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Obama looks to salvage Asia 'pivot' as allies fret about China
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:51:37 -0400

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act at the LBJ Presidential Library in AustinBy Matt Spetalnick and Manuel Mogato WASHINGTON/MANILA (Reuters) - When a Philippine government ship evaded a Chinese blockade in disputed waters of the South China Sea last month, a U.S. Navy plane swooped in to witness the dramatic encounter. The flyover was a vivid illustration of the expanding significance of one of Asia's most strategic regions and underscored a message that senior U.S. officials say President Barack Obama will make in Asia next week: The "pivot" of U.S. military and diplomatic assets toward the Asia-Pacific region is real. Washington's Asian allies, however, appear unconvinced. During Obama's four-nation tour of Asia that begins on April 23, his toughest challenge will be to reassure skeptical leaders that the United States intends to be more than just a casual observer and instead is genuinely committed to countering an increasingly assertive China in the region.




Saudi reports new MERS death, infections in Jeddah
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:35:49 -0400

A microscopic view of the MERS coronavirus, which has so far killed 88 people out of 212 confirmed infections, according to the World Health OrganisationJeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - A Saudi man has died of MERS in the western city of Jeddah, where authorities have sought to calm fears over the spreading respiratory illness, the health ministry said Wednesday. The ministry said five more people were infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, including two medics, all in Jeddah. The latest death of a 52-year-old brings to 71 the total number of people to have died from MERS, out of 205 infections in Saudi Arabia, it added. Health authorities on Tuesday reported the death of a 59-year-old, also in Jeddah, as well as four other infections in the same city, including three medics.




World stocks up on hopes Chinese slowdown is mild
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:00:16 -0400

LONDON (AP) — World stock markets rose Wednesday after Chinese economic figures showed the slowdown in the first quarter was less severe than expected.

European Parliamentarians back measures against 'invasive aliens'
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:40:56 -0400

By Barbara Lewis BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament backed a law on Wednesday to help keep alien species of plants and wildlife out of Europe and limit their spread in the event they do get in. Non-native plant and animal life are estimated to cost the European Union 12 billion euros ($16 billion) a year in damage and control costs. They compete with European species for food and disrupt their habitats. The European Environment Agency says more than 10,000 alien species have gained a foothold in Europe and at least 1,500 are considered harmful.

S. Korea, Japan hold rare 'comfort women' talks
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:19:03 -0400

Thousands of "comfort woman" such as Chen Lien-hua were systematically exploited as sex slaves by the Japanese army in Asia during World War IISouth Korea and Japan held rare high-level talks Wednesday on the extremely sensitive issue of wartime sex slavery, which has contributed to a virtual freeze in diplomatic ties. Kyodo News cited an unnamed government official as saying the Japanese side would indicate Tokyo is mulling an official apology and money for the so-called "comfort women" forced to work in military brothels. Seoul said the meeting between Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese foreign ministry's Asia and Oceania affairs bureau, and Lee Sang-Deok, South Korea's director-general for Northeast Asian Affairs, marked the first time high-level officials had discussed the comfort woman issue in isolation.




Take a stroll in these Istanbul neighborhoods
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:07:19 -0400

This undated photo shows an array of olives in a shop in the neighborhood of Karakoy in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is best-known among tourists for mosques and bazaars but it also offers interesting neighborhoods for visitors to explore like Karakoy, home to small shops, galleries and cafes. (AP Photo/Sisi Tang)ISTANBUL (AP) — Istanbul, the noisy metropolis on the Bosporus Strait lauded by many a travel ranking, has much more to offer than grand mosques and bazaars. Away from the din of typical tourist haunts, a walk around the neighborhoods of Karakoy, Balat and Kuzguncuk will peel back the surface to reveal the city's multilayered history, and the lifestyles of those who've lived it.




Malaysia reports first Asian death from MERS virus
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:01:53 -0400

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian man who went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia has become the first death in Asia from Middle East respiratory syndrome, while the Philippines has isolated a health worker who tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.

