democracy protests forced the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights this week and world leaders urging calm.

China reiterated Wednesday that Hong Kong’s protest resembled terrorism and more street clashes followed ugly and chaotic scenes at the airport two days ago, when protesters set upon two men they suspected of being government sympathizers.

Police and protesters faced off again on the streets of the financial hub overnight, with riot officers quickly firing tear gas as their response to demonstrators hardens.

Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontations between police and protesters have plunged Hong Kong into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

A medic treats an anti-extradition bill protester after tear gas was fired during clashes in Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong, Aug. 14, 2019.

The protests represent one of the biggest populist challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012 and show no immediate signs of abating.

U.S. President Donald Trump tied a trade agreement with China to a humane resolution of the protests that have disrupted the city for the past 10 weeks, even suggesting he was willing to meet Xi to discuss the crisis.

“I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi (Jinping) wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?” Trump said on Twitter.

The U.S. State Department said earlier it was deeply concerned about reports that Chinese police forces were gathering near the border with Hong Kong and urged the city’s government to respect freedom of speech.

It also issued a travel advisory urging citizens to exercise caution when visiting Hong Kong. China has frequently warned against what it regards as outside interference in an internal issue.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Hong Kong authorities Wednesday to renew talks with protesters to find a peaceful solution, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged China to handle the protests with tact.

Anti-government demonstrators apologize for yesterday's clashes with police at the airport in Hong Kong, Aug. 14, 2019.

Airport reopens; protesters apologize

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said normal flight operations would resume Thursday but heightened security would remain at the city’s international airport. It said Wednesday an application for protests to be held in the terminal must be made in advance with a “Letter of No Objection” from police.

Protesters have expressed remorse after a peaceful sit-in turned violent at one of the world’s busiest airports earlier this week.

It was not yet clear whether the violent clashes had eroded the broad support the movement has so far attracted in Hong Kong. The protests have also hit the city’s faltering economy.

Support eroding?

Business and citizens groups posted full page advertisements in major newspapers to support the government and denounce the violence.

The Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong said the city’s international reputation would be seriously damaged if the violence and unrest were not stopped as soon as possible.

The head of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment, Lui Che-woo, urged talks to rebuild a harmonious Hong Kong. The protests have affected the neighboring Chinese territory of Macau, with some visitors avoiding the world’s biggest gambling hub amid transport disruptions and safety concerns.

Several protests were planned across different districts of Hong Kong from Thursday, including a teachers rally and one organized by animal lovers upset that their pets were being tear-gassed. The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized million-strong marches in June, set another protest for Sunday.

Anti-extradition bill protesters watch as demonstrators point laser pens at the police station in Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong, Aug. 14, 2019.

Five requests

Protesters are still pushing for authorities to listen to their five requests, which include the complete withdrawal of a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent for trial in mainland Chinese courts.

The protests grew out of opposition to the extradition bill into wider concerns about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place after the return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Their other demands include a halt to descriptions of the protests as “rioting,” the dropping of charges against those arrested, an independent inquiry, and the resumption of political reform.

Trump Suggests Trade Deal Can Wait for Hong Kong Resolution 

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 09:33

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that trade talks with China could wait until tensions in Hong Kong had eased, tweeting: ``Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!'' 
Trump also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling him a ``great leader'' and saying he could quickly resolve the unrest in Hong Kong if he wanted to. ``I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?'' Trump tweeted. 
Trump has previously said little about the protests in the semiautonomous Chinese city, except to make it clear he believes that Hong Kong and China need to ``deal with that themselves.'' He has urged the two sides to exercise caution and voiced hopes that the situation will be resolved peacefully.  
His more extensive comments Wednesday came as U.S. stock markets tumbled, in part because of uncertainty over Trump's trade standoff with Beijing. Investors have also been rattled about the widespread protests in Hong Kong. Flights resumed at Hong Kong's airport after two days of disruptions that descended into clashes with police. 
While Trump has been reticent to take sides, some Republican and Democratic members of Congress have voiced their support for the protesters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, issued a statement last week saying that ``dreams of freedom, justice and democracy can never be extinguished by injustice and intimidation.'' 
The demonstrations are against what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.  

FILE - President Donald Trump poses for a photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019.

Trump said he knew Xi well and called him a ``great leader who very much has the respect of his people.'' 
Trump also voiced optimism about the off-again, on-again trade negotiations with China. Administration officials publicly and privately have voiced beliefs that a trade deal is still a ways off even as the president voices frustration about the lack of progress.  

Unhappy with the pace of negotiations, Trump announced two weeks ago that the U.S. would apply 10% tariffs on about $300 billion in Chinese imports, beginning Sept. 1. But the administration moved Tuesday to delay the tariffs on a wide range of Chinese-made products, including cellphones, laptop computers, some toys, computer monitors, shoes and clothing. And it's removing other items from the list based ``on health, safety, national security and other factors.'' 
Trump tweeted that delaying the tariffs would help China more than the U.S.: ``The American consumer is fine with or without the September date, but much good will come from the short deferral to December.''