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Iran, 5 powers take stock of drive to revive nuclear deal

Iran and the five world powers that remain in a foundering 2015 nuclear deal plan to hold their second formal meeting of the week on Friday to take stock of efforts to bring the United States back on board.The delicate diplomatic dance that began in Vienna on Tuesday needs to balance the concerns and interests of both Washington and Tehran. France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia are still parties to the deal — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — along with Iran.They are meeting three days after Russia’s delegate said they agreed to set up expert-level groups on the lifting of sanctions and nuclear issues, which are supposed to identify measures to be taken by both Iran and the U.S. to revive the accord fully.“Most likely the meeting will not last long,” the Russian delegate, Mikhail Ulyanov, wrote on Twitter Friday. “The task is to take stock of the work done this week and decide on the next steps.”Although not taking part in the JCPOA talks, a U.S. delegation headed by the administration’s special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, also has been in the Austrian capital this week.In 2018, then-President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. unilaterally out of the accord, opting for what he called a maximum-pressure campaign involving restored and additional American sanctions.Since then, Iran has been steadily violating restrictions in the deal, like the amount of enriched uranium that it can stockpile and the purity to which it can be enriched. Tehran’s moves have been calculated to pressure the other nations in the deal to do more to offset crippling U.S. sanctions reimposed under Trump.U.S. President Joe Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama when the original deal was negotiated, has said he wants to bring the U.S. back into the JCPOA but that Iran must reverse its violations.Iran argues that the U.S. violated the deal first with its withdrawal, so Washington has to take the first step by lifting sanctions.(AP)

'America First' Inoculation Approach Threatens Future Cooperation, Swedish Vaccine Coordinator Says

According to Richard Bergström, the “vaccine nationalism” practised by the US and the UK is dangerous as it undermines mutual trust and limits the ability to jointly combat possible mutations.Sweden's vaccine coordinator Richard Bergström has voiced his disappointment with the US approach to vaccination, which he called “America First”.While hailing the international vaccine rollout as “a triumph of human cooperation”, he berated the US for closing its borders and disallowing the export of vaccines, in stark contrast to the EU nations.“It came like a bolt from the blue when the US forbade the export of vaccines, even though doses started to go to Mexico and Canada last week,” Bergström told the news outlet Bulletin.According to Bergström, this approach is tantamount to “vaccine nationalism” and threatens future cooperation.“I think it may feel right, in the short term, to close its borders and have your own citizens vaccinated first. But in the long run, it's a disaster. This pandemic will not be a one-time event. Now we have seen these mutations appear. So far, we know that existing vaccines work on them. But what happens when we get a mutation that existing vaccines do not control?” Bergström mused.“That's 'America first'. The New York Times recently wrote that there are 30 million Astra Zeneca doses just waiting. There are no scheduled plans for them to go out. Yesterday I saw media reports that there were 90 million doses just waiting to be launched. They are unused”, Bergström said, calling it a “scandal”.The EU, he emphasised, went a completely different way, receiving 80 million doses and exporting almost 80 million doses simultaneously.According to Bergström, “vaccine nationalism” undermines trust and limits the ability to jointly combat possible mutations.“Who will be able to trust the United States in the future? And will we be able to trust the UK?”, he mused, alluding to AstraZeneca's delivery problems and contract controversy. Earlier in March, AstraZeneca informed Brussels that the UK was using a clause in its supply contract that prevents exports of its vaccines until the British market is fully served.In the US, nearly 110 million people or 33 percent of the population have received at least one dose, with nearly 60 million or 18 percent of the population fully vaccinated.In the UK, nearly 32 million people (22 percent of the population) have been given the first dose, with 6 million (4 percent) being fully inoculated.Sweden has managed to inoculate about 13 percent of its 10-million-strong population with the first dose; 5.5 percent are fully vaccinated. However, it recently delayed its initial goal to vaccinate its adult population as well as children in the risk groups before mid-summer to due to lags in vaccine delivery.(SPUTNIK)

