Official’s Brain Injury In China Matches Cuba Problem – Pompeo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee May 23, 2018 on

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee May 23, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the brain injury sustained by an American official in China was “very similar” to those that affected US and Canadian diplomats in Cuba.

The US embassy in China issued a health alert Wednesday after a US government employee who had experienced an “abnormal” sound was diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

“The medical indications are very similar and entirely consistent with the medical indications that have taken place to Americans working in Cuba,” Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Pompeo said the US was moving medical teams to the area to work on the case.

“We are working to figure out what took place both in Havana and now in China as well,” Pompeo said.

He said the Chinese government has committed to helping in the case, under its responsibility to protect foreign diplomats.

In Cuba last year, 24 diplomats and their family members were left with mysterious injuries resembling brain trauma, which were suspected of being caused by a “sonic attack.”

Ten Canadian diplomats and their relatives also suffered a strange illness.

The US government has held Cuba responsible, arguing that Raul Castro’s authoritarian state must have either carried out the assaults or at least known who was behind them.

AFP

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U.S. Diplomat Suffers Brain Injury After ‘Sound’ Incident In China

  The US embassy in China issued a health alert Wednesday after a US government employee experienced an “abnormal” sound

 

The US embassy in China issued a health alert Wednesday after a US government employee experienced an “abnormal” sound and suffered a mild brain injury — in an incident reminiscent of a mysterious illness that hit diplomats in Cuba.

US and Chinese authorities are investigating the matter after the employee, who was assigned to the southern city of Guangzhou, was diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), said embassy spokeswoman Jinnie Lee.

In an alert emailed to US citizens in China, the embassy said it does not know what caused the symptoms or of any similar situations in the country.

In Cuba last year, the US disclosed that 24 diplomats and their family members had fallen victim to an unsolved mysterious attack that left them with injuries resembling brain trauma. Ten Canadian diplomats and their relatives also suffered a strange illness.

“We cannot at this time connect it with what happened in Havana but we are investigating all possibilities,” a US embassy official in Beijing told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

The embassy’s health alert says the government employee “recently reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure”.

“The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event,” the message says.

“While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present,” it says, urging people with medical problems to consult a doctor.

Lee said the employee experienced “a variety of physical symptoms” between late 2017 through April 2018. The person was sent to the United States and diagnosed with MTBI on May 18.

“The (State) Department is taking this incident very seriously and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incident,” Lee said.

“The Chinese government has assured us they are also investigating and taking appropriate measures.”

The Chinese foreign ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

 Cuban case 

In Cuba, the American victims had associated the onset of their symptoms with “unusual sounds or auditory sensations”, a State Department physician told the US Senate in January.

Charles Rosenfarb, a doctor and director of the State Department bureau of medical services, said the symptoms were mixed but consistent with brain trauma.

The victims suffered headaches, hearing loss, disorientation and some loss of cognitive ability.

Initially officials suspected the Americans had been targeted by some sort of acoustic weapon, although in public senior officials were more cautious, speaking of “health attacks”. Media reports have suggested that the FBI has not been able to verify any evidence to support the sonic weapon theory.

The US government has held Cuba responsible, arguing that Raul Castro’s authoritarian state must have either carried out the assaults or at least known who was behind them.

The incident prompted the United States last year to withdraw more than half of its personnel at the embassy in Havana, which reopened in 2015 as the two nations re-established diplomatic relations that had ruptured in 1961.

Canada announced last month that it was bringing home the families of its diplomats in Cuba after a year-long investigation into the illness failed to reveal a cause.

“The cause (of their symptoms) remains unknown but could be human-made,” the Canadian government concluded.

Canadian and US authorities had initially suspected a “sonic attack” or a “mass psychosomatic incident”, but those are “now considered unlikely”, a senior Canadian official said.

The symptoms included dizziness, headaches and a lack of ability to concentrate.

Unlike their American counterparts, however, no Canadian envoy reported hearing any suspicious sound prior to falling ill.

AFP

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China Plans To Scrap Birth Limits

China is planning on scrapping all restrictions on the number of children a family can have, according to reports. Bloomberg

China is planning on scrapping all restrictions on the number of children a family can have, according to reports. Bloomberg says the government, led by President Xi Jinping, want to address the country's aging population and international criticism of the policy.

Two years ago China began to relax it's notorious one child policy that meant families could only have a single offspring, though couples still had to apply for permits.

Put in place 40 years ago, it has resulted in a huge imbalance between men and women, with 30 million more of the former than the latter. China's cabinet has commissioned research into fully ending the policy, according to an unnamed source who has spoken to the news site.

