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Macron says Australian PM lied to him over subs spat



France’s President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he addresses media at a press conference in Rome on October 31, 2021, during the G20 Summit

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said Australia’s prime minister outright lied to him over a cancelled submarine deal, deepening an already fraught diplomatic crisis.

Morrison on Sunday defended his behaviour, refuting Macron’s view and denying that he lied to the French leader at a private meeting in June.

Originally published as Macron says Australian PM lied to him over subs spat




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Surfers or seals all the same prey to near-blind sharks



White, tiger and bull sharks are the usual suspects for the majority of attacks on humans

Sharks suffer such poor vision that they are unable to distinguish people surfing or swimming from animal prey like seals and walruses, according to a study published Wednesday. 

But a new study published by the Royal Society’s Interface review found that the sharks barely pick up colour and have a very poor ability to distinguish shapes.

Originally published as Surfers or seals all the same prey to near-blind sharks




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Thailand prepares to welcome back tourists after devastating shutdown



Bangkok’s hotels, street food carts and tuk-tuks are preparing to welcome back tourists as Thailand gears up to re-open on November 1 to fully vaccinated visitors.

Hotels, street food carts and tuk-tuks are gearing up for the return of tourists to Bangkok as Thailand prepares to re-open on November 1 to fully vaccinated visitors after 18 months of Covid travel curbs.

From November 1, fully vaccinated visitors travelling from more than 40 “low-risk” countries will be allowed to enter with a negative Covid result, retesting again upon arrival.

Originally published as Thailand prepares to welcome back tourists after devastating shutdown




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Beijing Games organisers say virus ‘biggest challenge’, 100 days from start



Protecting the Beijing Winter Olympics from the coronavirus is the “biggest challenge”, organisers said Wednesday, as millions of people in China were under stay-at-home orders to contain small outbreaks 100 days before the Games.

“The pandemic is the biggest challenge to the organisation of the Winter Olympics,” Zhang Jiandong, executive vice president of the Beijing Organising Committee, told a press conference.

Originally published as Beijing Games organisers say virus ‘biggest challenge’, 100 days from start




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Beijing tells Evergrande boss to pay firm’s debts with own cash: report



Xu Jiayin was once China’s richest man with a fortune worth more than $40 billion but the troubles at Evergrande have shrunk that to less than $8 billion

Chinese authorities have told Evergrande founder Xu Jiayin, once the country’s richest man, to use his personal wealth to alleviate the embattled company’s debt crisis, according to media reports.

The liquidity crunch at one of China’s biggest property developers has hammered investor sentiment and rattled the country’s crucial real estate market, while fanning fears of a possible contagion of the wider economy.

Evergrande also reported that it had resumed work on more than 10 stalled projects.

The report said the directive from Beijing came after his company missed an initial bond interest payment due on September 23.

Xu, 63-year-old, was once the wealthiest person in China, worth more than $40 billion just a few years ago, before Evergrande’s troubles began.

The crackdown on China’s indebted real estate sector that prompted Evergrande’s cash crisis has also hit several other builders, with Sinic and Fantasia among those failing to make debt payments.

A key Chinese regulator also urged companies to meet their offshore bond payments in a statement on Tuesday.

rox/bys/dan

Originally published as Beijing tells Evergrande boss to pay firm’s debts with own cash: report




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Samsung boss convicted, fined for anaesthetic misuse: Yonhap



The de-facto leader of South Korea’s sprawling Samsung group Lee Jae-yong (C) has been convicted of illegally using the anaesthetic drug propofol

The de-facto leader of South Korea’s sprawling Samsung group Lee Jae-yong was convicted Tuesday of illegally using the anaesthetic drug propofol, the latest legal travail to beset the multi-billionaire.

Lee — the vice-chairman of the world’s biggest smartphone maker Samsung Electronics and according to Forbes the world’s 238th richest person — was fined 70 million won ($60,000) by the Seoul Central District Court, Yonhap news agency reported.

He was found guilty of having repeatedly taken the anaesthetic at a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul over several years.

Usage is normally seen as a minor offence in South Korea and prosecutors originally proposed fining him 50 million won under a summary indictment, a procedure where less serious cases do not go to court.

“The quantity injected is very high and the nature of crime committed is not light considering the social responsibility the defendant bears,” said judge Jang Young-chae.

He fined Lee 70 million won and ordered him to forfeit 17 million won in assets, urging him to “adopt exemplary behaviour that your children will not be embarrassed by”.

When his trial opened earlier this month, he apologised to the court “for causing such trouble and concern due to my personal matter”, but insisted the injection was “for medical purposes”.

Two months ago, he was released early from a two and a half year prison term for bribery, embezzlement and other offences in connection with the graft case that brought down ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

kjk/slb/qan

Originally published as Samsung boss convicted, fined for anaesthetic misuse: Yonhap




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Southeast Asian summit begins without Myanmar after junta snubbed



ASEAN has drawn up a roadmap aimed at restoring peace in Myanmar but there have been doubts about the junta’s commitment

Southeast Asian leaders kicked off an ASEAN summit Tuesday but Myanmar refused to send a representative after being angered by the bloc’s decision to exclude the country’s junta chief.

The virtual gathering marked the start of three days of meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with US President Joe Biden as well as Chinese and Russian leaders set to attend.

Facing calls to defuse the crisis, ASEAN, which includes Myanmar, has drawn up a roadmap aimed at restoring peace but there have been doubts over the junta’s commitment to the plan.

The coup snuffed out Myanmar’s short-lived experiment with democracy, with Nobel laureate Suu Kyi now facing a raft of charges in a junta court that could see her jailed for decades.