Iran frees South Korean ship, captain after promise to help with frozen funds

Iran released on Friday a South Korean ship and its captain detained since January after South Korea promised to try to secure the release of Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks under U.S. sanctions, a South Korean official said.The Iranian foreign ministry said the chemical tanker, HANKUK CHEMI, was released after an investigation into environmental pollution, and at the request of the South Korean government and its owner, state news agency IRNA reported.The seizure of the tanker in the Strait of Hormuz off Oman in January had triggered a diplomatic dispute after Iran demanded that South Korea release $7 billion in funds frozen in South Korean banks under U.S. sanctions.The IRNA report made no mention of the frozen funds, but other Iranian media quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying Korean officials had given assurances that “they are trying to solve the problem and to strengthen ties.”The South Korean ministry said in a statement the ship had left Iran after completing administrative procedures. It made no mention of the demand for the release of funds.“The captain and sailors are in good health,” the ministry said.A South Korean foreign ministry official told reporters that both sides had agreed the ship and the funds were not related issues and South Korea promised to help get the money released.“We have expressed our firm willingness to resolve the fund issue,” said the official, who declined to be identified.Iranian authorities had accused the tanker of polluting the waters with chemicals, a charge denied by South Korea. The South Korean official said Iran dropped a plan to pursue seek criminal charges against the shipping company.“Iran, with long coastlines in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, stresses full compliance with maritime regulations, including environmental protection, and monitors every violation in this respect,” said Saeed Khatibzadeh, a foreign ministry spokesman quoted by IRNA.Iran agreed to free all of the ship’s 20 crew members except for the captain in February, after a South Korean vice foreign minister visited Tehran.Iran has denied allegations that the seizure of the tanker and its crew constituted hostage-taking, saying it was South Korea that was holding Iranian funds hostage.The freezing of the funds is linked to U.S. sanctions that Washington reimposed on Tehran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.Under the Biden administration, the United States and Iran have begun indirect talks over a return to the accord.The United States has recently agreed to allow Iran to use the funds for non-military purposes and it has spent some on coronavirus vaccines secured via the global COVAX initiative, the ministry official said, without giving a precise amount.(REUTERS)

Top Newsmore >>

EU proposes six-month tariff freeze with United States - Der Spiegel

The European Union has suggested that it and the United States suspend tariffs imposed on billions of dollars of imports for six months, EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis was quoted as telling Germany’s Der Spiegel on Saturday.That would go beyond a four-month suspension agreed last month, and send a signal that Brussels is seeking compromise in a 16-year-old dispute over aircraft subsidies.“We have proposed suspending all mutual tariffs for six months in order to reach a negotiated solution,” Dombrovskis told the news magazine.“This would create a necessary breathing space for industries and workers on both sides of the Atlantic,” he added.In March, the two sides agreed on a four-month suspension covering all U.S. tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU imports and all EU duties on $4 billion of U.S. products, which resulted from long-running World Trade Organization cases over subsidies for planemakers Airbus and Boeing.Dombrovskis also said the EU would closely monitor U.S. President Joe Biden’s “Buy American” laws which provide for U.S. public contracts to be awarded exclusively to American firms.“Our goal is to push for procurement markets that are as open as possible all over the world,” he told Der Spiegel.(REUTERS)


Ukraine says it could be provoked by Russian 'aggression' in conflict area

Ukraine’s defence minister said on Saturday his country could be provoked by Russian aggravation of the situation in the conflict area of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.The minister, Andrii Taran, said Russian accusations about the rights of Russian-speakers being violated could be the reason for the resumption of armed aggression against Ukraine.“At the same time, it should be noted that the intensification of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is possible only if an appropriate political decision is made at the highest level in the Kremlin,” he said in a statement.Kyiv has raised the alarm over a buildup of Russian forces near the border between Ukraine and Russia, and over a rise in violence along the line of contact separating Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in Donbass.The Russian military movements have fuelled concerns that Moscow is preparing to send forces into Ukraine. The Kremlin denies its troops are a threat, but says they will remain as long as it sees fit.Senior Kremlin official Dmitry Kozak last week said Russia would be forced to defend its citizens in eastern Ukraine depending on the scale of the military conflict there.U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his French and German counterparts on Friday called on Russia to halt a troop buildup and reaffirmed their support for Kyiv in its confrontation with Moscow.(REUTERS)


