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U.S. defence chief Austin likely to visit India soon-India government source

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is likely to visit India next week, an Indian government source told Reuters on Sunday, as the two allies seek to deepen military ties to counter the growing power of China in the Asia-Pacific region.The first person visit by a top official of the new U.S. President Joe Biden's administration will focus on enhancing cooperation, said the source, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.Austin plans to meet Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during his visit some time in the week of March 15, the official added.The first Black U.S. defence chief will join Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a visit to Japan and South Korea, sources told Reuters on Thursday. It was not immediately clear if Blinken will also visit India.The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi referred a request for comment to the Defense Department, which could not be reached outside regular business hours.For India, closer bilateral military ties could bring greater access to American technology, as New Delhi tries to modernise its defence system amid tensions with neighbouring China in the western Himalayas.India and China last month began to pull back troops and battle tanks from a bitterly contested lake area high in the Himalayas, in a breakthrough after a months-long standoff on the disputed border between the two nuclear-armed giants.The standoff began in April when India said Chinese troops had intruded deep into its side of the Line of Actual Control or the de facto border in the Ladakh area in the western Himalayas.U.S. defence manufacturers hope closer ties will boost their own prospects in India, which is one of the world's biggest defence spenders but still has major gaps in its military capabilities.(REUTERS)

Biden to issue voting access executive order on anniversary of Bloody Sunday

President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Sunday to promote additional access to voting. It will come symbolically on the 56th Anniversary of the march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama known as “Bloody Sunday.”The administration describes the executive order as an “initial step” to protect voting rights — one that uses “the authority the president has to leverage federal resources to help people register to vote and provide information,” according to an administration official.The executive order, according to a fact sheet provided by the administration, will give every federal agency head 200 days to outline a plan to “promote voter registration and participation.” Federal agencies will be directed to notify states about the ways in which it can help with voter registration, in addition to being tasked with improving voting access to military voters and people with disabilities. Biden will also direct the federal government to update and modernize, the website it operates to provide the public with voting-related information.The order comes as, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, more than 250 bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country that would restrict voting access after the United States saw record voter turnout during the 2020 election. Republicans pushing the restrictions say they are necessary for “election integrity” after former President Donald Trump pushed lies that his loss was due to massive voter fraud.On a call with reporters Saturday afternoon, the administration acknowledged that voting access laws were mostly the purview of Congress and state houses around the country. “The president doesn't have executive authority to prevent a state from taking that kind of action. That would require congressional action,” an administration official said.Last week, the House passed the “For the People Act,” or H.R. 1, a major voting rights reform bill that would prompt a huge expansion of voting rights and an overhaul of redistricting laws. Republicans have already said they plan to stop the bill in the Senate, which means it would need 60 votes to pass, making it exceedingly unlikely to make it to Biden’s desk.That’s not lost on the administration official who said: “I think all of us are looking into a crystal ball about what might happen but this president looks forward to being able to sign legislation that comes to him to support voting access.”In addition to issuing the executive order, Biden will also give virtual remarks at the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast that commemorates the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. During those remarks, he is expected to push for the passage of HR1 and sharply critique moves to restrict voting rights.According to a script of his prepared remarks, Biden will say that “for Black Americans the fundamental right to vote has been denied by white supremacy both hiding behind white hoods and in plain sight from statehouses to courtrooms.”(AP)

Top House Democrat Jim Clyburn: 'No way we'd let filibuster deny voting rights'

One of the most powerful Democrats in Washington has issued a frank warning to members of his own party, saying they need to find a way to pass major voting rights legislation or they will lose control of Congress.The comments from Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip, came days after the House of Representatives approved a sweeping voting rights bill that would enact some of the most dramatic expansions of the right to vote since the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Even though Democrats also control the US Senate, the bill is unlikely to pass the chamber because of a procedural rule, the filibuster, that requires 60 votes to advance legislation.In an interview with the Guardian this week, Clyburn called out two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have opposed getting rid of the filibuster. Republicans across the country are advancing sweeping measures to curtail voting rights and letting expansive voting rights legislation die would harm Democrats, Clyburn said.“There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights. That just ain’t gonna happen. That would be catastrophic,” he said. “If Manchin and Sinema enjoy being in the majority, they had better figure out a way to get around the filibuster when it comes to voting and civil rights.”If Manchin and Sinema enjoy being in the majority, they had better figure out a way to get around the filibuster when it comes to voting and civil rightsJim ClyburnClyburn issued that warning ahead of the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the day in 1965 when law enforcement officers brutally beat voting rights activists in Selma, Alabama.Clyburn and other House Democrats have been hoping the early days of Joe Biden’s administration will be marked by passage of a bill named after the late congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights hero who was nearly killed on Bloody Sunday. That measure would restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, gutted by the supreme court in 2013, that required places with a history of voting discrimination to get election changes cleared by the federal government before they took effect.“Here we are talking about the Voting Rights Act he worked so hard for and that’s named in his honor and they’re going to filibuster it to death? That ain’t gonna happen,” Clyburn said.But the likelihood of that bill becoming law is doubtful under current procedures. Democrats expect Republicans to find a reason to filibuster it after its expected passage through the House of Representatives and consideration in the Senate. Thus Clyburn is calling for some kind of workaround of the filibuster in the current legislative climate, in which the Senate is split 50-50 and use of the legislative obstructing mechanism is all too common.“I’m not going to say that you must get rid of the filibuster. I would say you would do well to develop a Manchin-Sinema rule on getting around the filibuster as it relates to race and civil rights,” Clyburn said.Clyburn said he has not discussed changing the filibuster with Biden, who has expressed support for keeping the filibuster in place.The reality of their slim majority and the regularity of legislation dying through filibuster has caused Democrats to opt to pass the Biden administration’s Covid relief package through a budgetary process called reconciliation, which is not subject to the filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold. Clyburn wants to see the same thing with civil rights.“You can’t filibuster the budget,” Clyburn said. “That’s why we have reconciliation rules. We need to have civil and voting rights reconciliation. That should have had reconciliation permission a long, long time ago.”He noted: “If the headlines were to read that the John R Lewis Voting Rights Act was filibustered to death it would be catastrophic.”Clyburn’s comments underscore the difficulty the federal government has in moving any bill because of arcane legislative roadblocks. Broadly popular proposals like a minimum wage increase or a voting rights bill seem dead on arrival. And that has left veteran Senate Democrats skeptical that even a bill protecting Americans’ rights to vote has a chance. First, the filibuster would have to go, and that seems unlikely at the moment.“The short-term prospects of doing away with the filibuster seem remote just because there aren’t the votes to do that,” said Luke Albee, a former chief of staff to the Democratic senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Pat Leahy of Vermont. “My gut is it will take six months, eight months, a year of total obstructionism on the Republican side for senators who are skeptical now of getting rid of the filibuster to at least have a more open mind about it.”Albee also said it was possible that a Voting Rights Act could face strong Republican opposition, despite Clyburn’s confidence.“There’s no one that hopes it passes more than me but I just worry it’s a toxic environment,” Albee added.(THE GUARDIAN)

