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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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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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Israel gives final OK to 1,800 West Bank settler homes



Map of the West Bank locating Israeli settlements in which the Israeli government has announced the construction of new homes.

Israel on Wednesday advanced plans for building more than 3,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank, a move condemned by the Palestinians that came a day after the US forcefully criticised such construction.

While moving forward the plans for Israeli settler homes, the Civil Administration is also scheduled on Sunday to advance plans for the construction of 1,301 residences for Palestinians in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank.

Originally published as Israel gives final OK to 1,800 West Bank settler homes




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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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Latest climate plans worlds away from 1.5C target: UN



The UN’s Environment Programme says national plans to cut carbon pollution amount to ‘weak promises, not yet delivered’

Countries’ latest climate plans will deliver just a tiny percentage of the emissions cuts needed to limit global heating to 1.5C, the United Nations said on Tuesday in a damning assessment ahead of the COP26 climate summit.

In its annual Emissions Gap assessment, UNEP calculates the gulf between the emissions set to be released by countries and the level needed to limit temperature rises to 1.5C — the most ambitious Paris Agreement goal.

Originally published as Latest climate plans worlds away from 1.5C target: UN




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Ethiopia launches air strike on rebel ‘training centre’: govt



Ethiopia’s military on Tuesday launched another air strike in war-torn Tigray, hitting what a government official called a rebel training facility just outside the regional capital Mekele. 

Tigray was pounded by near-daily aerial bombardments last week in a sign the military was stepping up its use of air power in the year-long war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). 

The latest strike was in Quiha, a town five kilometres (three miles) east of Mekele, which the TPLF recaptured from government forces in June and has held ever since. 

“(A) large number of the group’s illegally recruited military personnel were taking military trainings at this center.” 

“So far, the information we have is that there was no casualties from the airstrike,” the network reported.

Most were in and around Mekele. But on Sunday the military confirmed strikes further afield in Adwa to the north of the capital, and another along the ‘western front’ of the war at Mai Tsebri.

The TPLF said the strikes were evidence of the government’s disregard for civilian lives. 

The escalation in aerial assaults coincides with ramped-up fighting in Amhara region, south of Tigray. 

A strike Friday on Mekele forced a UN flight carrying 11 humanitarian personnel to turn back to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, and the UN subsequently announced it was suspending its twice-weekly flights to the region.

The UN said last week that fuel shortages had forced some relief groups to suspend food distribution in a region where 5.2 million need aid.

AFP has documented starvation deaths in multiple parts of Tigray, based on internal documents from aid groups active there. 

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps and promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had regrouped and retaken most of the region, including Mekele. 

Originally published as Ethiopia launches air strike on rebel ‘training centre’: govt




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Rescued from extinction, bison rediscover Romania mountains



Their reappearance in Romania has brought back a key component of the region’s ecosystem

Hoof prints in the mud, tree bark nibbled away: even if the newest residents of Romania’s Carpathian mountain forest shy away from visitors, their traces are there for those who know where to look.

“Birds collect discarded bits of fur to isolate their nests while frogs can use bison hoof prints to jump from one pond to another,” says Miculescu. mr/anb/jsk/jv

Originally published as Rescued from extinction, bison rediscover Romania mountains




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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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