Insightsmore >>

Dark side of the U.S.: Even skin color is priced

What's the relationship between capitalism and racism in the U.S.? Wall Street, the crown jewel of the U.S. financial establishment, was once one of the largest slave markets in the country.Slaves even built the wall that Wall Street was named after.Some call U.S. capitalism and racism "conjoined twins."The New York Times found that for every $1 a white man earns, a Black male is paid about $0.67.The wage gap between Black and white men has remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s.Black and Hispanic communities still have a higher incarceration rate than white – roughly six and three times respectively. Good and high-paying jobs are less likely to go to people with a prison record.Skin color and socioeconomic status remain synonymous and perpetuate inequality. Only seven out of the 614 billionaires in the U.S. are Black and there are just five Black CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies. White households own 85.5 percent of the wealth, Black and Hispanics own 4.2 and 3.1 percent respectively. And U.S. politicians follow where the bulk of the money is."For so many generations, Black folks haven't had access to the capital or the wealth, let alone the bias you face in the work place, the lack of access and opportunity to good jobs. And so we see it in criminal justice, access to quality healthcare and education, and most certainly the wealth gap. So not much has actually changed," Trymaine Lee, an MSNBC reporter, said.But even increases in minority members in positions of power doesn't necessarily lead to policy changes. Cambridge University Press recently published a study on the Congressional Black Caucus. It finds "noticeable proportional gains in minority membership in Congress have yet to produce sizable policy gains for the communities they represent."The lack of access to healthcare, financial stability and power in the system make minorities more vulnerable to sudden changes. In the COVID-19 pandemic, minorities are about five times more likely to be hospitalized than white people.They also have higher death rates, and account for 78 percent of U.S. COVID-19 deaths under the age of 21."When you look at COVID-19 and the effects, you can see that Black and brown people are being disproportionately affected because of inequality in the healthcare system. And the fact that many people of color have the jobs that you have to get out and go to, they don't have the ability to work at home. And when you see that educational system and kids at home learning, that many Black and brown people don't have the access to the internet. That's what they mean by systemic racism, it goes through everything in our society," Mary C. Curtis, Roll Call columnist and host of the "Equal Time" podcast, said.Capitalism runs through everything in American society too. These "conjoined twins" reinforce each other. Poor minorities sink lower in the societal ladder and the wealthy majority accumulates more power.The polarization hardens the socioeconomic status quo. It becomes difficult for minorities to move upward in society. Solving the problem requires tackling the injustices in both. And in today's American politics, free market and race are toxic to one party and rousing to another.When people get trapped in their condition, dissatisfaction and conflict break out.(CGTN)