China's growth slows to 7.4 percent in 1Q
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:27:14 -0400

FILE - In this Tuesday, April 8, 2014 file photo, a worker walks past a container vessel docked in Qingdao port in east China's Shandong province. China's economic growth slowed to 7.4 percent in the first quarter, raising the risk of job losses and a potential impact on its trading partners. The figure reported Wednesday, April 16 by the government was down from the previous quarter's 7.7 percent. (AP Photo/File) CHINA OUTBEIJING (AP) — China's economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter but appeared strong enough to satisfy Chinese leaders who are trying to put the country on a more sustainable path without politically dangerous job losses.




World shares rise, shrug off slower China growth
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:06:22 -0400

People stand at a barricade at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Several government buildings have fallen to mobs of Moscow loyalists in recent days as unrest spreads across the east of the country. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)TOKYO (AP) — World stock markets rose Wednesday as China's slowdown in the first quarter was less severe than expected.




Tesco seeks Asia pick-up after fresh profit setback
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:02:28 -0400

The world's third-biggest supermarket group said its trading profit dropped 6.0 percent to £3.31 billion in the year to late February, compared with its performance in 2012/13Supermarket giant Tesco announced a second drop in annual profits in a row on Wednesday, leaving Britain's biggest retailer hoping that recent expansion into India and China can offset weakness in Europe. But annual profit after tax soared to £974 million from £28 million in the previous trading year when Tesco was hit by its decision to close the group's under-performing US business. "While the decline in profitability and like-for-like UK sales comes as no surprise, it marks the end of a disappointing year for Tesco," said Bryan Roberts, analyst at consultancy group Kantar Retail. Speaking of 2013/14, Tesco said in its earnings statement: "Our performance in the year was not where we had planned it to be."




London shares open higher as Tesco jumps after results
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 03:41:06 -0400

City workers in the Canary Wharf financial district in east London, on August 5, 2011London shares opened higher on Wednesday as shares in Tesco jumped after the supermarket giant's fourth quarter results came out not as bad as investors had feared. Tesco shares climbed 3.27 percent to 773.50 pence as the UK market leader unveiled a 6 percent drop in underlying profits for its year to February but targeted expansion in Asia for future growth. Chief executive Philip Clarke noted: "We have significantly reduced our new investment in Europe, focusing the majority of our overseas capital on targeted, high-returning investments in Korea, Malaysia and Thailand." In other Asian expansion, Tesco last month struck a joint venture deal with India's Tata Group to become the first foreign supermarket to enter the country's $500-billion (362 billion-euro) retail sector.




Asia shares rise, shrug off slower China growth
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 01:16:37 -0400

People stand at a barricade at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Several government buildings have fallen to mobs of Moscow loyalists in recent days as unrest spreads across the east of the country. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)TOKYO (AP) — Shares rose Wednesday in Asia as positive sentiment from strong corporate earnings outweighed Ukraine's crisis and slower economic growth in China.




China's growth slows to 24-year low of 7.4 percent
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 22:24:39 -0400

BEIJING (AP) — China's economic growth slowed to a 24-year low of 7.4 percent in the first quarter, raising the risk of job losses and a potential impact on its trading partners.

South Korea blocks Ashley Madison adultery website
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 21:47:47 -0400

The homepage of the global adultery hook-up site Ashley Madison dating website displayed on a laptop in Hong Kong, August 20, 2013South Korea has blocked the newly launched Korean version of the global adultery hook-up site Ashley Madison, saying Wednesday that it threatened family values in a country where marital infidelity is a crime. Under a 1953 statute that criminalises adultery, an unfaithful spouse in South Korea can receive a prison sentence of up to two years for having an affair. The Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), a largely government-appointed body, said the website was an incitement to immorality. "In light of the legal spirit of relevant laws aimed to protect healthy sexual morals, marriage bonds and family life, KCSC decided to block access to the site which incites adultery," the commission said in a statement.




Yahoo's 1Q highlighted by Alibaba, modest ad gains
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:26:06 -0400

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo is prospering from its lucrative investments in Asia while the Internet company's listless advertising sales are picking up, if ever so slightly, under CEO Marissa Mayer.