Proposals would allow the population to choose the number of children they have themselves, with a formal announcement either this year or next.

China Launches Rocket Developed By Private Company

China on Thursday morning launched a rocket developed by a Chinese private company from a launch center in northwest China.

China on Thursday morning launched a rocket developed by a Chinese private company from a launch center in northwest China.

“Chongqing Liangjiang Star,” launched at 7:33 a.m., was developed by OneSpace, a Beijing-based private company with a manufacturing base in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality.

The nine-meter-long, 7,200-kg rocket has a maximum altitude of 38.742 kilometers and a top speed of more than 5.7 times the speed of

sound, according to Shu Chang, founder and CEO of OneSpace.

Powered by a solid fuel engine developed by OneSpace, the rocket can travel for around 5 minutes, or 273 kilometers, and its control system can be customized to meet customer demands, Shu said.

The rocket is also equipped with wireless communication devices and low-cost energy sources which allow the design of rocket systems to be simplified, according to Shu.

“This is the first commercial rocket developed by our company,” he said.

The rocket was launched for OneSpace’s customer Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute under Aviation Industry Corporation of China, Ltd.

In 2014, China issued a series of guidelines allowing private capital to enter into several key fields, including commercial aerospace exploration.

Established in August 2015, OneSpace is China’s first private company with a license to develop carrier rockets.

The company has two rocket series, the OS-X and the OS-M. The former offers aerospace services for scientific research while the later will be used to launch small satellites.

“Our focus is on the small satellite market,” said Shu, adding that many countries have a demand for satellite launches, but few are capable of making rockets.

“Commercial rockets are relatively more efficient and cheaper,” said Shu, “We see great potential.”

 

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China Urges Israel To Show Restraint After Gaza Deaths

Chinese President Xi Jinping   China on Tuesday called for restraint, “especially” from Israel, after 59 Palestinians were killed by

Chinese President Xi Jinping

 

China on Tuesday called for restraint, “especially” from Israel, after 59 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during clashes and protests along the Gaza border against the US embassy opening in Jerusalem.

“China is seriously concerned about a large number of casualties caused by the violent conflict in the Gaza border,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

“We oppose violence against civilians. We call on both sides, especially Israel, to maintain restraint and avoid further tension and escalation of the situation,” Lu said.

The spokesman reiterated Beijing’s support for a two-state solution, with the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“China has always believed that the final status of Jerusalem should be finally settled through peace talks between Palestine and Israel in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations,” Lu said.

Fresh protests were expected on Tuesday as Palestinians mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

It comes a day after the United States transferred its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem in a move that infuriated the Palestinians and was widely condemned.

Most of the 59 Gazans who died Monday were shot by Israeli snipers, Gaza’s health ministry said.

At least 2,400 others were wounded in the bloodiest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war.

AFP

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Self Driving Car Rocks China Public Roads

Tencent Monday received a government permit to test its self-driving car on certain public roads in the southern Chinese city

Tencent Monday received a government permit to test its self-driving car on certain public roads in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The Shenzhen Transport Bureau issued a license plate for a self-driving car of the Internet giant.

Han Hao, an official with the bureau, said the agency would soon announce the testing roads and time. A driver and a safety personnel should be in the car during the tests.

Multiple government agencies in Shenzhen have formed a working group to manage and promote self-driving technology.

Earlier several cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, issued self-driving car licenses after regulations governing road testing of unmanned vehicles went into effect.

 

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First China-Made Aircraft Carrier Starts Sea Trials

  China’s first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier, known only as “Type 001A”, leaves port in the northeast city of Dalian

 

First China-Made Aircraft Carrier Starts Sea Trials
China’s first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier, known only as “Type 001A”, leaves port in the northeast city of Dalian early on May 13, 2018. AFP Photo.

 

China’s first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier started sea trials Sunday, state media said, a landmark in Beijing’s ambitious plans to modernise its navy as the Asian giant presses its claims in disputed regional waters.

The carrier, known only as “Type 001A”, set out for the trials from a port in northeastern China at around 6.45 am (2245 GMT Saturday), according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Expected to be commissioned by 2020, the ship will give China a second aircraft carrier as it asserts its claims in the South China Sea and seeks to deter any independence movements in Taiwan.

Footage aired by CCTV showed the imposing carrier accompanied by several smaller military craft leaving a wharf and heading out to sea.

It is the first time the ship’s engine, propulsion and navigation systems will be tested at sea, state media said, a year after it first took to the water at its official launch.

AFP Photo

 

China’s sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is a repurposed Soviet ship bought from Ukraine, which went into service in 2012.