Cleaning up Europe's vaccine mess

Editor's note: Michel Goldman, president of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation in Healthcare (I3h) and emeritus professor of immunology at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, was executive director of the Innovative Medicines Initiative from 2009 to 2014.The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.COVID-19 has caused vast suffering across Europe, and the European Union's slow vaccine rollout threatens to prolong the agony. If the region's leaders do not take decisive action soon, the pandemic could cause irreversible damage to the EU itself.When the coronavirus hit the region in 2020, EU member states were unable to agree on vaccine deployment – their main line of defense against it. National governmentsentrustedvaccine procurement to the European Commission, but then failed to harmonize their production and distribution strategies, or reach a consensus on which groups should be vaccinated first. More recently, 13 European countries suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a small number of people who had received it developed atypical vascular thrombosis.The European Medicines Agency's subsequentconclusionthat the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is "safe and effective" has not reassured everyone. While several EU countries have continued or resumed their rollout of the vaccine, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden have maintained their suspensions, while France haslimited its useto people over 55. These continued differences are fueling increasing public mistrust, not only of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine but of the entire COVID-19 vaccination campaign.The EU's first priority for the coming weeks must be to address the vaccine shortage. Here again, member states have failed to agree, and some are not hesitating to shop outside the EU for supplies. Hungary is distributing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, Slovakia has purchased it, and the Czech Republic is considering doing so, while Hungary has also bought hundreds of thousands of doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. Furthermore, Austria and Denmark recently announced aseparate agreementwith Israel for the production of next-generation COVID-19 vaccines. This pact notably foresees the establishment of a joint fund for research and development, and collaboration in clinical trials outside regular EU programs.EU Commissioner for An Economy That Works for People - Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis (L) and the EU Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakidou (R) are talking to media in the Berlaymont, the EU Commission headquarter in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2021. /GettyAt the same time, Europe must protect people at risk who either are waiting to be vaccinated or will not respond to vaccines because they have a particular disease or are receiving certain treatments. In the United States,monoclonal antibodieshave been highly effective in meeting these important needs. France, Germany, and Italy did not wait for EMA approval before offering these therapies once their national regulatory agencies had approved them, suggesting that antibody nationalism may be as prevalent as vaccine nationalism.Faced with these challenges, the European Commission established a task force to manage vaccine supply in the coming months. Led by Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, the task force aims to mobilize all available European production capacity, with the ambitious objective of immunizing 70 percent of European adults by the end of summer.In parallel, Commission PresidentUrsula von der Leyenannounced in February theestablishmentof the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) Incubator, an agency charged with tackling new coronavirus variants. HERA is intended to play a role similar to that of the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which has been instrumental in the unprecedentedly rapid development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson Johnson vaccines. And through BARDA, the U.S. quickly secured a massive COVID-19 vaccine supply that has enabled the country to launch a much faster immunization drive than Europe.The success of the U.S. government'sOperation Warp Speedeffort to develop COVID-19 vaccines is due not only to the scheme's budget of more than $12 billion but also to its integration and coordination of steps throughout the vaccine value chain, from basic research to large-scale production and distribution. This strategy entailed significant risk-taking, shared between the public and private sectors.Operation Warp Speed's governance, entrusted to a senior pharmaceutical executive experienced in vaccinology and a high-ranking U.S. Army general responsible for the logistics, was another decisive factor in the plan's success. If the EU's ambition is to reproduce an initiative like this in Europe, it is clear that mobilizing sufficient financial resources will be a significant obstacle – though perhaps not the biggest one.Instead, the main challenge may be reaching an agreement between member states and the European Commission to grant HERA sufficient autonomy to ensure the agility the agency's operations will need. The European Innovation Council, recentlyinauguratedby von der Leyen and French PresidentEmmanuel Macron, could offer an interesting model in that regard. Together with the European Investment Bank, the EICmade it possibleto maintain a European foothold on CureVac, the next COVID-19 vaccine to hit the market.Whatever form the new agency takes, European leaders must urgently accelerate the region's COVID-19 vaccine rollout. In addition, they should define an ambitious new strategy to support pharmaceutical innovation in Europe for the benefit of people everywhere.(CGTN)


World Newsmore >>

Biden resumes $235-million Palestinian aid, urges two-state solution

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that he would restore $235 million in aid for refugees and other assistance in Palestine, drawing a rebuke by ally Israel, as he promised to press for a two-state solution.The package, including humanitarian, economic and development assistance, was detailed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as part of an effort to repair American ties with the Palestinians that all but collapsed during Donald Trump's administration.According to the State Department, the aid would be divided into three parts with $150 million contributed to the UN agency, $75 million for the economic and development assistance in West Bank and Gaza as well as $10 million for peacebuilding efforts.The move was also viewed as Biden's most significant move since taking office on January 20 in an attempt to roll back some components of his Republican predecessor's approach that Palestinians denounced as heavily biased in favor of Israel.The Trump administration blocked nearly all aid after it severed ties with the Palestinian authority in 2018. The move was widely seen as an attempt to force the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel on terms the Palestinian leadership branded as an effort to deny them a viable state.Food supplies at an aid distribution center run by UN Relief and Works Agency at Beach refugee camp in Gaza City, April 7, 2021. /ReutersIn a call with Jordan's King Abdullah II, a longstanding U.S. ally who recently faced down dissent within the royal family, Biden "affirmed that the United States supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," a White House statement said.Blinken said that the U.S. assistance to the Palestinians "serves important U.S. interests and values" as "a means to advance towards a negotiated two-state solution.""It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability," Blinken said in a statement.Israel, which had held off on criticism of Biden in his first months, denounced the assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides housing, schools and other care to more than six million Palestinian refugees and their descendants."We believe that this UN agency for so-called 'refugees' should not exist in its current format," said Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.Israel argues that the education provided by the UN-backed schools includes incitement against the Jewish state."I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA's funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing anti-Semitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out," Erdan said.A Palestinian worker carries a bag of flour outside an aid distribution center run by the UNRWA at Beach refugee camp in Gaza City, April 7, 2021. /ReutersThe Palestinian leadership hoped that the aid would mark the start of a concerted effort by Biden to pressure Israel, including on stopping settlements in the occupied West Bank."We are eagerly awaiting the resumption not only of financial assistance but of political relations with the United States to allow the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate rights for an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital," said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.(CGTN)