U.S., China in 'productive' talks after North Korea test threat
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:10:52 -0400

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Davies shakes hands with China's special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu in New YorkBy David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and China have held "productive" talks on North Korea, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, part of stepped up international diplomacy after Pyongyang warned of plans to conduct a new type of nuclear test. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies met with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in New York on Monday and Tuesday. "The United States and China agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearized North Korea," it said, adding that the meetings were part of a series of high-level U.S.-China discussions on how to achieve that in a peaceful manner. The talks follow meetings last week between the United States, Japan and South Korea, the countries that along with China and Russia were trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea until Pyongyang declared the so-called six-party talks dead in 2008.




Yahoo's 1Q lifted by Alibaba, modest ad progress
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:21:31 -0400

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo is still prospering from its lucrative investments in Asia while the Internet company's listless advertising sales are picking up under CEO Marissa Mayer, if ever so slightly.

World stocks drop on Ukraine, China jitters
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:57:31 -0400

People stand at a barricade at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Several government buildings have fallen to mobs of Moscow loyalists in recent days as unrest spreads across the east of the country. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)LONDON (AP) — World markets turned lower on Tuesday amid concerns about instability in Ukraine, the value of technology stocks and an economic slowdown in China.




Rouhani says Iran sanctions will unravel in months
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:31:09 -0400

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during an event to mark Nawroz, the Persian New Year, in KabulPresident Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday international sanctions on Iran would unravel in months following negotiations with world powers on its nuclear program, the official IRNA news agency reported. Some international sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear program have been eased temporarily after a deal was reached last year with world powers, but Washington has said the lifting of sanctions can only happen "in total" after a comprehensive deal is reached. "Today we already see the sanctions unraveling," he said, according to IRNA, referring to the modest easing of sanctions in return for concessions made by Rouhani's government in nuclear talks with world powers. World powers want Iran to curb its nuclear activity, which Western nations fear is aimed at giving Tehran the capability to make a nuclear weapon.




U.N. finds fear-mongering by Russian speakers in Ukraine
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:00:58 -0400

By Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - Ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine have falsely claimed to be under assault to justify Russian intervention, the U.N. human rights office said on Tuesday in a report that warned of an impact on the May 25 election if propaganda persisted. Russia declared Ukraine on the brink of civil war on Tuesday as Kiev said an "anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Moscow separatists was under way, with troops and armored personnel carriers seen near a flashpoint eastern town. Russia then seized and annexed Ukraine's Crimea region after its ethnic Russian majority backed the move in a referendum, which the West condemned as an illegal sham.

Zeina Karam appointed AP's Beirut bureau chief
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:05:51 -0400

This photo taken on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 shows Zeina Karam of the Associated Press in Beirut, Lebanon. Karam, who has reported on political upheaval, war and transformation in the Middle East for almost two decades, has been named as Beirut bureau chief for The Associated Press, leading coverage of Lebanon as well as the devastating conflict in Syria. The appointment was announced on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 by Ian Phillips, AP’s Middle East news director, and Dan Perry, who heads AP's text coverage of the region.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)CAIRO (AP) — Zeina Karam, who has reported on political upheaval, war and transformation in the Middle East for almost two decades, has been named as Beirut bureau chief for The Associated Press, leading coverage of Lebanon as well as the devastating conflict in Syria.




China angered by U.S. environment chief's visit to Taiwan
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:52:01 -0400

McCarthy testifies before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on nomination to be administrator of Environmental Protection AgencyBEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday it had lodged a protest with the United States over a visit by Washington's environmental protection chief to self-ruled Taiwan this week. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy's visit is the first by a cabinet-level official since 2000, according to Taiwan's presidential office. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou met her on Monday. McCarthy was visiting to highlight environmental cooperation between the United States and partners in the Asia-Pacific region. ...




World stocks mostly down on Ukraine, China jitters
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 05:04:18 -0400

TOKYO (AP) — World stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday as Ukraine tensions continued to bubble and jitters about China's economy resurfaced.