Neither the Liaoning or the new ship are nuclear powered, but both can carry around 40 planes and have similar “ski jump” ramps, an old launch system that forces aircraft to carry fewer weapons in order to hold more fuel for take-off.

The possession of a homegrown aircraft carrier — which the defence ministry has said displaces 55,000 tonnes — places China among the few military powers with such vessels, including the United States, Russia and Britain.

But it would still be no match in size or range to the nuclear-powered vessels of the United States Navy, which has 11 carriers.

China’s warships will enable it to “project its power and influence in its neighbourhood”, Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), told AFP.

Chinese state media have been speculating that a third aircraft carrier is in the works, but the defence ministry has yet to confirm this.

However, even with the potential development of further carriers, it could still be years before China’s navy is able to deploy its fleet effectively, said Tsang.

“With the Chinese carriers substantially inferior in capacity to the US super-carriers, the balance of forces between the two navies will only change marginally rather than substantially,” he said.

Territorial disputes

Beijing has embarked on an extensive project to build a “blue water” navy and modernise its two million-strong military, the world’s largest.

China’s defence budget rose 8.1 percent to 1.1 trillion yuan ($175 billion) in 2018, but it is still only about a quarter that of the United States.

The Liaoning has conducted a series of manoeuvres with dozens of other ships, submarines and aircraft in the South China Sea in recent weeks.

In March it sailed through the Taiwan Strait, prompting Taipei to dispatch ships and planes to track the vessel, on the same day Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against what he called any attempts to split China.

Beijing sees democratically governed Taiwan as a renegade part of its territory to be brought back into the fold and has not ruled out reunification by force.

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have claims to the South China Sea, while Beijing also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.

The US, meanwhile, regularly conducts “freedom of navigation” naval operations near artificial islands in the South China Sea to challenges Beijing’s claims.

AFP

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Rift Deepens As Europe Seeks Trump Alternatives

  US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House in Washington, DC,

 

Saudis See Oil Price On Rise As Trump Blasts OPEC
US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

 

A deepening transatlantic rift as “flattery” fails to sway Donald Trump has left Europeans in search of new answers, including closer dealings with Russia that only recently would have been unpalatable, analysts say.

The US president’s decision to ignore European pleas to save the Iran nuclear deal is the latest humiliation after his threats to impose trade tariffs, his pull-out from the Paris climate pact, and his demands for NATO allies to pay more.

Analysts and officials say Trump threatens to create all by himself the kind of split between allies that Russia and China have tried and failed to foster for years, with Europe now relying on Moscow and Beijing to keep the Iran deal alive.

Trump is “uncontrollable” and “won’t listen to anyone”, an EU official who met the president when he visited Brussels in May 2017 told AFP.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned this week that Europe could no longer rely on the United States to “protect” it, while French President Emmanuel Macron said that “we cannot let others decide for us.”

Both leaders made humiliating pilgrimages to Washington to beg Trump to stick with the Iran deal, only to see him withdraw — and on the eve of “Europe Day”, a public holiday for the EU institutions.

Apart from the impact on international security, European firms stand to be badly hit when Trump reimposes sanctions on Iran’s nuclear programme which had been suspended under the deal.

‘Hard and aggressive’

Former US ambassador to the EU Anthony Gardner tweeted that Trump’s Iran pull-out “made the world a far more dangerous place” and scathingly remarked: “So much for European efforts at flattery.”

European leaders will discuss the Iran deal and trade at a summit next week in Bulgaria where EU President Donald Tusk said Trump would “meet a united European approach.”

The Europeans now faced a “critical and historic choice” over how to react to the Iran deal in particular, said Ellie Geranmayeh, expert at European Council on Foreign Relations.

“The Europeans now need to essentially have a very hard and aggressive negotiating posture with the US,” Geranmayeh told AFP

“The accommodation and compromise attitude by the E3 over the past few months to reach a deal with the US has basically failed,” she said referring to Britain, France and Germany, the three EU signatories to the Iran deal.

That could increasingly see Europe propelled closer to Russia in particular, in spite of deep tensions over the Ukraine conflict, Syria, and the recent poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain.

“The US withdrawal from the deal could benefit Russia,” Moscow-based geopolitical expert Alexey Malashenko told AFP.

“Russia could profit by getting closer to the EU and saying ‘look, we are still in agreement on some issues, we agree on this subject, against the United States.”

‘We have to replace the US’

Many in Europe see the Trump rift as a chance to finally leave America’s orbit and increase EU cooperation on defence and the economy

The EU is keen to boost integration as it reboots itself after the shock of Brexit — the British vote to leave the bloc fed by the same wave of populism that fuelled Trump’s rise to power.

A strong proponent of this is European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who said that relations between the EU and the United States were in “crisis”.