U.S. denies reports of considering joint boycott of Beijing Olympics

The U.S. State Department denied on Tuesday that it was considering a joint boycott alongside allies of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing."Our position on the 2022 Olympics has not changed. We have not discussed and are not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners," read a statement sent by the department to media.Earlier in the day, certain media outlets reported that the U.S. would discuss calls to boycott the Beijing Olympics citing Department spokesman Ned Price's remarks at a regular briefing.In the statement, the department clarified that Price did not say "we had," contrary to some reporting."We regularly discuss common concerns vis-à-vis the PRC with our allies and partners. We will continue to do so, cognizant that a shared approach will always be in our interest," said the department.(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 >>

Xi greets Xiamen University as it turns 100

President Xi Jinping called on Xiamen University on Tuesday to build itself into a world-class university and enhance its capabilities to serve regional development and national strategies as the university marks its 100th anniversary.Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark in a congratulatory letter to the university.In the letter, Xi extended warm congratulations and sincere greetings to faculty, students and alumni of the university and hailed its glorious tradition, as well as its patriotic, revolutionary and scientific ethos.He said Xiamen University has fostered a large number of talented people and made positive contributions to making the country more prosperous, bringing happiness to people and promoting the dissemination of Chinese culture abroad.As China has embarked on a journey to fully build a modern socialist country, Xi expressed hope that the university will further carry out the CPC's education policy, earnestly concentrate on fostering virtues through education and cultivate talented people for the Party and the country.He also urged the university to work to consolidate the unity and cohesion of the Chinese nation in order to make a greater contribution to building a modern socialist China and realizing the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation.Xiamen University, in the coastal city of Xiamen in Fujian province, was established in 1921 by renowned patriotic overseas Chinese leader Tan Kah-kee. It was the first university to be founded by an overseas Chinese in the history of modern Chinese education.Over the past century, the university has remained committed to its motto of Pursue Excellence; Strive for Perfection and has been motivated by a desire to serve the country and the people. It boasts over 400,000 alumni.(CGTN)


Sanxingdui Museum more popular during Qingming Festival

The Sanxingdui Museum in southwest China's Sichuan Province enjoyed huge popularity during the three-day Qingming Festival holidays by receiving nearly 20,000 visitors on the peak day, after the new archaeological discoveries brought international attention.According to media reports, the museum saw over 15,000 visitors on Saturday, the first day of the Qingming Festival, breaking its record for daily visitors. And on the next day, more visitors swarmed into the museum to exceed 19,800.To cope with the large flow of people, on Sunday afternoon, the official Weibo account of the Sanxingdui Museum released the message to remind visitors of avoiding rush hours or rescheduling their visiting time.The Sanxingdui Museum, located in the northeast corner of the Sanxingdui Ruins site in Guanghan City, showcases various kinds of precious cultural relics unearthed at the site, such as the2.62-meter-tall standing statue, 1.38-meter-wide bronze mask, 3.95-meter-high bronze tree.Earlier on March 20, Chinese archaeologists announced some new major discoveries made during the 37th excavation since its last excavation 35 years ago. The ruins were first discovered in the late 1920s and first excavated in 1934.More than 500 important cultural relics have been unearthed in the six newly-found pits, including fragments of gold masks, bird-shaped gold ornaments, gold foils, painted bronze head portraits, giant bronze masks, bronze sacred tree, ivories, fragments of exquisite tooth carvings, jade cong and jade tools.Since the new discoveries were known to the public, the number of people visiting the Sanxingdui Museum increased sharply.The museum said although they are open as usual, the newly-found pits have not opened to the public yet and the newly-excavated cultural relics are still under restoration and cannot meet the public currently. But a hall for cultural relic conservation and restoration will be in trial-operation in April and officially open on May 18. Visitors to it can see how the relics are restored, according to Zhu Yarong, vice director of the Sanxingdui Museum.Dating back about 3,000 years, the Sanxingdui Ruins have shed light on the ancient Shu civilization and cultural origins of the Chinese nation, and have been regarded one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the 20th century.(中国网英文)