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EU says it agrees post-Brexit WTO agriculture quotas with U.S.

The European Union and the United States have concluded negotiations to adjust the EU’s World Trade Organization agricultural quotas following Britain’s exit from the bloc, the European Commission said on Monday.The agreement, covering billions of euros of trade, including beef, poultry, rice, dairy produce, fruit, vegetables and wine, was the result of two years of negotiations. The idea is to keep the previous import quota volumes unchanged and to share them between the European Union and Britain.The European Union is conducting similar negotiations with 21 other WTO partners and has completed them some countries, such as Argentina, Australia, Norway, Pakistan and Thailand.(REUTERS)


Social Networks Should Not Ban Political Content During Elections, Russian MFA Spokeswoman Says

Social media platforms should not prohibit any political content during elections, as it is necessary to provide people with an opportunity to express themselves, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an interview with Sputnik."For example, if elections are held in a country, if social networks position themselves as platforms where a person, association, non-governmental organization can express their point of view, it is necessary to give people an opportunity to express themselves and speak on these topics just before the elections instead of manipulating buttons and banning political ads", Zakharova said.According to the diplomat, the blocking of political content, political advertising on the eve of elections in a particular country "is evidence of a selective, discriminatory approach and violation of freedom of speech by these very platforms"."There must be rules, each country or sovereign state has rights or the right to its own legislation. No one can claim this, I mean, from the outside. But these rules should be clear, clearly formulated, and not change from time to time simply under pressure from one or another lobbying group or political group. This is a very big problem, and of course, it requires a solution", the spokeswoman added.Social media giants have repeatedly blocked political content in recent months. In particular, from mid-January to late February, Google banned political advertising on its platforms following the January 6 unrest at the US Capitol. Facebook, in turn, introduced a temporary ban on political, social issues and election-related advertisements after the 2020 US presidential election on November 5, saying it seeks to "avoid confusion or abuse following Election Day".Regulation Required for Internet Giants That Block Political ContentThe Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman believes that the activity of internet giants, that either block or remove political content, needs regulation,"All this requires regulation. All of this is now being dealt with by our [Russian] legislators and relevant authorities. We believe that there should be some kind of common international legal approach to internet regulation", Zakharova said.According to the spokeswoman, the fact that social media profiles belonging to Russian media outlets are often blocked can be described as "a clean-up" of information.Zakharova added that Moscow has been proposing initiatives in the field of information security for years. She mentioned that the upper house of the Russian parliament has issued a special appeal to international organizations on the need to develop a common approach to the issue.Disregard for Russian Laws by Western Internet Giants UnacceptableShe stressed that the decisions of western internet giants often go sideways with Russian law and this is unacceptable."This is really a problem that has escalated, probably in recent years, especially in 2020. We assume that the internet is a common space. But we see how they behave outside the legal framework if we talk about the jurisdiction of our country, our legislative framework, the very companies that you call internet giants [behave outside the legal framework]", Zakharova explained.The spokeswoman added that such big tech companies sometimes "directly break Russian laws" and refuse to pay fines that are imposed for such violations. Zakharova added that other countries also face similar issues.She mentioned Australia, where the parliament passed a new law that requires digital platforms to pay news outlets for content and France, "where individuals and public figures filed lawsuits against American internet platforms in connection with the blocking" of content. The spokeswoman also said that the ban of "US politicians" on social media "shocked the whole world".(SPUTNIK)