“Washington no longer wants to cooperate with the rest of the world and we are at the stage where we have to replace the United States,” Juncker said in a speech in Belgium earlier this week.

While the Iran deal fiasco has created tensions, “the damage may be the greatest” from the looming transatlantic trade war over Trump’s decision to impose damaging tariffs on European steel and aluminium, former ambassador Gardner warned.

But the decades of close cooperation across the Atlantic since World War II will prove difficult to abandon entirely.

“We focus a lot on areas like climate change, attitudes to Iran, where there are clearly very big differences,” Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general of the RUSI military think tank in London, told AFP.

“But there are lots of other issues, not least in relation to Russia still, where fundamentally the positions are the same.”

Chalmers added that it was “one of the ironies of Brexit” that Britain was now, less than a year before its departure from the EU, closer to its European allies on foreign policy issues than it was to the United States than it had been for some time.

AFP

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United States Scolds China Over ‘Orwellian’ Airline Demands

United States President Donald Trump                               

Trump Reveals Direct North Korea Contacts, Okays Peace Talks
United States President Donald Trump                                                                    MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

The United States on Saturday scolded China for attempting to impose “political correctness” on American carriers by asking them to classify Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as Chinese territories.

A sternly worded White House statement excoriated Beijing for the demands, which it termed “Orwellian nonsense.”

“President Donald J. Trump ran against political correctness in the United States,” it said. “He will stand up for Americans resisting efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to impose Chinese political correctness on American companies and citizens.”

The statement added that the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration sent a notice to 36 foreign air carriers, including a number of American carriers, on April 25, asking them to comply with Beijing’s standards.

As of Saturday, the website of American Airlines listed Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as entities separate from China. Rivals United Airlines and Delta listed Taiwan separately but not Hong Kong or Macau.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since splitting from the mainland after a 1949 civil war, maintaining its own government, military and independent foreign policy.

But Beijing has refused to recognize the island, viewing it as part of its territory awaiting reunification with the mainland — by force, if necessary.

The US has maintained a delicate diplomatic balance since 1979, recognizing Beijing’s sovereignty as part of its “One China” policy, while remaining Taiwan’s most powerful unofficial ally and main supplier of arms.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, and Macau, a Portuguese colony until 1999, are now “special administrative regions” of China.

The move came after the US and China held high-stakes trade talks in Beijing aimed at forestalling a looming conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

In January, Australia’s Qantas Airways changed its website classification of Taiwan and Hong Kong from separate countries to Chinese territories, blaming its earlier approach on an “oversight.”

AFP

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Nigeria, China Sign $2.5bn Currency Swap Agreement

File photo   The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced the execution of a $2.5billion bilateral currency swap agreement

Nigeria, China Sign $2.5bn Currency Swap Agreement
File photo

 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced the execution of a $2.5billion bilateral currency swap agreement with the Peoples Bank of China (PBoC).

The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, led the Nigerian officials while PBoC Governor, Dr Yi Gang, led the Chinese team at the official signing ceremony in Beijing, China, on Friday, April 27.

A statement from the Acting Director of CBN Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, revealed that the deal was sealed after over two years of painstaking negotiations by both apex banks.

The transaction, which is valued at Renminbi (RMB) 16 billion, or the equivalent of about $2.5billion, is aimed at providing adequate local currency liquidity to Nigerian and Chinese industrialists and other businesses, thereby reducing the difficulties encountered in the search for third currencies.

Okorafor noted that among other benefits, the agreement would provide Naira liquidity to Chinese businesses and provide RMB liquidity to Nigerian businesses respectively, thereby improving the speed, convenience and volume of transactions between the two countries.

He added that it would also assist both countries in their foreign exchange reserves management, enhance financial stability, and promote broader economic cooperation between the two countries.

“With the operationalisation of this agreement, it will be easier for most Nigerian manufacturers, especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and cottage industries in manufacturing and export businesses to import raw materials, spare-parts and simple machinery to undertake their businesses by taking advantage of available RMB liquidity from Nigerian banks without being exposed to the difficulties of seeking other scarce foreign currencies.

“The deal, which is purely an exchange of currencies, will also make it easier for Chinese manufacturers seeking to buy raw materials from Nigeria to obtain enough Naira from banks in China to pay for their imports from Nigeria. Indeed, the deal will protect Nigerian business people from the harsh effects of third currency fluctuations,” the statement read.

With this development, Nigeria becomes the third African country to have such an agreement in place with the PBoC.

Both the Nigerian and Chinese officials were delighted at the conclusion and signing of the agreement.

They were also hopeful that it would boost mutually beneficial business transactions between the two countries.

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