Sportsmore >>

Chinese cities introduce 'cooling-off period' for new gym members

Beijing authorities have called for a seven-day cooling-off period for gym memberships to address the difficulties its residents face in getting refunds for impulse purchases.The change came after Shanghai kicked off a similar grace period for fitness memberships alongside the city's consumer council release of a sample membership contract as a reference for the city's fitness industry.According to the terms in the model contract, people who have not activated their membership card will be able to legitimately terminate their contract within seven days and get a full refund within 15 days.A gym member in Beijing surnamed Wang said it's good for those who act on impulse and often regret their purchase. "Otherwise, it's a loss if they have second thoughts and want a refund. Sometimes the situation could escalate into a dispute," Wang said.The topic has been heatedly discussed on the internet, notching over 63 million views on China's Twitter-like Weibo. A poll set up by CGTN showed nearly 40 percent of the respondents championing the idea as Beijing started seeking public opinion on the change.Over 500 stores under 15 brands in Shanghai have already adopted the measure. Between January and February, some 30,000 people signed up for a gym membership under the new policy, and more than 300 of them got a refund after quitting within a week of purchase, according to Ning Hai, deputy secretary general of Shanghai Consumer Council.However, some gym owners think the change could be a double-edged sword. Liu, general manager of Beijing-based Ruiyu Fitness, pointed out that while it benefits consumers, especially those who don't think things through in the beginning and want to quit the gym after a few days in, it could also put pressure on gym operations and negatively affect cash flow.Ning said impulse consumption in the fitness industry in the past two years has mostly been driven by excessive marketing. Many gyms focus on marketing way more than their services, she said, adding that this decision considers a balance between the interests of the operators and the consumers.It will make companies pay more attention to the services they provide, she said.China had 117,000 fitness clubs at the end of 2019, and 9,012 of them were located in Beijing, according to data from database provider Statista.The Chinese mainland had roughly 70.29 million gym members and 900,000 fitness instructors in 2020, an increase of 3.19 percent compared to 2019.(CGTN)


Barca edge closer to Atletico after Dembele winner against Valladolid

Ousmane Dembele volleyed in a 90th-minute winner against Real Valladolid on Monday to fire Barcelona to within a point of Atletico Madrid ahead of next weekend's Clasico in La Liga.Barca looked set for a damaging stalemate at Camp Nou after Atletico's defeat by Sevilla on Saturday but Valladolid had Oscar Plano harshly sent off with 12 minutes left and Dembele snatched a 1-0 victory.His strike could prove a crucial moment in the Spanish title race, with Barca now breathing down Atletico's necks ahead of Saturday's meeting with Real Madrid, who are three points off the top.If Ronald Koeman's men win at Valdebebas, they will claim first place for 24 hours at least, before a depleted and deflated Atletico play away at Real Betis on Sunday.They will have to play better after being frustrated by a determined Valladolid side, with Lionel Messi delivering some firm words to his team-mates in the tunnel at half-time."We have to step it up a gear, we have to play with more rhythm," Messi said. "If not it's going to get complicated for us."Lionel Messi (L) of Barcelona and Roque Mesa of Valladolid compete for the ball during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Valladolid at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, April 5, 2021. /CFPIt might have been more complicated had Plano not been shown a red card in the 78th minute, his hack on Dembele from behind giving Barca a crucial advantage for the final stages.Victory makes it six in a row for them in La Liga, another win – particularly after an unconvincing performance – enhancing the sense that momentum now lies with Atletico's rivals.Defeat also compounded what Valladolid coach Sergio admitted on Sunday had already been a week of upsets after five of his players tested positive for COVID-19, leaving him without 12 players, with six others injured and one more suspended.To mark Messi breaking Xavi Hernandez's appearance record for the club, he was presented with a framed shirt before kick-off, which he accepted with his family on the pitch. Messi passed Xavi's previous record of 767 appearances last month, with this his 769th.Valladolid were not just able to compete in the first half, they were probably the better side and could have led when Kenan Kodro's early header struck the bar.Dembele broke through and dragged back for Messi, whose shot was blocked, while Pedri's long-range effort fizzed through and came back off the post.But Barcelona were flat, their passing predictable and there was concern in Messi's voice when he told his team-mates to find a different gear in the second half.Valladolid's Spanish defender Javi Sanchezt (L) challenges Barcelona's French forward Ousmane Dembele during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Valladolid at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, April 5, 2021. /CFPValladolid were almost undone by a Messi through ball for Dembele, who held his run but could not finish before the leaping Antoine Griezmann headed the rebound wide.Barcelona looked more dangerous on the break than in possession and they were lucky to escape a penalty when Oscar Plano poked the ball onto the outstetched hand of Jordi Alba.Koeman made three changes shortly after, Martin Braithwaite, Francisco Trincao and Ronald Araujo replacing Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Oscar Mingueza.But Barca's biggest boost came 12 minutes from the end, when Plano was sent off for chasing Dembele back and tripping the Frenchman from behind. A yellow card seemed the more obvious decision.Trincao went close and the winner came in the last minute as Frenkie de Jong's cross was flicked to the back post by Ronald Aruajo. Dembele was free and lashed into the corner.(CGTN)