Insightsmore >>

Virus traps low-income Americans in financial hardship

As Christmas approached last year, people waited in snaking lines of cars for free meals from food banks across the United States. At one center in North Texas, 3.4 million meals were handed out in two weeks around Thanksgiving – a record number, according to volunteers.This festive season, because of the economic fallout from COVID-19, hunger has become an even bigger concern among low-income families in the U.S.From March to November last year, food sufficiency in the U.S. dropped from 88.6 percent to 76.3 percent among surveyed Americans. The wealthy may have the means to shelter from some of the worst effects of the pandemic, but the poor have been sucked into the center of what is, in effect, an economic tornado. And among them minorities are, once again, bearing the brunt of the suffering.From April to November, the number of Americans without enough to eat rose among all racial groups. The percentage of white people in this group remained the lowest at 18.9 percent, which is roughly one in five.The number among Blacks was 14.7 points higher, making it about one in three African Americans whose cupboards may be close to empty.When it comes to access to adequate amounts of affordable food, Hispanics have actually felt the biggest impact from the pandemic.Data shows that similar proportions of Blacks and whites have fallen into hunger – by around 10 points each in the eight months. Among Hispanics, the drop has been a huge 15.5 points.If securing enough food isn't enough of a burden for low-income Americans, then what about housing expenses? Many have indeed struggled to keep up rental payments, with the disparities again rather glaring.In April, 23.7 percent of Black adults had trouble making rent. Even though businesses had been reopening and gradually rehiring people, by November, that number had risen to 30.6 percent.Among white and Hispanic populations, there was a less marked change. The number of people in these racial groups who've struggled to pay rent ticked up by a modest 0.4 and 0.6 points, respectively.On April 10, millions of people woke up to a new bank deposit of up to $1,200 as the first wave of stimulus checks were rolled out. For those whose lives were hanging by a thread, they could finally take a breath and pay off some bills.But as negotiations continue on further stimulus measures, more and more minorities are facing an increasing challenge to make ends meet. In November, nearly 70 percent of Black and Hispanic adults said covering their usual household expenses was proving to be difficult, of which more than 20 percent said it was very difficult.Financial hardship can lead to emotional distress. Those who live from paycheck to paycheck can be caught in a vicious cycle of despair.In July, according to Kaiser Family Foundation polling, 58 percent of people on lower incomes reported that negative feelings related to the pandemic had impacted their mental health. Nearly seven in 10 Black adults, and more than five in 10 Hispanics said they suffered major mental disruptions linked to financial stress.From food to shelter and mental health, the economic recession resulting from COVID-19 has taken an outsized toll on low-income minorities. As the pandemic persists and more fall into poverty, fewer minorities will be able to reach an adequate standard of living that everyone, regardless of race and ethnicity, has the right to.(CGTN)


Online education system is not working equally for minority students

On November 19, 2020, all New York City students bid farewell to schools as the second wave of COVID-19 cases approached. No more yellow school buses running on the street, no more face-to-face interactions with teachers and people around, the city with the largest number of students in the country seems to be missing its vibrant energy of youth.NYC is not alone. In past months, most schools across the U.S. have replaced in-person teaching with online learning. While many students have adapted, there are a large number from minority families in the U.S. who are unable to access the internet or digital devices and are therefore being left behind.The Pulse Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that only 60.9 percent of Black families and 63.6 percent of Hispanic families have internet available at all times for educational purposes, whereas 78.9 percent of white households have constant access.The underlying reason is the financial strain on minority families, who often have lower earnings. In 2019, Hispanic and Black homes comprised 49.2 percent of total low-income households, making them the least advantaged racial groups in terms of socioeconomic status.The COVID-19 pandemic has made that situation even worse. It has contributed to job losses among 57.3 percent of Black families and 56.8 percent of Hispanic families. Another wave of layoffs could follow as a surge in cases may lead to more business closures, and 38.4 percent of Hispanic households have foreseen at least one family member being unemployed, almost two times the rate of white homes.Besides digital access, low-income Hispanic and Black students may also have poorer learning outcomes due to factors that downgrade the education quality, including unstable internet connections, lack of study spaces, and insufficient quiet time.Lower-quality education translates to greater learning loss. McKinsey reports that only 14 percent of low-income Black students received average and above-average online education, the lowest of all races, and 40 percent had none, the highest among all.When studying at home without a teacher's supervision, students may need parents' help. In a national educator's survey conducted online in May, among instructors who teach classes with more than two-thirds of low-income students, 39 percent said that students' class participation and engagement was worse in virtual classrooms than physical ones. Also, 30 percent noted that only a few students have guardians or family members to assist with learning as needed.Potential solutions, such as hiring a tutor, are out of reach for most families. And for low-income parents, finding time to teach their children by themselves may be too difficult a task.No one can guarantee when it will be the time to transition back to regular school settings. But as underprivileged students continue to struggle with the online education system, it is predictable that once they return safely to schools, the starting line will be repainted, and some students of color will have to wait at the end of the queue again.(CGTN)


World Newsmore >>

Nigerian president, health workers to receive first doses of vaccines

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, his deputy Yemi Osinbajo, as well as frontline health workers have been scheduled to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility to the country, an official said on Thursday.Faisal Shuaib, the executive director of the National Primarily Health Care Development Agency, which is coordinating the administering of vaccines in Nigeria, told reporters at a press briefing in Abuja that the frontline health workers would be vaccinated on Friday at the National Hospital, Abuja, while Buhari and Osinbajo would get their own shots on Saturday."The plan is to vaccinate the frontline health workers that work in the treatment center of the National Hospital," Shuaib said."After that, the plan is to vaccinate the president, vice president and strategic leaders on Saturday," he said.The country on Tuesday received 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines, the much-awaited first batch of vaccines from the COVAX Facility.It is the first of such shipments expected to be made to Nigeria in the efforts to control the spread of the COVID-19."We are hopeful that when Nigerians see leaders like the president and vice president take this vaccine, it will increase their confidence around the safety of the vaccines," Shuaib added.(CGTN)