Americas to get glimpse of total lunar eclipse
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 03:25:39 -0400

A lunar eclipse is seen from the San Gabriel Valley, east of downtown Los Angeles, on April 15, 2014A total lunar eclipse, the first since December 2011, will take place Tuesday with the Americas best placed to get a glimpse. With a first phase -- known as a penumbral eclipse -- kicking off at 0453 GMT, the total lunar eclipse is due to start at 0706 GMT and last until 0824 GMT, the US space agency said. While the entire event is visible from North and South America, sky watchers in northern and eastern Europe, eastern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia will be out of luck, according to NASA. The year's second total lunar eclipse will take place on October 8, with the tetrad's remaining two expected on April 4 and September 28 of next year.




Animal welfare group plans largest rescue of Chinese bile bears
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 03:18:09 -0400

By Michael Martina BEIJING (Reuters) - An animal welfare group said on Tuesday it will save 130 bears from a bile extraction farm in China, its largest rescue so far, in a bid to end a business that has sparked outrage over animal cruelty amid growing opposition. Hong Kong-based Animals Asia says as many as 10,000 bears are held in captivity in China and used for bile extraction, often under poor conditions that cause long-term physical and psychological suffering. Animals Asia reached a deal with state-owned Flower World to take over its bear bile farm in the southern Guangxi region's capital Nanning and convert it into a sanctuary for the Asiatic black bears, known as moon bears for a white crescent marking on their chests. Most people oppose it, so we consider prospects for the bear bile business will be less and less optimistic," Flower World General Manager Yan Shaohong told reporters.

Asia stocks mixed ahead of China growth report
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:56:26 -0400

TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets were mixed Tuesday as jitters about China's economy overshadowed a perk from strong U.S. data and earnings.

Vietnam releases dissidents amid foreign pressure
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:36:02 -0400

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has granted early release to two high-profile dissidents, bringing the number of democracy activists freed this month to three in what the government called a "policy of leniency."

Killing of environmental activists rises globally
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:12:45 -0400

FILE - In this file photo taken, Feb. 6, 2012, and released by The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Cambodian environmental activist Chut Wutty, left, stands next to a log in a jungle in Kampong Thom province north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Wutty, who fought against massive illegal deforestation, was shot by a military policeman in April 2012 as he probed logging operations in one of the country's last great forests. A survey released Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - the first comprehensive one of its kind – says that only 10 killers of 908 environmental activists slain around the world over the past decade have been convicted. (AP Photo/The Cambodian Center for Human Rights, File)BANGKOK (AP) — As head of his village, Prajob Naowa-opas battled to save his community in central Thailand from the illegal dumping of toxic waste by filing petitions and leading villagers to block trucks carrying the stuff — until a gunman in broad daylight fired four shots into him.




Israel irked by diplomat's tacit Nazi remark
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:54:21 -0400

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel's U.N. ambassador on Monday denounced a U.N. agency head for tacitly comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany and has demanded her suspension.

Israel irked by UN's tacit Nazi/Israel remark
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:21:54 -0400

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel's ambassador is calling on the United Nations chief to suspend a U.N. agency head for tacitly comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany.

Uber meets local lookalikes in Asia taxi-app wars
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:04:58 -0400

In this Wednesday, March 19, 2014 photo, an Uber taxi driver drives his car through a street in New Delhi, India. Riding on its startup success and flush with fresh capital, taxi-hailing smartphone app Uber is making a big push into Asia. The company has in the last year started operating in 18 cities in Asia and the South Pacific including Seoul, Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong and five Indian cities. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)MUMBAI, India (AP) — Riding on its startup success and flush with fresh capital, taxi-hailing smartphone app Uber is making a big push into Asia. There's a twist, though: Instead of being the game-changing phenomena it was in the U.S., Uber faces a slew of competitors using similar technology.




Vietnam frees two more political activists
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:57:47 -0400

Nguyen Tien Trung stands between wreaths during a funeral for Hoang Minh Chinh in Hanoi(Reuters) - Vietnam has freed two more political dissidents, making it three activists released in the space of a week, as pressure increases on the communist government to stop jailing its critics. Nguyen Tien Trung, a 30-year-old blogger, was freed from a prison in southern Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday, his father said. Vi Duc Hoi, 56, a former communist party member who became a democracy activist, was released on Friday, London-based rights group Amnesty International confirmed on Monday. Trung's father, Nguyen Tu Tu said it was a positive move by the authorities and hoped more would follow.