Science&Militarymore >>

White House: U.S. won't have federal COVID-19 vaccine passport system

The U.S. will not introduce a "federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.At a regular press conference, the White House ruled out introducing mandatory federal COVID-19 vaccination passports, saying citizens' privacy and rights should be protected."The government is not now, nor will be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential," she said. "Our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is Americans' privacy and rights should be protected, and so that these systems are not used against people unfairly."Psaki also said there would be no "federal vaccinations database" as the U.S. does not have an existing centralized health care system.The governors of Florida and Texas, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott respectively, have issued executive orders prohibiting government-mandated vaccine passports in those states.The orders effectively bar businesses from requiring that customers show a certificate."People have certain freedoms and individual liberties to make decisions for themselves," DeSantis said.South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem described vaccine passports as "one of the most un American ideas in our nation's history" on Twitter.Meanwhile, New York has emerged as the only American state to have launched a COVID-19 passport. The voluntary passport was developed in partnership with IBM.Still not widely used, it is designed to immediately verify whether the carrier has received the vaccine or has recently tested negative for the disease.Asher Weintraub, 17, was happy to show off the new digital New York state "pass" that he downloaded to his smartphone, which, via a QR code, certified that he was vaccinated against COVID-19."I think it is a good thing, you don't have to like provide all (sorts of) forms and documents each time," he told AFP, displaying his code at the entrance to one of the first indoor concerts in Manhattan since March 2020.(CGTN)


U.S. Supreme Court backs Google over Oracle in major copyright case

The U.S. Supreme Court handed Google a major victory on Monday, ruling that its use of Oracle's software code to build the Android operating system that runs most of the world's smartphones did not violate federal copyright law.Oracle accused Google of plagiarizing its Java software by copying 11,330 lines of computer code, as well as the way it is organized, to create Android and reap billions of dollars in revenue. Android, for which developers have created millions of applications, now powers more than 70 percent of the world's mobile devices.In a 6-2 decision, the justices overturned a lower court's ruling that Google's inclusion of Oracle's software code in Android did not constitute a fair use under U.S. copyright law.Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said that allowing Oracle to enforce a copyright on its code would harm the public by making it a "lock limiting the future creativity of new programs. Oracle alone would hold the key."The two California-based technology giants, with combined annual revenues of more than $175 billion, have been feuding since Oracle sued for copyright infringement in 2010 in San Francisco federal court. Google had appealed a 2018 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington reviving the suit.The ruling spares Google of a potentially massive damages verdict. Oracle had been seeking more than $8 billion, but renewed estimates went as high as $20 billion to $30 billion, according to two people with knowledge of the situation."The decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products and services will benefit consumers," said Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president of global affairs.Google has said it did not copy a computer program but rather used elements of Java's software code needed to operate a computer program or platform. Federal copyright law does not protect mere "methods of operation." The companies also disputed whether Google made fair use of Oracle's software code, making it permissible under the 1976 Copyright Act.Dorian Daley, Oracle's executive vice president and general counsel, said that with the ruling "the Google platform just got bigger and market power greater" and "the barriers to entry higher and the ability to compete lower.""They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can. This behavior is exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the United States are examining Google's business practices," Daley said.Technology industry trade groups cheered the ruling, saying an Oracle victory in the case would have inhibited competition by making it harder to use programming elements to ensure computer interoperability."The high court's decision that fair use extends to the functional principles of computer code means companies can offer competing, interoperable products," said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.(CGTN)