Civilian who died in rocket attack on Iraq base was U.S. citizen

A civilian contractor who died of 'cardiac episode' during rocket attack on Iraq base was a U.S. national, AFP reports citing Pentagon.The contractor died after at least 10 rockets slammed into a military base in western Iraq hosting U.S.-led coalition troops on Wednesday.The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq's western desert came after several weeks of escalating U.S.-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.It also comes just two days before the first-ever papal visit to the country by Pope Francis, who said he would still make the visit so as not to "disappoint" the Iraqi people.Ain al-Assad hosts both Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops helping fight the Islamic State group, as well as the unmanned drones the coalition uses to surveil jihadist sleeper cells.AFP cites security sources to have said the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in similar attacks.(CGTN)


Breaking Newsmore >>

14 killed in jihadist attack on Nigeria military base

Jihadists killed 14 security personnel and civilians in an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria's Borno state on Wednesday, security sources told AFP.Suspected Boko Haram fighters in trucks fitted with machine guns launched a dawn raid on the army base in the town of Damboa, sparking intense fighting.Sources said six soldiers, four police officers and two members of a government-backed militia were killed along with two civilians."We lost six soldiers in the attack while six others were injured," a military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.The officer claimed 13 insurgents were killed by a fighter jet as they fled the area.The leader of an anti-jihadist militia said the civilians who died were among more than 50 local residents hit by shrapnel after rocket-propelled grenades fired by the jihadists hit nearby homes.Nigeria's decade-long jihadist insurgency has killed 36 000 people and displaced two million others inside the country, and spilled into neighbouring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.The United Nations has complained of a surge in violence in the conflict zone in recent weeks.Anger has been growing among local residents about the army's failure to stem the attacks despite repeated claims from officials that the insurgency has been defeated.(CGTN)


One dead, multiple injured shot near skate park in California

A 23-year-old male was shot dead and five others were injured following a shooting at a party near a skate park in Tulare County, California, late Wednesday night, ABC News reported citing local police.The conditions of the other shooting victims are unclear, including a 7-year-old girl who is suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, police said at a press conference.Police said a "solo suspect shooter" walked up to the party and fired multiple rounds.(CGTN)


Life Stylemore >>

Tuning in to history

When music teacher Zheng Ruzhong visited the Mogao Caves in Gansu province in 1986, he was amazed by the numerous murals of the pipa (a four-stringed Chinese lute). More than 600 images of the ancient Chinese plucked instrument, in hundreds of caves, were portrayed at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a complex of grottoes adorned with Buddhist frescoes.Ever since, Zheng has dedicated himself to the research of music and dance in relation to the Mogao Caves, but he also took on a special project-transforming the painted musical instruments, portrayed in the murals, into real ones.In total, 245 items from the 97 types of musical instruments have been made based on the images depicted in the Mogao murals, including plucked and bowed stringed instruments, as well as percussion items. However, this is still a very small number of the musical instruments depicted in the frescoes, which, according to Zheng's research, totals more than 4,000."There are no other such caves in the world that have as many musical instruments painted in the murals. It reveals a rich musical landscape in ancient China," says 88-year-old Zheng, who set up a music and dance studio with the Dunhuang Academy in 1986.(中国网英文)


17 countries' publishing houses to translate, publish Xi's book on governance

Publishing houses from 17 countries have partnered with Beijing-based Foreign Languages Press, the publisher of the third volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, for translating the book into different languages for publication.The countries are Albania, Poland, Romania, Belarus, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nepal, Laos, Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.The book, first published in Chinese and English on June 30, 2020, records the practices of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core in leading the whole Party and Chinese people to make new and major advances in various undertakings of the Party and the country since the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017.Xi Jinping: The Governance of China has three volumes, which have been translated into 33 languages and distributed in over 170 countries and regions.The Chinese publisher said it is also working on the translation and publishing process of the French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, German, Japanese, and Portuguese versions of the third volume.(中国网英文)


Sportsmore >>

Japan planning to ban overseas spectators for Tokyo Olympics: report

Japan's government is planning to stop overseas spectators from attending the Summer Olympics due to worries they will spread the coronavirus, Mainichi newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing multiple unnamed sources.The final decision will be made this month after talks with the International Olympic Committee and other parties, the newspaper said.(CGTN)