World stocks recover after strong US data
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:58:14 -0400

LONDON (AP) — Global stock markets recovered Monday as strong economic and corporate news from the U.S. offset concerns about the crisis in Ukraine.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi Arabia
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:29:11 -0400

Saudi medical staff leave the emergency department at a hospital in the center of the Saudi capital Riyadh on April 8, 2014Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - A foreigner has died from MERS in the western Saudi city of Jeddah, where authorities have sought to calm fears over the spreading respiratory illness, the health ministry said Monday. Last week panic over the spread of MERS among medical staff in Jeddah had caused a temporary closure of an emergency room at a main hospital, prompting a visit by Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabiah aimed at reassuring an anxious public. Rabiah briefed the cabinet on Monday following his visit to hospitals in Jeddah over the weekend.




Aviva says sells stake in S.Korea venture
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:13:02 -0400

British insurance giant Aviva's headquarters are pictured in London, on October 5, 2009British insurer Aviva has agreed to sell its stake in its South Korean venture for an undisclosed amount as it focuses on its core Asian businesses, the group said Monday. Aviva has sold its 47-percent holding in Woori Aviva Life Insurance to NongHyup Financial Group (NHFG), it said in a statement. "Aviva has a strong presence in China and South East Asia, which are key future cash generators for the group," said Aviva Asia chief executive Khor Hock Seng.




'Grandmaster' wins a dozen Hong Kong Film Awards
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 08:06:41 -0400

Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, left, and actor Nick Cheung Ka-fai pose after winning the Best Actress award for her movie “The Grandmaster” and Best Actor awards for his movie “Unbeatable” at the 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards in Hong Kong Sunday, April 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)HONG KONG (AP) — Wong Kar Wai's much lauded kung fu epic "The Grandmaster" won a record dozen honors at the Hong Kong Film Awards.




Vietnam police probe soccer match-fixing
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 08:05:11 -0400

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnamese police are investigating an alleged match-fixing incident involving 11 professional soccer players.

Russia, China aim to finish gas talks before Putin's May visit: media
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 08:03:08 -0400

Russia and China aim to wrap up a 10-year series of talks about Russian gas supplies before President Vladimir Putin visits China in May, media quoted the deputy prime minister as saying on Monday. The Russian deputy premier, Arkady Dvorkovich, also said China is interested in alternative energy projects on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in March. Moscow and Beijing have been involved in painstaking talks about possible Russian gas supplies to China, with price being the main obstacle to a deal.

Insight: Israeli gas holds promise of better ties with neighbors
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 06:45:11 -0400

File picture of Israeli gas platforms in the Mediterranean sea, west of AshdodBy Oleg Vukmanovic and Ron Bousso MILAN/LONDON (Reuters) - Israel's drive to export its new-found natural gas could help to rebuild strained ties with old regional allies Egypt and Turkey, but could deprive Europe of a precious alternative to Russian gas. Israel has in recent months already signed energy deals with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, though relations with the Palestinians are at a low ebb, and now needs to expand its export horizons to cash in on its huge energy discoveries. If all goes well, the latest developments could see first pipelines being laid between Israel and Turkey as soon as 2015, and gas cooperation between Israel and Egypt is also emerging, which would allow export access to Asia's major markets. A growing population and soaring demand have left Egypt's own liquefied natural gas export (LNG) plants in need of new supply, as domestic shortages eat into seaborne exports through the Suez Canal to the world's most lucrative market in Asia.




Anxious China emerges as diplomatic player in Afghanistan
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 05:26:07 -0400

Afghanistan's President Karzai meets with China's Premier Li at the Great Hall of the People in BeijingBy Katharine Houreld and Ben Blanchard KABUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - China is quietly preparing for a more robust role in the future of Afghanistan, concerned that the withdrawal of NATO troops will leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep. The two countries are connected by a narrow mountainous corridor that is almost impassable, which meant Beijing could focus on mining and mineral deals in Afghanistan as Western forces battled Taliban insurgents. But officials say that China is emerging as a key strategic player. In August it will host a "Heart of Asia" conference on Afghanistan, which may have a newly elected president by then, inviting leaders from regional nations including India and Pakistan.