Businessmore >>

China has more billionaires than ever: Forbes

"Not only does China have more billionaires than ever, its richest have bigger fortunes … Chinese billionaires now account for nearly a fifth of the total wealth of the list," Forbes said Tuesday after it published the annual world's billionaires list.The world's second largest economy is home to the second highest number of billionaires, with 698, next only to the U.S. and well over India's 140. China had 456 billionaires last year.There are a record-setting 493 newcomers to the list with an average age of 54, including 210 from China and 98 from the U.S."A full 84 percent of them are self-made billionaires, who founded their companies rather than inherited them," Forbes said.China's three richest billionaires – Zhong Shanshan, Ma Huateng and Huang Zheng – made it into the top 25, taking the 13th, 15th and 21st positions, respectively.Nongfu Spring's Zhong Shanshan acted as the biggest gainer in net worth in percentage terms, skyrocketing 3,345 percent from a year earlier to reach $68.9 billion.The billionaire rocketed into the No. 13 spot following his bottled-water firm's massive listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.Jack Ma was dethroned as Asia's richest person by Mukesh Ambani of India and dropped to the No. 26 spot despite a nearly $10 billion ascent in his fortune to $48.4 billion.Globally, Jeff Bezos topped the list for the fourth year running, while Tesla's Elon Musk jumped into second spot on the list, up from 31st last year.Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury goods firm LVMH, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg round out the top five of the world's richest billionaires.Investor and business tycoon Warren Buffett fell out of the top five for the first time in over two decades, as tech executives dominate the Forbes rankings.The ranks of the ultra-wealthy are expanding after a year in which the coronavirus pandemic upended world economies and threatened the livelihoods of people across the globe.This year's billionaires are worth a combined $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion last year, Forbes said.(CGTN)


China's tourism revenue increases 228.9% during Qingming Festival

The revenue of China's tourism sector increased by 228.9 percent to 27.17 billion yuan (about $4.14 billion) during the three-day Qingming Festival holiday, according to an estimate from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Monday.Between April 3 and 5, 145 million trips were made in China, maintaining a high passenger flow with a year-on-year increase of 142 percent, the Ministry of Transport estimated.Transactions worth 1.72 trillion yuan were made online during the period, an increase of 48.9 percent year on year, according to NetsUnion Clearing Corporation.(CGTN)


chinamore >>

Graphics: How much has China spent on poverty alleviation?

China released a white paper on Tuesday to record the course of the Chinese people's great fight in eliminating extreme poverty. It introduces China's approach and actions in poverty alleviation.As China eliminated extreme poverty by the end of 2020, it helped the United Nations to achieve the first target of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule.Over the course of poverty alleviation, China has steadily increased funding to meet the challenge. The total investment from the central, provincial, city, and county governments reached a total of 1.6 trillion yuan, including 660 billion yuan from the central budget.Besides financial support, poverty eradication also requires rigorous organization, leadership, and implementation. China has established a poverty eradication management network. The central government acted as a coordinator; provincial governments took overall responsibility; city and county governments oversaw the implementation.By the end of 2020, the country had dispatched 255,000 poverty alleviation resident teams and more than 3 million officials to poor villages. The officials served as first secretaries and resident officials fighting on the front line alongside nearly 2 million township officials and millions of village officials.The first group of officials was dispatched in 2013. By 2015, all poor villages had resident teams, and every poor household a contact official in charge of poverty elimination.To ensure a clean environment for the battle against poverty, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission have conducted supervision and disciplinary inspection over all work related to poverty alleviation, and campaigns to address corruption and misconduct.From January 2016 to November 2020, 337,700 cases of corruption and misconduct in poverty alleviation were handled, and 464,500 people were admonished or assigned to receive education. Those included 241,300 people who received punishment in accordance with Party discipline or government regulations.To strengthen supervision over poverty elimination work, China has established a comprehensive system of scrutiny. The system incorporates supervision from inside the Party, other political parties, the government, and the public. The proportion of misused funds identified by audit dropped from 36.3 percent in 2013 to 1.5 percent in 2020, according to the National Audit Office.(CGTN)


Three areas in Ruili classified as 'high-risk' for COVID-19

Three areas in Ruili, southwestern China's Yunnan Province, have been classified as high-risk areas for COVID-19 amid a recent resurgence in cases.Six other areas have been labeled as medium risk.A total of 15 new cases and five asymptomatic cases were reported in Yunnan Province on Sunday, according to the local health commission.(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)