Star pass-rusher J.J. Watt joins Cardinals on 2-year, $31million deal

Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt has agreed to a two-year contract – which, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, is worth $31 million including $23 million in guaranteed money – with the Arizona Cardinals, announced the team on Monday.Watt broke the news first by tweeting a photo of him doing exercise wearing a Cardinals shirt before the team did. Later the 31-year-old posted another two photos of him posing with the Cardinals' owner Michael Bidwill and him being with his wife Kealia. They seem to be on the way to Arizona in Bidwill's plane."I'm excited to get started. Very excited to get started, get to work, get to know the people of Arizona," said Watt after the plane landed.Since he was selected by the Houston Texans with the No. 11 pick in the NFL Draft in 2011, Watt has grown to become the league's top defender who was named for the All-Pro First Team and the Pro Bowl for both five times. He was also two-time sacks leader.Injuries began to hold Watt back in the recent five seasons, he only played 16 games in two of them, including the 2020 season in which he had career-low five sacks. Fairly speaking, that also had a lot to do with the Texans' poor help he could get from teammates.That should be able to change in the Cardinals. First, Watt will pairing with Chandler Jones, who has a league high 97 sacks since he entered the NFL in 2012. The second-best record was Watt's 95.5, by the way.Outside linebacker Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals gestures to the official after a false start by the Carolina Panthers in the game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., October 4, 2020. /CFPFurthermore, the Cardinals' defensive coordinator Vance Joseph had been the Texans' defensive backs coach between 2011 and 2013. During that period of them, Watt made the All-Pro First Team twice.One interesting story should be told: Four days after Watt was released by the Texans, his former teammate wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (who is playing for the Cardinals) posted a photo of himself and Watt edited into wearing Cardinals jerseys on Instagram with "Let's finish what we started..." Then on Monday, Hopkins tweeted "Life is good in Arizona!" in response to the news of Watt joining the team."The one thing I can promise you is I'm going to work my ass off every single day to make you proud. Very proud to be a part of the 'Bird Gang' and the 'Red Sea,'" said Watt, according to ESPN.(CGTN)


Science&Militarymore >>

China unveils top 10 scientific advances of 2020

China on Saturday unveiled its top 10 national scientific advances of 2020.More than 3,200 experts from national academies and laboratories voted for 31 nominations from four scientific fields. Here are the 10 winners recognized at an event organized by China's Ministry of Science and Technology.1. Chinese scientists' remarkable progress in tackling COVID-19Tackling the COVID-19 outbreak and preventing the viral transmission received overwhelming recognition. So far, China has approved four vaccines for conditional commercial use in the country and also donating it to other countries.2. The Chang'e-5 probe's retrieval of lunar samplesAfter 24 days of travel, Chang'e-5 mission concluded successfully, bringing back 1,731 grams of lunar samples. The probe landed in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on December 17, 2020. The mission successfully completed China's current three-step lunar exploration program of orbiting, landing and bringing back samples.3. New descending record of China's deep-sea manned submersibleThe submersible, which name means "striver" in Chinese, dived to a record depth of 10,909 meters in the Mariana Trench on November 10, 2020, and returned after 18 days. The expedition team battled typhoons, heavy rains and high temperatures to conduct multiple tests and obtained a batch of sediment, rock and seabed biological samples.4. Research on the transmission of human genetic materialsDNA replication is the basis for the precise transfer of human genetic material between cells. Inaccurate or incomplete DNA replication can lead to mutations in the genetic material in the progeny cells and may cause cancer.Chinese scientists have provided a new perspective for understanding DNA replication by revealing a regulatory mechanism mediated by a histone variant. The histone variant H2A.Z has been found to be able to regulate "the licensing and activation of early replication origins and maintains replication timing," the research team led by Li Guohong and Zhu Mingzhao from the Institute of Biophysics of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said in a report published in the journalNature.The findings are significant in understanding many physiological processes such as growth and immune cell activation and also provide a theoretical basis for understanding cancer genesis and treatment.5. A new material with ultrahigh piezoelectricityLed by Professor Xu Zhuo, a team of researchers from Xi'an Jiaotong University has developed a new type of material which is transparent ferroelectric single crystal, called Sm-doped PMN-PT (Sm-PMN-PT) single crystals.By creating the new material, the team made a breakthrough in piezoelectric properties, which has been widely applied in ultrasonic imaging, sonar equipment and micro-electronics mechanical systems.This new material can greatly improve the imaging resolution of a photoacoustic imaging system in the diagnosis of breast cancer, melanoma and blood diseases, as well as provide new key material for the development of high-performance electro-optic modulator, optical phased array and quantum optical devices.6. Accurate measurement of Mount Qomolangma heightChina started a new round of measurement of Mount Qomolangma's height in collaboration with Nepal last May. The research team from both countries accurately measured the mountain's height and announced that it's 8,848.86 meters tall.The team used measurement data from satellites, accurate leveling and snow-level radar technologies, marking a new technological breakthrough.Except for the geographic difficulties, the mountain is hard to measure because the height of the summit keeps changing as the mountain sits on two tectonic plates of the Earth. As the two plates keep slowly moving toward each other, the shape of the ground can change drastically.7. Revealing the evolution and migration history of Chinese populations with ancient DNAResearchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) reported in the journalScienceonline last May that they have retrieved DNA from 25 ancient human remains dating back 9,500 to 4,200 years and one dating back to 300 years from sites across China.The analysis of genomes sequences of the DNA revealed a significant episode of admixture of ancient humans in East Asia, suggesting that population movement played a profound role in the early genetic history of East Asians. They found that Early Neolithic East Asians were more genetically differentiated from each other than present-day East Asians are.8. Recreating the history of over 300 million years of biodiversity changes on Earth through big dataA team of scientists based mostly in China has mined a database of more than 11,000 fossil species that lived from around 540 million to 250 million years ago by using the world's fourth most powerful supercomputer, Tianhe II.Fan Junxuan, a paleontologist at Nanjing University in China, led the team to create and analyze a database of fossil marine invertebrate species that were found in more than 3,000 layers of rock, mostly from China but representing geology across the planet during the early Palaeozoic.The effort revealed for how long, and in what order, all 11,000 species had existed. It took the supercomputer around seven million processor hours. It is published in Science on 17 January, 2020.9. Biomarkers and potential intervention targets for organ aging in mammalsThe in-depth study on the aging problem and scientific actions to tackle it has become a pressing issue as a major percentage of the world's population is growing old.A study jointly conducted by researchers from the Institute of Zoology of CAS, Beijing Institute of Genomics and Peking University systematically revealed the new biological markers and anti-aging targets for multi-organ aging in mammals. The study also shed light on the scientific links among metabolic interventions, immune responses and lifespan.The findings have built up a crucial foundation for the early warning and scientific response to the aging problem and age-related diseases.10. Quantum interference in chemical reactionsThe essence of chemical reactions is impossible to be studied as the quantum mechanics phenomena in the reactions can hardly be observed directly.Researchers from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences provided a research model, which helps in observing an oscillation caused by the quantum mechanical interference generated by two different pathways.This study reveals that quantum mechanics can be observed when the energy generated by the reaction is at a low level.(CGTN)