The 10-member group had invited Chan Aye, director-general of the junta-appointed foreign affairs ministry, in the chief’s place.

– ‘ASEAN divided’ –

“It is the most significant sanction that ASEAN has ever handed to a member state, and it is in direct response to the non-compliance that we have seen from the (junta),” he told a panel discussion Monday.

“ASEAN is divided over the issue of Myanmar… There will unlikely be any real progress,” a Southeast Asian diplomat, speaking anonymously, told AFP.

Other issues likely to be discussed include the South China Sea — where Beijing and several Southeast Asian countries have overlapping claims — and the coronavirus pandemic, as much of the region emerges from an outbreak.

After the Southeast Asian leaders hold talks Tuesday, Biden will take part in a US-ASEAN summit later in the day, and in a summit including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other world leaders Wednesday.

burs-sr/qan

Originally published as Southeast Asian summit begins without Myanmar after junta snubbed




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Thailand protests fade but the hardcore battle on



As night falls on a bustling junction close to the heart of Bangkok, gangs of young protesters take on police with slingshots, firecrackers and homemade “ping pong” bombs, turning the streets into a battle zone.

The student protest movement that gripped Thailand last year with its taboo-smashing demands for royal reform has largely died down, splintered by infighting and left rudderless by the arrest of several key leaders.

They organise through messaging apps and have taught themselves how to make small explosive charges or “ping pong bombs” using manuals found online.

Thalugaz, literally “breaking through (tear) gas” in Thai, is a loosely organised group of working-class youth in their teens and early 20s with no formal structure or strategy.

The police’s handling of those largely peaceful rallies was criticised by some as heavy-handed, though they insist it was in line with the law and international standards.

“My friends and brothers got beaten to a pulp by who? The riot police,” 18-year-old Thom told AFP.

– Splintering –

They grabbed headlines with their demands for curbs on the power and wealth of King Maha Vajiralongkorn — unprecedented in a country where the monarchy, long revered, is protected by stringent lese majeste laws.

Where last year’s protests focused on calls for constitutional change and high-level political reform, the Thalugaz youth are focused on economic and social demands.

Many of the young protesters come from working-class families whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus, with street traders and small businesses forced to stop work in recent months because of strict lockdown measures.

He too was hit by the pandemic, when he had to shutter his auto repair shop in his native northeastern Surin province. Now he makes a living delivering ice around the capital.

The virus has claimed more than 18,000 lives in Thailand and while the peak of the third wave has now passed, daily infection rates are still hovering around 10,000.

– ‘Payback’ –

“The riot police are aggressive so the kids retaliate,” restaurant owner Sirirattana Siriwattanavuth, 32, told AFP.

But Manoon Houngkasem, a 67-year-old food vendor who has lived in Din Daeng for more than 40 years, said most residents are unhappy with the noise and violence.

With no sign of Prayut quitting and Thalugaz youths determined not to back down, residents of Din Daeng are facing more sleepless nights.

ton/pdw/ssy/ser/qan

Originally published as Thailand protests fade but the hardcore battle on




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‘Facebook Papers’ explode ahead of platform’s earnings report



Facebook was hit Monday by scathing reports from at least a dozen US news outlets based on internal documents, just hours before the company was to release its earnings report.

The company was due to release its quarterly earnings on Monday, which have boomed during the pandemic period when much of the world used online tools while sheltering at home against the virus.

Originally published as ‘Facebook Papers’ explode ahead of platform’s earnings report




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Monk’s reappearance brings solace in coup-hit Myanmar



Some claim Myaing Sayadaw’s reemergence has brought calm to the surrounding area even as fighting escalates elsewhere in Sagaing

When dawn arrives in normal times, 80-year-old Buddhist monk Maha Bodhi Myaing Sayadaw emerges from his meditation on the plains of northern Myanmar to silently receive food offerings from a handful of followers.

Now each morning, crowds of pilgrims line his path, hoping for a glimpse of the monk who has become an unwitting embodiment of hope and solace for thousands in the coup-wracked country.

For crowds of the faithful, Sayadaw’s presence provides an antidote to the “three catastrophes”: the military’s ousting of the government, the ravages of the pandemic and an economy ruined by nearly nine months of unrest.

What started as a trickle of visitors when the monk was first spotted at the start of the rainy season has become a massive crowd, swollen by social media posts.

“Our region is stable when Sayadaw receives the pilgrims,” Kaythi, 35, told AFP.

Previously a farmer, Kaythi is one of many to have started working as a motorcycle taxi driver, ferrying pilgrims up the single-lane dirt road to the Nyeyadham monastery.

But the route was peaceful and now his pain is gone, he said.

– ‘We will shoot’ –

Huge demonstrations sparked by fuel price hikes in 2007 were led by monks, and the clergy also mobilised relief efforts after 2008’s devastating Cyclone Nargis and junta inaction.

While monks have joined street protests opposing the power grab, some prominent religious leaders have also defended the new junta.

“He’s serving his religious duty.”

Sagaing has seen some of the bloodiest fighting between junta troops and “people’s defence forces”, with villagers accusing security forces of torching homes and carrying out massacres.

“Do not surround us! … We will shoot,” banners outside local police stations warn any would-be protesters.

“It’s a rare opportunity,” said Moe Moe Lwin, another visitor from Mandalay.

But all the adoration isn’t good for the monk’s concentration, said close follower Khin Maung Win.

“Sayadaw likes silence. It’s really difficult for us to keep everyone quiet.”

Originally published as Monk’s reappearance brings solace in coup-hit Myanmar




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