Study to examine COVID vaccine responses in patients with impaired immune systems

The immune response to COVID-19 vaccines in patients with certain immunosuppressed conditions is set to be examined in a new study.Patients with cancer, inflammatory arthritis, kidney or liver diseases or those having a stem cell transplant may have a higher chance of having the more severe complications of coronavirus.Such underlying medical conditions and the treatment some patients receive as part of their care may weaken the immune system - which is why they have been prioritised to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.However, researchers claim current evidence suggests that people with these medical conditions may not obtain optimal protection from established vaccines.So the new Octave trial seeks to determine the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines in these clinically at-risk patient groups.Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the trial is a collaborative research project involving groups in the Universities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Oxford, Liverpool, Imperial College London and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.Leader of the study Professor Iain McInnes, of the University of Glasgow, said: "We urgently need to understand if patient populations with chronic conditions such as cancer, inflammatory arthritis and kidney and liver disease are likely to be well-protected by current COVID-19 vaccines."The Octave study will give us invaluable new data to help us answer questions of this kind from our patients and their families."The study will look into the effectiveness of COVID-19 jabs being used in the UK in 2021, in up to 5,000 people within these patient populations.Image: The research will look into the effectiveness of COVID-19 jabsResearchers will determine patients' COVID-19 immune response by using a variety of state-of-the-art immune tests performed on blood samples taken before and/or after receiving the vaccine.They have begun recruiting patients at sites across the UK and will compare results from the study group against control groups of healthy people, without these underlying diseases, who also received coronavirus jabs.It is not yet known how long COVID-19 vaccines provide immunity for, and there may be an ongoing need for vaccination against the disease for years to come.Professor Fiona Watt, executive chair of the Medical Research Council, which funded the study, said: "This study is investigating the response to the new COVID-19 vaccines in people whose immune systems make them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and other infections."This will help ensure that those more at risk from infection receive the best protection possible."(Skynews)


Businessmore >>

Zoom earnings strong at close of pandemic-plagued year

The Zoom video conferencing platform on Monday reported a strong finish to its fiscal year as revenue and use soared due to the pandemic.The quarterly earnings report came with a forecast by the company that it will grow some 40 percent in the current year despite the likelihood that vaccines will make remote work and school less of a necessity.Zoom video conferences have become a centerpiece of life during the pandemic, as people use them for jobs, education, and socializing."The fourth quarter marked a strong finish to an unprecedented year for Zoom," chief executive Eric Yuan said in an earnings release."We are humbled by our role as a trusted partner and an engine for the modern work-from-anywhere environment."Zoom took in revenue of $882.5 million during the fiscal quarter that ended January 31, in a 369 percent increase from the same period a year earlier before lifestyles went remote due to COVID-19.Net income in the quarter was $260.4 million compared to $15.3 million in the same period a year earlier, according to the earnings report.Zoom said that at the end of January it had approximately 467,100 customers with workforces of more than 10 employees, an increase of 470 percent from the same quarter the prior year."Our ability to rapidly respond and execute drove strong financial results throughout the year," Yuan said."We believe we are well-positioned for strong growth with our innovative video communications platform."Zoom expected revenue of $900 million to $905 million in the current fiscal quarter, and revenue of at least $3.7 billion this fiscal year.Zoom shares were up more than eight percent in after-market trades that follow release of the earnings figures.(CGTN)


Australian media code 'full of sound and fury signifying nothing'

The U.S. book publishing industry was founded on pilfered books. It's said that when Benjamin Franklin returned from trips to England his travel chests were stuffed full of the latest British books which he then copied and republished.Fast forward three centuries and the same cavalier attitude to publishers' rights is repeated, but this time by Google and Facebook, both of whom have been reluctant to pay for republished news stories. Consumers are complicit in this because when it comes to the internet, they all love free, but that's not the name of any journalist.Largely at the behest of the Murdoch publishing empire and other traditional media, Australia took on these tech behemoths with groundbreaking legislation which was closely watched by other countries – who have seen the value of their journalism reduced to free.Facebook reacted by blocking all news services, along with, accidentally, a host of emergency services pages, COVID-19 health pages and community pages.Australia responded by changing the legislation to placate Facebook. Under the revised code conditions, Facebook is given the power to determine who is considered a news publisher, according to Stephen Scheeler, the former chief executive of Facebook Australia."That was a change that was made at the request of Facebook by the government," he said. "If you're a small publication or journalist, Facebook can simply say, 'Well, we don't recognize you as a news outlet', and leave you out of it altogether."Facebook refused to accept the proposed Australian law but Google compromised because of the differences in their business models.Facebook scrapes every bit of private information, willingly or unwittingly shared, for commercial purposes and news is a relatively minor component. Facebook is one of the twin peaks of surveillance capitalism. Google is the other peak. The Google business model relies more heavily on offering unlimited access to information, of which news is a significant part.Users gossip on Facebook, but they search for information on Google, so there was a greater imperative for Google to accede to the new media code.How to balance benefits between traditional media, social platforms and tech companies remains an open question. The information produced by traditional media is not much more than click-bait for big tech and that has not changed. Big tech has a vested interest in keeping big media on life support because they need this stream of click-bait. The belated responses to the torrent of lies hosted on big tech platforms in the Trump years provide a guide to the way they really value journalism.Unfortunately, there's no guarantee in the Australian code that the news companies will use the money for public interest journalism or any kind of journalism at all.Quality independent journalism along with the vital regional news media can be excluded from the code at the discretion of Facebook. The balance remains firmly tilted in favor of big tech because Facebook can determine who is and isn't a newspaper. The code does nothing to address the major threat to independent journalism which comes from traditional big media.Nick Clegg, Facebook's head of global affairs, said Facebook was willing to support news media, while reiterating its concerns over mandated payments. Facebook has pledged to invest at least $1 billion to support journalism over the next three years but what is defined as journalism is entirely at its discretion.Although hailed by some as a victory over these tech giants, it's not universally viewed in this way.The compromise has delivered an uneasy peace in the sector due to the practical shortcomings of the legislation. Tama Leaver, a professor of internet studies at Curtin University, said the social media behemoth negotiated small but important changes that mean there's a good chance the code may never be used at all. The Australian government claims it's a big stick held in reserve, but the stick appears to have significant flaws.It seems unlikely that government will step in further to constrain the foreign tech companies because the global publishers of traditional media have achieved their objectives. It's notable that there is no requirement for them to invest this additional income in journalism and it is most likely that shareholders will be the major beneficiaries of the code.The Australian experience offers a salutary lesson about the extent of gains and compromises that others can anticipate if they try to bring Google, Facebook and others to heel.Victory has never tasted so sour as it is for many small publishers who still remain at the mercy of Facebook because big media has been propped up and big tech has avoided being broken up. The Australian media code is, as Shakespeare's Macbeth lamented, "full of sound and fury signifying nothing."(CGTN)


chinamore >>

Chinese couple was denied marriage registration for their hanfu photo

A woman surnamed Tang from Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, was recently denied permission to register her marriage using a photo of her and her husband wearing hanfu, a traditional form of clothing, sparking debate online,The Paper reported on Wednesday.According to Tang, a hanfuenthusiast, she had seen online examples of couples in other cities who had successfully registered their marriage licenses using a similar type ofphoto, so she and her husband took aphoto wearing the traditional garb; the size, and background of which were in line with the marriage registration regulations.Tang said that although the civil affairs bureau staff kindly explained to her why she could not register, what she couldn't accept was the reason given by the civil affairs bureau: "the cloth was like an opera costume."A woman surnamed Tang from Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, was recently denied permission to register her marriage using the photo that she and her husband wearing hanfu. /The PaperHanfu, the traditional clothing for Han Chinese, an ethnic group that makes up more than 90 percent of the Chinese population, has seen a resurgence in recent years. Mainly favored by young people, itisn't only popular, but has also gained widespread acceptance as daily attire.The civil affairs bureau staff said there was no precedent in Wuxi City before, so they could not agree with Tang's request. The staff also explained that the previous expression of "opera costume" is not accurate, and it is understandable for her to bring personality to her photo. Whether hanfuphotos will be recognized in the marriage register in the future still needs to be studied.Netizens have mixed reactions to this. According to some netizens, the itemis a traditional Chinese costume, and a well-sized photo of the newlyweds in hanfu can obviously be used for registration. But other netizens believe that the marriage certificate is mostly used for formal occasions as proof, and therefore the clothes should not be too distinctive. Some netizens also suggested that Tang replace her hanfu with a simple and light color one that stands out from the red background.The Exhibition of Ancient Chinese Culture: Costume and Adornment at the National Museum of China in Beijing, February 21, 2021. /CFPA reporter from The Paper also consulted a lawyer about the issue. Xing Xin, a senior partner and lawyer at Hunan King Zone Lawyer Office, told The Paper that a marriage license is a legal document proving that a marriage is legal and valid, and the photos used on the marriage license should be rigorous, authentic, and not affect the identification process.On the other hand, he said, the regulations issued by the civil affairs department do not have specific provisions to explicitly reject hanfuphotos. Under the condition of not violating the public order and good customs, the marriage registration authorities should not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to the dress of registering photos.Xing suggested that on the premise of not affecting the identification function of the registering photos, it can be considered to properly meet the individual needs of registrants.A typical hanfu of the Tang Dynasty. /CFPAccording to the past reports, some local civil affairs departments had previously refused to allow couples to register their marriage license with photos wearing a hanfu or cheongsam, while some local civil affairs departments allow for some differences.Yunnan Radio and Television previously reported that in Kunming, couples can use hanfu and cheongsam photos to register the marriage license. But the staff also reminded newlyweds to not go overboard in modifying their photos and to refrain from wearing redundant accessories.An official with the civil affairs bureau of Yanta District in Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province also said on Wednesday that the hanfu photo will not affect the marriage license registration, but the marriage license may be used by various departments in the future, and couples need to consider it carefully.(CGTN)


Coal mining hub Shanxi leads the nation's green movement

North China's Shanxi Province has rolled up a series of plans to reform its energy sector, aligning with the country's goals of green development.The province has fully implemented the new strategy for energy security, formulated an action plan for the development of five major energy bases, identified 85 key tasks, and achieved initial results, Hu Yuting, executive vice governor of Shanxi, also member of the Standing Committee of CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee, told CGTN.Given Shanxi is a vital energy supplier to China, the central government has made it the country's first pilot province for comprehensive energy reforms, he said.Shifting from coal to green energyShanxi, which used to be a key producer of coal in China, is trying to shake that reliance on traditional coal usage and making efforts to supply green energy, such as developing green coal mining and increasing reserves and production of unconventional natural gas.During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, 181 coal mines have been eliminated, and 157 million tons of coal overcapacity have been eliminated in Shanxi.The province has promoted smart, green and safe coal mining and built the first 5G smart coal mine in China. The proportion of advanced coal production capacity has increased to 68 percent, and the death rate per one million tons of mined coal has reached the leading level in the world.Regarding unconventional natural gas, Shanxi has made a three-year plan to deal with the storage and optimize production of coalbed methane, aiming to produce 20 billion cubic meters by 2022.Hu Yuting, executive vice governor of Shanxi, also member of the Standing Committee of CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee. /CGTNIncrease new energy supplyThe installed capacity of new energy has increased by 2.36 times compared with that at the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan, according to Hu.Among them, the installed capacity of wind power and photovoltaic power grew at an average annual rate of 24.26 percent and 63.22 percent, respectively, he added.Meanwhile, the province has also accelerated the development of new energy sources, such as geothermal energy, hydrogen energy and biomass energy.Major breakthroughs have been made in key core technologies in some fields: Coalbed methane synthetic diamonds, carbon-based semiconductor materials, high-end carbon fiber, Jinhua furnace and other technologies and products have become global front runners.Coalbed methane coiled tubing fracturing technology and equipment have acquired independent intellectual property rights, the governor said.Pioneer in reforming China's power systemShanxi is also a comprehensive pilot province for reforming China's national power system.Hu said Shanxi has introduced a series of measures to develop the electric power system, promote market-based trading of energy use rights, and improve the mechanism for compensating energy and resources development.Shanxi's electricity transmission and distribution price reform, spot market transaction, incremental distribution reform, and so on take the lead in the country, he added.To support China to exceed the goals of peaking CO2 emission by 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality by 2060. Shanxi will promote clean energy consumption, replacing coal with gas and electricity, Hu said.All taxis and buses in 11 cities in the province have been replaced by new energy vehicles, he elaborated.Hu also noted that expanding energy openness and cooperation is also helped energy reforms. It has deepened practical cooperation with the International Energy Agency, the World Bank and world-renowned energy enterprises.Taiyuan Energy Low-Carbon Development Forum has become a national-level, international and professional platform for cooperation and exchange.(CGTN)


The Belt and Roadmore >>

Belt and Road Initiative paves way for win-win cooperation between China and Czech

By APD Writer He WeiIn July last year, the first China-EU freight train departed from Prague, captial of Czech,to Yiwu, a city in east China’s Zhejang Province. The new cargo train service marked the official launch of “the Belt and Road Initiative” in Czech. Thanks to joint efforts of both sides, the economic and trade ties between China and Czech Republic is heading for a bright future.During the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017, two months before the opening, China signed the Memorandum of Understanding to Jointly Coordinate and Promote Cooperation and Project Implementation with Czech. According to the memorandum, more efforts will be made to set up a China-Czech Cooperation Center under the Belt and Road initiative, a key project bank and a cooperation platform, integrate domestic and foreign resources, as well as adjoin and implement projects On the sidelines of the The Working Conference of China-Czech Jointly Coordinating and Monitoring Cooperation Plan and Projects under the Framework of the “Belt and Road Initiative”, Liu Jielei, vice chairman of the Czech-China Friendship Association, told the Asia Pacific Daily (APD) that besides geographic advantage, Czech enjoys a sound investment environment because of its stable domestic policies, friendly policy toward China, lower business taxes and labor cost than that of in other European countries.The "Yixin’ou (Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe) cargo train, which began in Yiwu, was hailed as an important bridge linking Asian and European continents and a signficiant achievement in the early stage of the initative by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xu Jie, general manager of Rongsheng Travelling (Czech) Investment Co., Ltd., said because of its important location, they have launched two projects including the Czech-Chinese Technology Business District (CCTBD) project and the South Moravia Chinese Herbal Spa Project in Prague during the past two years, stressing that initial success has been achieved thanks to the initiative.Transalated by Hu Yahui(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)


Work conference held in Yiwu for China, Czech to coordinate their efforts in promoting Belt and Road Initiative cooperation

By APD Writer He Wei The conference, which jointly organized by the western development department of the National Development and Reform Commission and the second foreign policy department of the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade kicked off on June 6, 2018. It is of great significance in implementing the plan for China-Czech cooperation and promoting bilateral communication and cooperation. Both sides took a review on the development of the plan and held a talk over the cooperation prospects on trade, finance, think tank and projects. The priority work of the China and Czech cooperation in the next phase was discussed during the conference.Both sides reached an agreement on enhancing the cooperation on the field of policy coordination, facility connectivity, economic and trade, investment, finance and culture aiming at boosting the economy of both countries and benefiting the people. Almost 100 people from government officials, financial institutions, think tanks  and enterprises of both countries attended the conference.(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)